Facing Humility

Facing Humility

AA Big Book
AA Big Book (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He was interested and conceded that he had some of the symptoms, but he was a long way from admitting that he could do nothing about it himself. He was positive that this humiliating experience, plus the knowledge he had acquired, would keep him sober the rest of his life. Self-knowledge would fix it.

We heard no more of Fred for a while. One day we were told that he was back in the hospital. This time he was quite shaky. He soon indicated he was anxious to see us. The story he told is most instructive, for here was a chap absolutely convinced he had to stop drinking, who had no excuse for drinking, who exhibited splendid judgment and determination in all his other concerns, yet was flat on his back nevertheless.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 40)

This passage from the Big Book demonstrates one of the more serious and more common problems in recovery.  Sobriety time grows into confidence, overconfidence, and then to outright pride.  This pride is what set this man up for a massive relapse and can be what sets all of us up for a massive relapse.

Staring at the basic root we have to go back to the root problem:

Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 62)

If you have read my blog before you have probably run across this concept at least once and it seems to be at the root of most (if not all) of our alcohol/drug related problems to some degree.  In this case it is clear the role that self-focus plays.

What I want to focus on in this article is not self-focus but overcoming it.

The focus on himself and belief in his ability to stay sober because he had learned a bunch of recovery stuff is in fact what set him up so perfectly to fail so miserably.

Before moving on, let me state one fact:  INFORMATION WILL NOT KEEP YOU SOBER!  Information, in and of itself will not keep you sober although it is where a lot of recovery does start.  If the information is not used to cause major change in your life you are simply the same person with more information and can expect the same results except for more guilt.

Back to where I was going:  This man fell into the pit of pride and woke up at the bottom.  Having various struggles in recovery is part of the process of recovery.  For most I hope they are not this serious, but all people in recovery are going to have struggles.

It is not the absence of struggles that demonstrates that you are getting stronger in your recovery; it is the growing ability to face and overcome the struggles that come up.

There are many things a person has to do to grow their ability to face and overcome struggles, but the most basic root solution begins with humbly being honest.  Being brutally honest and then taking drastic action!

In this man’s case the action may not look that drastic when reading the story, but the most drastic action he took was admitting he was beaten (the powerless concept) and going back to the people who knew it best and told him what would happen.

They had said that though I did raise a defense, it would one day give way before some trivial reason for having a drink. Well, just that did happen and more, for what I had learned of alcoholism did not occur to me at all. I knew from that moment that I had an alcoholic mind. I saw that will power and self-knowledge would not help in those strange mental blank spots. I had never been able to understand people who said that a problem had them hopelessly defeated. I knew then. It was a crushing blow.

“Two of the members of Alcoholics Anonymous came to see me. They grinned, which I didn’t like so much, and then asked me if I thought myself alcoholic and if I were really licked this time. I had to concede both propositions. They piled on me heaps of evidence to the effect that an alcoholic mentality, such as I had exhibited in Washington, was a hopeless condition. They cited cases out of their own experience by the dozen. This process snuffed out the last flicker of conviction that I could do the job myself.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 42)

In the most extreme cases, a person who has been working recovery relapses like this man and is way too embarrassed or way to prideful to go back and face the people who had been helping him or her.   It also may mean facing people that looked up to him or her for how well he/she was doing in recovery and letting them know that you are not invincible.

This humble “facing the music” is not an option amongst other options, this humble return is the only option.

The opposite of the selfishness and self-centeredness is humility.  Any time you are struggling in recovery, start with humility.  You have to overcome the idea that some self-serving concept or action will help the situation and run towards humility at all costs.  Protecting yourself from things you are uncomfortable with or that you fear is not recovery, it is choosing to remain in the bondage.

The rule is we must be hard on ourself, but always considerate of others.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 74)

Self-protection and fear are not a part of the recovery they are obstacles to recovery.  The man in the story faced it and grew from it.  That is one of the most key points to the whole story.  This has to not only be something you do, this has to become a way of life in recovery.  This is a lifestyle of humility which is the opposite of a lifestyle of self-focus.  Does it seem like being really hard on yourself?  Absolutely!  That is why it is something we have to learn and not just something we all magically start doing.

We all need to develop the anxiousness to see those who will honestly help us move forward when it is the hardest to do so.

Remember this key idea:  YOU HAVE TO FACE IT TO START TO BE FREE OF IT!!!

Stay sober my friends,

Wade H.

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In Recovery Remember “MY WAY IS THE GET HIGH WAY!!!”

In Recovery Remember “MY WAY IS THE GET HIGH WAY!!!”

Last Touches on the Mussle
 (Photo credit: goodnight_photography)

Thus we grow. And so can you, though you be but one man with this book in your hand. We believe and hope it contains all you will need to begin. (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 162 – 163)

You may be just one man or one woman with this book, but that is at least enough to begin.  The reason that is the case is because all things Twelve Step have their beginnings in the Alcoholics Anonymous book.

It will probably require the help of others who know what is in the book to really get beyond just beginning.

The key to all of this is the Alcoholics Anonymous book.  The writers of the book intended it to have all the information needed to do whatever it took for them to get the miracle of recovery that was supposed to be impossible for them.

Those of us who live in large cities are overcome by the reflection that close by hundreds are dropping into oblivion every day. Many could recover if they had the opportunity we have enjoyed. How then shall we present that which has been so freely given us?

We have concluded to publish an anonymous volume setting forth the problem as we see it. We shall bring to the task our combined experience and knowledge. This should suggest a useful program for anyone concerned with a drinking problem.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 19)

To show other alcoholics PRECISELY HOW WE HAVE RECOVERED is the main purpose of this book. For them, we hope these pages will prove so convincing that no further authentication will be necessary.  (Alcoholics Anonymous – Forward to the First Edition)

Let me get take a slight detour then get to the real point here:

One of the biggest problems that these writers thought we have is the need to have things our own way.

Whatever our protestations, are not most of us concerned with ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity?

Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 62)

People who are at the worst level of alcoholism/addiction like to do things their own way in spite of what others around them tell them to do.  That is one of the major aspects of our sickness.  We do crazy stuff that causes all sorts of problems simply because we want to and in spite of what anybody says, proves and even in spite of past terrible results.

This brings us to why there was the need for a book in the first place.  There was a need for a standard of information that showed the course for recovery instead of letting people just do whatever they thought would work.  Most people who are starting recovery have already tried a few of their own ideas and failed miserably and that is exactly why he or she is in recovery to begin with.

Here are some of the methods we have tried: Drinking beer only, limiting the number of drinks, never drinking alone, never drinking in the morning, drinking only at home, never having it in the house, never drinking during business hours, drinking only at parties, switching from scotch to brandy, drinking only natural wines, agreeing to resign if ever drunk on the job, taking a trip, not taking a trip, swearing off forever (with and without a solemn oath), taking more physical exercise, reading inspirational books, going to health farms and sanitariums, accepting voluntary commitment to asylums – we could increase the list ad infinitum.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 31)

I mention this to clarify the idea that recovery is strongly based on not doing what we want to do or what we think is right but that it hinges on being so desperate to get better that we are willing to do things that we absolutely do not want to do or that we find terribly uncomfortable.

Keeping all of that in mind; I finally get to my point.  People in recovery are by nature drawn to cutting corners and doing things incorrectly to keep themselves from being uncomfortable.

If we go through recovery just listening to this person’s and that person’s ideas and concepts of recovery we each will find what we believe is the best way by picking the parts of what each person tells us that we are each most comfortable with.  In other words we will use the commentary of others in recovery to search out our own ways to cut corners and do things incorrectly to keep ourselves comfortable.

At some of these we balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 58)

The fact that people in recovery are usually looking for “easier” ways is not the exception to the rule, it is the rule and must be the rule for getting recovery advice from other individuals.

The only concept that could be used to combat such a universal problem is to come up with a standard of information that could be used both guide a person through recovery and to judge if the information one is getting in recovery is correct or not.  There has to be a standard of information that is both the source and measure of all related information.

That is precisely why the alcoholics book was written and why it is a must for all persons pursuing Twelve Step recovery of any kind.

I am regularly astonished by the number of people who I encounter who are either brought to my attention as experts or are self-proclaimed experts that know very little about what is in the Alcoholics Anonymous book.

Many A.A. meetings I have been to have been have been filled with people who are either empty handed or who have brand new, pristine copies of the Alcoholics Anonymous book on their lap (which means they own it, but have never read it).

Often there are one or two people with well worn books who are sitting in these same rooms shaking their heads or rolling their eyes at some of the things people are saying, but politely trying to be supportive of whoever because at least he or she is there and trying.

All of us need to stop it and get back to whatever the standard is supposed to be.  Owning an Alcoholics Anonymous book is not enough; we need to read it and learn it (and pass what is in it on to others).   We cannot grow in environments where everyone is creating his or her own “softer, easier way” of recovery and expect anything but foolishness.

Let me share a word of warning before you go on however.  IN THE LAND OF THE INSANE THE SANE PERSON LOOKS LIKE THE IDIOT!!!!

If you begin to learn what the Alcoholics Anonymous book actually says recovery is, do not suddenly become this angry crusader for truth yelling out page numbers over speakers at meetings.  The truth is that many you encounter will not want anything to do with what you have to say simply because it challenges the softer easier path they are on no matter how nice or how rudely you express it to them.

Just share the facts and those who truly are desperate to follow the path that is actually laid out will seek more and will get what they are supposed to be getting.  Those that do not care to hear it may be on the path to failure.  The bottom line is it is either the Twelve Steps as outlined in the Alcoholics Anonymous book or it is not.  Doing whatever you want because it is comfortable to you is not.

Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 58)

Many of us live by the rule “It’s my way or the highway” which means things either go the way I want or something is wrong and has to go.  I am proposing almost the dead opposite.  Just think of this small statement as the bottom line:  MY WAY IS THE GET HIGH WAY!!!

Stay sober my friends,

Wade H.

The New Year’s Change

The New Year’s Change

...change...

I have since been brought into a way of living infinitely more satisfying and, I hope, more useful than the life I lived before. My old manner of life was by no means a bad one, but I would not exchange its best moments for the worst I have now. I would not go back to it even if I could.”  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 4243)

A new “way of living” is central to any idea of recovery.  If you stay the same, act the same and think the same you will end up with the same results.  If you do not change, you are the same and will end up getting the same results.

Here is the math:

THE SAME   =  THE SAME RESULTS

DIFFERENT   =  DIFFERENT RESULTS

Any hope of recovery must include an acceptance of the fact that you need to be okay with the idea of being an entirely different person to get different results.

This is a great time to look at this concept.  We have just passed through New Years after surviving the Mayan Apocalypse and those of us in the United States having survived a quick tumble over something called a ‘fiscal cliff” and here we are.

With the New Year, many cultures have the custom of making new resolutions, commitments or changes for the next year and for those of us in recovery this can be used as an important part of our recovery process as change is recovery.

Some changes may be simple commitments:  A person who has been in recovery circles and never seriously worked Steps may commit to actually working the Steps this year and find two or three people to ensure that happens.  Some people might have that one or two things that they have excluded from discussing when working their steps previously, such individuals might commit to working on those things this year (and call a couple of people you could meet with today and start discussing those things withor you won’t really do it).  Some, who may have never done so before, might commit to sponsoring others this year and contact two or three others who are good sponsors to walk them through the process.

The ideas are endless.  Now that I have you pondering this idea, let’s slow down and look at some of the changes founding member Bill W. did when he got started:

My wife and I abandoned ourselves with enthusiasm to the idea of helping other alcoholics to a solution of their problems. It was fortunate, for my old business associates remained skeptical for a year and a half, during which I found little work. I was not too well at the time, and was plagued by waves of self-pity and resentment. This sometimes nearly drove me back to drink, but I soon found that when all other measures failed, work with another alcoholic would save the day. Many times I have gone to my old hospital in despair. On talking to a man there, I would be amazingly lifted up and set on my feet. It is a design for living that works in rough going.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 15)

I use this passage because this brief summary gives both the good and the bad of this commitment to changing.  There were some negative results of his using that didn’t magically disappear with abstinence from using.

Bill W. was sober and helping others be sober (as well as starting Alcoholics Anonymous) and working recovery yet the world around him was far slower in the process of accepting his sobriety which meant during this whole period of sobriety he couldn’t find any work.

This is important, because many of us in recovery start changing and then get frustrated by the fact that people around us treat us like the scum of the earth or like the village idiot no matter how much we change.  Some of us get so frustrated that we just give up feeling that it doesn’t matter:  “No matter what I do my life is not going to get better” etc.

Let me help all of us with a fact:  YOU CAN ONLY CHANGE “YOU”.  YOU CANNOT CHANGE OTHER PEOPLE!  The changes that you are making start with “changing you” and the damage each one of us has done to the world around us is not in as big of a hurry to change as we need to be.  No matter what is going on around us, we have to still do the changing.

It is not a matter of if there will be problems, frustration and discomfort, it is a matter of how well you push through when the problems, frustrations and discomforts come up that is key to your recovery.  If your efforts to change cannot overcome these times, then your recovery can only work in times when there are no problems, no frustrations and no discomforts.  In other words, your recovery will not work.

There will be problems and a big part of the change is continuing to change and maintaining the changes that you have made already through the worst of times.

A big part of the changing that Bill W. did was working with others.

Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics.  It works when other activities fail.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 89)

Working with others is tied to his being able to hold on through these first tough times.  This is not an option, this is a must for all people working something that you are claiming is a Twelve Step program.

For any Twelve Step program, working with others who are struggling with what you are struggling with is central to making the whole thing work.  Not just working with other however; “intensively” working with others like yourself.

In the case of Bill W. on page 15 of the Alcoholics Anonymous book, he went searching for people to work with.

I am astonished, by the amount of people desperately seeking to have the sponsees come to them.  Understanding that “intensively” working with other people is at the core of any hope you have of changing and staying sober, waiting for sponsees to come to you is like sitting around waiting for recovery to just happen to you.  As if there is some recovery fairy that will magically show up, wave the magic recovery wand, sprinkle the magic recovery dust on you and all will be fixed.

Recovery is something you struggle desperately to get and so are those you work with:

Helping others is the foundation stone of your recovery. A kindly act once in a while isn’t enough. You have to act the Good Samaritan every day, if need be. It may mean the loss of many nights’ sleep, great interference with your pleasures, interruptions to your business. It may mean sharing your money and your home, counseling frantic wives and relatives, innumerable trips to police courts, sanitariums, hospitals, jails and asylums. Your telephone may jangle at any time of the day or night. Your wife may sometimes say she is neglected. A drunk may smash the furniture in your home, or burn a mattress. You may have to fight with him if he is violent. Sometimes you will have to call a doctor and administer sedatives under his direction. Another time you may have to send for the police or an ambulance. Occasionally you will have to meet such conditions.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 97)

I am not promising you some easy time of magically changing as you plod along each day playing recovery in some meeting or other.  I am bluntly saying that change is hard work particularly in the hard times including in the key area of working with others.  FACTS ARE FACTS AND THAT’S THAT.

What I am hopefully doing is properly preparing you for the cost of changing and showing you a truthful view of what the honest hope of sobriety costs.

The good news about complete change is that what makes you happy will change also which means you will be made happy by things that right now you cannot imagine would make you happy.

Many times I have gone to my old hospital in despair. On talking to a man there, I would be amazingly lifted up and set on my feet. It is a design for living that works in rough going.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 15)

If you do this long enough as intensively as you can eventually it will be the thing which lifts you up and keeps you on your feet.  It will be your joy and stability in the storms of life as well as in the quiet times of life.

Getting back to the point; as each of us begins on the path of walking through a new year, let’s all set a new course for change.  I put these ideas out there to contemplate as each one of us process what that might mean.

Make a plan for what you are going to do on the path to change this year, involve others (people with good sense and strong enough to confront you if you are not following through) in keeping you on course and accountable to your commitments, and start on the whole thing before you close your eyes to go to sleep tonight.

In conclusion, I wish you a Happy New Year.  Not in the sense that I expect that magic fairy dust will fall on you and joy will miraculously fall upon you (that is called being high and never really ends well).  What I mean in “Happy New Year” is:  May the efforts you are putting into finding change and the joy of sobriety be rewarded with a joy you have never known before and may that joy be passed through you into the lives of many, many others you encounter.

We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 8384)

Stay Sober My Friends;

Wade H.

The New Year’s Change

The Insanely Insufficient New Year’s Excuse

The Insanely Insufficient New Year’s Excuse

New Year's Eve
New Year’s Eve (Photo credit: volantwish)

Commencing to drink after a period of sobriety, we are in a short time as bad as ever. If we are planning to stop drinking, there must be no reservation of any kind, nor any lurking notion that someday we will be immune to alcohol.  (Alcoholics anonymous pg. 33)

Here we are, it’s almost New Years Eve.  If you are reading this, you have survived the Mayan calendar end of the world, Y2K, the 1999 end of the world, the cold war and if you are in the United States you might be bracing yourself t go over a “fiscal cliff”, yet you are a survivor.

If you are recovering from alcohol or drug use however, you need to know that these things are not your biggest concern.  Your end of the world can be summed up in seven letters:  R-E-L-A-P-S-E.

As the world prepares for the new beginning that is signified in a new year one of the biggest dangers to people in recovery looms on the horizon:  New Year’s Eve.

That night in many places is a time of celebration that is unmatched throughout the rest of the year.  For many of us in recovery, that same night might contain danger that is unmatched throughout the year.  How many people in my life (some well meaning, some for some evil reason and some just not caring or paying attention) have tried to offer me alcohol and drugs on New Year’s Eve?  Some have gone so far as to apply peer pressure and the power of public humiliation to attempt to nudge me into the direction of relapse and inevitable self-destruction.

Conversations about why this or that substance or this time doesn’t count. Why champagne does not count or why New Year’s Eve is somehow a magic time where using will not affect my recovery.  Why the New Year’s Eve celebration is somehow a safe environment to use and on and on.

Therefore, it is not surprising that our drinking careers have been characterized by countless vain attempts to prove we could drink like other people. The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 30)

There is no safe reason for or safe place for a person in recovery to use.  ANY USE AT ALL IS A RELAPSE NO MATTER WHERE OR WHEN IT IS.  YOU ARE EITHER SOBER OR NOT!  Any hiding place you find that you think makes it safe for you to use is only a hiding place from reality.  Any magic formula you find to use safely is only a formula for foolishness.

But even in this type of beginning we are obliged to admit that our justification for a spree was insanely insufficient in the light of what always happened. We now see that when we began to drink deliberately, instead of casually, there was little serious or effective thought during the period of premeditation of what the terrific consequences might be.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 37)

Any reason for using (even on New Year’s Day) is “insanely insufficient” in light of the reasons you are in recovery in the first place.  There is no magic minute, hour, day, place or group of people that makes it safe for an alcoholic/addict to use again once in recovery.

Every use in the life of a person in advanced alcoholism/addiction comes with the probability of unleashing a tornado of chaos in the lives of every person who’s life has any contact with the person (including that person himself/herself) that may end with the absolute annihilation of any environment this person comes into contact with.  RELAPSE IS OUR END OF THE WORLD.

Once a person is in recovery, that person is on a path that is founded on two basic thoughts:

  1. Using intoxicating substances is absolutely destructive to my life and the lives of those around me.
  2. I must stop using intoxicating substances at all costs to be free.

Any reason you have for using or for feeling it is safe to use is an “insanely trivial excuse” (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 37).

No matter what you hear, where you are at, what everyone else is doing, how miserable or happy you may be at the time:

The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 30)

There may be champagne drinking, drug using people who appear just fine by the next day and seem to move on with life.  That I of no matter to those of us in recovery simply because:  WE ARE NOT THEM!

There have been people who have jumped off of bridges and lived, should I go and do it too and expect to be fine.  There have been people that have been shot in the head and lived, should I shoot myself in the head.

The question is not if other people can or cannot use safely.  The question for those of us in recovery is if I have accepted that I can never use alcohol/drugs safely.

If you have not fully accepted this then New Year’s parties are among the worst places on earth for you to be.  If you have accepted this then keep in mind that New Year’s parties are still one of the most dangerous places on earth for you to be.  Even in these cases you may find temptation so great that you have to excuse yourself, make your way to an exit and run for dear life as fast as you can.

If these facts bother you (as it does most of us at some point) look at these words from founding member Dr. Bob had to say about those feelings:

I used to get terribly upset when I saw my friends drink and knew I could not, but I schooled myself to believe that though I once had the same privilege, I had abused it so frightfully that it was withdrawn. So it doesn’t behoove me to squawk about it for, after all, nobody ever had to throw me down and pour liquor down my throat.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 181 – Dr. Bob’s Nightmare)

No matter what we were like before or how well others seem to handle it, we can never safely use again period.  Any of us who do not completely get this must not risk such events or gatherings.  It would be far better to spend New Year’s Eve with others in recovery and around strong support to carry us through this challenge.

If you have accepted this, it is still important to have people in place wherever you are that know if you are struggling and are strong enough to stop you if you begin to walk down the road to the stupidity of relapse.

One important point to remember also is that no matter if you decide it is safe to go out on New Year’s Eve or not, you must be willing to be a support for others in recovery also:

Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 89)

Sober Christmas, Sober Holidays, and Sober New Year’s…

Stay Sober My Friends…

 

Wade H.

The Christmas Promises

The Christmas Promises

Christmas gifts.
Christmas gifts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

Those who have been to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or have a Twelve Step Background will know this passage to be a passage from what are called the Promises.  Those things that are the awesome goals that are described as what life looks like when you have worked your recovery properly (through the Ninth Step into Steps Ten, Eleven and Twelve).

This passage is very important to consider during this time of year.  For much of the world, including the United States, we have begun counting down the days until Christmas.  By that I mean that many of us are counting down the minutes until that special moment when your friends and loved ones get together and give you free stuff.  There are other wonderful aspects to th holiday season and especially Christmas, but for many of us the gift receiving is most enjoyable part.

I know that, a bunch of people who are absolutely thinking like I just described are telling themselves right now that this dos not describe them.  Telling themselves “Thank God I’m not one of those people.”

Before you get yourself too far down that road, ask yourself this and ponder it honestly:  If for no apparent reason, nobody got me anything this Christmas or even really paid me much attention, how would I feel.

Would you not notice at all?

Would you notice and be thankful for the opportunity to focus on others without the distraction of them noticing you?

Would you think of how great it is that everyone is focusing on more important things finally?

or would you:

Be angry and bitter?

Be frustrated that here comes another Christmas and nobody is thinking of you again?

Think that the reason you are not getting gifts is because you didn’t get them nice enough gifts and plan how to get them better gifts?

Feel a tremendous amount of self pity, because you messed up so bad that they don’t even give you gifts?

If you would notice and feel anything like the second group of responses you might have an area that needs to be looked at.  Losing interest in selfish things and gaining interest in others.  Having your self-seeking slip away is a new attitude that is the mark of progress in your recovery.

The self seeking is at the rood of alcoholism/drug addiction:

Whatever our protestations, are not most of us concerned with ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity?

Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 62)

On Christmas, birthdays or other times where many people expect gifts and people to honor them are you concerned with yourself, your resentments or your self-pity.

This is a big jump for a lot of people, but what would it be like for you on Christmas to truly not want anything from others and to be only concerned with how you can help or bring joy to all that you encounter.

Many of us have an incredibly hard time imagining that to be freedom and imagine that kind of thinking to be the thinking of someone who is all messed up.  While mentally measuring the people around you by what they give you on a specific day or days of the year makes perfectly good sense to you.

I know there are those out there who try to manipulate others to show emotion towards them by giving people big gifts etc. and that is not what I am talking about.  If a person does that then the gift they are looking for is the emotional response and that is a whole other sickness in and of itself.  That sickness is disguised by calling the expected gift “appreciation.”

I am talking about truly not expecting anything in return.

On the news, I have been hearing stories of people who anonymously pay off thousands of dollars of layaway items for others in stores.  There are people who could not afford to buy something, so they put it on a payment plan at the store.  Then some unnamed person goes in and pays for what they owe and they get the item for free and don’t even know who to thank.  The person who paid off the item truly expected nothing in return.  I know that because none of the people that had their items paid for can even give anything to this person du to th fact that they do not know who the person is.

This is a person who has a true interest in their fellows and has lost interest in selfish things.

There are these sorts of individuals on the planet and if you are in recovery, becoming one of these individuals is a art of what you should look like in the end.  I am not saying to run out and fake it right now or to get all emotionally excited because you just read this and run out to some store and buy people stuff.

I’m asking each of us to take an honest look at where we are at relative to this goal and to diligently work towards honestly being that kind of person.

If faking it for now is the best you can do on the way to becoming that person,  then by all means, get to it.  If working Steps harder throughout the holiday season is the path for you, get to that.  If reflective thought with your sponsor, counselor or group is the best you can do this year, then let get to that.

The key is not that you have to be perfectly unselfish by tomorrow morning.  The key is that this is the goal and you always measure your progress by your distance from the goal not by how good you feel or how good other people think you are.

If you really are not even beginning to get over selfishness, A GOOD PLACE TO START, is to find someone else in recovery to invest your time in over the holiday instead of what you usually do.  It may be just you and that person, there may be other sponsors/people in recovery or whatever, but focus on helping another person instead of what you can get.  Forget what stuff you can get or how much attention you can get and focus on what you can do for someone who probably won’t give you anything in return.

This concept is not only good for shooting towards those promises that say you will feel better than you ever have felt before.  This concept is a key one to staying sober:

Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 89)

To be helpful is our only aim.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 89)

If you are still looking for something you can take from the holidays, then I have the most awesome gift for you:  Growth in your recovery!  We can drink, smoke, snort or inject away all of the other gifts we get, but growth in each of our own recoveries is priceless.

Be useful this holiday season and the feeling of uselessness will truly disappear.  The more you do things for others without expecting anything in return, the more self-seeking will slip away.  The more you find joy in what you give and less in what you get the less you will have to feel self pity about.  This is the change of our whole attitude and outlook on life that we are shooting for.

Focus on this passage as the promises for future holidays including Christmas:

That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

Happiest of holidays in ne freedom and stay sober my friends…

Wade H.

Joy, Freedom and True Happiness Under Pressure and Difficulty

Joy, Freedom and True Happiness Under Pressure and Difficulty

The joy of living we really have, even under pressure and difficulty.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 15)

Good Against Bad
Good Against Bad (Photo credit: michael.heiss)

We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 83)

 Joy, happiness and freedom EVEN UNDER PRESSURE AND DIFFICULTY; these are alien concepts to so many of us.  If you are in the world for any period of time it wont take long to realize that the world is like a game of cards:  There are good hands and there are bad hands and you gotta know how to deal with both.  

One thing that is also true of us working through recovery is that we really don’t have the luxury of freaking out.  We either learn to deal with the good and the bad or we haven’t really learned to deal with life.  

I was very specific when I said BOTH because some of us cannot handle the bad without freaking out and some of us cannot handle the good without self-destructing.  

I do not hold with those who believe that alcoholism is entirely a problem of mental control. I have had many men who had, for example, worked a period of months on some problem or business deal which was to be settled on a certain date, favorably to them. They took a drink a day or so prior to the date, and then the phenomenon of craving at once became paramount to all other interests so that the important appointment was not met. These men were not drinking to escape; they were drinking to overcome a craving beyond their mental control.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. xxix-xxx – 4th Edition the Doctor’s Opinion)

He has a positive genius for getting tight at exactly the wrong moment, particularly when some important decision must be made or engagement kept. He is often perfectly sensible and well balanced concerning everything except liquor, but in that respect he is incredibly dishonest and selfish. He often possesses special abilities, skills, and aptitudes, and has a promising career ahead of him. He uses his gifts to build up a bright outlook for his family and himself, and then pulls the structure down on his head by a senseless series of sprees.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 21)

Some of us fall flat on our face from things going too well also.  We gotta learn to handle the good and the bad.  We have to learn to have happiness and remain free in both.  This is something that comes through the process (the passage from page 83 is from “The Promises” that are for those almost through with Step 9), but we have to be aware of it also.

And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone – even alcohol. For by this time sanity will have returned.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

Of course, the timeframe mentioned here is after Step 9 is completed, but this is key also.  We are not fighting people and life, we are taking life on life’s terms, one day at a time.  We are looking to gain the courage to change the things we can change, the serenity to accept the things we cannot change and the wisdom to know the which are the things we can change and which are the things we cannot.

If you are not at this point, three things are evident:

  1. Getting through the Steps up to Step Nine seems to be a prerequisite to the expectation of a lot of this, so vigorously working or reworking your Steps is a key

Then there is this:

Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 89)

  1. When desperate, working with somebody else is a must.  If you are feeling uncomfortably bad or uncomfortably good it is not just a choice, it is a must.
  2. It is not about you!!!!  The planet and all the people in it were not specifically placed here to keep you comfortable.

Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 61)

If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful. In trying to make these arrangements our actor may sometimes be quite virtuous. He may be kind, considerate, patient, generous; even modest and self-sacrificing. On the other hand, he may be mean, egotistical, selfish and dishonest. But, as with most humans, he is more likely to have varied traits.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 60– 61)

You cannot try to force or manipulate the world into keeping you comfortable and you cant allow yourself to get angry, indignant, self-pitying or so otherwise uncomfortable that you are in danger.

Joy, freedom and happiness that can sand pressure and discomfort are offered to you.  There is hope, but you have to take action to get it.

 

Stay sober my friends,

Wade H.

The Fatal Sickness Of Mind And Body

Human brain - midsagittal cut
Human brain – midsagittal cut (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Fatal Sickness Of Mind And Body

But insist that if he is severely afflicted, there may be little chance he can recover by himself.

Continue to speak of alcoholism as an illness, a fatal malady. Talk about the conditions of body and mind which accompany it. Keep his attention focused mainly on your personal experience. Explain that many are doomed who never realize their predicament.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 92)

The chapter containing this passage is the chapter focused on helping us to understand how to work with others in recovery (Working With Others).  In speaking of alcoholism/addiction as a fatal sickness of the mind and body we have already started to look at this in the previous post (The Crux of the Problem: Obviously) with a discussion of the mind as the crux of the problem.

As far as talking about the body, there has been much by way of research to show how the body and the actual physical traits of the human brain are altered by using and how some of those alterations actually create a deep craving for alcohol or other drugs of choice, in some cases for any kind of intoxication or in some other cases for any imbalance in life that might create a feeling that is even similar.

Prior to much of this research that we now have a Doctor by the name of  William D. Silkworth M.D. who was; “A well-known doctor, chief physician at a nationally prominent hospital specializing in alcoholic and drug addiction” (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. XXV – 4th Edition) describes these bodily changes as being similar to an allergy:

We believe, and so suggested a few years ago, that the action of alcohol on these chronic alcoholics is a manifestation of an allergy; that the phenomenon of craving is limited to this class and never occurs in the average temperate drinker. These allergic types can never safely use alcohol in any form at all; and once having formed the habit and found they cannot break it, once having lost their self-confidence, their reliance upon things human, their problems pile up on them and become astonishingly difficult to solve.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. XXV – 4th Edition)

Simply put, the doctor observed that using seems to make some alcoholics/addicts develop a response to possibly intoxicating substances that is different from the majority of other people on earth.  He is even implying that this is only the most advanced levels of addiction and alcoholism and that other types do not have this response or at least have yet to develop it yet.

Though the aggregate of recoveries resulting from psychiatric effort is considerable, we physicians must admit we have made little impression upon the problem as a whole. Many types do not respond to the ordinary psychological approach.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. XXV – 4th Edition)

The type that have this abnormal response to intoxicating substances (which relates to the idea of having an allergy) are described as being bodily different than even other alcoholics/addicts.  Without all of the details we have today, the doctor knew that the body was altered in such a way in some of us that if we get any possibly intoxicating substance into our system we were going to suddenly have a desperate feeling of need to get intoxicated (if not on whatever possibly intoxicating substance triggered it we would take in that substance and get a desire for alcohol or our drug of choice).  This is his basic explanation of what is going on with our body.  He called it the “Phenomenon of Craving.” 

If I get near to the feeling of a buzz, I am going to experience a bodily and mental craving to get intoxicated.

This may seem like an overly simplistic view to those who read research and study things about recovery and all of the scientific details, but it is a basic overarching concept.  That is the condition of the “body” that is to be described in working with others.  Simple and easy to understand is key.

Now back to the conversation we were to have with the person just starting in recovery:

Explain that many are doomed who never realize their predicament.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 92)

The idea of being doomed is centered here on the idea that if you are at a very advanced level of alcoholism/addiction your body has developed this terrible quirk that if you get anything into your system that seems like it could get you intoxicated you are going to have a deep desire to get intoxicated (Allergy, Phenomenon of Craving).  The deeper part of the problem is not that if you get any you are going to want more, the deeper part of the problem is that in sobriety, even with a desperate desire to remain abstinent, your own brain will both fail to stop you from using something potentially intoxicating (Strange Mental Blank Spots) and will in fact be trying to find a way to use safely even though other parts of your mind will know that any using means having relapsed (The Great Obsession).

The basic idea is that your body will drive you to destroy yourself if a certain thing happens (encounter something possibly intoxicating) and that not only will your mind not stop from that certain thing, but a part of your own mind will secretly be trying to trick you into making that certain thing happen then you cannot trust your own mind or body no matter what you learn or stop doing for now.

Now to the stories of “personal experience” that are included in the book to help us all process this information.  Look at this part of an included example of all of this:

We asked him to tell us exactly how it happened. This is his story: “I came to work on Tuesday morning. I remember I felt irritated that I had to be a salesman for a concern I once owned. I had a few words with the boss, but nothing serious. Then I decided to drive into the country and see one of my prospects for a car. On the way I felt hungry so I stopped at a roadside place where they have a bar. I had no intention of drinking. I just thought I would get a sandwich. I also had the notion that I might find a customer for a car at this place, which was familiar for I had been going to it for years. I had eaten there many times during the months I was sober. I sat down at a table and ordered a sandwich and a glass of milk. Still no thought of drinking. I ordered another sandwich and decided to have another glass of milk.

“Suddenly the thought crossed my mind that if I were to put an ounce of whiskey in my milk it couldn’t hurt me on a full stomach. I ordered a whiskey and poured it into the milk. I vaguely sensed I was not being any too smart, but felt reassured as I was taking the whiskey on a full stomach. The experiment went so well that I ordered another whiskey and poured it into more milk. That didn’t seem to bother me so I tried another.”  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 36)

All of what we just discussed is contained in this story.  He went to a bar (one that he had been going to for years – clearly to drink for some of those years) with no thought of drinking then suddenly thinks it’s okay to drink if milk is involved (The Great Obsession).  Then the mindset that normally would stop him was reduced to:  I vaguely sensed I was not being any too smart, but felt reassured as I was taking the whiskey on a full stomach.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 36).  That is an excellent description of the Strange Mental Blank Spots in action.

Then come the Allergy and the Phenomenon of Craving.  The experiment went so well that I ordered another whiskey and poured it into more milk. That didn’t seem to bother me so I tried another  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 36).

Think about it, he felt it would be okay to take a little bit with certain circumstances in place.  Then, he decides that that little bit did nothing so a little bit more would be okay.  How does all of this end:

Thus started one more journey to the asylum for Jim. Here was the threat of commitment, the loss of family and position, to say nothing of that intense mental and physical suffering which drinking always caused him. He had much knowledge about himself as an alcoholic. Yet all reasons for not drinking were easily pushed aside in favor of the foolish idea that he could take whiskey if only he mixed it with milk!

Whatever the precise definition of the word may be, we call this plain insanity. How can such a lack of proportion, of the ability to think straight, be called anything else?

 (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 36– 37)

 

And there you have the fatal sickness of mind and body that many of those who suffer from it have no idea they have.  This is a major part of understanding and admitting the powerlessness that we are working out in Step 1.  If you are trying to get the through Steps One or Two or think you already have passed them, here is the point:

Once more: The alcoholic at certain times has no effective mental defense against the first drink. Except in a few rare cases, neither he nor any other human being can provide such a defense. His defense must come from a Higher Power.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 43)

Stay sober my friends,

Wade H.