The Solution vs. The Confusion
He was sober. It was years since I could remember his coming to New York in that condition. I was amazed. Rumor had it that he had been committed for alcoholic insanity. I wondered how he had escaped. Of course he would have dinner, and then I could drink openly with him. Unmindful of his welfare, I thought only of recapturing the spirit of other days. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 9)
The door opened and he stood there, fresh-skinned and glowing. There was something about his eyes. He was inexplicably different. What had happened?
I pushed a drink across the table. He refused it. Disappointed but curious, I wondered what had got into the fellow. He wasn’t himself.
“Come, what’s this all about?” I queried. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 9)
By the time we hit this point in founding member Bill W.’s story, he has tried to get sober several times, his whole world is coming apart (already has come apart) and he is sitting around waiting to die.
He has a friend (Ebby T.) who was as much an alcoholic as he was, who had sunk so far that he heard he had been committed. Suddenly this guy shows up and he is sober (apparently a “condition” Bill had rarely ever seen him in). Bill had been trying and desperately wishing to get sober and when he finds one person as bad as he was his first response is to try and get that person to relapse. Then when the guy refuses, he is disappointed.
Bill, of all people, knew how strong the temptation to relapse is. Bill, of all people, should have wanted to rejoice in his friend’s freedom and desperately sought to find the same solution. Bill, of all people, should have wanted to help his friend instead of attempting to destroy his world with relapse.
The truth is that in recovery the people around you are either a part of the solution or a part of the problem. They may not know which they are, but they are.
Here is a fact to keep in mind: The fact that a person has good intentions (or thinks they have good intentions) does not mean that whatever he/she does is good. For example, lots of people have it in their mind that a person who is sober cannot possibly be a happy person. So if such a person encounters a person who was miserable using and has finally struggled through recovery and has found some short time of recovery, the person who feels that a sober person cannot possibly be happy will try to convince that person to use, believing that getting that person to use is doing them some kind of favor.
The fact is that if a person who uses so heavily that to use is to destroy his/her life get’s sobriety there is no reason to use again. A person who is trying to get such a person to us, no matter what the intentions are, is attacking that person and everything he/she cares about. Whether a person intends to attack or unintentionally attacks does not matter when the attack has the potential to destroy your whole world.
What is the difference between a person who gets angry with you and shoots you in the head and a person who mistakenly thinks that the best way to make your headache go away is to shoot you in the head? Once you are shot in the head, the intentions matter very little.
If you are a person in recovery, it is very important that you understand that some people are simply not safe for you to be around, no matter what their intentions are or seem to be.
If you are the friend or loved one of someone in recovery, there is so much more than just what you intend to do or don’t intend to do. Again; you are either a part of the solution or a part of the problem. If you really want to be a part of the solution, you are going to have to learn a lot about recovery also. You may have to learn about codependence and about how to not be an enabler. You may have to be more understanding or learn “tough love” as the case may be. That person’s alcoholism/addiction may have changed you also in ways that need to be changed back. You may also be an addict/alcoholic and have to seek recovery also. You may not have had anything to do with their using (or just think you didn’t), but you can be a part of his/her recovery. If you are not willing to be a part of his/her recovery you probably will become a part of the struggle and resistance to his/her recovery.
Let me be clear however: The people around the alcoholic/addict cannot make a person recover; keep him/her sober; force him/her to stay sober etc. What we can do is help make recovery more likely or considerably less likely. The people around the alcoholic/addict also have the ability to make the person’s life far more miserable than necessary if we are not careful.
A person in recovery needs to limit exposure to the “part of the problem” people as much as possible and spend as much time as possible with the “part of the solution” people as possible (Although some “part of the problem” people cannot be avoided entirely; as a rule, exposure to them should be as limited as possible). This is what the support groups (meetings) are supposed to be hinged on:
We are average Americans. All sections of this country and many of its occupations are represented, as well as many political, economic, social, and religious backgrounds. We are people who normally would not mix. But there exists among us a fellowship, a friendliness, and an understanding which is indescribably wonderful. We are like the passengers of a great liner the moment after rescue from shipwreck when camaraderie, joyousness and democracy pervade the vessel from steerage to Captain’s table. Unlike the feelings of the ship’s passengers, however, our joy in escape from disaster does not subside as we go our individual ways. The feeling of having shared in a common peril is one element in the powerful cement which binds us. But that in itself would never have held us together as we are now joined. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 17)
These sorts of understanding people who truly engage with each other in this way a an infinite help to anyone in recovery. A group that meets that is not like this (be it a 12 Step group or otherwise) is lacking something terribly important and helpful to those of us in recovery.
The kind of people around a person in recovery is of the incredibly important and if you are a friend or loved one of a person in recovery, the kind of person you are is incredibly important. Founding member of Alcoholics Anonymous describes how he was drawn in to the group of people that wanted to help him this way:
About the time of the beer experiment I was thrown in with a crowd of people who attracted me because of their seeming poise, health, and happiness. They spoke with great freedom from embarrassment, which I could never do, and they seemed very much at ease on all occasions and appeared very healthy. More than these attributes, they seemed to be happy. I was self conscious and ill at ease most of the time, my health was at the breaking point, and I was thoroughly miserable. I sensed they had something I did not have, from which I might readily profit. I learned that it was something of a spiritual nature, which did not appeal to me very much, but I thought it could do no harm. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 178)
I think a clearer way to state all of this is:
The people around the person in recovery and the alcoholic/addict are either part of the solution or a part of the confusion.
Which are you and which are those around you?
Stay sober my friends,