Valentine’s Day – A Recovery Check and A Reality Check

Souvenir Foto School: Day 19 - D for Dying Flowers
Souvenir Foto School: Day 19 – D for Dying Flowers (Photo credit: Creature Comforts)

Valentine’s Day – A Recovery Check and A Reality Check

It was a devastating blow to my pride. I, who had thought so well of myself and my abilities, of my capacity to surmount obstacles, was cornered at last. Now I was to plunge into the dark, joining that endless procession of sots who had gone on before. I thought of my poor wife. There had been much happiness after all. What would I not give to make amends. But that was over now.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 78)

As we head towards Valentine’s Day, we should all stop and ponder those we care about and those that care about us.  Many alcoholics/addicts are like Bill W. was doing in the passage above and wait until the point where everything seemed doomed and hopeless before even having time to even give any thought to those people.  In other words it’s time for a Valentine’s reality check and a Valentine’s recovery check.  We must look at the people we interact with or should be interacting with and be willing to do whatever is right.

Some of us claim that the people we care about and those that care about us do not exist.  Some of us have reasons (real or imaginary) to be so mad at these people that we forget that we care about these people or that they care about us (that means also forgetting that “resentment is the number one offender pg. 64).  Some of us are so busy being pitiful and feeling sorry for ourselves that we come across as liars or wishy-washy whenever we try to talk to these people.

Whatever the distorted reasons, this is a time of year where there are expectations that true feelings will be shared.

Each of us needs to take this opportunity and be honest to ourselves and to those who care about us as well as those we care about.

That means taking an inventory of our treatment of those who care about us or those we care about.  This also means getting others of more wisdom involved that can help determine what actions to take immediately, but make sure those are people who are truly wise and are not just the “yes-man” (or woman) who repeatedly nods and directs towards the softer easier way which is to avoid dealing with the issues.

There is something I call “The Rule” when it comes to recovery and how we must relate to others if we are to have any hope of recovery:

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

Way too many people (and way to many of them who call themselves sponsors or recovery experts) think the rule is that we are hard on others while always being considerate of our own comfort levels.

The fact is that you need to be hard on yourself and considerate of others.  That also means that the people who you enlist as guides on your journey towards sensibility and recovery need to be on that page also.  They nee to be the types of people that are hard on you while also giving you direction that is always considerate of others.

It is surprisingly easy to find so-called experts or iffy sponsors that will tell you; “Oh, you don’t have to do _____ , that’s too much” etc.  These people are often doing more to damage your recovery than to help whether they mean to or not.

Founding member, Bill W. was plugging right along until he thought the end was near and then he wished he had done all of this differently now that it seemed to be too late.

This all falls into the area of making amends.  Let’s look at a couple of definitions from the dictionary for “amends”:

1.  reparation or compensation for a loss, damage, or injury of any kind; recompense.

3.  make amends, to compensate, as for an injury, loss, or insult: I tried to make amends for the misunderstanding by sending her flowers.

One thing that obvious is that using these definitions of “amends”, it would be incredibly rare that just saying that you are sorry would qualify as making amends.

The question in this context is how do you make amends for not showing appropriate emotions towards someone who has been caring towards you are someone who you really do care about (like a child that you are the parent of who you love deeply, but they do not seem to see it or know it)?

Saying how you feel is a great starting point, but it is definitely by no means an amends or simply put it is definitely not enough.  It takes a lot of work to repair the hurts of the past.

I know that there are a few out there reading this who are thinking:  “I have done enough that that person should have gotten over it by now and what about my hurts from them.”  Before going on in that conversation I would like to refer you back to what I call “The Rule”:

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

Before you begin, start with the expectation that there will be far more work and struggling to make amends on your part than on the part of the other people involved.  This is just a part of what it takes to overcome the damage you have done to yourself and others through alcoholism/addiction.  IT IS WHAT IT IS!!!

Not to be rude about it, but if you didn’t want to have the pain and suffering that it takes to repair everything when working recovery than maybe you shouldn’t have started using alcohol and drugs in the first place.  This sort of attitude is necessary to create the change in your world that can facilitate and sustain your sobriety.

Under no condition do we criticize such a person or argue. Simply we tell him that we will never get over drinking until we have done our utmost to straighten out the past. We are there to sweep off our side of the street, realizing that nothing worth while can be accomplished until we do so, never trying to tell him what he should do. His faults are not discussed. We stick to our own.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 77 – 78)

There is no focusing on what is wrong with the other person or on what they need to do first before I would consider being open and honest with the person, there is just the need for you to do the right thing no matter what the consequences and no matter what the other person’s response.

I understand that there may be a few incredibly extreme cases where a person is physically abusive, or a murderer etc. where the situation would call for this to all be looked at differently and some of these interactions may require the assistance of a professional counselor, but the norm is the direct route with careful consideration for how the other person would be affected.

This may need to be an inventory of its own each year or a part of your other inventories (or both), but Valentine’s Day seems like an excellent time to look at the people that care about you and who you care about (whether secretly or openly) and do something about it.

This is not limited to people you date, are married to or having some kind of intimate relations with; this is for all of those who care about you or who you care about at all.  Use this time of year as a recovery check and a reality check.

Do not wait until you are finished to mirror the words of founding member Bill W.:

There had been much happiness after all. What would I not give to make amends. But that was over now.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 8)

AND DON’T FORGET TO SHOW APPRECIATION TO ALL OF THOSE WHO CARE ABOUT YOU OR WHO YOU CARE ABOUT NO MATTER IF YOU NEED TO MAKE AMENDS OR NOT!!! (or you will owe an amends the day after Valentine’s Day).

Stay Sober my Friends;

Wade H.

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The “No Matter What The Consequences” “Go To Any Length” Promises

Arguing

 The “No Matter What The Consequences” “Go To Any Length” Promises

Simply we tell him that we will never get over drinking until we have done our utmost to straighten out the past.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 77)

I have discussed this before a few times in various ways (see Relapse and Recovery & Change The Past In The Present To Change Your Future. & “In The Face Of Expert Opinion To The Contrary, We Have Recovered”), but it seems to be a never-ending debate (especially with those who are supposed to be working Steps Eight and Nine).

It is always amusing to me how many people ask me, doesn’t the Big Book tell you to, “make amends unless making it will harm you or them?”  They always have this look as if I have suddenly had my mind wiped clear of all recovery knowledge when I firmly answer them with a flat-out “NO!”  Then they always want to convince me that it does say that.  Then I casually refer them to page 79 in the Alcoholics Anonymous book and read:

Reminding ourselves that we have decided to go to any lengths to find a spiritual experience, we ask that we be given strength and direction to do the right thing, no matter what the personal consequences may be. We may lose our position or reputation or face jail, but we are willing. We have to be. We must not shrink at anything.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 79)

Then to page 59 which is the step they are terribly (and possibly fatally) misquoting:

9.  Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 59)

The correct quote is “except when to do so would injure THEM or OTHERS.  The Step and the book say absolutely nothing about avoiding the making of an amends because it might harm you.  As a matter of fact, the passage we looked at from page 79, we are to make all emends, “no matter what the personal consequences may be.” 

The conversation itself is an attempt to convince me of a path to recovery that is completely opposite to we are being told.

All those “Promises” that we are all taught through repetition to use as the carrot on our recovery stick.  These “Promises” are waved around as the big happy ending for us.   The point in our story where we got to the “and he/she lived happily ever after” part. 

I am not saying these promises are not true or that they are not a good goal to shoot for.  These are the truth and definitely an awesome goal to shoot for.  The problem is that people miss the fine print.  The disclaimer like the mumbling at the end of a commercial that tells you what is really going on with this contest, free gift or potential side effects of this medication.

The fine print that so easily slips by particularly clear in the first sentence of the paragraph containing these “Promises”.

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 83)

For some of you that are reading this, it is not the first time you hear me discussing this, but it is important to ask yourself; “Which phase of my development is the “this phase” that is described here?”  That is because the promises are only for those who are painstaking about that “this phase”.

But before we get to that lets look at another passage that many of us may be familiar with, but often miss what it is really saying.  The paragraph after the paragraph containing the promises:

Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

Notice the “work for them” part.  If there is a “this phase of our development” then that is really the focus of what we are working hard at to get these “Promises”.

The next two sentences are a change of thought but also a continuation of the same thought. 

This thought brings us to Step Ten, which suggests we continue to take personal inventory and continue to set right any new mistakes as we go along. We vigorously commenced this way of living as we cleaned up the past.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

The change of thought is that we are transitioning from a discussion about Step Nine and moving into a discussion about Step Ten.  The continuation of the same thought is the fact that it states that you started to really work on your Step Ten as you were working on your Step Nine.

Making your amends is not just a step you check a box for, it is a major part of starting your new “way of living”.  If you only do a partial job of making amends, you only do a partial job of starting your new way of living.  That means that the amends you leave out has left behind some of the old you and that is the old you that will drive you to do what the old you does.  That means a relapse or other fits of stupid. 

IF YOU ARE PAINSTAKING ABOUT STEP NINE – NO MATTER WHAT THE PERSONAL CONSEQUENCES MAY BE – THEN THE PROMISES ARE WHAT ARE BEING PROMISED TO YOU!  That does not mean however that not getting beat-up, not getting yelled at, not getting spit on, not going to jail etc. are promised to you.  Those are contained on the promises.  Freedom that comes from being an entirely new you is what is promised unless you only do a partial job of starting your new way of living.

So, to answer that question once-and-for-all (yeah right, someone will read this and immediately try to tell me I am not reading it right):  There is no passage that says to make amends unless it might hurt you or make you uncomfortable.

In fact the amends that will have the most effect in your life are the ones that are the most uncomfortable and the most risky.

That whole concept that you don’t do it if it is somehow uncomfortable or risky is a lie from the darkness of your root problem:

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

Not making amends to someone you did something to is totally about protecting yourself from physical harm or from being emotionally hurt in some way.  It is a completely selfish act.  If you have so latched on to the root of your problem you are locked on to the very thing which is destroying you, but you don’t want to let go. 

There are awesome promises for you, but only if you are painstaking bout making ALL OF YOUR AMENDS!!!

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. 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.

Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.

This thought brings us to Step Ten, which suggests we continue to take personal inventory and continue to set right any new mistakes as we go along. We vigorously commenced this way of living as we cleaned up the past. We have entered the world of the Spirit.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 83– 84)

Stay Sober My Friends,

Wade H.

Relapse and Recovery

Relapse and Recovery

Drug addict on Novokuznetskaya Metro Station i...
Drug addict on Novokuznetskaya Metro Station in Moscow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Trembling, I stepped from the hospital a broken man. Fear sobered me for a bit. Then came the insidious insanity of that first drink, and on Armistice Day 1934, I was off again. Everyone became resigned to the certainty that I would have to be shut up somewhere, or would stumble along to a miserable end. How dark it is before the dawn! In reality that was the beginning of my last debauch.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 8)

Some time later, and just as he thought he was getting control of his liquor situation, he went on a roaring bender. For him, this was the spree that ended all sprees. He saw that he would have to face his problems squarely that God might give him mastery.

One morning he took the bull by the horns and set out to tell those he feared what his trouble had been. He found himself surprisingly well received, and learned that many knew of his drinking. Stepping into his car, he made the rounds of people he had hurt. He trembled as he went about, for this might mean ruin, particularly to a person in his line of business.

At midnight he came home exhausted, but very happy. He has not had a drink since. As we shall see, he now means a great deal to his community, and the major liabilities of thirty years of hard drinking have been repaired in four.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 155156)

These tidbits of recovery stories are from the story of Bill W. and Dr. Bob (founding members of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve Steps) respectively.  The point here is that a relapse in recovery is not a death sentence (not necessarily a death sentence, there are people who relapse and die). 

I am not a fan of the idea that relapse is a part of recovery, because although the point is not to say that everyone has to relapse to recover, that is what most people hear.  In other words, the idea that relapse is a part of recovery can be used as an opportunistic excuse to destroy your own recovery.

On the other hand, I think that there are cases (as the examples of Bill W. and Dr. Bob demonstrate) where a relapse clarifies how desperate and powerless you really are and forces a person to desperately seek recovery in way that was otherwise impossible.  In other words the relapse forces the person to work recovery with enough seriousness for it to finally work.

That is not to say that you should relapse to make your recovery work better; that is like telling a suicidal person to shoot himself in the head to get over being suicidal.  But a person who almost kills himself/herself and survives sometimes might finally realize how serious the problem is and desperately seek help.

Some of us have relapsed since starting recovery and a few of us may have just relapsed and be in the process of considering what to do now.  Well, the relapse is a terrible stumble and fall in recovery, but that does not mean you have to lie there until you die.  In the second example above, Dr. Bob was going through a bunch of recovery stuff and getting it.  He felt better and was remaining sober, but then had a terrible relapse.

The key is what he did next:  He finally “saw that he would have to face his problems squarely.”  Dr. Bob had decided that he had to face a part of recovery that he had refused to do prior to this:

When our friend related his experience, the man agreed that no amount of will power he might muster could stop his drinking for long. A spiritual experience, he conceded, was absolutely necessary, but the price seemed high upon the basis suggested. He told how he lived in constant worry about those who might find out about his alcoholism. He had, of course, the familiar alcoholic obsession that few knew of his drinking. Why, he argued, should he lose the remainder of his business, only to bring still more suffering to his family by foolishly admitting his plight to people from whom he made his livelihood? He would do anything, he said, but that.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 155)

Dr. Bob was willing to do anything at all in recovery except for what is now known as Steps 8 and 9 which deal with making amends.  Dr. Bob had gotten stuck on Step 8; he was not willing to make amends to them all. 

Due to his relapse he suddenly realized that the pain of continuing to use until his world was completely annihilated was far greater than the pain he faced from making amends.  He finally became desperate enough to do anything to get sobriety even though that is the idea we are supposed to be going into recovery with.

Now we go out to our fellows and repair the damage done in the past. We attempt to sweep away the debris which has accumulated out of our effort to live on self-will and run the show ourselves. If we haven’t the will to do this, we ask until it comes. Remember it was agreed at the beginning we would go to any lengths for victory over alcohol.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 76)

This passage (which is actually discussing Steps 8 & 9) reminds us that we start recovery with the idea that I am willing to do anything to get better.  The idea that “I am desperate and do not have the power to stop myself and am desperate enough t do anything to get better.”  This is the starting point of recovery.

If you do not start with this mindset, you are in deep trouble from the beginning.  Recovery is going to require that you face and do things that are terribly uncomfortable.  Some of these things both your conscious and unconscious mind are constantly trying to keep you from facing in any way.  If you are not desperate, when the time comes to face these things you avoid these things and in actuality we often desperately run from these things at all costs.

If you start with this desperation mindset, there is a point for each of us where we reach something that seems to be too much to ask.  This is really a test of the desperation that is the fuel that powers your recovery work.  Some of us run from recovery at this point, some of us hide it and pretend (ex:  Pretend to have listed all the people I need to make amends to, but leave off the ones I don’t want to do or lie and say I made an amends I did not really make etc.), some of us get stuck in some way or other. 

A relapse can be a wakeup call to you.  YOU CANNOT CUT CORNERS IN RECOVERY FOR ANY REASON. 

Reminding ourselves that we have decided to go to any lengths to find a spiritual experience, we ask that we be given strength and direction to do the right thing, no matter what the personal consequences may be. We may lose our position or reputation or face jail, but we are willing. We have to be. We must not shrink at anything.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 79)

If you have relapsed, let it be a reality check and do whatever it takes to get better no matter what. 

My father used to always tell me that there are two ways people learn:

  1.    People learn from their own mistakes
  2.    People learn from the mistakes of others

If you are in recovery and have not relapsed, think of how many people (some stronger than you) thinking the same things you are thinking right now have relapsed.  Consider those people and let their example help you understand your own desperation so that that can be the fuel to face the uncomfortable and sometimes painful process of recovery as if your very life depends upon it working.  The truth is that your very life does depend upon it working.

 

Stay Sober My Friends…

Wade H.

How To Survive The Holidays – Part 2 (Black Friday & Christmas shopping Edition)

How To Survive The Holidays – Part 2 (Black Friday & Christmas shopping Edition)

We avoid retaliation or argument. We wouldn’t treat sick people that way. If we do, we destroy our chance of being helpful. We cannot be helpful to all people, but at least God will show us how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 67)

A few years ago on a festive Thanksgiving night, after enjoying several warm espresso drinks each, much of my family found ourselves up and still wide awake around midnight.  Most of us had never been to a “Black Friday” event, so we decided to pile in a couple of SUVs and drive around until we found a store we all liked and join the all night experience. 

The things we saw, heard and experienced would make a nun beat someone down.  Christmas shopping, “Black Friday” and in reality the holiday season in general seems to bring the “crazy” out in an inordinate amount of people. 

Here is a fact for all of us.  “SOME IDIOTS CANNOT BE AVOIDED!”  There are idiots in this world and at certain times even the nicest of people will act like idiots.  Many of us in recovery focus on how other people are idiots and use that as justification for doing things that set in motion chains of self-destructive events.

For those of us in recovery there is a rule that goes with that fact:  “IF OTHERS ARE IDIOTS WE CANNOT LET IT BE CONTAGIOUS!”   We do not have the luxury of catching the stupidity of others as if it were a cold as if somehow because the coughed “stupid” all over us we have to let the “stupid” virus run it’s course in our lives.

We avoid retaliation or argument.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 67)

I am not trying to say that there will never be conflict in your life, but I am saying that those of us in recovery have to do everything in our power to avoid retaliation and arguments.  When someone does something that offends us, our argument or retaliation can often be the entire sacrifice of our world, life and possibly recovery just to get even with someone who probably doesn’t care anyway.

If we were to live, we had to be free of anger.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 66)

What does it mean to be free?   Does that mean you will never again experience the feeling of anger?  Of course not!  What it means is that when the feeling of anger or associated feelings come up they no longer dictate how you think, act or even feel.   Angry situations are not our problem, how we react to those situations is our problem. 

Retaliation and argument are not the solution for us, but what about people who do nothing and just keep their angry feelings to themselves.  The hidden feelings which we often act like they do not exist are called resentments.

It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worth while. But with the alcoholic, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harboring such feelings we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to die.

If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcoholics these things are poison.   (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 66)

The point is that holding resentment secretly devours your emotions, your mental state, and your life and shuts you off from everything that not only allows you to be happy, but also from everything that will keep you sober. 

So basically in our discussion we have ruled out angrily responding to other people’s crazy and we have ruled out doing nothing.  For many of us those are the only two options and if that is the case what we have discussed so far seems completely impossible.  After all, if those are the only two options and we have made a case for why both options will utterly destroy your entire world then there is no hope.

The problem is that these are not the only two options.  The problem we have is not one of how we respond.  The problem is why we respond the way we do.  So let’s just jump right in:

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

Again the problem is not how you react, it is why you are reacting the way you do!  In many cases it is all about a feeling of “How dare this person do _______ to me!”  As if you were the Queen of England or the Crown Prince or something.  Here is a newsflash for all of us in recovery: 

THE WORLD WAS NOT PUT HERE TO KEEP YOU COMFORTABLE.  THERE WILL BE TIMES WHEN YOU ARE TERRIBLY UNCOMFORTABLE.  THE CHANGES YOU NEED TO MAKE FOR SOBRIETY HAVE TO WORK WHEN LIFE IS UNCOMFORTABLE OR THEY DO NOT WORK AT ALL!

We are all people.  We all have good and bad days.  We all get caught in the heat of the moment and do stupid things.  Part of our recovery (particularly Steps Eight and Nine) are focused on going to people we have hurt or adversely affected with our actions in the past to repair the damage.  The hope is that they will see that the person that hurt them is not who we really are deep inside regardless of if that was just a bad moment or if that was who we were and we are changing now. 

How can we expect others to give us the same benefit of the doubt if we cannot give the same benefit of the doubt to others?  When I judge the world completely on how I feel (especially in the heat of the moment) I am declaring myself God and ruler of the universe.  After all, the whole world is measured by how good or bad something makes me feel.  I have decided the whole world must bow down to my decisions on what is good or bad as dictated by my feelings at the moment.  Is that not one of the highest levels of selfishness imaginable? 

So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn’t think so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us!   (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 62)

This is the crazy that makes us unable to play well with others.  We have to learn to think of what is going to be helpful to the other person.

Let’s say I’m on the freeway on my way to go shopping and I am minding my own business when suddenly this car rocketing down the freeway speeds into my lane leaving only a fraction of an inch between our bumpers never once even considering the use of a turn signal.  Now, I get to the store I was going to and here is the guy that just cut me off hurriedly walking into the same store and he suddenly falls down dropping a handful of stuff.

I could cuss him out, I could punch him in the nose,  I could call him all manner of evil things under my breath and wish I had punched him in the nose as I walk away or I could calmly smirk and think to myself “That’s what he gets.”  Or I could calmly say something like hey you should slow down a bit as I help him out.  Then maybe mention that he cut me off earlier.  The truth is that even the last response could be good or bad.  Because remember it is not how you respond, it is why you are responding the way you are.

If the only goal is to make sure that he knows that he offended you then it is again all about you.  This is a person who is incredibly hurried and may or may not have had a reason for that.  Most of us have been late for something or just having a terrible day and have cut someone off.   Some of us have heard the words, “If you are late one more time you’ll be fired!”  Has it ever occurred to you that this person might be in the middle of some major crisis and didn’t mean to offend you specifically?  What could someone do for you when you are in a crisis and find yourself offending people that  you don’t even notice that you offended?

So, if you walk over to the guy and help him just so you can have an easy opportunity to tell him what a jerk he is (just politely) you are still being crazy.  You are just being crazy with a smile. 

If you walk over to help, because you realize that this person might legitimately going through something and you try to offer the help you would want in the same situation you have learned to think of someone else other than yourself.  Should something be stated about the fact that the person cut you off?  I believe yes.  But, with the mindset I am describing it would be a bit into the conversation and I think it would be more of a part of the planting of a seed to help the person know what things to change in his life than just pressure to apologize or to feel bad.

I understand that for some reading this sounds weak, soft, or ridiculous.  The truth is, this is what it is to be unselfish and not self-centered.   The crazy people shopping at the holidays are in a shopping frenzy.  If you cannot yet handle being offended without some terrible emotion or action arising then you simply can’t go.  I guess you are going to have to shop on Cyber Monday instead of on Black Friday. 

As for family and friends on the holidays, not only should you consider what they are going through that might be making them act however they act, you should consider what you might have done to them in the past that they are still hurt over or angry over.  Just because you are trying to go through recovery does not mean that everyone around magically forgets the hurts and anger you have caused in the past.

Also, I think it is important to note that just because you chose to have the right mindset and take the right actions that does not mean that the other person is going to respond correctly.  The guy that cut you off then dropped his stuff in front of the store might cuss you out when you come over to help him.  You still have to keep your unselfish stand and hopefully when that person is working his Eighth and Ninth Steps you’ll come up as a person he cannot find to make amends to that deserves one.  Remember, that person may still be sick and just because that person is sick, does not meant that you have to get sucked into being sick with him or her.

This is what is meant by taking a “kindly and tolerant view” of everyone around you.  This is one of the major keys to surviving the holidays. 

We cannot be helpful to all people, but at least God will show us how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 67)

Change The Past In The Present To Change Your Future.

Change The Past In The Present To Change Your Future.

Simply we tell him that we will never get over drinking until we have done our utmost to straighten out the past.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 77)

Dealing with “the past.”  On hearing these words or pondering this concept many people immediately find resistance rise up from deep within themselves.

“Why do we have to talk about things that happened a long time ago?”

“I don’t think about those things, why bring them back up?” 

“The past is not my problem; it’s the stuff going on now?”

..and on and on.

These kinds of thoughts and statements are common for those of us trying to get through recovery, but simply are another part of the problem that must be solved. 

To start simply:  If your “past” affects the way you act, interact with others, think etc. in the present then it is not really your past.  It is your present! 

You do not have to be in constant conscious thought about things from your past for these things to have a profound effect on your present.  Something like an abusive first relationship can change the way you see the opposite sex, dating, relationships, marriage, and yourself even if you refuse to let yourself have any thoughts about that person or that relationship.  Another example could be growing in a terribly abusive home with abusive parents.  A person might refuse to spend any time pondering his or her childhood or parents but is completely misled if he or she thinks those things do not have a major influence on how he or she interacts with others.  Every relationship and interaction this person has will have some influence from this sort of childhood and it is foolish to deal with major problems in this person’s life and not touch on the the root reasons behind the thoughts and behaviors.

On the other hand, camping out in the past is not a solution either.  There is far more to recovery and in fact growth of any kind than just looking at the past, but to not deal with these things is to leave a huge hole in any recovery through which “crazy” can creep into our lives through.

The passage we are talking about here is not only talking about looking at the past, it describes doing everything that is humanly possible to fix these things.  Step 4 is where we look at the more destructive things from our past (particularly those we prefer not to think about or deal with).  Step five is where someone else helps us to take a deeper look at these things and admit the truth behind my problems in these situations.

Steps 8 and 9 are where we not only deal with these things from the standpoint of what is going on inside of each of us, bet we actually go to the people involved and undo our part in all of this.

For some hearing this or reading this the idea is unfathomable.  How are you expected to take the craziness of the people that hurt you the most and turn it into your problem and go try to fix it?  That is a valid concern if we were talking about taking someone else’s crazy and simply converting it into something to blame yourself for and running back to them crying about how sorry you are.  That however, is not what we are talking about here.

Though a situation had not been entirely our fault, we tried to disregard the other person involved entirely. Where were we to blame? The inventory was ours, not the other man’s. When we saw our faults we listed them. We placed them before us in black and white. We admitted our wrongs honestly and were willing to set these matters straight.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 67)

I don’t want to travel to far into too many of the Steps as it would take us down way too many “rabbit trails” but, our recovery is about fixing the “us” not the “them.”  Your recovery is about fixing “you” not about fixing everybody else so you can finally stay sober.

In other words, if your idea of a Fourth Step is writing a list of what is wrong with a bunch of other people and your idea of a Fifth Step is to take some time to talk to someone else about what is wrong with a bunch of other people, you are not working “Steps” or working in recovery.  You are simply complaining. 

The way you see these situations is a huge part of the problem and writing that mess down and vomiting it all over some other person is not a “fix” for how you see these things.

Let me slow down and break this down a bit:

Lets see that you have a huge trauma like someone you care about being shot and killed in front of you.  Acting like you can really convince yourself it never happened (“I just don’t think about it”) is an outright lie.  The idea that you can just “suck it up and deal with it” is a Band-Aid placed on a major injury.  (There is a place for this mindset but it is simply a temporary and unsustainable short-term solution to a long-term problem).

The idea that you are not going to think about this event ever again and feel some of the associated negative emotions etc. is foolish.  It will come up again and it will somehow influence your world when it does.  The challenge is not trying to get it not to come up again.  You will never be successful.  Even if you convince yourself it isn’t coming up again, you are probably just disguising it when it does come up as something else.

The truth is you have to somehow change the way you see this even when the memories or related emotions do come up again.  In other words you have to deal with and change the way you see these things so that when they do come up the effect they have on you is different.  Much of the change that has to be done in our lives is the changing of our own perspectives and perceptions.  The other activities such as the amends we make in Steps 8 and 9 are simply a test of how much we really have changed those perspectives and perceptions.  As a matter of fact if a person’s perspectives and perceptions are changed in the way we are describing here then making amends would be a logical next step and wouldn’t even need to be described as a separate step or steps.

The main points here are:

  • If you are a heavy user of drugs or alcohol then no stone of your past may remain unturned.  If you are having major problems of any kind in your life then assume there is no past as everything is potentially affecting you negatively now (in the present).
  • Other people do crazy things that are hurtful to us and that is in fact their problem.  How you see these things and if they negatively influence the way you think and act now is your problem.  As such, they are responsible for dealing with their part and you do not control that. You however, are responsible for dealing with your part (YES THAT MEANS DEALING WITH YOUR PART OF THEIR CRAZY BECAUSE THEIR CRAZY HAS SPREAD INTO YOUR CRAZY AS IF CONTAGIOUS)
  • We look at what other people do or did to us while we are in recovery not to somehow “fix” them or to simply feel better because we talked about this stuff, but to find what we need to “fix” about ourselves.
  • If you are uncomfortable with (or outright afraid of) looking at something “from the past” or resistant to seeing particular situations differently that is often an indicator that this might be one of the more important situations from your past that you need to look at and deal with.
  • Just “sucking it up” and “just dealing with it” may be a part of the process but is triage (stopping the bleeding) so you can deal with these things later.  If you stop there you are just kicking the “craziness” can down the road to come up again later.
  • You have to fix the past in the present as part of changing your future.
  • You are not to camp in the past, but you do need to go to the past and change your view and your part (or secretly you are still camped there). 

Please don’t let discomfort with dealing with your past stop your recovery!!!  I leave you with these words from the Alcoholics Anonymous book:

We went back through our lives. Nothing counted but thoroughness and honesty. When we were finished we considered it carefully. The first thing apparent was that this world and its people were often quite wrong. To conclude that others were wrong was as far as most of us ever got. The usual outcome was that people continued to wrong us and we stayed sore.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 6566)

 

Wade H.

“The Watch Four” to Watch For!

“The Watch Four” to Watch For!

This is not an overnight matter. It should continue for our lifetime. Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance of others is our code.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

This passage is an overview of the process we are to learn to do at Step 10, but this is actually a brief overview of the way we are supposed to live year to year, day to day and minute by minute.

There is a brief process listed here that could be more detailed or more complicated, but what is listed here does a great job of summarizing it.  These things are not to be relegated to just a process, but are supposed to gradually become the way you live.

This passage lists a process; the process is just stuff until you take action.  Once the action is taken it is supposed to be repeated constantly.  Once the process has been repeated constantly for a period of time it will become a habit.  Once a habit has been with you long enough it transition from a habit to a part of who you are.  It becomes a part of your lifestyle.  It is a part of who you are.  That is the goal.

Lets start by looking at the process briefly outlined in this passage:

FIRST, we continue to watch for negative and destructive thoughts or actions.  If you are at Step 10 and working your steps as outlined in the Alcoholics Anonymous book, you probably have a good idea what destructive thoughts and actions are most destructive to your life and those around you.  The authors also included four that are often common to us working through recovery:

  1. Selfishness
  2. Dishonesty
  3. Resentment
  4. Fear

Even if you have your own personalized list, these four should be included.  We will call these “The Watch Four.”  These are the things that you are supposed to be on watch for at all times.  These (along with whatever other items you may list) are indicators that you are about to unleash crazy in your world or that you have already been unleashing crazy in your world.  If you are watching for these and see that one has begun arising in you, you are in deep trouble.  That is why it is imperative that you keep watch.

NEXT, you have to know what to do if you are watching and one of these crops up.  Before you respond or act in any way or even give all of this too much thought, STOP!  Ask God to remove the destructive thought, attitude or behavior on my part.  It does not matter who else is involved or what is going on, first I must stop my own crazy train.

AFTER ASKING GOD call, visit or somehow discuss whatever you have going on with someone helpful.  That means someone who is at wise enough to use common sense, far enough in recovery or in life not to give you stupid advice and strong enough to tell you the truth (even if it will make you angry). 

Too many people look for advice from people they already know will agree with whatever stupidity they are thinking or who won’t say anything they don’t want to hear.  It is helpful if you can find a few that have been through this process properly and understand.

The point is to test your thinking and get an outsider’s perspective and guidance.  For that to happen you need to be actively looking for these people and discussing this with them before something happens.  Then, when something like this comes up, these people will be expecting your call or visit and will know exactly what you are expecting.  (maybe you can prepare them by showing this to them)

AFTER TALKING TO SOMEONE, you need to take action to change.  If there was another person involved, you probably owe him, her or them an amends.  If this is the case do not put it off, do all you can to repair the situation as soon as possible.  Try to do anything you can as fast as you can to undo your part of whatever happened.

ONCE YOU HAVE MADE AMENDS focus on intensively working with someone else who is struggling with addictions, alcoholism or whatever you are struggling with.  This is the best way to deal with this sort of struggle (along with the other parts of the process).

PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail. This is our twelfth suggestion: Carry this message to other alcoholics!  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 89)

Not only is working with others part of getting immunity from destructive thoughts or actions, working with others is part of ensuring immunity from relapse. 

This is the way we are to deal with the negatives and destructive things that enter into our lives.  I did skip one point from the passage on page 84 until now.  It is four very important words: 

When these crop up…  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

We are not discussing something that might happen, we are talking about things that will be trying to creep back into your life at every turn.  At first all of this may seem tedious or annoying.  After you do all of this long enough it will just become normal and seem less and less of a tedious effort and eventually just become the way you think. 

The point is to stop letting ridiculously foolish things from pouring out of your life or to stop holding in ridiculously foolish thoughts and feelings and deal with these things.  This is all a huge part of learning love and tolerance and these things are the code of all things Twelve Step.

Learning to live like this is change and change is what recovery is all about.  Like I always say:

IF YOU ARE NOT CHANGED YOU ARE THE SAME AND YOU CAN EXPECT THE SAME RESULTS!

Wade H.

Getting Freedom, Happiness, and Other Promises from the Twelve Steps

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. 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.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 83)

Wow, “new freedom and a new happiness.”  On the next page this paragraph goes on to promise “we will know peace” and many more great things.  Those of us who have been around the 12 Step rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous have probably heard these promises a few times. 

The part that most people tend to miss is summed up best by the first word of the paragraph:  “If”.  These things are promised “if”, but if what?  The answer is “If we are painstaking about this phase of our development”, but that is not really the answer either as it leaves us with another question:  What is “this phase of our development”?  The use of the word “this” means that without knowing what is going on in the paragraphs and pages before this paragraph we cannot know truly what you need to do to get what is promised. 

The paragraph basically says:

If THIS then the PROMISES – If you do not know what “this” is, then you have no real idea how it is telling you to get those promises.  So, what are the preceding paragraphs and pages discussing?

Let’s begin with the paragraph before this one:

There may be some wrongs we can never fully right. We don’t worry about them if we can honestly say to ourselves that we would right them if we could. Some people cannot be seen – we send them an honest letter. And there may be a valid reason for postponement in some cases. But we don’t delay if it can be avoided.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 83)

Righting wrongs is what you do in Step 9 and that is the context.  On page 76 you arrive at Steps 8 and 9 and you do not move on to Step 10 until page 84 where you encounter the words “This thought brings us to Step Ten…”

If you are not completely familiar with the Steps, Step 9 is:

Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 59)

But the passage didn’t just say if you work Step 9 you can expect these promises in your life, the passage says that you have to be “painstaking about” it.  If you are painstaking about working the Ninth Step you can have an expectation of these promises (such as freedom, happiness, peace etc.) before you are even halfway through with making your amends.

The only thing left to do to truly understand what this paragraph is really saying is to define the word “painstaking.”  According to WordNetWeb from Princeton University:

Painstaking = characterized by extreme care and great effort; “conscientious application to the work at hand”; “painstaking research”; “scrupulous attention to details”

So if you make amends exerting great effort to make them and taking great care to make them all and in detail then you can expect some wonderful things to happen such as freedom, happiness, peace, freedom from fear, freedom from fear of the past and more.  You can actually expect these things to happen to you before you are even half way done.

So get over regret of the past and wanting to just forget the past (shut the door on it) and face your past.  An unresolved past secretly affects you every day which means it is not really your past; it is your present that is trying to destroy your future.  Painstakingly work it through as described by Steps 8 and 9 and you:

…will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 83)