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,
- Valentine’s Day – A Recovery Check and A Reality Check (wadehrecoverynetwork.wordpress.com)
- Overcoming Self-Will (dailycontemplation.wordpress.com)