New Feature – New Resource

Good news.  A few years back I had worked on a resource to help people who were interested in 12 Step recovery and it’s history to learn more.  This resource was a Study Big Book that would have the original text at the top and references/study notes at the bottom so a person could get the information as he or she was reading or exactly in the spot he or she was researching.

I put most of the first draft of the project together before I was educated on what it would take to get such a work published.  More money than I could even hope to raise or produce was one of the biggest realities I had to face.

There is however good news:  I have figured out how to post the information here and it is available on this site. (https://wadehrecoverynetwork.wordpress.com/1st-edition-alcoholics-anonymous-study-book/)  Go aver and take a glance and let me know what you think.

Wade H.

The “Decision” to Take Step 3

The “Decision” to Take Step 3

3.  Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 59)

We thought well before taking this step making sure we were ready; that we could at last abandon ourselves utterly to Him.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 63)

These quotes from the Alcoholics Anonymous tell us quite a bit about Step 3 and what the real mindset must be for a person to truly work Step 3.

The first quote is actually Step 3 as outlined in the Alcoholics Anonymous book.  The Third Step starts out with the words “Made a decision.”   The idea of “making a decision” can translate differently for different people.  For some it is when you want to do something, for some it is when you “sincerely” want something, and for some it is even more.

The simple way to describe the “even more” kind of “wanting something” is to begin with the question:  “Have you ever lied to yourself?  If you answer yes, then you understand a huge problem that most of us looking for recovery suffer from:  The inability to fully trust our own thoughts and ideas.  Let’s look at this example:

We will say that I am about sixty pounds overweight.  I go to the doctor and the doctor tells me I am terribly obese and need to look at losing weight.  So I say that I will lose weight and I leave the doctor’s office and have salad for dinner that night and eat a little better for a day or two, but then go back to what I was doing before.  That describes the problem with translating the meaning of decision as just the point that you decided to do something.  I decided to eat healthier, but it was not a strong enough decision to bring about change in my life.

Now think about all of the resolutions that people make for a New Year.   Let’s say that I commit to losing forty pounds this year as my New Year’s resolution.  I do not like the way I look and get emotional about needing to lose weight and determine to lose the weight.  I go jogging on New Year’s Day, have diet drinks for breakfast and dinner then eat a salad for dinner.  I do this for a couple of days and then find that there are other more important things that I need that time for and that my life is too busy to have good meals so I go back to fast food.  That is the “sincerely” wanting kind of decision, but the challenge is that the decision does not have enough force or importance to follow through.

Bothe of those are technically correct in defining the word “decision” but, what kind of decision are they talking about here.

If you add to the above descriptions; “a determination that is strong enough to follow through with any actions that must accompany the decision” and you are most of the way there.   The fact we are capable of lying to ourselves means that just because we think or feel we have that level of commitment, it still may not be true.  Our feelings or what we think has to be tested.  The only way to test the decision to lose weight is that actions I take and other tools such as finding and allowing people to hold me accountable to not cheating, quitting, cutting corners, etc.  In other words the actions that follow are part of measuring how true a decision really is.

That is why you have to think well before taking this step because you have to consider what it is you are deciding to do.  In a general sense, what we are each committing to in Step Three is described on page 63:

…abandon ourselves utterly to Him.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 63)

The “Him” (which is capitalized) is God!  So step three is a commitment to abandon yourself completely to God, “without reservation.”  That means what God says you can do you do and what He says for you not to do you do not do.  That means that you must be willing to do anything to be closer to Him and you are repelled by anything that pushes you away from Him in any way.

Now look at this:

The wording was, of course, quite optional so long as we expressed the idea, voicing it without reservation. This was only a beginning, though if honestly and humbly made, an effect, sometimes a very great one, was felt at once.
Next we launched out on a course of vigorous action, the first step of which is a personal housecleaning…  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 63)

Now how did I say you tested to see if a decision you make is real or if you are lying to yourself?  I’ll put it in the simple way it was explained to me:  “A decision is not a decision until you do what you decided to do.”  The action is not only what follows the decision, it is a part of the decision making process.  The fact we test our decisions through the actions that follow means that the actions are actually part of the making of the decisions.  In other words Step Four and in reality all of the steps that follow Step Three are measuring sticks that help each of us see how sincere our commitment to Step Three really is.

To truly understand what I just stated, let’s look at the actual wording of the example we have in the Alcoholics Anonymous book of the Third Step prayer:

“God, I offer myself to Thee-to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!”  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 63)

I know that some have some challenges with the wording used here, so let me try to say the same thing in English that is more plain:

God, I am giving myself completely to you.  Do whatever you want with me and direct me however you want.  Set me free from the bondage of focusing on myself or selfishness of any kind, but not just so that I can be free.  Set me free of the selfishness and the resulting addictions so that the miracle of freedom may be a message to others opening the door to my helping them using your power, your love, and showing them your way of life.  Give me the strength to always do Your will no matter what.

This is a huge commitment.  That is why the very next words on page 63 are:

We thought well before taking this step making sure we were ready; that we could at last abandon ourselves utterly to Him.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 63)

This is the logic of Step Three.  I can communicate the logic, but only you can make the decision and take the action.  If you have already moved on to other steps and have not worked Step 3 in this manner or with that kind of commitment, stop whatever you think you are doing and go back through Steps One thorough Three.  If you never truly made that kind of decision before the action, you run the risk of having made one of those other kinds of decisions that will simply fail to have enough force to drive you to fully follow through.

Wade H.

Recovery: More Than Information and Memories

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Recovery:  More Than Information and Memories

So we shall describe some of the mental states that precede a relapse into drinking, for obviously this is the crux of the problem.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 35)

Why do those of us that truly want to quit relapse?  We say and believe we want to stop, we do things to stop, yet in a moment we go back.  I suppose that no single reason will cover why everyone who relapses goes back, but let’s look at one that many of us have experienced yet may not have been able to explain to others or even to ourselves.

Listen to how this man describes it looking back on a relapse:

“As soon as I regained my ability to think, I went carefully over that evening in Washington. Not only had I been off guard, I had made no fight whatever against the first drink. This time I had not thought of the consequences at all. I had commenced to drink as carelessly as though the cocktails were ginger ale. I now remembered what my alcoholic friends had told me, how they prophesied that if I had an alcoholic mind, the time and place would come – I would drink again. 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.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 41-42)

Here is the issue that this man is describing.  This man did what many of us do in
recovery.  He had listened to lots of “stuff” about recovery and what is needed, but had taken all he had learned and converted to his own recovery plan.  Let’s look back a page before I explain what that recovery plan was.

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.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 40)

The plan that he had converted all of the recovery “stuff” he learned into was thinking.  If he felt any urge to use (no matter how tremendous the urge) he was going to force himself to remember how humiliating all of this was and think about some recovery facts and that would stop him cold. 

I don’t know how many of us remember the movie “The Blues Brothers,” bet there was a basic theme to the movie:  They were on a “mission from God” and to fulfill this mission they did all kinds of crazy things that didn’t even make any sense to them to achieve this mission.  I am telling you this because in the 80’s and 90’s the term “on a mission” jokingly became the terminology used for a person who had one of those periods of time where he or she could think of nothing else but using and would do crazy things to get alcohol or drugs.  In the 2000’s the common term is a “run.”  No matter what you call it, these terms describe periods of time where all you can think about is getting whatever you are addicted to and use it. 

Those of us that have had this experience know that once you get into that mindset, it is rare that you will think about anything else but getting and using your drug of choice.  This man and the authors of the Alcoholics Anonymous book describe those times as “Strange Mental Blank Spots.”

The term “Blank Spot” is misleading as many take it to mean that one does no thinking at all.  In fact, the truth is that a better description is that the focus on getting and using is so strong that any other thoughts are easily ignored and forgotten.

Our so-called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 24)

The mind is not in fact blank; the focus on using is so strong that everything else is completely ignored.  The point is, that if you convert all of the recovery “stuff” you learn to information and memories that you plan to force yourself to remember at the moment you feel like you are going to use, what are you going to do in those “Strange Mental Blank Spots?”  Those times when your focus on using is so strong that you cannot even consider other thoughts that come up.

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.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 42)

Will power and self knowledge do work in many situations, but not in those “strange Mental Blank Spots” (Not when you are “on a mission”).  That is why so many of us are fooled:  The knowledge and memories can be forced into our minds at many times that we are thinking about using and can in fact stop us from using.  Not every time that we think about using is a “Strange Mental Blank Spot.”  The fact that fording ourselves to think works a lot of the time for some of us makes us assume that it works all f the time.

Like this man, when we are down and out and getting educated about recovery, we assume that the added information is what was needed and that the information we had before was simply not strong enough.  The problem is that if you are in a “Strange Mental Blank Spot” the information will never be strong enough. 

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.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 42)

To put it bluntly:

INFORMATION AND MEMORIES WILL NOT KEEP YOU
SOBER!!!!!

There is a much deeper change that must take place and the information and memories are just two of the tools that can be used to get you in the direction of that change.  More information and memories however, are not the totality of this change.

The idea that you can use more knowledge and memories to stop yourself from using is an absolute failure in working Step 1.  If you are admitting you are powerless what makes you think you can force yourself to think about certain things at certain times when you are the most powerless. 

I am not saying to just give up and resign yourself to the fact your powerless so you can go and use.  I am saying that you need to look at recovery as far more than just getting more information to force yourself to think and look for something far deeper.

Having Depression vs. Managing Depression???

A body badly burned by alcohol does not often recover overnight nor do twisted thinking and depression vanish in a twinkling.

A body badly burned by alcohol does not often recover overnight nor do twisted thinking and depression vanish in a twinkling. We are convinced that a spiritual mode of living is a most powerful health restorative. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 133) 

I was listening to a conversation today where somebody made a good point.  For this person, he always enjoyed the holidays and was fine emotionally throughout the holidays, but the period in January directly after the holidays is always a depressing time for him.  After all the excitement, hype, and gathering together of the holidays the abrupt stop that comes somewhere around January second always leaves him struggling.

Every year I try to address those struggling with the holidays, yet I have entirely missed this group.  The reality is that many of us in recovery suffer with bouts of depression at many different times.  The first thing to keep in mind is that this is normal and will not go away overnight.  Second, having ridiculous thoughts and responses to these bouts of depression (i.e. “twisted thinking”) will not disappear overnight either. 

In light of these two ideas, a great starting point for dealing with this kind of depression is to remember that they are a normal part of recovery and connect with others in recovery groups, church/spiritual groups, etc. who have similar struggles and share with them.

Another thing to remember when you are struggling with depression is found on page 89 of the Alcoholics Anonymous book:

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)

When you are struggling intensively working with others is always something to think about.  The truth is this is a huge part of recovery that many miss out on.  This should really be a normal activity that is part of your recovery and not just an emergency measure, but a bout of depression can serve as a reminder to those of us who have lost that focus.

Be careful to notice that the passage on page 89 is describing “intensive work” and not just “service” as what will ensure immunity.  Service of any kind is good, but is in reality not what is described here as being the focus of Step Twelve or what will “ensure immunity.”

Something else you can do:

As we go through the day we pause, when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or action. We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running the show, humbly saying to ourselves many times each day “Thy will be done.” We are then in much less danger of excitement, fear, anger, worry, self-pity, or foolish decisions.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs 87-88)

For me personally, I can honestly say that a lot of the circumstances that trigger my bouts of depression are based on the fact that something is not going the way I think it should be going or in a way that makes me comfortable.  These moments of meditation and prayer on the fact that; “It’s not all about me” are key to my sanity.  This is a big part of what Step 11 is about when you look at that Step practically.

These things often work for what may seem like insurmountable bouts of depression, but sometimes there is depression that is not as manageable with just these measures.  For whatever strange reason (some of which may be bad experiences) many of us in recovery are resistant to getting help from mental health professionals and sometimes even from recovery professionals.

But this does not mean that we disregard human health measures. God has abundantly supplied this world with fine doctors, psychologists, and practitioners of various kinds. Do not hesitate to take your health problems to such persons. Most of them give freely of themselves, that their fellows may enjoy sound minds and bodies. Try to remember that though God has wrought miracles among us, we should never belittle a good doctor or psychiatrist. Their services are often indispensable in treating a newcomer and in following his case afterward. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 133)

The passage describes “fine doctors, psychologists, and practitioners” and I understand that all of them are not “fine doctors, psychologists, and practitioners” but they do exist and you should “not hesitate to take your health problems to such persons.”  Ask around, do research and find one.  This could save you a lot of unnecessary struggle and pain and in some cases may save your life.

The bottom line is that experiencing depression is a normal part of recovery; it happens to most if not all of us.  It is going to happen to you and I at some point (if not regularly) the question is how you manage the depression.

The New Blog – Older Posts

Since the old version of the blog Crashed, I have built this new one and added as many of the posts from the old blog as I could find.  I hope these posts are helpful and meaningful to you.

I am still trying to retrieve mor of the old posts (if you have copies, please send them to me or contact me).

Wade H.

Change is Good!

We feel a man is unthinking when he says that sobriety is enough. He is like the farmer who came up out of his cyclone cellar to find his home ruined. To his wife, he remarked, “Don’t see anything the matter here, Ma. Ain’t it grand the wind stopped blowin’?”  (Alcoholic’s Anonymous pg 82)

Step Twelve describes the need beyond abstinence of carrying the message to others and practicing what you learn in recovery in all areas in one’s life.

I am always intrigued by the idea that many have of wanting abstinence without having any other changes in their lives.  Any who have heard me train have heard me say the words “If you come into to recovery thinking and acting one way and leave thinking and acting the same way, you are the same.  There will be the same results in the end.”

The idea is very simple.  Think of simple math:

1+1=2

What if I discover the number two is bad for me and I want the answer to be four which is apparently good for me, can I just change the answer?

1+1=4

Well, the fact is, I just did change the answer, but somehow it doesn’t really look or feel right.  Because the fact the equation stayed the same means that the correct answer is still two.  If I stop using and do not change any of the things that led up to my using, that is in fact a change.  The problem is that the equation is still the same and the change will not look or feel right.

There are many changes and some differences in approach but the end result always has to be change and there has to be an absolute goal (in the case of the mathematical example it is four in terms of recovery see the Alcoholics Anonymous book pg 164 and the promises)

3+1=4          1+3=4          2+2=4          4+0=4          0+4=4          5-1=4          2×2=4   etc.

In the Alcoholics Anonymous 4th edition on page 567 Appendix II is found discussing Spiritual Experience (or spiritual awakening) and is described as something that comes to some as “sudden and spectacular upheavals” and to some “develop slowly over a period of time.”    Throughout the book this “spiritual experience is spoken of as an absolute.  This is a must have for a person of the hopeless type described in the book to recover.

On that page there are several words that help one see a “spiritual experience” of that sort in him or herself and in others:  personality change, recovery, sudden and spectacular upheavals, sudden revolutionary changes, vast change in feeling and outlook, difference, profound alteration in his reaction to life, change.

These words all have on thing in common.  They can all be used synonymously with the word change.  A chief indicator of the type of “spiritual experience” described here is asking yourself how has the “spiritual experience” or “spiritual awakening” changed me.

As the holiday gatherings begin over the next few weeks, many of us have the challenge of going into familiar environments and gatherings as a changed person.  The temptation for many is to try to be the same or to impress those we will be around.

The truth is that you may be more different than you have noticed and that is a good thing.  Page 567 also states

“Quite often friends of the newcomer are aware of the difference long before he is himself.” 

The part not mentioned is that because your change is not what everyone is used to it may be uncomfortable for everyone involved.  This is also a normal part of the process of change.  Others still will have to take some time to get used to the new you.

Take comfort in the fact that the change is a good thing and a good sign as far as your recovery and “spiritual experience.”

In the Bible story of Moses, when Moses encountered God in the form of a burning bush he came down the mountain and even members of his family knew he was different from a distance.  The fact is that after his “spiritual experience” his life was never the same.  His life was not perfect, but it was never the same and his relationships with his family were never the same.

However, his life was not only better, his life found an awesome purpose in helping others.

Fighting the Greatest Enemies

From – August 18th, 2010

The greatest enemies of us alcoholics are resentment, jealousy, envy, frustration, and fear.  Alcoholics Anonymous pg 145

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

These emotions are a fairly normal part of life, but are very dangerous to those of us coming out of addiction and alcoholism.  Many of us in recovery are prone to overreactions related to the emotions mentioned above. 

Some of us have the obvious immediate overreactions that lead us to act out in some way or other.  Others of us have more subtle reactions.  Maybe we show no response to those that we feel cause our negative feelings.  Those are the ones of us who let the feelings pile up inside until it becomes unbearable and we explode in one way or another.

No matter how hidden or obvious our reactions to resentment, jealousy, envy, frustration, and fear are the biggest problem is not our reactions.  Our reactions are just a symptom of the real problem.  No matter the reaction the real problem is allowing such feelings to have enough power in your life to cause a self destructive response.

Feelings such as these will come up in all of our lives.  It is the response that an individual has that makes the difference.

One extreme is to have an outburst or to make some attempt to manipulate the other or others involved.  This is really about deciding that you should make the other person or person uncomfortable because that is what was done to you.  “That person hurt me that means that person must be hurt back.” 

It’s funny how we have allowed ourselves to be trained that because one person acts crazy we have to allow “crazy” to be contagious.  That also assumes that the person is even being crazy in the first place and we are not just overreacting (in that case the only one who is really crazy is me). 

This is the application of the old adage of “fight fire with fire.”  The problem is that although there are instances where a real fire is fought with fire, fire is most often fought with water.  If someone catches fire isn’t it better for you to be the water that helps put their fire out than be another fire spreading throughout the world. 

The idea that if a person hurts me I must hurt them back is really rooted in being concerned with nobody but yourself.  Because after all you are the center of the universe and all other people are here to make sure you are comfortable at all times.  Anyone daring to make you uncomfortable must be punished. 

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

In cases where there someone causes you these kinds of feelings the first thought should be similar to those noted in Step 4 on page 67 of the Alcoholics Anonymous book: 

When a person offended we said to ourselves, “This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.”

How can I help put out the fire by being the water instead of making the fire worse by being another fire?

The other extreme is the person who doesn’t want to make the problem worse so that person just keeps the feelings to his or herself.  Instead of fighting the fire with water or fire, this person sees the fire, freaks out and drinks poison.  Holding those kinds of feelings in without resolving them is poisonous to your life socially, mentally, emotionally and inevitably physically.

A clue is found in the Alcoholics Anonymous book in the discussion of how to work Step 9.   

We go to him in a helpful and forgiving spirit, confessing our former ill feeling and expressing our regret.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 77)

Notice the words “confessing our former ill feeling”. This eludes to two things.  The first is that during the process of working the previous steps you should have dealt with these feelings and second that the feelings need to be discussed with the person directly.  But, notice the attitude that you are supposed to have when this is confronted: 

  1. Helpful
  2. Forgiving
  3. Regretful (that you had such feelings towards this person)

This feeling also is tied to selfishness and self-centeredness.  It is often an attempt to avoid confrontation.  This is really a fear of confrontation.  In describing fear, the Alcoholics Anonymous book states: 

This short word somehow touches about every aspect of our lives. It was an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with it. It set in motion trains of circumstances which brought us misfortune we felt we didn’t deserve. But did not we, ourselves, set the ball rolling?  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 67)

Looking at both of these extremes and considering all of various levels of this in between the solution seems to be rooted in one common idea.  Learning how to look for ways to be helpful to the other person when they seem crazy instead of acting out or holding in “ill feeling.”  If the root of our troubles is selfishness and self-centeredness (even if disguised as self protection) then would being of honest help to others who seem to be hurting (“going crazy” for some reason) be at least part of the solution. 

Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 77)

Remember when you feel one of those feelings, before you decide how to respond to the person or people who caused those feelings: 

When a person offended we said to ourselves, “This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.” (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 67)