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:
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.
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!!!
In Recovery Remember “MY WAY IS THE GET HIGH WAY!!!”
Thus we grow. And so can you, though you be but one man with this book in your hand. We believe and hope it contains all you will need to begin. (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 162– 163)
You may be just one man or one woman with this book, but that is at least enough to begin. The reason that is the case is because all things Twelve Step have their beginnings in the Alcoholics Anonymous book.
It will probably require the help of others who know what is in the book to really get beyond just beginning.
The key to all of this is the Alcoholics Anonymous book. The writers of the book intended it to have all the information needed to do whatever it took for them to get the miracle of recovery that was supposed to be impossible for them.
Those of us who live in large cities are overcome by the reflection that close by hundreds are dropping into oblivion every day. Many could recover if they had the opportunity we have enjoyed. How then shall we present that which has been so freely given us?
We have concluded to publish an anonymous volume setting forth the problem as we see it. We shall bring to the task our combined experience and knowledge. This should suggest a useful program for anyone concerned with a drinking problem. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 19)
People who are at the worst level of alcoholism/addiction like to do things their own way in spite of what others around them tell them to do. That is one of the major aspects of our sickness. We do crazy stuff that causes all sorts of problems simply because we want to and in spite of what anybody says, proves and even in spite of past terrible results.
This brings us to why there was the need for a book in the first place. There was a need for a standard of information that showed the course for recovery instead of letting people just do whatever they thought would work. Most people who are starting recovery have already tried a few of their own ideas and failed miserably and that is exactly why he or she is in recovery to begin with.
Here are some of the methods we have tried: Drinking beer only, limiting the number of drinks, never drinking alone, never drinking in the morning, drinking only at home, never having it in the house, never drinking during business hours, drinking only at parties, switching from scotch to brandy, drinking only natural wines, agreeing to resign if ever drunk on the job, taking a trip, not taking a trip, swearing off forever (with and without a solemn oath), taking more physical exercise, reading inspirational books, going to health farms and sanitariums, accepting voluntary commitment to asylums – we could increase the list ad infinitum. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 31)
I mention this to clarify the idea that recovery is strongly based on not doing what we want to do or what we think is right but that it hinges on being so desperate to get better that we are willing to do things that we absolutely do not want to do or that we find terribly uncomfortable.
Keeping all of that in mind; I finally get to my point. People in recovery are by nature drawn to cutting corners and doing things incorrectly to keep themselves from being uncomfortable.
If we go through recovery just listening to this person’s and that person’s ideas and concepts of recovery we each will find what we believe is the best way by picking the parts of what each person tells us that we are each most comfortable with. In other words we will use the commentary of others in recovery to search out our own ways to cut corners and do things incorrectly to keep ourselves comfortable.
At some of these we balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 58)
The fact that people in recovery are usually looking for “easier” ways is not the exception to the rule, it is the rule and must be the rule for getting recovery advice from other individuals.
The only concept that could be used to combat such a universal problem is to come up with a standard of information that could be used both guide a person through recovery and to judge if the information one is getting in recovery is correct or not. There has to be a standard of information that is both the source and measure of all related information.
That is precisely why the alcoholics book was written and why it is a must for all persons pursuing Twelve Step recovery of any kind.
I am regularly astonished by the number of people who I encounter who are either brought to my attention as experts or are self-proclaimed experts that know very little about what is in the Alcoholics Anonymous book.
Many A.A. meetings I have been to have been have been filled with people who are either empty handed or who have brand new, pristine copies of the Alcoholics Anonymous book on their lap (which means they own it, but have never read it).
Often there are one or two people with well worn books who are sitting in these same rooms shaking their heads or rolling their eyes at some of the things people are saying, but politely trying to be supportive of whoever because at least he or she is there and trying.
All of us need to stop it and get back to whatever the standard is supposed to be. Owning an Alcoholics Anonymous book is not enough; we need to read it and learn it (and pass what is in it on to others). We cannot grow in environments where everyone is creating his or her own “softer, easier way” of recovery and expect anything but foolishness.
Let me share a word of warning before you go on however. IN THE LAND OF THE INSANE THE SANE PERSON LOOKS LIKE THE IDIOT!!!!
If you begin to learn what the Alcoholics Anonymous book actually says recovery is, do not suddenly become this angry crusader for truth yelling out page numbers over speakers at meetings. The truth is that many you encounter will not want anything to do with what you have to say simply because it challenges the softer easier path they are on no matter how nice or how rudely you express it to them.
Just share the facts and those who truly are desperate to follow the path that is actually laid out will seek more and will get what they are supposed to be getting. Those that do not care to hear it may be on the path to failure. The bottom line is it is either the Twelve Steps as outlined in the Alcoholics Anonymous book or it is not. Doing whatever you want because it is comfortable to you is not.
Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 58)
Many of us live by the rule “It’s my way or the highway” which means things either go the way I want or something is wrong and has to go. I am proposing almost the dead opposite. Just think of this small statement as the bottom line: MY WAY IS THE GET HIGH WAY!!!
That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)
Those who have been to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or have a Twelve Step Background will know this passage to be a passage from what are called the Promises. Those things that are the awesome goals that are described as what life looks like when you have worked your recovery properly (through the Ninth Step into Steps Ten, Eleven and Twelve).
This passage is very important to consider during this time of year. For much of the world, including the United States, we have begun counting down the days until Christmas. By that I mean that many of us are counting down the minutes until that special moment when your friends and loved ones get together and give you free stuff. There are other wonderful aspects to th holiday season and especially Christmas, but for many of us the gift receiving is most enjoyable part.
I know that, a bunch of people who are absolutely thinking like I just described are telling themselves right now that this dos not describe them. Telling themselves “Thank God I’m not one of those people.”
Before you get yourself too far down that road, ask yourself this and ponder it honestly: If for no apparent reason, nobody got me anything this Christmas or even really paid me much attention, how would I feel.
Would you not notice at all?
Would you notice and be thankful for the opportunity to focus on others without the distraction of them noticing you?
Would you think of how great it is that everyone is focusing on more important things finally?
or would you:
Be angry and bitter?
Be frustrated that here comes another Christmas and nobody is thinking of you again?
Think that the reason you are not getting gifts is because you didn’t get them nice enough gifts and plan how to get them better gifts?
Feel a tremendous amount of self pity, because you messed up so bad that they don’t even give you gifts?
If you would notice and feel anything like the second group of responses you might have an area that needs to be looked at. Losing interest in selfish things and gaining interest in others. Having your self-seeking slip away is a new attitude that is the mark of progress in your recovery.
The self seeking is at the rood of alcoholism/drug addiction:
Whatever our protestations, are not most of us concerned with ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity?
On Christmas, birthdays or other times where many people expect gifts and people to honor them are you concerned with yourself, your resentments or your self-pity.
This is a big jump for a lot of people, but what would it be like for you on Christmas to truly not want anything from others and to be only concerned with how you can help or bring joy to all that you encounter.
Many of us have an incredibly hard time imagining that to be freedom and imagine that kind of thinking to be the thinking of someone who is all messed up. While mentally measuring the people around you by what they give you on a specific day or days of the year makes perfectly good sense to you.
I know there are those out there who try to manipulate others to show emotion towards them by giving people big gifts etc. and that is not what I am talking about. If a person does that then the gift they are looking for is the emotional response and that is a whole other sickness in and of itself. That sickness is disguised by calling the expected gift “appreciation.”
I am talking about truly not expecting anything in return.
On the news, I have been hearing stories of people who anonymously pay off thousands of dollars of layaway items for others in stores. There are people who could not afford to buy something, so they put it on a payment plan at the store. Then some unnamed person goes in and pays for what they owe and they get the item for free and don’t even know who to thank. The person who paid off the item truly expected nothing in return. I know that because none of the people that had their items paid for can even give anything to this person du to th fact that they do not know who the person is.
This is a person who has a true interest in their fellows and has lost interest in selfish things.
There are these sorts of individuals on the planet and if you are in recovery, becoming one of these individuals is a art of what you should look like in the end. I am not saying to run out and fake it right now or to get all emotionally excited because you just read this and run out to some store and buy people stuff.
I’m asking each of us to take an honest look at where we are at relative to this goal and to diligently work towards honestly being that kind of person.
If faking it for now is the best you can do on the way to becoming that person, then by all means, get to it. If working Steps harder throughout the holiday season is the path for you, get to that. If reflective thought with your sponsor, counselor or group is the best you can do this year, then let get to that.
The key is not that you have to be perfectly unselfish by tomorrow morning. The key is that this is the goal and you always measure your progress by your distance from the goal not by how good you feel or how good other people think you are.
If you really are not even beginning to get over selfishness, A GOOD PLACE TO START, is to find someone else in recovery to invest your time in over the holiday instead of what you usually do. It may be just you and that person, there may be other sponsors/people in recovery or whatever, but focus on helping another person instead of what you can get. Forget what stuff you can get or how much attention you can get and focus on what you can do for someone who probably won’t give you anything in return.
This concept is not only good for shooting towards those promises that say you will feel better than you ever have felt before. This concept is a key one to staying sober:
Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 89)
If you are still looking for something you can take from the holidays, then I have the most awesome gift for you: Growth in your recovery! We can drink, smoke, snort or inject away all of the other gifts we get, but growth in each of our own recoveries is priceless.
Be useful this holiday season and the feeling of uselessness will truly disappear. The more you do things for others without expecting anything in return, the more self-seeking will slip away. The more you find joy in what you give and less in what you get the less you will have to feel self pity about. This is the change of our whole attitude and outlook on life that we are shooting for.
Focus on this passage as the promises for future holidays including Christmas:
That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)
Happiest of holidays in ne freedom and stay sober my friends…
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.
He looked straight at me. Simply, but smilingly, he said, “I’ve got religion.”
I was aghast. So that was it – last summer an alcoholic crackpot; now, I suspected, a little cracked about religion. He had that starry-eyed look. Yes, the old boy was on fire all right. But bless his heart, let him rant! Besides, my gin would last longer than his preaching. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 9)
Bill has been trying everything imaginable to get sobriety. He has failed miserably and is in a deep depression because of it deciding that his only hope is to never draw a sober breath to be forced to think about it.
How is it that when the first opportunity arises to meet a person who he knew was a s bad as he was that found the elusive answer to his problem comes along he does everything he can to destroy this person and then decides that person is somehow worse off then using.
One of the biggest problems we have in alcoholism/addiction is ourselves. We blame circumstances, other people, the zodiac, God, bad luck, being cursed and on and on. The truth is we are on the crazy train and we have gotten kinda comfortable there. So comfortable that although we suspect things might be better if we get off, we also are partially convinced that anyone who is not on the crazy train is somehow missing out and lying about being happy about that.
Our alcoholism/addictions lie to us to keep us trapped, but the liar is not an intimate bottle or pipe or needle or pill etc. The liar is a part of our brain that has to be overcome to even start recovery.
Bill W.’s goal here was not to listen to the miracle and see if he could do the same thing. Bill’s goal was to prove that nobody could do it if he couldn’t. Once that failed, rather than take in what he was saying and really work for it, his next goal was to ignore him as background noise to use to in spite of the fact that this person had come to blow his high. He decided that what he had to say would be a distraction but he felt he had more alcohol than this person (Ebby T.) had time and talking energy.
Recovery requires a lot of overcoming, a lot of decisions, and a lot of actions that follow those decisions. One of the first is the decision not to listen to your own crazy. You have to decide to get off of the crazy train.
You are going to have ridiculously stupid thoughts and idea about recovery, in recovery and in fact you will have some throughout your life sober or not.
When starting recovery, you are not yet equipped to pesh these ideas to the side, s in the beginning you just have to not listen and get in contact with people who can help you overcome your inner stupid.
In this case, the man just kept going and would not give up. Some of us are not lucky enough to have that person, yet we still need recovery. You need to go find those people. They are at meetings, in online groups, in residential and outpatient recovery programs at your local clinic etc. Be desperate to find those people.
I am a person who has mixed emotions about the concept of ninety meetings in ninety days, not because it is a bad idea, but because it is misleading. It is not just being in the building that helps (although it is a huge step in the right direction). It is what you take in and respond to (as well as what you do not take in or listen to). You have to seek out the right people and avoid the bad people and bad information.
Desperately seek out the people who will help you stop listening to the inner stupid and run from the people who will do all they can to call out the inner stupid. Some will be like Bill was and do more to try to destroy you rather than seek to help. You are supposed to be that helper to them when you are ready.
There is help, but it starts with not listening to the stupid that we all have going in then we are able to learn how to be stronger than that inner stupid and get off of the stupid train once and for all.
The Shortcuts and By-paths of Friends and Loved Ones
The alcoholic, his wife, his children, his “in-laws,” each one is likely to have fixed ideas about the family’s attitude towards himself or herself. Each is interested in having his or her wishes respected. We
find the more one member of the family demands that the others concede to him, the more resentful they become. This makes for discord and unhappiness.
And why? Is it not because each wants to play the lead? Is not each trying to arrange the family show to his liking? Is he not unconsciously trying to see what he can take from the family life rather than give?
Cessation of drinking is but the first step away from a highly strained, abnormal condition. A doctor said to us,” Years of living with an alcoholic is almost sure to make any wife or child neurotic. The entire family is, to some extent, ill.” Let families realize, as they start their journey, that all will not be fair weather. Each in his turn may be footsore and may straggle.There will be alluring shortcuts and by-paths down which they may wander and lose their way. (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 122– 123)
For the friends and loved ones around the alcoholic/addict each life is incredibly altered by the fact of having an alcoholic/addict in their world. Some people act as if not affected, but most often this is simply a massive misconception that will only be unraveled somewhere down the road with significant amounts counseling or a significant shock to that their system.
The behaviors, thoughts, interactions etc. of the alcoholic/addict in relation to those around him/her cannot help but impact all who come in contact.
An illness of this sort – and we have come to believe it an illness – involves those about us in a way no other human sickness can. If a person has cancer all are sorry for him and no one is angry or hurt. But not so with the alcoholic illness, for with it there goes annihilation of all the things worth while in life. It engulfs all whose lives touch the sufferer’s. It brings misunderstanding, fierce resentment, financial insecurity, disgusted friends and employers, warped lives of blameless children, sad wives and parents – anyone can increase the list. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 18)
The alcoholic is like a tornado roaring his way through the lives of others. Hearts are broken. Sweet relationships are dead. Affections have been uprooted. Selfish and inconsiderate habits have kept the home in turmoil. 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’?” (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 82)
These are the worst case scenarios, but all are affected to some degree or other from those who have a permanent raised eyebrow for that individual to those who suddenly feel the urge to vigorously bludgeon the person past death and past a state of rigor mortis simply because that person’s name was mentioned.
Here is a newsflash that most of us, particularly those of us with no alcohol or addiction problems: If you do not deal with (or have not dealt with) whatever negative effects that person’s using has had on you, YOU WILL BECOME ONE OF THE OBSTACLES TO THIS PERSONS RECOVERY AND GENERAL GROWTH IN LIFE.
You may have had no blame whatsoever in this person’s previous using, you may have been the codependent enabler of this person, or you might have been the direct cause of this person’s use, but at this moment you are either becoming a part of the solution or a part of the problem.
The person who has been building resentment for years that this person would never pay any attention to your protestations probably should not take the first moment of clarity to vomit up every injustice this person has ever done to you up to the point of dry-heaving insanity upon this person in his/her first hard fought moment of clarity.
I am not saying there is not a need for a time and a place to confront and resolve each injustice, but weaponizing your confrontation of legitimate issues for this first opportunity to act out an effective ambush is probably not the way, unless your goal is to utterly destroy this person. If your goal is to utterly destroy this person, you need to leave this person alone and go get help NOW!
If you are the more passive, not wanting to set this person off, kind of person, that has a whole other set of issues that arise. The fact for those of us in recovery is expressed in this passage written to help us focus our efforts to fix the past. This is how we should be looking at dealing with you on these issues:
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)
If we do not get better “until we have done our utmost to straighten out the past” hiding the past from us or minimizing it is the equivalent of hiding our recovery from us. We need your true feelings and emotions to have any hope of recovery. We need your reality to understand how to correct the filters we use for our perception of reality.
A person working Step Nine should not be allowed to blame you or manipulate you into minimizing what you feel or what happened. Each person in recovery needs to work on preparing to look at the worst of his/her past, preparing to do whatever is humanly possible to repair each thing in the past and desperately and vigorously use that experience as the fuel to grow to a point of never repeating the same destructive behaviors ever again. This person is supposed to be learning to be far less self focused and more humble in a healthy and balanced way.
That is the task that must be undertaken at some point. There are appropriate times and places and processes of preparation that one must work through (Step Eight for example where you work towards each amends that you actually carry out in Step Nine) before each confrontation happens, but they have to happen or the recovery process has broken down completely. The uncomfortable process that will serve as the motivating energy behind the radical changes the Twelve Step process requires to work simply does not exist if this is not carried out properly. The change cannot happen and if you are not changed, you are the same and can expect the same results. That means relapse and worse!
All of this needs to be confronted at the right time, in the right way.
Now, back to the family and the passage we started with (why we are really here):
We find the more one member of the family demands that the others concede to him, the more resentful they become. This makes for discord and unhappiness.
And why? Is it not because each wants to play the lead? Is not each trying to arrange the family show to his liking? Is he not unconsciously trying to see what he can take from the family life rather than give? (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 122)
According to this passage, the alcoholic/addict in recovery may not be the only selfish and self-centered person in the mix. This may not apply to you specifically, but each person needs to honestly ask himself/herself the question HONESTLY. There is no excusing your self focus because that person has been more selfish or deserves it or is stupid or whatever. Either you are being selfish and self-centered or you are not.
If you are the person who has to confront this right now however you feel it needs to be confronted two things are evident:
This confrontation has nothing to do with any aspect of helping that person get better it is all about finding some sense of victory while that person is in a weakened state.
This confrontation has nothing to do with finding any real solution to the problem or you would be looking for the right time when the person would be properly prepared to really get together with you and do whatever it takes to resolve each issue.
If you are one of the people who will act as if everything is fine and none of that mattered or the “well I just don’t want to make his recovery tougher” people: STOP IT NOW!!!
You are robbing this person of their recovery simply so you won’t feel uncomfortable or feel responsible if they freak out. If this person does freak out, there are really two possibilities:
That person is simply not ready to deal with these issues properly yet and cannot consider his/her amends to you completed
This person is so used to manipulating you that he/she can avoid any discomfort he/she perceives is related to you by manipulating you into feeling guilty until you shut-up. (That is another area that that person would need to make amends for).
Either one is a situation that needs to change for that person to get recovery.
The truth is that the archenemy of the alcoholic/addict is selfishness and self-centeredness in any form. Granted, that person has to learn to live with the fact that the planet finds itself covered with more selfishness than it has land for all of the selfish people to stand on and is highly unlikely a person could figure out a path in life that avoids all selfishness. The question is not one about fixing all of the selfishness on the planet however, the question is firmly: “Are you as an individual a part of the problem or of a part of the solution for this person?”
As I said before, you may have never do much as lifted a finger to cause this person to use ever before this. That’s awesome, but please don’t start being a part of the problem now!!! We all struggle with an alcoholic/addict and their thoughts and behaviors to some degree or other. We need to be willing to struggle through some discomfort for their health and you will probably find that actual resolutions to the problems will do wonders for your mental and emotional health also. Focusing on ensuring that you are not selfish or self-protective can’t hurt either.
I suppose there are those people who have all of this in line and struggle with none of these issues. I commend you and I am thankful that you are on our planet as an example to the rest of us. I do however, present to you the idea that individuals cannot judge such things about themselves safely without at the least the consultation of a few folks that understand what we are looking at and can honestly tell you the truth.
In other words, if you are a friend or loved one of a person in recovery, PLEASE seek some outside assistance or advice from someone who understands these things (assume you would like to be a part of the solution or at least not be a part of the problem). And never EVER EVER EVER EVER use the sentence “He/she is the person with the problem, why do I need to…” That statement in and of itself is an indicator of just being concerned with yourself and not doing anything for this person.
You can be a huge part of the healing process for your friend or loved one and all it takes is to unselfishly confront the issues at the time that is best for the person and for you. Yes there is discomfort, but at least the discomfort is along the path to freedom and closure. You may have been a hero in this person’s life standing by them all of this time and they may not have truly even noticed, but this is an opportunity to be a beacon of hope and freedom for a person in desperate need at the moment it will count the most to him/her. You just have to stay off of the shortcuts and by-paths.
If you are the person in recovery, consider your responsibilities in all of this and the challenges those around you will have confronting these issues with you at the appropriate time and in the appropriate way. Don’t try to protect yourself from discomfort by avoiding any of these amends. If you are not ready, then diligently work (with the help of others) on getting ready to make the amends.
There is a solution, and all of us involved can be a part of it.
Okay, before I start, I just wanted to warn you that I am about to go off on a rant, so consider yourself duly warned.
Here is the background to all of this. I was at a meeting that I don’t normally attend and right before the meeting a couple of seemingly important woman came hurriedly in, taping little notes everywhere.
They seemed a bit distressed and very urgent about their task and since nobody else tripped on it besides me; I assumed I must be correct about them being important.
They started to have a few conversations with people in the room who I assume to be regulars, but the conversations they were having were the passive aggressive, I want everyone to hear my point kind.
You know the kind where you are talking to somebody, but you are not looking at that person, you are looking at the other people around with that intense, tightened eyebrow, stair that is some sort of nicer evil eye. I suppose it is the passive aggressive, unspoken version of, “You better listen here all of you, or else!”
So I figured I ought to listen to any message that was important enough to be preceded by so much passive aggressive intensity. Turns out, the were in all bent out of shape because a couple of people at some previous meeting had mentioned drug use and they were determined to make sure that nobody ever made such a terrible assault on them again.
As I watched I realized these ladies were on a witch hunt and were trying to campaign to get enough support to vote to have the meeting be a closed meeting and allow no addicts unless they only discussed alcohol. So their anger had become this volcano and the minutes before the meeting became a time to vomit lava on all of those they knew in attendance that would listen (and apparently on those of us they didn’t know also)
Now, covered in the vomit-lava of the group conscience vigilantes all I could think was: Someone needs to do a Fourth Step (or I guess both somones). Then I started pondering the Twelve Traditions and recordings I have of statements from founding members about this whole topic and then my mind switched. Didn’t Dr. Bob and Bill W. both mention use of other substances besides alcohol in their stories. So before I go on, Lets take a look:
A doctor came with a heavy sedative. Next day found me drinking both gin and sedative. This combination soon landed me on the rocks. People feared for my sanity. So did I. I could eat little or nothing when drinking, and I was forty pounds under weight. (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 6– 7)
Keeping in mind that it hadn’t been all that long that they had taken cocaine out of soda or that cocaine was prescribed to treat morphine addiction I am of the assumption that the sedative that when added to Bill W.’s alcoholism made him hit bottom must have been some pretty strong stuff.
After Bill started mixing this stuff, he then lost weight and crazy as he had clearly been, this suddenly was the point where the people around him freaked out about his well being and even desperately started trying to get him to help.
I bet if I told the similar story in this meeting there would be rolling eyes and groans until finally somebody would rudely let me know that we only discuss alcohol at these meetings.
Dr. Bob’s mention was not as key to his story or demise, but it is still there in a clear way and is a pertinent part of his story:
During the next few years, I developed two distinct phobias. One was the fear of not sleeping, and the other was the fear of running out of liquor. Not being a man of means, I knew that if I did not stay sober enough to earn money, I would run out of liquor. Most of the time, therefore, I did not take the morning drink which I craved so badly, but instead would fill up on large doses of sedatives to quiet the jitters, which distressed me terribly. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 175 – 4th Edition – Doctor Bob’s Nightmare)
Dr. Bob would use drugs to keep him going when he couldn’t drink. Drugs to keep him going until the liquor could begin flowing!
I pondered what response I would get from sharing a story like this from in front of this meeting. Probably some rolled eyes and angry groans, but I suppose it was not intense enough to give the volcanoes enough time to erupt into volcanic vomit all over me.
Well, that’s just two of the founding members and may be an anomaly (even though I just showed you that that lightening struck twice in each story of the two founding members). What if I told you this sort of thing was what the founding membership considered the norm of a person who was an alcoholic? What if I told you that this was so strongly considered a part of the definition of an alcoholic that they agreed to allow this to be written in the Alcoholics Anonymous book?
As matters grow worse, he begins to use a combination of high-powered sedative and liquor to quiet his nerves so he can go to work. Then comes the day when he simply cannot make it and gets drunk all over again. Perhaps he goes to a doctor who gives him morphine or some sedative with which to taper off. Then he begins to appear at hospitals and sanitariums.
This is by no means a comprehensive picture of the true alcoholic, as our behavior patterns vary. But this description should identify him roughly. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 22)
The general definition and description of what they considered to be an alcoholic included the fact that he/she was a person who probably goes to a doctor to get 1930’s doses of morphine or some crazy 1930’s sedative and THEN he/she will appear at hospitals and sanitariums.
This was at least a normal part of the description.
I couldn’t help but think that: “Well, that was a long time ago and the fellowship has changed until I reflected back to a story I recently read in the stories included in the current Forth Edition of the Alcoholics Anonymous book that can only lead me to believe the topic of drugs is not a forbidden subject in Alcoholics Anonymous:
I asked myself what I would do for a patient who felt this rotten. The answer came right back: I’d give him something to pep him up. So I immediately started taking and shooting pep pills. Eventually, I was taking forty-five milligrams of the long-acting Benzedrine and forty-five of the short acting just to get out of bed in the morning. I took more through the day to increase the high, and more to maintain it; when I overshot the mark, I’d take tranquilizers to level off. The pep pills affected my hearing at times: I couldn’t listen fast enough to hear what I was saying. I’d think, I wonder why I’m saying that again–I’ve already said it three times. Still I couldn’t turn my mouth off.
For the leveling of process, I just loved intravenous Demerol, but I found it hard to practice good medicine while shooting morphine. Following an injection, I would have to keep one hand busy scratching my constantly itching nose and would also have sudden uncontrollable urges to vomit. I never got much effect out of codeine and Percodan and the tranquilizers. However, for a period of time I was injecting Pentothal intravenously to put myself to sleep. That’s the stuff used when the oral surgeon puts the needle in your vein and says, “Count to ten,” and before you get to two, you’re asleep. Instant blackout was what it was, and it seemed delightful. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 410 – 4th Edition – Acceptance Was The Answer)
I would put the needle in my vein and then try to figure out exactly how much medication to inject to overcome the pep pills while adding to the sleeping pills while ignoring the tranquilizers in order to get just enough to be able to pull out the needle, jerk the tourniquet, throw it in the car, slam the door shut, run down the hall, and fall in the bed before I fell asleep. (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 410-411 – 4th Edition – Acceptance Was The Answer)
Wow! I wonder if I stood at this same meeting, with the volcano-vomit ladies in the room and told this story (that is in the Alcoholics Anonymous book) as if it were my own, what their response would be.
My next words might be something like: “Who are all of those people with pitchforks and torches?”
There is a message in this story that many of us alcoholics (using the definition that the founding members used of alcoholic as found in the Alcoholics Anonymous book) need to hear. That message:
Today, I find that I can’t work my A.A. program while taking pills, nor may I even have them around for dire emergencies only. I can’t say, “Thy will be done,” and take a pill. I can’t say, “I’m powerless over alcohol, but solid alcohol is okay.” I can’t say, “God could restore my sanity, but until He does, I’ll control myself with pills. Giving up alcohol alone was not enough for me; I’ve had to give up all mood- and mind-affecting chemicals in order to stay sober and comfortable. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 411 – 4th Edition – Acceptance Was The Answer)
I don’t go to meetings to go along with whatever the most recent volcano-vomiting has manipulated a group into believing or not believing, liking or disliking. There is a book for a reason. That is the basis of all of the information.
I am not saying that there should never be any closed meetings that only discuss alcohol. But, really? Are this many meetings really containing a majority of people who use alcohol only? In my discussions with people I have found that the majority of people (in my area) that are in Alcoholics Anonymous meeting use alcohol and some kind of drugs as well as alcohol. If you took those people out of the equation in my area, there would be no meetings to speak of because nobody would be meeting.
It’s this big, pink, dancing elephant in the rooms that we are told to ignore and never talk about. If you are able to ignore the big, pink, dancing elephant, something is really wrong with your ability to observe or something is not clicking on all cylinders with you.
The next part of the conversation that many of those reading this will want to start is the “Don’t they have other meetings for that stuff?” (I’m not sure, at least in my area, who the “they” are as the “they” seems to be the majority of the “us”?)
First off, everything Twelve Step is an attempt to interpret what is written in the Alcoholics Anonymous book to sound relevant to a person with some other particular problem. If this source document of all of the other Twelve Step programs covers all of the problems I suffer from and the meetings are supposed to be based on what is in this book, shouldn’t this be the meeting for me?
Now to my point: If the majority of the group is suffering from both drugs and alcohol addiction shouldn’t we discuss our problems as such? At least to the levels the founding members did in the Alcoholics Anonymous book as we read?
Isn’t what the man in the Acceptance Was The Answer story in the Alcoholics Anonymous book correct for most of us when he states: “I find that I can’t work my A.A. program while taking pills,” (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 411 – 4th Edition – Acceptance Was The Answer).
Just like how mixing drug use with alcohol use was bottom for founding member Bill W. and for much of what the founding membership called and alcoholic, mixing quitting drug use with quitting alcohol is probably the best road out.
As far as group conscience etc. the group conscience had to keep the idea that our real purpose (as individuals and as such as a group when we collect together) is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service.
What does that mean if we are voting to close a meeting so nobody can talk about drug use when most of the group uses both drugs and alcohol?
In this instance (and some other similar instances I have seen) all of this stems from one or two people who were made uncomfortable and rallying the troops behind himself/herself for the cause.
I would say that if a person only wants to be made comfortable and never wants to hear or encounter that which makes him/her uncomfortable in a meeting that person is completely missing the major target that we are aiming for in Twelve Step recovery. That person is ruled by the deepest part of our problem:
That is a person so interested in controlling the environment for his/her comfort that he/she is entirely willing to damage the recovery process of some segment of the group and future newcomers without a second thought. That person is only seeking to be of maximum service to himself/herself and is deeply rooted in the root of our problem.
The answer seems to be the title of the story that had all of the detailed drug references and it is something we all need to consider: “Acceptance Was The Answer!”
Let me just put it out there: THERE IS A HUGE, PINK, DANCING ELEPHANT IN OUR ROOM AND WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT IT OR LOTS OF PEOPLE WILL GET HURT!!! STOP COMPLAINING AND BE HELPFUL TO SOMEBODY!!!
Just a funny side note: There were two gentlemen that arrived late to this meeting who both turned out to be from a local recovery program and introduced themselves as being both alcoholics and addicts.
My Cheshire Cat grin and super villain nod in agreement were my moments of passive aggressive delight as I brushed the volcano-vomit off.
Are You Ready (Do You Know You Are Drowning?)??????
If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it-then you are ready to take certain steps. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 58)
If you are trying to get or hoping to get recovery, then you absolutely need to ponder these two thoughts.
Do you want what we have and if so
Are you willing to do anything, including some things you absolutely do not want to do, to get the lifestyle of freedom we have.
These questions are vital to any hope of recovery.
Over the past few weeks I have encountered an inordinate amount of people that are trying to begin recovery who are court ordered or otherwise brought to recovery by another individual. When I see people like this I usually wonder what their answer to these two questions is.
I heard one fellow, when asked if he considered himself desperate say that he didn’t know. My immediate first thoughts were, “If you do not know if you’re desperate or not; you probably are not.” A desperate person usually knows that he/she is desperate.
I have discussed this previously, but desperation is key to being willing to do all of the uncomfortable, unpleasant and sometimes outright scary things that are asked of you in recovery. For example:
People who are not desperate will not be thorough and honest about their Fourth Steps. There will always be some things that are left off of it, minimized, softened or only partially described on it.
People who are not desperate will not have the strength or desire to make amends to the people that are hardest to make amends to.
People who are not desperate will not take a brutally honest look at themselves as it is too painful.
Desperation is the motivation to go towards and fight through the most uncomfortable parts of working through recovery.
That is desperation: The desperation a drowning person for oxygen. In light of this example, the idea of being desperate and not realizing you are desperate is a completely foolish idea. If a drowning person was somehow completely unaware of how desperate the situation is, that person would have no motivation to seek air.
“I probably need air, but I can probably wait.”
“Yeah I know I need air and could drown, but I’m just not ready yet.”
“I wish I could be desperate for air like other drowning people, but I just can’t see it like them.”
“Yeah, I know I need air, but I’m not like those other drowning people”
All of that sounds really silly. Well that is how the idea of recovery without understanding the concept of how desperate you are sounds. This understanding of desperation is a big part of working Step One and is necessary to even begin the Twelve Steps.
For those of us who sponsor others or are looking to sponsor others, this is an extremely important concept. It is how you are to know if somebody is even ready for you to work with them. Look at this passage explaining how to get sponsees:
Do not be discouraged if your prospect does not respond at once. Search out another alcoholic and try again. You are sure to find someone desperate enough to accept with eagerness what you offer. We find it a waste of time to keep chasing a man who cannot or will not work with you. If you leave such a person alone, he may soon become convinced that he cannot recover by himself. To spend too much time on any one situation is to deny some other alcoholic an opportunity to live and be happy. One of our Fellowship failed entirely with his first half dozen prospects. He often says that if he had continued to work on them, he might have deprived many others, who have since recovered, of their chance. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 96)
The implications of this passage are that if a person is not desperate there is no sense in working with that person. That person is better off being released to discover how desperate his or her situation is.
On a deeper level, if you are willing to give of your time, your life and your knowledge to someone why invest all that effort on a person who is not ready. What about the people who are ready that cannot find someone to help them while you are off wasting time with someone who is not truly ready. It’s literally letting a desperate person who could be saved die slowly while you are trying to save a person who doesn’t want to be saved.
If you are a sponsor or otherwise work with people in recovery, this must be a major consideration. If a person does not have this level of desperation for recovery you have to try to get that person to understand how desperate his/her situation is. If that person cannot reach that level of desperation, you have to be strong enough to let that person go and hopefully get that understanding through life experience.
If you are a friend or loved one who is trying to help a person who needs recovery then trying to make that person work recovery in a way that he/she is not interested in is expecting that person to succeed in recovery without that desperation. That person has to realize how desperate he/she already is and you can try to explain it to him/her. If you cannot talk that person into that understanding then you may have to use what many people call “tough love” to help that person understand. That does not mean punishing that person, but that does mean letting the person suffer from the natural consequences of his/her actions.
If that person get’s locked up, he/she needs to find bail elsewhere. If you told that person that, “Next time you are out” then the next time you have to put that person out. If every time you give that person money for something responsible that money disappears, you are going to have to stop giving him/her money etc. all of that in the hope that he/she will realize that he/she desperately needs recovery at all costs.
That is what people are describing when they use the term “hitting bottom”. The understanding that the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of going through recovery.
If you are the person that is starting recovery or even if you have been working recovery, you need to look at your own desperation and ask yourself are you this kind of “ready” for recovery. That requires some deep honesty and searching and if you cannot say a definitive “yes”, that means some deep changing of your entire mindset is necessary.
It may seem like we are telling you that complete misery must be a part of someone’s life before recovery is possible and that only the miserable recover. In some ways that is true, but it is not the misery that is key; it is the desperation which in many cases can only be realized when miserable. That misery can force a person to realize that he/she wants change and more importantly make that person desperate to get it. Then that person is ready to take the steps.