Living “The Continued Demonstration” – Sobriety & the Post COVID-pocalypse

These things will come to pass naturally and in good time provided, however, the alcoholic continues to demonstrate that he can be sober, considerate, and helpful, regardless of what anyone says or does. Of course, we all fall much below this standard many times. But we must try to repair the damage immediately lest we pay the penalty by a spree.

Alcoholics Anonymous pg 99

This passage was originally written about the expectations a person in recovery should or shouldn’t have of his or her family. But, in our current context, the key concept is going to require a much wider interpretation.

The key concept is something called The Continued Demonstration:

  • Continuing to demonstrate sobriety
  • Continuing to demonstrate being considerate
  • Continuing to demonstrate being helpful
  • Continuing to demonstrate all of this REGARDLESS OF WHAT ANYONE SAYS OR DOES!

To start, I wanted to drift off for a quick second and mention that I have encountered many recovery groupings where it seemed to me that sobriety was a rarity, being inconsiderate was a badge of honor and definitions of helpful was definitely subject to one’s definition of the word at best.

Keeping in mind that most 12 Step groupings are peer based and centered on people like us helping other people like us and that we should look at it like going to a hospital except the people working at the hospital are the patients who are getting free of the same or a similar illness. What I mean is, only a fool would get mad at encountering sick people at such a hospital. If the other sick people at such a hospital bother you, it is quite possible the problem isn’t them, but that person you see in the big window over the sink in the bathroom.

That said, I think the importance of “The Continued Demonstration” as described above is often forgotten as a key part of the recovery process. That goes double for the “demonstrating being considerate” part.

Now back to where I was headed originally. I am hoping it is in the way it is in my context in the context of the readers reading this. In my context the obsession with turning everything into a “my team” against “the other team” and “whoever is not on my team is on the other team” mentality has grown into this huge monster absolutely devouring my nation.

city road people street

No matter what it is there must be two sides and a person is either “with me or against me” and everything requires the most vigorous debate possible and in the end “my opinion must be the winner at all costs.”

While this whole thing is the luxury of lots of people, for us in recovery this sort of narrow-minded interpretation of people and the ensuing instant aversion to entire groups of people is not some new awesomeness you discover that gives you some elusive status you have been searching for all of your life.

Most people try to live by self-propulsion. Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful. In trying to make these arrangements our actor may sometimes be quite virtuous. He may be kind, considerate, patient, generous; even modest and self-sacrificing. On the other hand, he may be mean, egotistical, selfish and dishonest. But, as with most humans, he is more likely to have varied traits.

What usually happens? The show doesn’t come off very well. He begins to think life doesn’t treat him right. He decides to exert himself more. He becomes, on the next occasion, still more demanding or gracious, as the case may be. Still the play does not suit him. Admitting he may be somewhat at fault, he is sure that other people are more to blame. He becomes angry, indignant, self-pitying. What is his basic trouble? Is he not really a self-seeker even when trying to be kind? Is he not a victim of the delusion that he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if he only manages well? Is it not evident to all the rest of the players that these are the things he wants? And do not his actions make each of them wish to retaliate, snatching all they can get out of the show? Is he not, even in his best moments, a producer of confusion rather than harmony?

Alcoholics Anonymous pgs 6061

This new level of “team mentality” that is so popular in my context, for people in recovery like us is just a disguised version of all of this. The mindset that “if these people would just think like me, they would be better and the world would be better” is not a newfound freedom, it is simply a repackaging of on old bondage.

While the conversations and other interactions are to some degree unavoidable (at least in my context), we must realize that these mindsets are a poison to our recoveries and our lives that we are not obligated to drink a gallon at a time.

The people around you may be immersed in this mindset and it may have the freedom to vomit their own brand of crazy on everyone they encounter with impunity, but this is not so for us. We are at risk of vomiting up our recovery, our lives and all over the people unlucky enough to care for us in times that we drift back into our insane behaviors we have been working so hard to leave behind.

close up photo of person wearing guy fawkes mask

If you have been in recovery and have been under the impression that the only change you need to make is the using, but you will otherwise be the same, then 12 Step recovery (and possibly any kind of recovery) is not for you.

IF YOU ARE NOT CHANGED INTO SOMETHING DIFFERENT THEN YOU ARE THE SAME AND CAN EXPECT THE SAME!!!

Now! Here is the deeper consideration. All the smart people who make mathematical and statistical suggestions based on research, statistics, trends and other smart-people-foolery seem to think that on top of worldwide pandemic there will be widespread bad things of various kinds to follow and possibly more sickness and on and on.

All of that may or may not be true, but one thing is for sure…

…however, the alcoholic continues to demonstrate that he can be sober, considerate, and helpful, regardless of what anyone says or does.

Alcoholics Anonymous pg 99

If the world does go through next level of turmoil, there will be some desire to blame, deserved or not. If absolutely nothing happens there will be a whole other desire to blame. There will be anger and some escalation of the “team mentality” (at least in my context).

HOW ARE YOU GOING TO REMAIN SOBER, CONSIDERATE AND HELPFUL in all of your interactions while all of that is going on? HOW ARE YOU GOING TO REMAIN SOBER, CONSIDERATE AND HELPFUL TO THE PEOPLE YOU PERCEIVE TO BE OPPOSED TO YOUR “SIDE” IN THESE COMING STRUGGLES? I know there are a few folks thinking snide little comments like “I’ll tell them how stupid they are. That is helping them isn’t it?” and the like.

woman holding white board with ha the world laughs at you handwriting

While quite funny, the choice is one of a recovery nature and in that sense a choosing of “life or death.” Do I participate in my inferiority complex based attempting to show myself superior to this other person by putting him/her down or do I figure out how to somehow be considerate and helpful in the hope of remaining sober?

After all, the reason most of us are dealing with recovery at any level is that we have some level of understanding that some or most my normal desires are self-destructive. That reality means that my natural desires to some degree or other CANNOT BE TRUSTED.

MY POINT!!! Just because you feel like it and other people are doing it does not mean you have the luxury of participating in it – WHATEVER THE “IT“ IS!

On a deeper level some of us may find ourselves less healthy, without work, without a home, without toilet paper or any number of forecasted things that may happen to any of us, but…

…however, the alcoholic continues to demonstrate that he can be sober, considerate, and helpful, regardless of what anyone says or does.

Alcoholics Anonymous pg 99

If life was a card game, mastery of it is going to require you learn how to play both the good and the bad hands well. This is even more true of the alcoholic and the addict. We have to be able to work our recovery and the changes to our lives both when life deals us good hands and when life deals us the bad hands.

A person in recovery who has built up a defense that goes completely back to his/her old behaviors and old life at the first sign of bad times has built absolutely nothing of any good use. EITHER YOU ARE CHANGED OR YOU ARE THE SAME!!! Bad times are just the test to see if the change is real or not, because your change is only a theory until it is tested by the bad times. Which by extension means that your recovery is only a theory until it is tested by the bad times.

A SKILLED CAPTAIN OF A SHIP IS NOT THE ONE WHO CAN ONLY NAVIGATE A SHIP THROUGH CALM WATERS. THE SKILLED CAPTAIN OF A SHIP IS THE ONE THAT CAN NAVIGATE THE SHIP THROUGH BOTH CALM AND ROUGH WATERS AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN.

While I am not trying to minimize anything you may be going through, please recognize that your recovery cannot be tossed about by everything around it like some rowboat in the middle of a storm with no oars, rudder or anchor. Things may or may no get bad for each one of us and people around us may be doing all kinds of things…

…however, the alcoholic continues to demonstrate that he can be sober, considerate, and helpful, regardless of what anyone says or does.

Alcoholics Anonymous pg 99

The Christmas Promises

The Christmas Promises

Christmas gifts.
Christmas gifts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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?

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

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)

To be helpful is our only aim.  (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…

Wade H.