The Misleading Mindset

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The Misleading Mindset 

We told him what we knew about alcoholism. 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.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 39– 40)

This passage is an excellent description of the mindset that misleads many people in recovery.  There is this crazy idea that the memory of the problems that using has caused in the past and attaining a whole lot of information about using, recovery and myself will keep me sober.

There are some people who use heavily who can think themselves sober and in reality, there are some people who are pretty messed up from using that don’t need to learn, think or any of that; this (small) group of addicts/alcoholics just decides to stop and never uses again.  The problem is that many of us in recovery (more like most of us) are not in either of those categories and need to come to terms with that before we can even consider ourselves having started recovery.

Thinking and learning in and of themselves are not enough for most of us to remain abstinent (although they are important parts of the process). 

Look at the conclusion to the story we started with:

“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)

There are moments when your body and some parts of your mind will have such a desire to use that the parts of your mind that you would like to use to force yourself to stop will not be strong enough to overpower the desire.  One desire within your self will be trying to resist a desire that is in your body and mind and that is often also driven by your social and spiritual health (or lack thereof).  Recovery has to be approached from all four of these areas to have any hope or to even be considered recovery.  The authors of the Alcoholics Anonymous book (the authors of the Twelve Steps) knew this to be true:

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.

Of necessity there will have to be discussion of matters medical, psychiatric, social, and religious. We are aware that these matters are, from their very nature, controversial.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 19)

There is hope for those of us who are at the most desperate levels of alcoholism/addiction.  This hope relies on us not getting sucked into the flawed idea that “information is what will keep me sober.”  INFORMATION WILL NOT BE ENOUGH TO KEEP YOU SOBER!!!  Information is just one of the tools that is supposed to help get you to what will keep you sober.  Look at the information that the early A.A.’s gave to the man in the story we started with when he relapsed:

“Then they outlined the spiritual answer and program of action which a hundred of them had followed successfully. Though I had been only a nominal churchman, their proposals were not, intellectually, hard to swallow. But the program of action, though entirely sensible, was pretty drastic. It meant I would have to throw several lifelong conceptions out of the window. That was not easy. But the moment I made up my mind to go through with the process, I had the curious feeling that my alcoholic condition was relieved, as in fact it proved to be.

“Quite as important was the discovery that spiritual principles would solve all my problems. I have since been brought into a way of living infinitely more satisfying and, I hope, more useful than the life I lived before. My old manner of life was by no means a bad one, but I would not exchange its best moments for the worst I have now. I would not go back to it even if I could.”  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 42– 43)

The solution is described here as “a way of living” that is more satisfying than anything before.  The hope of recovery rests in finding a completely new way of living.  A new basis of life that will result in changes in the way you think and why you have those thoughts, changes in what feelings you have and why, all of this leading to changes in what you do.  In other words:  RECOVERY IS ABOUT ENDING UP BEING A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT PERSON THAN WHO YOU WERE WHEN YOU STARTED.  IF YOU ARE NOT CHANGED, YOU ARE THE SAME AND WILL GET THE SAME RUSULTS.

If you do not plan on being changed completely, then you do not plan on getting recovery.  If you do not aim towards a new way of living that is infinitely more satisfying than any way of living you have had before you have decided to stay with the same way of living and have decided to continue to live the life of an alcoholic/addict.

I beg you to move beyond knowledge to the desperate desire to be a completely different person, because that is where your hope lies.

 

Stay sober my friends…

Wade H.

“In The Face Of Expert Opinion To The Contrary, We Have Recovered”

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AA meeting sign (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“In The Face Of Expert Opinion To The Contrary, We Have Recovered”

Many of Alcoholics Anonymous were like that. Everybody had given them up. Defeat seemed certain. Yet often such men had spectacular and powerful recoveries.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 113)

You may already have asked yourself why it is that all of us became so very ill from drinking. Doubtless you are curious to discover how and why, in the face of expert opinion to the contrary, we have recovered from a hopeless condition of mind and body. If you are an alcoholic who wants to get over it, you may already be asking -“What do I have to do?”

It is the purpose of this book to answer such questions specifically. We shall tell you what we have done.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 20)

The second passage listed is in a chapter named “There is A Solution”.  The idea is that there is hope:  Even if you are amongst the most hopeless and most desperate of alcoholics/addicts, there is hope. 

What it does not say in these statements is that it is this kind of miraculous change is going to be a magically easy process.  Nowhere are you promised that the magic recovery fairy will sprinkle magic recovery dust on you and you will never use or even wish to use again.  There is hard work, a great deal of discomfort, a complete change of who and what you are and a desperation to be free that drives you to continue through all of this.

In the statements above, it is implied that those around you even those closest to you and some experts in the field might even feel it is impossible for you to even change a little.  Using those of us who have walked this path and experienced such impossible change:

  “…in the face of expert opinion to the contrary, we have recovered from a hopeless condition of mind and body.” (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 20)

The question a newcomer should have was stated above:

“What do I have to do?”  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 20)

There are many paths that claim to lead to freedom many of which even call themselves Twelve Step Programs.  Without going into a major history lesson on Twelve Step Programs just understand the Alcoholics Anonymous book itself to be the source of all things Twelve Steps (there are other sources and observations led to the creation of the Twelve Steps, but they were first seen in the manuscript of the Alcoholics Anonymous book).

So anything claiming to be doing Twelve Step recovery should line up with the concepts outlined in the Alcoholics Anonymous book or whatever it is has just hijacked the Twelve Step name as a marketing scheme.  Example:

Simple, but not easy; a price had to be paid. It meant destruction of self-centeredness. I must turn in all things to the Father of Light who presides over us all.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 14)

There are many I have encountered who think the more complicated the program sounds the more legitimate it must be.  There are self-proclaimed experts coming up with all sorts of complex and deep sounding recovery tasks that are supposed to be the series of puzzles and adventures you are supposed to solve and complete to get the magic of recovery.  As if this were Indiana Jones and the Twelve Step Temple of Recovery.

“Simple but not easy” means that the concepts are simple it is that hurts, fears, angers etc. that make these simple tasks hard for the individual to do.

Do not be put off by the idea that there is this super-intellectual Rubiks-cube that you must solve to work recovery.  The struggle is not in the complexity of the Twelve Steps.  The struggle is in the desire to face hurts, fears, angers, facts, yourself, others, your past etc. on such a deep level and to be willing to finish a completely different person than when you started.

All of this packing on of super-complicated work to be completed and long, drawn out, overly complicated describing and pontificating about what the each sep is to contain in detail is a hiding place to avoid the real struggle each of us has in recovery:  OVERCOMING MYSELF!

In other words, the focus on complexity and the logistics of Twelve Step recovery is often a complete failure to truly have accepted Step 1.  A failure to accept that your situation is so desperate that “I must do anything it takes IMMEDIATELY with all of the desperation of a drowning person.”  This focus on complexity and triviality is simple a distraction to put off or to completely avoid the inner discomfort of working recovery.

We must not hide behind complexity and confusion to avoid truly dealing with ourselves.

We must focus on doing that which we find extremely hard to do or that we desperately do not want to do.

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

Your recovery hinges on this and you “must not shrink at anything.” (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 79). 

There is hope beyond what seems reasonable and beyond what seems possible.  The direction of this hope is not hidden behind some secret, super complicated series of riddles and adventures that you must undertake and solve; the process is not complex at all.   The challenge that must be overcome to gain what is hoped for is the challenge of overcoming yourself using that uncomplicated process as a tool. 

You must be willing to do the things that your mind and your heart will try all means to avoid. You must be willing to resist fear, to resist your own anger and resentment, to resist your own resistance and to overcome your own foolishness, stupidity, crazy etc.  Do not be distracted by other people’s confusion and so on that keeps you from this focus or your own attempts at creating confusion. 

You are in a desperate situation looking for a miraculous solution to an extremely desperate situation.  There is simply no time to waste in weird endeavors that put off dealing with the real problems.  The mindset needed to work (or even to start working) the Twelve Steps is best described in these 2 questions:

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)

A spectacular and powerful recovery is a possibility for all of us.  There is great hope.  YOU JUST HAVE TO BE DESPERATE ENOUGH TO AVOID CONFUSION AND OVERCOME YOU!  That is the how and why that will allow what is found in the Alcoholics Anonymous book to work for you.    

Doubtless you are curious to discover how and why, in the face of expert opinion to the contrary, we have recovered from a hopeless condition of mind and body. If you are an alcoholic who wants to get over it, you may already be asking -“What do I have to do?”

It is the purpose of this book to answer such questions specifically. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 20)

When you have the right mindset and focus, then you are ready to start to be changed by what is in the Alcoholics Anonymous book.

Stay Sober My Friends…

Wade H.

There is a Solution. Well, What is it Then?

There is a Solution.  Well, What is it Then?

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Português: Uma cela moderna em Brecksville Police Department, Brecksville, Ohio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is a solution. Almost none of us liked the self-searching, the leveling of our pride, the confession of shortcomings which the process requires for its successful consummation. But we saw that it really worked in others, and we had come to believe in the hopelessness and futility of life as we had been living it.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 25)

For those of us who have struggled with the devouring monster that is alcoholism/addiction, these words offer some level of relief.  For those around us who care about us or love us this is a glimmer of hope.  There is a solution to a seemingly impossible problem.  There is some kind of hope where there seems to be absolutely none whatsoever.

Before going on I think it is very important to include those of us who do not see things as that desperate.  Those who think; “Yeah, I have a problem, but it’s not that bad.”  The kind of person who sits in their forth or fifth recovery program secretly thinking to himself or herself; “I am not as bad as all of these people, I don’t even really need all of this.”  For you there is a solution too.  If in fact you really are not that far advanced in your using, let’s get you to stop before you are.  If you are that advanced and just lying to yourself (which you probably wouldn’t know) then there is a solution that will also deal with lying to yourself.

Here are a few details of what you must be willing to do to get this solution.

  1. Self-searching
  2. Leveling of your own pride
  3. Confession of your shortcomings

The first is self-searching.  Knowing what is really wrong with you is a key part of the proc

ess (although in and of itself it will not keep you sober).

We did exactly the same thing with our lives. We took stock honestly. First, we searched out the flaws in our make-up which caused our failure. Being convinced that self, manifested in various ways, was what had defeated us, we considered its common manifestations.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 64)

The reason behind this is very simple:

Though our decision was a vital and crucial step, it could have little permanent effect unless at once followed by a strenuous effort to face, and to be rid of, the things in ourselves which had been blocking us. Our liquor was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 64)

So, part of our recovery is to search for the things within ourselves that are problems and to do whatever it takes to be rid of those things.  We are to take an honest look at ourselves and be willing to take even the most extreme actions to be rid of the things that are not good.

A big part of doing this is seen in the Fourth Step.  

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 59)

It is not just a look at yourself that we are talking about, it is a “searching and fearless moral inventory” that we are taking of ourselves.  The searching is not just a casual look that never drifts past your comfort level. Look at some of the definitions you find in the Merriam-Webster dictionary for search:

: to look into or over carefully or thoroughly in an effort to find or discover something: as a: to examine in seeking something

: to look or inquire carefully

: to make painstaking investigation or examination

(Merriam-Webster.com)

You notice words like carefully, thoroughly, examine carefully, look into or over carefully, painstaking, etc.  These are key. 

The word fearless is also of great importance.  Think of the fears as those things that are hidden behind such thoughts as:  “This is stupid”, “Why do we have to look at all of this, my problem is using, not all of this”, “What does this have to do with my recovery”, and other such thoughts.  Fear often disguises itself as seemingly logical reasons why you should not take an honest look at yourself.  

Stop looking for reason not to take a good look at yourself and take a fearless, careful, thorough, painstaking, examination and investigation of yourself.  That is the call to self-searching.

Second comes the level of your pride.

Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 62)

If selfishness and self-centeredness is such a problem than overcoming any pride (be it hidden or obvious) that is in your life is a key task for you.  Those who are aggressively selfish probably know this about themselves and their recoveries.  Those who are more passively selfish (like codependents and those that otherwise seem giving and selfless but underneath have other selfish motivations/expectations) this may be a bit harder to see about yourself.  Again a “searching and fearless” inventory is a good place to clear up all of the mystery.

Last but not least is the third in that list:  Confession of your shortcomings.  In a basic sense this is broken down into two parts and really two levels in a Twelve Step Program.  There is a more personal facing of these things and a more public facing of these things.

The more personal facing of these things takes place from Step 5 up to Step 7, but let’s focus on the Step 5 portion:

Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 59)

After inventorying these things we sit with God, ourselves and another person not only to admit these things, but to search out deeper clarity on these things.  But, why do I call this the “more personal facing of these things”?  Steps 8 and 9 bring the more public facing of these things.  Let’s look at Step 9 briefly:

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

We go to every person we have hurt because of these shortcoming (not the least of which being selfishness and self-centeredness) and we confess our problem to each one.  Here is the catch:  It is probable that if you do not want to do some or all of these amends that you are so busy protecting yourself from discomfort that you have no concern for helping the other person/people feel better, get closure, begin to process etc.  That really means you are being selfish and self-centered which, as we read above is a huge part of our problem as alcoholics/addicts.  Not wanting to do this means you are stuck in your recovery and not recovering at this point.

Step 10 is really doing all of the things we have just talked about all of the time.  

This probably all sounds like a really tall order.  This may all seem like too much to do or the more subtle way of saying the same thing “All of this is not worth it.”  That is what Steps 1 through 3 are all about (and also why they come first).

The problem is not how hard these tasks are, the real problem is how desperate you are to be better.  

Drastic problems often require drastic solutions!

In describing Steps 8 and 9 in the Alcoholics Anonymous book the authors write:

Remember it was agreed at the beginning we would go to any lengths for victory over alcohol.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 76)

At the beginning of recovery, you must decide that you are ready to “go to any lengths” for recovery.  In other words at the beginning, you must believe that your problem is so desperate that you must be willing to do whatever it takes to get better, no matter what that means.  That is true recognition of powerlessness and this is the beginning.

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 59)

This is the essence of Step 1 an I think the mindset is best described in one phrase in the Alcoholics Anonymous book:

We, in our turn, sought the same escape with all the desperation of drowning men.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 28)

So; recovery is going to require Self-searching, leveling of your pride and confession of your shortcomings which are very deep and terribly hard to do properly.  The reason people do it is because they are so desperate to be recovered that it can only be compared to the desperation that a drowning person has for air.  This is recovery for the hopeless variety of alcoholic/addict, but this is not a negative thing as many of us automatically think.  The glass is not only half empty!!! 

This is hope where there is no hope.  This is the life preserver thrown at the drowning person.  THERE IS A SOLUTION where there seemed to be none and although it may not be comfortable, it is worth it…   GO FOR IT!!!

 

Stay sober my friends,

Wade H.