How To Survive The Holidays pt 3 – Action in the Way of Life

How To Survive The Holidays pt 3 – Action in the Way of Life

It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do, for alcohol is a subtle foe.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 85)

One of the best ways to ensure your recovery survives the holidays with family, partying, Black Friday and Cyber Mondays, crowds, expectations and so on is to be proactive.  There are many reasons that can come up that might cause a person problems with his or her recovery, but the most dangerous are the subtle changes that we do not notice in time to respond to.  If you are waiting until you have a problem with your recovery to take action, you are resting on your laurels as described in this passage.  That means you are headed for trouble.

Let’s take a few minutes and look at one aspect of the subtlety of addiction and alcoholism before we go on with discussing what kind of action we are talking about.

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 pg. 42)

No matter how far you are along in recovery you are there is a fact that remains true of those that are the most severe addicts and alcoholics.  WE ARE POWERLESS!  If you have trouble with this concept and you are working a Twelve Step program, you are stuck.  You are stuck on Step One:

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

Understanding this idea and responding correctly are incredibly important during this time of year.  A time of celebration for many, a time of incredible stress for many, a time of drinking and using for many, a time for great depression for some, and so on.   Few people go through the holiday season without some profound change of emotion, good or bad. 

If you are totally relying on yourself to remain sober through all that a person encounters, experiences, and feels during the holiday season, you are at terrible risk.  

So what is this “powerless” that the Twelve Step information describes?

The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so-called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink.

The almost certain consequences that follow taking even a glass of beer do not crowd into the mind to deter us. If these thoughts occur, they are hazy and readily supplanted with the old threadbare idea that this time we shall handle ourselves like other people. There is a complete failure of the kind of defense that keeps one from putting his hand on a hot stove.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 24)

The reason that I put both of these paragraphs here is because most people hearing the word “powerless” have an understanding that lines up with the first paragraph but that misses the ideas detailed in the second paragraph (as well as a few details in the first paragraph). 

Most people only think of “powerless” as “I cannot stop myself.”  With that limited understanding the next logical thought is that if “I cannot stop myself, then it is not my fault and it is useless to try to stop.”

Let’s look at that concept in detail:

In the first paragraph there are the words “at certain times”.  So whatever is going on here happens periodically and is not a constant.  The idea that; every time I get around someone that is using I just jump in and use, is not a part of the concept of powerlessness as described here.  As a matter of fact, what makes what the authors are describing here so sinister is the fact that it is something that only happens sometimes and you never know when it will happen. 

Think of having something electrical that has a short-circuit.  Whatever it is usually runs okay most of the time, but every once in a while the short-circuit takes over and cuts off the power and whatever it is stops working or has terrible problems.  This can happen with little or no warning and sometimes at the worst possible moments. 

The best example of a short-circuit that stands out in my mind is from a car I have that has a short-circuit in the headlights.  Every once in a long while I’ll be driving at night and the headlamps will just cut off.  When this happens, I just simply reach under the dashboard and jiggle the wires until the lights are on again. 

One night I was comfortably driving up the freeway minding my own business and then at the very same moment that I noticed a California Highway Patrol officer on the side of the freeway watching for speeders, my lights cut off.  I hurriedly reached under the dash to juggle the wires which then made the lights flash on and off until they finally went back to normal.  Could there have been worse timing?  

Without warning and in this case at the worst possible moment, the short-circuit took over.  This is how the “Strange Mental Blank-Spots” mentioned on page 42 are.  They happen without warning and can happen at the worst possible moment.  The biggest difference however is that most of the times that my car lights short out, very little happens and I can just jiggle the wires and move on.  When the strange mental blank spots happen there is usually a full blown relapse to follow.

Every once in a while there is a moment in our thoughts, emotions and resulting actions that will make it impossible to “bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago.”  Bluntly put, there are moments that come up randomly, where our minds will not think about the reasons we shouldn’t use with enough force to keep us from using. 

Our sound reasoning failed to hold us in check. The insane idea won out. Next day we would ask ourselves, in all earnestness and sincerity, how it could have happened.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 37)

You may be one of the most disciplined people on earth in other things and may think yourself out of using most of the time, but in the short-circuit moments (the “Strange Mental Blank Spots”) those thoughts will either be a distant whisper or will not come up at all. 

Why that is such a problem is that many people in recovery develop only one true defense system and don’t even know it.  That defense system is:  “If I think I am about to use, I will force myself to think about all the reasons I shouldn’t and that will keep me from using.” 

What makes the Strange mental Blank Spots so insidious is the fact that they allow such a defense system to work much of the time so the person gets the idea that the defense system he or she has built works great.  Then without warning it fails miserably and there is this relapse and in some cases there is no sensible reason for the relapse.

…there was little serious or effective thought during the period of premeditation of what the terrific consequences might be.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 37)

The truth behind the “powerless” idea described in the Twelve Step Information is that it describes a person whose ability to reason sometimes shorts out and at those moments does not have the power to stop the person from absolutely destroying himself or herself. 

Once more: The alcoholic at certain times has no effective mental defense against the first drink. Except in a few rare cases, neither he nor any other human being can provide such a defense. His defense must come from a Higher Power.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 43)

You may be new to recovery or you may have been in sobriety since well into the last century, but either way this is something that must be at the very foundation of all of your recovery and ultimately your whole life.  With the changes that transpire in the world around us and within each of us in our own lives during the holiday season it is time for a recovery foundation checkup. 

You may hate the words “Higher Power”, you may be working out the idea of a Higher Power, or you may believe you have the whole Higher Power thing all worked out, but it is time to make sure that your defense is founded on a Higher Power idea that will really works even when your brain doesn’t.  A good place to start is to rework the first three steps as you are heading into the holidays and rebuild your foundation as strong as it can be built.

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 59)

Something else to do at this time is to go back to the basics.  Go to Twelve Step meetings.  Get together with a sponsor, with mentors, with others in recovery etc. regularly throughout the holiday season.  Be open and humble about your problems with those around you so that there is not confusion and discomfort if you chose to leave situations where everyone is drinking, using, or that are otherwise troubling to your recovery.  In other words the holidays are not a time for taking a break from recovery related activities.  ‘Tis the season to increase your recovery activities.

There is one activity I failed to mention that you hear me mention quite regularly…

Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail. This is our twelfth suggestion: Carry this message to other alcoholics!  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 89)

Who are you sponsoring and working through recovery.  If you need more recovery efforts during this holiday season, so do others in recovery.  If you are sponsoring someone, that person needs more focus on recovery and particularly the first three steps just like you do.  If you are not helping someone through recovery, now is the time to look.  Be proactive and look for solutions to the challenges to your sobriety before there is a problem (and teach your sponsees to do the same).  Don’t wait till you are desperate and barely holding on to decide to start trying these things. 

I was to know happiness, peace, and usefulness, in a way of life that is incredibly more wonderful as time passes.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 8)

The things I have suggested here and many more things mentioned throughout the Twelve Step Materials are not magical activities that if done in a certain order will align the Rubiks Cube of recovery.  They are the elements of new way of living your life that creates the environment that allows you to remain sober.  The holidays are a time for us to focus or refocus on living the way of life that provides the wonderful gift of recovery as a byproduct of that new way of living.

My friend promised when these things were done I would enter upon a new relationship with my Creator; that I would have the elements of a way of living which answered all my problems.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 13)

Either you take action as part of your new way of living or you are resting on your laurels and heading for trouble.  

 

Seek the New Way of Living,

Wade H.

Am I Willing To Let Go

Am I Willing To Let Go

If we can answer to our satisfaction, we then look at Step Six. We have emphasized willingness as being indispensable. Are we now ready to let God remove from us all the things which we have admitted are objectionable? Can He now take them all – every one? If we still cling to something we will not let go, we ask God to help us be willing.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 76)

If a person has done a thorough Steps Four and Five that person is ready to start working on Step Six.  That means the person has gone through every anger and resentment in his or her life and has not only worked on getting over the emotions of the situation, but has learned to see each incident so differently that he or she is so concerned about the other person that it is terribly hard to have resentment or anger.  That means that he or she has looked through every fear and has realized how each one is a destructive force in his or her life.  That also means that he or she has looked through every sexual encounter and thought learning to see those differently also.

Then in Step Five this is all discussed with another person and with God having the expectation of both a feeling of some level of release but also that the person hearing all of this will dig a little deeper to help the person see his or her own challenges a little clearer.

If this all goes correctly it is not the end of these things, it is just a clarifying of what is really wrong with the person.  “What are the real problems behind my problems?”  This is not just a clarifying of how “jacked-up” a person is.   This is a clarifying of what is really wrong so that so that he or she works on the right things.  In other words going through the past, looking at every struggle in your life to see what you need to do to be free of those struggles.  Then going over all of this with someone else and with God to get a deeper outside perspective of all of this.

I just went through a lot of stuff so lets slow down and take a clearer look at what the desired end result of Steps Four and Five are.  Think of a person going to the hospital and just kinda doing whatever the other patients seem to be doing as treatment and hoping it will fix whatever is wrong with you.  This is where Twelve Step Programs become less and less “cookie-cutter” and become far more individualized.

In a perfect world, by the time you have reached this point, you have a list of your more serious problems that came out of what you have done in Steps Four and Five that is used to work Steps Six and Seven.

We hope you are convinced now that God can remove whatever self-will has blocked you off from Him. If you have already made a decision, and an inventory of your grosser handicaps, you have made a good beginning.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 71)

If do not have a list like this and you are trying to work on Step Six, get together with your sponsor, grab your Forth Step and work together to make one.  You are actually not finished with Step Five until you make one.

We have emphasized willingness as being indispensable. Are we now ready to let God remove from us all the things which we have admitted are objectionable?  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 76)

There are a couple of important points here:

  1. Things “which we have admitted are objectionable” is a very important part of this step.  A HUGE part of transitioning from Step Five to Step Six is having admitted (fully) that the things that are listed on your list of “grosser handicaps” that you came up with in working Step Four and your sponsor helped you add to or come up with in Step Six are deep problems that need to go.  If you do not feel all of these are problems that need to be dealt with, it is okay.  YOU ARE NOT READY TO WORK STEP SIX.  Get together with your sponsor and other mentors and work on HONESTLY getting to that point.
  2. The sentence: “We have emphasized willingness as being indispensable” lets us know what the main point and end goal of Step Six is.  Step Six is about complete willingness.  “No matter what happens” kind of willingness.  “No matter what I am feeling” kind of willingness.
  3. Then comes the details of Step Six:  “Are we now ready to let God remove from us all the things which we have admitted are objectionable?”  So, if you feel the things listed are problems that you need to be free of then its time to look at yourself and do a “complete willingness” check.  Are you completely willing TO LET GOD remove all of those things AT ALL COSTS AND NO MATTER WHAT?

That is a big question.  There is a deeper question here than what many people reading this understand.  “What if you can only learn to be free of these things through discomfort?” 

For example, what if you are so “hard-headed” that you tend to not learn things until there is no other alternative.  In other words what if you are the type of person who will not truly decide changing something until not changing has become so painful that you clearly see that there is no other choice.  In such a case, the only way to get you to change is to cause you enough pain to force you to see the need to change.

In other words you may need great discomfort or outright pain as part of the process of change.  Are you so convinced of the need to change that you are willing to ASK GOD to hurry the process of change for you AT ALL COSTS AND NO MATTER WHAT?  Even if the process is painful, uncomfortable, and nearly unbearable, I want to be changed so desperately that I am ready for this and ready for it to all happen as quickly as possible so I can be changed.

I know that by now, many of those reading this automatically are thinking; “No thanks, I’ll pass.”  That is actually the normal response.  That is exactly why this step is here.

Step Six is not simply a checking to see if you are ready, it is the Step where you grow to a point of being ready.  Then, when you are ready, you go to Step Seven.

Can He now take them all – every one? If we still cling to something we will not let go, we ask God to help us be willing.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 76)

This is where you spend time with God, your sponsor, other mentors and yourself getting ready.  Step Six.  Think of it this way:  “Can he take them all, no matter how – every one of my “grosser handicaps” or “character defects?”  If you cannot answer “yes”; GREAT!  You are on the right Step.

Step Six is for when you are WILLING TO BECOME willing to let God remove all of your defects of character by any means necessary.

Step Seven is for those THAT ARE ALREADY willing to let God remove all of your defects of character by any means necessary.