The “No Matter What The Consequences” “Go To Any Length” Promises

Arguing

 The “No Matter What The Consequences” “Go To Any Length” Promises

Simply we tell him that we will never get over drinking until we have done our utmost to straighten out the past.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 77)

I have discussed this before a few times in various ways (see Relapse and Recovery & Change The Past In The Present To Change Your Future. & “In The Face Of Expert Opinion To The Contrary, We Have Recovered”), but it seems to be a never-ending debate (especially with those who are supposed to be working Steps Eight and Nine).

It is always amusing to me how many people ask me, doesn’t the Big Book tell you to, “make amends unless making it will harm you or them?”  They always have this look as if I have suddenly had my mind wiped clear of all recovery knowledge when I firmly answer them with a flat-out “NO!”  Then they always want to convince me that it does say that.  Then I casually refer them to page 79 in the Alcoholics Anonymous book and read:

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)

Then to page 59 which is the step they are terribly (and possibly fatally) misquoting:

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

The correct quote is “except when to do so would injure THEM or OTHERS.  The Step and the book say absolutely nothing about avoiding the making of an amends because it might harm you.  As a matter of fact, the passage we looked at from page 79, we are to make all emends, “no matter what the personal consequences may be.” 

The conversation itself is an attempt to convince me of a path to recovery that is completely opposite to we are being told.

All those “Promises” that we are all taught through repetition to use as the carrot on our recovery stick.  These “Promises” are waved around as the big happy ending for us.   The point in our story where we got to the “and he/she lived happily ever after” part. 

I am not saying these promises are not true or that they are not a good goal to shoot for.  These are the truth and definitely an awesome goal to shoot for.  The problem is that people miss the fine print.  The disclaimer like the mumbling at the end of a commercial that tells you what is really going on with this contest, free gift or potential side effects of this medication.

The fine print that so easily slips by particularly clear in the first sentence of the paragraph containing these “Promises”.

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 83)

For some of you that are reading this, it is not the first time you hear me discussing this, but it is important to ask yourself; “Which phase of my development is the “this phase” that is described here?”  That is because the promises are only for those who are painstaking about that “this phase”.

But before we get to that lets look at another passage that many of us may be familiar with, but often miss what it is really saying.  The paragraph after the paragraph containing the promises:

Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

Notice the “work for them” part.  If there is a “this phase of our development” then that is really the focus of what we are working hard at to get these “Promises”.

The next two sentences are a change of thought but also a continuation of the same thought. 

This thought brings us to Step Ten, which suggests we continue to take personal inventory and continue to set right any new mistakes as we go along. We vigorously commenced this way of living as we cleaned up the past.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

The change of thought is that we are transitioning from a discussion about Step Nine and moving into a discussion about Step Ten.  The continuation of the same thought is the fact that it states that you started to really work on your Step Ten as you were working on your Step Nine.

Making your amends is not just a step you check a box for, it is a major part of starting your new “way of living”.  If you only do a partial job of making amends, you only do a partial job of starting your new way of living.  That means that the amends you leave out has left behind some of the old you and that is the old you that will drive you to do what the old you does.  That means a relapse or other fits of stupid. 

IF YOU ARE PAINSTAKING ABOUT STEP NINE – NO MATTER WHAT THE PERSONAL CONSEQUENCES MAY BE – THEN THE PROMISES ARE WHAT ARE BEING PROMISED TO YOU!  That does not mean however that not getting beat-up, not getting yelled at, not getting spit on, not going to jail etc. are promised to you.  Those are contained on the promises.  Freedom that comes from being an entirely new you is what is promised unless you only do a partial job of starting your new way of living.

So, to answer that question once-and-for-all (yeah right, someone will read this and immediately try to tell me I am not reading it right):  There is no passage that says to make amends unless it might hurt you or make you uncomfortable.

In fact the amends that will have the most effect in your life are the ones that are the most uncomfortable and the most risky.

That whole concept that you don’t do it if it is somehow uncomfortable or risky is a lie from the darkness of your root problem:

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

Not making amends to someone you did something to is totally about protecting yourself from physical harm or from being emotionally hurt in some way.  It is a completely selfish act.  If you have so latched on to the root of your problem you are locked on to the very thing which is destroying you, but you don’t want to let go. 

There are awesome promises for you, but only if you are painstaking bout making ALL OF YOUR AMENDS!!!

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. 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. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.

This thought brings us to Step Ten, which suggests we continue to take personal inventory and continue to set right any new mistakes as we go along. We vigorously commenced this way of living as we cleaned up the past. We have entered the world of the Spirit.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 83– 84)

Stay Sober My Friends,

Wade H.

Recovery: Change of Heart, Thought and Attitude

Recovery:  Change of Heart, Thought and Attitude

…it should be pointed out that physical treatment is but a small part of the picture. Though you are providing him with the best possible medical attention, he should understand that he must undergo a change of heart. To get over drinking will require a transformation of thought and attitude. We all had to place recovery above everything, for without recovery we would have lost both home and business.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 143)

Recovery is not just about doing things and being able to check the boxes that mean you did each thing.  Recovery requires a complete change of:

  1. Heart
  2. Thought &
  3. Attitude

Recovery requires not only a change in the way you think but a change of why you think the way you think.  Many people believe that the way recovery works is to live the rest of your life thinking the same way and simply ignoring the self-destructive thoughts.  Others believe that in recovery you will stay basically the same person but your thinking will somehow change in spite of being the same.

If you are going to change your thoughts and attitude you are going to have to change the reasons you have those thoughts and attitudes.  What I am getting at is the fact that if you are very advanced in addiction/alcoholism you either change completely or you stay the same.  You cannot think the same way and do different things (for very long).

YOU ARE EITHER CHANGED OR YOU ARE THE SAME AND IF YOU ARE THE SAME YOU SHOULD EXPECT THE SAME RESULTS.

Think of those of us at the worst levels of addiction/alcoholism who try to quit on our own.  We know that quitting means not doing it again.  We decide to quit and are firmly resolved to staying abstinent. Yet suddenly we use again.  In some of these instances we tell ourselves some insanely trivial reason why this particular time does not count as relapse even though we know that any use at all means I have no longer quit.  The problem is not just what happens after I start using.  The bigger problem is my attitudes and thoughts immediately before I use again.  What was going on in my mind that made me think it was okay to do something I was firmly resolved not to do?  Something that I knew to be so self destructive and so destructive to all of those around me.

So we shall describe some of the mental states that precede a relapse into drinking, for obviously this is the crux of the problem.

What sort of thinking dominates an alcoholic who repeats time after time the desperate experiment of the first drink?  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 35)

But there was always the curious mental phenomenon that parallel with our sound reasoning there inevitably ran some insanely trivial excuse for taking the first drink. 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)

“Our sound reasoning failed to hold us in check. The insane idea won out.”  Whatever happens at the moment we decide to use cannot even be called sane and definitely cannot be considered a time when we are in control.

If we do not change the entire basis of why we think the things we think, we will still end up thinking the same thoughts.  This change is the basis of recovery and should be the desired result also.

Many of us who frequent Alcoholics Anonymous meetings hear this stated regularly and often miss or ignore this fact. For example, if you are familiar with something called “The Promises” one of them is:

Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 84)

That is a desired result and in the list of promises it is really the summary of some of the results of this change of attitude and outlook.

Why is all of this important?  The truth is that if you are going to gain this new footing for your thoughts and attitude to stand on, you will need to be willing to let go of your old footing.  To have a change of heart, the old heart has to be removed to allow the change to happen.

A huge goal for your recovery is to not only change who you are, but to change why you are who you are.

If the reasons you do and even think thinks you think have led you to do things that destroy your life and the lives of those around you then those reasons are probably wrong.  You probably need new reasons!

IN RECOVERY, IF YOU ARE NOT CHANGED; YOU ARE THE SAME AND CAN EXPECT THE SAME RESULTS.

In the Alcoholics Anonymous book, Carl Jung is quoted as having put it this way:

The doctor said: “You have the mind of a chronic alcoholic. I have never seen one single case recover, where that state of mind existed to the extent that it does in you.” Our friend felt as though the gates of hell had closed on him with a clang.

He said to the doctor, “Is there no exception?”

“Yes,” replied the doctor, “there is. Exceptions to cases such as yours have been occurring since early times. Here and there, once in a while, alcoholics have had what are called vital spiritual experiences. To me these occurrences are phenomena. They appear to be in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 27)

Recovery is going to require that you have “huge emotional displacements and rearrangements.” Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of your life have to be cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives must begin to dominate you.

That is the change of:

  1. Heart
  2. Thought &
  3. Attitude

Are you open to that?  That is what recovery must look like if you expect it to work!  Being able to say you did this or that will not keep you sober if each these things do not lead to change in your life.

“CHANGE IS A CONSTANT.  THOSE WHO REFUSE TO CHANGE TO BE BETTER WILL BE FORCED TO BE CHANGED TO BE WORSE”

Wade H.

Getting Freedom, Happiness, and Other Promises from the Twelve Steps

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 83)

Wow, “new freedom and a new happiness.”  On the next page this paragraph goes on to promise “we will know peace” and many more great things.  Those of us who have been around the 12 Step rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous have probably heard these promises a few times. 

The part that most people tend to miss is summed up best by the first word of the paragraph:  “If”.  These things are promised “if”, but if what?  The answer is “If we are painstaking about this phase of our development”, but that is not really the answer either as it leaves us with another question:  What is “this phase of our development”?  The use of the word “this” means that without knowing what is going on in the paragraphs and pages before this paragraph we cannot know truly what you need to do to get what is promised. 

The paragraph basically says:

If THIS then the PROMISES – If you do not know what “this” is, then you have no real idea how it is telling you to get those promises.  So, what are the preceding paragraphs and pages discussing?

Let’s begin with the paragraph before this one:

There may be some wrongs we can never fully right. We don’t worry about them if we can honestly say to ourselves that we would right them if we could. Some people cannot be seen – we send them an honest letter. And there may be a valid reason for postponement in some cases. But we don’t delay if it can be avoided.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 83)

Righting wrongs is what you do in Step 9 and that is the context.  On page 76 you arrive at Steps 8 and 9 and you do not move on to Step 10 until page 84 where you encounter the words “This thought brings us to Step Ten…”

If you are not completely familiar with the Steps, Step 9 is:

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

But the passage didn’t just say if you work Step 9 you can expect these promises in your life, the passage says that you have to be “painstaking about” it.  If you are painstaking about working the Ninth Step you can have an expectation of these promises (such as freedom, happiness, peace etc.) before you are even halfway through with making your amends.

The only thing left to do to truly understand what this paragraph is really saying is to define the word “painstaking.”  According to WordNetWeb from Princeton University:

Painstaking = characterized by extreme care and great effort; “conscientious application to the work at hand”; “painstaking research”; “scrupulous attention to details”

So if you make amends exerting great effort to make them and taking great care to make them all and in detail then you can expect some wonderful things to happen such as freedom, happiness, peace, freedom from fear, freedom from fear of the past and more.  You can actually expect these things to happen to you before you are even half way done.

So get over regret of the past and wanting to just forget the past (shut the door on it) and face your past.  An unresolved past secretly affects you every day which means it is not really your past; it is your present that is trying to destroy your future.  Painstakingly work it through as described by Steps 8 and 9 and you:

…will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 83)