Volcano-Vomit and Huge, Pink, Dancing Elephants in Our Rooms?

volcano erruption at the mirage
(Photo credit: tricky (rick harrison))

Volcano-Vomit and Huge, Pink, Dancing Elephants in

Our Rooms?

Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 77)

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.

Remember the passage I started with:   

Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 77)

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:

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

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!”


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. 


Stay Sober My Friends (from Alcohol and Drugs)

Wade H.


“The Watch Four” to Watch For!

“The Watch Four” to Watch For!

This is not an overnight matter. It should continue for our lifetime. Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance of others is our code.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

This passage is an overview of the process we are to learn to do at Step 10, but this is actually a brief overview of the way we are supposed to live year to year, day to day and minute by minute.

There is a brief process listed here that could be more detailed or more complicated, but what is listed here does a great job of summarizing it.  These things are not to be relegated to just a process, but are supposed to gradually become the way you live.

This passage lists a process; the process is just stuff until you take action.  Once the action is taken it is supposed to be repeated constantly.  Once the process has been repeated constantly for a period of time it will become a habit.  Once a habit has been with you long enough it transition from a habit to a part of who you are.  It becomes a part of your lifestyle.  It is a part of who you are.  That is the goal.

Lets start by looking at the process briefly outlined in this passage:

FIRST, we continue to watch for negative and destructive thoughts or actions.  If you are at Step 10 and working your steps as outlined in the Alcoholics Anonymous book, you probably have a good idea what destructive thoughts and actions are most destructive to your life and those around you.  The authors also included four that are often common to us working through recovery:

  1. Selfishness
  2. Dishonesty
  3. Resentment
  4. Fear

Even if you have your own personalized list, these four should be included.  We will call these “The Watch Four.”  These are the things that you are supposed to be on watch for at all times.  These (along with whatever other items you may list) are indicators that you are about to unleash crazy in your world or that you have already been unleashing crazy in your world.  If you are watching for these and see that one has begun arising in you, you are in deep trouble.  That is why it is imperative that you keep watch.

NEXT, you have to know what to do if you are watching and one of these crops up.  Before you respond or act in any way or even give all of this too much thought, STOP!  Ask God to remove the destructive thought, attitude or behavior on my part.  It does not matter who else is involved or what is going on, first I must stop my own crazy train.

AFTER ASKING GOD call, visit or somehow discuss whatever you have going on with someone helpful.  That means someone who is at wise enough to use common sense, far enough in recovery or in life not to give you stupid advice and strong enough to tell you the truth (even if it will make you angry). 

Too many people look for advice from people they already know will agree with whatever stupidity they are thinking or who won’t say anything they don’t want to hear.  It is helpful if you can find a few that have been through this process properly and understand.

The point is to test your thinking and get an outsider’s perspective and guidance.  For that to happen you need to be actively looking for these people and discussing this with them before something happens.  Then, when something like this comes up, these people will be expecting your call or visit and will know exactly what you are expecting.  (maybe you can prepare them by showing this to them)

AFTER TALKING TO SOMEONE, you need to take action to change.  If there was another person involved, you probably owe him, her or them an amends.  If this is the case do not put it off, do all you can to repair the situation as soon as possible.  Try to do anything you can as fast as you can to undo your part of whatever happened.

ONCE YOU HAVE MADE AMENDS focus on intensively working with someone else who is struggling with addictions, alcoholism or whatever you are struggling with.  This is the best way to deal with this sort of struggle (along with the other parts of the process).

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)

Not only is working with others part of getting immunity from destructive thoughts or actions, working with others is part of ensuring immunity from relapse. 

This is the way we are to deal with the negatives and destructive things that enter into our lives.  I did skip one point from the passage on page 84 until now.  It is four very important words: 

When these crop up…  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

We are not discussing something that might happen, we are talking about things that will be trying to creep back into your life at every turn.  At first all of this may seem tedious or annoying.  After you do all of this long enough it will just become normal and seem less and less of a tedious effort and eventually just become the way you think. 

The point is to stop letting ridiculously foolish things from pouring out of your life or to stop holding in ridiculously foolish thoughts and feelings and deal with these things.  This is all a huge part of learning love and tolerance and these things are the code of all things Twelve Step.

Learning to live like this is change and change is what recovery is all about.  Like I always say:


Wade H.

Is Your Recovery Pointless? What is the Point?

Is Your Recovery Pointless?  What is the Point?

We have been trying to get a new attitude, a new relationship with our Creator, and to discover the obstacles in our path. We have admitted certain defects; we have ascertained in a rough way what the trouble is; we have put our finger on the weak items in our personal inventory. Now these are about to be cast out. This requires action on our part, which, when completed, will mean that we have admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being, the exact nature of our defects. This brings us to the Fifth Step in the program of recovery mentioned in the preceding chapter.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 72)

In the first sentence what we have is a brief summary of the purpose and goals of working the originator of all Twelve Step programs.  The list consists of three parts:

  •    a new attitude
  •    a new relationship with our Creator
  •    to discover the obstacles in our path

These three help take a deeper look at our goal in working the program and the destination.  Knowing what the destination or the goal for you at the end of your recovery is has great importance.  Consider these two quotes:

“If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” – Author Unknown

“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.” – Seneca

The person in recovery who does not know what he or she is aiming for will not ever know if he or she gets there or even if he or she is still heading the right way or not.  If you have no goal, then it doesn’t matter how well or poorly you do things, because all of it is pointless.  This sentence from page. 72 is the compass for each of our Twelve Step recovery experiences. 

These are the goals, but they appear logically in reverse order.  Simply put: 

We start by looking for the obstacles in our path.  The obstacles to “what?”  Again, if you cannot answer the question and know what the “what” is, you would not know the difference between looking at the obstacles and actually stacking up more obstacles.  The “what” is the next one on the list:  The “new relationship with” God. 

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 69)

We have been blocked off from God and it is tied to “self-will.”  We start to clear away what has been blocking us when we make a decision (Steps 1-3) and make an inventory (Step 4).  The “self-will” part is a huge part of all that “blocked off from God” stuff and a root to our addictions or alcoholism.

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

This is the how and why of it. First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn’t work. Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 62)

Selfishness or “playing God” keeps us from a deep relationship with God.  Whatever we believe our relationship with God has been, we need to develop a new one.  We may hate the word God, kinda believe in God, believe, or be a highly trained member of the clergy, but if you are working recovery, “a new relationship with our creator” is needed. 

The steps are described here as cleaning up, or helping to clean up what has blocked you from Him in the past. 

Once you reach the end of the program portion of the Alcoholics Anonymous book (pg 164) you are turned over from the care directions of the process to the direction of God.

Still you may say: “But I will not have the benefit of contact with you who write this book.” We cannot be sure. God will determine that, so you must remember that your real reliance is always upon Him. He will show you how to create the fellowship you crave.

Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us. Ask Him in your morning meditation what you can do each day for the man who is still sick. The answers will come, if your own house is in order. But obviously you cannot transmit something you haven’t got. See to it that your relationship with Him is right, and great events will come to pass for you and countless others. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 164)

All of the Steps and all of the recovery information is admittedly a small amount of info in the lifelong process.   When a person reaches and is living out the “maintenance steps” (Steps 10, 11 & 12 which are steps that are carried out every day) a part of that process is being turned over to God’s guidance. 

When we backtrack to Step 10 we see how properly working the Steps is tied to the “New Relationship with our creator”:

Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God’s will into all of our activities. “How can I best serve Thee – Thy will (not mine) be done.” These are thoughts which must go with us constantly. We can exercise our will power along this line all we wish. It is the proper use of the will.
Much has already been said about receiving strength, inspiration, and direction from Him who has all knowledge and power. If we have carefully followed directions, we have begun to sense the flow of His Spirit into us.  (
Alcoholics Anonymous pg 85)

The reason we are supposed to “sense the flow” better if we “carefully followed directions” is because we worked at removing what has been blocking us from a deep relationship with Him.

Step 11 is far more directly concerned with deepening our relationship with God.  There is far more to this concept, but the basic idea is talking to and listening to God.  That is the building of the relationship.

11.  Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 59)

Now think about the second part of Step 11; what you pray for.  We are to pray to know His will and for the strength to actually do what His will is.  This is the foundation of the “new attitude” we were talking about.  Couple that with the destruction of “selfishness and self-centeredness” and throw in the rest of the details covered in the “maintenance steps (Steps 10, 11 & 12) and you have not only a new attitude, but a new way of living.

As a new person, with a new attitude you will do new things.  As the same old person, with the same old attitude, you will probably do the same old things or worse.

All of us must look for the things that put distance in our relationship with God.  Then once those things are as out of the way as we each are capable of, we make a conscious effort to deepen the relationship with Him constantly.  Then we let Him direct our thoughts as the both the source of our “new attitude” and as the “new attitude itself.”

I leave you today with this strong message describing the importance of this understanding and about what we need to do to recover:


Perhaps there is a better way – we think so. For we are now on a different basis; the basis of trusting and relying upon God. We trust infinite God rather than our finite selves. We are in the world to play the role He assigns. Just to the extent that we do as we think He would have us, and humbly rely on Him, does He enable us to match calamity with serenity.
We never apologize to anyone for depending upon our Creator. We can laugh at those who think spirituality the way of weakness. Paradoxically, it is the way of strength. The verdict of the ages is that faith means courage. All men of faith have courage. They trust their God. We never apologize for God. Instead we let Him demonstrate, through us, what He can do. We ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be. At once, we commence to outgrow fear.  (
Alcoholics Anonymous pg 68)




Recovery: More Than Information and Memories

A photo of The Thinker by Rodin located at the...
Image via Wikipedia

Recovery:  More Than Information and Memories

So we shall describe some of the mental states that precede a relapse into drinking, for obviously this is the crux of the problem.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 35)

Why do those of us that truly want to quit relapse?  We say and believe we want to stop, we do things to stop, yet in a moment we go back.  I suppose that no single reason will cover why everyone who relapses goes back, but let’s look at one that many of us have experienced yet may not have been able to explain to others or even to ourselves.

Listen to how this man describes it looking back on a relapse:

“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)

Here is the issue that this man is describing.  This man did what many of us do in
recovery.  He had listened to lots of “stuff” about recovery and what is needed, but had taken all he had learned and converted to his own recovery plan.  Let’s look back a page before I explain what that recovery plan was.

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 pg. 40)

The plan that he had converted all of the recovery “stuff” he learned into was thinking.  If he felt any urge to use (no matter how tremendous the urge) he was going to force himself to remember how humiliating all of this was and think about some recovery facts and that would stop him cold. 

I don’t know how many of us remember the movie “The Blues Brothers,” bet there was a basic theme to the movie:  They were on a “mission from God” and to fulfill this mission they did all kinds of crazy things that didn’t even make any sense to them to achieve this mission.  I am telling you this because in the 80’s and 90’s the term “on a mission” jokingly became the terminology used for a person who had one of those periods of time where he or she could think of nothing else but using and would do crazy things to get alcohol or drugs.  In the 2000’s the common term is a “run.”  No matter what you call it, these terms describe periods of time where all you can think about is getting whatever you are addicted to and use it. 

Those of us that have had this experience know that once you get into that mindset, it is rare that you will think about anything else but getting and using your drug of choice.  This man and the authors of the Alcoholics Anonymous book describe those times as “Strange Mental Blank Spots.”

The term “Blank Spot” is misleading as many take it to mean that one does no thinking at all.  In fact, the truth is that a better description is that the focus on getting and using is so strong that any other thoughts are easily ignored and forgotten.

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.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 24)

The mind is not in fact blank; the focus on using is so strong that everything else is completely ignored.  The point is, that if you convert all of the recovery “stuff” you learn to information and memories that you plan to force yourself to remember at the moment you feel like you are going to use, what are you going to do in those “Strange Mental Blank Spots?”  Those times when your focus on using is so strong that you cannot even consider other thoughts that come up.

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. 42)

Will power and self knowledge do work in many situations, but not in those “strange Mental Blank Spots” (Not when you are “on a mission”).  That is why so many of us are fooled:  The knowledge and memories can be forced into our minds at many times that we are thinking about using and can in fact stop us from using.  Not every time that we think about using is a “Strange Mental Blank Spot.”  The fact that fording ourselves to think works a lot of the time for some of us makes us assume that it works all f the time.

Like this man, when we are down and out and getting educated about recovery, we assume that the added information is what was needed and that the information we had before was simply not strong enough.  The problem is that if you are in a “Strange Mental Blank Spot” the information will never be strong enough. 

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.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 42)

To put it bluntly:


There is a much deeper change that must take place and the information and memories are just two of the tools that can be used to get you in the direction of that change.  More information and memories however, are not the totality of this change.

The idea that you can use more knowledge and memories to stop yourself from using is an absolute failure in working Step 1.  If you are admitting you are powerless what makes you think you can force yourself to think about certain things at certain times when you are the most powerless. 

I am not saying to just give up and resign yourself to the fact your powerless so you can go and use.  I am saying that you need to look at recovery as far more than just getting more information to force yourself to think and look for something far deeper.


The Key to All Steps and to Recovery!

So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn’t think so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us!  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 63)

I revisit this idea every once in a while and I think it is something that every person in recovery from anything should rethink regularly.  Let me start by being clear.   If your worldview is based on the idea that:  “Whatever makes me comfortable is right and whatever makes me uncomfortable is wrong,” what we read above is speaking directly to you.

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. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 61)

In this passage the authors are describing what this looks like using the example of an actor who wants to control the show he is acting in (controlling the other actors, controlling the script, controlling the director, controlling the set design etc.). 

This passage is saying that some people trying to control the show are polite and influencing.  That person might even blame him or herself for not doing enough to let the others know how much he or she knew that could have made the show better.  Some people like this are extremely giving, but in their minds there is always the expectation that since I am giving you this or that you should trust my opinion more or you owe me appreciation etc.  This person and possibly the people around this person may not even think of this person as selfish.

The passage is also saying that this person might have a whole different approach.  This person might be pushy or overbearing.  Showing the others every mistake they make.  This person might manipulate and even lie to get his or her way.  This person must have his or her way at all costs.

These are the extremes and most of us have some mixture of both.  The key is that no matter which extreme, combination or amount of this we are describing, the fact is that it is selfishness. 

Selfishness or the absence of selfish motives cannot be measured accurately just by looking at your own actions.  Selfishness is about the motives behind the actions.

Here is an example:

Two people hear about a child in some third world country that just lost her parents and is in an orphanage that cannot afford to feed her.  The first person immediately thinks, “That is awful.  No child should have to endure such tragedy.”  Then that person sends $1000.00 to feed, clothe, and take care of that child.  The second person is a guy at a bar trying to build a relationship with a girl he just met.  This guy, in an effort to keep the conversation going, brings up the little girl’s story.  He really hadn’t paid that much attention to the story, but now that he sees the girl’s interest he states that he was thinking about donating a thousand dollars to help.  The girl states she would like to give also, so they go together and the man donates $1000.00 and the girl is impressed.

Both people were seemed giving and caring.  Both gave to a worthy cause and ultimately “did a good thing.”  But, one of these people is a truly caring person.  The other is using the orphaned girl’s plight as an opportunity to “pick-up” a pretty young lady in a bar.  This person used this little girl (who will be grateful anyway), used whatever organization was coordinating the donations, and used the orphanage as a “pick up line.”  His main motive for giving and for even considering giving is to get what he wants.  The fact that this was not really what he was going to do and to impress this girl he states and acts like this is what he was going to do is in fact a lie.  He lied to this girl to impress her.  Even deeper, he pretended to be someone he really isn’t to  get her attention. 

So let’s say the man who was “picking-up” the girl in the bar is successful in impressing the girl and they end up dating.  Eventually she will discover that he is way more focused on getting from people than giving.  More importantly, far more self-centered than the person she met or the person she thought she was dating.  She was sold one thing and received a totally different thing. 

Wouldn’t that cause problems?   If he is not in reality the type of person that the girl from the bar would like to spend time with, wouldn’t it be better to find out before the two people are emotionally invested in the relationship.   Wouldn’t it be better for him to be in a relationship with a person who likes him for who he is rather than a fictitious person that is totally different than who he really is?  This relationship is a recipe for disaster.  Isn’t he the one that set it up for failure?

Think about that relative to the following statement from the Alcoholics Anonymous book:

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. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 62)

The two sentences directly before this passage are how we know that the authors of the Alcoholics Anonymous book (the authors of the Twelve Steps)thought that this self focus was a huge issue that must be dealt with:

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

They thought this self-centered interaction with the world is the deeper issue behind our other issues.  What this also means is that, if you do not work on becoming less self-centered and selfish all the work a person does in recovery will not be sufficient.  To look at it from a another angle, think of if this way:  If a person in recovery is not growing more and more humble, that person is not truly working on the deeper issues in his or her recovery or in his or her life.

Indeed, the attainment of greater humility is the foundation principle of each of A.A.’s Twelve Steps.  For without some degree of humility, no alcoholic can stay sober at all.  Nearly all A.A.’s have found, too, that unless they develop much more of this precious quality than may be required just for sobriety, they still haven’t much chance of becoming truly happy.  (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions pg. 70)

If a person is working any Step of the Twelve and is not growing more humble, that person is not working the step properly.  I believe that any person that works the Steps will get some level of humility just by what the activities involved entail.  According to this passage, that person might even be able to remain abstinent in terms of his or her addiction, but still be a total mess.  This idea explains a lot of people I meet in recovery circles that talk about how long they have been sober.

If you run into a person who seems to be a mess, but has some sobriety time, that person may have possibly missed this key point.  If you run into one of these people who are always describing what an expert he or she is or is otherwise trying to prove him or herself important to others in recovery, that person may possibly have (probably has) missed this extremely key point.  A person working the steps and not changing is possibly a person who is not getting this key point.  If any of those people just listed is you, you may have missed this very key point.

The point of all this is to make sure that gaining humility and losing selfish motives have to be a huge key to everything we do in recovery.

Being convinced, we were at Step Three, which is that we decided to turn our will and our life over to God as we understood Him. Just what do we mean by that, and just what do we do?

    The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. On that basis we are almost always in collision with something or somebody, even though our motives are good.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 60)

According to this passage, if you get past Step 2 and are moving into Step 3, you cannot even say that you have begun Step 3 if you are not convinced that these selfish motives must die and humility must start to grow in your life.