The Idiot in My Mirror

Mirror Mirror (EP)
Mirror Mirror (EP) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My drinking assumed more serious proportions, continuing all day and almost every night. The remonstrances of my friends terminated in a row and I became a lone wolf. There were many unhappy scenes in our sumptuous apartment.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 3)

This passage makes a key point that many of us who struggle with alcoholism/addiction struggle deeply with but it is often missed.  There are a couple of reasons why the points of the passage are missed so often and one of them is the language.  One of those reasons is wordiness.  The way it is written it is just one of those things that many brains just tune out as if this passage were simply some kind of background noise.

Let’s start with two of the key words:  Remonstrances and row.

Remonstrance:

a protest or reproof, esp. a petition presented in protest against something

Row:

noun

1. a noisy dispute or quarrel; commotion.

2. noise or clamor.

verb (used without object)

3. to quarrel noisily.

So that turns:  “The remonstrances of my friends terminated in a row and I became a lone wolf.”  Into: The petitions of my friends against how bad my using was getting ended in a noisy quarrel or commotion and I became a complete loner with no more friends.

This may not be exactly what has happened to you, but it does describe a major problem.  That problem is that we tend not to listen to the people who are trying to help us (and who are often right) and we tend to act as if they are the problem.

I had a completely unrelated experience the other day that opened my mind to the idea of how we perceive the people around us incorrectly.

I was driving in the morning commute near my house and there was an inordinate amount of traffic on the streets in the direction you go to get to the freeway.

I moving along in the herd from stoplight to stoplight (emphasis on the word STOP) when I noticed that all of the cars had moved except for the car in front of me and those behind me.  Then the ones behind me started zooming into the other lane trapping me behind this person.

As they were passing me I seemed to be getting several versions of the evil-eye and some looks that could only be described using the comic book term “#*@*%*^” if you get my drift.  Horns were honking, people were yelling and I did nothing but get stuck behind some idiot.

Finally, the idiot in front of me looked up from texting, setting the GPS, twiddling her thumbs, doing her nails or whatever she was doing and started down the road.

I was fuming, but was doing a good job of trying to talk myself down because people like us cannot afford to let other people’s crazy be contagious.

I was just about to speedily change lanes and pass this woman when I noticed that she was not only driving slowly but swerving into the other lane repeatedly in a way that could only be described as driving like a wino.

She was swerving from lane to lane and slowing down keeping me trapped behind her and practically going nowhere.

As time progressed (which seemed like forever by now) I was losing my ability to keep myself calm.  Finally, whatever was distracting this person was finished and she finally had a chance to pass this idiot.

I was still trying to keep myself calm and apparently decided that I would get myself over it and not let it ruin my day but not until I let out my frustration in the form of a serious look of distain.  I was going to get my revenge by giving her the evil-eye she had caused me to get.  I was going to give her deep discomfort (if only for a few seconds) as punishment for her evil.

So that seemed like a great compromise; give her the evil look and then, having my revenge, I would be able to free myself.  So I did this.

I zoomed into a position next to this woman and looked over with my best evil-eye.  The Freddy Kruger, Jason about to kill you look!  She looked like she knew immediately and had a deep look of embarrassment and regret.  MUHAHAHAHA, my evil plan had worked.  I had won.

Then I turned to go back to look at the road and turned just in time to notice that I had swerved slightly to the left and at this point was about two inches away from crashing into the concrete divider in the middle of the road.  (They have been redoing the roads near my house and I could normally drive this section of the road with my eves closed, but part of what they did was widen the center divider)

So now I had to react in a hurry.  I swung the wheel rapidly to the right, swerving to the right towards her car and narrowly missing the center divider and wobbling down the road a bit.

Now I was really angry.  LOOK WHAT THAT IDIOT MADE ME DO!  Then suddenly it dawned on me:  Looking at her for five seconds of revenge almost cost me my car and I am calling her an idiot.

I wondered what the cars behind both of us were thinking when one wino driver who was holding us all up was upstaged by another one that was not only holding us all up but was going to cause a wreck and stop us altogether.

Reality struck and I realized that I am at least the bigger idiot if not the only one.

In the passage we started wit, founding member Bill W. has friends that are concerned who are trying to tell him is getting out of control (if you read the whole story, nobody could have guessed how right they were).  Bill gets so mad at them that he gets into noisy fights with them.  Such big fights that he drives them away from himself completely and ends up with few, if any friends left.

They were trying to help him and to him they were the idiots who were interfering with his happiness.  In other words, in his mind they were the idiots.  The problem is, when you read the rest of the story you realize that they were not the idiots, Bill was.  It was perception that kept him in bondage to the point of a wreck.

Those of us who are in recovery or in need of recovery do not have the luxury of declaring people idiots.  We get confused and wreck (our lives, our cars and many other things).  The truth is that we need to deal with the idiot in the mirror before we go exacting our revenge upon all of the other idiots on earth.  If you really get what you are supposed to get out of recovery, you will find that revenge is the punishing of yourself in most cases and is not worth it.

Stay sober my friends from the idiot in my mirror,

Wade H.

Past Experience vs. Your Present Experience

Past Experience vs. Your Present Experience

Henry Ford once made a wise remark to the effect that experience is the thing of supreme value in life. That is true only if one is willing to turn the past to good account. We grow by our willingness to face and rectify errors and convert them into assets. The alcoholic’s past thus becomes the principal asset of the family and frequently it is almost the only one!  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 124)

Ghosts of Christmas Past
Ghosts of Christmas Past (Photo credit: KM&G-Morris) DEAL WITH THE GHOSTS OF YOUR PAST!!!

Something that has to be a change in the way we think for all of this to work is how we see the past.  It is astonishing how many people will skirt around truly working the steps as outlined simply to avoid having to look at the darkest areas of their past.  The fear of looking at the past makes it clear that what we are calling the “past” is still the present.  If it was not a problem in the present, there could be long detailed discussion and the angry, deeply saddened or seriously uncomfortable feelings would not come up.

In other words the things in your past are either resolved or they are not.  If they still create some kind of negative emotions, these are still problems.  If you find yourself having to manipulate the way you work your steps to avoid even talking about this and that from your past, then those things are some of your deepest unresolved problems in the here and now.

We cannot remain afraid of our past and hide that fact by saying things like:  “Nothing can be done about that, why bring it back up” or “I’m over that, I just don’t feel like talking about it” or “Why do I need to talk about that, I’m not the person who did something wrong there” etc. 

Then there are those who think that all of this is right and that the people working them through recovery and the people who wrote the Twelve Steps didn’t really understand this particular situation so I just won’t say anything to these people and will not put it on my Fourth or Eighth Steps and ignore it.

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.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs.83– 84)

For those who are familiar with what are called the Promises, this is the first part of these “Promises.”  Did you notice the “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” Part?  If you are trying to ignore parts of your past of just act like these major events did not happen, you are heading in the wrong direction.  You are choosing to stay in bondage to alcohol/drugs and to painfully limp along to a slow and dragged out, miserable death with nothing but insanity and pain along the way.

A few might be strong enough to get many years of sobriety with this same misery only to eventually find that nothing satisfies your life and eventually relapsing.  These may seem like sweeping generalizations, but they do happen to be my observations and also happen to be the point the authors of the Alcoholics Anonymous book are making here.

If you are even beginning to think that you should just not talk about or deal with some things from your past, freak out and begin trying to deal with those specific things with a sponsor right then and there.  The freaking out is warranted if you actually grasp the seriousness of the consequences if you do not deal with these things.

THE PAST IS ONLY THE PAST IF THESE THINGS DO NOT AFFECT YOU NEGATIVELY IN THE PRESENT AND WILL NOT IN THE FUTURE!!!

If you need to avoid just talking about something because the feelings that arise are too uncomfortable, then not only are you imprisoned by this thing from your past, but you have left a time bomb in your life that can go off at any moment and destroy you.  It will eventually come up and you will probably not be in an environment where you are working through those sorts of things when it does.

Leave no stone unturned, leave no incident from your past off of your inventories and leave no past issue in your life unresolved. 

If you deal with all of these things and resolve them to the point where they can come up without those destructive or fearful feelings then the rest of this “Promises” stuff will apply to you (the promises appear at the end of Step Nine in the Alcoholics Anonymous book).  You are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.  You will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace; and so on.

To set up a better future you will have to deal with those things from the past that are waiting to subtly destroy that future.

A final note to consider about the first passage here is that the passage is speaking of the entire family, not just the alcoholic/addict.  If there is to be any healthy growth in the family, all will have to deal with the past until all things are resolved in this manner.

The excuses that “He/she is the alcoholic/addict, I shouldn’t have to do this” is a cop out.  You are protecting your own self destroying time bomb that will destroy your family, the person working recovery and possibly you too.

The bottom line:

DEAL WITH IT BEFORE IT DEALS WITH YOU!!!

 

Stay sober my friends;

Wade H.

The Shortcuts and By-paths of Friends and Loved Ones

The Shortcuts and By-paths of Friends and Loved Ones

The alcoholic, his wife, his children, his “in-laws,” each one is likely to have fixed ideas about the family’s attitude towards himself or herself. Each is interested in having his or her wishes respected. We

058
058 (Photo credit: ribarnica)

find the more one member of the family demands that the others concede to him, the more resentful they become. This makes for discord and unhappiness.

And why? Is it not because each wants to play the lead? Is not each trying to arrange the family show to his liking? Is he not unconsciously trying to see what he can take from the family life rather than give?

Cessation of drinking is but the first step away from a highly strained, abnormal condition. A doctor said to us,” Years of living with an alcoholic is almost sure to make any wife or child neurotic. The entire family is, to some extent, ill.” Let families realize, as they start their journey, that all will not be fair weather. Each in his turn may be footsore and may straggle. There will be alluring shortcuts and by-paths down which they may wander and lose their way.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 122– 123)

For the friends and loved ones around the alcoholic/addict each life is incredibly altered by the fact of having an alcoholic/addict in their world.  Some people act as if not affected, but most often this is simply a massive misconception that will only be unraveled somewhere down the road with significant amounts counseling or a significant shock to that their system.

The behaviors, thoughts, interactions etc. of the alcoholic/addict in relation to those around him/her cannot help but impact all who come in contact.

An illness of this sort – and we have come to believe it an illness – involves those about us in a way no other human sickness can. If a person has cancer all are sorry for him and no one is angry or hurt. But not so with the alcoholic illness, for with it there goes annihilation of all the things worth while in life. It engulfs all whose lives touch the sufferer’s. It brings misunderstanding, fierce resentment, financial insecurity, disgusted friends and employers, warped lives of blameless children, sad wives and parents – anyone can increase the list.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 18)

The alcoholic is like a tornado roaring his way through the lives of others. Hearts are broken. Sweet relationships are dead. Affections have been uprooted. Selfish and inconsiderate habits have kept the home in turmoil. We feel a man is unthinking when he says that sobriety is enough. He is like the farmer who came up out of his cyclone cellar to find his home ruined. To his wife, he remarked, “Don’t see anything the matter here, Ma. Ain’t it grand the wind stopped blowin’?”  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 82)

These are the worst case scenarios, but all are affected to some degree or other from those who have a permanent raised eyebrow for that individual to those who suddenly feel the urge to vigorously bludgeon the person past death and past a state of rigor mortis simply because that person’s name was mentioned. 

Here is a newsflash that most of us, particularly those of us with no alcohol or addiction problems:  If you do not deal with (or have not dealt with) whatever negative effects that person’s using has had on you, YOU WILL BECOME ONE OF THE OBSTACLES TO THIS PERSONS RECOVERY AND GENERAL GROWTH IN LIFE.

You may have had no blame whatsoever in this person’s previous using, you may have been the codependent enabler of this person, or you might have been the direct cause of this person’s use, but at this moment you are either becoming a part of the solution or a part of the problem.

The person who has been building resentment for years that this person would never pay any attention to your protestations probably should not take the first moment of clarity to vomit up every injustice this person has ever done to you up to the point of dry-heaving insanity upon this person in his/her first hard fought moment of clarity.

I am not saying there is not a need for a time and a place to confront and resolve each injustice, but weaponizing your confrontation of legitimate issues for this first opportunity to act out an effective ambush is probably not the way, unless your goal is to utterly destroy this person.  If your goal is to utterly destroy this person, you need to leave this person alone and go get help NOW!

If you are the more passive, not wanting to set this person off, kind of person, that has a whole other set of issues that arise.  The fact for those of us in recovery is expressed in this passage written to help us focus our efforts to fix the past.  This is how we should be looking at dealing with you on these issues:

Under no condition do we criticize such a person or argue. Simply we tell him that we will never get over drinking until we have done our utmost to straighten out the past. We are there to sweep off our side of the street, realizing that nothing worth while can be accomplished until we do so, never trying to tell him what he should do. His faults are not discussed. We stick to our own.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 77– 78)

If we do not get better “until we have done our utmost to straighten out the past” hiding the past from us or minimizing it is the equivalent of hiding our recovery from us.  We need your true feelings and emotions to have any hope of recovery.  We need your reality to understand how to correct the filters we use for our perception of reality. 

A person working Step Nine should not be allowed to blame you or manipulate you into minimizing what you feel or what happened.  Each person in recovery needs to work on preparing to look at the worst of his/her past, preparing to do whatever is humanly possible to repair each thing in the past and desperately and vigorously use that experience as the fuel to grow to a point of never repeating the same destructive behaviors ever again.  This person is supposed to be learning to be far less self focused and more humble in a healthy and balanced way.

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

Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us! .  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 62)

That is the task that must be undertaken at some point.  There are appropriate times and places and processes of preparation that one must work through (Step Eight for example where you work towards each amends that you actually carry out in Step Nine) before each confrontation happens, but they have to happen or the recovery process has broken down completely.  The uncomfortable process that will serve as the motivating energy behind the radical changes the Twelve Step process requires to work simply does not exist if this is not carried out properly.  The change cannot happen and if you are not changed, you are the same and can expect the same results.  That means relapse and worse!

All of this needs to be confronted at the right time, in the right way.

Now, back to the family and the passage we started with (why we are really here):

We find the more one member of the family demands that the others concede to him, the more resentful they become. This makes for discord and unhappiness.

And why? Is it not because each wants to play the lead? Is not each trying to arrange the family show to his liking? Is he not unconsciously trying to see what he can take from the family life rather than give?  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 122)

According to this passage, the alcoholic/addict in recovery may not be the only selfish and self-centered person in the mix.  This may not apply to you specifically, but each person needs to honestly ask himself/herself the question HONESTLY.  There is no excusing your self focus because that person has been more selfish or deserves it or is stupid or whatever.  Either you are being selfish and self-centered or you are not. 

If you are the person who has to confront this right now however you feel it needs to be confronted two things are evident:

  1. This confrontation has nothing to do with any aspect of helping that person get better it is all about finding some sense of victory while that person is in a weakened state.
  2. This confrontation has nothing to do with finding any real solution to the problem or you would be looking for the right time when the person would be properly prepared to really get together with you and do whatever it takes to resolve each issue. 

If you are one of the people who will act as if everything is fine and none of that mattered or the “well I just don’t want to make his recovery tougher” people:  STOP IT NOW!!!

You are robbing this person of their recovery simply so you won’t feel uncomfortable or feel responsible if they freak out.  If this person does freak out, there are really two possibilities:

  1. That person is simply not ready to deal with these issues properly yet and cannot consider his/her amends to you completed
  2. This person is so used to manipulating you that he/she can avoid any discomfort he/she perceives is related to you by manipulating you into feeling guilty until you shut-up.  (That is another area that that person would need to make amends for).

Either one is a situation that needs to change for that person to get recovery.

The truth is that the archenemy of the alcoholic/addict is selfishness and self-centeredness in any form.  Granted, that person has to learn to live with the fact that the planet finds itself covered with more selfishness than it has land for all of the selfish people to stand on and is highly unlikely a person could figure out a path in life that avoids all selfishness.  The question is not one about fixing all of the selfishness on the planet however, the question is firmly:  “Are you as an individual a part of the problem or of a part of the solution for this person?”

As I said before, you may have never do much as lifted a finger to cause this person to use ever before this.  That’s awesome, but please don’t start being a part of the problem now!!!  We all struggle with an alcoholic/addict and their thoughts and behaviors to some degree or other.  We need to be willing to struggle through some discomfort for their health and you will probably find that actual resolutions to the problems will do wonders for your mental and emotional health also.  Focusing on ensuring that you are not selfish or self-protective can’t hurt either.

I suppose there are those people who have all of this in line and struggle with none of these issues.  I commend you and I am thankful that you are on our planet as an example to the rest of us.  I do however, present to you the idea that individuals cannot judge such things about themselves safely without at the least the consultation of a few folks that understand what we are looking at and can honestly tell you the truth.

In other words, if you are a friend or loved one of a person in recovery, PLEASE seek some outside assistance or advice from someone who understands these things (assume you would like to be a part of the solution or at least not be a part of the problem).  And never EVER EVER EVER EVER use the sentence “He/she is the person with the problem, why do I need to…”  That statement in and of itself is an indicator of just being concerned with yourself and not doing anything for this person.

You can be a huge part of the healing process for your friend or loved one and all it takes is to unselfishly confront the issues at the time that is best for the person and for you.  Yes there is discomfort, but at least the discomfort is along the path to freedom and closure.  You may have been a hero in this person’s life standing by them all of this time and they may not have truly even noticed, but this is an opportunity to be a beacon of hope and freedom for a person in desperate need at the moment it will count the most to him/her.  You just have to stay off of the shortcuts and by-paths.

If you are the person in recovery, consider your responsibilities in all of this and the challenges those around you will have confronting these issues with you at the appropriate time and in the appropriate way.  Don’t try to protect yourself from discomfort by avoiding any of these amends.  If you are not ready, then diligently work (with the help of others) on getting ready to make the amends.

There is a solution, and all of us involved can be a part of it.

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.

Are You Ready (Do You Know You Are Drowning?)???

3rd Rescue Method. If the arms be difficult to...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Are You Ready (Do You Know You Are Drowning?)??????

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)

If you are trying to get or hoping to get recovery, then you absolutely need to ponder these two thoughts. 

  1. Do you want what we have and if so
  2. Are you willing to do anything, including some things you absolutely do not want to do, to get the lifestyle of freedom we have.

These questions are vital to any hope of recovery.

Over the past few weeks I have encountered an inordinate amount of people that are trying to begin recovery who are court ordered or otherwise brought to recovery by another individual.  When I see people like this I usually wonder what their answer to these two questions is.

I heard one fellow, when asked if he considered himself desperate say that he didn’t know.  My immediate first thoughts were, “If you do not know if you’re desperate or not; you probably are not.”   A desperate person usually knows that he/she is desperate.

I have discussed this previously, but desperation is key to being willing to do all of the uncomfortable, unpleasant and sometimes outright scary things that are asked of you in recovery.  For example:

  • People who are not desperate will not be thorough and honest about their Fourth Steps.  There will always be some things that are left off of it, minimized, softened or only partially described on it. 
  • People who are not desperate will not have the strength or desire to make amends to the people that are hardest to make amends to. 
  • People who are not desperate will not take a brutally honest look at themselves as it is too painful.

Desperation is the motivation to go towards and fight through the most uncomfortable parts of working through recovery.

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

That is desperation:  The desperation a drowning person for oxygen.  In light of this example, the idea of being desperate and not realizing you are desperate is a completely foolish idea.  If a drowning person was somehow completely unaware of how desperate the situation is, that person would have no motivation to seek air. 

  • “I probably need air, but I can probably wait.” 
  • “Yeah I know I need air and could drown, but I’m just not ready yet.” 
  • “I wish I could be desperate for air like other drowning people, but I just can’t see it like them.”
  • “Yeah, I know I need air, but I’m not like those other drowning people”

All of that sounds really silly.  Well that is how the idea of recovery without understanding the concept of how desperate you are sounds.  This understanding of desperation is a big part of working Step One and is necessary to even begin the Twelve Steps.

For those of us who sponsor others or are looking to sponsor others, this is an extremely important concept.  It is how you are to know if somebody is even ready for you to work with them.  Look at this passage explaining how to get sponsees:

Do not be discouraged if your prospect does not respond at once. Search out another alcoholic and try again. You are sure to find someone desperate enough to accept with eagerness what you offer. We find it a waste of time to keep chasing a man who cannot or will not work with you. If you leave such a person alone, he may soon become convinced that he cannot recover by himself. To spend too much time on any one situation is to deny some other alcoholic an opportunity to live and be happy. One of our Fellowship failed entirely with his first half dozen prospects. He often says that if he had continued to work on them, he might have deprived many others, who have since recovered, of their chance.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 96)

The implications of this passage are that if a person is not desperate there is no sense in working with that person.  That person is better off being released to discover how desperate his or her situation is. 

On a deeper level, if you are willing to give of your time, your life and your knowledge to someone why invest all that effort on a person who is not ready.  What about the people who are ready that cannot find someone to help them while you are off wasting time with someone who is not truly ready.  It’s literally letting a desperate person who could be saved die slowly while you are trying to save a person who doesn’t want to be saved.

If you are a sponsor or otherwise work with people in recovery, this must be a major consideration.  If a person does not have this level of desperation for recovery you have to try to get that person to understand how desperate his/her situation is.  If that person cannot reach that level of desperation, you have to be strong enough to let that person go and hopefully get that understanding through life experience.

If you are a friend or loved one who is trying to help a person who needs recovery then trying to make that person work recovery in a way that he/she is not interested in is expecting that person to succeed in recovery without that desperation.  That person has to realize how desperate he/she already is and you can try to explain it to him/her.  If you cannot talk that person into that understanding then you may have to use what many people call “tough love” to help that person understand.  That does not mean punishing that person, but that does mean letting the person suffer from the natural consequences of his/her actions. 

If that person get’s locked up, he/she needs to find bail elsewhere.  If you told that person that, “Next time you are out” then the next time you have to put that person out.  If every time you give that person money for something responsible that money disappears, you are going to have to stop giving him/her money etc. all of that in the hope that he/she will realize that he/she desperately needs recovery at all costs. 

That is what people are describing when they use the term “hitting bottom”.   The understanding that the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of going through recovery. 

If you are the person that is starting recovery or even if you have been working recovery, you need to look at your own desperation and ask yourself are you this kind of “ready” for recovery.  That requires some deep honesty and searching and if you cannot say a definitive “yes”, that means some deep changing of your entire mindset is necessary.

It may seem like we are telling you that complete misery must be a part of someone’s life before recovery is possible and that only the miserable recover.  In some ways that is true, but it is not the misery that is key; it is the desperation which in many cases can only be realized when miserable.  That misery can force a person to realize that he/she wants change and more importantly make that person desperate to get it.  Then that person is ready to take the steps.

 

Stay sober my friends…

Wade H.

Darkness, Powerlessness, and the Dawn

Everyone became resigned to the certainty that I would have to be shut up somewhere, or would stumble along to a miserable end. How dark it is before the dawn! (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 8)
To have a healthy balance, Step 1 (which is really what we are discussing) must strike a balance between a strong reality check and the message which titles chapter 2 of the Alcoholics Anonymous book: “There is a Solution”

Red sunrise over Oostende, Belgium
Red sunrise over Oostende, Belgium (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Darkness, Powerlessness, and the Dawn

Everyone became resigned to the certainty that I would have to be shut up somewhere, or would stumble along to a miserable end. How dark it is before the dawn!  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 8)

We went to live with my wife’s parents. I found a job; then lost it as the result of a brawl with a taxi driver. Mercifully, no one could guess that I was to have no real employment for five years, or hardly draw a sober breath. My wife began to work in a department store, coming home exhausted to find me drunk.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 4)

One thing that is terribly tough for those of us in recovery and those around us is to find the balance between facing reality and maintaining some kind of hope. 

To even have any idea of the need for recovery, one must usually see how big the problem is.  A serious reality check has to happen to see how desperate the situation is which will lead to a willingness to take desperate measures to change the situation.

On the other hand sometimes those of us in alcoholism/addiction are so fixed on feeling sorry for ourselves that we use such information to throw a self-destructive “pity party”.  Some of us experience these “reality check” moments regularly (particularly after a relapse) and feel it so impossible to get better or change that it gives us the opposite effect.

The remorse, horror and hopelessness of the next morning are unforgettable. The courage to do battle was not there. My brain raced uncontrollably and there was a terrible sense of impending calamity. I hardly dared cross the street, lest I collapse and be run down by an early morning truck, for it was scarcely daylight. An all night place supplied me with a dozen glasses of ale. My writhing nerves were stilled at last.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 6)

This may just be an excuse for using or in politer terms an attempt to self medicate unbearable emotions, but the reasoning does not make any of this any less real to the person experiencing it.  The sense of impending calamity is real to us because it is true to some degree in all alcoholics/addicts. 

To have a healthy balance, Step 1 (which is really what we are discussing) must strike a balance between a strong reality check and the message which titles chapter 2 of the Alcoholics Anonymous book:  “There is a Solution”

Chapter 2

THERE IS A SOLUTION

We, of ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, know thousands of men and women who were once just as hopeless as Bill. Nearly all have recovered. They have solved the drink problem.

We are average Americans. All sections of this country and many of its occupations are represented, as well as many political, economic, social, and religious backgrounds.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 17)

The message to all of us that desperately need recovery has to be both a clear reality of how desperate we are and a solid stand that there is hope.  If you are a person around one of us who desperately needs recovery and would like for a that person to get free then you must stand strong in your conviction to both parts of the message:  “You are a terrible mess” and “There is a way you can get free of all of this and build a better existence.

There is a disclaimer though.  You know what a disclaimer is; it is that thing at the end of commercial for medications, diet pills, and car manufacturers where after they have made the extraordinary claims, they rapidly mumble what the hidden catch is.  Here is the disclaimer as clear and concise as it can be:

Simple, but not easy; a price had to be paid.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 14)

Recovery is a simple process as far as the explanation of what to do and the laying out of the Steps.  Recovery is not easy because the things you have to do, although simple to explain are really hard to do.  The simple steps outline things we simply do not want to do.  Things that are terribly uncomfortable or that outright hurt:  Things that both our unconscious and conscious minds will want to resist at all costs.

Now here is how the balanced messages of honestly facing the truth and continuing to have hope come together:

Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 58)

Another part of the disclaimer is that each person trying to work through recovery has to be brutally and painfully honest with himself/herself or the process is doomed to fail.

As I have repeatedly said in previous posts:  “Facts are Facts!”  Ignoring them, “candy coating” them, lying to yourself and others about them, etc. is a part of the bondage.  Being willing to first face these things and then being willing to do whatever it takes to be free of all of these uncomfortable things is necessity for any kind of recovery.  That is where the hope is. 

There is hope, but you have to be willing to face and fight through terrible discomfort to get there.  This starts with really facing how desperate the situation really is.  Step 1 states that:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable. 

And that is truly where to begin once a person has discovered the need for recovery, but a certain amount of Step 1 has to have been completed to begin working Step 1.  I know that sounds confusing, but look at this explanation of what to ask someone before you start working him/her through the Steps:

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

The hidden connection between understanding the desperation of the situation and having the hope of getting free is being willing to do anything to get free.  That is where the two seemingly opposites meet.  In other words the bridge between understanding it is a hopeless situation and the hope of freedom is willingness.  This is the starting point of freedom.

Now look at this statement again and it should be a clear idea of the role it plays in the recoveries of others:

How dark it is before the dawn!  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 8)

We have to see how dark it really is to look for and truly appreciate the light.

Stay sober my friends…

 

Wade H.

The Solution vs. The Confusion

An Alcoholics Anonymous Regional Service Cente...

The Solution vs. The Confusion

He was sober. It was years since I could remember his coming to New York in that condition. I was amazed. Rumor had it that he had been committed for alcoholic insanity. I wondered how he had escaped. Of course he would have dinner, and then I could drink openly with him. Unmindful of his welfare, I thought only of recapturing the spirit of other days.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 9)

 

The door opened and he stood there, fresh-skinned and glowing. There was something about his eyes. He was inexplicably different. What had happened?

I pushed a drink across the table. He refused it. Disappointed but curious, I wondered what had got into the fellow. He wasn’t himself.

“Come, what’s this all about?” I queried.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 9)

By the time we hit this point in founding member Bill W.’s story, he has tried to get sober several times, his whole world is coming apart (already has come apart) and he is sitting around waiting to die.

He has a friend (Ebby T.) who was as much an alcoholic as he was, who had sunk so far that he heard he had been committed.  Suddenly this guy shows up and he is sober (apparently a “condition” Bill had rarely ever seen him in).  Bill had been trying and desperately wishing to get sober and when he finds one person as bad as he was his first response is to try and get that person to relapse.  Then when the guy refuses, he is disappointed.

Bill, of all people, knew how strong the temptation to relapse is.  Bill, of all people, should have wanted to rejoice in his friend’s freedom and desperately sought to find the same solution.  Bill, of all people, should have wanted to help his friend instead of attempting to destroy his world with relapse.

The truth is that in recovery the people around you are either a part of the solution or a part of the problem.  They may not know which they are, but they are. 

Here is a fact to keep in mind:  The fact that a person has good intentions (or thinks they have good intentions) does not mean that whatever he/she does is good.  For example, lots of people have it in their mind that a person who is sober cannot possibly be a happy person.  So if such a person encounters a person who was miserable using and has finally struggled through recovery and has found some short time of recovery, the person who feels that a sober person cannot possibly be happy will try to convince that person to use, believing that getting that person to use is doing them some kind of favor.

The fact is that if a person who uses so heavily that to use is to destroy his/her life get’s sobriety there is no reason to use again.   A person who is trying to get such a person to us, no matter what the intentions are, is attacking that person and everything he/she cares about.  Whether a person intends to attack or unintentionally attacks does not matter when the attack has the potential to destroy your whole world.

What is the difference between a person who gets angry with you and shoots you in the head and a person who mistakenly thinks that the best way to make your headache go away is to shoot you in the head?  Once you are shot in the head, the intentions matter very little. 

If you are a person in recovery, it is very important that you understand that some people are simply not safe for you to be around, no matter what their intentions are or seem to be. 

If you are the friend or loved one of someone in recovery, there is so much more than just what you intend to do or don’t intend to do.  Again; you are either a part of the solution or a part of the problem.  If you really want to be a part of the solution, you are going to have to learn a lot about recovery also.    You may have to learn about codependence and about how to not be an enabler.  You may have to be more understanding or learn “tough love” as the case may be.  That person’s alcoholism/addiction may have changed you also in ways that need to be changed back.  You may also be an addict/alcoholic and have to seek recovery also.  You may not have had anything to do with their using (or just think you didn’t), but you can be a part of his/her recovery.  If you are not willing to be a part of his/her recovery you probably will become a part of the struggle and resistance to his/her recovery.

Let me be clear however:  The people around the alcoholic/addict cannot make a person recover; keep him/her sober; force him/her to stay sober etc.   What we can do is help make recovery more likely or considerably less likely.  The people around the alcoholic/addict also have the ability to make the person’s life far more miserable than necessary if we are not careful.

A person in recovery needs to limit exposure to the “part of the problem” people as much as possible and spend as much time as possible with the “part of the solution” people as possible (Although some “part of the problem” people cannot be avoided entirely; as a rule, exposure to them should be as limited as possible).  This is what the support groups (meetings) are supposed to be hinged on:

We are average Americans. All sections of this country and many of its occupations are represented, as well as many political, economic, social, and religious backgrounds. We are people who normally would not mix. But there exists among us a fellowship, a friendliness, and an understanding which is indescribably wonderful. We are like the passengers of a great liner the moment after rescue from shipwreck when camaraderie, joyousness and democracy pervade the vessel from steerage to Captain’s table. Unlike the feelings of the ship’s passengers, however, our joy in escape from disaster does not subside as we go our individual ways. The feeling of having shared in a common peril is one element in the powerful cement which binds us. But that in itself would never have held us together as we are now joined.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 17)

These sorts of understanding people who truly engage with each other in this way a an infinite help to anyone in recovery.  A group that meets that is not like this (be it a 12 Step group or otherwise) is lacking something terribly important and helpful to those of us in recovery. 

The kind of people around a person in recovery is of the incredibly important and if you are a friend or loved one of a person in recovery, the kind of person you are is incredibly important.  Founding member of Alcoholics Anonymous describes how he was drawn in to the group of people that wanted to help him this way:

About the time of the beer experiment I was thrown in with a crowd of people who attracted me because of their seeming poise, health, and happiness. They spoke with great freedom from embarrassment, which I could never do, and they seemed very much at ease on all occasions and appeared very healthy. More than these attributes, they seemed to be happy. I was self conscious and ill at ease most of the time, my health was at the breaking point, and I was thoroughly miserable. I sensed they had something I did not have, from which I might readily profit. I learned that it was something of a spiritual nature, which did not appeal to me very much, but I thought it could do no harm.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 178)

I think a clearer way to state all of this is:

The people around the person in recovery and the alcoholic/addict are either part of the solution or a part of the confusion. 

Which are you and which are those around you?

Stay sober my friends,

Wade H.