How to Not Poison Your World In Bad Times

This concept of first knowing the difference between the things you can change and the things you cannot. Then being giving the strength and determination to change the things you are able to change or the strength and ability to not get emotionally eaten alive by the things that you cannot change make the difference in our lives.

The greatest enemies of us alcoholics are resentment, jealousy, envy, frustration, and fear. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 145)

In other words, when something bad happens in our lives there are several things that are absolutely NOT options for those of us in recovery:
•Resentment
•Jealousy
•Envy
•Frustration
•Fear

frustration.
frustration. (Photo credit: nicole.pierce.photography)

How to Not Poison Your World In Bad Times

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.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

Some of us who have been in 12 Step circles for a while will recognize these as a part of what is known to many as “The Promises”.  These particular parts of the promises focus on an important struggle in our recovery; dealing with the rough times in life, and how we are able to be able to overcome them.

To start with, lets look at a basic rule of life that many at the worst levels of using struggle with:  Bad things happen to everybody including you.  This is an important concept.  Life is like playing cards:  You are going to be dealt good hands and you are going to be dealt bad hands, but you have to know how to play both.

To begin with there are the words passed on by generation after generation of Twelve Steppers:

God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

the Courage to change the things I can,

and the Wisdom to know the difference

This concept of first knowing the difference between the things you can change and the things you cannot.  Then being giving the strength and determination to change the things you are able to change or the strength and ability to not get emotionally eaten alive by the things that you cannot change make the difference in our lives.

The greatest enemies of us alcoholics are resentment, jealousy, envy, frustration, and fear.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 145)

In other words, when something bad happens in our lives there are several things that are absolutely NOT options for those of us in recovery:

  • Resentment
  • Jealousy
  • Envy
  • Frustration
  • Fear

These are a poison to our recoveries, to our lives and to everything and everyone that is touched by our lives at all.  These are the hidden hand grenades that then if allowed to be in our world will explode causing destruction on all sides. 

These rise up in every person, but the reality is that no matter what bad things come up in your life, there are only two options:  Either I can do something about it or I can’t.  Being frustrated, resentful, fearful etc. will fix nothing in either case.  If a bad thing that happens to me is something I can do something about, I need to get up and do whatever I am able to do about it.  That’s the solution.

If it is something that I can do nothing about, then drinking the poisons of frustration, resentment, fear and so on are ABSOLUTELY NOT the solution.  In fact, these attitudes compound whatever the problem is with a whole bunch of new problems.  Having these is simply taking a problem and making it terribly worse.

Picture it this way:

Imagine a person accidently drinking a few sips of spoiled milk.  This person gets so freaked-out about having accidently consumed the spoiled milk that he/she decides to drink rat poison, rubbing alcohol, toilet bowl cleaner and battery acid. 

Does any of that help with the problem of having accidently consumed the spoiled milk? 

Isn’t this response actually more of a problem than the original problem? 

If this person didn’t freak out, couldn’t better solutions be found?

If resentment, jealousy, envy, frustration and fear are in fact the greatest enemies of alcoholics/addicts, isn’t responding to bad things that happen in our lives with these emotions like drinking rat poison, rubbing alcohol, toilet bowl cleaner and battery acid

There is one other thing that has to let go of to handle the bad things that arise in every person’s life:

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.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

Selfishness and self-seeking will have to be let go of.  We do not have the luxury of being self focused as it is also a terrible poison to those of us in recovery or those of us who use alcohol/drugs heavily.

Whatever our protestations, are not most of us concerned with ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity?  Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 62)

The authors of the Alcoholics Anonymous book (the root of all things 12 Step) are convinced that the root of all of our struggles can be summed up as “selfishness” and “self-centeredness”.

If you look at the list we discussed previously as the enemies of alcoholics/addicts:

  • Resentment
  • Jealousy
  • Envy
  • Frustration
  • Fear

are these all not rooted in being “concerned with ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity?”  This exaggerated self focus erupts in an explosion of self destructive feelings and emotions that can only find expression in the world through destructive and self-destructive actions.  In other words these and their root (selfishness – Self-centeredness) are the poison alcoholics/addicts drink whenever bad things happen to us.   

Instead of letting the poisonous serpent of alcoholic/addict thinking bite us when bad things happen, we have to seek the strength to see which of the two possible solutions is appropriate and take that action. 

When something bad happens I either need to do something about it or accept it as the way things are and move on.

Whenever you encounter bad things in life you either drink the cure or the poison.  To drink the poison is to consume the seeds of misery, destruction and relapse. 

Now look at this portion of the promises:

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.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

These things are not just promises, they are keys to success.  If these changes of attitude and changes of your whole outlook on life don’t change then you will be shaken to the core of your being every time life deals you a bad hand.  A person who does not have these changes of attitude is doomed.  A person who has a submits to the greatest enemies of his/her recovery every time something bad happens has a terribly weak recovery at best.  

A recovery that cannot handle the bad times is not a recovery at all, because there will be bad times in every person’s life.  Freedom means not poisoning your world when bad things happen.  It means settling in and asking for the peace to accept any things that are beyond your power to change them.  It means asking for the strength and ability to face up to and do something about anything that you can change.  Most importantly, it means asking for clarity on which instances are which.  In other words we need clarity on the facts and to deal with the facts for what they are:  FACTS!  

Do not be like a card player who could be dealt twenty good hands in a row, stacking a huge pile of winnings and suddenly the first time he gets dealt a bad hand he looks at the cards, freaks out and poisons himself.  He should play that hand the best he knows how to and if it’s time to fold from that game, that is the right thing to do.  If it’s time to play that hand out and hope to get a break, than that’s what he should do.  If it’s leave that table time, while he is still ahead, that is also what he should do.  If it’s time to just play out this hand up to the point of losing it and looking ahead to the next hand, then that’s what he should do.  But, drinking poison is probably not the best solution.

If a card player knows how to play and win with the bad hands, that person is truly amazing.  If we can learn to not only stay in the game when life deals us bad hands, but also to play the game of life to win during the bad times, we will also be truly amazing.  

 

Stay sober my friends,

Wade H.

Learning to Face Life vs. Hide From It

Learning to Face Life vs. Hide From It

It is not to be expected that an alcoholic employee will receive a disproportionate amount of time and attention. He should not be made a favorite. The right kind of man, the kind who recovers, will not want this sort of thing. He will not impose. Far from it. He will work like the devil and thank you to his dying day.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 149)

This chapter of the Alcoholics Anonymous book is speaking directly to employers working with alcoholics and addicts that are their employees, but this passage reveals something that is much more of a general concept for all involved.  Many of us, when we are working through recovery expect the people around us and in some cases the world around us to give us special and delicate treatment because of the fragile nature of recovery.  Many of us reached this level of using because of various things that happened in our past etc. and feel as though we are entitled to a special period of a gentle world to get back on track.

That is a wonderful concept and makes some sense, but the truth is that that just aint gonna happen and in reality shouldn’t.  The truth is that it is destructive to your long term recovery to build your recovery in this fantasy land and then suddenly after some extended period thrust you into the real world where people are not going to have time to baby you as an individual and expect you to suddenly be able to suck it up and stay sober.

I am not saying that many in recovery do not need to take a break from the extreme chaos of life and start fresh, that a big part of what residential recovery is all about.  The thing is that even in residential recovery there should not be a complete babying of a person, then a graduation where that person is suddenly thrown overboard to brave whatever comes and swim to safety somehow.  There has to be a level of reality all along to be prepared to deal with the reality of the world when leaving the sheltered environment of a residential recovery program.

For the family and friends around a person in recovery, this is very important for you to understand.  There are probably changes that everyone needs to make in terms of interacting with this person and being realistic with this person, but codependently coddling a grown person is not helpful to anyone involved.

For example if a person who has just finished a residential recovery program is perfectly capable of working and paying his or her own bills, it is usually not helpful to have that person sit around the house watching television while you kill yourself trying to pay your bills and theirs also.   Some get it in their heads that this is good because we wouldn’t want the person in recovery to get too much stress he or she cannot handle.  That might lead to relapse.

The fact is, if that person just finished residential recovery and cannot handle the stress of having a job and paying his or her own bills, that person was not ready to leave that residential program.  There is considerably more treatment needed.  This person is set up to manipulate and use every person that cares about him or her until they all burn out and that person is left alone and without the abilities and skills needed to survive in life.

A huge part of being able to maintain sobriety is learning how to pull your own weight in life.  There are some that are able to do this throughout their using and that is great, but many cannot.  Nobody around a person that is struggling to learn to take care of him or herself should make the problem worse by helping a person avoid the very things that will teach the person how to live life.

Recovery is not about learning how to avoid living a normal life particularly the problems that everyone in the world faces.  Recovery is learning how to live a sober life in the midst of the ups and downs of life that everyone faces.  If a person’s recovery cannot handle the ups and downs of life…  THAT PERSON’S RECOVERY CANNOT HANDLE LIFE!!!  A recover that cannot handle the tough times is a recovery that is doomed to fail.  YOUR RECOVERY IS ONLY AS GOOD AS HOW IT CAN HANDLE THE TOUGH TIMES!!!

For those around us working through the process, your biggest struggle is how to help us face the normal problems of life without either stepping in and doing everything for us or without turning into the angry Grinch that acts like some Marine Drill Instructor always pointing out every wrong and putting us down at every turn in the hope that it makes us tougher.  You must be gentle but firm in your own way.  You need to stick to your guns as politely as we will allow and in the times where you have to save us from a failure, you need to make sure it is not something we should be saving ourselves from.

Never reduce recovery down to a process of learning how to avoid life.  Recovery is the process of learning to face life soberly no matter what life throws at you.

WE ARE THAN LEARNING THAT WHEN LIFE HANDS YOU LEMONS WE DO NOT USE THEM TO GARNISH A MARTINI… WE MAKE LEMONADE TO KEEP US HYDRATED AS WE WORK HARDER.

Stay sober my friends…

Wade H.

Discouragement is Not the Problem

Discouragement is Not the Problem

Bitterly discouraged, he found himself in a strange place, discredited and almost broke. Still physically weak, and sober but a few months, he saw that his predicament was dangerous. He wanted so much to talk with someone, but whom?  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 154)

Of course he couldn’t drink, but why not sit hopefully at a table, a bottle of ginger ale before him? After all, had he not been sober six months now? Perhaps he could handle, say, three drinks – no more! Fear gripped him. He was on thin ice. Again it was the old, insidious insanity – that first drink. With a shiver, he turned away and walked down the lobby to the church directory.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 154)

But what about his responsibilities – his family and the men who would die because they would not know how to get well, ah – yes, those other alcoholics? There must be many such in this town. He would phone a clergyman. His sanity returned and he thanked God. Selecting a church at random from the directory, he stepped into a booth and lifted the receiver.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 154-155)

In recovery and in life discouragement and discouraging situations are just a part of the normal ups and downs of what it means to be alive.   Everyone on earth has their bad days and bad seasons of life.  That is not a question.  The problem is not that there are discouraging periods of life, the problem is what we do to manage our discouragement during those times.

Do we sit and feel sorry for ourselves and gradually drift into enough misery to make life intolerable.  Do we get a bad attitude and try to take control of the situation or just to make other people feel the pain we feel.  These are major problems for those of us in recovery.  Both of these and many other possibilities are in reality evidence of us sinking into ourselves, selfishness and self-protective behavior.

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

In other words our natural response to being down and discouraged is to sink deeper into the worst and most destructive part of our problems and in effect make our problems worse.  Being down and being discouraged are not the enemy, our responses to them is the enemy.  Sinking into self-protection and self focus are the biggest enemies.

As a first thought, the passage at the opening describes Bill W. as needing someone to talk to.  That is an excellent place to start:  Someone to talk to who will understand and be supportive.  The lifestyle of a person who desires to remain sober and not absolutely miserable requires some kind of support system that you can turn to in these kinds of times. 

This is one of the deep purposes of what we call “support groups”:  Support!  If what you are calling a support group does not offer you this kind of support either you are not connected enough in the group or it is not the right “support group” for you.

These kinds of groups are something you find and maintain.  These are people you see regularly and have some level of personal connection with.  These are people that care about and care for one another. 

These are also something you want to find and maintain before you are bitterly discouraged so that when those periods of life arise you know exactly where to go. 

Secondly, Bill became interested in helping another person.

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)

As part of seeing the root of our troubles as self focus we find that one of the tasks that is most helpful in overcoming a self focused period is to focus on helping another person.  Think of the passage as reading this way:  “Nothing will help you more with being self focused as helping someone else.”

A key to what you read in the story Bill W. is telling is that he understood this so much that when he was just about to use because of it, he stopped and actively engaged in searching for a person to help.  He desperately sought out a person to help as combat against his sickness rooted in selfishness.  To use the recovery language of today, he went on a desperate search for someone to sponsor.    

This kind of mindset/attitude was the mark of the first groups and is still described in the materials as a major part of what makes us able to remain sober.  Dr. William D. Silkworth describes this kind of attitude as one of the most noticeable aspects of the early groups that made them different from other recovery groups and programs.

We feel, after many years of experience, that we have found nothing which has contributed more to the rehabilitation of these men than the altruistic movement now growing up among them.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. xxviii – 4th Edition)

Altruism = the attitude of caring about others and doing acts that help them although you do not get anything by doing those acts: (Cambridge Dictionaries Online)

Altruistic = showing a wish to help or bring advantages to other people, even if it results in disadvantage for yourself (Cambridge Dictionaries Online)

The idea that selfishness and self-centeredness were at the root of our problems was combated by creating an environment of unselfishness and teaching the individuals to care about and help others.

So the idea is that an unselfish support group and unselfish actions are the best way to overcome discouragement, depression and our addictions and alcoholism. 

Near the end of the program portion of the book you find the following paragraph:

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.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 164)

If you cannot find the kind of support system described here, then you may have to search out the individuals and “create the fellowship you crave.”  If you are in one of those periods of discouragement, you may have to go out and find someone to be helpful to.  In either case you need to be out looking for all of this before you run into the times of discouragement so you are prepared for those moment when (not if) they come up.

Stay sober my friends

Wade H.

How To Survive The Holidays – Part 2 (Black Friday & Christmas shopping Edition)

How To Survive The Holidays – Part 2 (Black Friday & Christmas shopping Edition)

We avoid retaliation or argument. We wouldn’t treat sick people that way. If we do, we destroy our chance of being helpful. We cannot be helpful to all people, but at least God will show us how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 67)

A few years ago on a festive Thanksgiving night, after enjoying several warm espresso drinks each, much of my family found ourselves up and still wide awake around midnight.  Most of us had never been to a “Black Friday” event, so we decided to pile in a couple of SUVs and drive around until we found a store we all liked and join the all night experience. 

The things we saw, heard and experienced would make a nun beat someone down.  Christmas shopping, “Black Friday” and in reality the holiday season in general seems to bring the “crazy” out in an inordinate amount of people. 

Here is a fact for all of us.  “SOME IDIOTS CANNOT BE AVOIDED!”  There are idiots in this world and at certain times even the nicest of people will act like idiots.  Many of us in recovery focus on how other people are idiots and use that as justification for doing things that set in motion chains of self-destructive events.

For those of us in recovery there is a rule that goes with that fact:  “IF OTHERS ARE IDIOTS WE CANNOT LET IT BE CONTAGIOUS!”   We do not have the luxury of catching the stupidity of others as if it were a cold as if somehow because the coughed “stupid” all over us we have to let the “stupid” virus run it’s course in our lives.

We avoid retaliation or argument.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 67)

I am not trying to say that there will never be conflict in your life, but I am saying that those of us in recovery have to do everything in our power to avoid retaliation and arguments.  When someone does something that offends us, our argument or retaliation can often be the entire sacrifice of our world, life and possibly recovery just to get even with someone who probably doesn’t care anyway.

If we were to live, we had to be free of anger.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 66)

What does it mean to be free?   Does that mean you will never again experience the feeling of anger?  Of course not!  What it means is that when the feeling of anger or associated feelings come up they no longer dictate how you think, act or even feel.   Angry situations are not our problem, how we react to those situations is our problem. 

Retaliation and argument are not the solution for us, but what about people who do nothing and just keep their angry feelings to themselves.  The hidden feelings which we often act like they do not exist are called resentments.

It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worth while. But with the alcoholic, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harboring such feelings we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to die.

If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcoholics these things are poison.   (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 66)

The point is that holding resentment secretly devours your emotions, your mental state, and your life and shuts you off from everything that not only allows you to be happy, but also from everything that will keep you sober. 

So basically in our discussion we have ruled out angrily responding to other people’s crazy and we have ruled out doing nothing.  For many of us those are the only two options and if that is the case what we have discussed so far seems completely impossible.  After all, if those are the only two options and we have made a case for why both options will utterly destroy your entire world then there is no hope.

The problem is that these are not the only two options.  The problem we have is not one of how we respond.  The problem is why we respond the way we do.  So let’s just jump right in:

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

Again the problem is not how you react, it is why you are reacting the way you do!  In many cases it is all about a feeling of “How dare this person do _______ to me!”  As if you were the Queen of England or the Crown Prince or something.  Here is a newsflash for all of us in recovery: 

THE WORLD WAS NOT PUT HERE TO KEEP YOU COMFORTABLE.  THERE WILL BE TIMES WHEN YOU ARE TERRIBLY UNCOMFORTABLE.  THE CHANGES YOU NEED TO MAKE FOR SOBRIETY HAVE TO WORK WHEN LIFE IS UNCOMFORTABLE OR THEY DO NOT WORK AT ALL!

We are all people.  We all have good and bad days.  We all get caught in the heat of the moment and do stupid things.  Part of our recovery (particularly Steps Eight and Nine) are focused on going to people we have hurt or adversely affected with our actions in the past to repair the damage.  The hope is that they will see that the person that hurt them is not who we really are deep inside regardless of if that was just a bad moment or if that was who we were and we are changing now. 

How can we expect others to give us the same benefit of the doubt if we cannot give the same benefit of the doubt to others?  When I judge the world completely on how I feel (especially in the heat of the moment) I am declaring myself God and ruler of the universe.  After all, the whole world is measured by how good or bad something makes me feel.  I have decided the whole world must bow down to my decisions on what is good or bad as dictated by my feelings at the moment.  Is that not one of the highest levels of selfishness imaginable? 

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. 62)

This is the crazy that makes us unable to play well with others.  We have to learn to think of what is going to be helpful to the other person.

Let’s say I’m on the freeway on my way to go shopping and I am minding my own business when suddenly this car rocketing down the freeway speeds into my lane leaving only a fraction of an inch between our bumpers never once even considering the use of a turn signal.  Now, I get to the store I was going to and here is the guy that just cut me off hurriedly walking into the same store and he suddenly falls down dropping a handful of stuff.

I could cuss him out, I could punch him in the nose,  I could call him all manner of evil things under my breath and wish I had punched him in the nose as I walk away or I could calmly smirk and think to myself “That’s what he gets.”  Or I could calmly say something like hey you should slow down a bit as I help him out.  Then maybe mention that he cut me off earlier.  The truth is that even the last response could be good or bad.  Because remember it is not how you respond, it is why you are responding the way you are.

If the only goal is to make sure that he knows that he offended you then it is again all about you.  This is a person who is incredibly hurried and may or may not have had a reason for that.  Most of us have been late for something or just having a terrible day and have cut someone off.   Some of us have heard the words, “If you are late one more time you’ll be fired!”  Has it ever occurred to you that this person might be in the middle of some major crisis and didn’t mean to offend you specifically?  What could someone do for you when you are in a crisis and find yourself offending people that  you don’t even notice that you offended?

So, if you walk over to the guy and help him just so you can have an easy opportunity to tell him what a jerk he is (just politely) you are still being crazy.  You are just being crazy with a smile. 

If you walk over to help, because you realize that this person might legitimately going through something and you try to offer the help you would want in the same situation you have learned to think of someone else other than yourself.  Should something be stated about the fact that the person cut you off?  I believe yes.  But, with the mindset I am describing it would be a bit into the conversation and I think it would be more of a part of the planting of a seed to help the person know what things to change in his life than just pressure to apologize or to feel bad.

I understand that for some reading this sounds weak, soft, or ridiculous.  The truth is, this is what it is to be unselfish and not self-centered.   The crazy people shopping at the holidays are in a shopping frenzy.  If you cannot yet handle being offended without some terrible emotion or action arising then you simply can’t go.  I guess you are going to have to shop on Cyber Monday instead of on Black Friday. 

As for family and friends on the holidays, not only should you consider what they are going through that might be making them act however they act, you should consider what you might have done to them in the past that they are still hurt over or angry over.  Just because you are trying to go through recovery does not mean that everyone around magically forgets the hurts and anger you have caused in the past.

Also, I think it is important to note that just because you chose to have the right mindset and take the right actions that does not mean that the other person is going to respond correctly.  The guy that cut you off then dropped his stuff in front of the store might cuss you out when you come over to help him.  You still have to keep your unselfish stand and hopefully when that person is working his Eighth and Ninth Steps you’ll come up as a person he cannot find to make amends to that deserves one.  Remember, that person may still be sick and just because that person is sick, does not meant that you have to get sucked into being sick with him or her.

This is what is meant by taking a “kindly and tolerant view” of everyone around you.  This is one of the major keys to surviving the holidays. 

We cannot be helpful to all people, but at least God will show us how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 67)

How To Survive The Holidays – Part 1

How To Survive The Holidays – Part 1Toilet Paper Trap

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)

The holidays are a time of celebration, of receiving and giving, of family gatherings and when friends get together to celebrate.  For those of us in recovery there are any number of challenges that arise from all of this.  Some of us associate all of these things with using and get a strong urge to use.  Some of us get so angry or hurt by what we get as gifts or don’t get as gifts that we cannot function well.  Some of us do not have the heart or mind for the giving part, while others of us give for the wrong reasons and end up frustrated.  Some of us have a strong urge to relapse at the mere thought of family gatherings for all sorts of different reasons.  For some of us gathering with friends is a recipe for relapse and others of us are depressed by the idea because we do not perceive ourselves to have any friends to gather with.  Some of us just simply hate the “holiday season” altogether or find ourselves depressed for no apparent reason during this time of year.   A few will find ourselves enjoying the holidays only to find that all of a sudden we cannot handle the feeling of enjoying ourselves and will have the urge to self-destruct our own enjoyment.   The way we tend to see things seems to be amplified this time of year and may seem like an inevitable train wreck waiting to happen.

The temptation is to focus on the negatives and sink into some kind of pity-party or try to act like the thoughts and feelings don’t exist.  As far as focusing on the negatives, we know that many of us that have been alcoholics or addicts can’t seem to be able to stop ourselves from seeing the glass as half empty instead of half full.  The truth is that realizing that the half empty glass is also half full is a good start, but is not enough.  For us there needs to be action to fill the glass the rest of the way also. Changing how we see things is good, but changing the parts of the situations that we control (ourselves) is better.

One of the simplest ways to begin to work through the holiday season before it overtakes you is to focus on Step 10 all day every day starting right now.

  1. Carefully watch yourself for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear.
  2. When you notice any of these stop yourself; take a moment and ask God to remove whatever it is.
  3. Have mentors, sponsors, or wise persons of some kind that you can talk to regularly ready for your call, email or visit.  Whenever you feel one of these come up talk to one or more of them about it as soon as possible.
  4. If you did something that was wrong to someone else in that situation (even if that person did a whole lot more to you before you did anything and you feel he or she deserves what you did) you must make amends quickly.  Don’t let their crazy become your relapse because you are determined to prove some point (that would in reality be your crazy)
  5. Have somebody or a couple of people you are helping through recovery (sponsoring) during the holiday season.  You need to be the mentor, sponsor, or wise person of some kind that someone else can talk to regularly ready for your call, email or visit as well as working that person through the steps through the holiday season.
  6. When you perceive that someone else or some group of “someone elses” is throwing crazy into your world remember that love and tolerance is our code.  That means to respond lovingly and be as tolerant as is humanly possible of whatever it is that is going on.  Remember that other people’s crazy does not have to be contagious.  If they are in fact acting crazy, that is their sickness, if you get sucked in and start acting crazy also their sickness has spread like some plague to you with the potential of wreaking havoc in your world and possibly even causing your death.

A huge point to take away from all of this is that you have to start responding to the problem before it starts to build up.  Plan these things and make sure the people described are in place now.  Intentionally start living this way daily for the whole day so as the holiday season kicks into full gear you will already have the habit of living this way. 

…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)

Change your mindset about all of the things listed from some things you do or from a Step you have to do or finish and begin to think of these things as a “way of living”.  You have to be so in the habit of thinking and acting in these ways that they simply become who you are and what you do.  These not only become how you think, but these things become the reasons behind why you think what you think.  You have to progress from:

  1. Have to – You do these things because you are told to in recovery and you realize you have no other good choice
  2. Want to – You do these things because you have done them for a while and you have started to feel good when you do them and to be able to handle hard to handle situations.  Doing them begins to be associated with feeling good.
  3. Is you – There is no longer any thought that goes into doing these things.  You have done these things so consistently and for so long that they are as natural as breathing.  These things kinda just happen (even if you don’t feel like it)

Also, take a second to ponder the word “vigorously” used in the previous passage.  In that “have to” phase (when you first start trying to develop these habits) these things seem time consuming, like a lot of work and possibly silly to some of us.  It will seem like really hard work to many of us at first to do these things.  You are going to have to “vigorously” push yourself to do these things in spite of how you feel.  Keep in mind that our feelings are important, but are often not the best guides for our lives.  Just because you suddenly feel like using or like punching someone in the face, that does not mean you should.  Just because you don’t feel like doing some of the proven recovery stuff doesn’t mean you shouldn’t either.

In the words of some excellent tennis shoe marketers:  “Just do it!”

—————————————————————————-

Grow this way of living.  Why?  Here is one person’s answer:

I have since been brought into a way of living infinitely more satisfying and, I hope, more useful than the life I lived before. My old manner of life was by no means a bad one, but I would not exchange its best moments for the worst I have now. I would not go back to it even if I could.”  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 4243)

Pink Clouds & Pink Sevens? (Part 2)

 And the first thing you know I was lifted right out of the A.A. group, and I floated higher, and higher, and even higher, until I was way up on a pink cloud which is known as Pink Seven, and I felt miserable again. So I thought to myself, I might just as well be drunk as feel like this.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 304 – “Physician Heal Thyself)

“Why, there’s nothing wrong with you. You’ve been sober for three months, been working hard. You’ve been doing all right.” But then he said, “Let me say something to you. We have here
in this community an organization which helps people, and this organization is known as Alcoholics Anonymous. Why don’t you join it?” I said, “What do you think I’ve been doing?” “Well,” he said, “you’ve been sober, but you’ve been floating way up on a cloud somewhere. Why don’t you go home and get the Big Book and open it at page seventy and see what it says?” So I did. I got the Big Book and I read it, and this is what it said: “Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path.” The word “thoroughly” rang a bell. And then it went on to say: “Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point.” And the last sentence was “We asked His protection and care with complete abandon.”
“Complete abandon”; “Half measures availed us nothing”; “Thoroughly follow our path”; “Completely give oneself to this simple program”—rang in my swelled head.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 304-305  – “Physician Heal Thyself)

So, what is the solution to this “pink cloud” and the worst cases of this “pink cloud” called “the Pink Seven?” 

Let’s break down the page he was referred and see how it relates to solving this issue:

At some of these we balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely.  Remember that we deal with alcohol-cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power-that One is God. May you find Him now!
Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked His protection and care with complete abandon.
Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery:  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs 58-59)

The first point seems to be that it is “too much for us.”  We cannot recover on our own.  But, why was that so important to getting past the “pink cloud” experience?  If you
glance at the rest of page 59, the rest of the page lists Steps One through Eleven this idea seems to revisit Step 1.

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

The “old-timer” that had gotten a hold of him led him to a place where he could see that first and foremost, no matter what Steps or recovery stuff he thought he was doing, he had drifted to a place where he thought he had found the power to stay sober on his own power.  He may have been working Step 4 or 5 maybe 8 or nine, but the “old-timer” felt the breakdown in his recovery that led to his “Pink Seven” was a breakdown in Step 1.

People who have been around me in recovery settings have probably heard me say this “Many of the times that people experience breakdowns of some kind in their recoveries are really experiencing a breakdown in Step 1.”  I am not saying that this is the magic fix all, but whenever I start to struggle, I start by looking at Step 1.  In other words I refocus on the idea that I cannot overcome this on my own power.   All the recovery “stuff” I do or am doing does not give me the power, all of it gives me access to the power or more specifically better access the one who has the power.

Here is the real question to the person riding the “Pink Seven” is:  “What are you so excited about?”  Being sober for a bit is a huge accomplishment for many of us, but any excitement should be about the long journey I am about to take not as much about the journey I have already taken.

Think of it this way, I am about to fly overseas on a trip I really want to take.  Starting recovery and remaining sober for a period of time is like buying the ticket.  It is an exciting moment, because the journey is finally real.  Now, imagine being so excited that you bought the ticket that you go out and celebrate having the ticked so hard that you never actually make the journey.  You would be so busy celebrating the journey and the progress you had made towards making the journey, that you lose focus on the rest of the journey.  The excitement itself is not a problem until it becomes so much of a focus that it becomes a distraction from taking the rest of the journey.

The point is that this distraction is another part of our addiction or what keeps us in our addictions.  Simply put distractions that keep us from working on our recovery are a part of the problem and a normal part of our recovery that must be overcome.

Then this short paragraph moves on to Step 2:

Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power-that One is God.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 59)

Part of looking at the rest of the journey and a big part of refocusing on being powerless is to realize that there is power available so you can refocus on deepening your connection to that power instead of celebrating out on “the Pink Seven.”

The Second thing that “old-timer” was trying to show this man through this short read was Step 2:

2.  Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 59)

If there is no escape from something terrible, and suddenly you find out there is a possible escape, should you celebrate the fact there is a possible escape so much that you never actually escape.  That is what “pink cloud” riders are doing.  The truth is that if you are stuck in something terrible where there is no escape and suddenly you hear that there is a possible escape, celebration should be brief if there is any celebration at all.  You have to get on with the business of actually escaping.

Then the passage this man was referred to goes on to say:

…there is One who has all power-that One is God. May you find Him now!
Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked His protection and care with complete abandon. 
(Alcoholics Anonymous pg 59)

This man was at the “turning point.”  He either had to do something different or keep doing what he had been doing and expecting different results.  Two key points here seem to be:  “asked His protection and care with complete abandon. And “Half measures availed us nothing

All of this brings us to Step 3:

3.  Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 59)

The one who has “all power” is God and we each need to focus on deepening our relationship with Him.  Some of us know nothing about God, some of us know a little about God (or at least think we do) some of us know a lot about God (or at least think we do), but whatever level of access to this power that we each have, we need more.  You do not have to have a super-deep and super-clear understanding of every detail about God to be able to work all of this out, but you do need to focus your efforts on deepening your relationship with Him.  As it is stated on Pages 99 and 100 of the Alcoholics Anonymous book:

Remind the prospect that his recovery is not dependent upon people. It is dependent upon his relationship with God.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs 99-100)

This relationship is stated as what your whole recovery depends upon.  You may not have it, understand it, and in some cases may be opposed to it, but that does not change the fact that this relationship is the point: 
May you find Him now.

Those were three of the points that the “old-timer” seemed to be making to this man, but there is one more point that is much more overarching. 

We have here in this community an organization which helps people, and this organization is known as Alcoholics Anonymous. Why don’t you join it?” I said, “What do you think I’ve been doing?”  “Well,” he said, “you’ve been sober, but you’ve been floating way up on a cloud somewhere.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 304-305 – “Physician Heal Thyself”)

The funny thing about this part of the conversation is that if you read through page 304 the man on the “Pink Seven” is already a member of Alcoholics Anonymous and has all the literature etc. that is a part of it.  As a matter of fact he was one of the people most excited about Alcoholics Anonymous.  That explains his response:  “What do you think I’ve been doing?” 

So, why did this guy describe Alcoholics Anonymous to him as if he had never heard of it?  He was being sarcastic as a way to make a huge point.  He had all the Alcoholics Anonymous stuff that the others used and went to meetings and talked the lingo, but he was not actually even close to doing what the others were doing.  He was just acting like he thought a person in recovery through Alcoholics Anonymous should and “talking a good game.”  He had all the emotion and little of the correct action.  Even with the right things he was doing, he was not ding those things correctly or with the right mindset.  That is why the page he referred him to not only covered some very important points about why he was struggling but also was the page that included the steps.

Working recovery is not about acting like your sober, or like your in recovery, it’s not about acting like you are an expert in recovery, it’s not about acting like you are an expert in recovery; it is about
really working on the recovery.  I understand the concept of “faking it til you make it,” as a starting point, but faking it will not give you recovery.  It will only work if you work it. 

I suppose the big underlying point to take away from this is that feeling sober and better is not the same as being sober and better.  Sometimes the “crazy” of our addictions or alcoholism can give us a false feeling of great success that is actually intended to keep us using.  This is the “pink cloud” and in the worse cases the “Pink Seven.”

If you are there are you are wondering if you are there, go to pages 304-305 and 58-59 and take some time to ponder them.  Get with your sponsor or a sponsor and begin working/reworking the Steps beginning with focused work on the first three Steps.

If you are a friend of loved one of someone that may be on a “pink cloud” where he or she is feeling great, talking recovery, and even looking better, but is not doing anything to grow his or her recovery, you may be right to be concerned.  Conversations about the first three Steps are good place to start.  Think of your friend or loved one’s recover like a person walking the wrong way up a down escalator.  To make progress the person has to do a lot of work.  For that person to stay where he or she is requires continued work also. 
The moment the person decides he or she can stop working, that person will immediately begin going backwards (Happy or not.  If happy, the person will just be going backwards with a smile).

If your friend or loved one starts recovery and after a few days or weeks says something like; “I don’t need that stuff any more, I have this under control” or “I feel better now that the problem is gone” there is a good chance that person is off on a “pink cloud” and possible on “the Pink Seven.”  It may take a sudden depression or a relapse (or two) for the person to realize that there is far more to be done.  My advice to you is to talk to this person about these things (although it is highly unlikely they will get it yet) and for you to keep your hope in that person’s recovery but always keep a
watchful eye for things like this so you can be helpful as well as hopeful.  The hope without the help will lead to terrible disappointment for you.

Pink Clouds & Pink Sevens? (Part 1)

And the first thing you know I was lifted right out of the A.A. group, and I floated higher, and higher, and even higher, until I was way up on a pink cloud which is known as Pink Seven, and I felt miserable again. So I thought to myself, I might just as well be drunk as feel like this.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 304 – “Physician Heal Thyself)

A “pink cloud” that is called the “Pink Seven,” what does that mean?  If you have never really experienced these terms in the recovery sense, they may be a little strange and alien to you.  But, many of us know or may even be experiencing the emotion that these terms describe.

I have stumbled across these terms periodically in older 12 Step literature and in my travels inn recovery circles (mostly used by “Old Timers”).  The usage suggests that the term describes a feeling of being better since starting recovery that comes soon after starting recovery.  It isn’t just a normal feeling good that is a result of being sober, the usage describes a euphoric feeling that convinces a person that he or she is better than cured.  It is often described as an “emotionally high” that often convinces a person new to recovery that he or she is so strong n his or her recovery that relapse seems impossible and that he or she is now some kind of expert in recovery.

Part of the idea conveyed in this term is the idea that this “pink cloud” is just the build up to a big letdown.  The point is that it is an overly emotional feeling that makes a person think he or she already has what he or she desperately needs and thus that person will not work his or her recovery. 

I have periodically (mostly with younger 12 Steppers trying to use the term) heard this term used for anyone that is felling better at all in early recovery.  I don’t know that I would use a term like this for everyone that feels a little better due to sobriety, but it is something that all of us should watch for in early recovery.

The author above is describing the worst cases of “pink clouds” as the “Pink Seven” (like the term “Seventh Heaven” = extreme happiness or bliss) and gives us a brief description of the feeling.  A feeling like he was lifted out of the group and such joy that it could only be described as floating.  Then suddenly, he felt miserable and some of know that crazy idea that comes next:  “If I’m gonna be miserable anyway, why not be high or drunk?” 

Then someone who had more “clean time” and had seen all of this a few times helped him understand:

“Why, there’s nothing wrong with you.  You’ve been sober for three months, been working hard. You’ve been doing all right.” But then he said, “Let me say something to you. We have here
in this community an organization which helps people, and this organization is known as Alcoholics Anonymous. Why don’t you join it?” I said, “What do you think I’ve been doing?” “Well,” he said, “you’ve been sober, but you’ve been floating way up on a cloud somewhere. Why don’t you go home and get the Big Book and open it at page seventy and see what it says?”
So I did. I got the Big Book and I read it, and this is what it said:
“Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path.” The word “thoroughly” rang a bell. And then it went on to say: “Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point.” And the last sentence was “We asked His protection and care with complete abandon.”
“Complete abandon”; “Half measures availed us nothing”; “Thoroughly follow our path”; “Completely give oneself to this simple program”—rang in my swelled head.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 304-305  – “Physician Heal Thyself)

This person was giving him a hard time, but he definitely made his point.  The guy in the story had been working on recovery and started feeling great until he “felt miserable.”  He was feeling kinda better but he was having a “Pink Seven” experience and the whole feeling was more of a fake experience that can only lead to bigger problem.  The guy who pulled him to the side lets him know that he had been doing good stuff and had a few months of sobriety but, that he was not yet down to earth

The man in the story had been working through recovery stuff but had gotten so excited in recovery he had separated himself from what the program actually was.  He had been feeling so good that in his feeling good he had missed the point. 

The guy who redirected him in his recovery referred him to page 70 in the Alcoholics Anonymous book.  If you go to page 70 in the Alcoholics Anonymous book you will not find any of these terms there.  That is because in the first printings of the Alcoholics Anonymous book “The Doctor’s Opinion” which is currently not on normally numbered pages was the beginning of the book at page 1.  In the current editions of the Alcoholics Anonymous book, the page that is referred to is page 59:

At some of these we balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely. 

Remember that we deal with alcohol-cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power-that One is God. May you find Him now!
Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked His protection and care with complete abandon.
Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery:
(Alcoholics Anonymous pgs 58-59)

So, what is the solution to this “pink cloud” and the worst cases of this “pink cloud” called “the Pink Seven?”  So far this is just food for thought, In my next post, we will look at this a bit deeper to get a better understanding.