One of the reasons that addicts and alcoholics have problems with the idea of a higher power is our need to control. We’re all control freaks. We controlled our feelings by acting out — or released them in unhealthy ways. We lied and manipulated to control others. We hid from reality by acting out in our addictions, and through denial and other forms of self-deception. Most importantly, we protected our addictions in every possible way because they were our ultimate instruments of control — the means to avoid recognition of our perceived unworthiness. Continue reading
Don’t look back; something might be gaining on you.
~ Satchel Paige
In her wonderful book The Long Steep Path, Catherine Ryan Hyde writes of a three-day trek to Machu Picchu, during which the trail tops out on two mountain passes approaching 14,000 feet above sea level. She comments on the difficulty of simply breathing at that altitude, and the daunting sight of still more climb ahead. Than she writes: Continue reading
The Two Steps:
1. We admitted we powerless over our addictions — that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. We tried to carry this message to addicts (alcoholics, overeaters, gamblers…whatever).
All of us who have been around the rooms for awhile have seen the Two-Steppers, and some of us (myself included) even survived the experience ourselves. These folks are easily recognized by two traits: Their zeal for fixing others, and their lack of (or lack of use of) sponsors and the other encumberances of newcomers. Rather than collecting phone numbers, talking to old-timers, getting sponsors and becoming involved in their program of recovery, they jump from the first step to the 12th and set out to save the world — with or without its consent. As I mentioned, I’ve been there and I have the ratty old t-shirt to prove it.
Someone at a meeting last night mentioned the “magic pill” that every addict has contemplated at some time, and it got me thinking. What if there really was a pill that could make our cravings go away instantly, never to return?
At first grin, that seems like a great thing — and, rest assured, there are a lot of people in labs all over the world who are looking for a way to do just that. What a wonderful thing for addicts that would be: a pill that takes our addiction away instantly, just as our addiction took away all our cares, worries, feelings and “stuff”!
But wait, there’s more! Just what would we do with all those “cares, worries, feelings and stuff’ then? We wouldn’t be able to cope with them any better than we could before we found our various ways to turn our brains off! The low self-esteem, lack of healthy coping skills, social anxiety, uncomfortable feelings and all the other stuff would, in time — most likely a very short time — totally overwhelm us. Our Magic Pill might be able to take away our cravings, but it wouldn’t make us any more able to deal with life. Life would suddenly reappear full force, and we’d be the same people who weren’t equipped to handle it, hauling along a PhD in Messed Up from our years of addiction.
As an old sponsor of mine used to say, “When I got sober, things didn’t get better right away, but they got real damn clear!”
Where would we be if all that repressed anger, fear, sorrow, abandonment, hate and the other feelings we deadened by our acting out came out of the closet and from under the bed without our having any way to deal with them? It’s not like coping skills appear out of nowhere when we get clean and sober; we have to learn them. They are what we develop in treatment, therapy and the first 9 Steps, and then “practice in all our affairs” with the help of our sponsors and other supports. Our busy monkey minds hate a vacuum. If we don’t have what we need to get past those old stumbling blocks, we’ll trip and fall. In order to lose the habits and behavior of addiction, we have to replace them with the habits and behavior of sobriety.
The problem with the pill would be the basic problems of addiction: (1.) we don’t like to work on all those uncomfortable things; and (2.) we want fast results. If we had a pill, we’d just take the pill. To hell with AA, NA and all the other A’s! We’d opt for the quick fix, and it wouldn’t fix us! Addiction is much more than physical craving for a drug or mood-altering behavior: it’s an unmarked path wandering through a maladjusted life.
The Magic Pill would be a help in the beginning, but it couldn’t be the whole answer. Unfortunately, many addicts and their physicians would likely assume that it was — with disastrous results. We need the tools and skills of recovery in addition to any other help. They’re finishing school. They get us ready to face “life on life’s terms.”
Without them…well, let’s just say it isn’t all that magical.
When we were acting out in our addictions, we put our real needs for social, physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual fulfillment on the back burner. Depending on our history, we may have denied one or more of them completely. We may simply have treated them as annoyances that needed to be gotten out of the way, quickly and efficiently, so we could get back to the important business of burying them beneath our addictions.
When we get into recovery we begin to discover a scary truth: that these needs are really as important to human beings as water, food and air. Continue reading
Every addiction, without exception, has “triggers,” situations, people, places and/or things that have the potential to make us want to use. Well, there’s an old saying in the rooms: “Just because the gun has a trigger, it doesn’t mean you have to pull it.”
I hear folks in meetings say things like, I went to such-and-such (did such-and-such, saw such-and-such) and it triggered me and I relapsed. Let me digress here and tell you a little story. Continue reading
It’s amazing how we can get down on ourselves about our unskillful behavior, even though life and our experiences in our addiction have shown us that we are only fallible humans. Our expectations of ourselves, and perhaps those of others, may even have been part of the stress and pressure that drove our addictions. We need to remember that no one else has the right to determine our personal standards, and to move those standards into the range of reality and human possibilities instead of aiming for some target that existed in someone else’s mind.
Sometimes we have to remind ourselves how much better we are really doing. There are usually others in our lives who are ready and willing to point our our remaining shortcomings (as if we didn’t know them better than anyone else). But we’ve come so far! We need to appreciate our new skillful ways of dealing with life “on life’s terms,” and concentrate on building those skills, not on beating ourselves up for our inevitable mistakes. We’re nowhere near perfect, and because we are human beings, we never will be.
Self-flagellation is not part of healthy recovery.