People Need People

By Bill

Path-300x241One of the fellowships that I attend is focused, in the early stages, on the process of overcoming obsessions.  Obsession of one kind or another is a big component of most addictions, but some more than others.

The interesting thing about obsession is that it is a vice best practiced while alone.  Our brains go ’round and ’round, and we are unable to shake the undesirable thought pattern no matter how hard we try.  Our minds keep coming back to it, him, her, that, those, and it can seem as though ridding ourselves of the thoughts is like trying to push toothpaste back into the tube.  But put us in the presence of another human being with whom we have to interact, and things are different.
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Blaming Has No Place In Recovery

By Bill

There is much debate about the causes of addiction: environment, genetics, moral failing, physical changes, emotional trauma and so on.  While interesting intellectually, these things have nothing to do with quitting.  If I’m acting out, the reasons for my alcoholism and other addictions don’t really matter; what matters is stopping.
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Laughing At Ourselves

To itself, a small child is the center of the universe.  It cannot differentiate among itself, its surroundings and its caregivers for some months, and can’t detach completely for years.  Since, to begin with, it’s consciousness is the only one it is able to recognize, it naturally believes that it is the center of everything, and that other people are there to tend to its needs.

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As we become older and wiser, we usually gain a sense of perspective and proportion regarding our place in the scheme of things.  However, for those of us whose emotional development was stymied by trauma, abuse, using alcohol or other drugs, or losses of other kinds, it may be difficult to move out of the “me-me-me” stage and through the various passages that lead to maturity and adulthood.  That is almost universally true of alcoholics and other addicts.

That being the case, most of us addicts have problems adjusting to the world by understanding and adopting a sense of ethics, discipline, and other such attributes — most definitely including a sense of humor that allows us to laugh at ourselves.  Like the small child, we take ourselves far too seriously to find humor in our fumbles through life.

One of the first signs of healthy recovery is the ability to find ourselves and our foibles amusing.  The ability to find humor in our mistakes and gaffes gives us a sense of proportion and our place in the world.  Instead of constantly grading our dignity, which leaves us rigid, vulnerable and fragile, we gradually develop a sense of our true importance as human beings — to ourselves and to those around us.

One of our greatest needs as social creatures is to be well-regarded by others.  As addicts, we largely blocked others out of our lives for fear of being thought unworthy. (We call that shame.) Now that we are are beginning to believe that we have self-worth, we can let down our guard and see the ways the amusing human condition shows up in our own lives, instead of merely laughing meanly at others.

By keeping our self-importance in perspective, we learn to grow up in ways that we were previously denied

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James Taylor: ‘A big part of my story is recovery from addiction’ – Telegraph

“One thing that addiction does is, it freezes you. You don’t develop, you don’t learn the skills by trial and error of having experiences and learning from them, and finding out what it is you want, and how to go about getting it, by relating with other people.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/rockandpopfeatures/11679104/James-Taylor-A-big-part-of-my-story-is-recovery-from-addiction.html

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True Believers

Let me say at the outset that I am a firm believer in AA, NA and the other 12-step fellowships (just in case you hadn’t noticed). They saved my life, the life of my wife, and that of my best friend, his wife, my son-in-law and many of the other people who are most important to me.  One of the other fellowships is helping me work on some other issues that have plagued me since childhood.  For me, it works.

However…

imagesIt worried me early on, and continues to worry me two and a half decades later, how some people in the rooms seem afraid to allow their knowledge of alcoholism to progress beyond the middle of the last century. It’s as though if they admit that the founders of AA didn’t know every possible thing there was to know, that it somehow calls the entire recovery issue into question.

Now I’ve gotta tell you: if I had a deadly disease (which I do), and if my continued good health and well-being were contingent upon my knowing as much about it as I could find out (which I believe they are), and if I were constantly giving guidance to people with less experience who suffer from the same disease (which I am), I would feel morally obliged (which I do) to find out every single thing that I thought might be useful in educating people about our little problem.

There is no question but that the 12-step model works for a lot of people. Not all, for whatever reasons, but a bunch. I know way too many people who have been helped by it to doubt the point. But let’s get to that word “believers” for a moment.

That’s what I get from a lot of folks in the rooms: that they are True Believers, and that anyone who suggests that the first 164 pages of the Big Book aren’t the be-all and end-all of knowledge about recovery should be treated about the same as an evolutionist at a camp meeting.

As stated above, I’m a believer. But I no more ignore the 80 years that have passed since the first edition of Alcoholics Anonymous than I am likely to ignore the little nuances that the medical community have developed since Sir Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin. I have a theory about the folks I’m discussing — the same one I have about creationists. They’re afraid to learn anything new, because then they might have to get out of their rut and accept a new world view.

I gotta tell you, I hope none of those folks ever need a liver transplant. We’ll just have to give ‘em a shot of penicillin and leave them to recover on their own.

Why Wait A Year?

by Bill

As newcomers to recovery we want to feel safe, and perhaps a bit cared for.  Some of us may have been longing for those feelings for most of our lives.  There is a tendency for some of us to forget what the rooms of recovery are actually about — a group of flawed people who are gathered together for mutual support.  It’s important to remember that none of us are there because we are healthy, well-balanced people.  Even old-timers have their issues (at least this one does), some of which may have been addressed and some that may yet need to be.

Inevitably, we discover that rooms full of fallible, flawed human beings may contain a few who do not have our best interest at heart, just like out in the “real” world.  Yes, it’s true.  Whether or not we like to talk about it, there are predators in the rooms of recovery. Continue reading

…The One Less Traveled By…

For WMS

I used to tell people that I had no choice about getting sober — that I knew if I didn’t I was going to die.  But that’s not really true; I did have a choice. I could have said no. The fact is, I was scared not to, but that’s only because I was lucky. “Scared” could have gone the other way. I could have been more afraid to give up the life I knew than I was of whatever was ahead.

I don’t believe in gods. But I believe in miracles. The very fact that I am not a believer keeps me in awe of the amazing set of circumstances that led up to that moment of — not clarity — of simple willingness to quit fighting. The wrong words, the wrong combination of chemicals that day, the wrong look on someone’s face. That’s all it would have taken.  It was sheer luck. The right things were said to me at exactly the right time. Had it been otherwise — well, I know I was right about the dead part.

I had a choice. And here I am.

Here’s one of my favorite poems:

THE ROAD NOT TAKEN

Robert Frost — from Mountain Interval (1920)

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.