Hope and Expectations

I hope I’ll win the lottery, but I don’t expect to.

A lot of us addicts get our hopes and expectations amazingly tangled.  Most of us need to take a close look at the difference during our early recovery (and often afterward), because they can cause huge complications in our lives.

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The Only Requirement…

Every now and then I’ll run into one of two situations at a 12-Step meeting:

  • Someone will read a statement about “our primary purpose” requesting that sharing be confined to such-and-such a topic; or
  • Someone will comment “We don’t talk about that,  this is ____ Anonymous”.

12-tradGenerally speaking. I don’t have an issue with the first, although I think it ignores reality to a remarkable degree.  But the issue is carried over to the second it’s another matter.  If a group has a problem with talk about other issues, the proper way to handle it is for someone to take the so-called offender aside after the meeting, and gently explain the rule and why it exists (if they can).  That should be a policy arrived at by the group conscience, not an individual or the service office.  As AA puts it, “Our leaders are but trusted servants, they do not govern.”  [Emphasis mine.] Continue reading

Opinions

opinionIt has been said that opinions are like wrinkles: everyone has them, and the older we get the more we have.  We give them a great deal of power.  Some of us are practically ruled by our opinions, and the opinions of others impact our lives daily in myriad ways: politics, individual human rights — even what we (or our significant others) believe we should be wearing.

When we really think about it, we can see that “our” opinions often aren’t really ours.The majority of the time they are based on the opinions of others that we glean from conversations, the news and infotainment media (usually those that tell us the things we are comfortable hearing), our clergy, friends and social sites.  Seldom do we bother to conduct unbiased research, drawing from sources on both sides of a question so that we can form original opinions of our own.  In fact, most of the things we “believe” or “feel” are things that someone else wanted us to believe and feel.  Rarely can we honestly say that our positions on issues are solely our own.

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The Built-in Forgetter

[I’ve been more-or-less absent from the blog for several months due to surgery in the family, among other things.  All’s well there, and with any luck I’ll be back to my regular lackadaisical posting.  Thanks for your patience.]

forgetterWhen we begin to “get on with our lives,” or “make up for lost time,” or study to become an addiction guru — whatever — we can easily drift away from our program.  We feel good, our finances are becoming something like organized, and we’re generally busy and entertained by the stuff of our lives.  We begin to think that we can handle it all.

The idea that we can somehow cure a chronic disease can be problematic and sometimes tragic.  People feel better so they stop taking the medications that got them that way.  We addicts stop taking care of ourselves in the ways that got us moving forward.  We get stressed, lose focus on what’s really important, and begin the slide toward relapse.

When that happens (assuming that we survive) many of us are ashamed to go to a meeting and admit that we messed up — the worst possible decision we can make.   We need to hit the brakes and return to the basics that brought our success to begin with, getting back on the path to sobriety with meetings, phone calls, fellowship, sponsor, Steps, meditation, daily inventory and so forth.  Relapse is part of addiction, and everyone at the meeting has been there or come terrifyingly close.  All we’re really doing is admitting to ourselves and other people that we’re no better than any other “bozo on the bus.”    

Why did we forget where we came from?  It’s because we are wired to forget pain.  We automatically push such memories aside, and that’s why we are able to get back on the horse, or deliver a second child, or drag ourselves up and dive back into the scrum on the field of life.  But those of us who made a habit of addictively suppressing pain in whatever way possible are even more likely to do it, and that’s why our “built-in forgetter” makes us so prone to backsliding.

Our programs are there to help us stay sane by keeping us in good spiritual, physical and emotional health.  We put them on the back burner at our peril.

Don’t Wait ‘Til No Ladies Sing

maxresdefaultTwenty-seven years ago today I checked into treatment for my alcoholism and addictions to other drugs. It was a terrific relief.

I’d known for a long time that I was an alcoholic. I was totally unaware of AA’s existence, and that there was an effective treatment for addictive disease. In truth, I couldn’t have been entirely unaware, because I’d been dealing with drunks and addicts for years as a police officer. It had simply managed to escape me that AA and other programs were anything other than a place to dump problems that turned up back on the street later anyway.

By the time my boss more-or-less forced me into treatment, I’d had most of the jackpots: divorce, foreclosures, evictions, loss of other people’s money as well as tons of my own, estrangement from relatives — all the fun things that we addicts collect along the way to perdition. My denial about my surface problems was pretty weak, and it didn’t take much for me to become accepting about treatment, then hopeful, and then enthusiastic. I ended up damned grateful to the Chief of Police and whoever advised him about how he should deal with his relatively high-ranking and increasingly visible problem.

So I got sober, haven’t had a drink or used since, and became a credit to my mother, my school, my family, my country and all that stuff. I worked in the recovery field. I talked recovery. I even became a bit of a recovery guru, writing about addiction on my own and for treatment facilities that needed a down-to-earth approach to some of their material. But, to a great degree, I was a fraud, and I didn’t even know it myself. Continue reading

Random First Step Notes

First Step Notes

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We – If we are all the same species, it makes sense that a disease would present with common symptoms for all of us. Listening to shares at meetings, talking to other addicts, reading and other experiences show us that the effects of our addiction are the same, or very similar, for everyone. We are all in the same boat.

Powerless – once we are under the influence of our drug (including the “hits” and intrigues that give us little thrills) we are out of control. We can’t always predict what we’ll do next.

Unmanageable – we can’t control anything but our attitudes toward people, places and things.  That includes significant others, business associates, people at meetings, acceptance or rejection of ideas, and anything else outside ourselves. …

Practical Karma – Karma is real, and occurs here and now, not in some other life. In one way or another, we reap what we sow, whether directly or in quality of life:

  • angry people repel nice folks and attract other angry ones;
  • cheaters and other thieves have to watch their backs;
  • stingy people find that others are unwilling to share;
  • those who withhold emotional connection fail to find happiness;
  • and so forth.

For every yin, there’s a yang.

Limits

The idea that limits exist only in the mind is as ridiculous as the assertion that proper positive thought will make you rich. Nonetheless, these concepts, promoted by self-help “gurus,” do attract money — to them.

500px-MONTANA-PRWithout exploring the magical thinking that underlies these sorts of ideas, it should be clear to any rational person that there are, in fact, all sorts of limits in the real world. Even in my prime, regardless of my determination, I was never going to bench press half a ton. People who don’t understand the basic concepts of government simply can’t discern what is possible and what is bullshit, and so forth.

Not only do physical and educational limits exist, there are also emotional and intellectual limits. Codependents are unable — at least initially — to discern boundaries between themselves and those to whom they are addicted. They can’t detach and let them find their own way, regardless of the price they are paying by attempting to sustain a failing relationship. Some folks will simply be unable to fathom mathematics beyond simple arithmetic. This has nothing to do with intelligence; some people’s brains work that way, and some don’t.

And there is such a thing as willful ignorance: purposely avoiding critical information because it would require us to exchange comfortable ideas for concepts that threaten our world view. People who do that are often more confirmed in their beliefs the more they are exposed to contrary evidence.

Finally, there are limits that we impose on ourselves,usually out of fear. Continue reading