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 if 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

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.

QUOTE OF THE MONTH (and comment)

JKR“The tides of populism and nationalism currently sweeping many developed countries have been accompanied by demands that unwelcome and inconvenient voices be removed from public discourse…

…Intolerance of alternative viewpoints is spreading to places that make me, a moderate and a liberal, most uncomfortable….I find almost everything that Mr Trump says objectionable. I consider him offensive and bigoted. But he has my full support to come to my country and be offensive and bigoted there. His freedom to speak protects my freedom to call him a bigot. His freedom guarantees mine….

“If you seek the removal of freedoms from an opponent simply on the grounds that they have offended you, you have crossed the line to stand alongside tyrants who imprison, torture and kill on exactly the same justification.”

~ J. K. Rowling

How does this apply to recovery?

Am I open-minded about the recovery ideas of others in the rooms, or do I preach the gospel of my fellowship and suggest that those who disagree with what I consider the True Way find recovery elsewhere?  Am I offended by the way some speak, or how they dress?  Do I raise holy hell if someone mentions drug abuse at an AA meeting?  Are my tirades tolerated; my right to my opinions honored, despite the fact that I advocate curtailing the rights of others?

Maybe I need to think about that.

Thought for the Day 2/27/16

Bleeding Deacon: a person in the rooms with a negative, moralizing character, who acts like the sole source of wisdom.

“It’s easy to tell if we fall prey to bleeding deaconism.  Zealots talk in absolutes, and they just aren’t funny.  People or organizations that can’t tolerate a lampooning fear that laughter will crack their clay feet.”
~ Beyond Belief 

First Impressions Count

We say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but we do.  Sometimes we find that we were wrong in our assessment of other people, places and things, but we always use that first impression as a guide.  Often we can’t explain why we feel that way about our encounters; we just feel an affinity.  Certain feelings are triggered, and we act on the feelings.  

On occasion, these reactions are pretty strong. “I haven’t been able to stand him from the first moment I laid eyes on him.”  “I walked into that room, and I just felt at home.”  “When I looked around me, I suddenly felt at peace.”  In those situations, lasting relationships may develop.  We may continue to visit that perfect, peaceful place.  We may make new friends.  Perhaps that person we couldn’t stand is really a nice guy, but he’ll have an uphill struggle to prove it — or maybe we’ll change our minds after watching him for a while.  Nonetheless, first impressions are a powerful influence on our attitude and trust.

Sometimes we just don’t know how to deal with people.  That can be especially true of first encounters.  It is important to always remember that people respond to how we make them feel.  If we seem to feel superior to them, that will most likely trigger anger.  If our approach is parental, that’s sure to trigger old stuff.  If we fail to smile, they will sense our disapproval — even if it’s only in their heads.  If we seem indifferent, they will feel rejected.

Intentions speak louder than words.  If it is truly our intent to welcome folks, they will feel welcome.  If we think well of them until they prove otherwise, if we listen to them with compassion (wishing others well) they will feel safe.  If we meet them with a smile, they will feel accepted.  If we treat them with respect and compassion, they will believe they have value.

website-first-impressionWe all leave first impressions, individually and in our fellowships.  We’re affected by the people, the ambiance, the sharing (Is it hard-core or loving?), the attitude of the greeter at the door, and so on.  Creating a good first impression is critical, especially dealing with newcomers.

We develop the ability to put others at ease by becoming at ease with ourselves. If we learn to be mindful of the ways we think of ourselves and can begin to become aware of our own feelings, we can be more mindful of the ways in which we relate to others.  Meditation can help us with that.  It isn’t necessary to have wise words; all we need is to be ourselves — to be real.

My best thinking…

im-not-in-denial-denial-reality-japanese-rockabilly-demotivational-poster-1259575578One of the biggest problems I’ve had in recovery is my habit of overthinking things.  I grew up around people with an insatiable desire to name, classify, quantify, and then sign, seal and deliver all manner of information, from the Latin names of plants to the works of great artists.  The emphasis was on knowing stuff, not understanding it — superficial was good enough, as long as you could sound like you knew what was happening.  In a way it was similar to the belief, common in many primitive societies, that if you know something’s name, you have power over it.

I see this sort of thing in the rooms of recovery, as well, and I was one of the worst afflicted: gathering knowledge for its own sake, not to facilitate understanding.   Continue reading