Category Archives: recovery

Whenever anyone, anywhere, reaches out…

I’m still amazed – although, by now I guess I shouldn’t be – by the extraordinary ways that people in the fellowships step up and do what needs to be done in a crisis. I’ve seen that so many times: when arrangements need to be made for holiday meeting coverage; when members are going through devastating personal crises; when a new meeting site is suddenly needed, organizing picnics, bonfires and other get-togethers, and numerous other ways. For some odd reason, sobriety seems to bring out the best in folks.

Never has that willingness to be of service been more obvious than over the past month. As our options for mobility and meeting face-to-face have contracted to – finally – our own living rooms, members have, without being asked, set to work establishing online and phone options to continue the fellowships that keep us sober and relatively sane. Those who are able to host Skype and Zoom meetings have done so and spread the word. Phone meetings have been set up and information has gotten out with astounding speed. Websites have gotten extensive and prompt attention. The information has been spread by phone calls, text chains and probably smoke signals for all I know.

In short, the things that need doing to meet the Responsibility Statement of AA, which is generally adhered to in spirit by all the fellowships to which I belong and most others, are getting done. That is happening with a minimum of fuss and bother: just people helping others in the best ways they know of. The way it’s been for the several years I’ve been around the rooms, and for decades before that.

If you’re having trouble finding meetings, support or just folks to hang out with (electronically), check around. Call your local Intergroup office, or look on the website. If you haven’t explored those sources before, now is a great time – a critical time – to do so. The folks in the fellowships have been there and done that. Help and support are always available if you look for them, and that is even more true in the current test that the entire human race is undergoing. Anyone who has been around the rooms for a while has experienced the hollow feeling of arriving at a meeting and finding no one there, for whatever reason. In my case, at least, it seems like there was usually an oldtimer who showed up “just in case,” and who was up for a cup of coffee and a chat. I’ve been the newcomer and the oldtimer, both, and I guarantee that the feeling – for me – was the same in all cases: relief. Oldtimers need love too.

If you’re looking for support, reach out; it’s there. If you’re bored, reach out to another addict; the means are there. This pandemic is likely to change the world in ways we haven’t dreamed of yet. Perhaps that will be for the worse, perhaps not. We can dwell on the good versus bad question, or we can choose to move forward. One thing is for sure, in my not-so-humble opinion: the fellowships are going to change, expand, and become even better at achieving the intent of that Responsibility Statement.

Stick around. Be part of the change. Be part of the solution. You’ll be glad you did.

And please be safe! May whatever part of the universe you choose to think is watching keep you that way.

Humility And Humiliation Ain’t The Same Thing

Michele and I were at our regular meeting last night – you know, the place where, when you go there, they have to let you in. Things moved from a reading to a discussion of humility and what it meant to the members.

When I first got to the rooms I was confused about humility as opposed to humiliation and amazed at the number of different answers I heard whenever the subject came up. Now, some years later, I find that there’s still confusion.

Bill Wilson wrote, in the 7th Step chapter of Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, that humiliation is necessary for us to reach a bottom and decide to get sober. (I’m paraphrasing, but I believe accurately.) I guess that’s true if you consider the various jackpots we addicts achieve as humiliation. Surely many—if not most—of them are. Most of mine were, anyway. But I’m not sure it’s the best way of describing a bottom.

The simple fact is that most of us developed pretty thick skins in our addictions (remembering, of course, that “skins” are only on the surface, as in “skin deep”). In fact, I was so convinced of my general lack of worth and accustomed to being picked on as a kid that I developed a thick skin by the time I reached puberty. Mine took the form of being a know-it-all, who automatically assumed that unwanted observations from others were simply bullshit and thus unworthy of attention or consideration.

That was a pretty effective way of covering up the hurt, but it certainly didn’t protect my battered ego much! Every little lash of the figurative whip made a mark on my soul, bypassing the skin altogether. Nonetheless, it totally shaped my attitude toward life in general. It also had the effect of causing me to avoid challenges. If I figured I could easily accomplish something without looking bad (and I was pretty good at judging that), I’d do it and usually excel. But as soon as things tightened up and became difficult, I would back away and head in a different direction, toward a conquest with more certainty. That protected me from incipient failure and cemented a preference for the “easier, softer way” that we all know from our early attempts at recovery.

So I trained myself to ignore humiliation and avoid anything that I perceived might lead to it. In my mind, even embarrassment equaled humiliation, so I worked even harder at proving myself right, in my own mind, and ignoring the signals that I needed to straighten up and fly right.

Life became so difficult toward the end of my active addictions that even getting into recovery amounted to the easier, softer way: I was forced into treatment by my boss, instead of recognizing the solution myself. All I had to do was go along with it.

My recognition of humiliation, and its lessons about humility, came quite some distance into my recovery when I developed a degree of empathy. I began to appreciate and sometimes feel how I’d hurt others, and began to really want to do something about it. In most cases, I was successful in making those previously incomplete amends. Decades later I’m still working on some of them, but I did find that the humility needed to do so didn’t kill me—or my soul. In fact, it has begun to feel okay over the years, at least as far as I’ve managed to get. I’ve come to appreciate a definition of humility that’s someplace else in Bill W.’s writing. I haven’t been able to find the actual quote, but it goes something like this:

Humility is an accurate assessment of our faults and our assets, along with a sincere desire to improve them.

Doesn’t sound quite so scary when you think of it that way, does it?