Category Archives: self-esteem

Re-post, with some editing: Don’t Wait ‘Til No Fat Ladies Sing!

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Close to thirty years ago I checked into treatment for my alcoholism and addiction to other drugs. It was a terrific relief.

I’d known for a long time that I was an alcoholic. I was essentially unaware of AA and its purpose, or that there were effective treatments for addictive disease. I wasn’t 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.

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 and became a credit to my mother, my school, my family, my country and all that good 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.

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Gratitude Day

I think of this as Gratitude Day. (No, I’m not making a list.) Six years ago today it was forcefully brought to my attention that, after 23 years of thinking otherwise, I was not really sober.

I stopped using substances in September of 1989. It was easy. I detoxed in a treatment facility and hit the ground running. For many years I wondered why it had been so easy for me and difficult for many others. Sometimes I felt a little embarrassed that I couldn’t come up with any white-knuckle recovery stories. (There were plenty from “back in the day,” because I was unquestionably an addict.) Other times I fell into the trap of comparing rather than relating, feeling superior rather than examining the reality of my so-called “sobriety.” Continue reading

Communication In Recovery

Relationships in recovery are difficult, especially when we are in a continuing partnership that has been shaped, at least in part, by our addictive behavior. Remembering our part in the resulting mess and developing good communication skills are essential to our recovery, and that of the relationship.

Some questions to ask ourselves about our relationships.

First of all:

    • Am I using the tools of my recovery program to maintain a healthy relationship with myself?
    • Do I regularly check my behavior for fairness in my relationships with others? Do I evaluate them, and apologize when needed?
    • Do I further my recovery program by continuing to attend meetings, help others and share what I have learned and hope to learn about myself?
    • Am I using a relationship/relationships to replace another form of acting out — to “fill the hole” that I was trying to fill with substances or other behavior?

If I’m doing all of the above, living an active program of recovery, do I give the same attention to my personal relationships? Continue reading

Thinking For Ourselves

Truth is a pathless land….We have built in our images a sense of security – religious, political, personal. These manifest as symbols, ideas, beliefs. The burden of these dominates thinking, relationships and daily life.

These are the causes of our problems, for they divide us from each other in every relationship.”

Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986)


We are self-determining. We make up our own minds. We think for ourselves. We cut through other people’s b. s. and discern the way things really are. Right?

Wrong. In fact, these concepts are almost completely bogus.

Our attitudes toward life and self are built on our life’s experiences. We are influenced in our thinking and reactions to events by other things that we may not even recall. We did not paint our own picture of the world and reality. In large part, it was shaped by things out of our control: other people’s ideas that they passed on to us verbally and by example, trauma (physical and psychological pain or harm), and the experiences that we have viewed through those questionable filters throughout our lives.

 

Shooting From The Hip

Like it or not, to a huge degree our thought processes are based on experiences that probably have little or no actual relationship to what’s happening in our lives now. These are the “images” that Sri Krisnamurti spoke of: the unconscious acceptance of the “symbols, ideas, beliefs” that were shaped by our perception of them, which were in turn shaped by things mostly outside of our control.

 

In short, unless we have learned to discern the difference between these ideas that have been colored by our beliefs, prejudices, and fears and the reality of what is happening, and unless we make a concerted effort to apply reason to our observation of the world, we aren’t really thinking for ourselves at all.

The Buddhist teacher Charlotte Joko Beck taught of a man who decided to take his little boat out on the lake one foggy morning. He really loved his little boat and took great care of it. Having just finished a careful paint job, he was quite proud of his work.

As he rowed through the mist, he suddenly felt a bump. Looking around at the bow, he saw that he had collided with another boat. He was immediately enraged: his new paint job had probably been marred, there might have been other damage, and who was that careless jerk who was paddling around on the foggy lake? [I know – but that’s the way we think, isn’t it?]

On closer inspection, he saw that the boat was empty, a line dangling into the water from the front.

Oh, gosh! Someone’s boat got untied and drifted out into the lake. I’d better tow it to the marina for safekeeping until the owner can be located. Nice little boat; I’m sure the owner would hate to lose it!” In a few heartbeats, he realized that the facts were nothing like he’d thought and his perception of reality shifted.

How often do we fly off the handle when confronted with things that fail to conform to actual reality? How often do we react to our perceptions of fact, instead of considering other possibilities? How often do we disregard out part in something and seek immediately to shift the blame?

Obviously we can’t take the time to analyze every little thing that happens and causes fear or confusion (and aren’t they really the same thing?); but when we do have time, why not move out of the comfort of our pre-judged ideas, our fears, and the things we take for granted and look at life from a different angle? Are we afraid that we might find that we were actually wrong? Is it easier to float along in other people’s mental rut, or is it better to work at really thinking for ourselves?

Slinging It Around

I went to an anniversary meeting last week. Generally speaking I love anniversaries, especially the one and two-year recipients who are still more or less in awe of their sobriety and their fellowships. This one was pretty great too, except in one respect.

The first recipient was a one-year guy who’d had multiple relapses, both prolonged and short. Apparently – not by his account – he’d known the man who presented his medallion some years ago in another state, and then re-connected with him locally the previously year. Those sorts of coincidences occur pretty often down here in Florida, where it seems that old alcoholics and other addicts come to die the same as other folks. We’re also loaded with newcomers from the dozens of treatment facilities in our area. Generally speaking, our fellowships are the richer for it. Anyway, the celebrant seemed to think it was working for him. Continue reading