There was this town where they had a monster that was causing the people a lot of worry. It’s not that the monster was doing very much, but the people worried about it a lot. The people of the village had the average IQ of a zucchini, so they put an ad in the paper that they needed a hero to come slay the terrible monster. Continue reading
First of all, I need to assure my readers that I have absolutely no connection with the author of this book or his publisher. I received no incentives to write this. I purchased the book myself, and have been using it daily for several months. This review is based solely on my admiration for an exceptional recovery resource that doesn’t get enough air time around the rooms.
I begin this review with trepidation because it is normally my policy not to do book reviews or promotional posts. I had to adopt that position after years of requests to read books, infographics and do reviews of websites, some of which were great, some of no interest and some of which were even toxic. Nonetheless, I’m writing this one — with full knowledge that it will probably engender another s—storm of requests (which will, let me say in advance, be refused).
A year or so ago, I started looking for recovery resources that would be suitable for people who have a problem with the “God Thing” in AA, NA and most of the other 12-step fellowships. As we all know, this is an issue for some, newcomers in particular. While searching, I stumbled across “Joe C” and Beyond Belief — agnostic musings for 12-step life, his book of daily readings for folks in recovery. After using it for the past eight months, I have come to the conclusion that it is the most valuable recovery resource I’ve used in more than a quarter of a century in 12-step recovery, excluding the basic texts of the individual fellowships, of course. I learn something from it every morning, and I would be proud to have written it myself. Unfortunately, I’m just not. . .that. . .good.
Don’t let the title fool you. This isn’t a trash-the-believers book. It’s respectful and inclusive: more a secular examination of the various addictions and programs than agnostic in the sense most people think of it. No believer of any kind need be put off, and it would be a crying shame if any were because this book is a treasure chest of down-to-earth, triple-distilled recovery of the best kind.
I opened the book at random to the July 7th reading. Consider the following:
First time Fourth Steppers are cautioned that this list is no magic pill; it is a step in the right direction to honest self-appraisal. Many of us do Step Four more than once just as some businesses do a complete inventory every year or two. Each new inventory isn’t an admission of failure of the previous stocktaking. Rather, it is a new balance sheet on a new day to quantify progress and circumstances.
Some inventories look at the good and the bad: shameful acts vs. great accomplishments, healthy expressions of fear and anger vs. unhealthy expressions of fear and anger and our histories of deception and avoidance vs. examples of bravery and honesty. Mismanaged feelings are addiction triggers. Step Four uncovers the emotional triggers that set off the freeze, fight and flight reflexes. [Emphasis mine] Like a blueprint, Step Four shows us how we’re wired, opening the door to change.
Like I said, I sure wish I’d written that!
Please, suspend your prejudices about the word “agnostic” (which, after all, only means “one who doesn’t know”), and get a copy of Beyond Belief. I promise you that it will be one of the best recovery purchases you’ve ever made. It will be part of my daily practice from now until I move on to find the definitive answers, and I’ll bet it will be for you, too.
by Joe C. (Author)
51 customer reviews (Amazon)
Yesterday, upon the stair
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish he’d go away….
~ William Hughes Mearns (1875-1965)
My dear friend Pierre, a powerful influence on hundreds of people in recovery, is fond of remarking that “the Old Me will drink again.” Old Me — the “man who wasn’t there” — plagues us throughout our early recovery, and is even known to poke his (or her) head out of hiding from time to time when we think we are pretty far along in our journey.
Human beings go through clear stages of emotional development, from prenatal to adult. When we are traumatized — by abuse, unresolved grief, prolonged stress, severe illness, injury, or drug use — our emotional development is interrupted and stalls at whatever point we were when the trauma occurred. Essentially, we stop growing up. That’s when Old Me is born.
As we progress in our addictions, Old Me develops along with them. Old Me is the character who lies when it would be easier to tell the truth, ignores ethics, hurts loved ones and others — the part of us that did what we had to do in order to further our addictions. Old Me is all the bad habits and sick ways of looking at life that we developed as we denied, justified, and tried to ignore the erosion of character that accompanies addiction of all kinds. Old Me is the aspect that throws all those memories and feelings that we couldn’t stand to face into the closet, out of sight.
As much as we might wish it otherwise, Old Me doesn’t just retire and head into the sunset when we get clean and sober. Instead, it hides in the closet too. Since the closet holds all the garbage that we chose not to deal with in our active addiction, it gets putrid in there after a while. If we don’t deal with the closet after we become abstinent, it isn’t long before nasty stuff starts seeping out beneath the door. If we ignore it, we are likely to return to our addiction or transfer our addictive impulses to new pursuits.
We have two choices: we can get some help cleaning the closet, or we can decide we don’t need help, open the door, and let Old Me come out and play with our heads while we try to handle emotions, problems and urges that we were unable to handle to begin with. The easy solution, drinking, drugging or other behavior that relieves the pressure — that turns on our “forgetter” and helps us shore up the closet door — is only a short step away.
We need to be extremely careful that we work on all the old stuff, and that can be terrifying. Those of us who don’t, however, will inevitably discover — perhaps far into our “sobriety” — that we were in fact nowhere near the level of recovery we fooled ourselves into believing we had. It is simply not possible to board up the door and stuff feelings underneath to stop the seepage. One way or another the garbage and Old Me will eventually escape, unless we insure that the closet is cleaned out.
What we are really doing, as we clean the closet and learn to live life on life’s terms, is allowing the emotional development to occur that was stifled by our addictions and other traumas. We are growing up, all over again. Some do a better job than others.
Some addicts believe that the 12 steps can solve all their problems. But they’re designed to treat addiction—not depression, anxiety, and the like. So how do you know when you need a therapist, and what kind do you need?
The three attributes, the Steps, Traditions and Concepts, are the foundations of any program: Unity, Service and Recovery. Just as a triangle can’t support itself without all three sides, a 12-Step Group couldn’t survive without all three “sides” of its structure. With its sides intact, on the other hand, a triangle (or pyramid) is the most stable structure there is.
We have to:
* Stick together and support each other;
* Make sure that we — and newcomers — have a place to come to;
* Progress physically, spirutually and emotionally so that we can get better ourselves and then help others to recover.
The home group is the basis of all three things.
Mark Twain is quoted as having written, “Many commentators have shed darkness upon this subject, and it is thought that if they continue we shall soon know nothing at all about it.” This is certainly an example. Just as there are people (like me) who swear by the 12 steps and the groups, there are others who have been disillusioned or have other axes to grind.
This post to SpiritualRiver.Com resolves nothing, but is interesting nonetheless.
What is the Success Rate of Recovery in AA?
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Don’t use; go to meetings; get a sponsor; work the steps: These are the basics of recovery in the 12-step programs. If, by “don’t use,” we can include all variations of addictive behaviors, and if we broaden our definitions to include other successful recovery programs, these are the basics of true recovery — period. I’m writing about 12-step programs, though, because they are what I know best. Continue reading