About Me

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I have recovered from the disease of Alcoholism. I believe there is only one person really,.. everybody. And that peace of mind is everything. -So treat your neighbor as you would treat yourself, because your neighbor IS yourself. I think most of recovery is what I would call common sense, but that learning to be ordinary is a true gift very few people acquire. My ambition is to accept everything unflinchingly, with compassion, and therefore be intrinsically comfortable in my own skin, no matter what. I am comfortable being uncomfortable and am willing to go to any lengths to improve my life. I believe the Big Book was divinely inspired, and is extraordinarily powerful. Unfortunately AA's best kept secret a lot of the time. (In my opinion). I just try to do what works, no matter what it is.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

There's always SOME truth in criticism

There's always some truth in criticism. ..well apart from 'shape shifting reptile' !! baloney!

It is tempting to think that the more one accumulates information, and the more success one has at passing on the message of recovery to people with less experience, that the more infallible one becomes, or more impenetrable to stupid mistakes, projections, misplaced blame, and various forms of 'justified' moral superiority.

But I have found that not to be the case. One of the reasons I am intrigued by personal and moral superiority, is because I find those pitfalls are much more readily available to anybody who has successfully managed to stay sober for some time. Yes of course arrogance exists in many forms and I have met my fair share of arrogant newcomers. But I'm just saying that for those who are lucky enough to have managed to overcome a compulsion to drink for a long period of time, and also have overcome a lot of personal obstacles, then there is a very strong temptation to occupy the moral high ground when one encounters people who are clearly less able. Either because they cannot stop drinking, because they have little or no grasp of how arrogant they are.

One of the things I frequently tell Sponsees, if they follow the path of steps that way I was shown them, is that they will enjoy (as described on page 83) "a feeling of neutrality safe and protected", "the drink problem has been removed, it does not exist for them". Whilst that might not seem very impressive to a non-alcoholic, unfortunately due to the unwillingness of many AA to follow suggestions, it's not common for people to feel like that in AA recovery. I find that most members of AA that I meet do not feel as though they are "in a position of neutrality safe and protected". Because this is the case, it would be easy to feel superior in some way to these people.

It's because of this that I tell Sponsees and when they start, the they will have to work very hard in order to overcome arrogance and superiority at a later date. It's easy to feel humble when everything you do you turns to crap. It's much harder to stay humble when most of what you do succeeds. Of course not everything succeeds, that's not what I mean. What I mean is, we have a good chance at life. And things really start to work. Often for the very first time. We start getting along with our family. We start getting along with the people we work with. We start to be of real help to the people we meet. Our friends and family start relying upon us for our assistance. The people we have helped in the past, come back because the thing we passed onto them, really worked for them. And seeing all these nice things to happen is really lovely.
But none of these things make me or anybody else less prone to error, or faulty judgement. There is no critical mass of life experience or information that can shield either you or I from our own stupidity, or carelessness.
And blindness doesn't leave us simply because we did well yesterday. So basically we never get to put our feet up. Life has nasty way of reminding us when we take our eye off the ball. You snooze you lose.

So when I am on the receiving end of criticism, there may very well be some truth in it. It's highly likely I'm doing something wrong, and that I may be contributing to the problem unwittingly in some way or other. Mainly because none of us can lay claim to EVER being ENTIRELY free of error.
Of course some criticism is expressed in a way that is difficult to take on board, but that does not make the content of the criticism any less valid. Alternatively, a form of criticism may be expressed very eloquently, yet its content is utterly misplaced. The same is true of compliments. A compliment could be very skilfully expressed, yet have no basis in truth. Or a compliment could be expressed really poorly, yet reflect a real virtue of some sort.

I regularly receive criticism of some sort another from AA's I meet. Misery loves company. And if I communicate that I believe (on almost cellular level) that happiness is an inside job, that understandably ruffles some people's feathers, who haven't had the good fortune to have that experience.

"We cannot subscribe to the belief that this life is a vale of tears, even though it was once just that for very many of us"

so yeah, people get pissed off. It's the nature of the beast. I don't take it personally. I'm not saying I like it, I just don't take it personally.

Basically I'm just saying that criticism goes with the territory. Especially if the results you are getting are not very similar to that of the majority membership of AA. So long-term sobriety is in some respects can be pretty thankless. Until of course others get grips with your approach, and get to see the benefits of it first-hand. Only then, are people able to genuinely put their prejudices and reservations to one side. I think that's fairly normal. I don't think makes them difficult, obstructive, or worse in some way or other. I think I was the same. I think I only really understood how powerful a program was after I had completed the first nine steps. The longer I am sober the more I see what an extraordinarily powerful vehicle the AA program is for all kinds of self-realisation.

When I encounter criticism from Sponsees and newcomers I completely understand that they don't understand. I find it unpleasant to be on the receiving end of their negativity. It actually feels like little arrows are physically piercing me. Not nice! Quite toxic. And very draining if I stick around too long. But what I mean is, regardless of all the things I've learned, and regardless of all the experiences I have overcome, I don't assume that I'm right, or without fault, when something goes wrong. Perhaps I make too many allowances for people's genuine reservations about what I am telling them. Who knows? All I know is that that's how I feel when things go wrong. When someone reacts badly to what I'm saying. (apart from total !! crazy nutters)

But by and large I would say defensive, critical reactions are very common in AA. AA is full of touchy, restless, irritable and discontent people so it's hardly surprising people disagree in ways that are not terribly !! skilful! As you may already know from reading this blog, I have very low expectations generally of others. I don't expect people in AA to be gracious when they encounter something they don't like. I expect mudslinging and other such childish reactions. So it's hard to disappoint me by behaving childishly, but like I said before, I don't have a heart of stone, so yes I feel the consequences of attacking comments just like everybody else.

Anyway I just thought I would share that. Basically nothing is as simple or as comfortable as you would like it to be. And there is no point at which you stop questioning yourself. Anyway I better be off. I'm only doing this because I'm avoiding another task! So have a fabulous Tuesday, and I hope your weather is as nice as ours :)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Almost instant cure for RSI: The Mind/Body Prescription

Well I've been suffering from what I'm going to call "the 12 days of RSI."
I've had it in the past, and successfully used Australian bush flower essences which pretty much fixed it. Anyway, I've used the same bush flower essences that I used the last time, and thank God they worked! Phew!

But whilst I was doing a little bit of extra research on the Internet for RSI, I stumbled across what looks like a fabulous resource which pretty much sums up my interpretation of how RSI arises in the first place. I had always taken the view that it was some sort of stress arising due to an unresolved dilemma of some sort, but I particularly like the way in which it is articulated by the woman describing how she recovered using Dr Sarnos's approach.

There is a link to it here. Another related page is here. And the Amazon book page references is here. Australian bush flowers are here.

What I mean is, but I thought I had an instinctive understanding of this, but I am really impressed by the clarity and straightforward explanation provided by this interpretation of how RSI arises. So, I listened to the the online recordings which summarise the method, and have been trying to consciously implement its suggestions, and although I was feeling good already, I feel even better than I did before I listened to the audio.

The gist of it goes:
Unresolved conflicts bringing to light parts of oneself one doesn't like to acknowledge. But the tension between the view one likes to have of oneself, (I am a good caring person who makes time for other people), and the view revealed by testing circumstances, (I don't have time to take care of you and everybody else because quite frankly I have got TOO MUCH TO DO right now), create internal tension, and unless you are prepared to look at this dilemma SQUARELY in the eye, and see the UNFLATTERING truth about oneself, the body creates a CONVENIENT DISTRACTION from the daunting, unflattering issue. RSI is useful because it creates an almost total distraction, because just about every movement is affected by it. This way, you have almost 24 x 7 distraction.

The cure? Simply to remind oneself when pain arises, that the pain is a convenient fiction to distract oneself from the dilemma, and to basically go straight to the heart of the dilemma and solve that, or at the least acknowledge it. Basically, if you face the demon, then there is no need for the body to ameliorate your stress by providing you with the painful distraction.

Cool. My conflict, or cognitive dissonance to give its true name, was the conflict between,
1. being a responsible person in my family, who does whatever they can to provide solutions to family problems.
2. Having too much on my plate right now to deal with the ENERGY VAMPIRES in my family who are currently in enacting various stages of drama, in response to one family member who has cancer. their drama, my current workload, their inability to understand my lack of drama, their inability to understand the extent of my current workload, is just too much work for me to take on at this moment in time, and at some point this problem will require me to tell them so, in a way that doesn't cause them harm, or shift blame onto them, for what is essentially MY personal limits of patience and tolerance, and mental and emotional energy.

Unsurprisingly, I do not like to see myself as somebody who does not have a great deal of patience and tolerance for the demands placed upon myself because of a 'cancer drama' presenting itself to a family member. Nor do I like to see myself as somebody who has to exert almost every available ounce of energy into my current workload, in order to achieve a satisfactory result.

Helping my family, is much more exhausting than helping a newcomer. As my family are much less open and receptive to new ideas. They are very conventional. So whereas an hour helping a newcomer might invigorate me and refresh my mind, an hour trying to help my family member, is straining, frustrating, testing, seemingly intractable. Like pulling teeth basically. Yes it can be done, but it's slow arduous work. I know because I've done in the past, and I've seen gradual improvement. But that kind of work takes moment to moment, unwavering focus, in order not to drift into habitual negativity, blame, fixed ideas. The only thing I can compare it to, is like dealing with a newcomer who doesn't want to get sober, who thinks they know best, who thinks they are right, and that I am stupid. I can help newcomers who fit that description, but it's HARD work, and one has to deal with ongoing slights and undermining remarks of one sort or another which is draining.

So that's why being there for my family in a non bullshitty kind of way, takes !! work, and because I'm at a !! PARTICULARLY busy point in my workload, my mind is pretty full !! up with that right now, so I don't have mental space for a pile of other concerns, which to me seem entirely self-inflicted and avoidable. I know that they want me to be there for them in what I would call a "conventional" way. But I am more accustomed to being there for other people, in what I would call a fairly nonconventional way. When I am concerned about another human being. I feel that in some way benefits them. Some would say that was delusional, to me it is nothing more than the power of prayer. I think that ANY good thought directed towards another human being benefits them, and I don't think it matters whether you call it prayer or anything else. So I feel as though I am doing my bit, albeit not in a way that I think makes sense to them. In this way the spiritual life is a bit of a curse, because one ends up dealing with people who are not on a spiritual path who think you think you're being a complete A*SE. The answer is in the St Francis prayer where it says:

"It is better to understand, than to be understood"

(yeah I know it's not exactly the same, but that's how I remember hearing it in aa meetings) Meaning, life is a great deal simpler, when instead of trying to make everybody else understand YOUR perspective, you behave in a way, and speak in such a way, that you are sure their limited viewpoint WILL be able to understand. It's as if we are talking two COMPLETELY separate languages, and in order to be understood I have to adopt THEIR language.

Obviously, I'm no doctor, I am not saying that I think you ought to adopt the same viewpoint, I'm just telling you this is what I make it today. don't for God's sakes assume I expect you to agree with me :)
Right well much as though I would love to stay and chat!, The gym is calling :) Have a relaxing cosy Sunday wherever you happen to be :)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Facing the Dragon: Confronting Personal and Spiritual Grandiosity

Well, after all those kind comments you alcoholic bloggers left for me in the last post, I think I'm going to have to do buy this book, and commit it entirely to memory :)
..no, seriously, this book does appeal to me, but I confess I haven't read it yet.
Its called: Facing the Dragon: Confronting Personal and Spiritual Grandiosity

Personally, I think the ego is extraordinarily insidious. Never really goes away. Best you can do, is learn to tolerate it gracefully. Some people, do manage to have very impressive absence of? Ego. Not nearly enough unfortunately.
There is that whole, "false humility" thing, which I find a little bit distasteful. I'm not very good at tolerating it, because I find it embarrassingly transparent. If it was less obvious, then it wouldn't bug me so much. But as it is, it's sort of stands out like a sore thumb, and it's very difficult to not notice.

Also, this subject has significance for either someone with long-term sobriety, or someone with less sobriety who is able to enjoy a high standard of of emotional stability, for want of a better word. When I say emotional stability, I don't mean that they somehow experience that sort of "flat line" emotional life. What I mean is, that they don't take their emotional state personally. Meaning their relationship to their varied, unpredictable, and conflicting states, is "no big deal".
And of course, this applies to all those that by default have a confident demeanour, and a tendency towards complacency.

Personally, I find when things are going well, that's the time I'm most likely to get lazy and complacent. So success for me, is a sort of minefield. You'd be surprised how easy it is to wreck things, by just letting things slide. So, the more success you experience, the easier it is to become complacent. Well that's what I find anyway.

So, I think this book looks quite promising. There is nothing more unattractive than grandiosity. And how easy! it is to think oneself slightly better than the next man, especially when the next man is in a particularly sorry state, for one reason or another. Like someone said, "it's easy to love the lovable ones".

I must admit, I find those things I learned from having to deal with success of one sort or another, quite interesting. Because so much of my life before was about failure after failure. So, I never really had to learn how to be responsible when good things came my way. Now I am in a fortunate position in many ways, life is a lot better than it was. I have more luck than I deserve. And yes, in this impermanent world, nothing is certain. "This too shall pass". The good things pass, and the bad things pass. But in the past all I had was lots of bad things. At least, that's the way it seemed. I daresay I have a slanted perception of my past, so they that may not be entirely accurate! But yes I became very good at different forms of crisis management. Whereas now, my challenge is to maintain the good things, so that I do not allow them to slip through my fingers. Nor hold on to them so tightly, that I squeeze the life out of them. And this is an entirely new lesson. For me.

So anyway, it I just thought I would mention this book, because us alcoholics are a bit ! weak on the ego front. Even those of us who consider ourselves to be uniquely awful. ..So much so that we are 'special and different', in a worse way, than other aa's. Which is bull.

Right I'm off. And thank you so much for your kind comments on my birthday. If I'm honest, compliments make me slightly uncomfortable, As I subscribe more to the Kipling review of criticism and compliments From be poem called if

If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;

Meaning I think of both criticism and compliments as imposters. Because neither of them tell the whole story. And no matter how nice the thing you are telling me is, I know that there is another side to that. And that feeling never really leaves me, so on the one hand it is only polite to say thank you, but I don't feel as though I am a better person because I have those compliments. the nagging reality of my varied nature is all too apparent, unfortunately. I don't mean that in a disparaging sense, because I wholeheartedly believe that all humans contains shades of light and dark, so when I say that, it has no 'good' or 'bad' meaning. it's like saying 'I am just like you'. So there is no sense of shame or criticism, for me when I think those thoughts.

One thing I like about long-term sobriety, if that every now and again, life pulls you up short, in no uncertain terms, and lets you know absolutely that you don't know everything. So I kind of know that a moment that feels just like that, lies ahead. And that's why it easier to not take success or failure personally, and to see it all as shades of experience. Neither good nor bad. Right or wrong.

There I go again. I had every intention of writing a very short post. Just mentioning the book and the author and leaving it at that. Typical.
Well have a fabulous day, wherever you are :)