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.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

How I try not to be a control freak when I am attempting to help newcomers

Once we relinquish the deluded craving to control others, we (paradoxically) become MUCH more able to engage in a significant way with that person.
It’s hard to relinquish the delusion of control when there is a possibility of death, but because it is so beneficial to the relationship with newcomers, we have a duty to, if we care about that person, and the time they have left with us.

I cannot help a newcomer unless I know they may die if they do not get well. nor can I help them if I am being a control freak. I have to be impartial. Unattached. Without agenda, for them to be able to listen to me. Otherwise I am wasting my time, and possibly speeding up their demise.

I can ‘feel’’ when things are not right. I can ‘feel’ when I am saying something that rankles that is not helping them. Sometimes it is good that they are rankled. Other times it is not. I tell the difference between the two by how it feels being in their presence, how the conversation feels and my intention to be of service.
Even when I am doing something ‘right’ I will get a short lived ‘toxic’ response from the newcomer as they ‘thrash around’ initially when faced with some inconvenient truth that narrows their options to seeking a spiritual solution. I cannot remember how long this period used to last when I first started doing it, but for the last few years I have noticed that if I persevere, the initial ‘fight’ can last as short as 2-3hrs. Sometimes 1-2. Very occasionally 45mins. What I mean is that rebellion of some sort is to be expected and do not take it personally. There are of course some who remain argumentative and complaining no matter what. They tend to be the more strident, confident, somewhat bullying-type personalities. Perhaps they have no desire to change? Perhaps there is just an entrenched habit of the mind to argue and criticise? Who knows. All I know some remain shirty and complaining for a long time. I don’t mind that they are like this, but it is not pleasant, and requires patience. They deserve help just like everyone else, but if I think I am not helping them I will back off, unless they are at real risk of drinking or feeling suicidal, and are too angry to ask for help in AA somewhere else.

It is possible to make very concrete suggestions with NO agenda to control. I am not required to be vague. All I do is give up the internal ‘fight’ to have things ‘go my way’. I act in full knowledge that the worst may occur and I may never get what I want, and I am resolved to accept that should it arise. I know that when I genuinely feel this way, that the other person knows this is my feeling, even if I never articulate it as such. Most communication is non-verbal, and people can tell if you are ‘on their case’ or not. Most of the time I am paying attention to how I feel about what is being said, more than the words themselves. Often I will feel initially attacked, when they start feeling antagonistic or derogatory toward me, but this is 90% of the time temporary, so experience has taught me not to take it personally. The better the communication feels, after the initial ‘hump’, the more I feel I am helping/getting through to them.

Otherwise it is perfectly natural for anger or resentment to crop up from time to time from people you help. As long as they have sufficient restraint to communicate it in a non-harmful way, this need not be an issue. Until then, you just have to be a bit patient, and do some damage limitation with their outbursts when they show up. I am able to be firm and draw a line if I am not offended or defensive (ie not resentful).

I do not apply this to people who’ve been in AA longer and are not at much risk of drinking at all. If they are sour, gossipy or critical of anyone, they are not people I befriend or hang around with in AA. I am very lucky to have many meetings to choose from so it is not very difficult to find people who have been sober for a while and do not bitch and moan about other AAs. There are some extraordinarily fair minded and balanced AAs in my locale, some with extremely impressive social skills, so I am very lucky. The cantankerous, complaining judgemental ones can be avoided fairly easily. AA will always be a big mixture of people so their will always be the snide passive-aggressives and the overt attackers in amongst the membership. As long as you spot it fairly quickly and move on, it doesn’t have to be an issue.

Phew. This Sunday seems very peaceful despite my too-full agenda, and I have a short stop at a beautiful ancient church here which I always like. I hope your heart is at rest this Sunday.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

“Those who do not recover” p58, “fit spiritual condition” p85 and “spiritual status” p101

Please bear with me while I roll out a few quotes before I get to the jist of this post ☺

Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.” (p58, AA Big Book)

“If we are not sorry, and our conduct continues to harm others, we are quite sure to drink. We are not theorizing.” (p70, AA Big Book)

“And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even alcohol. For by this time sanity will have returned. We will seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame. We react sanely and normally, and we will find that this has happened automatically. We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation. We feel as though we had been placed in a position of neutrality—safe and protected. We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us. We are neither cocky nor are we afraid. That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition. (p85, AA Big Book)

We meet these conditions every day. An alcoholic who cannot meet them, still has an alcoholic mind; there is something the matter with his spiritual status. (p101, AA Big Book)

if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead. (p15, AA Big Book)
Our very lives, as ex-problem drinkers, depend upon our constant thought of others and how we may help meet their needs. (p20, AA Big Book)
Helping others is the foundation stone of your recovery. (p97, AA Big Book)

Whew! Sorry for all those quotes, but I need them all to make this point unfortunately.. Thanks for bearing with me ☺ Here we go..

Please (!!!!!!) do not confuse ‘not drinking’, or being ‘dry’, with (what the big book calls) being ‘recovered’ (p xxiii, xv, xvii, 133, 132, 113, 90) or being in ‘fit spiritual condition’. (p85, AA Big Book)

Instead of asking yourself, “How long has that person been sober?”, ask yourself “What might that person’s spiritual status be?” or “Does that person look like they might be in fit spiritual condition” or “Does that person look, speak, or act, or describe their perceptions of life, like a person who has 'recovered'?”

All I know is that there are many very mentally unwell people in AA, and in my opinion it is foolish to equate length of sobriety with competence. If people are uptight, disparaging, grumpy, lifeless, dour, bitchy, intolerant, complaining, somber, humourless, irritable, restless control freaks, then I am not particularly impressed by what they have, no matter how long they are around.
It’s not really how long sober you are that matters, what matters is whether it looks as though you have ‘recovered’. I say ‘looks’ because unless you are a mind reader, you are required to refer to the experience of other people in AA in order to make use of the program, and in order to do that, you are required to identify people in AA who are examples of what the programme can achieve when used to good effect. Because you and I are incapable of reading minds we have to make estimates as to who is making good use of the programme, in order to obtain the help we need when seeking reliable advice and feedback about how to get well and stay well.

This is in regards to seeking reliable guidance and direction. This is not the same as learning from others. I can learn something from !!!! everybody, even if all I learn from them is patience because they are exasperating, or gratitude, because they are about to die of liver failure due to repeated relapses, or are serving a murder sentence for losing control in a blackout.

No. What I’m talking about here is seeking reliable direction and feedback about how to live well by applying the programme of recovery. For me I will obtain that from only the people who have ‘got what I want’. And in order to figure out who ??? those people are, I pay attention to their capacity to remain in ‘fit spiritual condition’ as described in the big book on page 85.

As the first 9 steps represent the recovery and steps 10, 11 and 12 represent the maintenance of recovery, this is where I have interpreted the point of recovery to be. (I am only passing on what old timers passed on to me regarding their interpretation of recovery btw). Also make note, I refer to what I am describing as an interpretation. Some people draw the conclusion that anyone who makes use of certain definitions must automatically have fixed views, (much like the fixed view that AA’s who rely on certain definitions are people who have fixed views. ☺), but that’s neither here nor there, I just mention that as this is a view I have observed many times in AA.

What the big book refers to as ‘recovered’ has a specific ‘look’ in the basic text. A description of how someone can look after completing the first nine steps is vividly illustrated in the chapter a promise to you on page 85 next to the explicit reference to being in fit spiritual condition.
Instead of getting hung up on the terms, as some people do, why not use this benchmark of ‘wellness’ in the basic text as a way of identifying those in the programme who are WELL (recovered, whatever you choose to call it) as opposed to DRY. Disregard the length of time sober. There are many dishonest people in AA and always have been, so when attempting to identify who might be in fit spiritual condition, for the purposes of seeking needed advice, use your common sense and do NOT assume that because someone is DRY that they are somehow ??? not at grave risk of drinking, killing themselves, killing other people, committing sex offences, or going insane. All these things ARE possible for those that ‘do not recover’ from the crippling illness of alcoholism. There are only TWO ways this disease can end up if untreated, insanity or death.
“The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death.” (p30, AA Big Book)
Untreated alcoholism is not a pretty sight. In my opinion anyway.

Plus we occasionally have members who have very !!!! serious and dangerous mental illnesses, have had lobotomies, and all sorts. I have met just about every kind in AA meetings :) Yes including one who has had a lobotomy.. I have been lucky enough to witness first hand some very !!! mentally unwell people get well and lead positive and fulfilling lives, IF they completely give themselves to this simple program, so i know that the following quote is not wishful thinking.
There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.” (p58, AA Big Book)

Btw, People who have long periods of sobriety AND at the same time manage to stay in fairly fit spiritual condition DO manage to acquire skills and abilities over time which cannot be acquired in a short span of time, but because people are so different, and rates of improvement vary so wildly, again this cannot be relied upon as a hard and fast guide. So ultimately common sense must prevail when trying to figure these things out.

So yeah, just thought I would mention that, for what its worth as it was on my mind lately. If any of that makes sense to you, great, if not, that’s fine too as it is a very long time since I deluded myself into thinking all members of AA might agree with me all the time. They don’t. ☺ And I believe wholeheartedly that this is as normal in AA, as it is in every other walk of life. There is no need for me to make it into a problem. Choice of terminology is not an issue for me as I look for similarities not differences, which means that I identify with pretty much everybody, which might sound confusing, but in practice is anything but.
Whatever. I’m just digressing now. Too long as usual. ☺ I have lots of !! difficult things to do so I’d better get on with them ☺
Have a fabulous Thursday, and I hope life is treating you well.

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