Saturday, September 29, 2012

AA Sponsorship

     What is sponsorship?

     Is it approaching some newbie at an AA meeting and telling them that they need a sponsor and that you're the man to do it? Is it then dragging your sponsee to AA meetings day after day after day? Is it calling your sponsee on Saturday night to make sure he isn't drinking? Or is it fielding frantic and desperate phone calls from your sponsee as he teeters on the edge outside of a bar? Is it providing a social structure for your sponsee by taking him out for dinner, a movie, or some bowling? Is it telling your sponsee where to work, who to be with, or what friends they should have? Is it getting all militant and beating the shit out of him? Better yet, is it telling your sponsee what kind of clothes to wear? Is sponsorship determining what colored socks to wear on Monday? Sure that may sound ridiculous, but it's just as ridiculous as all the other useless actions I just mentioned.

     Sponsorship is NONE of the above. Watered down, modern AA has spawned all sorts of new ideas and norms about what sponsorship is. Hollywood has well-defined the slew of AA cliches - the meeting room, the sob stories, the group prayer, and the sponsor who calls you when you're in trouble. Sorry to say that none of these things have much to do with Alcoholics Anonymous, which was originally nothing more than a series of spiritual actions designed to restore the addict to sanity by accessing the power of God, or Spiritual Power, if you like. It is a way to God - nothing more, or rather less.

     The 12 Steps was the sole program of AA - a rigorous and life-changing set of actions to heal ourselves from deep within. An enormous amount of work is necessary to extract the life-detsroying character defects that sabotage all good things in life. The work continues as we make amends to all who we have harmed. We take Steps to prepare us for our new life of purpose, the purpose of helping others who still suffer. If all we did was to sit there in meetings, make some coffee, be the treasurer and pass out sobriety coins, we remain untreated, insane, and a threat to every newcomer who walks through the door. Why suffer? Why struggle through each day when there is a solution?

     Sponsorship is very simple. It is one person who has taken Steps and recovered taking another addict through the Steps as they are laid out in the Big Book. That person must be willing to change and grow along spiritual lines. Our job as sponsors is to hook the sponsee up to God and then get out of the way. Nothing more. I take them through the first 7 Steps, guide them with their first few amends and then they should be on their way.

     It is not my job to be their friend or to listen to them blab on all night about their feelings or struggles, allowing them to validate themselves as some sort of victim. It is definitely not my job to call them. If you want to get better, then it is you who have to call me and I'll tell you what I did. Nothing more. And by the way, your feelings don't matter. I don't really care how you feel. Sound harsh? Well, it's really not so harsh when you think that our pathological focus on ourselves and our feelings, our constant engagement with self-pity is the exact thing preventing us from getting better.

     Holding on by a thread is not AA. AA is a set of spiritual tools that we can use to build a foundation of strength, peace and freedom. We can be forever rid of the mental obsession, the insanity before a relapse. There are no such things as cravings. There are no such things as triggers. We are either okay or not okay, recovered or recovering, sane or insane. There is no in between. Same with sponsorship.

God, Make me a better man today...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Binge Drinkers

      Alcoholism is not a function of when you drink, it is a function of how you drink. I don't care if you can sit there and wait a month or two between binges. Doesn't matter. You could have the so-called willpower to hold out for an entire year, but still be a 100% deranged alcoholic. It really doesn't matter how long you can personally bide your time.

     What matters is what happens to you once you take a drink. If you cannot stop once you start, you are an alcoholic. And if you think it's not a problem because you only drink once in a while, then you have an alcoholic mind. A broken mind.

     In fact, binge drinkers are some of the worst. Because they wait so long to drink, what do you think happens? When they finally get their greedy paws on the bottle, they drink themselves almost to death. Furthermore, all of the off-time allows them to sink deeper and deeper into the depths of their depression, anger, fear and self-hatred. So you basically have a demonic, coiled spring just waiting to explode. Frightening. At least the daily drunk is constantly soothing and escaping his lunacy. He makes what takes place in his mind a bit more bearable.

     But the binge drinker is a shining example of extremes. And because of these extremes, they are some of the least likely to recover. Sure it's possible, but it usually requires a complete overhaul of their lives. They cannot simply take Steps and then go back to some meaningless job. And they probably shouldn't be living alone. Binge drinkers should go to a sober community after treatment and embark on a life of purpose.

God, please rid me of my alcoholic mind...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Too Much At Once

     One of the earliest lessons I learned as I returned home from treatment was trying to accomplish too much and failing. Having just shed my old self and suddenly filled up with spirit and willingness, I suddenly wanted to accomplish everything that I failed to in the first 28 years of my life. I wanted to immediately pay off debts, start new AA meetings, help everybody, get a counseling job, quit smoking, write a book, produce an album, pick up a martial art, join a monastery, and start a treatment center modeled after the one I'd just come from.

     I'm sure you can guess what happened next. Uh, nothing. Just the next thing in front of me.

     If we try to do too much at once, all of it may just blow up in our faces. I've heard several clinicians suggest that we should implement all the changes we want at once. They're probably not addicts.

     First of all, it isn't possible. Secondly, if we try to accomplish a million things at once, nothing will get our full attention and therefore all will suffer. Third, we will fail at a number of them, which will stress us out and selfishly focus our attention back inwards as opposed to outwards, where it should be. We may feel easily overwhelmed and begin moving backwards mentally, spiritually and emotionally. We will feel depressed and fearful. We will become anxious. Perhaps we will relapse. What the F is the point of that? Isn't the reason we got better so that we could a) be free, b) live in peace, and c) become useful and helpful to others?

     So what I learned is that I had to accomplish one thing at a time, relax into that for a while, and then tackle the next. Plus, where are we rushing too? Eternity?

God, help me to be where my feet are...

Friday, September 21, 2012

Doctor's Opinion

     "The unselfishness of these men as we have come to know them, the entire absence of profit motive, and their community spirit, is indeed inspiring to one who has labored long and wearily in this alcoholic field." - Alcoholics Anonymous, xxvii

     Dr. Silkworth wrote a letter to Alcoholics Anonymous describing the nature of addiction as he saw it. He also stated that there is little science can accomplish regarding the full recovery of chronic alcoholics. In a doctor's humble view, we are hopeless.

     Dr. Silkworth realized that man-made remedies often fail to change a man or woman fundamentally. He admits that some form of "moral psychology" is required but that such a thing cannot be applied via medicine or other type of physical remedy. Furthermore, he admits that the solution is effective only when carried by another alcoholic. Finally, he concedes that the spiritual and altruistic program contained within the Big Book has changed hopeless men, and changed them for good.

     By the way, the word psychology quite literally refers to the study of the soul. Dr. Silkworth was asserting that addicts and alcoholics need to somehow undergo a profound 'soul change', one which rearranges the addict's entire moral foundation. Clearly, taking a pill or sitting in a group or writing down some triggers cannot elicit such a change, as the type of shift to which he refers is indeed miraculous. Such a change can only be powered by one source, which lies outside the boundaries of the physical world. Such a change can only be powered by GOD.

God, teach me how to be more honest, that I may better love others and serve You well...

Presence of Like Others

     Should we alcoholics and addicts spend time in the presence of other active alcoholics and addicts? If we are not yet recovered, then no. If we are recovered, then only if we have a good reason.

     I have several relatives and friends who are alcoholics and in a rather bitter denial. Sure I had to spend time with them through the process of making amends. But after all these years, many of them still haven't changed in the slightest. In fact, their drinking and their respective character defects and personality disorders are getting considerably worse. So do I continue to allow them my presence?

     Even though they are relatives and friends, the answer, after praying and listening to my gut, is a resounding NO. Why? Because I have made my amends to them but now the relationships are simply toxic. To continue giving to them despite ongoing disrespect would be a way of dishonoring myself and all that I have accomplished since I took Steps and recovered more than 7 years ago.

     Once our side of the street has been cleaned up, we cannot continue to let others take from us so thoughtlessly. We are not doormats, and part of our recovery is removing any toxic relationships from our lives. For the good of ourselves, our recovery and our new families, we must remove such people from our lives.

     It is okay to let go sometimes. In fact, letting go of people who don't serve us is the right thing to do. It is the strong thing to do. It is even the loving thing to do, as we no longer enable their destructive, negative, crazy behavior. And on a positive note, letting go feels good.

God, help me to let go of toxic relationships...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dry Drunks

     Just because we are sober does not mean that we aren't still a rather large group of selfish assholes. In fact, if we have not yet chosen to live by spiritual principles, that's what we are. And choosing to live by spiritual principles means, of course, actually practicing them in our lives... or at least making a sincere attempt. The reason I was able to get sober so many times yet fail so miserably is simply because I remained the same self-absorbed idiot after putting down the substance.

     I once heard a veteran AA "old timer" at a Manchester, MA meeting say that AA and recovery was not about being a good person, it was just about staying sober. His exact words were, "I'm still an asshole, just a sober asshole!" He said it didn't matter if you still lied, cheated, or abused others verbally and physically. Here was the featured speaker of the night and he was telling everybody that AA wasn't about morals. For this guy, it was totally fine to be a shithead.

     If you are an alcoholic or an addict and you hear that sort of insanity at a meeting, you are not in the presence of recovery. You are in the presence of poison. Why? First of all, we, as alcoholics and addicts, have been going around like a bunch of children, always wanting this, always needing that, lying and manipulating those who love us, burning bridges and throwing away any opportunity that we've somehow been given. We have not only given up the right to drink and use, but we've also given up the right to be a damaged, depressed, abusive, angry, self-centered and socially/emotionally retarded individual. 

     Bottom line: If you are an addict and you think that you have a chance in hell of staying sober without becoming a better person and living by moral/spiritual principles, think again. Unless you aren't really an addict, you will fail. Miserably. The only chance we have is to rid ourselves of our lies, our grandiosity, our fear and our pathological immaturity. Otherwise, we might as well keep drinking and using, because an active addict is NO DIFFERENT than a sober addict who hasn't adopted spiritual principles. 

     To note, I've never seen anyone accomplish this without humbling themselves by getting underneath something Greater. We can't change who we are by thinking we are superheroes who can do anything. We need spiritual help. We can't do it alone. We can't do it without the help of God.

God, always remind me that physical sobriety means nothing if I don't change and grow and live by spiritual principles...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Bipolar & ADD Hoax

     Many alcoholics and addicts do not recover. Watered down AA is just one problem. Perhaps an even bigger problem is the entire Western medical community, an arrogant community that pushes theories, disorders and pharmaceutical treatments as if they were ordained by God.

     Many of us who wind up in any mainstream clinical setting will almost immediately be diagnosed with ADD and/or Bipolar Disorder (formerly Manic Depressive Disorder). Sorry, but both of these disorders are fabricated. To note, I know people who truly suffer from severe biochemical imbalance, and let me tell you that the slew of essentially normal people now getting slapped with the bipolar tag is complete nonsense.

     Many years ago, it was thought and medically accepted that bipolar did not manifest itself until the age of 18. Now small children and toddlers are being diagnosed with bipolar and medicated with powerful psychotropic drugs, some to their death. Guess why?

     Secondly, every child who doesn't want to sit through a bunch of mindless public school classes is getting pinned with ADD or ADHD, neither of which is a permanent neurochemical condition. These are clear-cut social diseases, but again, millions are diagnosed.

     Now, take a look at the symptoms of Bipolar and ADD. Bipolar Disorder is a cycle between periods of mania and depression. Mania is characterized by over-active mental activity, grandiosity, delusions, etc. Depression is characterized by apathy, numbness, lack of pleasure or interest in just about anything.

     Hmm, that sounds strangely similar to ANY drug addict.

     Alcoholics and addicts mimic all of these behaviors. When we are drunk, jammed, or high as shit on cocaine, we are manic. When we run out and sink into the torture of withdrawal, we are depressed as all hell. Why is it that when I removed the drugs and took Steps, the "bipolar" suddenly disappeared? Why is it that after growing up a bit, writing some inventory, making some amends, helping others, meditating and praying consistently did my neurochemistry return to normal and remain that way ever since?

     It's because our problem isn't ADD or Bipolar. Our problem isn't even really drugs and alcohol. Our problem is simply that we are empty. We are spiritually ill and we lack purpose and meaning.

     What's so sad is that what we need is the exact opposite of more pills, more institutions, more doctors, and more therapy. And believe me, it is no coincidence that each of these mainstream solutions are peddled by multi-billion dollar industries and the sociopaths who run them. We don't need to be someone's guinea pig. Many of these basket case medications that they toss out like Skittles will mess us up big time in the long term. They will rewire our brain, rob us of our personality, annihilate our creativity, and forever categorize us as damaged goods.

     We need to instead find ourselves, find purpose, and perhaps cultivate a spiritual life. We need to grow up and stop being so unbelievably selfish. We need to motivate regardless of how shitty we feel in the morning, just like everybody else in the world. Having horrible feelings isn't a novelty. Nor is having a bad day.

     Doctors, psychologists, and clueless social workers will tell you that your depression is caused by something other than you, something outside of yourself, that it is someone else's fault, or that you perhaps caught it in the air. But for some reason they don't tell you the truth. The truth is that it is our own fault. And no, I don't mean that harshly. I simply mean that we are responsible for it. It is WE who give ourselves depression and WE are the only ones who can pull ourselves out of it. We make certain choices and we choose to respond to events a certain way. We are responsible for how we end up.

     Don't count on some cocktail of psychotropic drugs to actually help or change you. And I also wouldn't count on some hero with a PhD who thinks some insane science project will save you. In the end, all of this intervention might just kill us or facilitate some sort of psychotic break. Ever notice how there is now a medication for everything? Addicts and alcoholics, and perhaps all of us, must take back control of our lives if we want to be free inside...  and perhaps outside as well. Peace does not come from without, but rather from within.

Illusions of Psychiatry (Article)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Wow. Check this out...

From Asha Hawkesworth (www.brighthill.net), on Narcissistic Personality Disorder:


     Narcissists lack compassion and empathy. They are critical and contemptuous of others, lack a sense of humor, cannot recognize their true feelings, have a poor memory, are competitive, and contradict themselves often. They live in a fantasy world in which they have absolute power, beauty, and genius, which they expect everyone to recognize. Your memory of events and the narcissist’s memory will seldom match, because the narcissist has already rewritten events in their head in order to see themselves in a better light. Narcissists will be your best friend if you agree with their fantasies about themselves, but failing to validate them (by disagreeing with them) brings swift retribution. They are very quick to stab you in the back. Children of narcissists grow up believing that everything that is wrong in the relationship is due to their own failure—never the narcissist’s. Often, children of narcissists either come to believe in the narcissist’s fantasy, or they see the truth and disagree, making them the target of the narcissist’s wrath. Narcissists are emotionally and verbally abusive, and sometimes resort to physical abuse as well.


(See Grandiosity for more on narcissism.)

     Yikes... I think I'll be staying away from NPD. I also realize that addicts and alcoholics are quite fortunate to not only have the capacity to be honest with themselves, but to also have access to a spiritual solution. What's so unfortunate for pure narcissists is their inability to be honest. They have no idea how sick they are, and therefore have no chance to recover.


(And another great resource re narcissism - www.narcissisticmother.com. - Nothing at all to do with my mother, needless to say.) 

God, please rid me of the poisons of fear, dishonesty, selfishness and narcissism...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Change Is Internal

     Nothing outside of us can change us (other than God). We have to change ourselves...

     The problem with addicts is that that we carry this flaw into our recovery. Our self-absorbed frame of mind tells us that even our recovery is dependent on the outside world. We have a grand old time blaming anyone and anything when we feel like shit or when something goes wrong. Because we are so full of pride and arrogance and bullshit, we cannot see that nothing outside of us is responsible for how we feel or for what happens to us.

     We must be aware that our narcissism still pervades our perception far into recovery. We often think that our recovery itself is dependent on things taking place outside of ourselves.

     If my boss was only there when I went to make an amends, I'd be okay right now. If my wife would only do some work on herself, I'd be much better spiritually. If my family would only change along with me, I'd be more recovered than I am by now. If people would only forgive me, my depression would be gone already. If I had only gotten that job, I could've made amends to my creditors, but because there is no work, I have to stiff them, and then if I relapse, it's not my fault.

     Wait a minute, wasn't the whole point of getting better to finally understand that we alone are responsible for who we are, what we are, how we feel, and what happens to us? Wasn't the whole point of taking Steps to propel us into the light of reality?

     In order to grow, change or get better to any degree at all, alcoholics and addicts must fully understand that we are where we are because of us and us alone. No one and no thing gets us better or worse. If we change, it's because we change ourselves. If we fail, it's because we fail ourselves.

God, help me understand and remember that change comes from within...

Monday, September 10, 2012

All The Same

     I always remember that we addicts and alcoholics are all the same, but always forget that we humans are all the same. Why can I humble myself regarding my addiction yet remain so arrogant when it comes to the rest of the world? Why do I still think I know something? Why do I still think that some others know nothing? The truth is that nobody is better or worse than anybody else.

     But beyond that, why do I still think that our constructed human identities, our superficial problems and our meaningless opinions mean so much? Is it just me, or do we get sucked into a narrow little tunnel about our lives and the world?

     I still manage to forget everything I've learned on a daily basis. It's like I suddenly go mad and start taking everything so seriously. The state of the world, the economy, what people know or don't know, what people believe or don't believe, who has power and who doesn't, or better yet... the petty little ridiculous dramas that I pathetically lapse into with relatives or friends. As if it matters all so very much. Actually, it only matters to us if it matters to us... get it?

     The truth is that when I allow myself to get sucked into the nonsense of the world, or of identity, or of human drama... I have lost not only my mind but I have also lost my soul. I have lost the peace within, as I thrust myself out of the present (the only thing that exists) and into the past or the future.

     Lao Tzu said it himself, If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.

God, teach me how to stay out of my head...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Do You Feel It?

     We must listen to our conscience if we are to return to sanity...
   
     If I can't feel in my gut what is right and what is wrong, then there is something wrong with my program. We take Steps to restore our conscience and then it is up to us not to ignore these gut feelings.  If we feel something is right, we go and do it. If we feel that something is wrong, we avoid it at all costs. With the power to act or to refrain, we can now move away from the selfish part of our recovery and go help others. We can give back to the families, friends and the larger world that we have taken so much from. We can walk forward after walking backward for so long. It is now our responsibility to serve.

     Remember, addicts don't deserve what we have. Sure we respect ourselves and we are nobody's doormat... but we must never trample humility. If we have made it and recovered by some miracle, it is most certainly because we were CHOSEN to get better and to help others, not because we deserved it. Once we get involved in the Steps, we are in mystical territory. We must continue or bad things will happen. We must never ignore our conscience.

     By the way, YES, I still make tons of mistakes and I trample humility, regrettably. But if I do wrong, I don't walk away and watch my soul slowly die. I make it right. And if I am too cooked or stupid to know that I wronged someone, please approach me and I swear to you that I will admit my wrongs and faults, and listen to all you have to say.

God, make me willing to change, grow and serve...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

12 Step Posters/Posers

     Follow up to the previous Let Go and Let God post about AA slogans (Also see AA Slogans). There is, in fact, a problem with this slogan, or rather its constant recitation in AA. When I walk into a meeting, there are few, if any, who can tell me exactly how to let go and how let God.

     Even more disappointing is that there may be no one in the room who has done so himself.

    That poster of the 12 Steps that hangs on the wall is not the Twelve Steps. It is a summary. The detailed instructions are inside the Big Book, even though hoards of AA 'members' aren't really sure what's in the book other than a few stories. Others think the Big Book is just something you win in the raffle at the end of the meeting.

     Nothing could be further from the truth.

     Find someone who has taken Steps (as they are laid out in Alcoholics Anonymous) and has recovered. That's the guy you want to follow. That is real sponsorship. It's not going out bowling on Friday or talking on the phone when you feel like drinking. As if a phone conversation is going to stop us once we are hit with the mental obsession. Joke. If a fundamental principle of AA tells us that we are beyond human aid, when did it become acceptable to think that a phone call can keep us sober? This is why I'm not so sure how many folks in AA are really alcoholics, as apparently they can stop on their own self-will.

God, teach us that action, not empty words, colorful stories and group therapy, is what keeps us sober...

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Let Go and Let God

     So here is one of the few good AA slogans, since I promised to make up for bashing so many others in an older entry, AA Slogans.

Let Go and Let God
   
     Needless to say, this is the essence and the desired result of taking Steps. When I take a 3rd Step, I have become willing to let go of a life driven by self-will. I have decided to no longer be guided by my warped and broken mind. I have essentially given my will over to God, and by promising to take more action, the two hopefully become aligned. The goal is to get my self-will to naturally do God's will. In other words, I seek to naturally do the right thing, to naturally be honest, helpful, willing, tolerant and loving. In this sense, it's fine to use as much self-will as I want in order to do God's will.

     When we addicts begin to worry about ourselves - our feelings, our lives, our financial security, even our hopes and dreams - this is when we have stopped letting go. We have reverted back to self-will and attempting to control our lives. Alcoholics and addicts think they know what's best for them. We think we know what we should be doing in life. We think we are better directors of our life show, better drivers of our destiny.

     Wrong!

     We are terrible at controlling our lives and making decisions. In fact, addict or not, a life driven by self-will can be a total failure. Sure we may accomplish anything and everything in the world, but we may be void of the only thing that matters: peace. What's the point of anything if we feel empty, angry, anxious, depressed, unsettled, distracted or our hearts are clenched? Who cares what we have, what we own, who we are with, or what we have accomplished?

     A teacher of mine once said, Charlie the only thing that really matters is how you feel inside. And no, he didn't mean that in the selfish way.

God, please help me let go of self-will, that I may align with Your will...