And Just Like That, Poof! They’re Gone

Written by: Kristen H.

Green Eyed Monster

“We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.”

And just like that, poof! They’re gone. Never to rear their ugly heads again. All my character defects, the flaws in my soul, the bad habits and polluted thinking I’ve picked up along the walkway of life, they’re gone! Because my Higher Power removed them. And I just have to do my best to live these new basic principles daily, and I won’t ever have to worry about my ugly insides coming out.

That’s what I thought.

This week, though, I’ve discovered that I was wrong. Because here I am struggling with jealousy. Big time. For days on end, even after praying about it. It is making me think negative thoughts. It is making me utter snarky comments. Most of all, I don’t like the way it makes me feel inside – like a dark twisting in my gut. It’s kind of the same feeling I had when I was getting ready to do my fifth step with my sponsor, not too long ago. I remember the word FEAR coming up a lot. This fear and insecurity is what has made the ugly green monster come out now.

About half way through my fifth step my sponsor told me, “You keep comparing yourself to other people and thinking you don’t measure up. But you’re measuring their OUTsides to your INsides. That’s like apples and oranges.”

And it seems that’s what I’m doing now, too.

This jealousy came about when my husband started running as a way to stay off cigarettes. I have nothing against running. I run! But he was a track star in high school, so running comes naturally to him and he enjoys it. He found some other people who feel the same way. Turns out, there’s a local Running Club. Cool, right? Yeah! I’m excited for him. Until I see a picture of their morning run group and there’s 2 girls in it. (Why did I think this running group was all male?) All of a sudden, my insecurities have come back and I am judging these women based on a photo.

“She’s blonde. I wish I were blonde.” … “She has a great figure. Why can’t I have that figure?”

I have to get over this. I am a supportive wife.

I start with the serenity prayer, and begin talking this over with my Higher Power. I realize that I am not going to change the fact that he runs with the club or the way these females look. What can I change? Me. I realize the problem is within ME. I read some spiritual literature and am reminded that I am just the way I am, by design…. That my Higher Power made me, and I should be proud of that. There is nothing wrong with me! My disease tells me I’m not good enough. But I don’t believe it today… because I don’t have to live like that anymore.

And, just like that, the jealousy gets put back up on the shelf with the other defects where I guess it has been residing all this time.

 

The Impact of Grammar on Recovery

The Gift of DesperationSometimes, my mind wanders during a meeting into a whole other area of thought. This happened recently in a meeting about resting on one’s laurels. I have been hearing this topic a lot lately, and inevitably someone always says, “I got the gift of desperation.” I think I ponder individual words on a level most people do not. I presume it is what makes me a great English teacher, if at times a somewhat irritating friend and wife. (What do you mean I am mostly kind-hearted!??) I digress.

In the past, when confronted with the “gift of desperation,” I have been caught up with the word “gift” and all that connotes. But today a new thought occurred to me as I lost track of the meeting, and that was the word “got,” more specifically, about the simple past tense of the word “got.”

English is an odd language. It stands out form other languages because its root is the Germanic language. When German warriors invaded England in the 7th century, they brought with them their language. Four hundred years later, Britain was attacked and held by a section of France called Normandy. Consequently, the English language went through a radicalization process changing largely into what might be considered a French/German hybrid or a Latin/German hybrid since French was originally an offshoot of Latin. The grammar system by which English is based reflects this Latin influence.

English has a variety of tenses that all define or denote a different place in time in which an action, the verb, takes place. Did something happen in the past? Did something happen in the past and finished before another thing in the past happened? Or did it happen in the past and is still happening today? It is very precise. And maybe exactly because of this precision, in conjunction with the lack of grammar taught in schools today, these tenses have fallen out of favor. People do not know how to use them, or if they do use them in academic or business environments, they do not use them in common speaking. Instead, people tend to fall back on the so-called “simple” tenses, favoring context to convey time.

This is not unheard of in other languages. In fact, many non-Latin influenced languages have much simpler forms of verb tenses. Some languages, Mandarin being the most widely spoken, have no tenses at all.

And then all this thought reminded me of a Ted Talk I heard about the philosophical, economic, and medical consequences of tenses on cultures.

Keith Chen speaks that cultures with future tenses allow people to distance themselves from the future, unlike the cultures who do not differentiate the present from the future. Subconsciously, languages that differentiate the future have cultures that save less money and have less impulse control because they seem unaffected by the actions of today, but rather set off into the distant future.

I cannot help but wonder how language we use in recovery affects our recovery. We speak of a daily reprieve and a “spiritual bank” from which to draw, but Chen might argue we do not fully and consciously understand how the repercussions of our past acts, and the acts we perform today, have on our future.

“I got the gift of desperation.” Grammatically, it would mean that I got it, but no longer have it. Maybe, a better way by which to speak of it would be the present perfect progressive tense indicating an action continuing from the past into the present and possible into the future. “I have been receiving the gift of desperation.” Not an over and done task, but a continuing act.

Or maybe better yet, no tenses at all. Yesterday, I have the gift of desperation. Today, I have the gift of desperation. Tomorrow, I have the gift of desperation.

Yesterday, I recover. Today, I recover. Tomorrow, I recover.

Differentiate the True from the False

People Pleaser

It is pretty rare whenever I am in a meeting and the topic is not one I have already heard a hundred times. I am not disparaging the tried and true meeting topics; they’re classic for a reason, but whenever I hear a new one, my ears perk up just a little bit. I listen closer and think a little harder. Recently, I was in one of these meetings. The topic was, “Things people told you about yourself, things that were not true, that you believed.”

Many moons ago, when I lived in Boston, I had a friend who was studying criminal justice. This required her to take a variety of psychology and sociology classes, the kind of classes that makes one feel like they are experts in topics in which they really have zero understanding. One night we were talking, and in one of those moments of clarity, I said to her, “I think I am an alcoholic.”

My friend looked at me quizzically, paused, and in all earnestness said, “No, you are just a problem drinker.”

“Aha!” I thought, “I am a problem drinker!” And although deep down I knew it was not true, I clung to that idea for the next several years of my life.

Problem drinker… I don’t even know what that means.

The absurdity of the thing is, I always believed other people’s interpretations of me, good and bad. When I was told I didn’t have standards, when I was told that a degree in English was a waste of money, when I was told I wasn’t pretty because I weighed too much… all that. I believed all that. And a part of me still does.

“… [Alcoholics] cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false,” (Big Book xxviii).

I do not know why we are so bound to believe other people’s interpretations of ourselves, even over our own instinctual understanding of our own natures.

I have another memory, and that is the memory of when I first started this blog. I did not know what I was going to write about or how the blog would manifest. I just knew I needed to do it. I began to trust my own instinct rather than the words of others. For the first time in my life, I felt I was walking down the right path. I felt aligned and good. I felt like I was doing exactly what I was always meant to be doing.

The steps and recovery, the honesty I have with the women in my life, the ability to process, to meditate, to think, and to slow down have given me the ability to begin the process of knowing my true self- not the self that other people would like to believe I am, nor the person I wish I was, but my actual self.

And as awkward as it may be to admit… it’s been a real pleasure getting to know her.

Resting on One’s Laurels

Resting on One's LaurelsA few months ago, I was walking on the beautiful beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama, with my husband. We had had a long day playing and decided to take a leisurely stroll as the sun began to set. All around us, giggling children ran around with buckets trying to catch hermit crabs. It was an idealistic moment, one of those times each year that fortifies one until one can get back to the sound and the feel of the ocean or the mountains or the plains.

As we walked, Bob occasionally stopped and looked out towards the ocean. He is a person prone to quiet contemplation, so I choose not to disturb him. But each time he paused, it forced me to pause. Amid our romantic and serene surroundings, I found myself torn between stopping for him and walking on for me. I started to become agitated. So, walk on I did. After a few minutes, I looked back. The sun had set and night had closed in on the beach. I had lost my love.

It occurred to me that night that relationships in recovery are often like that fateful walk on the beach. Two people may meet at the same place. They might start walking in the same direction at the same pace, but eventually, one of them is going to take a pause. Maybe life has become too busy or meetings no longer hold the same appeal. Maybe one of the partners has disengaged from their sponsor.

When that happens, when one lags behind spiritually, the other partner is then forced into making a decision. Either the partner also lags, or else they move forward, going out to meetings, staying accountable to their recovery, and risking outgrowing their partner.

I don’t really have an answer. What I do know is “We feel a man is unthinking when he says that sobriety is enough” (Big Book 82), and “More sobriety brought about by the admission of alcoholism and by the attendance at a few meetings is a very good indeed, but it is bound to be a far cry from permanent sobriety and a contented, useful life… Nothing short of continuous action upon these as a way of life can bring the much-desired results” (Twelve and Twelve 39-40).

So, I ask of you, the readers. How do you traverse this minefield of relationshipal disasterness? How do you keep accountable to each other without being enmeshed in each other’s program? If water finds its own level, how do you keep in homeostasis?

If you have any thoughts on what works ( or what doesn’t work), we would love to hear your comments. You can post anonymously on WordPress, or you can email and I will copy and paste your comment onto the blog without your name. We look forward to hearing from you.

Truth Be Told…

Truth Be ToldI’m not an expert on AA history, but I’ve seen the movies and read some of the books. In the mid to late 1950s, Bill W. experimented with LSD. Bill originally sought a remedy for his depression. After a few treatments, though, he came to think that LSD may prove a valuable tool in creating spiritual experiences in people who had otherwise struggled to connect to a higher power.

In the fifties, LSD was still legal and Bill took his “treatments” in a hospital. Even so, in 1958, Bill W. resigned his position in New York over his position regarding LSD. He always maintained that it was scientific research and not a relapse. He would never pick up a new desire chip.

I think this is an awkward part of AAs collective history, a time we don’t often talk about. Bill’s use of LSD blurs the line of acceptable use of medication for psychiatric purposes. But that is not the point of this blog. Since there is no answer, I’d rather not engage in that particular discussion. As my friend reminded me, “To thine own self be true.”

What this reverie did spark in me though, was a curiosity regarding who Bill talked to before undergoing these experiments. Did he have friends who he confided in before acting? I wonder if any of Bill’s friends told him they thought LSD might not be a good idea, or if when these concerns were voiced, if Bill actually heard any of them. I wonder whether or not Bill would have undertaken his experiments into the psychedelic if Dr. Bob had still been alive. I wonder what Bob would have said? I struggle to think, as by all accounts he was the more sedate and rational of the two men, that Bob would have thought LSD was a good idea.

The Big Book says, “We must be entirely honest with somebody if we expect to live long or happily in this world,” (73-74). But I wonder if honesty is enough, if talking is enough, or if we also don’t need to listen.

I had a conversation a couple of nights ago with one of my good friends. It was about nothing of consequence, but as I finished, my friend politely and lovingly told me that she thought I was wrong. After she finished, it occurred to me that I had not really expected a contrary opinion. I had asked, of course, for advice, but I didn’t really expect to hear it. It gave me pause.

I think one of the misfortunes of AAs is with time we begin to think that we grow in sanity. When we hear people with thirty years speak in meetings, we are less apt to call them out than the man with thirty days. The book also tells us, “We will intuitively know how to handle situations which use to baffle is baffle us,” (84). We begin to trust this intuition, running less and less by other people first.

I am grateful that I have people in my life that love me enough to tell me when I am wrong or otherwise straying from the path. And if I ever try to rationalize the use of psychedelics in order to produce spiritual experiences, and if I cannot hear the craziness in my own words, I only hope I can still hear the sanity in theirs.