Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Earlier this week, I was in conversation with one of my students about class presentations. She was telling me how little she liked getting up in front of people. I confided in her that I, too, hate standing up in front of people. She was surprised by my words because I am sure lectures seems to her, as it seems to me, a major component of my job.

IDr Jekyll and Mr Hyde have a ton of social anxiety. I have told this to many people over my lifetime, but it always seems to be discounted with a wave of the hand and a, “But you’re so outgoing.” But its true. Somewhere along the way, I think I just got good at faking it. In fact, I think alcoholics are good at faking all sorts of things: our lives, our feelings, our personalities.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. “Here is the fellow who has been puzzling you, especially in his lack of control. He does absurd, incredible, tragic things while drinking. He is a real Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (21).

Robert Louis Stevensons’ Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was publish in London in 1868. Dr. Jekyll (who for most of my life I thought was the bad guy because his name reminds me of jackal) is actually the good guy. As a character, Jekyll is well liked and successful. The problem is that there is a sort of stain on his soul- the kind of thing that makes him crave to do less than noble deeds. Jekyll fears that if he indulges this baser portion of his personality, someone will figure out. He will ruin his reputation. Thus, he creates a transformation potion. When he takes said elixir,  Dr. Jekyll becomes Mr. Hyde.

Unfortunately, as with life, after Jekyll takes the potion a few unforeseen consequences happen. First, Jekyll doesn’t realize the extent of the monster he would become- a man whose bad acts become increasingly more sinister up to and including murder. Second, Jekyll doesn’t anticipate that he would be unable to stop himself from changing. Initially, Jekyll cannot stop transforming due to an mental obsession on his part to be Hyde- a constant thinking followed by an eventual lack of willpower and an indulgence. But after a while, the transformations happen even when Jekyll doesn’t want them to, and even more importantly, without ever taking a single sip of the potion. By the end of the novel, the transformations are complete and involuntary. Knowing he will soon turn into Mr. Hyde permanently, Dr. Jekyll commits suicide.

I feel that recently I have become increasingly isolationist. I didn’t really intend for it to happen. My husband and I moved away from our homegroup and friends, and then we got married. Meetings turned from a jaunt across the street to a long drive, a need to make the time count by seeing friends and family, eating dinner, shopping, and suddenly my meeting becomes a day or a night out. And as I entered grad school, the nights out became less frequent. It became easier and more productive to stay home and work. It became easier and more comfortable.

I don’t think that the story of Jekyll and Hyde only refers to the more literary metaphor of a man who drinks and changes, becoming an uglier version on himself with greater frequency until he kills himself- though this is the reference the Big Book is clearly making. But I think this Jekyll and Hyde transformation can happen when we are not drinking too. I can see how someone can make the voluntary decision to stay home or to engage in character defects. At first its just an occasional thing but then the occasional becomes routine. Before we know it, its just who we are. Involuntary. The transformation is complete.

I think that is the real lesson of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I think in society we mostly talk about Jekyll and Hyde as if they are two people, but they’re not. Hyde was always a part of Jekyll’s being. Jekyll just stopped listening to his conscience. He stopped fighting the fight.

Why You Should Break Your Anonymity Too

Anonymity NursingLast week, I reopened the conversation about anonymity. For years now, I have written this blog, but then I took a few months off. When I came back, I received several inquiries and comments regarding my breaking of my anonymity. One AA informed me that behind my back there is a wave of AA disapproval. Another woman, in the nicest possible way, sent me a bunch of Internet links in case I was just ignorant.

So for the record, I would like to say I am neither belligerent, nor am I ignorant. Years and years ago, I read once in a book that people of faith often think atheists and agnostics do not really understand God, so if God were simply explained to them, the atheists and agnostics would come to believe. This book said nothing could be further from the truth- that because of the consequences of denying God is so heavy, atheists and agnostics actually think a lot about God.

That is how I feel about anonymity. To think that I have not thought about the lasting repercussions of breaking my anonymity is ridiculous. I understand on a visceral level the choice I have made and the consequences it has. I know some AAs disapprove. I know some members of my family disapprove. I know I am one Google search away from my employer, my professors, and even my students knowing I am an alcoholic. To think I do it because of my ego is literally one of the shallowest thoughts I have ever heard voiced. No one would put oneself on blast, under scrutiny from friends, family, normies, and AA alike for the sake of ego.

So, why, then, do I break my anonymity? I have chosen to break my anonymity not because anonymity as a tradition isn’t important; there is just something more important on the line. And it is the reason I think everyone should break his/her anonymity. I think it is the reason why you, the reader of this post, should break your anonymity.

Alcoholism and addiction is not well understood. One of the most honest lines in the Big Book is, “If a person has cancer all are sorry for him and no one is angry or hurt. But not so with the alcoholic illness, for with it there goes annihilation of all things worthwhile in life. It engulfs all whose lives touch the sufferer’s. It brings misunderstanding, fierce resentment…” (18).

This line is true. But it’s true because we let it be true. We allow the misunderstanding because we do not correct it. We are co-conspirators in the narrative because we do not change the dialogue.

With no other disease do those affected by it stand in the shadows. No one would ever attack the character of one who suffers from ALS or Parkinson’s. If someone has cancer and talks about his or her disease, remedy, and course of treatment, no one would call them prideful. Do those with Alzheimer’s accuse each other of selfish motives when advocating for reform and research? And yet, we alcoholics do that all the time. Why? I do not understand why we are so combative with each other.

Eighty years ago, one hundred people got together. They didn’t know how the book would be received. They didn’t know if the their idea would work. And they chose to leave their names off it. Fifteen years later, the group, for entirely different reasons and reflecting their culture of the 1950s, voted on the eleventh tradition.

Now it is 2016. Society and culture has once again changed. If in this information age, we choose not to inform, I believe we are doing a massive disservice the next generations of alcoholics and addicts. Instead of people being able to reach out and ask for help the way that anyone who is sick can and should ask for help, we are going to continue to perpetuate the current societal misunderstandings Bill wrote about in 1939. In meetings I often hear, “We are not bad people getting good. We are sick people getting well.” Then why do we act as if we are bad in public?

According to the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence,

“17.6 million people, or one in every 12 adults, suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence along with several million more who engage in risky, binge drinking patterns that could lead to alcohol problems…More than half of all adults have a family history of alcoholism or problem drinking, and more than 7 million children live in a household where at least one parent is dependent on or has abused alcohol…

  • 88,000 deaths are annually attributed to excessive alcohol use
  • Alcoholism is the 3rd leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the nation

17.6 Million.

I am an alcoholic, yes, but I am a sober alcoholic. That only happened because one day I was so beaten down that the stigma didn’t matter anymore. But I wonder how many people never get past the stigma and die as a consequence. I wonder what would happened if we if we lowered the threshold of shame. I wondered if people stopped whispering and instead talked openly, like we do about tobacco addiction, if we encouraged health rather than shaming weakness, if the entire discourse would not be changed.

I had a friend tell me that she thought about coming out to her church. Her stepfather inquired as to her motive, was it not to be the one token alcoholic in the bunch? Was she not motivated by pride? It pained me when she relayed this story. I love my friend, and I like and respect her stepfather. It makes me uncomfortable to disagree with him. But yes, exactly! Just because she is 1, doesn’t mean she is the only 1. I bet there another 5 or 10 or 200 others who also haven’t come out at that church. She isn’t “the 1.” She just might be the first 1.

And I hope she is. I hope we all are.

I believe in AA. I owe it my life. But I also owe it to the future to not walk in shame.

We can regain anonymity when we are just one in 17.6 million people openly engaging in the conversation about alcoholism. It is just when we are the 1 that people notice us.

 

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 Facebook Resentment

Ann G. Kroger Celebrate Pride If I want to go trolling for a resentment, I spend some time on Facebook. Acquaintances, old high school friends, people I met that time at that place and then never spoke to again, people I assumed were of sound mind when I sent/ accepted the “friend request” will eventually post something that makes me sit up a little straighter, cock my head to one side, and query to myself, “Really?” I think this is where not talking about outside matters in meetings really hinders my ability to discern the average AA crazy from the absolutely-out-of-their- f-ing-gourd crazy.

But I digress. I was mildly minding my own business, voyeuristically peeking in on other people’s worlds last week on Facebook, when I saw a friend had posted a comment about another anonymous person. The diatribe, and a diatribe it was, was about how the anonymous guy had cried while oversharing in a meeting thus making my friend uncomfortable. He posted that one is always supposed to share in generalities in meetings, not specifics. Now, there were many parts of this comment that infuriated me (besides the fact that I totally believe in specific sharing, cause I need to how someone can lose a job, lose a man, get a promotion, get a man, and still not drink).

But what most irritated me was the judgement. By and large, we are a room of thieves, liars, cheaters, brawlers, users, abusers, instigators, runners, petty crooks, and substantial crooks. We done things that would make people cringe. Then we sober up a few years and suddenly, an overshare causes us to rise from the gutter and to declare our stance regarding AA sharing etiquette. I mean really, who was this guy, a person in recovery, to judge another person in recovery? Patience and tolerance is our f-ing code or did he miss that part?! Harrumph with an arm crossed, foot stamp!

And then a new thought occurred to me, a second thought, elusive at first but coming into ever sharper focus. I sat back. I don’t like the comment of a person in recovery as he commented about the share of another person in recovery? Wait a minute… yes, no, yes, wait… I, a person in recovery, is judging the share of another person in recovery as he judges the share of another person in recovery.

And then I had one of those moments of quiet.

 

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Next week is the AA International Convention in Atlanta. I’ll be there. If you are going, give a shout out.

Will Write for Food

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