Cannot 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.

Step Five: The Exact Nature of our Wrongs

I recently lead a meeting on the following topic, and was asked to turn the prompt into a short piece for a recovery blog. The following observations and inquiries are based on my first-hand experience and work with my own recovery through AA. While this is grounded in the 12 Steps and the approved literature, I am not attempting to amend any AA text or practices.

Insights into Step Five

By: Bailey Bunge

Exact Wrongs to Nature

Step 5 of Alcoholics Anonymous charges us to, “Admit to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” So what exactly is Step 5 asking us to do? In order to better understand this instruction, I referred to the definition of the word “nature.” According to www.merriam-webster.com, “nature” is defined in part, as it relates to this context as:

1a:  the inherent character or basic constitution of a person or thing: essence

b:  disposition, temperament

4:  the physical constitution or drives of an organism

Step 5 is asking us to understand the exact nature, the inherent character, the basic constitution, of our wrongs in order to accept, own, and eventually, correct them. There is a powerful difference between making a laundry list of transgressions or character defects and understanding what drives them.

Starting on page 55 of the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, we receive instruction that it is only through full disclosure, complete honesty, and absolute thoroughness that we will successfully attempt Step 5. We are being asked for much more than a mere tally sheet. When we truly search for the exact nature of our wrongs, we are gifted so much more than a checklist. We begin to understand our “destructive obsessions,” (Twelve and Twelve 57) which is the first step to repairing them. In this we begin to tear down the wall of isolation and set about becoming who God would have us be. “To those who have made progress in AA, it amounts to a clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to become what we could be. Therefore, our first practical move towards humility must consist of recognizing our deficiencies. No defect can be corrected unless we clearly see what it is.” (Twelve and Twelve 58) The inventory list we make in Step 4 is the recognition of our deficiencies. Understanding their exact nature helps us correct them. Here is an example:

Step 4 Inventory
Resentment: Cause: Affects: My Part
My husband We fight all the time Personal relationship Trying to control him

 

When we go back to look for our part and add column 4, we identify the character defect “controlling.” Now that we are armed with this bit of self-truth, the cause can move from “We fight all the time. He never does what I want him to,” to an understanding of the exact nature of this character defect. It might look more accurately like, “My trouble lies in trying to control him using manipulation, bribery, punishment, to coerce him into acting as I desire.” Understanding the function of our defects gives us the freedom to grow past them. Being aware of this behavior, we can work to amend it, as we move into a beautiful life, full of progress, not perfection.