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.

The Path

Turning Over a New Leaf

I know I haven’t met you yet,

But I’m positive when I do,

We will greet each other like old friends.

I’ll extend my hand to you.

 

But until that future time comes,

I can only wish you well.

Cause the road you travel down

Is a solitary hell.

 

Littered with tears and pity,

Shame and sorrow at your side,

You keep trying the same old game again.

The Devil’s in your pride.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 So, keep walking down that path you made.

Walk it all alone.

Because you need to fully feel,

The existence you have sown.

 

But when you reach the point,

Of choosing life or death.

I hope you will reach out for help

With surrendered breath.

 

For though I walk another path

Your history rings true.

To the very path I used to walk,

Because I was once just like you.

5 Additional Ways for AAs to Stay Sane over the Holidays

Rudolph Speaker MeetingAs many of you know, a few weeks ago, I published five suggestions for ways to maintain sanity over the holiday season. A few of you wrote me letting me know I left out a few key important ideas. Yesterday, I found myself at the first of my holiday parties of the season, and I couldn’t agree with you more. I did leave some things out. So, without further ado, here are five additional, but none-the-less super important, suggestions for the holiday party season!

6. Work the steps: Okay, so I caught some grief from a few of you guys for not mentioning the steps in my first post. So… WORK THE STEPS! I often hear a member of the local community say that whenever a fellow comes back from a relapse, he always asks the once again newly sober man, “What step were you on when you relapsed?” According to the man, not a single person has been able to answer the question. I’m slow to believe absolutes, but I do think it is much harder to take a drink if one is actively engaged in stepwork. When I am engaged in the steps and meeting with my sponsor, I feel more strongly connected to the program.

7. Take a sober friend. Ugh, I cannot believe I forgot this one. First of all, friends are awesome. Secondly, sober friends are super awesome. One of my favorite Christmas pastimes is making fun of holiday party jackasses (mainly because it used to be me), but in order for this to occur, one needs a sober accomplice. I’ve tried relaying the shenanigans in narrative to people after the fact; it never translates.

Sober friends also supply a necessary buffer and additional accountability. My second holiday season in sobriety, I went to a huge Christmas party at a dance club in Houston. I honestly and truly thought I was prepared for the party. I had worked my steps I was living in a sober house. But once I was there, the mass consumption of alcohol became overwhelming. Luckily, I had taken a friend. After maybe 45 minutes, I told her I needed to leave. I thought, somehow, I was a failure for freaking out. But my friend made it easy to walk straight out the door. We ditched the high heels and ended up having a fun night of great laughs.

8. Watch your drink: There are two parts of this simple advice. The first part is especially key if the holiday party involves some sort of bartender. Over the years I have heard more than one story of a person ordering a Coke and receiving a rum and Coke, or an ice tea and getting a Long Island. Just order drinks that come in containers (water, Redbull) or else be sure you can watch the bartender pouring your drink.

Secondly, do not leave your drink unattended. Keep it in your hand. Its unfortunate circumstance when a person puts down his/her drink and accidently picks up someone else’s. Its an even worse circumstance when someone puts something in your drink. Don’t risk it. I know even if I have to pay for five waters in a night, my bar tab is still less than it was when I was drinking!

9. Check your motives: The Big Book says we cannot avoid places just because there might be alcohol, but that before we go, we should check out motives. Ask yourself the question, “Have I any good social, business, or personal reason for going to this place? Or am I expecting to steal a little vicarious pleasure from the atmosphere of such places… Be sure you are on solid spiritual ground before you start and that your motive in going is thoroughly good,” (101-102). I was just this morning talking about motives. It never once occurred to me in my drinking days to ever question my reasons for doing things before I actually did them. Its good practice, not just during the holiday season, but year round.

10. Tis the Season: Though I am not including them individually, I hasten to add some final little tidbits offered to me by some of my closest friends…

Be honest. This is a tough season. We always lose some people. If you are struggling, let it be known. You never know whom you might be helping.

Keep chocolate in the house. “He thought all alcoholics should constantly have chocolate available… many of us have noticed a tendency to eat sweets and found this practice beneficial,” (133-134). It’s in the Big Book. Look it up!

Finally, I was reminded of something important after my first post. My over consumption of alcohol was my problem and no one else’s. Most of the world drinks more or less responsibly. My recovery is an internal problem that stems from my mind, not an external problem that exists with Christmastime. Remember, we have a “Daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition,” (Big Book 85). So, stay in touch with your higher power, call another alcoholic, and go to a meeting. And as my friend would say, “I’ve done drunk Christmas and I’ve done sober Christmas. Sober Christmas is better.”

If you have anything you would like to add, please comment below or on Facebook.

Happy Holidays!

Ann G. Kroger.