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Defeating the Mental Trap

Posted by Allison Fogarty
Allison Fogarty
Allison Fogarty is an interventionist, Registered Addiction Specialist intern an
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on Wednesday, 19 March 2014
in Drug Addiction 0 Comments

I'm sure that many of you can relate to coincidences like when you learn about a new word, you find that you hear it more, but when in reality it's just something new that has come into your awareness, it was really there all along.  This is of course something that happens to me often, but has certainly been my experience since I have been writing this blog, as it is now always in my awareness to look for opportunities for what to discuss next and they just keep popping into my life!

Working in the addiction field, and the job I have in particular, keeps me very focused but also very isolated.  Working in addiction also creates a sort of bubble, being that my clients are all trying to get out of their active addiction, my co-workers are all in recovery, and the doctors are addictionologists.  I had been in California for four or five years and didn’t realize that I was protecting myself in a way, by not branching out of my comfort zone.  So it wasn’t until about two years ago, that I started to go out to new places and interact with new people that have never struggled with an addiction.  (People that experience temporary stress instead of chronic anxiety are still a wonder to me!)

The benefit, however, of the bubble realization was that all of that prep work that I had been doing (working with a sponsor, doing the steps, going to multiple types of therapy to figure out the core issues as to why I was using inhalants, then working on those core issues) was in preparation for returning to the real world and all its challenges and this time having a more positive impact, on myself and on those around me, and it was time to use them!  The tools I have learned (especially emotional regulation, coping skills, and trigger identification) and the resources I have developed have been crucial in my relapse prevention, because life sure does throw me some curveballs and when I did come out of hiding, I found that some of my wreckage from my past was still there waiting for me.  I am definitely grateful that I was given the opportunity to have a second chance, to get to be the same person, but a better version.  By doing the footwork, it allows me to look at the same situations but have different reactions and therefore different outcomes than I would have in the past.

I feel that in order to be effective in communicating with people who are also struggling and/or looking for solutions or education, I need to write about things that truly affect me emotionally, because if what I'm writing doesn't induce some sort of feelings for me, how could it in someone else?  So full disclosure in the hopes that someone can relate and hopefully allowing me to be of service.

The reason that the ability to have different reactions that produce different and better outcomes is on my mind is due to some events that occurred in my week.  I felt discouraged this week for two reasons, and I feel like they have happened while I have volunteered to write this blog for a reason.  I am a person that falls victim to a certain type of mental trap, where your brain immediately jumps into negative thinking or disaster mode when you hear certain things that are not ideal.  In the treatment facilities I work with, we refer to it as addict brain.

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Tags: 10th tradition, 12 step, 12 step recovery, AA, abstinence, accurate self-appraisal, action program, action steps, addict, addiction, addiction help, addiction memoir, addiction recovery, Addiction Specialist, addictive behavior, addicts, affected, affirmations, Alcoholics Anonymous, answers, anxiety, anxiety and recovery, ask for help, Asking for help, attitude of gratitude, awareness, balance, being a loving mirror, being a loving person, being of service, Big Book, Caring for those who still suffer, co-addiction, co-occurring disorder, compassion, courage, dealing with a using loved one, depression, discomfort, drug abuse, drug addiction, emotional management, emotional maturity, emotional regulation, emotional sobriety, emotions, faith, family recovery, fear, first step, goal setting, goals, gratitude, gratitude journey, Guest Blogger, guilt, healing, HELPING OTHERS, higher self, inadequacy, inner satisfaction, intervention, inventory, letting go, Life Challenges, life on life's terms, literature, memoir, mental health, mindfulness, mindfulness and recovery, Motivation, My Story, openness, positive energy, program of recovery, recovery, recovery talk, relapse prevention, Resilience, right action, right intention, self care, Self Love, self-compassion, self-confidence, self-esteem, self-help, self-honesty, serenity, shame, sobriety, sponsor, stepwork, struggle, substance abuse, suffering, suffering addicts, Support, surrender, tenth tradition, thinking, thinking errors, Trying to save a Life, turn it over, twelve step recovery, twelve steps, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, twelve steps of aa, twelve traditions, twelve traditions of aa, why i used drugs
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An Alternate Path to Recovery

Posted by tbranston
tbranston
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on Tuesday, 31 December 2013
in Alcoholism 0 Comments

 

Sobriety is an interesting thing, especially as most people initially attempt to find recovery at a 12-step meeting. The focus of this article is to discuss a different way of staying sober that is outside the confines of AA or NA, or a traditional approach to recovery.

I used alcohol and drugs for a period of 10 years.  After significant social and health problems I was faced with a decision after being in a coma for nearly a month due to my drug use. My experience as a clinician is that everybody who makes a decision to quit using needs to find their own motivation to quit and remain chemical-free.  My motivation came from my grandmother when she said, “I was very concerned that you wouldn’t make it”.  This is significant to me because both of my grandparents survived Auschwitz.  They spent every day not knowing if they would be alive for the next 24 hours. My grandmother is my moral compass and I remember thinking that if she was able to find a way to stay alive for four years in horrific conditions, I could find a way to stay sober.

When I got sober my grandparents asked me to try 12-step meetings.  I attended for some time but I never resonated with the approach.  While some people find recovery through 12-step meetings, I think it’s important to remember that most popular doesn’t always mean most successful.

 

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Cravings Anonymous

Posted by glotao
glotao
Gloria Arenson, MFT, DCEP, specializes in using EFT and other Energy Psychology
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on Thursday, 01 August 2013
in Other Addictions 0 Comments

Many years ago when Overeaters Anonymous was in its infancy in Los Angeles, members of AA who had years of sobriety were invited to speak at OA meetings. They brought experience, strength and hope to a group struggling to get on its feet. Among the AA helpers was a wonderful woman named Dottie who was an inspiring speaker. Dottie was welcomed at the burgeoning OA meetings and became a friend and supporter of those wanting to be free of compulsive eating.

As the years went by and OA grew, other anonymous meetings sprang up for drug addicts and later spenders and sex addicts. Then word went around that Dottie was starting another new meeting that was different from all the rest. It was a meeting open to any and all people suffering from addictive or compulsive behaviors. No type of addiction was considered more serious than another. It was a meeting where all attendees were practicing the 12 steps.

Soon after this meeting got underway I moved away from Los Angeles so I never found out what happened to that group, but I never forgot it. We desperately need a new support system today that is like Dottie’s since we have become a society riddled with addictions and compulsions of all sorts. People switch from one to another but are never free of the cravings to feel good at all costs.

I recall Betty, the very first client I treated after I was licensed as an MFT. Betty was an overeating, drug-addicted alcoholic. She wanted me to help her stop her compulsive overeating. Then she met her husband, who was a drug dealer, and she dropped out of therapy. She eventually returned, having divorced her husband. She was not using drugs and was trying to stay off booze, but food was a constant battle.

I worked with Betty for quite a while as she tried to kick all three of her compulsions. She never managed to get rid of all three at the same time.  Finally she relocated to another city. I remember one of her letters in which she said that she went to an alcoholism counselor who told her, “I don’t care what you do, just DON”T DRINK!” She wrote that she stopped drinking and immediately gained 35 pounds!

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AA is a Cult! (Part 1)

Posted by The Easier Softer Way
The Easier Softer Way
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on Thursday, 04 July 2013
in Alcoholism 2 Comments

 

hat a cult really is, what it isn't, and basic characteristics of a cult. I found an interesting list that I am going to go through here...
Alcoholics Anonymous: A Cult?
"The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law."
This one is pretty self-explanatory: cult members listen to the leader and laws with complete faith. In a way, we do this in AA. We take the Twelve Steps, we abstain from drinking, and follow sponsor direction. However, this really doesn't fit AA at all. First, we have no central leader, despite arguments of Bill W. or Dr. Bob being our leaders. Our sponsors are also not our sole leaders. AA's Third Tradition states, "For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern." There are no leaders, just service positions. Although the use of the word "God" here may be cult-like, it is simply stating that your own Higher Power is your authority. More on this later...
Second, Alcoholics Anonymous does not require that we regard our sponsor, the founders, the Big Book, nor anything heard in meetings as absolute truth nor law. We are simply hearing the experiences of others. Although we are greatly encouraged to get sponsors, to work the steps, and to stay sober, none of these are laws or absolute truth. As the Second Traditions says, "The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking." Yes, that is a rule or "law," but this is really the only requirement for membership. There are many examples of going against the teachings given in AA. I don't have one sponsor. I have four men that I call regularly and we work together: a Buddhist teacher, a therapist (not mine), my original sponsor who is a Big Book thumper, and an old family friend with whom I have always been very close with. They all offer my different perspectives, and I am proud to not have just one sponsor. Also, I don't believe that alcoholism is a "disease." Yes, it may be inherited in the form of an addictive personality or anxiety. But I simply do not see the evidence that alcoholism is a disease. Finally, many consider me an atheist. I don't have a "Higher Power" other than the Three Jewels. I use the Buddhist teachings, the community, and my own Buddha-seed as my Higher Power. I believe that everything that people perceive as a Higher Power has a true scientific explanation. Just as there were times when stars and the wind were seen as Gods, I believe that science will advance to explain "energy" and the power of the AA rooms. These are just a few personal ways that I do not take the teachings of AA as absolute truth; there are many more examples in any random meeting.
Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
This characteristic really touches on what we previously discussed. The only requirement is to have a desire to stop drinking, and everything else is up to you. Yes, it is discouraged to be atheist, not have a sponsor, or not go to meetings. They are never punished but are certainly discouraged. However, I have found a group of fellow alcoholics that are interested in questioning the program like me. In this way, I am no longer discouraged, but actually encouraged to find my own truth.
Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
I couldn't help but laugh as I read this one. Yes, we meditate and pray, but definitely not in excess nor to suppress doubts. Used appropriately, meditation does the opposite of "surpress." It brings these doubts to our attention and helps us address them, however that may be. We use "mind-altering" practices to bring us into touch with the world, the present moment, and our emotions. However, most of us used mind-altering "practices" in excess before we got sober!
The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).
This one is pretty easy. We do have a Big Book and sponsors that tell us greatly how to act. It is full of many pieces of advice. However, neither of these are our leaders. Furthermore, we do not need permission for any of these things, nor take prescriptions. We are only given suggestions and the experience of others. Nobody rules our decisions like these.
The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).
This is a classic characteristic of a cult. Cults most often claim to be chosen ones. In Alcoholics Anonymous, there is no such claim. Furthermore, we do not believe that any leader is a Messiah. The founders were simply alcoholics who found a way that worked for them. Our sponsors are simply people who would like to share their experience with us. Nobody is hoping to save humanity, just to help other alcoholics.
The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
This is the first one on the list that I came across that my first thought was that this is actually true. My biased mind searched to find a way this was not true for AA, but I really think it is. In AA meetings we hear the word "normies" or "normal people" all too frequently. Although AA does encourage us to become a part of society, there is a huge undertone of this us-versus-them mentality. It is not horribly negative as with most cults; it has more to do with sticking with those that are sober.
Obviously when we get sober it is healthier to spend time with other sober people. Even as sobriety progresses, it is often easier to be friends with like-minded people. However helpful this may be, it is exactly what this characteristic is talking about.
The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).
This one is simple. AA does not have a leader.
The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members' participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).
This is ABSOLUTELY not the case in Alcoholics Anonymous. Alcoholics Anonymous is pretty close to the opposite in this regard. AA teaches us to watch all of our actions very carefully. We hear many times about the importance of rigorous honesty; we cannot tell white lies nor lie by omission. The means do not justify any ends. Our means must be loving and kind. We absolutely are not performing negative, hurtful actions. In fact, we begin behaving far better than before we got sober.
The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
Again, AA has no leader! There is no essential part of the program that is inducing shame or guilt. My personal experience is that the group induces feelings of hope in order to influence people, and it is often done through peer pressure and (sometimes subtle) forms of persuasion. The room does influence the newcomer greatly. Giving the newcomer experience, strength, and hope is a way to influence him or her. We certainly don't encourage guilt or shame. As the 9th Step Promises states, "We no longer regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it." Alcoholics Anonymous helps us to come to terms with our past, leaving shame and guilt behind. Furthermore, it is often done through peer pressure outside of meetings. There are three points here: AA has no leader, AA does not induce shame or guilt, and AA does in fact influence members via peer pressure.
Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.
First of all, we are neither subservient to the leader nor the group. However, we do sometimes have to cut ties with family and friends, especially while newly sober. We must take care of ourselves first, and this sometimes involves spending time with fellow sober alcoholics. When we cut ties with friends, we must be mindful of the fact that many of our friends are often sick alcoholics and addicts. This cutting of ties is extremely healthy, and is not obscenely hurtful and irrational as is done in cults. We also do radically alter our goals and activities we had. Again, this is a good thing, as we are no longer drinking and driving, and are now riding our bikes to AA meetings. My opinion on this one is that AA pretty much fits this characteristic (with the exception of the subservience to the leader part), and I am grateful for these things!
The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
This does not apply to AA. We are not preoccupied with bringing in new members. Alcoholics Anonymous does not promote in any way, nor push people to join. Most often, we wait until somebody asks us for help. Our main preoccupation is on helping the new members. Unlike many cults, AA does not greatly benefit from more members financially.
The group is preoccupied with making money.
This is obviously not applicable. The Seventh Tradition reminds us to be self-supporting. The chapter on the Seventh Tradition in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions reminds us of times in the past when AA was offered hundreds of thousands of dollars and declined it. Alcoholics Anonymous does not want a lot of money, so they can avoid the problem of finances. Groups are self supporting, and do not need more money.
Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
Alcoholics Anonymous does not expect we devote any crazy amount of time (although a newcomer may disagree!). Even with those who recommend 90 meetings in 90 days, AA does not demand very much time. We attend meetings that are an hour or two, do stepwork, and help others. Otherwise, this AA does not at all expect us to devote a lot of time, and certainly not "inordinate amounts of time."
Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
This one is, in my opinion, mostly true. As alcoholics, we are most certainly encouraged to socialize with other sober alcoholics. As far as living situations go, we are often encouraged to live with other sober people. However, neither of these suggestions actually appear in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. This is one characteristic that I feel AA definitely has to some degree, and again I am grateful for this.
I can't keep track of how many times I have heard this in my sobriety (and before). I hear this all the time from friends and often newcomers. My go-to defense is that, unlike a cult, AA has no central leader that we all worship. After hearing somebody say this recently outside a meeting, I decided to do a little research. I found a lot of information about what a cult really is, what it isn't, and basic characteristics of a cult. I found an interesting list that I am going to go through here...
Alcoholics Anonymous: A Cult?
"The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law."
This one is pretty self-explanatory: cult members listen to the leader and laws with complete faith. In a way, we do this in AA. We take the Twelve Steps, we abstain from drinking, and follow sponsor direction. However, this really doesn't fit AA at all. First, we have no central leader, despite arguments of Bill W. or Dr. Bob being our leaders. Our sponsors are also not our sole leaders. AA's Third Tradition states, "For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern." There are no leaders, just service positions. Although the use of the word "God" here may be cult-like, it is simply stating that your own Higher Power is your authority. More on this later...
Second, Alcoholics Anonymous does not require that we regard our sponsor, the founders, the Big Book, nor anything heard in meetings as absolute truth nor law. We are simply hearing the experiences of others. Although we are greatly encouraged to get sponsors, to work the steps, and to stay sober, none of these are laws or absolute truth. As the Second Traditions says, "The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking." Yes, that is a rule or "law," but this is really the only requirement for membership. There are many examples of going against the teachings given in AA. I don't have one sponsor. I have four men that I call regularly and we work together: a Buddhist teacher, a therapist (not mine), my original sponsor who is a Big Book thumper, and an old family friend with whom I have always been very close with. They all offer my different perspectives, and I am proud to not have just one sponsor. Also, I don't believe that alcoholism is a "disease." Yes, it may be inherited in the form of an addictive personality or anxiety. But I simply do not see the evidence that alcoholism is a disease. Finally, many consider me an atheist. I don't have a "Higher Power" other than the Three Jewels. I use the Buddhist teachings, the community, and my own Buddha-seed as my Higher Power. I believe that everything that people perceive as a Higher Power has a true scientific explanation. Just as there were times when stars and the wind were seen as Gods, I believe that science will advance to explain "energy" and the power of the AA rooms. These are just a few personal ways that I do not take the teachings of AA as absolute truth; there are many more examples in any random meeting.
Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
This characteristic really touches on what we previously discussed. The only requirement is to have a desire to stop drinking, and everything else is up to you. Yes, it is discouraged to be atheist, not have a sponsor, or not go to meetings. They are never punished but are certainly discouraged. However, I have found a group of fellow alcoholics that are interested in questioning the program like me. In this way, I am no longer discouraged, but actually encouraged to find my own truth.
Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
I couldn't help but laugh as I read this one. Yes, we meditate and pray, but definitely not in excess nor to suppress doubts. Used appropriately, meditation does the opposite of "surpress." It brings these doubts to our attention and helps us address them, however that may be. We use "mind-altering" practices to bring us into touch with the world, the present moment, and our emotions. However, most of us used mind-altering "practices" in excess before we got sober!
The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).
This one is pretty easy. We do have a Big Book and sponsors that tell us greatly how to act. It is full of many pieces of advice. However, neither of these are our leaders. Furthermore, we do not need permission for any of these things, nor take prescriptions. We are only given suggestions and the experience of others. Nobody rules our decisions like these.
The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).
This is a classic characteristic of a cult. Cults most often claim to be chosen ones. In Alcoholics Anonymous, there is no such claim. Furthermore, we do not believe that any leader is a Messiah. The founders were simply alcoholics who found a way that worked for them. Our sponsors are simply people who would like to share their experience with us. Nobody is hoping to save humanity, just to help other alcoholics.
The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
This is the first one on the list that I came across that my first thought was that this is actually true. My biased mind searched to find a way this was not true for AA, but I really think it is. In AA meetings we hear the word "normies" or "normal people" all too frequently. Although AA does encourage us to become a part of society, there is a huge undertone of this us-versus-them mentality. It is not horribly negative as with most cults; it has more to do with sticking with those that are sober.
Obviously when we get sober it is healthier to spend time with other sober people. Even as sobriety progresses, it is often easier to be friends with like-minded people. However helpful this may be, it is exactly what this characteristic is talking about.
The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).
This one is simple. AA does not have a leader.
The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members' participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).
This is ABSOLUTELY not the case in Alcoholics Anonymous. Alcoholics Anonymous is pretty close to the opposite in this regard. AA teaches us to watch all of our actions very carefully. We hear many times about the importance of rigorous honesty; we cannot tell white lies nor lie by omission. The means do not justify any ends. Our means must be loving and kind. We absolutely are not performing negative, hurtful actions. In fact, we begin behaving far better than before we got sober.
The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
Again, AA has no leader! There is no essential part of the program that is inducing shame or guilt. My personal experience is that the group induces feelings of hope in order to influence people, and it is often done through peer pressure and (sometimes subtle) forms of persuasion. The room does influence the newcomer greatly. Giving the newcomer experience, strength, and hope is a way to influence him or her. We certainly don't encourage guilt or shame. As the 9th Step Promises states, "We no longer regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it." Alcoholics Anonymous helps us to come to terms with our past, leaving shame and guilt behind. Furthermore, it is often done through peer pressure outside of meetings. There are three points here: AA has no leader, AA does not induce shame or guilt, and AA does in fact influence members via peer pressure.
Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.
First of all, we are neither subservient to the leader nor the group. However, we do sometimes have to cut ties with family and friends, especially while newly sober. We must take care of ourselves first, and this sometimes involves spending time with fellow sober alcoholics. When we cut ties with friends, we must be mindful of the fact that many of our friends are often sick alcoholics and addicts. This cutting of ties is extremely healthy, and is not obscenely hurtful and irrational as is done in cults. We also do radically alter our goals and activities we had. Again, this is a good thing, as we are no longer drinking and driving, and are now riding our bikes to AA meetings. My opinion on this one is that AA pretty much fits this characteristic (with the exception of the subservience to the leader part), and I am grateful for these things!
The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
This does not apply to AA. We are not preoccupied with bringing in new members. Alcoholics Anonymous does not promote in any way, nor push people to join. Most often, we wait until somebody asks us for help. Our main preoccupation is on helping the new members. Unlike many cults, AA does not greatly benefit from more members financially.
The group is preoccupied with making money.
This is obviously not applicable. The Seventh Tradition reminds us to be self-supporting. The chapter on the Seventh Tradition in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions reminds us of times in the past when AA was offered hundreds of thousands of dollars and declined it. Alcoholics Anonymous does not want a lot of money, so they can avoid the problem of finances. Groups are self supporting, and do not need more money.
Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
Alcoholics Anonymous does not expect we devote any crazy amount of time (although a newcomer may disagree!). Even with those who recommend 90 meetings in 90 days, AA does not demand very much time. We attend meetings that are an hour or two, do stepwork, and help others. Otherwise, this AA does not at all expect us to devote a lot of time, and certainly not "inordinate amounts of time."
Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
This one is, in my opinion, mostly true. As alcoholics, we are most certainly encouraged to socialize with other sober alcoholics. As far as living situations go, we are often encouraged to live with other sober people. However, neither of these suggestions actually appear in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. This is one characteristic that I feel AA definitely has to some degree, and again I am grateful for this.
The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.
Cult members fear leaving a group for other members may come after them or their family trying to cause pain. This certainly does not happen in Alcoholics Anonymous. Also, loyal members know there is life outside the group. AA is not our entire lives; it is simply a place and program where we can learn to help ourselves and others out in the real world. Some people call AA a gas station for refueling our spirituality.
In conclusion, it is pretty obvious AA is not a cult. Claims that AA is a cult are most often from those that don't try the program and who are resentful toward it. Reading pieces about how AA is a cult, I find that I often disagree with the points made. AA holds close to none of the characteristics of a cult. In our next piece, we will discuss how our Alcoholism is more cult-like.
This list of qualities of a cult can be found at http://www.csj.org/infoserv_cult101/checklis.htm. Thank you for allowing us to use this information.

 

 

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Step Two: Hope and The Third Noble Truth

Posted by The Easier Softer Way
The Easier Softer Way
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on Friday, 31 May 2013
in Alcoholism 0 Comments

The Second Step of Alcoholics Anonymous states, "Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." The principle behind Step Two is hope. The 2nd Step is also closely related to the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, especially the Third Noble Truth.

Step Two and Hope

In Step One, we admit powerlessness over drugs and alcohol. We concede to our innermost selves that we are addicts, and practice rigorous self-honesty. In Step Two, we essentially do the opposite. We are offered hope for a seemingly hopeless state. The phrase, "Came to believe" tells us that our faith does not always happen instantly. It takes time. We slowly open our minds and hearts to see what the Twelve Steps have to offer us. As we know we are powerless over things and our lives are unmanageable, we are being offered a way to live a life manageable by a power greater than ourselves.

Step Two not only gives us hope in terms of a power greater than ourselves. In the Second Step, we are offered hope in a more general sense. We feel quite hopeless and as if there is nothing that will help us. Step Two is the door that once we begin to open, we are presented with a beautiful path of work toward a joyous and free life.

Step Two and the Third Noble Truth

In the First Step, we have our limits brought to light, and are practicing Right View. We recognize the first two Noble Truths of suffering and the causes of our suffering, which are our addiction and own powerlessness. In Step Two, we are presented with the reality of the Third Noble Truth: that the cessation of this suffering is possible. Just as the Second Step is beginning to open the door to the rest of the steps, the Third Noble Truth leads us into the Fourth Noble Truth of the Noble Eightfold Path.

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Amending Our Behavior

Posted by The Easier Softer Way
The Easier Softer Way
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on Saturday, 11 May 2013
in Alcoholism 0 Comments

The Ninth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous suggests that we make amends to those we have harmed.  We make direct amends wherever possible, focusing on the exact nature of our wrongs.  We take accountability for our actions.  However, there is far more to amends than just making a direct amends.

Living amends is the practice of changing our behavior.  We must not just rely on direct amends to change our lives.  The essence of the ninth step and amends is to amend our behavior.  If we make direct amends, but continue behaving in that way, then we really aren't amending anything at all!

The word amend means to improve upon or to make better.  Knowing this, we recognize that making amends has to do with changing our behavior.  When we go through the 6th and 7th Steps, we become willing to let our character defects go.  For alcoholics and addicts, our character defects have often been driving our actions for a period of time.  When we become willing to and humbly ask our Higher Power to remove these defects, we must also take action.  God can move mountains, but we must bring shovels!

Amending our behavior is simple, but not easy.  We must look at where our behaviors are harming us and others.  Recognizing these behaviors, we must act in the opposite way.  For example, if we are asking to be freed of selfishness, we must act selflessly.  Taking the action, we leave the rest up to our Higher Power.  When we make direct amends to somebody, we must follow it up by behaving in a new way.

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Working a Personal Program

Posted by The Easier Softer Way
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Each one of us works our own individual program.  In twelve-step programs we are given many suggestions, but there is only one requirement: the desire to stop drinking.  Attending meetings or speaking with our fellows, we see how differently each of us works our program.  It is a beautiful thing that we are encouraged to work the program how it works for us, and there are always people more experienced than us who have different experiences to offer.  The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says on page 29, "Each individual, in the personal stories, describes in his own language and from his own point of view the way he established his relationship with God."

Our Own Higher Power

In my personal experience, the ability to choose your own Higher Power is one of the greatest examples of people working their own programs.  I have met people of all faiths and traditions in the rooms: Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan, Atheist, and simply spiritual.  Regardless of your spiritual/religious beliefs, there is a place for you in twelve-step programs.

Although Alcoholics Anonymous was founded by Christians and on many Christian principles, it was created with an expressed intention to work for people of all belief systems.  I practice Buddhism myself.  My sense of a "Higher Power" or "God" is very different than a lot of my fellows.  I choose to utilize the Dharma as my Higher Power.  Rather than a supernatural or ethereal force or figure, I use the path of Buddhism as my Higher Power.  It works well for me, for I am able to turn my will and my life over to it.  I am able to pray and meditate, be grateful for my Higher Power, and not fully understand my Higher Power.

Whatever your beliefs are, the principles are the same: trust in God, pray, meditate, turn your will and life over.  I have met many atheists in my time sober, and have found the principles also apply there.  In Buddhism, there is the teaching that we all have seeds within us; we have seeds of doubt, anger, love, fear, acceptance, etc.  When we take action, we are watering these seeds within us.  Being of service waters the seed of compassion, love, etc.  Punching somebody waters the seed of anger, hatred, etc.  Speaking with atheists, I have heard a very similar account of things.  Even though they do not believe in a greater deity, they do believe they have a better person within them.  I see atheists in my home group be of service, share eloquently, relate to others, and be wonderful members of our fellowship.

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Protected : Seeking Outside Help

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Protected : Relationships in Sobriety

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Protected : What is a "Spiritual Experience?"

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WHY I BECAME A SOBER COACH

Posted by PattyPowers
PattyPowers
Patty Powers is a sober coach and writer. She was featured on the A&E mini serie
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on Thursday, 31 May 2012
in Alcoholism 2 Comments

If I’m to be honest answering this question, there will be no quick way through it. I could say I became a sober coach because I was tired of going to bed at 6am and sick of having to shout over loud music to be heard  - but that’s only part of it.

When I got clean in 1988, I placed all bets on my writing. This meant that instead of taking a job that would have career advancement, I stuck with freelance work, doing anything that could finance large chunks of uninterrupted writing time. I came up during the late 70s and 80s among a scene of underground artists, musicians, and filmmakers, many of whom went on to mainstream success. After I got clean, I became the go-to girl for anyone from my previous life wanting to get off drugs. This lead to my first coaching jobs inside the entertainment industry. The calls were so random that I never considered it a real employment source. In between coaching gigs, I continued to take on whatever work paid the bills. Coaching and sober companion work felt like the right fit but I never gave it much thought as a career. At the time it was controversial and renegade.


As the years passed, I continued to write and perform. Although my work was being published and optioned, I still hadn’t made it through the “big doors". It killed me to watch my friends’ lives successfully moving forward while mine seemed, at least outwardly, frozen in time. What was i doing wrong?  My moment of clarity came at fifteen years clean. It occurred to me that I had never stopped directing my romantic and financial affairs and those two areas were not changing. I needed to let go (as they say in 12 step programs) but I didn’t know how. I definitely couldn’t think my way into a new life. I suppose I needed a spiritual experience but being an atheist this was difficult to imagine.

Right as my screenplay was gaining momentum and I was being flown back and forth across the country, the writers’ strike happened. Out of money, I went back to working in bars. The loud music and crazy hours were killing me. Like my final days with drugs, I was absolutely miserable and hopeless. At seventeen years clean, I was back at square one. Then the most amazing thing happened - I ran out of ideas on how to run my life. I was having tea with an old friend from the music industry when I asked him “You know me really well – what do you think I should do for a living?” It didn’t take a minute before he said, “You’d be perfect as a sober companion.”  I had no idea that sober coaching had come into its own as a profession. The renegade rock and roll days had paved the way and now treatment facilities, therapists, and psychiatrists were seeing positive results from setting up clients with sober companions. My friend suggested I contact a couple LA friends to see if anyone had leads.

The stars aligned and within 24 hours I had my first client outside of the entertainment industry. What was interesting to me was how everything I’d ever learnt in my life came into play - not just my personal experience in recovery but the information I’d amassed on nutrition, exercise, meditation, dealing with anxiety, insomnia, and depression. Every aspect of my life had prepared me to do this work.

The real test came on day three when my client’s prominent psychotherapist called for an update. Until then I had been working intuitively and unlike managers, agents, and the people I was used to dealing with, the person on the other end of the phone was skilled in mental health work. If I was a fraud she was going to call me out. Nervous, I took a deep breath and told her honestly what I saw and what I was working on with the client. The phone went silent and my stomach flipped. “I have been working with ___ for three years and you nailed every single item on my list”. His words confirmed that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

For me, falling into coaching was a spiritual experience. When I finally “let go” sober coaching came into my life. I loved it and had great results with clients. From that point on, doors kept opening. One day I got a call from the producers of Intervention about a new mini-series they were casting. Over night, this semi-secret career of mine became very public.

The television series shifted the direction of my life yet again. I received many heartbreaking emails from addict viewers who were without financial resources for treatment. I decided to set up a website and share freely what I do with clients. Currently I’m in the process of writing several books on recovery. What started as a part-time job to finance my writing has become the subject of my writing. No one could be more surprised by this than me.


To read what I do with clients as a sober coach, visit http://pattypowersnyc.com/sobercoac/

 

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What has happened to our Fellowship?

Posted by robbkelly
robbkelly
Sober coach and addiction consultant
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on Thursday, 01 December 2011
in Alcoholism 3 Comments

Simplicity vs. Laziness

Posted by FrothyJay
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on Wednesday, 13 July 2011
in Alcoholism 0 Comments

At what point does Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS) become a subtle form of laziness? Do we really believe that the years spent living on self-will and all the attendant behaviors we've learned and damage we left will be "simply" fixed? Writing your fourth step is not simple-- it requires guidance, patience, and focus. Anyone can do it, but the endeavor should not be dismissed as easy. Our ninth step amends are ususally delicate interactions that require advance planning and rehearsal. Not simple, but achievable. 

I see "keep it simple" as used far too casually, often times in response to a question or issue that requires a bit of thought. Yes, there may be no right or wrong answer, but that does not mean that as recovered alcoholics we should not be spending time with the idea. Taking on intellectually-challenging concepts are a form of spiritual growth, no?

I do not tell my sponsees that it is a simple program. I tell them there is work to do to achieve a sense of simplicity in life. I don't dismiss their questions as "over-thinking," but try to offer my thoughts and then redirect them to the work at hand.

Cross-posted at Thump.

 

 

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The AA Echo Chamber

Posted by FrothyJay
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on Saturday, 25 June 2011
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Next time you're in an AA meeting, take a look around the room. Maybe there are 25 people and, with rare exception, most of them are sober, right? In fact, many are months removed from their last drink, and you've probably got a group that has decades of sobriety. Putting aside where each person may be in their own recovery, that room is irrefutable evidence that AA works, right?

OK, multiply the number of people by 20. You've got 500 alcoholics now. Can't fit them, right?  Imagine them on each others' laps, standing in the doorway, lining the hallways.  Maybe you can hear them murmuring outside in the parking lot, unable to get in the door. What you've now added is the number of people who came to AA and left after a year, according to AA's own study:

"After just one month in the Fellowship, 81% of the new members have dropped out.  After three months, 90% gave left, and 95% have discontinued attendance inside one year." (Kolenda, 2003, Golden Text Publishing)

Now look around the room at the mostly drunk, strung-out, quivering mass of humanity. Still think AA works?

Most members of the AA fellowship will tell you that AA works because it works for them.  I know this because it's precisely what I did for 10 years.  It was the newcomers' responsibility to get it, not mine to impart it.   If they stopped showing up, I got good at shrugging my shoulders and saying, "they aren't ready," or worse, "they don't want it."

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The Vast Chasm Between Alcoholism And A Drinking Problem

Posted by FrothyJay
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"Whether such a person can quit upon a nonspiritual basis depends upon the extent to which he has already lost the power to choose whether he will drink or not."

Alcoholics Anonymous, page 34, More About Alcoholism

Of the many internal rearrangements I experienced as a result of the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, the most profound was in how I understood the disease.  This shift was a direct result of being able to align the experience and pain of my repeated relapses with the explanation of the disease in the first 63 pages of the Alcoholics Anonymous text book (with the help of a terrific teacher).  Ideas and concepts I had held for decades about the nature of alcoholism were rendered embarassingly inaccurate.  Many of the AA sayings  I had chanted effortlessly for years (just don't pick up the first drink!) suddenly felt like codependent sloganeering.

Had you asked me several years ago what the difference was between a drinking problem and alcoholism, I would have likely responded "not much."  Try to explain it to me?  I'd have politely nodded but dismissed you as someone with way too much time on their hands.  I simply was not there-- I had double digit sobriety, a good life and the assurance that by keeping my memory green about where alcohol had taken me, I'd never drink again.  I've since learned that alcoholism is cunning and baffling; it can also masquerade as sobriety.  In retrospect, I was unaware that the very proclamations I valued as manifestations of my sobriety were really untreated alcoholism.  And it was biding its time, trying to find another way in.

But back to the point of the post-- what's the difference?  I see it this way:  the person with a drinking problem should stop, and usually can.  The person with alcoholism must stop and cannot.

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Sloganpalooza!

Posted by FrothyJay
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on Sunday, 12 June 2011
in Alcoholism 0 Comments

I made the tactical error this afternoon of revealing in an AA meeting that part of my first step experience was the realization that many of the AA slogans I'd been mindlessly repeating for over a decade were completely at odds with my new understanding of my condition.  I call it a mistake not because I regret saying it, but because the rest of the meeting became an impassioned defense of AA sloganeering.  As a friend pointed out afterwards, I had inadvertently provided the red meat that our fellowship often prefers over a discussion of recovery.  My bad.

The point I had tried to make was that once I'd conceded to my innermost self that I was powerless over alcohol-- that I had no effective defense against the first drink-- expressions like "Don't Drink And Go To Meetings" and "Just Don't Pick Up The First Drink" rang incredibly hollow.  I just couldn't line them up with what I was reading in the AA textbook.  I mean, how can I understand that alcoholism is a disease of insanity, that we experience strange mental blank spots where we inexplicably pick up a drink again, and then appreciate the wisdom of "Think The Drink Through?"

Unfortunately, though, my point was lost.  No matter how I choose my words-- and admittedly, I sometimes choose badly-- when you suggest that the tools people have used for eons to not drink don't really work with alcoholism-- you're in for a long hour.

My issue is not with slogans, per se-- I'm all for whatever helps someone get through the day.  But the problem as I see it is the slogans have overtaken the program of recovery-- they are the only tools we offer in many AA meetings.  I'd have less of an issue with them if they were presented as a nice complement to the actual program of recovery-- the steps.  The slogans are garnish-- pretty, but largely inedible.

Cross-posted at Thump.

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"We AAs failed them"

Posted by FrothyJay
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on Saturday, 11 June 2011
in Alcoholism 0 Comments

"Yet we can't well content ourselves with the view that all these recovery failures were entirely the fault of the newcomers themselves. Perhaps a great many didn't receive the kind and amount of sponsorship they so sorely needed. We didn't communicate when we might have done so. So we AA's failed them. Perhaps more often than we think, we still make no contact at depth with those suffering the dilemma of no faith."

Bill Wilson, AA Grapevine, April 1961 "The Dilemma of No Faith"

Cross posted at Thump.Increase

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Advice That Can Kill: One Day At A Time

Posted by FrothyJay
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on Tuesday, 07 June 2011
in Alcoholism 1 Comment

On the first Monday of each month, my beginners meeting reads from Living Sober.  I'm not sure who wrote this tragic little book, but the fact that Living Sober is conference-approved AA literature is one of the great mysteries of the AA fellowship.  Put nicely, there's just very little in Living Sober that you can line up with the philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous.  In fact, much of it runs completely counter to the Big Book.  I like to think of it as  an operators' manual for the willpower.

And last night, we found ourselves reading one of my favorites, the chapter "Using the 24 Hour Plan."  This little treatise suggests that anyone can stop drinking for 24 hours, and that sobriety is really just stringing those 24-hour successes together.   One could argue that since AA has largely become a pep rally for abstinence, "Using the 24 Hour Plan" could be our new "How It Works."

I've got nothing against keeping it simple in the early phases of sobriety.  Getting past the physical urge to drink or use drugs is arguably the hardest thing we do, and unless we're locked up somewhere, it does require willpower.  Getting clear of that craving-- that maddening itch that needs scratching-- can be helped by breaking it down into digestable time segments.  I get it.

The problem, as I see it, is that many never get past One Day At A Time.  They grind it out, the physical obsession quiets, and they feel better.  They equate that physical restoration with recovery.  The condescending term used in AA for this feeling is a "pink cloud."  "Be careful," nods the sage oldtimer, "you're on a pink cloud."  This diagnosis is rarely followed with precise direction as to what the newcomer might do to guard against the looming relapse, unless you consider "keep coming back" to be meaningful advice.

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90 Beatings In 90 Days

Posted by FrothyJay
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on Wednesday, 01 June 2011
in Alcoholism 0 Comments

"90 meetings in 90 days" gets my vote as the saddest old saw in Alcoholics Anonymous.  Don't get me wrong-- I absolutely love AA meetings, and I did the 90 meetings in 90 days ritual a couple times. Problem was, that was the extent of my recovery, so I lived with this nagging superstitious fear that if I missed a day, I was destined to drink.  And my AA friends apparently had no desire to disabuse me of that notion.  

So where did this oft-repeated commandment come from?  You can't find it in the original AA program literature, but then again, much of what you'll hear in meetings today doesn't come from the AA program. No, like many of our modern pearls of wisdom in AA, the 90 in 90 idea comes from rehabs that felt obligated to give some direction to the freshly-detoxed alcoholics and addicts they were churning out like processed cheese.  So, in addition to a headful of slogans and a copy of Living Sober, the wide-eyed rehab graduates were instructed encouraged to get to 90 meetings in 90 days, lest they find themselves back in rehab (where, conveniently, most major credit cards are accepted).

The problem with 90 in 90 is that it implies attendance at meetings is all that's required to recover, and that could not be further from the vision of Alcoholics Anonymous.  When it is not paired with an almost immediate immersion in step work, 90 in 90 is tantamount to putting the new person on a shelf.  And it's nearly impossible to stay sober there.

To be clear, attending AA meeting is far better than not attending AA meetings, and if having a little rigid structure early in your recovery is helpful, then by all means, do 90 in 90. The real issue with the idea is one of emphasis. It's so over-used that it has become a form of temporary sponsorship, unfortunately because we're either reluctant to (or incapable of) telling the new person just how urgent their situation is and what's required to recover. Sadly, 90 in 90 provides cover for the person who lacks a message of depth and weight, who masquerades as an informed, experienced member of Alcoholics Anonymous.  

In other words, me, for over a decade.

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DIFFERENT TYPES OF DRINKERS

Posted by ChrisS
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on Tuesday, 17 May 2011
in Alcoholism 1 Comment

A lot of times in twelve step fellowships, heavy drinkers, heavy drug users end up in the fellowships because of an intervention of one kind or another; or maybe they just want to change their life and somebody has pointed them toward the rooms and they’ll show up.  They don’t necessarily have to work the steps the way an alcoholic does.  They don’t necessarily have to become consistent with meetings.  A lot of times what will happen is they’ll come around for awhile and then slowly back away - disappear and learn that they can stay stopped on their own willpower, or they can even moderate, that happens quite often.  That’s Type One. 

Type Twoyour husband is showing a lack of control, for he is unable to stay on the water wagon, even when he wants to.  He often gets entirely out of hand when drinking.  He admits this is true but is positive that he will do better.  He has begun to try, with or without your cooperation, various means of moderating or staying dry.  Maybe he is beginning to lose his friends.  His business may suffer somewhat.  He is worried at times and is becoming aware that he cannot drink like other people.  He sometimes drinks in the morning and through the day also to hold his nervousness in check.  He is remorseful after serious drinking bouts and tells you he wants to stop but when he gets over the spree, he begins to drink once more.  He begins to think once more that he can drink moderately next time.   We think this person is in danger.  These are the earmarks of the real alcoholic.  Perhaps he can still tend to business fairly well.  He has by no means ruined everything.  As we say among ourselves, he wants to want to stop.”  This is probably the majority of the people that show up in the twelve step fellowships, they are somewhere between a type one and a type two.  But let’s just look at the type two.  He’s showing a lack of control.  He can’t quit even when he wants to.  After a binge, he’ll come out of it and he’ll want to stop but then he’ll convince himself that he’s going to drink moderately next time and he’ll start drinking again.  Sometimes he drinks in the morning and throughout the day to hold his nervousness in check.  That nervousness is an actual detoxification from alcohol.  That high level of anxiety is actually a part of a detoxing process.

Okay, Type Three.  “This husband has gone much further than husband number two.  Though once like number two, he became worse.  His friends have slipped away.  His home is in a near wreck and he cannot hold a position.  Maybe the doctor has been called in and a weary round of sanitariums and hospitals…” or rehabs and detoxes…”has begun.  He admits he cannot drink like other people but he does not see why.  He clings to the notion that he will yet find a way to do so.  He may have come to the point where he desperately wants to stop but cannot.  His case presents additional questions which we will try to answer for you.  You can be quite hopeful of a situation like this.” 

   Now why are they saying that?  As the person gets worse, why are they saying you can be hopeful?  I believe it’s because the closer we get to a full concession of our powerlessness, the closer we as alcoholics get to accurately assessing how much trouble we’re in, the more enthusiasm and motivation we’re going to have for practicing a recovery program that nobody wants to practice and few people will even believe will work for them because they’re so different.  So again,  his friends have slipped away…that happened to me.  I didn’t have any friends any more.  My home was in a near wreck.  My home exploded and everybody left.  Could not hold a position, I was becoming unemployable.  The only reason I had a job was because I was in construction and there was lots of alcoholics in construction, including my boss.  I started the weary round of sanitariums and hospitals.  I had gone to outpatient.  I had gone to in-patient.  I had gone back to outpatient.  I was trying to show up at some support group meetings but somewhere in the back of my mind, it was very, very difficult for me to realize that I am going to have to quit drinking for good and for all.  That was a very, very difficult concept for me to come up with and I had all of the earmarks of the type three. 

     “Type Fouryou may have a husband of whom you completely despair.  He has been placed in one institution after another.  He is violent or appears definitely insane when drunk.  Sometimes he drinks on the way home from the hospital.”  Or home from the detox or home from the rehab.  “Perhaps he has had delirium tremens.”  I had those.  “Doctors may shake their heads and advise you to have him committed.  Maybe you have already been obliged to put him away.  This picture may not be as dark as it looks.  Many of our husbands were just as far gone, yet they got well.”  Okay so, the worse you became, the more hope these early Alcoholics Anonymous members have for you. 

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