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Posted by on in Alcoholism

 

 

 

We are no longer showing the newcomer that we have a solution for alcoholism. We are not telling them about the Big Book and how very important that Book is to our long term sobriety. The book blatantly tells us: “to show other alcohol ics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book”, the main purpose! I have lost count how many times I have heard the book misquoted, and it’s usually to newcomers.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

The typical picture painted of alcoholism is the staggering, drooling drunk-- usually a pathetic, affable person making a scene of some sort.  

I've come to understand that this does not capture the true essence of alcoholism.  It merely paints a picture of the alcoholic who has found a temporary solution (alcohol).   The spiritual malady has been sedated, the resentments and fears that eat their insides daily have been put to sleep.  Drunkeness provides relief from alcoholism.

To see true alcoholism, watch the sober, untreated alcoholic.   They are coming out of their skin, perhaps because they are doing all they can to fight a physical compulsion to drink, or maybe because they've been without a drink for a week or a month or a year and are battling daily mental urges to drink.  Impatience, irritability and edginess mark their day, they often appear forlorn and lonely, and any happiness often appears disingenuine and affected. For me, I often felt like my head might explode at any given moment, and I often wished for it.

This is why we drink:  this condition becomes unbearable.  It's often a choice between a bottle of vodka and a three state killing spree.  And we choose vodka, thankfully. When we hear it said that certain dry alcoholics should just drink, this is what drives it:  that person creates less havoc, misery, and destruction when they are drunk than when they are not.

Abstinence does not treat alcoholism, it aggravates it.   It's an untenable, in-between state for the hopeless alcoholic-- they either return to drinking or they find a spiritual solution to their spiritual problem.  

Don't ever tell me my worst day sober was better than my best day drunk.  Utter nonsense.

Cross-posted at Thump.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

"We're going to shoot pool tonight, and you're coming."

That was the first phone call from Demi, way back in 1996, and I remember groaning audibly.

"Are you going to sit in your apartment and feel sorry for yourself?  Besides, there will be girls there.  Pick you up at 7."

I was a day removed from a hospital stay for alcohol poisoning.  I'd been sober six months prior to that, one of those months in rehab.  I was in a state of shock that I'd drank again despite the years of pain it had brought me. Making matters worse, I'd shown up drunk at work, knocked a printer off a file cabinet, and then been sent to my parents' home in a car service (my employer was familiar with my problem). Since my parents weren't home, I raided their liquor cabinet. They came home to find me sprawled unconcious on the kitchen floor (in a rather nice suit).  It would be my last drink for 11 years.

I met Demi at the first meeting I attended after leaving the hospital.  His real name was Demetrius. I shared in a quivering voice what had happened and that I was really serious this time.  Truth was, I was already planning my next drink-- I'd gone to the meeting to get my parents off my back.  I knew I was in trouble, but dealing with that trouble was incomprehensible.  I needed to be drunk.  Whatever happened after that, so be it.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

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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Posted by on in Alcoholism

"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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Posted by on in Alcoholism

"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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Posted by on in Alcoholism

IncreaseI stole this Nikos Kazantzakis quote from the Facebook page of a Thump fan, Robi Carlson, because I love language that challenges conceptions of spiritual power.

"The Great Spirit does not toil within the bounds of human time, place, or casualty. The Great Spirit is superior to these human questionings. It teems with many rich and wandering drives which to our shallow minds seem contradictory; but in the essence of divinity they fraternize and struggle together, faithful comrades-in-arms. The primordial Spirit branches out, overflows, struggles, fails, succeeds, trains itself. It is the Rose of the Winds."

In order to be willing to believe in a power greater than myself, I needed to set aside all of my ideas and concepts about "God."  I wiped the slate clean, even of the word "God." My conception of a higher power could not be tethered to human expression, not because I was special or intelligent, but because all language and expression carried some baggage, and I needed to be free of that.  It was the only thing that would work.  I needed to experience a power greater than myself, not define it.

Cross-posted at Thump.

 

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

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.

What happens?  The mental obsession kicks in, and the alcoholic finds themselves defenseless against the first drink.  They are left confused and befuddled as to how they could have possibly thought that picking up again was a good idea.  They believe they have failed, when the truth is, by not presenting the dire nature of their condition and the path to recovery through the 12 steps with urgency, AA has failed them.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

"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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Posted by on in none

Cross addiction or multiple addictions is a fact of life inherent within the recovering community. Many of us come to the rooms of a 12-step program or treatment facility intending to tackle our alcohol and drug problem, or perhaps our eating disorder. However, many of us realize we have other addictions to manage. Putting off the need to tackle the remaining addiction(s) has brought many of us back to our primary addiction.

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