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Posted by on in Alcoholism

 

 Most recovery programs and 12 Step fellowships promote and encourage different forms of altruism. Alcoholics Anonymous, for instance, creates service positions within home-groups, with things as simple as making coffee, being a door greeter, or getting to meetings early to set up. These practical forms of service are just one aspect of altruism in recovery. Altruism occurs in more informal ways throughout recovery fellowships, including driving newcomers to meetings, sponsoring other alcoholics, and donating literature to prisons and treatment centers to help spread the message of recovery. Why do 12 Step programs place such an emphasis on altruism and service? What are the benefits of incorporating altruism into our daily lives and helping others without any obvious ‘payoff’?

Defining Altruism

Simply defined, altruism is “feelings or behaviors that show a desire to help other people and a lack of selfishness”. Unlike donating money to a charity with the hopes of a tax deduction or recognition, altruistic acts are motivated entirely by an internal motivation to be helpful with no external reward. Another definition that captures this says that altruism is a “behaviors that are not beneficial to the individual but that benefits others”.

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Altruism is found all over, from religious groups, in-between families, and among non-profit groups with no financial goals. However this article focuses on recovery programs and their ‘obsession’ with altruism. The primary purpose of the Alcoholics Anonymous is to “carry the message to the alcoholic who still suffers”. In the past, sober alcoholics would visit insane asylum, detoxes, and jails to carry the message of recovery to others for no benefit to themselves. Often they would give these ‘wet drunks’ a place to live, a job, and more. These are extreme cases and today such instances are not as common. However buying newcomers coffee, picking them up to go to meetings, and devoting free time towards helping others is part of the core of recovery.

Why Practice Altruism?

The roots of helping others without expecting anything in return dates back hundreds of civilizations. Since the person practicing altruism is receiving nothing in return, at least not physically or tangibly, their motivations must come from somewhere else. This is where we examine the benefits of altruism; why people do self-less and charitable things without recognition or reward. The benefits of altruism, charity, and service have been well documented  throughout history.

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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

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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Posted by on in Alcoholism

volunteers needed1. Get a commitment at a meeting you regularly attend.

2. Use a phone list from a meeting to reach out to strangers.

3. Call a fellow addict and focus on how they are doing.

4. Call your local Central Office; there are often opportunities to help... Phone shifts often need covering.

5. Go to your local Hospitals and Institutions meeting; get a panel, or volunteer to speak on one.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

If you're ever sitting in an AA meeting and can't bear the monotonous drone of victimization and problem sharing, bring up AA's statistical success rates.  Yes, the topic is not really the purpose of a meeting either, but it's certainly better than suffering through the latest update on Janet's sick hamster or how Carl nearly drank over his broken weed-whacker.   And it's guaranteed to get an animated discussion going.

AA's effectiveness is a polarizing topic.  Take a deep breath and watch this Penn & Teller video. Normally I don't put much stock in the opinions of irrelevant Las Vegas magicians, but there's an important truth in the video.

Here's the truth:  AA is failing.  I agree with the statistics-- I believe that less than 1 in 20 of people who ever attend an AA meeting experience any sustained sobriety.  But Bigfoot and the Mime tell only half the story, because the whole truth does not fit their AA-bashing agenda.

What's the whole truth?  The AA program works.   The problem?  Finding it.

What people encounter when they first wander into an AA meeting today is rarely AA.  It's a self-help, group therapy session masquerading as the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.  It's a pep rally for abstinence through willpower, where the "tools" are all about staying away from a drink, one day at a time, world without end, amen.

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Posted by on in Other Addictions

I love being alone. With no one around me. When I have to leave my house. It creates anxiety inside me. I take medications for PTSD and other mental disabilities. I am 90 days sober. I have been sober before. I know all about staying sober and AA. I have fibromyalgia and carpul in both hands. I had pmdd my whole life. Until just recently. For some it is called PMS. But for others like me with extreme PMS it is called PMDD. This made it very hard to stay sober. I would more often than not, pick up a drink during that cycle. I am 58 years old. I tried many things for PMDD and none worked. Another problem that occurred during my cycle was anger. Uncontrolled anger. I have a lot of rage stuffed deep down. Some times not far enough away from my mind and emotions. My PTSD has reared it's ugly head while sober. I beat up a woman at work. Sober. My son would get hit once a month. During my PMDD cycle. I would use cuss words at that time as well. Nothing much could be controlled with my PMDD. I was like another person. I was not on any medications for most of my life. I finally got help when I was 48 and my son was grown and gone from home. I went to my first AA meeting when my son was 2 years old. I guess I was 30 at that time. But before I went to an AA meeting. I had a spiritual awaking and went to a church. I went there every Sunday. And after a while I started AA meetings I think it was 5 days a week. I was a single mom. On welfare. No help from my family. No friends. And no help from my son's father. As I did not know who he was. AA scared me and I was very submissive. Church felt more comfortable to me. I had a criminal past and before that. An extremely abusive mother. She used beatings with wire coat hangers, There was mental abuse, as she never said a kind word. unless she was around someone she did not want them to know how she really was. Behind closed doors. Her words were cuss words and phrases like you piece of shit etc. Emotionally she never hugged or kissed me. I ran away from home at age 13. I was locked up 14 months. When I got out. I ran away again at 17. I ended up in the hands of a pimp in LA, Calif. I did 10 months in jail for him. I say for him because I had to do all the illegal things and he took all the money. What did I get in return? Jail time and a permanent record that stopped me from getting any type of good job. later on in life. I have have been raped 5 times. And twice I was kidnapped. I have had a gun held to me. And a knife. And have beaten up. My last rape was while I was trying to leave this pimp. I could not take it anymore. I started hitch-hiking. A trucker picked me up. But I did not realize there were 2 of them. I was coming from Calif. And going to New Orleans. I was raped by both of them. But as God would have it I did not get killed. I have tried to kill myself 5 times. One of those times, was when I wanted to find a way to stop the pain from being with the pimp. It almost worked. On that occasion I had an after-life experience. I was over my body. And than I went into the light. I woke up alive in the hospital. I was so mad I was still alive. And that even GOD didn't want me!!! I got away from this pimp by dancing in night clubs naked. And earning money. I found a sugar daddy that took care of me. There was no sex with him. Just living together. He paid the rent and my food and bought my drinks and drugs. It was a very strange set-up. But very true. We never ever had sex in all the 40 years I knew him. It was hard to break away from him. I was very co-Dependant. I had a baby by this pimp. I gave him up for adoption in 1971. I never got over it. And a year later. I started having sex all the time. So I could have another baby to keep. When I realized it wasn't going to happen. I went to Canada. I was a dancer there. I got pregnant 1978 and came back to America. I lived in that co dependent relationship again.Deep down inside I did not want that for me and my baby. I was ashamed by it. I stopped drinking and smoking while pregnant. That led me to believe that I could stop anytime I wanted. That was so wrong. I think the hormones were in perfect working order while I was carrying my child. But after was another thing. I picked up a drink and could not stop. I was horrified. As this wasn't my plan for my life with my new son.  I came to believe if I could just get away and out of the relationship I would be fine. I moved and started drinking. I was arrested and my son was taken from me. In the jail. I had a spiritual awaking. A peace came over me that I never had felt before. And I just knew I would be OK from than on. I was on welfare when I went to my first meeting. As I said before I was going to Church and reading the bible. I was a mixture of spiritually and religion. I was a bad person trying to be a good person. I had a long rap sheet. I was a stripper, and a past whore. Stripping was a step up for me. Considering where I had come from. But that wouldnt cut it in AA meetings. These people were sharing their past. I was unlucky enough to have been going to a certain meeting that they only shared their past. Hardly any steps or big book or sponsership was going on. I knew I would never share. But I also knew That my spirtually was really keeping me sober. Not the meetings. I stayed sober for one year. .........to be continued.

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