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Posted by on in Alcoholism

thinking errorsDo You Make These Ten Widespread Thinking Errors?

There are particular mindsets or points of view that can be counter-productive. These errors in thinking, especially if taken to the extreme, can inhibit the personal growth and development in relationships.

1. All or absolutely nothing pondering: You see items in extremes, everything is black or white. This can be evident or subtle, for instance saying 'He is always late, but I never get angry about it'. This mindset can be that of the perfectionist also. This thinking error is common amongst addicts.

2. Minimizing or catastrophizing: You exaggerate the relevance of modest issues. 'The whole meal was ruined since the desert was not served promptly.' Is this a catastrophe? An illustration of minimizing is taking a substantial problem or occasion and minimizing its value so it seems inconsequential. People often do this so as not to have to deal with uncomfortable feelings or consequences. It is a form of averting from discomfort and confrontation.

3. Overgeneralization: You get a single event and draw basic conclusions that it is universally true. If your date is late you say 'No guys/girls are ever on time'.

4. Minimizing or qualifying the optimistic: If an individual says you did well, you reply by saying 'I could have/should have done better'. These thinking errors are often a result of low self-confidence.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

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.

Looking at our character defects that cause harm to others, we practice the opposite of each one.  There are opportunities every day to practice good qualities, both with the person we have harmed, and with everyone else in our lives.  In this way, our behavior changed, and we no longer are causing harm to those around us.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

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.

As discussed in a recent post, it is important to keep religion out of twelve-step meetings.  I have heard speakers that truly move me that I find out have completely different beliefs than I do.  I have heard other Buddhists share that I do not especially relate to.  Religion (or lack of) is not important in twelve step meetings.  We are all sitting there for the same reason, and sharing our differences only separates us.  If somebody is Christian, Hindu, atheist, or whatever, it is their program, not ours.  It is my honest opinion that it is absolutely none of my business unless they are directly hurting me or the integrity of the program.  The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says on page forty-five about the program, "Its main object is to enable you to find a Power greater than yourself which will solve your problem."

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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

Alcoholics Anonymous provides us with many great tools.  We suddenly are given an amazing support network, a spiritual program of action, and wonderful opportunity to grow.  Although Twelve-Step programs offer us so much, there are certainly things that we may find outside of Alcoholics Anonymous.  The stigma surrounding this prevents many people in the program from doing so, which is hurtful toward recovery.  There are several ways people look outside Alcoholics Anonymous for help, and none of them are wrong.

Professional Help

There are many professionals out there that offer great help to addicts of all kinds.  However, people tend to treat seeking professional help as taboo in twelve-step programs.  This attitude is extremely hurtful and close-minded.  Many of our fellows benefit from professional help of different kinds, and discouraging them or making them feel different because of it can change someone's life.

Physicians

Taking the example of physicians, there are many issues which we cannot ourselves handle.  Our physical health is of the utmost importance to our recovery, as the body's health can dictate the mind's health.  There are times where we must seek a physician's help.  Our physician may prescribe medications as he or she sees fit.  In my personal experience and opinion, we may take certain narcotic medications when they are absolutely necessary.  It is also always important to speak with a sponsor or mentor before doing so.  We must be careful in taking any medication of any kind, but sometimes it is absolutely necessary.  We cannot trust our own heads to make the decision on whether or not it is necessary, and this is why we speak to a sponsor.  Also, it helps substantially to have a doctor that is sober.

Psychiatrists

Another professional that we may seek help from is a psychiatrist.  Psychiatrists may help diagnose and treat mental illness.  Obviously medication comes into play here, and that is perfectly alright.  There are many addicts that suffer from mental disorders.  According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, "Over 8.9 million persons have co-occurring disorders; that is they have both a mental and substance use disorder."*  Not seeking help can be an issue of life and death.

Although psychiatrists may prescribe medications, this is not a reason to shy away from them.  Dealing with co-occurring disorders is not easy.  Without treating the mental illness, sobriety is near impossible.  The addiction and mental illness create a vicious cycle, and without treating both simultaneously, the person has little chance of recovery.  Again, we should be careful of blindly accepting medications without speaking to those with more experience than us.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous states in the second Appendix, "The terms “spiritual experience” and “spiritual awakening” are used many times in this book which, upon careful reading, shows that the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism has manifested itself among us in many different forms... Most of our experiences are what the psychologist William James calls the “educational variety” because they develop slowly over a period of time."

Although many members do have a white-light experience, this is not the case for most of us.  Even those of us who have moments of clarity often have our spiritual experiences occur over a more extended period of time.  When we first begin hearing about spiritual experiences, moments of clarity, and conscious contact with a Higher Power, we may be turned off by this misunderstanding.  Although this is just a misunderstanding; the truth is that these educational spiritual experiences are far more common, and just as helpful.

My spiritual experience has come in many waves over quite a long time.  Although I most certainly had a moment of clarity where I decided I want to be sober, it wasn't until I was about 30 days sober that I realized the change that was taking place.  Over the first year of my sobriety, I experienced my spiritual awakening from following the suggestions I was given.  Around two years sober, when I went to jail, I had more of a white-light experience.  Although it was not any single moment, the 30 days in jail led to a spiritual experience unlike any I had experienced up until that point.

When we use the phrase spiritual experience, we mean this personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism.  The book discusses a physical craving, mental obsession, and spiritual malady.  If we do not drink, we do not have any physical craving.  As far as the mental obsession we experience, the only way to treat this is by examining our spiritual malady.  When we treat this spiritual malady, our mental obsession dwindles down.  This treating of the spiritual malady is the essence of a spiritual experience.

 

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

IncreaseWriting a fourth step is an act of courage.  It takes immense bravery to write in detail a complete moral inventory of oneself paying close attention to our part. It is important to detail our resentments, because after doing so we can look at how we were affected and what our part in the resentment was. When we break down resentment we learn that we still carry it because it affects a constant fear that we have.  Perhaps someone bruised our ego or we felt cheated, we change our perspective to see where we were selfish, dishonest, or afraid.  When looking at our fear inventory, we break down each fear and find that most fears are related. Our fears all share the commonality that we are not actually scared of something concrete or material, but of how it will make us feel.  When writing our sex inventory it is important to look at how our behavior affected our relationships.  Without beating ourselves up, we accept responsibility for how we acted. It is the act of catharsis to write how we feel, and an act of courage to look at our part.

The courageous act of putting this all on paper must immediately be followed with an act of integrity.  The catharsis is incomplete if we do not quickly read it out loud, so we can admit to our high-power, another human being, and ourselves, the exact nature of our wrongs.  The power of the inventory lies in this confession.  When we read it out loud, we take the power away from everything we have held on to.  We are finally able to let go of guilt, shame, resentment, and fear.

Recently I went through my steps for the second time with my sponsor, and the difference between my first fourth step and second one was astonishing. After I read my fifth step the first time, I felt like a weight had been lifted.  I felt as though everything that I had carried around for all those years finally dissipated. I was expecting a similarly visceral experience the second time.  They were roughly equally in length, and both thorough.  However, after the second one I wasn’t as emotional or changed. I attribute this to the constant inventory I take.  Since my first fourth step I have tried to tell the truth and tell it faster.  This means doing a tenth step any time I have a resentment, and reaching out when I am struggling.  After some time of doing this I found that I am fundamentally changed.  A weight wasn’t lifted the second time because I no longer let the weight of resentment and pain accumulate.

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