Monthly Archives: May 2012
When last we met, i described how Step 5 of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Steps had me detailing my defects and defaults to another human being. This step was key because it forced me 1) to unburden the secrets i used to have to drink to drown and 2) put them out in the open where i could deal with them.
That done, i was ready to move onto Step 6:
[I was] entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
The key to this step, my sponsor explained, is the “entirely ready”. “Entirely ready” means i do not expect myself to become a saint and don’t pressure myself to be perfect. i do not beat myself up for my shortcomings…but i no longer use them as crutches or excuses, either.
It’s all about recognizing patterns. Lately, i’ve been noticing when i get angry or become anxious that it’s like there’s two parts to my brain, the one part that feels and another, distant part that stands off on the sidelines and observes.
In the past, i wasn’t able to distinguish between these two entities, so i thought they were one. If i felt an impulse, i had to act on it because it was valid. The fact it was an urge that came from deep inside of me meant it was good, by definition. Now i understand i need to analyze these urges to see if they’re good or not.
That’s what i mean by “action, not reaction “. Instead of reacting blindly to stimulus, i need to take a step back and act responsibly and consciously. Sometimes the best reaction is no action at all. Sometimes, doing the right thing means doing nothing. Keeping my mouth closed and losing the battle to keep the peace. Or if i’m anxious, “acting” means sitting myself down and for the rational part of my brain to tell the freaking out part, “You go ahead and freak out for as long as you need, i’ll be over here waiting, just let me know when you finish.”
Fair warning, i’m working on Step 6 in Alcoholics Anonymous and so my next few posts will be about that.
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
WTH? Defects of character, moi? What defects of character?
One of the things i like most about AA is that there is a clear, practical program to get better. It’s as easy as connecting the dots.
Here’s a short Step By Step refresher course of how i got here.
In Step 1 of AA’s 12 Steps, i admitted my life had become unmanageable because of my inability to handle my drinking.
In Step 2, i said that i obviously couldn’t control my drinking, so a power outside myself was going to have to. My Sponsor and i decided this “Higher Power” was AA Meetings.
In Step 3, i turned over control of my drinking and life to this power.
In Step 4, i made a list of all the deepest, darkest defects of my character and the actions these defects led me to.
In Step 5, i went over this list with another person (my AA Sponsor).
Now, in Step 6, i’m letting my Higher Power know that i’m ready to give these up to him/her/them/us.
Last Tuesday, i was the secretary for the AA meeting and an elderly woman came up to me afterwards to tell me that something i’d shared was very intelligent. i know, i couldn’t believe it either, but there you go. What did i say that got her attention?
i shared that when i was drinking, i thought i craved a drink, but i was wrong. i did not want a drink, i wanted what the drink represented. i wanted acceptance, admiration, laughter, excitement, passion, sex, Love, yes, Love. i wanted booze to lead me to Love with a capital L. But it never did.
Sometimes the alcohol took me close to these things, so close i could taste them, but then it always let me down. It let me down so hard that i woke up sick with bruises and no money, doing inventory to see what i had lost and accountability of who i owed apologies to.
And then, a few days later, i would head down the bottle to chase that same feeling again. i kept looking over and over again in the same place for something i had never found there before.
This is what they talk about when they talk about alcoholics and insanity.
i got this as a comment from resident sage In The Same Boat and decided to take him up on his offer to post whatever i felt like of his wherever i wanted.
If any of you other readers wold like to share, please feel free to either email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or post your post as a comment. The more the merrier!
Here then, is In The Same Boat’s comment response to my blog post, “Your Excuse is Invalid“.
Yes! Don’t focus on the losers. Focus on the winners.
Something that has helped me get through a tough spot is to identify ‘winners’ who don’t drink, and use them as inspiration. Steve Jobs didn’t drink. And look what he did!
But my hero is Richard Feynman, the famous physicist who won the Nobel Prize for explaining Quantum Mechanics. His book “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman” helped me a lot throughout my life, to understand scientific integrity.
Here is few key passage from the book, that really had an impact on me.
(This is taken from ‘O Americano, Outra Vez!’, where he recounts a year in Brazil, and plays in a Samba band, while teaching Physics, and having adventures with the flight attendants who stayed in his hotel. He was quite a womanizer.)
“The people from the airlines were somewhat bored with their lives, strangely enough, and at night they would often go to bars to drink. I liked them all, and in order to be sociable, I would go with them to the bar to have a few drinks, several nights a week.
One Day, about 3:30 in the afternoon, I was walking along the sidewalk opposite the beach at Copacabana past a bar. I suddenly got this treMENDdous, strong feeling: ‘That’s *just* what I want; that’ll fit just right. I’d just love to have a drink right now!’
I started to walk into the bar, and I suddenly thought to myself, ‘Wait a minute! It’s the middle of the afternoon. There’s nobody here. There’s no social reason to drink. Why do you have a such a terribly strong feeling that you *have* to have a drink?’ — and I got scared.
I never drank ever again, since then. I suppose I really wasn’t in any danger, because I found it very easy to stop. But that strong feeling that I didn’t understand frightened me. You see, I get such fun out of *thinking* that I don’t want to destroy this most pleasant machine that makes life such a big kick….”
Being a bored college student at age 20, I remember reading that. At the time, I was aware that I had a problem with alcohol but so do most college students. I called my friend and read him the passage. And he said “well, there you have your test. If you feel like drinking in the afternoon alone, that’s the time to stop.” I wish I had remembered that test and followed through with it. But it took me much longer than Feynman to figure it out.
And here’s another passage I find therapeutic. Here he discusses the party the Swedes threw for him when he was award his Nobel Prize. It’s from “Alfred Nobel’s other Mistake”
“I sat next to the lady who was in charge of organizing the dinner. A waitress came by to fill my wineglass, and I said ‘No thank you. I don’t drink.’
The lady said ‘No, no. Let her pour the drink.’
‘But I *don’t* drink.’
She said, ‘It’s all right. Just look. You see, she has two bottles. We know that number eighty-eight doesn’t drink.’ (Number eighty-eight was on the back of my chair.) ‘They look exactly the same, but one has no alcohol.’
‘But how do you know?’ I exclaimed.
She smiled. ‘Now watch the king,’ she said. ‘He doesn’t drink either.’
Thank you, Dr. Feynman. Now that’s a winner!
In a meeting this morning, someone shared that they were the youngest of 7 children and that two of this person’s sisters were molested sexually, became depressed, and committed suicide when the speaker was 16. The molester? He was the speaker’s older brother.
When hard times come (and they will come, they come to everybody), on a piece of paper write down all the crappy things you are experiencing. It’s OK to use several pieces of paper, if necessary. Reread the list. Losers will see a list of excuses. Winners will see a list of challenges.
You cannot choose what happens to you. You can choose to be a Winner or a Loser.
Just to let y’all know i’ve updated the GlosAAry with a couple new definitions:
Someone with less than one year of sobriety. Because those new to sobriety are often spiritually and psychologically fragile, it is often recommended that newcomers refrain from making any major life changes (for example selling the house, changing careers, getting divorced) in their first year. There is an unwritten rule that other AA members should not become romantically invloved with newcomers because the relationship wouldn’t be balanced and the sobriety of both members would be threatened.
Be nice to every newcomer, they may be your next sponsor.
Part sage, part war vetern, the term “old timer” implies the member has seen it all, including tough love recovery and has some distilled wisdom to impart. While there is no set time limit when a member officially becomes an “old timer”, 25 years sobriety would seem like a minimum.
When I tell people I’ve been sober for nearly 45 years, I see them look at me like it’s a prison sentence. Condemned to 45 years of boredom and niceness. I’m here to tell you, the weird stuff is still out there. When you get drunk it falls in your lap, but when you’re sober, you may have to look for it, but it’s out there. The weirdness is still out there. –Heard in the Rooms