Powerlessness & Unmanageability

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Today, I heard from an old friend. Someone who used to be sober but relapsed over 2 years ago. She is 48 hours into her detox, so dopesick she can’t even sit up in a chair. I remember what those early hours of sobriety looked like for me. How quickly we forget the anguish and suffering that used to be the only steady part of our lives.

I spent years knowing I had lost control while still holding onto the shred of hope that I could somehow “make it work”. An early death was something I had resigned to before even reaching the age of 18. I knew drugs and alcohol were going to kill me. The deep, insatiable desire for them came on almost immediately after I began using. My obsession with them would override everything; days, weeks and months would disappear before my eyes. Early on, I might have been able to moderate my consumption of substances but I had no desire to. Sometimes I would substitute using people, food or money to make up for the drugs I couldn’t get. But as my alcoholism grew over time, those things no longer worked on their own. I found myself having to act out in unhealthy ways regardless if I was strung out or not; and mostly, I was strung out.

The shame, emotional pain, confusion and rage made normal life impossible. Even if I was able to attain a “normal” life, enjoyment of it would have been unthinkable. If I could have seen into the future at the life I have today, I just wouldn’t have believed it. I knew deep in my heart that I couldn’t make it on my own. I needed help. I needed something other than my own ideas. That is what lead me to the rooms of 12-step meetings.

The tricky nature of alcoholism is its ability to confound and baffle people who know the alcoholic almost as much as the alcoholic themselves. I have been in a place of desperation countless times before I got myself to a meeting. I just didn’t know what was possible on the other side of alcoholism. I didn’t know that once I had admitted to my innermost self that I was an alcoholic, that I had already begun the process of transforming my life. There is freedom in admitting complete defeat. I just have to remain willing and open to new direction and experiences. This is a daily action for me, a step that I take every day with the knowledge that a spiritual solution is the only option for an alcoholic like me.

This Too Shall Pass

The world is a wheel always turning. Those who are high go down low, and those who’ve been low go up higher.

–Anzia Yezierska

Everything changes. Nothing stays the same. And letting go of the way things are, anticipating instead what they might become, frees us to live each moment more fully.

Time marches on, and our destiny marches with it. There is purpose in how our lives unfold; the ups and downs serve our growth. We must neither resent the doldrums nor savor too long the elation. Giving too much attention to either state interferes with our awareness of the present. And the present has come to teach us.

We must move with time. We must focus our attention on the moment and accept whatever feelings each experience elicits. Emotional maturity is accepting our feelings and letting them go and facing instead the next moment with fresh receptivity. Our lessons are many, and they accompany the lows as well as the highs. We can be grateful for both.

The program has taught us freedom from lingering lows. It has given us the tools to move confidently forward, trusting that all is well. Nothing lasts forever, and within each struggle is the opportunity for real growth.

The highs will pass away, just as will the lows. They visit us purposefully. I will give them their freedom and find mine as well.

One of my favorite quotes from the program of Alcoholics Anonymous is “this too shall pass”. I need to constantly be reminded of this. The good times, the bad times, the ugly times, the painful times…. they will all pass. Many times, if I start feeling bad, I just need to wait 15 minutes and that will change. On average, we have ten thousand feelings each day. Of course, most of those feelings are unconscious. Further, it is hard for many people to be in touch with their feelings. Having ten thousand feelings per day is mind blowing! Using alcohol, drugs, and other substances is a way to medicate and not “feel”. There are many other ways to medicate and to keep us away from being in touch with our feelings. This includes looking at Facebook, exercising, watching TV, gambling, looking at Tinder, etc. Anything that occupies my mind can potentially take me away from being present, being in the moment, and feeling. Today, stop, pause, take notice, and embrace your feelings. Specifically, what emotions are you feeling?  

Alcoholics Anonymous

“Alcoholics Anonymous® is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for Alcoholics Anonymous membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. Alcoholics Anonymous is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.” (Wilson, 1939)

The goal of Alcoholics Anonymous is to prevent substance abuse and to promote sobriety. The main ways that Alcoholics Anonymous pursues its goal is through Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, sponsorship, and working the Twelve-steps. Typically, a newly sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous is going to get a sponsor that will take him through the Twelve-steps, his sponsor will strongly suggest that he goes to ninety Alcoholics Anonymous meetings during his first 90 days. Alcoholics Anonymous is funded by its members through donations. A normal donation is $1-$2 per meeting. As mentioned in step twelve, the message of Alcoholics Anonymous is carried to alcoholics by its members. Members of Alcoholics Anonymous are also called “pigeons”, as a pigeon carries a message. Recovery rates of members that actually work a program and follow the principles of AA have been reported upwards of 50% after a 24 month follow-up. (Bridgeman and McQueen, 1987, p 124).

Alcoholics Anonymous works if a person is willing to get a sponsor, work the steps, do service work, go to meetings on a regular basis, get connected into the Alcoholics Anonymous community, and follow the Alcoholics Anonymous principles in all affairs. As stated in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, “Rarely we have we seen a persona fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves.” The main problem with Alcoholics Anonymous is that a person needs to be willing to go to any lengths to get sober. This means that he will need to do everything prescribed by the Big Book and by his sponsor. This means that he will need to humble himself and take instructions, even when he doesn’t agree.