OUR COMMON WELFARE

At a gathering of our cohort last night, I found myself irritated by a particular meeting-goer. This was not the first time I have noticed him. 

Last night, he was generally rude and incoherent, and on prior occasions, he has been notably odorous. How do we deal with such members? Shall we cast them out? 

Let us look to the long form of our third tradition for a guiding principle: 

Our membership ought to include all who suffer from alcoholism. Hence we may refuse none who wish to recover.” So the only requirement is a desire to stop drinking? Well, any bum can claim to have such a desire! So this means any and everyone, from a neo-nazi to your neighbor’s niece, is welcome at an AA meeting. 

Since, in this life of AA, we are meant to deal with “life on life’s terms,” it follows that  we might view these uncomfortable situations as opportunities to grow; and indeed we should. However, there is a higher necessity to which we are obliged; and that necessity is to our own sobriety. 

If you feel uncomfortable at a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, it is your responsibility (to yourself) to remove yourself from that situation immediately. For the first tradition states that though “our common welfare comes first… [our] individual welfare follows close afterward.”

Allow nothing to come between yourself and your own program. While we might hope a meeting’s secretary and/or a GSR (General Service Representative) might attempt to counsel a troublesome meeting-goer, we must “accept the things we cannot control.” And this is certainly one of them.

But in that spirit: we need also “the courage to change the things we can.” And we can keep our own shares succinct; we can remain silent while others are sharing (and keep our phones similarly muted); we can be sure we are bathed and awake and, in every possible way, unoffending. 

So in the end, I say: yes, “stick with the winners.” But never count out the losers. Because, truly, “the only constant is change.”

SPONSORSHIP

To receive the 12th step and sponsor a newcomer is arguably the most crucial and most gratifying component of long-term sobriety. I recently gave step 12 to my first sponsee, and I so look forward to watching him take another man through the steps. 

What makes a good sponsor in Alcoholics Anonymous? Being new to the role myself, I’m hesitant to offer too many of my own conclusions, but I will pass along advice that I’ve received from more wisened members of our community. 

Tip #1: “A sponsor’s job is to take his sponsee through the steps; that is all. It is not the job of a sponsor to offer life advice.” 

Sponsorship is a sacred duty, too important to compromise under the swaying influence of one’s own opinions. The steps have been tested for nearly ninety years, and our trust in them is the implicit agreement which binds our community; it is from that trust alone that a sponsor derives his authority. 

You may find, in the course of your duties, that your sponsee has asked you for life advice. Respond with the utmost discretion; personal judgements, no matter how insightful or practiced, are sometimes wrong. 

Tip #2: “You can’t “make” them willing. The book says honesty, open mindedness and willingness are essential to one’s ability to stay sober. Those things can’t be forced on anyone… What you can do as sponsor is point out the willingness that your sponsee had in the beginning, if they start to balk in the later portion of the steps.”

Do not be disheartened by the apathy or relapse of your sponsee. The ultimate purpose of your work is not to keep your sponsee sober; it is to keep yourself sober. There is always another man who needs and wants your help.

Tip #3: “Ego has no place in sponsorship… The actual sponsor is the book; and God.” Keep ever present in your mind the foremost aim of the 12 steps: to foster a relationship between the alcoholic and a higher power of his own understanding. 

You are there to make an introduction to someone you have never met, and never will meet; to a friend your sponsee likely never knew he always had. Be reverent of the time and space he needs to cultivate that connection. If your sponsee fails to develop a bond with his higher power during your sponsorship, take heart; you have planted a seed. He will always remember the respect that you showed to this undiscovered part of himself.

I hope these tips will be helpful to you as you embark on your journey of sponsorship. Remember: though you may now be a sponsor, you are still yourself a sponsee, and we are all of us pedestrians forever on “the road to happy destiny.”

Staying “Out”

At the time of this writing, a friend of mine from the program (whom I will call “Justin”) is “out”, and has been for well over two months now. Before he abandoned his program, Justin achieved more than a year of sobriety, with multiple commitments and sponsees to his name.  

I had the opportunity to visit Justin late one afternoon last week at the room he is renting, and found him surrounded by drug and alcohol paraphernalia, halfway through an IPA. He was in good enough spirits and seemed happy to see me, but showed no interest at that time in returning to our community.    

It is not yet a year ago that a visitor to my place of residence would have found me in nearly identical circumstances. Though I would like to tell you that the intervening year has shed me of all such wayward instincts, even now, I harbor doubts about my program, and contend with bad dreams of ‘relapse’ nearly every night.  

This blog is about the positive value of sobriety, full stop. Where then do we place my contrary confession? Does it speak simply to the unfortunate but natural aberrations of my mind, of any mind? Or, being as I’m a card-carrying member of AA, is it a measure of my mental weakness? Of my failure to adopt the solution?

I feel at liberty to discuss my doubts because I can couple them with this certainty: the time that I have spent sober, attending AA meetings and working the steps, has resulted in tremendous growth and personal development. I know the same would prove true for any person with a long-standing chemical dependency.

And yet, Justin’s decision to terminate his sobriety is well within his rights as a human being, for sobriety is not morally superior to intoxication; morality is an exclusive function of our actions with respect to others.  

However, if in returning to drug and alcohol use, one finds oneself conformed to a lifestyle of self-centeredness and alienation; let not a moment’s shame prevent you from returning to the sober life that served you so well.

If shame is to account for Justin’s dalliance, I cannot know. However, I am confident time will return him to his program of sobriety; for it was clear to even the most casual observer, that no one so benefitted from its effects as much as the man himself.

Is Anybody There?


Is anybody out there? Does anyone read this? Is the writer of this blog casting words into an oblivious void? Here is a poem about loneliness and isolation, courtesy of yours truly:

Hardly movement much at all

Standing water in the sink

Imagined voices down the hall

Wasting energy to blink

A ponder after my old friends

Forehead lighted in a nook

Evermore our story ends

In every place I look

After this expression of creativity and personal feeling, it seems appropriate to do away with the formality, sustained through every blog post until this point, of avoiding first person pronouns; you and I are friendly enough now, I believe, to cast off such pretenses.

So what then is the business of this blog post? Is it only to bemoan the solitude of authorship, and shoehorn in a few of my verses? Yes, but not that only. You see, for practically the whole of my life, I was referred to as a “creative type”, and it served me well. It served me in that there were always glamorous stereotypes after which I could model myself; and I had a heading and direction as I pursued a career through college and beyond; but most importantly, it provided me with an emotional outlet.

I was so labeled because of my natural inclination to produce creative material; however, my parents, teachers and friends calling me “creative” reinforced this identity and instilled a desire to self-actualize it. This, in combination with my given propensities, resulted in a habit of creative production during the loneliest periods of my youth; I say, it saved me many times over. 

But what of all those “uncreative” types? Where could they turn in their lonely moments? During lunch, when I was alone, waxing poetic on the bench in the garden behind the high school library; where were they? Could a game of kickball reveal one’s soul to oneself?

If one is a very great lover of kickball, perhaps. But if over three decades of living has taught me anything, it is this: no person is “uncreative”. If there is a God, there is a Soul; and if there is a Soul, Art is our map to it. And there is art in all of us. 

Write, use paints, sing, make music. Show everyone or show no one. Art is a most wonderful way to know the world inside of yourself.

If your soul is full, you are always in good company; even when you’re alone.

Laziness

Laziness

It is useful to one’s growth and development to be given, at the start of step six, a list of character defects. It is even more useful, at the conclusion of the same step, to have formulated a list of contrary actions to counteract them. 

Unfortunately, there is a hazardous force which divorces one from one’s ability to implement those actions. This force takes many names, ‘laziness’ being one; it is also called ‘willingness’ and sometimes ‘effort’.

The writer of this blog once considered laziness to be a misnomer; a misdiagnosis; it was, it made such beautiful sense, the outward appearance of paralytic anxiety. Indeed, anxiety can turn energy against itself, and render it apparently inert. But if we are honest in our self-examination, does this explanation account for our every idleness?

No, for the writer of this blog, at least, when it comes right down to it, it does not. No, in point of fact, there are instances in which one scours ‘l’intérieur’ for gusto and, having scoured it, simply finds none. 

Is it fair to assume then that tiredness, a lack of sleep, might account for what remains of our disinterest in rising from the couch and painting a landscape or feeding the homeless? In some cases, perhaps. Yet the energy to watch television and eat a sandwich does usually reveal itself. 

Truly, don’t we all know, at least transiently, what it is to simply lack the inclination to do what we ought? There are other contributing factors, to be sure; resentment, conflicting desires and a “hundred forms of fear”. But ultimately, we must face the fact that a lack of inspiration may be innate in us.  A lack of passion, like power, may be “our dilemma”.

What is the remedy? Drugs and alcohol worked wonders for a time, but the consequences, we found, were too severe. So instead we are told to “ask God for inspiration. An intuitive thought or a decision… What used to be the occasional inspiration gradually becomes a working part of the mind… Having just made conscious contact with God, it is not probable that we are going to be inspired at all times… Nevertheless, we find that our thinking will, as time passes, be more and more on the plane of inspiration.” Never forget, dear reader: at the other end of every decision you make is another human being. 

And if God exists, he loves people who love people who love people.

Inspiration


The writer of this blog did at one time take heart in the notion that ‘laziness’ was a misnomer, a misdiagnosis; to be lazy was only and surely, it made such common sense, the outward appearance of paralytic anxiety. 

For indeed, anxiety can turn energy against itself and render it, by appearances, inert. However, if we are truly honest in our self-examination, does this explanation account for all our human idleness?

No, for the writer of this blog, at least, it does not. No, in point of fact, there are instances in which one may very placidly scour one’s internal stores for gusto and, having scoured them, discover exactly none. 

Might exhaustion, a lack of sleep, account for one’s disinterest in rising from the couch and painting a landscape or feeding the homeless? Yet the energy to watch television and eat a sandwich does uncannily reveal itself. 

Truly, don’t we all know, at least transiently, what it is to simply lack the inclination to do what we ought? There are other contributing factors, to be sure; resentment, conflicting desires and a “hundred forms of fear”. Ultimately, though, we must face the fact that a lack of inspiration may be innate in us. A failure of passion, like power, may figure into “our dilemma”.

What is the remedy? 

Drugs and alcohol worked wonders for a time, but the consequences, we found, were too severe. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous tells us to “ask God for inspiration. An intuitive thought or a decision… What used to be the occasional inspiration gradually becomes a working part of the mind… Having just made conscious contact with God, it is not probable that we are going to be inspired at all times… Nevertheless, we find that our thinking will, as time passes, be more and more on the plane of inspiration.” 

If you search and you find yourself uninspired; keep searching. Never forget, dear reader: at the other end of every decision you make is another human being. 

And if God exists, he loves people who love people who love people.

Humiliation


There is a certain sort of person who prefers never to think of themselves as jealous. They might cop to envy, or admit that an aspect of someone else’s current circumstance is a goal they might one day like to achieve; but they will, in nearly every case, insist that the timing has not been right; that it will happen when it is meant to happen. 

Why? Because jealousy is embarrassing. It is, dare we concede, humiliating. The writer of this blog is just such a person. Perhaps some of you are as well. 

Why is our pride so precious? The Oxford Dictionary defines pride as “a feeling of deep pleasure derived from one’s own achievements.” So it is a sense that we are “better than” some contingent of our fellows? Then it ought to be dispensed with at once! “Humiliation is the beginning of sanctification,” said 17th century poet John Donne. And the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous speaks, too, of pride’s “leveling… which the [12 step] process requires for its successful consummation.” 

But that same dictionary defines pride also as a “consciousness of one’s own dignity.” And dignity as being “worthy of honor or respect.” Certainly, this is an unalienable right due us all! 

It seems only the edict of reason, then, that our lives must be lived somewhere in the middle place; that there is an order and it is cyclic; that we must apply the principles of good hygiene to our psyches just as we do to our bodies. 

Or, to use a more vivid and accurate metaphor; that we ‘muirburn’ or ‘swail’ our egos as we do our forests and grasslands, at risk for wildfires. That is to say, that we regularly and prescriptively set them on fire, in order to prevent annihilation. 

We cannot “wash” our egos with a “shower”; we must burn them to the ground. And no such flame exists in one’s own breast, for the superego cannot so separate itself as to become a villain to its host. No, the flame must come from without. 

So take some comfort, then, in the slings and the arrows of daily life; the insults and the slights; and particularly in the crippling humiliations. Yes of course your cheeks are flush! You are chock-full of the stuff of life!

For “pride goeth before destruction…” and “if you are willing to experience fear, disappointment, humiliation, and embarrassment… You become an unstoppable force of nature.” -Nicholas Lore

What If?

What if you had woken up this morning and walked out the front door naked, screaming bloody murder into the street? 

What if you had picked up the phone and called each of your loved ones, describing your sexual fantasies in increasingly vivid detail? What if you had driven your car into a crowd of people?

In comparison, whatever mistakes you have made today -a typo in an email, the misremembered name of your new colleague, the coffee you spilled on your new shoes- must surely seem slight. 

What if you were moments from death, many decades from now, and given the opportunity to travel back to this moment? Can you imagine the inexplicable joy, the utter freedom you would feel to be, simply and exactly, as you are right now? 

It is sometimes said in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous that “you cannot think your way into right action. You can only act your way into right thinking.” And it is indeed foolish to dwell errantly in one’s own mind. 

However, the writer of this blog must object to the aforementioned truism on the following basis: we can, in point of fact, take some control of our self-perception by doing just that; by dwelling for a time in our imaginations, with care and on purpose. 

We can better appreciate what is by asking ourselves what might well have been, and what might one day be. This is productive thinking. This is mindfulness.

The great screenwriting instructor Robert McKee is known to say that the screenwriter must know the world of their story “with the depth and breadth that God knows this world.” 

While we can never presume to know how the God of our understanding thinks, this is very good encouragement to be vigilantly thoughtful as we proceed throughout our day; and, indeed, throughout our lives.

How are you feeling right now?

Are there any resentments amongst the feelings inside of you? Is one or more of them directed toward a person, walking around on the planet right now? What does it feel like? Does it feel like a nausea in your heart?

In Latin, “sentire” means ‘to feel’. A ‘resentment’ then, might be understood as ‘a feeling that repeats upon us’; a feeling we cannot elude by time alone. How, then, can we do away with such persistent malignancies of emotion?

The answer, of course, if not innately understood, can be well-remembered from our formative years, whenever a conflict arose, as it did so often between two children on the schoolyard, and a supervising adult sought to resolve it.

What steps were followed by such an authority figure, in such circumstances? More than likely, they conformed to the following; step one: in the tempering presence of this mediator, each child was free, in turn, to voice their feelings about the conflict; to make known their perspective on the injury done to them by the other.

Step two: putting forth every effort to acknowledge and accommodate the feelings of both children, the adult would utilize the full power of their judgment and attempt to procure an apology from the child who caused the greater offense. If necessary, a punishment would be administered.

And so it went when we were babes. But babes we are no more. For when “[we became adults, we] put away childish things.” Gone are the responsible adults, paid and obliged to mend our broken peaces. Or more to the point, the responsible adults are us.

How do we proceed, then, in the absence of an apology, though it might be owed, as life owes death?

It is no easy thing. The harms man commits against his fellows are great. Yet there is recourse, and it’s pursuant to the same principles that governed the schoolyards of our nonage.

We must plead guilty or no contest to every charge levied against us; we must argue on behalf of the prosecution, and throw ourselves upon the mercy of the court.

For only then have we the spiritual dexterity to “forgive those who trespass against us;” who do so with impunity, laughingly, asking no forgiveness.

For only then are we truly free.

The Interactive Guide to How Addiction Affects Relationships

Introduction: What is Addiction?

Addiction is a chronic disease that impacts the brain. It is a complex condition with many components, including physical, psychological, and social factors.

It is not just about drugs or alcohol. Many people become addicted to activities such as gambling, shopping, or sex.

What Type of Relationships Are Most at Risk for Addiction?

There are many types of relationships that can be at risk for addiction. However, there are some that are more at risk than others. For example, families with addiction problems have a higher probability of addiction in the children. They also have an increased risk of divorce and domestic violence.

How to Deal With an Addict in a Relationship

Addiction is a difficult topic to talk about, but it is an important one. It can be a difficult addiction to overcome and can take years of therapy and hard work. There are many different types of addiction, but the most common ones are drugs and alcohol.

The first step in dealing with an addict in a relationship is establishing boundaries. This means that you should have limits on how much they can drink or do drugs, what they can do while they’re drinking or doing drugs, and how often they can drink or do drugs. Setting these boundaries will help you feel more in control of the situation.

The second step is to get professional help for yourself if you need it. You may need counseling for your own emotional issues as well as information about how to deal with an addict in

What are the Effects of Addiction on a Relationship?

There are many effects that addiction has on a relationship. These include the addict’s behavior and actions as well as the family’s participation in the addict’s recovery process. The addict’s behavior and actions are often dictated by their addiction. This can cause problems for the family because it may be difficult to predict when they will relapse or if they will relapse at all.

The family’s participation in the addict’s recovery process is also important because this shows how much they care about them and want them to get better.

Conclusion & Tips for Recovery Partners

In conclusion, it is important for recovering partners to remember that their relationship with the other person is the most important thing. They should not feel discouraged if they do not get the ideal response from their loved one. It takes time and patience to heal a relationship.

Some tips for recovering partners are:

– Keep your partner in the loop about what you are doing and feeling.

– Be patient with yourself and your partner as it takes time for both parties to heal from this type of relationship.

– Make sure you take care of yourself by going on walks, reading books, or spending time with friends and family members who support you.