Friday, 29 April 2011

You may have already recovered and do not know it

"AA's Twelfth Step, carrying the message, is the basic service that our fellowship gives; it is our principal aim and the main reason for our existence. AA is more than a set of principles; it is a society of recovered alcoholics in action. We must carry AA's message; otherwise, we ourselves may fall into decay, and those who have not yet been given the truth may die." ('Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age', 139:4)

I used to believe that I would never recover from alcoholism, that I would always be recovering. God was somewhere in the distant future, over the rainbow, in a place where my problems had all been solved and I had no emotional disturbances any more. In the meantime, I would have to struggle through the suffering of this particular realm, being grateful that it wasn't quite as bad as it used to be. God was an empty concept, a distant memory or a distant dream.

I had missed the whole show.

Eighty years ago, alcoholics like me simply did not recover except in rare cases of spontaneous remission brought about by an involuntary spiritual experience.

The universal consciousness seems to have progressed, and spontaneous remission (possibly a technical term for the 'Grace of God'), accompanied by a catapulting into a Twelve Step fellowship, appears to be a regular occurrence.

Somehow, the Grace of God separated me from alcohol in 1993. The miracle happened then, and the job, now, is to ensure I remain sufficiently in contact with God that the obsession with alcohol as a solution does not return.

I have recovered: I do not drink, I do not want to drink, and, on the rare occasions that a drink crosses my mind, I am protected by Powers far greater than even my ego.

Seeking a better relationship with the God who separated me from alcohol and has kept me separated since 1993 is necessary merely in order never to drink, but, serendipitously, this relationship has, indeed, solved all of my other problems, my problems being not my life or my circumstances but my reaction to them. My troubles are, indeed, of my own making (cf. 62:2, 'Alcoholics Anonymous').

When the argument is presented that we are always recovering, the evidence cited is the persistence of the full range of human emotions and challenges.

The perception can be that to be human is a sickness that needs to be healed, hence the permanent state of recovery. Apart from the fact that this pathologises the human condition, which is deluded and depressing, it misses two key points:

(1) once a sufficient relationship with God is established, we recover and do not drink—presenting recovery as the unattainable goal of the future misses the fact that the miracle has already happened—we are, in effect, happy and do not know it;

(2) whilst we are convinced that our primary purpose is to further our own recoveries (because 'recovery' is the unattainable goal of the future towards which we must work), our primary purpose will not be helping other people to the miracle themselves.

"But obviously you cannot transmit something you haven't got." (164:2)

If the theory is that you can never recover and will always be sick, this line can be used (and is used) to justify retaining the focus on 'one's own recovery'—having a primary purpose of helping others is sometimes presented as an elaborate form of denial of one's own 'sickness' and a demonstration of arrogance (as though we had brought about our own recoveries through hard work without the key factor being the Grace of God).

It is possible that far more people in AA have recovered from alcoholism than believe it—whilst the belief persists in one's own 'sickness', the real job, showing others how we were given help (124:2), will be missed, as we attempt to 'resolve' our human condition as our prime focus.

If you are an alcoholic as described in the Book 'Alcoholics Anonymous' (see, particularly, 44:1), yet you haven't drunk for years, and not drinking, for you, is effortless, requiring no concerted thought or action to that particular end (cf. 85:0), God has already entered your heart to expel the obsession.

Wake up! Wake up! You have the Power of the Universe already activated in your life. Contact that Power—let it use you to take you beyond your current world of perceived limitation, and let that Power flood into every area of your life and spill over into the lives of those around you.

Stop believing your own mind: you have a goldfish bowl on your head painted on the inside with hellish visions of your own conjuring.

Smash the bowl.


Sunday, 24 April 2011

Effective sponsorship and ineffective sponsorship

"If he is not interested in your solution, if he expects you to act only as a banker for his financial difficulties or a nurse for his sprees, you may have to drop him until he changes his mind. This he may do after he gets hurt some more." (95:2, 'Alcoholics Anonymous')

Imagine a house full of flammable objects. Imagine a person addicted to the casual or malicious dropping of lit matches.

An ineffective sponsor runs around after the sponsee, installing fire extinguishers, hiding away flammable objects, putting out fires, and tending to the sponsee's burns.

An effective sponsor points out the connection between the dropping of lit matches and the subsequent conflagrations and waits for the call which says, "I cannot stop. Show me how."

Saturday, 23 April 2011

A Step Six willingness inventory

. . . we then look at Step Six. We have emphasized willingness as being indispensable. Are we now ready to let God remove from us all the things which we have admitted are objectionable? Can He now take them all every one? If we still cling to something we will not let go, we ask God to help us be willing. (76:1, 'Alcoholics Anonymous')

Steps Seven to Twelve solve alcoholism by shifting the focus from my welfare and others' conduct onto my conduct and others' welfare, starting from Step Seven:

When ready, we say something like this: "My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding. Amen." We have now completed Step Seven. (76:2)

The inventory is done. The confession is done. No further analysis of self is needed.

What is needed now is action to abandon self. That requires willingness and only willingness. I cannot change myself. I can, however, take action that clears the way for God to change me. This is why willingness is indispensable.

The following passages and associated questions aim to tease out whether the individual (me or someone I am sponsoring) is or is not willing to have God remove the problem—self-centredness.

For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead. If he did not work, he would surely drink again, and if he drank, he would surely die. Then faith would be dead indeed. With us it is just like that. My wife and I abandoned ourselves with enthusiasm to the idea of helping other alcoholics to a solution of their problems. (14:6 et seq.)
Simple but not easy; a price had to be paid. It meant destruction of self-centeredness. I must turn in all things to the Father of Light who presides over us all. (14:1)
Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them. (27:4)
At some of these we balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely. (58:3)
Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it will kill us! God makes that possible. And there often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without His aid. Many of us had moral and philosophical convictions galore, but we could not live up to them even though we would have liked to. Neither could we reduce our self-centeredness much by wishing or trying on our own power. We had to have God's help. (62:2)
But with the alcoholic, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harbouring such feelings we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to die.
If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be dubious luxury of normal men, but for the alcoholics, these things are poison. (66:1–2)
To get over drinking will require a transformation of thought and attitude. We all had to place recovery above everything, for without recovery we would have lost both home and business. (143:1)

1. Do I believe I will die if I remain trapped in self-centredness?

2. Am I willing, without reservation, to jettison every idea, emotion, and attitude that my Steps Four and Five have shown to be the cause of my ruin, both drunk and sober?

3. Am I willing, without reservation, to forgive everyone for everything, knowing that my anger will kill me if I don't?

4. Must I be rid of my self-centredness at all costs?

5. Am I willing, without reservation, to turn to God in all matters at all times?

6. Am I willing, without reservation, to abandon myself, the way people abandon a sinking ship, with enthusiasm to work and self-sacrifice for others?

7. Am I willing, without reservation, to place the actions of Steps Eight to Twelve above everything?

8. Am I willing to focus solely on others' welfare and my conduct, leaving my welfare and others' conduct to God?

He should not be pushed or prodded by you, his wife, or his friends. If he is to find God, the desire must come from within. (95:3)

I cannot force anyone else's willingness or my own.

If I am unwilling, I need to look deep inside at my experience and face, fearlessly, the proposition that God is everything or God is nothing (53:2). There is no half-way house; there is no middle-of-the-road solution (25:3). 

Friday, 22 April 2011

Step Eleven evening review—three considerations

When we retire at night we constructively review our day. Were we resentful, selfish, dishonest or afraid? Do we owe an apology? Have we kept something to ourselves which should be discussed with another person at once? Were we kind and loving toward all? What could we have done better? Were we thinking of ourselves most of the time? Or were we thinking of what we could do for others, of what we could pack into the stream of life? But we must be careful not to drift into worry, remorse or morbid reflection, for that would diminish our usefulness to others. After making our review we ask God's forgiveness and inquire what corrective measures should be taken. (87:1, 'Alcoholics Anonymous')

Three considerations:

(1) Whenever fear arises, I ask God what action, if any, I need to take regarding the situation, I write that on my 'to do' list for the next day, and then write the situation (e.g. the name of the person concerned or a description of the event, etc.) on a piece of paper and drop it into a 'God box' (a small box with a hole in the top, like a piggy-bank, with 'God' written on the side. A 'God pad' will also do, where I write the difficulty I am scared about.) Once I have my action plan and have officially transferred responsibility for the situation to God, no further thought on my part is necessary and in fact would spoil matters, like opening the oven door on a soufflé. When my mind returns to the matter, I dismiss the fear or fretting, in the knowledge that the problem is God's, not mine, resolve to mind my own beeswax, and return to MY business: my conduct of the day.

(2) Write down the corrective measures. I aim for a couple a day. No more. If I made several hundred changes a year, that would be more than enough. One or two a day suffices, therefore! Ideally they should be relatively general. Any specific actions go onto my list of plans for the day. Here, I am concerned with attitude and behaviour in general, e.g. "Do not take other people's anger personally." "Do not speak over other people." "Reject fantasy immediately." I then carry this list around with me. The list gradually increases. If a corrective measure is already on the list, I do not repeat it.

(3) Whatever comes up in my review is discussed. Anything that seriously disturbs me in particular MUST be discussed. Have a Step Eleven review buddy, with whom you SWAP the content of your Step Eleven review. I have two. If I let the rubbish build up in my consciousness, I soon become blocked and useless.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Words are symbols of symbols, twice removed from reality

"Do not let any prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you from honestly asking yourself what they mean to you." (47:0, 'Alcoholics Anonymous')

'God' is a word. The word is a signpost to a concept. The concept is the (poor) reflection in my mind of the reality.

The reality is this: I used to drink even when it was against all my best interests and I hated what it did to me and where it took me. Now I do not. I did not have that power. Now I have that power.

The power is real.

And the reality of that power is replicated endlessly in those around me.

The concept of that power, in my mind, I must remember, is a limited reflection.

And the word is just a word. A signpost.

People get bothered by the 'he' 'thing'. I tell them to learn Estonian and read the Big Book in Estonian, because Estonian does not make a distinction, grammatically, between male and female. There is a single word for 'he'/'she'/'it'. 'He' is not meant to denote male attributes. It is a grammatical convenience.

If I have a problem with this, the problem is never, really, with the word.

The problem usually relates to the concept in my mind of the power.

I never object, really, to other people's concepts, for those concepts are in their minds.

I can object to another person's concept only if that concept is in MY mind. It is not, then, their concept, but my concept. But even the word 'my' must be questioned, here.

If I have a problem with 'my' (i.e. a borrowed) 'concept' (i.e. limited reflection) of God, I need to be willing to let go of the failed, limited concept and stop blaming the world for the failed, limited concept in my mind. It may have come from the world, but I am the one who has taken it to heart and adopted it as the truth, even whilst rejecting it. It is a simple error. No more. It's like stepping in something on the street. I wash it off and move on.

AA may well be moving towards a more 'secular' answer to alcoholism. I guess this means that some people can get well without having to remove the blocks to access the power as they already have access to the power in the first place and are simply lacking basic instructions.

In other words, AA may be moving towards a situation where you tell people 'don't drink' and they don't, you tell people 'be selfless' and they are, you tell people 'don't worry' and they don't.

My overwhelming experience is that almost no one in AA can follow those instructions, consistently.

Lack of power is the problem, not lack of instructions, lack of motivation, etc.

The concept that is the reflection in my mind of the power is secondary.

The word I use for the concept is tertiary.

It is the power that matters.

And what blocks me from the power is self. Not me. Self. Concern with image. With want. With need. With desire. With prejudice. With memory. With projection. With my selective way of thinking. None of those is who I am. Yet remove the blocks, and power shows up, combined with a consciousness of that power.

"When many hundreds of people are able to say that the consciousness of the Presence of God is today the most important fact of their lives, they present a powerful reason why one should have faith." (51:0, 'Alcoholics Anonymous')

If you can remove these blocks as an act of the will, my hat is off to you!

God can and will, however, if sought. My hat is off to Him.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Leave the crying baby ...

So, your ego is torturing you with visions of the future and whipping you with memories from the past (all distorted, naturally). It is monstrous, and, at last, you see it for what it is. You turn away, deciding to practise the presence of God, turning your attention to your connection with Him and to how best to perform His work well in your immediate life, totally dedicated to abandoning self, once and for all. And, immediately, God starts coming through on His side of the deal. Marvellous.

Then you hear a little voice. Sounds like a baby crying. Then you realise it's yours. It's your ego. It has morphed from an ogre, a ghoul, a wraith, into a helpless infant. This is its latest attempt to win you back: fear that, if you do not pay constant attention to your life, your needs, your wants, how people treat you, what people think of you, what you are becoming, disaster will befall you. Or, rather, it. And it will be YOUR fault.

But leave it to die on the hillside. This is just the ego's last-ditch illusion and attempt to hold onto you. Withstand the crying as it becomes fainter, but do not tend to it, do not nurture it, do not feed it, do not rock it gently to sleep, even merely to pacify it, because it will merely grow stronger.

Go against your natural instincts and abandon it once and for all.

"If I am for me, who am I? If I am not for me, who is? If not now, when?"

Monday, 4 April 2011

When all else fails

When you are royally screwed and all else fails:

(1) Admit that your knowledge is risibly inadequate; that your perception of that fragment of knowledge is skewed; that your interpretation of that skewed perception of that fragment of knowledge is flawed.

(2) Stop making decisions based on that interpretation.

(3) Put down all defences.

(4) Say, "I do not care how long the process takes; I do not care if I am ever happy; I do not care if anything ever goes my way again; I just want THIS to stop."

(5) Flail helplessly on the altar of God, begging for mercy.

(6) Ask someone to take you through every action set out in the first 164 pages of the Book 'Alcoholics Anonymous'. Pretend you have never done it before, even if you have.