Friday, 20 April 2012

Stopping drinking for ever

"Next he can be assured that you do not intend to lecture, moralize, or condemn; that if this was done formerly, it was because of misunderstanding. If possible express a lack of hard feeling toward him. At this point, it might be well to explain alcoholism, the illness. Say that you believe he is a gravely-ill person, with this qualification—being perhaps fatally ill, does he want to get well? You ask, because many alcoholics, being warped and drugged, do not want to quit. But does he? Will he take every necessary step, submit to anything to get well, to stop drinking forever?
If he says yes, does he really mean it, or down inside does he think he is fooling you, and that after rest and treatment he will be able to get away with a few drinks now and then? We believe a man should be thoroughly probed on these points. Be satisfied he is not deceiving himself or you.
Whether you mention this book is a matter for your discretion. If he temporizes and still thinks he can ever drink again, even beer, he might as well be discharged after the next bender which, if an alcoholic, he is almost certain to have. He should understand that emphatically. Either you are dealing with a man who can and will get well or you are not. If not, why waste time with him? This may seem severe, but it is usually the best course." ('Alcoholics Anonymous, 142:1–3)

This was written for employers but it sets out very clearly what tack the founders of AA took towards prospects.

There are some striking points:

(1) "Will he take every necessary step, submit to anything to get well, to stop drinking forever?"

Note we are not interested in stopping drinking one day at a time; we're interested in facing the cold, hard fact that our drinking will never be normal. If we cannot accept this, we need to experiment more to assure ourselves.

(2) "We believe a man should be thoroughly probed on these points."

It is perfectly acceptable at this point in the sponsorship question to ask difficult questions until the truth has been proffered. If such matters are not dealt with here and now, problems are stored up for later, because there will not be sufficient willingness to take the necessary action.

(3) "Either you are dealing with a man who can and will get well or you are not. If not, why waste time with him?"

It not my job as a sponsor to induce willingness or confer ability. If the person lacks one or the other (and it can be impossible to determine which from the outside), I cannot remedy the situation.

Monday, 16 April 2012

From 'the Narcissist's Handbook'

Gentle reader, do not try this at home!

Of the thousands of events that come past you in a day, select a small number, and interpret them as an attack against you. Disregarding all other thoughts, construct your perception of the world in accordance with these misinterpreted scraps, and, hey presto! You are now the proud owner of a brand new Victimhood.

Don't forget to grumble, whine, and, most importantly, attack everything and everyone around you, to stop "them" (now you know who "they" are!) destroying you first. With any luck at all you will actually create the reality you previously only speculated about, thereby proving you were right all along.

Except you never were.

It's like a river that becomes clogged because of a junk trap: if the junk trap is not cleared, the river becomes entirely blocked, and all you see is the mountain of junk.

* * * * *

Until I became willing to jettison ALL my 'lifelong conceptions' (page 42, 'Alcoholics Anonymous'), I did not start to get well.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

How to deal with resentment

(1) Resentment is futile, even if our critical assessment is correct, as it changes nothing, so stop defending it. If action is necessary, take it. But you do not need to be resentful to do so.
(2) To be resentful is to focus perversely on what is wrong rather than what is right. Focus on what is right. This means the deliberate fostering of gratitude.
(3) Forgive. This means (a) stop taking the universe personally: nothing is about you, even if it seems to be about you (b) recognise that everyone and everything has the right to be defective: you won't be comfortable unless you accept this (c) foster acceptance and love for the person, institution, or situation by refusing to engage in attack thoughts and by surrounding it, in your mind, with blessing.
(4) Trust God that there are sufficient resources available in the universe to be OK even if things don't go your way.
(5) Seek God's will in making the most out of your contribution to the day.
(6) Finally, regarding the object of the resentment: do not think about it and do not talk about it. If you inadvertently think about it, bless it and return to your day.

Resentment, planning, and the failure of self

'Resentment is the "number one" offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick.' (Alcoholics Anonymous, page 64)

This is a bold statement.

How could it be true?

Resentment is the result of having a plan for the universe (for me and for you) which the universe (you and I) does not live up to.

No plan, no resentment. I often discover I have a plan only when I become upset. In fact, becoming upset is a sure sign I have a plan.

So, plans lead to resentment (upset).

Why is this the root of all spiritual disease?

My responses to resentment are as follows:
(1) Stew in a mind-mess, divorced from reality, unable to engage usefully in the world and missing everything it has to offer, trapped in my goldfish bowl bubble, separate from God, and separate from you, surrounded by hellish visions of my own mis-creation.
(2) Retaliate (to punish the universe for failing to live up to my plan).
(3) Manipulate and control (to force the world to live up to my plan).
(4) Scheme (i.e. make up a new plan).

Furthermore, I take the failure of my plan as a personal failure, so I feel guilt and shame.

(2) and (3) result in harm to others, which adds to the guilt and shame.

Since my present is screwed (because of (1)–(4) above plus guilt and shame), I am frightened, which is only the sure knowledge that, if nothing changes, nothing changes: inside I know that this state of affairs, despite my scheming, will persist for ever, and the fear is simply a projection forward of current unhappiness.

The purpose of Steps Four and Five is to lay bare the bankruptcy of this system. If I have any illusion that a life run on self-will is going to succeed, Steps Four and Five have failed and I might as well drink, because all I will do is recreate the problem in another form.

So, it is clear that resentment is the root of all spiritual disease.

But what is the root of resentment?

Planning. Also known as playing God.

Once I have confessed and made amends, my job is to avoid self-will (the minute, self-based, ego-driven plans for my own aggrandisement) in favour of seeking God's will (health, happiness, harmony, love, joy, peace, and connection, through means and channels I allow God to show me).

No plan, no resentment. No resentment, no stewing, no retaliation, no manipulation, no control, no scheming, no fear. Bingo! Jackpot!

This is all laid out clearly in our book, Alcoholics Anonymous, for which I am therefore very grateful.

'First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn’t work. Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children. Most Good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom. When we sincerely took such a position, all sorts of remarkable things followed. We had a new Employer. Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well.' (Alcoholics Anonymous, pages 62–63)

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Arrangements that refuse to stay put

"If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful." (Page 60, 'Alcoholics Anonymous'.)

A particular writer I read asserts that material reality is 1% of all reality.

Trouble is, that 1% can be all we see, and I get totally caught up in the 1%.

Everything boils down to plans and designs for that 1%: the delusion that, if that 1% were the way I stipulate, everyone would be happier (not least me, but certainly others, too).

It may well be the case that the world would be an odd sort of Utopia were my scripts to be followed to the tee. Leaving aside the rightness and wrongness of that assertion, what is always evident from my inventory is that my hanging on to the alternative design for the universe (which, when I compare it to my perception of reality, is the source of all resentment) is what is really causing the trouble.

The 'situation' may not be entirely my fault, but my 'trouble' (the disturbance) always is (cf. pages 67 and 63).

So, let us say that the 1% can be nudged in the direction of improvement (so we get to envision possible improvement and work towards that in accordance with the page 89 principles of cooperation, lack of criticism, and helpfulness). We are still left, however, with the problem that the 1% will always fall woefully short of what we think we require to be OK.

In the words of Chuck C., 'I'd give up if I were you'.

I need to keep my spirit firmly in the 99% of reality that is not material and visit the material world to contribute what I can.

Residing primarily in the world of the spirit is the only answer I have found, and, because that means, on a good day, I am largely unaffected by the material 1%, I can actually engage more effectively and 'presently' in that 1% than I can when I find it so objectionable I build walls of judgement to keep it away from me.

"We have come to believe He would like us to keep our heads in the clouds with Him, but that our feet ought to be firmly planted on earth. That is where our fellow travellers are, and that is where our work must be done. These are the realities for us. We have found nothing incompatible between a powerful spiritual experience and a life of sane and happy usefulness." (Page 130:1)

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

No such thing as a bad meeting

I went to a meeting tonight where there wasn't much programme and there wasn't much hope. My friend and I both shared what had worked for us and the fact that we have been given a solution in AA to every problem we have ever had.

A newcomer, still reeking of alcohol, made a beeline to us after the meeting. He said we'd given him hope. It was like watching something drawn by a magnet. We've taken his number and we'll be trying to take him to a few more meetings.

I cannot go to a bad meeting, because, if I go, I can carry a solution, so there is always a solution in the room in every meeting I go to.

I cannot go to a bad meeting, because, if others are there, there will be SOMEONE in need.

God does the match-making.

All we have to do is show up and be matched.

Without or within

How do you change the world? Or indeed AA?

Pot shots at what is wrong? Nope.

Hot-headed discussion about what is wrong? Nope.

Neither of these either reach what needs changing or succeed in changing it on those sorry occasions that the pot shots and hot-headed discussion actually come into contact with the hapless groups in question.

But I have seen AA change, and it is like this:

The Great Reality is deep down Within. The Without cannot be changed by manipulation. The Without is changed automatically by a change in the Within, as an outpicturing, an outflowering, an outflowing thereof.

The AA Without that we see is a consequence of whether or not the individuals attending are connected to the Great Reality Within.

If we want the Without to change, we have to help individuals reach their Great Reality Within.

This involves two stages: (1) being happy, joyous, and free, and thus attracting those who are blocked (Tradition 11) (2) placing ourselves at the service of God, so that we can do God's will, not have God do ours, to determine how best to help other individuals remove what blocks them from God.

What then manifests outwardly is automatic and need not be planned and designed in an isolated bubble of wilfulness, as each individual acting individually and collectively (Step 11 and Tradition 2) will channel the Great Will in ways better than what we can plan and design (page 100 of 'Alcoholics Anonymous'), by taking a thousand thousand small actions that jointly build a different outward reality.

Blockages get removed one individual at a time. Sure, groups are important, but a blocked person going to an unblocked group will become unblocked only by asking an unblocked person for help and going through the intimate process of the Steps. Without that, they remain a ball of light trapped in a cardboard box.

When change is needed, on whatever scale, at whatever level, the solution always boils down to this:

(1) Become a receiver of God's grace
(2) Become a transmitter of God's grace

... in humility, in the simplicity of one alcoholic talking to another.

And where we start is this: go to where the suffering is. Be Light itself. Watch what happens.

"All problems in AA can be solved by strong sponsorship." (Don P, Colorado)