Men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol. The sensation is so elusive that, while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false. To them, their alcoholic life seems the only normal one. They are restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks—drinks which they see others taking with impunity. After they have succumbed to the desire again, as so many do, and the phenomenon of craving develops, they pass through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again. This is repeated over and over, and unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery.
The tyrant alcohol wielded a double-edged sword over us: first we were smitten by an insane urge that condemned us to go on drinking, and then by an allergy of the body that insured we would ultimately destroy ourselves in the process.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
Who has redness of eyes?
Those who tarry long over wine;
those who go to try mixed wine.
Do not look at wine when it is red,
when it sparkles in the cup
and goes down smoothly.
In the end it bites like a serpent
and stings like an adder.
Your eyes will see strange things,
and your heart utter perverse things.
You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea,
like one who lies on the top of a mast.
'They struck me,' you will say, 'but I was not hurt;
they beat me, but I did not feel it.
When shall I awake?
I must have another drink.'
Proverbs, Chapter 23
We know that while the alcoholic keeps away from drink, as he may do for months or years, he reacts much like other men. We are equally positive that once he takes any alcohol whatever into his system, something happens, both in the bodily and mental sense, which makes it virtually impossible for him to stop. The experience of any alcoholic will abundantly confirm this. These observations would be academic and pointless if our friend never took the first drink, thereby setting the terrible cycle in motion. Therefore, the main problem of the alcoholic centres in his mind, rather than in his body.
If a mere code of morals or a better philosophy of life were sufficient to overcome alcoholism, many of us would have recovered long ago. But we found that such codes and philosophies did not save us, no matter how much we tried. We could wish to be moral, we could wish to be philosophically comforted, in fact, we could will these things with all our might, but the needed power wasn't there. Our human resources, as marshalled by the will, were not sufficient; they failed utterly. Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a Power greater than ourselves. Obviously.
He says, if you're going to solve a problem, it helps if you know what the problem is. For instance, says he, 'I've always been afraid of dogs. Some little old girl comes walking down the sidewalk, with a great Dane on the leash, and says she's not afraid of him at all. A poodle runs out, and I take off!' He's over six feet tall—I can just see him running from a poodle! He says this caused him a lot of embarrassment in his life, and it finally became necessary for him to look at the reason that he was afraid of dogs. And he looked and looked, and he started to turn the pages of his life back, and he got clear back to where he was seven years old. He remembered that, when he was seven, a little dog bit him. But he said that didn't completely satisfy him. So he looked at it again, and he saw that the reason the dog bit him was that he was chasing the little girl at the time. Now, says he, 'All my life, I've been chasing women and getting in trouble and running from dogs, and dogs never were my problem in the first place.' So he says it helps to know the problem.
A New Pair of Glasses, Chuck Chamberlain
We had a new Employer. Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well.
Brother Lawrence told me he had always been governed by love without selfish views. Since he resolved to make the love of God the end of all his actions, he had found reasons to be well satisfied with his method. He was pleased when he could take up a straw from the ground for the love of God, seeking Him only, and nothing else, not even His gifts.
… [he] reasoned: I did not engage in a religious life but for the love of God. I have endeavoured to act only for Him. Whatever becomes of me, whether I be lost or saved, I will always continue to act purely for the love of God. …
Brother Lawrence said that in order to form a habit of conversing with God continually and referring all we do to Him, we must, at first, apply to Him with diligence. Then, after a little care, we would find His love inwardly draw us to Him without any difficulty.
He expected after the pleasant days God had given him, he would have his turn of pain and suffering. Yet he was not uneasy about it. Knowing that, since he could do nothing of himself, God would not fail to give him the strength to bear them.
When an occasion of practising some virtue was offered, he addressed himself to God saying, 'Lord, I cannot do this unless Thou enable me'. Then he received strength more than sufficient. When he had failed in his duty, he only confessed his fault saying to God, 'I shall never do otherwise, if You leave me to myself. It is You who must hinder my failing and mend what is amiss.' Then, after this, he gave himself no further uneasiness about it.
Practising the Presence of God, compiled by Father Joseph de Beaufort
In dealing with resentments, we set them on paper. We listed people, institutions or principles with whom we were angry. We asked ourselves why we were angry. In most cases it was found that our self-esteem, our pocketbooks, our ambitions, our personal relationships (including sex) were hurt or threatened. So we were sore. We were 'burned up'.
We have had a much keener look at ourselves and those about us. We have seen that we were prodded by unreasonable fears or anxieties into making a life business of winning fame, money, and what we thought was leadership. So false pride became the reverse side of that ruinous coin marked 'Fear.' We simply had to be number one people to cover up our deep-lying inferiorities. In fitful successes we boasted of greater feats to be done; in defeat we were bitter. If we didn't have much of any worldly success we became depressed and cowed. Then people said we were of the 'inferior' type. But now we see ourselves as chips off the same old block. At heart we had all been abnormally fearful. It mattered little whether we had sat on the shore of life drinking ourselves into forgetfulness or had plunged in recklessly and wilfully beyond our depth and ability. The result was the same—all of us had nearly perished in a sea of alcohol.
But today, in well-matured AA's, these distorted drives have been restored to something like their true purpose and direction. We no longer strive to dominate or rule those about us in order to gain self-importance. We no longer seek fame and honour in order to be praised. When by devoted service to family, friends, business, or community we attract widespread affection and are sometimes singled out for posts of greater responsibility and trust, we try to be humbly grateful and exert ourselves the more in a spirit of love and service. True leadership, we find, depends upon able example and not upon vain displays of power or glory.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
Q: With self and ego taking over periodically, do I analyse and look for answers too much?
A: You're a mess! If I were you, I'd just give up. I find so many of our people in AA, even in the Grapevine, writing about self-esteem, building self-esteem. I hear people get up here and talk all the time about 'you have to learn to love yourself before you can love anybody else'. I am most grateful this is not the case. I never spent any time trying to build up self-esteem or trying to love me. I wouldn't have taken me with a large dowry. I hated my damn guts. But I got busy doing things our book suggests, and it wasn't trying to learn how to 'self-esteem' me or to love me so I could love you. I don't think that's the way it is at all. Francis says, 'For it is better to love than be loved. It is better to understand than to be understood. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in forgiving that we're forgiven, and it is in dying to self that we awaken to eternal life.'
That's exactly what we've been talking about ever since we've been down here, exactly what we've been talking about. I don't believe that an image of me would add anything to my life at all. I haven't any more an image of me than I have of a walrus. I'm not interested in an image of me, that's not why I'm here. I'm here to share me with anybody that wants me in love, and let the chips fall where they may. I'm not even interested in your opinion of what's happened, except when you want to give it to me. That's not my deal. I love you, and that's all I have to do. That's what I'm interested in, that's my deal. It's not my deal who you love or what you love, or what you think. That's your deal. I love you, period. I don't even have to concern myself with what you think about me. I've got no image at all of me.
A New Pair of Glasses, Chuck Chamberlain
But they had not learned enough of humility, fearlessness and honesty, in the sense we find it necessary, until they told someone else all their life story.
On the day the Baal Shem Tov was dying, he assigned each of his disciples a task to carry on in his name, to do some of his work. When he finished with all of them, he had one more task. He called the last disciple and gave him this task: to go all over Europe to retell the stories he remembered from the Master. The disciple was very disappointed. This was hardly a prestigious job. But the Baal Shem Tov told him that he would not have to do this forever; he would receive a sign when he should stop and then he could live out the rest of his life in ease.
So off he went, and days and months turned into years and years of telling stories until he felt he had told them in every part of the world. Then he heard of a man in Italy, a nobleman in fact, who would pay a gold ducat for each new story told. So the disciple went to Italy to the nobleman's castle. But to his absolute horror he discovered that he had forgotten all the Baal Shem Tov stories! He couldn't remember a single story. He was mortified. But the nobleman was kind and urged him to stay a few days anyway, in the hope that he would eventually remember something.
But the next day and the next he remembered nothing. Finally, on the third day, the disciple protested that he must go, out of sheer embarrassment. But as he was about to leave, oh, yes, suddenly he remembered one story, and this would prove that he indeed did know the great Baal Shem Tov, for he was the only one there when the story happened. And this is the story he remembered.
Once the Baal Shem Tov told him to harness the horses, for they were about to take a trip to Turkey where at this time of the year the streets were decorated for the Christians' Easter festival. The disciple was upset, for it was well known that Jews were not safe during the Christian Holy Week and Easter. They were fair game for the Christians shouting 'God-killers!' And, in fact, it was the custom during the Easter festival to kill one Jew in reparation.
Still, they went. They went into the city and then into the Jewish quarter, where the Jews were all huddled behind their shutters out of fear. They were secluded, waiting till the festival was over and they could go on out into the streets again in safety. So imagine how startled and surprised they were when the Baal Shem Tov stood up and opened all the windows of the house where they were staying. And furthermore he stood there in full view!
And looking through the window he saw the bishop leading the procession. He was arrayed like a prince with gold vestments, silver mitre, and a diamond-studded staff. The Baal Shem Tov told his disciple, 'Go tell the bishop I want to see him.' Was he out of his mind? Did he want to die? But nothing could deter this order, so the disciple went out and went up to the bishop to tell him that the Baal Shem Tov wanted to see him. The bishop seemed frightened and agitated. But he went. He went and was secluded for three hours with the Baal Shem Tov. Then the Master came out and, without saying anything else, told his disciples they were ready to go back home.
As the disciple finished the story, he was about to apologise to the nobleman for the insignificance of the story, when he suddenly noticed the enormous impact the story had on the nobleman. He had dissolved into tears, and, finally, when he could speak, he said, 'Oh, disciple, your story has just saved my soul! You see, I was there that day. I was that bishop. I had descended from a long line of distinguished rabbis, but, one day, during a period of great persecution, I had abandoned the faith and converted to Christianity. The Christians, of course, were so pleased that, in time, they even made me a bishop. And I had accepted everything, even went along with the killing of the Jews each year, until that one year. The night before the festival, I had a terrible dream of the Day of Judgement, and the danger to my soul. So, until you came, the very next day, with a message from the Baal Shem Tov, I knew that I had to go with you.
For three hours, he and I talked. He told me that there still might be hope for my soul. He told me to sell my goods and retire on what was left and live a life of good deeds and holiness. There might still be hope. And his last words to me were these: 'when a man comes to you and tells you your own story, you will know that your sins are forgiven.'
'So I have been asking everyone I knew for stories from the Baal Shem Tov. And I recognised you immediately when you came, and I was happy. But when I saw that all the stories had been taken from you, I recognised God's judgement. Yet now you have remembered one story, my story, and I know now that the Baal Shem Tov has interceded on my behalf, and that God has forgiven me.'
When a man comes to you and tells you your own story, you know that your sins are forgiven. And when you are forgiven, you are healed.
Storytelling: Imagination and Faith. William J. Bausch
If we can answer to our satisfaction, we then look at Step Six. We have emphasised 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.
When you fight a thing you antagonise it and it hits back. The harder you fight it the harder it hits. When you give your attention to anything, you are building that thing into your consciousness, for good or evil.
A story is told about William Penn. He had been accustomed from boyhood to carrying a sword because it was part of the dress of a gentleman at that period. One day it occurred to him that this was inconsistent with his Quakerism; but on the other hand he knew that he would feel extremely embarrassed without it. So he consulted George Fox, never doubting that his leader would say, 'You must stop wearing it.' George Fox was silent for a few moments, and then said, 'Carry thy sword until thou canst no longer carry it.'
A year or so later Penn discontinued the practice quite easily.
When you are faced with some negative condition, withdraw your attention from it by building the opposite into your subconscious. Then the undesirable thing falls away like an overripe fruit.
Around the Year with Emmet Fox
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 then completed Step Seven.
Twenty some-odd years ago, I talked on Sunday night in Highland Park, and after the meeting there were four or five of us standing in the middle of the room, with our arms on each other's shoulders. And we were saying to each other, 'How lucky can a man be? How fortunate can you be? That a tongue-chewin', babblin' idiot drunk could have a life like this. How fortunate could we be?' And one kid wasn't saying anything, and pretty soon he looked to me and he said, 'Chuck, I'm ignorant. I ain't never read no books. There's no sense in me reading books because I don't understand them. I don't know nothin' about God, I don't know nothin' about the Bible, but this programme no man can take away from me. When I do these simple things, one day at a time and to the best of my ability, I feel clean inside, and good things happen in my life.' And when I could talk, I said, 'Son, don't ever read no books, no time. You said the very essence of all the books that were ever written. That what we want—that we might feel clean inside and have good things happen to us in our lives.'
A New Pair of Glasses, Chuck Chamberlain
The alcoholic is like a tornado roaring his way through the lives of others. Hearts are broken. Sweet relationships are dead. Affections have been uprooted. Selfish and inconsiderate habits have kept the home in turmoil. We feel a man is unthinking when he says that sobriety is enough. He is like the farmer who came up out of his cyclone cellar to find his home ruined. To his wife, he remarked, 'Don't see anything the matter here, Ma. Ain't it grand the wind stopped blowin'?'
After we come into AA, if we go on growing, our attitudes and actions toward security—emotional security and financial security—commence to change profoundly. Our demand for emotional security, for our own way, had constantly thrown us into unworkable relations with other people. Though we were sometimes quite unconscious of this, the result always had been the same. … we had insisted on being over-dependent upon them. …
When we had … insisted, like infants ourselves, that people protect and take care of us or that the world owed us a living, then the result had been equally unfortunate. This often caused the people we had loved most to push us aside or perhaps desert us entirely. Our disillusionment had been hard to bear. We couldn't imagine people acting that way toward us. We had failed to see that though adult in years we were still behaving childishly, trying to turn everybody—friends, wives, husbands, even the world itself—into protective parents. We had refused to learn the very hard lesson that overdependence upon people is unsuccessful because all people are fallible, and even the best of them will sometimes let us down, especially when our demands for attention become unreasonable.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
A person who is fixed on the state where his self-esteem is regulated by external supplies … goes through this world in a condition of perpetual greediness. If his narcissistic needs are not satisfied, his self-esteem diminishes to a danger point. He is ready to do anything to avoid this. … On the one hand the … fixation of such persons manifests itself in a tendency to react to frustrations with violence; on the other hand their … dependence impels them to try to get what they need by ingratiation and submissiveness. …
These persons, in their continuous need of supplies that give satisfaction and heighten self-esteem subconsciously … are ... unable to love actively; they passively need to feel loved. … they are characterised by their dependence ... They tend to change objects frequently because no object is able to provide the necessary satisfaction. … Without giving any consideration to the feelings of their fellow man they demand of them an understanding of their own feelings. They are always bent upon establishing 'a good understanding' with people, though they are unable to fulfil their own part of such an understanding; this need compels them to attempt to deny their ever-present readiness to react hostilely.
… the personality of the object is of no great importance. They need the supplies, and it does not matter who provides them.'
The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis, Otto Fenichel M.D.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. 9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, …
Simply we tell him that we will never get over drinking until we have done our utmost to straighten out the past.
I was to right all such matters to the utmost of my ability.
[NB 'matzah' is the unleavened bread eaten at Passover; 'chametz' is the leavened bread, or remains thereof, searched for and removed from Jewish households before Passover begins, in a ceremonial hunt. The Jewish people celebrate Passover as a commemoration of their liberation over 3,300 years ago by God from slavery in ancient Egypt, which was ruled by the Pharaohs, and their freedom as a nation under the leadership of Moses.]
When the hunt is complete, the following prayer is said:
All leaven or anything leavened which is in my possession, which I have neither seen nor removed, and about which I am unaware, shall be considered nullified and ownerless as the dust of the earth.
There's really only one difference between matzah and chametz.
They're both made from flour and water, both baked in an oven, and both provide nourishment.
But one stays flat and humble, while the other fills itself with hot air.
That's why matzah is a key ingredient for leaving your personal Egypt: As long as we are full of delusions of self-importance, there's no way to break out and grow to a new level. Once we make ourselves small, we can fit through any bars and fly past any cloud.
Based on letters and talks of Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. … Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help.
Some of us had a long list of grievances against the alcoholic, especially while the drinking was still active. The worst possible thing we can do is to remember them, dwell on them, and polish up our halos of martyrdom. The very best we can do is to erase them from memory, so each new day becomes an opportunity to make things better.
It is not my assignment to keep an inventory of my spouse's faults and misbehaviours. My task is to watch for my own and root them out, so that what I say and do will help to make things better for me and for my family.
Storing up grievances is more than a waste of time; it's a waste of life that could be lived to greater satisfaction. If I keep a record of oppressions and indignities, I am restoring them to painful reality.
I've found they're surprisingly easy to forget, once I start using the Al-Anon programme each day.
'The horror of that moment,' the King said, 'I shall never, never forget.' 'You will, though,' said the Queen, 'if you don't make a memorandum of it.' (Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking Glass)
One Day at a Time in Al-Anon (18 August)
But we must be careful not to drift into worry, remorse or morbid reflection, for that would diminish our usefulness to others.
All of us, without exception, pass through times when we can pray only with the greatest exertion of will. Occasionally we go even further than this. We are seized with a rebellion so sickening that we simply won’t pray. When these things happen we should not think too ill of ourselves. We should simply resume prayer as soon as we can, doing what we know to be good for us.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
Prayers like gravel
Flung at the sky's
window, hoping to attract
the loved one's
attention. But without
visible plaits to let
down for the believer
to climb up,
to what purpose open
that far casement?
have refrained long since
but that peering once
through my locked fingers
I thought that I detected
the movement of a curtain.
Folk Tale, R. S. Thomas
Remember they are very ill.
The slightest sign of fear or intolerance may lessen your husband’s chance of recovery.
The slightest disposition on your part to guide his appointments or his affairs so he will not be tempted will be noticed. Make him feel absolutely free to come and go as he likes. This is important. If he gets drunk, don’t blame yourself. God has either removed your husband’s liquor problem or He has not. If not, it had better be found out right away.
… we had tried to play God and dominate those about us … Where people had temporarily let us run their lives as though they were still children, we had felt very happy and secure ourselves. But when they finally resisted or ran away, we were bitterly hurt and disappointed. We blamed them, being quite unable to see that our unreasonable demands had been the cause.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
[Avoid 4 things:] preaching, cursing, analysing, counselling.
In All Our Affairs (Al-Anon)
Help is the sunny side of control.
Quotation from Annie L.
Once upon a time, there was an Enormous Thumb belonging to a woman with an Alcoholic Husband and Three Teenaged Children.
The four of them lived under her thumb, so of course they couldn't do much growing up. Often their spirits writhed under the weight; every time they tried to get out from under, they'd do something wrong and the thumb would clamp down on them again.
Father managed by keeping himself flattened out drunk most of the time; he was so cute about escaping to a bottle that, no matter how much mama watched, she couldn't catch him at it until he'd drunk himself into unconsciousness. Everyone thought she was a Very Nice Lady, and they were sorry she was having such a hard time with her family.
There was really no reason for her to come to Al-Anon to solve her problems because she always knew just what to do about everything. But she did want to make her husband stop drinking, so she thought she'd try it. She was quite unhappy at first because some of the members were not inclined to Pull Any Punches. She was quite indignant when they tried to show her what she was doing to her family, but to everyone's amazement, the Thumb began to shrink and lose weight, and things looked brighter.
More and more she realised what she was doing and, being a Determined Character, she applied the programme every day, and her other problems took care of themselves very nicely.
One Day at a Time in Al-Anon (12 October)