Friday, 15 May 2015

What to look for from a sponsor

From my sponsor, I look for guidance on how to apply the AA programme to my life in general and specific situations in particular. Sometimes, encouragement, approval, etc. are forthcoming, but I do not require these.

If I'm upset with my sponsor, it's helpful to ask: am I looking for something other than the above? Approval? Respect? Validation? Friendship? The role of parent, therapist, counsellor, doctor, lawyer, banker, partner, sibling, friend, rescuer, persecutor, victim, authority figure, nemesis, foil, patsy, scapegoat, rubber-stamper, prophet, seer, soothsayer, mystic, leader, clergyman, Pope, exorcist, starets?

Sponsorship is sponsorship; business is business; the relationship can be close but must not be confused with any other, or the purpose can be confounded.

Causes of relapse

In most cases, relapse follows a period of not living fully inside all three sides of the AA triangle of recovery (steps), service, and fellowship.

If the instruction has been given but not followed, the individual is lacking in willingness.

Possible causes:
  1. A belief that, if one drinks, disaster will not ensure, so taking actions to prevent relapse is not strictly necessary.
  2. A belief that partial compliance will produce 100% results (sobriety).
  3. A belief that, even if one took said actions, happy sobriety would not ensure.
The individual, therefore, typically believes that they're not alcoholic, they're alcoholic but not in need of a spiritual awakening, or they're alcoholic and in need of a spiritual awakening but the latter is not available to them.

Anyone willing to go to any lengths to continue drinking (as most AA members have been) are perfectly able to go to any lengths. The issue, therefore, is always willingness, and the solution is honesty.

Following relapse or a period of slackness, the above considerations can help to identify the problem and thus the solution.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Scheduling

My schedule is full, but when someone asks for help I say 'yes', even though my schedule is full, because God is excellent at scheduling.

God is also remarkably adept at helping me grow in understanding and effectiveness in achieving the same result across my life and in sponsorship using finite resources.

Sometimes doing the right thing requires dropping activities with a selfish end or of lesser importance, without regret, and without self-pity.

My life is exceptionally full of high-value activities and has been stripped of many 'normal' activities with a selfish end or of lesser importance, and is vastly richer for it.

What is so important that I allow God to have it supplant other activities? Helping other alcoholics in trouble. If we do not, often no one else can.

Comfort

If you want comfort, and drinking no longer gives comfort, right now, you might be willing to take actions to stay sober. If you want comfort, however, and sobriety does not deliver comfort or actually requires discomfort, right now, your willingness will evaporate.

Sustained willingness is borne of a desire for sobriety for its own sake, regardless of the presence or absence of comfort at any particular point in recovery.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

What do I do when I feel bad?

Nothing outside of me makes me feel anything, emotionally; I am 100 per cent responsible for my attitudes, thinking, action, and emotions.
If I want how I feel to change, I have to change my attitudes, thinking, and behaviour. There is inevitably going to be some delay before the changes are fully implemented, and emotions will always lag somewhat behind changes in attitudes, thinking, and behaviour.
Once the change is in motion, however, I simply have to ask God for the courage to walk through the emotion with courage and dignity and without complaint.
Before examining the detail, it is wise to examine whether I am living fully in all three sides of the AA triangle. See this link for details: http://first164.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/recovery-emergency-pack_09.html. I then examine where I am falling short in the areas of service, fellowship, and recovery, adjust my daily, weekly, and long-term schedule, give the correction time to 'bed in', and then see if I still feel bad.
If I do, here are the viable questions:
What is wrong with my attitudes, thinking, and behaviour?
What should my attitudes, thinking, and behaviour be instead?
How can I make amends?
How can I improve my relationship with God?
How can I better fulfil my obligations and help others?
In my experience, this approach is sufficient.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

An unpleasant sort of fundamentalism

There is an unpleasant sort of fundamentalism in certain parts of AA.

Under the fundamentalist doctrine, which seems to have bloomed over the last decade in particular, the words of the Big Book are given biblical authority, and the suggestions by the writers of the Big Book itself that we use logic (in addition to faith), that we think and use our minds (in addition to prayer and meditation), that we tell our own stories (in addition to relaying the bare bones of the programme), that there is room for spiritual development beyond the AA programme (i.e. the answers do not all lie in the first one hundred and sixty-four pages but must be sought also from men of religion, other who are equipped to help, and from books), and that more will be revealed are dismissed. Bullying little slogans are used, intended to silence anyone who does anything but quote from 'the holy text' or who does not toe the party line.

Said bullying slogans include:

'Keep it simple, stupid'
'Don't over-think this.'
'Stop rewriting the Big Book'.
'You're killing newcomers'.
'Keep your opinions to yourself'.
You're watering down the programme.'
etc.

I went through this particular phase of self-righteous anger, myself, and it was not only deeply unattractive, profoundly unpleasant for others, and a temporary block in my spiritual growth; it was also deeply ineffective in terms of helping others.

I had separated myself from others, and in doing so had separated myself from God.

I picked the bits of the Big Book that supported my theory that if only everyone did precisely what I said, they would be OK, and disregarded anything that suggested AA offers a broad, expansive, and varied approach to recovery.

The reason I am writing this is not to challenge anyone going through this phase, because that doesn't work, which I know from experience, on both sides of the fence.

What I would like to do, however, is send a message to anyone in AA or investigating AA who is put off by the loud voices of the pharisees, effectively: do not be discouraged. There is plenty of love and tolerance within AA, there is room for everyone, and if you want to recover, you have a right to be here, and to be heard, and to be led by truth tempered with kindness, not steel.

Listen out for the quieter voices of calm assurance and humble trust in God.