Wednesday, 15 February 2017

I'm working hard in AA; why do I feel disconnected?

How I feel is not related solely to how hard I'm working the AA programme. It's a function of (a) how hard I'm working the AA programme and (b) how strong my ego is. Imagine two runners. How I feel is a function of whether I'm ahead of the other runner or he's ahead of me. I'm responsible for the actions I take, but the ego is an unpredictable force. Sometimes it's weakened, for various reasons, and I don't need to do much to stay ahead of it. (This, by the way, explains the phenomenon of happy newcomers.) Sometimes it's given a whacking boost by external events, an uncovered reservoir of unprocessed spiritual magma that is bubbling up from within me, or identification, deliberate or unwitting, with people whose own egos are in the ascendant. Either way, I'm not responsible for that; I'm responsible for how I respond.

Does that mean I sometimes have to work the programme really hard just to stay afloat, let alone prosper and thrive? Yes. Sorry about that. I didn't make up the rules: I'm just observing how they operate.

The good news is that all of the hard work during difficult times does pay dividends, just not when you expect. Everything has its due return.

How do you deal with irrationality?

Lots of people are irrational. Sometimes we have to collaborate with them. How do we deal with this?

Tradition One suggests that we do not attack the other person or their planned course of action, because we need to maintain unity if anything is going to be achieved.
Tradition Four means it's your business; they're not autonomous because you're collaborating.
Tradition Two means you sort this out together. Avoid email. God speaks far more effectively through a group conscience held in person.
Tradition Five suggests you establish what your primary purpose is: raise the level of the discussion to the ultimate objective that you can agree you want to achieve.
Once you have an ultimate objective identified, look at what the available options are, including the irrational course of action suggested.
Examine how each of those is most likely to achieve the ultimate objective, and at what cost.
Do not appeal to pure logic and reason, as these are fallible resources:

... and ...

Instead, appeal to experience (the Big Book refers to experience as personal adventures). It's much more convincing.

If this works, great!
If not, and the irrational course of action is going to be persisted in, there are two options. Either you can bow out or you can put up with it. The latter is the case if the person in question is a superior and can pull rank. Have your objections noted and aim to be as helpful as you can. You have done your bit.

Al-Anon comes into play, here. As with alcoholics, who need to hit rock bottom first, sometimes people need to pursue the wrong course before they will be convinced that it is the wrong course, and we need to not stand in the way. As with alcohol, experience is sometimes the great persuader.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Pick one thing and go with it

Beware of spiritual dissipation: using five different meditation books in the morning but not applying any of them properly, systematically, or consistently, or constantly jumping between different faiths, disciplines, or worldviews.

This approach is sometimes more about a quick fix than anything: finding a little titbit that lifts your mood then going back to what you were doing.

Real spiritual change requires consistent and systematic practice.

Check this out:

What is a spiritual experience?

Pick a path and follow it properly. Give it three to six months, and then see if it is starting to 'do the trick'.

Small compulsive behaviours

Sometimes people dismiss small compulsive behaviours as being 'below the line', i.e. not serious enough to address. The mind is easily distracted and easily distraught, however, and apparently minor compulsions can be pervasive in their effect on mood. Consider cutting out, cutting down, or otherwise ring-fencing the following:

  • Sexual 'habits'.
  • Use of social media.
  • Watching the television, listening to the radio, playing computer games, or other ostensibly valid activities that are really 'Valium with a plug'.
  • Obsessively checking social and other media sources for the latest unnerving or enervating 'news' story.
  • Use of your smartphone (try 'greyscaling' it, i.e. switching the colours off so it's in black, white, and grey).
  • Use of sugar.
  • Use of caffeine.
This is not about being good or about being pure. This is about mental health.

This is also not about banning 'fun'. There's a difference between genuine fun (playing the piano, going out for dinner with friends, going for a walk) and what is essentially brain-tickling or fucking with your neurochemistry for a quick and worthless buzz. Obsessive news-following has nothing to do with being informed (if you really want to be informed, read proper volumes of non-fiction about current affairs by highly regarded economics and historians, not the latest thing a pal has shared on Facebook); computer games typically have all to do with dopamine and little to do with genuine engagement; etc.

If you're a human being (and that might be a big 'if'), you're wired for addiction, whether or not you're an addict proper, and much of the world of commerce is aimed at exploiting that. If you want better mental health, switch off, and if you can sit through the withdrawal, YOU will switch on.

Be a mensch, not a lizard brain.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Acting out

Acting out on addictive behaviour is not about the addictive behaviour. It's about separation from God, so the system looks for a way to connect, and the addictive behaviour is a substitute for connection.

When I'm acting out, I have a problem in one or more of the following areas:

  • There's someone or something I haven't forgiven.
  • There's tension in a relationship and I haven't done my utmost to sort it out.
  • I allow negative thinking and think it's 'only human' so I should be able to get away with it.
  • I'm not meditating or not meditating enough.
  • My actions are not exclusively devoted directly or indirectly to serving God.
Half-measures avail us nothing. Sort it out.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

How do I know if I have missed anything?

It's your Big Book. No one else needs to take you through it or tell you how to read it. If you're confused or want to get practical experience on how to apply it, sure, ask someone. But the power really does lie in your hands.

If you're struggling, however, to make the most of it, here's an exercise, to be used with the Big Book up to page 164, and even the stories in the remainder of the Book.

Ask yourself what each line and paragraph is for. Use coloured pens to mark up the text as follows:

  • Direct definitions of what alcoholism is.
  • Stories illustrating what alcoholism is.
  • Instructions about what to do.
  • Promises: the good things that happen if you follow the instructions.
  • Warnings about what not to do.
  • Consequences of not heeding the warnings.
  • General spiritual principles.
Almost all material in the Book falls into one of the above categories. Add other categories if this would be useful to you.

Then, respond to each:
  • Do I understand the definitions and do they apply to me?
  • Do I identify with the stories? How?
  • Have I followed the instructions?
  • Did I get the results promised?
  • Did I fail to heed the warnings?
  • Did I get the consequences of not heeding the warnings?
  • How can I incorporate the general spiritual principles in my life?
Then, get really wacky: ask God to show you all the other ways you can use the material in the Book to better work the programme and improve your life and the lives of the people around you, including the people you sponsor, and in your AA life in general.