In an effort to learn more about how people overcome addictions, Regina and I have added a new dimension to our occasional travels lately. We go online beforehand to make a list of open 12-step meetings on our travel route, and if we happen to be near one during our trip, we might stop in to observe and learn.
Read more about 12-step meetings in general, open meetings in particular…
During our recent vacation we visited an open AA meeting in a small town. The next day, over lunch, we discussed the experiences shared by the men and women and jotted down some notes. Here’s a gist of what they had to say:
- Every morning I’d leave the apartment cautiously, not sure what I’d done the night before, where I’d been, how much of a spectacle I’d made of myself while finding my way through the neighborhood, across the yard, and into the front door. If I had to take out the trash I always looked around to see if my neighbors were looking at me suspiciously or shaking their heads. I was totally self-conscious. I had to look over at my parking spot to see if I’d driven home (heaven forbid) or if I would have to hunt down my car later that day… figure out where I’d left it. I ended up going out at night a lot to avoid being seen. I couldn’t face the light of day.
- I was always thinking I was the best or the worst at something—golf, surfing. Being “average” was never okay. It was part of my black-and-white thinking during my years of drinking. Everything was either wonderful or horrible… no in-between.
- Anything enjoyable (hobbies, profession, etc.) became “gray” and washed out next to alcohol.
- Looking back, I realize that I was born an alcoholic. I always had the personality and many of the traits—shyness, fear, anxiety—even before I took my first drink.
- I was terrified to go to the grocery store. (This was a common theme of several attendees.)
- When I was drunk I was usually overbearing and cynical—swearing, and judging everyone—swearing in front of families and kids. I was a totally different person.
- I was fun and the life of the party at first. I did outrageous things… taking off my blouse at a bar and dancing on a table. I wanted everyone to like me. I didn’t care about anyone else. I remember a time when my aunt was planning a trip near here and wanted to visit me, then she got sick and had to cancel her trip. I felt bad… not because my aunt was sick, but because she wasn’t going to be visiting me.
- After a while I lost all of my friends. I’d black out and do stupid things and say mean things that I wouldn’t remember. But my friends all told me similar accounts of how I’d behaved the night before. They understood my situation for a while and tried to help, but eventually they all had to leave. They couldn’t handle being around me anymore.
- When people tried to help me stop drinking or using, I’d get angry and defensive. I loved my alcohol and drugs.
- Alcohol quickly became my best friend, and before long it was my only friend. I figured if I gave up drinking I’d have no one and nothing. Then, in the program, I got to know and feel more comfortable around more people.
- I used alcohol to numb my feelings. I was supersensitive. For any problem, drinking was the solution. I still deal with life’s ups and downs, but after being in the program for a while and working with a sponsor, I don’t have to “drink about anything.”
- My day would start and I’d accumulate troubling thoughts and feelings, and by the end of the day I was drinking. Drinking took away the pain. Now I work the program to find serenity and peace.
- I’m from out of state. I left my support system back there for a very good job here. I’m freaking out with roommates who party. I’m glad I’m at a meeting and will be attending more. I definitely need the support here, where I’m working and living now.
- Before I ended up in AA I was totally isolated and afraid of people. This still comes up, but now I have tools to handle it.
- My biggest problem was, I was never honest with myself. I wasn’t even aware of it until I read that chapter in the big book about “how it works.” Basically it says that most people who follow the path and find a sponsor succeed in staying sober. The few who don’t recover usually have some deep-down reason why they can’t be honest with themselves. When I read that, my whole outlook started to change.
There seems to be a line between indulging and addiction, and, in the spirit of country singer Johnny Cash, we all “walk the line” in our own way. Like most people, Regina and I have both had to contend with compulsions over the years, and like most people we don’t have too much trouble getting to the line and stepping back. Our current aim is to understand and support that minority of people who cross the line and have great difficulties finding their way back.
Other posts on health and well-being:
Some great exercises — Are you an extrovert or an introvert? — Know thyself — Nonfunctioning alcoholism — Addiction — Mental illness: barriers lost
My Dear Mark! I applaud you for your recent posts on alcoholism and addiction. I want to thank you again, for you tireless efforts promoting Universal Harmony. I would like to ask you to familiarize yourself with the “12 Traditions” of A.A. (not to be confused with the 12-Steps). There is a very fine line when it comes to maintaining anonymity at the level of press, radio, films, and T.V. (this would include blogs, and Facebook). I know, from reading your journals, blogs, and books that you are a man of high integrity. I respect you greatly. Please feel free to contact me via email if I can be of any assistance. (I could not find any address for you, apart from the old INIT address). Best, kind regards, ~felipe (email@example.com)
Thanks for the good thoughts, Felipe.
Yes, we’re aware of the 12 Traditions, which can be seen here…
Click to access smf-122_en.pdf
Regina and I talked in depth about whether it would be okay to publish our recollections from the meeting we attended… and decided that as long as we didn’t mention names or places or dates, etc., the anonymity would be respected. The potential benefit of these vital experiences to readers could be great.
What do you think?
( firstname.lastname@example.org )
(As far as my integrity… it’s been a gradual polishing process over the past 30 years.., since I’ve been married. Still human, still working at it. Progress, not perfection… :-))
I would like to add that supporters, as well-meaning and important as they are (there have had many in the history of A.A. including Dr. Wm. Silkworth, Dr. Carl Jung, Jack Alexander, et. al) can in no way take the place of one sober alcoholic/ addict working with another. This is an essential ingredient to the success of the A.A. program. The community at large does play an important role in providing resources, education, and support to those who may not otherwise find the way. Also, A.A. does not turn it’s back on the medical and scientific communities. As is often the case, there is much to be gained from additional professional help.
Mark has done a fine job of pointing out the way to recovery here. I encourage anyone suffering from addiction to seek help. As for those writers “don’t need” a 12-step program or suffer from other addictions, “our hats are off to you!”
Mark, it’s so nice to read your material. I knew you as a nice guy, And now I see you long distance; as a REALLY nice guy. 🙂 Linda and I send you both our LOVE. We’ve had no need for either step programs. My addictions were elsewhere, I guess. 🙂
As I NOW recognize this planet – as a workshop for spirit energy that is just passing thru, I smile and give a strong “way to go!” to any and all who put themselves into situations (usually unknowingly, of course,) and work their way out of a seemingly desperate set of circumstances. This workshop is absolutely amazing. And once we, as a majority get a good handle on just what this Life on Earth is – the view takes on an entirely different “look”.
Your efforts in bringing the scientific proof of this fact will be the cou-de-gras (?sp.) So, stay with it. Should your travels ever bring you to Oregon, please give a shout. Our regards to Regina. Randall. (email@example.com) I
Hey Randall, great hearing from you.
Regina’s been listening to Joel Goldsmith CDs, which go along with what you’re saying… also what I’ve learned from ITC:
This whole big world is illusion, and the reality is found in that power within… the source… which is also the basis of the 12-step program.
Love from both of us to you and Linda…
(Let’s all try to get together during the break between “workshops”… should be fun to reflect on what we learned, once we’re settled in on the other side.)
I know this comment isn’t going to go down very well (anyone seen the film 15 Minutes with the opening line from a Russian character ‘America! I love it! nothing is anyone’s own fault), but there is no such thing as ‘addiction. Habit, yes, addiction most certainly not, and I’ve known them all.
A Chinese guy who drinks from early morning until he passes out at night easily completely stops for the three months of Khao Pansa (Buddhist Lent), every year. I’ve known him for 12 years. Addiction?
A regular user of heroin for years stopped dead when he removed himself from his fellow group of users. Addiction?
Many years ago I was prescribed Valium (family probs, and the doctor didn’t explain what they were, Ah the good old days). The ‘addiction’ thing was big news back then and I would panic if I ran out. A friend mentioned he’d healed someone of some ailment. I told him I needed ‘something fixing’, but not what it was. He did his thing and I never felt the need for them again.
Take responsibility for yourselves and stop pandering to big pharma, for one.
It’s not addiction, it’s a habit. Take control of your own lives.
I’d like to think it’s as easy as you say, but in my experience (especially listening to people steeped in the 12-Step program of addiction recovery) and from scientific findings about the genetics and brain chemistry of people prone to addiction, I’ve come to believe (know? accept?…) that addiction is real for certain types of people, and it’s a disease… not just a habit.
Of course, words like disease, addiction, and habit are all subject to semantics… and I suppose they could be adjusted to support various opinions on the subject.
In any case, it all traces back to our weaknesses and susceptibilities as carnal human beings… with all of our hormones and reptilian brain parts pulling us into the dramas going on around us in this noble-savage material world.
As you say, each of us ultimately has to take responsibility for our conditions and situations… whether we’re born into a rich family and a genetic line with few challenges… or we’re born with cerebral palsy… or we’re born into poverty… or we’re born with a brain chemistry that goes haywire when alcohol is in the system.
Regardless of our challenges, it’s ultimately up to us to find peace and happiness while alive on Earth. That seems to be part of the package deal… when we sign up, at a soul level, to experience a lifetime here. 🙂
Thank you Tamsin. You bring up an interesting point. Unfortunately, there are those too, who have crossed some imaginary line. They simply cannot stop without some Spiritual transformation. A.A. does not claim to have an exclusive on this healing, though scores of people have recovered by practicing these principles.
There seems to be a large population of folks who can stop “periodically.” We like to say that it’s not how often, nor how much a person drinks or drugs, but what happens when you do?!!
A person who enters a 12-step program is “taking control of their own lives…” No one can do this for them.
After a lot of thought, I’d like to weigh in and say that I’ve always learned that genetics is a huge factor. I’ve seen countless families that had alcoholics, only to find out that their parents were alcoholics as well. It really does seem to have a scientific basis, and I lean more towards ‘disease’ than ‘habit’ when I try to understand what’s really going on. Genetics play a role – but ultimately, I think the living entity/”I AM” consciousness itself has become diseased – the higher self also suffers because of the mistakes committed by the vessel – it’s like a boat tossing additional anchors unnecessarily into the sea. Genetics and science cannot explain it alone, but they can at least cover a component of the subject.
Really fascinating subject, Mark! It’s sparked quite a conversation between Karen (my girlfriend who is a marriage & family therapist) and I as of recent and I would have to say that we are mostly in agreement.
I’d agree that genetics is a definite factor.
As far as the “I AM” consciousness, wife Regina’s been listening to CDs of Joel Goldsmith, who says it’s just the outer shell–the material mind and body–that gets wrapped up in drugs, violence, and other worldly distractions. You can always go inside to the god-self to find peace by transcending the drama.
That makes a lot of sense to me.
It gives everyone hope… addicts, their friends and families…………..
I think of the soul as that place of peace inside that’s never been disturbed.
A marriage counselor can be a great asset to a relationship. There are so many pitfalls in human relationships!. 🙂