Monthly Archives: September 2013

Making the Approach

Highly competent psychiatrists who have dealt with us have found it sometimes impossible to persuade an alcoholic to discuss his situation without reserve. Strangely enough, wives, parents and intimate friends usually find us even more unapproachable than do the psychiatrist and the doctor.
But the ex-problem drinker who has found this solution, who is properly armed with facts about himself, can generally win the entire confidence of another alcoholic in a few hours. Until such an understanding is reached, little or nothing can be accomplished.
That the man who is making the approach has had the same difficulty, that he obviously knows what he is talking about, that his whole deportment shouts at the new prospect that he is a man with a real answer, that he has no attitude of Holier Than Thou, nothing whatever except the sincere desire to be helpful; that there are no fees to pay, no axes to grind, no people to please, no lectures to be endured – these are the conditions we have found most effective. After such an approach many take up their beds and walk again.
– Alcoholics Anonymous pp. 18-19

I’m not so sure about the “no lectures to be endured” part. I’ve done more than my share of lecturing.

But the fact remains that it is the undeniable authenticity of our experience that wins the confidence of those whom we approach. This cannot be easily faked. Then, over time, the newcomer gradually becomes aware that we’re not out to get something. That was what impressed me the most about my first meetings. These were people who seemed genuinely concerned about my well-being. I waited in vain for their hidden agenda to emerge but it never did.

One of the things that Bill always mentioned when he spoke of his first interactions with Ebby was one of Ebby’s subsequent visits to him in Towns Hospital.

So, I think it was the morning of the third or the fourth day that my friend Ebby showed up in the doorway, and my feeling was ambivalent at once. So I said, “Well, this is the time he’s going to pour on the evangelism.” And on the other hand I was saying, “Well, he should be looking for a job. Why is he up here at eleven o’clock in the morning to see me? He does practice what he preaches.”
 – Bill W. at Guest House

 It’s not surprising that it was after this very visit that Bill had his spiritual experience. He did truly “take up his bed and walk again.”


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Those, too

There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest. – Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 58

My sobriety depends absolutely on my capacity to be honest. So I about to make an admission which should help ensure my sobriety.

Since 2010, I have been abusing Fiorcet sporadically. I have hidden it from everyone and have been living a lie ever since. I am at at once ashamed and relieved. If any of you think less of me, I understand fully. I’m not sure I could respect a hypocrite, especially one who basks in adulation as a “guru.”

There is a passage in Job 4:3 which is apropos:

Think how you have instructed many,

    how you have strengthened feeble hands.
Your words have supported those who stumbled;
    you have strengthened faltering knees.
But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged;
    it strikes you, and you are dismayed.

Bear in mind that these are Job’s “comforters,” men who have no grasp of God’s intention.To say to me, “but think of all the people you have helped” may be comforting to me but the “trouble” Job endured was not of his own making. Mine was.

Nevertheless, I am going continue the blog, only now as a commentary as I re-work the steps with a sponsor.

I started writing this back on Monday, September 9, but couldn’t decide whether or not to go ahead in spite of having stumbled. I guess I’ll go ahead.

I’ll post the next entry tonight.

God Bless.

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AA Nugget

Most of the really stupid things a I have done in my life started with the words “I thought…”

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Warped lives, fierce resentmant

An illness of this sort – and we have come to believe it an illness – involves those about us in a way no other human sickness can. If a person has cancer all are sorry for him and no one is angry or hurt. But not so with the alcoholic illness, for with it there goes annihilation of all the things worth while [sic] in life. It engulfs all whose lives touch the sufferer’s. It brings misunderstanding, fierce resentment, financial insecurity, disgusted friends and employers, warped lives of blameless children, sad wives and parents – anyone can increase the list. 

– Alcoholics Anonymous, p.18

In those days, the Fellowship was very leery of using the term “disease.” There are a number of euphemisms employed (illness, malady, sickness, etc.) but it is used only one time in the first 164 pages. (page 64) I’m not sure about their trepidation, but I suspect that society at large would find it just another excuse for alkies to absolve themselves of any moral culpability.

That it differed in a substantial way is the rationale for this paragraph. Cancer is used as the epitome of a physical ailment quite beyond the moral control of the victim.  But alcoholism (as a “disease””) seems to be of a totally different genre. It is undoubtedly in the class in the class of mental illness.Yet, to the outside world, it was in to way involuntary. Schizophrenia and other psychoses are illnesses over which the sufferer has no control. But the consensus was that alcoholism was a matter of mind over body, a matter of will power.

And there was no sense in which the alcoholic could not fail to engulf (great word) the lives of those around him. The alcoholic engulfed everyone who touched his life Of all the effects listed, “fierce resentment” tops the list because it is the final result of all the other things iterated. Anyone guilty of these misdeeds knows that the bottled up anger of those we loved was the most heartbreaking of all, and it was the one thing for which we could never make right. I would only add to that the “warped lives of blameless children” since resentment was something that children would only learn later.

God, what a cheerful passage!. But aren’t we all aware of it? Doesn’t it lurk in the back of out minds? When we glibly say that we “had to make amends to ourselves first,” aren’t we aware of just how much havoc we caused in the lives of those we touched? Is there any guilt stalking us?

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A Tremendous Fact

The tremendous fact for every one of us is that we have discovered a common solution. We have a way out on which we can absolutely agree, and upon which we can join in brotherly and harmonious action. This is the great news this book carries to those who suffer from alcoholism. – Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 17

That we have a “common solution” means that we cannot be all things to all people. To say that “my name is [name] and I’m an addict/alcoholic or alcoholic/addict) does not imply a “common” solution. But hat doesn’t mean we should kick someone out who says that; only that we should not say it ourselves. Can we join in brotherly and harmonious action? Certainly. But we do so with those who have a desire to stop drinking.

We can absolutely agree on our course of action. It is the Twelve Steps of AA, and anyone willing to follow them with rigor is welcome to join us. In fact, I have a friend who is not an alcoholic, but she has a desire to stop drinking, has a sponsor and works the steps. She has a way out on which she is willing to join with us. This is the good news that this book carries. To borrow from Christianity, it as a kind of gospel. It is the “GOOD NEWS’ that sets captives free.

This is probably the best description of all that follows. It is tremendous, it is a fact, and it carries great news.Can any paragraph carry more than that?

Also notice that Bill uses the term ‘”discovered” and not “devised.”  We have uncovered a hidden source of strength that we didn’t even know existed. The spiritual realm lies hidden to those who lack
 the humility to see it . But in the program, we develop he right thinking towards that realm that begins opening it to us. AA is a great fact indeed.

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AA nugget

The grace of God is not only a light that shines from above, it is also a river that courses through us.

     -Steve C.

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So Sue Me

The logical place to continue this blog would be at “Bills’ Story,’  but I have nothing to say at this point. More to come later. So I will jump into the text starting with “There is a Solution.”

We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, know thousands* of men and women who were once just as hopeless as Bill. Nearly all have recovered. They have solved the drink problem.

*At the time this was written, the word “thousands” may have been a bit of hyperbole, as was the term “women,” but there were certainly several hundred. 

That they were as hopeless as Bill seems obvious, but the sentence that jumps out at me is that  “{[T]hey have solved the drink problem.” Notice that the phrase “have recovered” is equated with “have solved.” So for those who debate (ad nauseum) about whether or not we have “recovered,” it should be apparent that solving the problem (the “obsession of the mind”) is tantamount to having recovered. Enough said.

We are average Americans. All sections of this country and many of its occupations are represented, as well as many political, economic, social, and religious backgrounds. We are people who normally would not mix.

It was important to note that at that time alcoholics were not equated with “average” Americans. There was a general consensus that alcoholics were not average, that they were a breed apart, not fit for contact with the population at large.This was an uphill battle that was fought for quite a long time (perhaps not until the treatment industry needed insurance money. Pardon the cynicism).

It is common around the program to infer that we were people who would normally not mix with each other, but I think in the context of the paragraph it means we were people who would not mix with “average Americans.”

But there exists among us a fellowship, a friendliness, and an understanding which is indescribably wonderful. We are like the passengers of a great liner the moment after rescue from shipwreck when camaraderie, joyousness and democracy pervade the vessel from steerage to Captain’s table. Unlike the feelings of the ship’s passengers, however, our joy in escape from disaster does not subside as we go our individual ways. The feeling of having shared in a common peril is one element in the powerful cement which binds us. 

This harkens back to the comments I made in “The Doctor’s Opinion, but it deserves to be reiterated that Bill describes it a as “indescribably wonderful.” We are bound together with a powerful cement that arises out of out of our joy of having escaped a common peril. And it persists precisely because we are privileged to continue seeing that rescue time and again.

(A brief housekeeping note: if you want to post comments, click on the pencil at the bottom.)

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