Sobering Thoughts

Archive for the month “July, 2013”

From the Gutter to the Curb

I have said for many years that there is not much distance from the gutter to the curb.  If I forget where I came from – not literally but figuratively – I can easily return to the comfort of the gutter where I would attempt to fix all problems with a bottle. Now that I have been around for awhile I see the problem; the view from the curb can be misleading as it can suggest you are cured.  Many folks sink into a pattern of behavior believing that they have all the answers and then impose them on others as “shoulds.”  When people say to me, you should, I often questions how they really know what is best for me or what God’s will is for me.  Many in Recovery have good intentions and sober experience, but they are still alcoholics and still capable of falling into old habits – a common myth exists that they are different than the rest of us. While I have benefited greatly from their insights, I have also seen their lack of humility – what I call the “you do this and I’ll do that behavior.” Image

They have more experience with sobriety, but our literature repeatedly tells us that sobriety is based on a daily reprieve and contingent on our spiritual condition which is generated by the hard work of climbing the steps.  The Little Red Book says we are “physically, mentally, and spiritually sick.”  This mental condition can exist long after we have recovered physically and no longer crave alcohol.  Today, my main goal in recovery is to achieve mental and spiritual balance and as someone who knows alcohol did serious damage to my nervous system,  I know that signifcant work must be done to restore the mental imbalance that resulted.  This is hard work, and at times seems unsupported by those who believe simply being dry is enough. Emotional sobriety requires that we honor our feelings, not just blame them for screwing us up.  When we know what we feel, we can change.  Our thinking about our feelings allows us to assess whether our feelings are accurate or based on old ways of thinking, usually patterns that began when we were young.  For me this was around 7 years old – to this day my first reaction starts as a 7 year old. In fact, many of us find that our alcoholism kicked in strongly when we had a marked emotional upheaval, a personality change as the result of prolonged negative thinking.  My go to response today is still negative and I have to stop and correct this.  Perhaps this is why I had such a hard time with gratitude lists… I need to be more pro-active and less passive.  I have found that a list of goals, a change list is much more powerful. One like this:

  • Try to experience life today, not judge it
  • When agitated reframe – remind yourself you are not a sinner but have a sickness
  • Elimate thinking that bases success on being a “good boy”
  • Stop validating the crazy stuff you believe is true in your head
  • Remember you have survived, the real goal is living…

Ironically, active participation in my own recovery makes me grateful. A therapist said to me recently, “you have a good spiritual life, but what you want to do is add to your prayer and meditation actual changes you want to see in your behavior.”  If I come to believe that my life magically gets better because I stop drinking, I begin a pattern of dilussional thinking that says I do not have a three fold disease – my physical addiction can go away but nothing then is restored in my mental and spiritual life. Sadly, it is the mental trigger that could lead me back to a drink if it is not treated daily to new thinking.  As I said, the curb has a view that can lead to spiritual arrogance.  Today I believe the only thing keeping me on the curb is my continued willingness to know that my thinking about who and what I am, must evolve.  The freedom from false-pride and an honest evaluation of how things are brings me the humility to see the world as it is in all its glory, not my limited view of its discontents.

Reframing to Move On

It has been awhile my friends since I have written.  There is s time to write and a time to act.  A simple conclusion with a complex set of precepts that I must accept in order to get unstuck.  One cannot think there was into change, one must face the pain and do what hurts psychologically in order to break through the pain of despair.  Alcoholics know the comfort of pain and disillusionment, but must learn the joy of living – oh how strange and foreign these feelings are! Not until recently, after over 22 years of sobriety, have I truly come to see how some of my behaviors were predating sobriety; in IMG_0105other words, I was not drinking but  I was acting the same way as the damaged little boy before he started to hide behind a drink.  It was how I was processing, or not processing, my feelings that led me to the old way of thinking and behaving, it was because it “seemed” like I could control things this way.  Of course, I can’t and never could.  Perhaps this issue of truth and honesty, as the 1st Step suggests, is really the only Step we must do so that we do not  return to drinking. We say over and over in our program “sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly” and the truth is for me it has been very slowly.  Perhaps the search for truth about ourselves and our relationships to our higher powers is all the 11th Step is really about.  Emerson has said many things about the truth and how we must discover it within ourselves, including some thoughts about fitting in: “the world lacks unity, and lies broken and in heaps, is, because man is disunited with himself.”  The problems I can change lie within myself and are faced as the willingness to grow flourishes within me.  The sickness of alcoholism seems to really lie in my lack of willingness to change even when it hurts. I struggle so much with knowing I need to change, but still being afraid – usually hidden under the anger.  Recently, a man much smarter than myself pointed out that the key to it all might simply be honoring the feelings, even if each day is full of fear or anger, acknowledging these feelings might lead me to the others… and this may be the spiritual realm at its finest.  For so long, I have heard the negative language of the sinner, whose feelings and fears are the root of all evil.  I have a disease, not a lack of faith, though as Emerson alludes to so brilliantly in 2nd Step fashion is that we are always looking for that restoration to sanity (wholeness) that only a higher power can provide.  I know now that I looked to blame others, rather than change what I could.  But I am grateful for this experience as it has helped me break free from the people who enabled me to stay stuck in the past.  The past is a damaged boy, denying the past in order to survive. The future is a healing man moving, having learned from the past, moving on to the next great adventure, fully present, feeling, making mistakes, taking risks, and treating his illness.   Recently I saw this unidentified quote that illuminated my thoughts perfectly:

“There’s a world of difference between revisionism and reframing the past.  Revisionism leads to denial and a repetition of the past and reframing leads to learning from the past, healing memories, and moving on.”


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