Monday, February 28, 2005

Knowledgable Walking Dead Man

The Big Book study meeting last night, as usual, was right on target with where I am in my recovery. Here's what jumped out at me:
"(T)he actual or potential alcoholic, with hardly an exception, will be absolutely unable to stop drinking on the basis of self-knowledge." (Emphasis in original)
This is on page 39 of the Big Book, in a discussion of relapse. It tells stories of guys who were sober, some for years, some who knew, without a doubt, they were alcoholic -- but got drunk again anyway. Just like I did after 4 months of sobriety.

It crystallized what I've been thinking since coming back in, six weeks ago: everything I know is wrong.

I've been kind of adrift and confused since coming back. I'm working my steps in a step workshop, I have become an active church member, I try to make prayer and spiritual reading and meditation part of my daily routine, I talk to my sponsor regularly... and above all, I go to a LOT of meetings. ("Not having time" for as many meetings was a BIG contributor to my relapse.) The deeper I get, though, the less clarity my poor old brain gets. At meetings, I never raise my hand to share, and when called on I babble incoherently about nothing of consequence.

What a difference from when I was an old-timer of 100-odd days, before going out! I had lots to share about, so much wisdom to offer about alcoholism and sobriety and the program! I was a "90-day wonder," one of the guys who understood it all right away, could quote the Big Book and 12X12, always raising my hand.

Why the change?

I was very confident before my relapse. Now, I recognize that everything I know is wrong. I was performing before. I was "sharing" what I thought everyone wanted to hear, to show off how well I was "getting it." Oh, yeah, my brain understood it all just fine. The only time any of it penetrated my heart and soul, though, was every now and then a little bit of real sobriety snuck up on me and jumped me when I wasn't looking! I was running on self-knowledge and self-will. A walking dead man.

Until that knowledge about sobriety and about the program migrates from my brain and into my heart, it is useless to me. It has no meaning and no effect on me and my sobriety when it's only in my brain. I recognize, now, that for me to talk about what I "know" only in my brain, is really just telling lies. For me to strive toward rigorous honesty within the fellowship, I have to speak from my heart, not from my brain. My brain tells me lies, and if I choose to believe the lies, I am incapable of telling the truth to anyone.

So now I try to stick with what is real and true, in my heart, when I share. And honestly, there ain't a whole lot there! What I have to share is pretty limited: I still think about drinking all the time, I feel little serenity, my self-will is continually resisting the program and fighting my higher power, I have all the makings of a chronic relapser, I'm scared and confused, I'm deeply grateful to be sober today, and deeply grateful to everyone in the fellowship for showing me what I need to do to stay sober, and for offering their experience, strength and hope that the promises can and will come true for me, eventually, if I don't drink today and I participate in my recovery. Not very impressive or inspiring stuff to be sharing at a meeting. The most positive thing I can honestly say is that I am trying to be willing, I pray for the willingness, to allow my higher power to guide me, every hour of every day.

I can't pretend to understand what I'm doing. I am doing what the people in the fellowship, and what Bill W, tell me I need to do to stay sober, even though it goes against everything I've "known" for 40 years. I have to take it on faith, and I have to fake it till I make it.

My sponsor tells me that building a life of sobriety is like rebuilding a house. First, I have to tear down the dilapidated old rats' nest, and clear away the wreckage. Then I repair the cracks and shore up the disintegrated parts of the foundation. Only then can I begin to build the new house with any hope that it won't collapse in the first storm.

The foundation, of course, is faith in God and willingness to submit to God's will:
"The alcoholic at certain times has no effective mental defense against the first drink. Except in a few rare cases, neither he nor any other human being can provide such a defense. His defense must come from a higher power."
I'm sort of, kind of, fitfully, inconsistently, making a start on submitting to my higher power. The foundation is still buried under a lot of wreckage, though!

I believe, in one of those AA paradoxes, that I'm probably more secure than I was before, because I feel less secure and less self-confident. I'm a lot more sure than before that I can't depend on myself. Victory comes only through surrender.

Self-confidence, self-assurance, independence, self-reliance -- all of those things that this "Oprah-fied" world (as my sister calls it) values and tells me are the keys to happiness, that they told me in MBA school were necessities for success, that I've strived for and known for 40 years were the things I need -- are pure poison to me. For me to continue seeking these characteristics would be fatal. This is, believe me, real hard for me to get my mind around!

It has been pointed out to me that it's easier to behave yourself into right thinking than it is to think yourself into right behavior. (Sorry, friends in Rational Recovery!) So I try to allow my mind to be confused and baffled and adrift, and I try to allow my body to be guided from outside of me: by my sponsor, by the "winners" in AA, by the Big Book and 12X12, by the Bible, by my fellow spiritual seekers in my church -- by people, that is, who I trust are commited to understanding and following God's will. I'm hardly perfect, or even consistent, in doing this, but I'm trying to make a little progress and be a little more willing every day.

With practice and a willing heart, I hope and believe, I will have a growing understanding of God's will for me and increased ability to accept His gifts by carrying out His will. Even then, I will always have to seek guidance from others, in person or through books (or through blogs!) With time, though, I hope it becomes more natural, less confusing and less painful.

Until then, I will remind myself each day that everything I know is wrong, and if I really want to stay sober today I will ignore the lies my brain tells me.


At 3/01/2005 12:39:00 PM, Blogger doughgirl said...

Just wanted to say thank you for saying everything I was feeling.

Today you gave me the ability to go back and reflect where I came from and Im grateful becasue as long as I remember that, I know I wont have to go back out.

Feeling feelings, its the hardest thing we do..sometimes even joy can be painful for us because it was just another time to pick up a drink and when we feel that way I think sometimes we get confused as to what to do.

Almost like we dont deserve joy in our lives. I like you know that that is not the truth, its one of those little lies our brians tell us to get us sucked back in.

They say the longest journey is from the head to the heart and Im beginning to understand that.

Cudos to you for being able to get in all out and down on paper...:)

At 3/02/2005 01:46:00 AM, Blogger Grace said...

"it's easier to behave yourself into right thinking than it is to think yourself into right behavior"....I like this concept and need to explore it more. I get so much from my blog travels, a piece here and one there!

At 3/02/2005 08:07:00 AM, Blogger recoveryroad said...


thanks for the good wishes; same to you.

I understand what you mean about 'performing' whilst sharing. In the end I just let it all come out.

Often if I share, I look back and go "Where the f**k did that come from? That wasn't what I meant to say..."

I used to worry about what people might think of what I said. But as you said a while back (I think it was you); it's all been said and heard before in the rooms. There is little I'm gonna say that will REALLY freak people.

Once someone at my homegroup said to me in my first few weeks in recovery something along the lines of "You know we have two Kenny's in the area (and that's a bit unusual for the UK), so we call him "Electrician Kenny", and we call YOU "Angry Kenny".

I was a bit hurt by this at the time, but laughed it off and said something like "If you think I'm angry now, you should have seen me when I was pissed ('pissed'='drunk' in the UK)."

That anger, frustration and those resentments had to come out. Anger is like a drink to me; I play with it and in a sick way I enjoy it. I can't afford the luxury of anger... share any damn way you want to. Just keep it from the heart. That's my tuppence worth.

best wishes



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