Quite often you will be at a meeting where someone will say that “they need to rat out on themselves”. They will proceed to talk about something which they did or said which they felt was inappropriate or wrong. When you examine this concept of “ratting out” it is really quite amazing. What is occurring is essentially a confession in public of a perceived wrong or impropriety. Where else in the world will you find a person publicly acknowledging a mistake. Certainly not in the world of politics or the work place. On this scale it is only found in the rooms of AA, NA, OA and other fellowships. What is even more amazing is that these so called “acknowledgements” are often seeing the light of day for the first time. In essence the person is describing something which no one else knew about. If they kept their mouth shut, their secret would have been safe. Yet they chose to open up and share. Why do they do it? Perhaps because in sobriety they no longer want to live with secrets. They no longer want to live with lies. Even if no else knows about their wrongdoing, this process helps them acknowledge it to them self. When they publicly admit a wrong, we can all be proud to be part of the program.
Personal Reflection: Is there anything I need to share at a meeting?
Obsessive thinking can be the bane of the recovering alcoholic or addict. Without our drug of choice our minds can run rampant with fear and worry. At times, we are almost immobilized by our thoughts. Usually these thoughts are tied into future events.
Part of sobriety is understanding that that future outcome is ultimately not in our hands. Of course we still need to take actions to best ensure that the desired future outcome has the best opportunity for taking place. The challenge is that when we are in anxiety, we can almost become immobilized. The key is find the inner strength to take an action towards our goal. Sometimes we are so overcome with fear that we can’t even get out of our beds. Then the action in that moment is to force ourselves to throw off the covers and get dressed. What we discover at that point is that once we begin to take action, our system gets jump started and further movement towards our goal takes place. Pushing through the initial resistance is the hardest part of the process. Once we do so, our anxiety decreases as we put in energy to reach our goal. On the deepest level we are still powerless over outcome. We are not powerless over resistance to action and the elimination of anxiety.
Personal Reflection: How do I push through resistance?
Everybody has a bad day. We claim to have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed. Perhaps we are a little more irritable than we normally are. It seems that for some reason more stressful situations than usual head our way. All of this is nothing out of the ordinary. All of us at one time or another have one of those days.
What is of concern is when we repeatedly enter the day in a negative state, and it just goes downhill from there. When we were using, at least we had the excuse of a massive hangover.
If you want to consider yourself emotionally sober, there is no excuse for waking up in a state of negativity and resentment. Our emotional state upon awakening and throughout the day is an inside job. Yes, of course we will have difficult days. What is important to note is that we have a choice on how to respond. Old timers put it very bluntly. After hearing our rant about what a horrible day we had; will turn to us and simply say, “time to get off the pity pot”.
Personal Reflection: What kind of day am I going to have today?
Regardless of our fellowship, we respect the anonymity of others. Many people would not come to meetings if this weren’t the case. They want to keep their membership in the fellowship on a need to know basis. For them, public knowledge of their membership in the fellowship might jeopardize their career, personal relationships or standing in the community.
On the other hand, many of us are not concerned with others finding out about our alcohol, drug or food addiction. In fact, at times we are quite open about it. The majority of us break our anonymity when we feel that it might benefit someone who is not yet in our program. We “try to carry the message” to others who are still sick and suffering.
This is a wonderful service that is being performed when we do so. There is one proviso however. Once we have broken our anonymity, we have become a public representative of AA, NA, OA or any other fellowship we belong to. As such, our behavior and actions must reflect the highest ideals of the program. If we identify ourselves as being a program person and then act inappropriately, the repercussions can be quite serious. It might delay or even prevent someone from entering the fellowship. This can be a life or death decision which we have influenced.
Personal Reflection: Am I a good advertisement for my fellowship?
Over the course of a year we are going to experience many disappointments. On a scale of 1 to 10 some will be an 8 or a 9. Perhaps the promotion you were seeking went to another person. Maybe you planned the perfect vacation and it rained the entire week you were away. Then of course there will be much more minor disappointments. Someone got to a parking space right before you. The store ran out of the item you wanted which was on sale. The examples of disappointments great and small are endless. Everyone experiences them. The more important question is what are you going to do with them. It really is a choice. You can choose to be full of resentment and anger over your disappointments. It can make you a bitter and negative person. It might even lead to your drinking, drugging or eating over it.
On the other hand, your disappointments can be a teacher. There are so many lessons that can be gained from them. For example, when you didn’t get that promotion you could be filled with anger, resentment and negativity. You might sulk for days and say, “I can’t believe they gave it to that guy”. Or, you could take an honest look as to why you didn’t get the promotion. Carefully assess the reasons; resolve to make some changes and then prepare for the next opportunity.
Personal Reflection: Do I use my disappointments as a teacher?
There is an old proverb that says, “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. No matter what you do with it, it will always be the ear of a pig. We can also apply this quote to members of the program in regards to their past. When we first came in, we probably had lots of war stories about our past behavior. As time passed perhaps some of those stories got a little fuzzy. Perhaps we began to tell ourselves that things weren’t really as bad as we had remembered. For an alcoholic or drug addict, this is like skating on thin ice. If we keep it up, we’ll eventually fall through and slip back into our drug of choice.
We need to be very clear with ourselves. It is extremely important for us to have an accurate memory of our past behaviors. Most likely we will find this to be uncomfortable. We probably feel deep shame and regret over some of the things we have done. Though we need not dwell on the past, it shouldn’t be denied or romanticized. To do so would be endanger our present and future.
Personal Reflection: Do I sometimes romanticize the past?
Therapy is an excellent option for many people. It has provided a window for self discovery to countless individuals. Interestingly, quite a few of us ended up in the program because of therapy. As we sat there sharing with our therapist, he or she at the end of the session recommended that we go to a meeting of one of the fellowships. We were often told that we needed to join a 12 step program to address our issues of addiction.
When we arrived at our first meeting, we looked around to see who was the expert in charge. After a few minutes we deduced that the person leading the meeting was in charge. We were taken aback when we found out that there were no real leaders and no so called “professionals” running the meetings. Everyone had an equal voice and just needed to raise their hand to share. Rather than rely on professionals, we learned that the program was essentially one of self regulation. Ultimately we decided how many meetings to go to a week and how quickly to work the steps. Although we were the ones who would do the work, we needed the power of the group to help us maintain our sobriety. We began to understand the phrase that “this is a we program”.
Personal Reflection: How have others helped me to maintain sobriety?