At a meeting you will invariably hear someone speak about their bottom. This was the point where they were most active in their addiction just prior to coming into the program. Those bottoms had many levels. Some people had reached low bottoms which included serious health issues, problems with the law and broken relationships. Then there were those with high bottoms. These were people who were still able to maintain some degree of functionality. They entered the program as well because they realized that alcohol, drugs and food would ultimately result in a continued downward spiral.
There is another kind of bottom which can be found in the rooms of AA, NA and OA. In it, are people who have given up their drug of choice; so as far as substances go, they are technically sober. Yet the reality is that they are far from it. They are the ones who refuse to work their program. They rarely call their sponsor. Long periods go by without their attending a meeting. The steps are something they take to go up a flight of stairs as opposed to 12 guidelines for emotional sobriety. Once you become a dry drunk, having a slip becomes a much greater possibility. We need to be truly sober in all of our affairs.
Personal Reflection: Do some of my behaviors fit that of a dry drunk?
In the beginning, many of us entered AA or NA or AA with the desire to stop using our drug of choice. That in and of itself was a tall order. We were suddenly committing to putting down a substance that we had often used for years or even decades. Initially, we faced the trials of physical withdrawal. Once our cravings had dissipated, we still had to deal with our emotional addiction to our substance. Over time, the emotional obsession to use declined as well. At that point, we found that we were really only at the beginning of our journey. All of our character defects now found space to inhabit our lives. In the past many of them had been crowded out by the more immediate issue of drugs, alcohol or food. Once we became physically sober, issues like resentment, fear, anger, jealousy, shame and lust confronted us head on. It’s not that these were new problems. They had preceded our drinking or drugging. We just had never had a way to effectively deal with any of them. In the program, we began to learn about a system of living that would help us address all of these human frailties. That system was known as the twelve steps. As we practiced those principles, even our neural pathways began to change.
Personal Reflection: What parts of my brain still need recalibration?
Quite frequently a person from program runs into someone from the old days who says, “Wow, you look great! You look so healthy and happy. Boy the last time I saw you, you were a mess. Tell me what’s your secret? How did you change your life”?
When we are asked that question we realize that we have indeed changed a great deal. Upon contemplation however, we also note that whatever changes have taken place, for almost all of us, there was one common starting point. The giving up of our drug of choice was the doorway we all had to pass thru. Passing over that threshold, the overarching framework for continuing change were the 12 steps. By going thru the steps we learned over time about concepts like unmanageability, powerlessness, Higher Power, character defects, making amends, prayer, meditation and service. It then became our job to take what we had learned and apply it to life on a daily basis. Part of that work included spreading the message to others who were still sick and suffering. So we turned to our friend from the old days and said, “if you want what I have, then you just need to do what I do”.
Personal Reflection: How did you engage in change today?