There are many people who failed to come into the program because of their total denial of their challenge of addiction. They minimized or lied about the frequency and amount of their usage. We can easily understand how this delayed their seeking help in their program.
However there is a second group which is a bit more perplexing. At some point in time they realized they had a problem with alcohol, drugs or food. Yet although they had self knowledge, they continued to use as well. Much of this can be explained by the character defect of arrogance. These people felt they could solve their drug and alcohol problem by themselves. In some perverted way they believed that asking for help was a sign of weakness.
When they finally surrendered and entered the program they began to see the error in their thinking. Part of the disease of addiction is to isolate and not ask others for help. By not sharing honestly with others they were not exhibiting strength but were just manifesting another attribute of addiction. It was only when we had the courage to share and also ask others for help that we began to heal. Sometimes we needed to be reminded of this even when we had accumulated some time in the program. Whenever we felt like isolating, it was a signal for us to get to a meeting or pick up the phone.
Personal Reflection: How do I deal with isolation?
So many times in the past we found ourselves in untenable situations. At some point we probably asked ourselves, “How could I have ended up here?” In the majority of cases we initially had no intention of once again following a path which was harmful to us. This of course happens to everyone on occasion. For the alcoholic or addict it happens far more frequently and often involves alcohol, drugs or food.
Once we entered the program, many of the problems directly caused by our drug of choice were eliminated. However, we still found ourselves in many situations which indicated that we had made some wrong choices. It might have taken a bit of work, but we finally realized that the majority or our problems were self inflicted. Had we only run it by another member in the fellowship, we might have been offered other options to consider. It was a big mistake to attempt to go it alone. It was that very thinking that got us into trouble in the first place. As they say in the program, “it takes five years to get our marbles back; and another five to know what to do with them”. Ask anyone with more than ten years of sobriety and they will tell you that they still run things by others in the fellowship. We are humble enough to know that individually we do not have all the answers.
Personal Reflection: Do I reach out to others for counsel?
Although we had entered the rooms of AA, NA or OA, we felt very alone. Yes, people had come up to us at the meetings to make us feel welcome; but we still very uncomfortable. Part of this discomfort was due to to the fact that for a long time we held the belief that no one would ever really get us. We had felt this way while we were active, and we still felt this way.
Then one day something amazing happened. We had finally been asked to qualify at a meeting. Although we had a lot of discomfort about it, we pushed through it and told our story. We really did believe that our story was a totally unique one. As people around the room shared on what we had spoken about, we found out that our journey was not as unique as we had once thought. Many of the comments were ones of identification. When someone referenced a part of our story and said, “me too” we realized that perhaps we had been wrong about our perceptions of others. We actually had a lot in common with other people in the rooms. There was a comfort in knowing that many of the feelings we had carried about ourselves, were actually almost universally shared. We finally felt like we truly did belong.
Personal Reflection: In what was do I identify with others in the program?
Going to meetings are wonderful. They give us an opportunity to speak about what’s on our mind. Invariably at a meeting you will hear someone say, “I heard what I needed to hear today”. Somehow it always works out that a person will be speaking about an issue or a problem that is highly relevant to us at exactly this point in our recovery. We also very much enjoy the friendship and camaraderie of meetings. This is especially true of our home group where we get to know the members on a very personal level. Sometimes we will rush to a meeting because we had a very trying and emotional day and just need to vent.
Where we need to exercise care is when we say to ourselves that we don’t need to go to a meeting. At first blush, this might seem okay. Our lives were going well, or we were tired that evening or the weather outside was nasty. Of course there are times when we have a legitimate reason for missing a meeting. However, we need to remember that we are alcoholics or drug or food addicts. Part of our disease is a tendency to isolate. This was often the first step on the road to a slip. When that voice tells us we don’t have to get to a meeting, we need to jump up and go. It might be the most important meeting of our life.
Personal Reflection: Am I beginning to miss meetings?
One of our problems was that we tended to isolate. When we were confronted with challenges, our go to plan was usually to tough it out alone. This often ended in only exacerbating the problem. We could also be quite impulsive; acting without thinking. When we entered the program, we began to develop a more reflective and collaborative approach. We used to think that calling someone for feedback meant that we were weak or in some way less than competent. The real weakness was our aversion to seeking out the counsel of others. We actually empowered ourselves by calling other people from the program. Picking up the phone shattered some of our false beliefs about asking for help from others. We pushed through our fears and gained humility at the same time. We also often received advice which provided a pathway to further growth.
Beyond calling others, we developed a more intimate relationship with our Higher Power. On a daily basis, we communed with G-d through prayer and meditation. We asked for daily direction and answers to questions and problems that were plaguing us. Then an interesting thing happened. We found that the more receptive we were to establishing a “conscious contact” with our Higher Power, the more frequently it took place.
Personal Reflection: Are the throne and phone part of my program?
People in the program come in all shapes and sizes. Many of us did have certain things in common. One of those commonalities was our tendency to isolate. When the phone would ring we wouldn’t pick it up because we really didn’t want to speak to anyone. We didn’t want to burden you with our problems or we thought you just wouldn’t understand us. When a group of our friends were going out, we would make excuses or lie to avoid having to socialize. Often, we isolated to be with our drug of choice. Then we could drink or eat or use with abandon without fear of being disturbed. For those rare times where we were cajoled into going to a social gathering or a party, we couldn’t wait to leave. Nobody there really understood us anyway.
Today, life is different. We view social situations as a chance to relax or bond with others. In fact, our time spent socializing is often filled with laughter and feelings of good cheer.Sometimes we can just be there for another person and listen to them without comment or judgement. At those times we are solidifying our membership in the human race.
Personal Reflection: Do I need to be more mindful of isolating?
An oft-repeated statement in 12 step rooms is that part of our disease included isolation. Some of us isolated because of pride. Others out of fear and shame. The end result however was always the same. Full of self-pity and resentment we descended further and further into the throes of our addiction.
Entering the program we were advised by our sponsor to make one or two or even three outreach calls a day to other members of our fellowship. This was definitely new territory for many of us. We asked our sponsor, “what the heck do I talk about when I make the call”? He told us that of course we could talk about something that was on our mind or even ask for suggestions regarding a problem. More importantly, the call really wasn’t just for us. By calling someone we were giving another ex isolator the opportunity to talk about something that might be bothering them. By creating a pathway for them to talk about a resentment, a hurt or a challenge, we might be saving them from resorting to their drug a choice. As we began to make outreach calls, we also were able to greatly expand our network of people in our fellowship.
Personal Reflection: Have I learned to make friends with the phone?