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Archive for June, 2008

My Life (Update)

I have just learned that I am going to be a grandfather! While I’m sure I will have much to say about this soon, for now I am still processing the news. Will post soon on this!

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Recuperation vs. Recovery

An alcoholic, at the termination of a long and painful spree, decides that he has had enough. This decision is announced loudly and vehemently to all who will listen. His sincerity cannot be questioned. He means every word of it. Yet he knows, and so do those who hear him, that he will be singing another tune before many weeks have elapsed. For the moment he seems to have accepted his alcoholism but it is only with a skin-deep assurance. He will certainly revert to drinking. What we see here is compliance in action. During the time when his memory of the suffering entailed by a spree is acute and painful he agrees to anything and everything. But deep inside, in his unconscious, the best he can do is to comply — which means that, when the reality of his drinking problem becomes undeniable, he no longer argues with incontrovertible facts. The fight, so to speak, has been knocked out of him. As time passes and the memory of his suffering weakens, the need for compliance lessens. As the need diminishes, the half of compliance which never really accepted begins to stir once more and soon resumes its way. The need for accepting the illness of alcoholism is ignored because, after all, deep inside he really did not mean it, he had only complied. Of course consciously the victim of all this is completely in the dark. What he gets is messages from below which slowly bring about a change in conscious attitudes. For a while drink was anathema but now he begins to toy with the thought of one drink, and so on, until finally, as the non-cooperative element in compliance takes over, he has his first drink. The other half of compliance has won out; the alcoholic is the unwitting victim of his unconscious inclinations.

Dr. Harry M. Tiebout, A.A. Trustee from 1957 to 1966, and was chairman of the National Council on Alcoholism in 1950


Over the years I have seen thousands of alcoholics of the type Dr Tiebout describes in this passage. They come into A.A. with strong convictions to stop drinking, but you can see it in their eyes and hear it in their voice, all they really want is the memory of the horror of their last spree to go away. We who have found recovery know that unless they do too, they will drink again and that the next spree for them will be even worse! But, you can’t convince them they need "recovery". When the memory of the spree is fresh in their minds, they think that is all the motivation they need. And with a little "support" from A.A. they are sure that they will never drink again! Attend a few meetings and cling to the memory of the "last drink". LOL, how many of us in recovery felt this exact way many times!? Always drinking again (some times over and over) until we finally surrendered to the fact that we would need so much more than willpower and "support" to quit drinking!

In my early recovery I hated working with this type of alcoholic. At the time, it seemed pointless. Everyone knew that they would drink again, probably within a few weeks. At each meeting they attended you could see the memory of their last spree leaving them, thus the motivation for not drinking fade as well. We alcoholics seem to have a built in "forgetter". If we had to rely on memory to stay sober we’d be doomed…LOL! Any way, I actually enjoy working with these folks now. I have found that if I can teach them enough about the disease of alcoholism before they drink again, John Barleycorn will teach them the rest and they will be back, much more likely to surrender!

In recent years I seen the rise of a type of alcoholic that is like the one described above, thinks willpower and support are all that are needed to stay sober, but differs in motivation. This type wants to simply recuperate from the effects of alcoholism. Simply put, he wants the "bad" things in his life to stop AND for "good" things to start happening. Of course this sounds good and is the very reason many of us come to A.A. in the first place. Few us come to A.A. to find "recovery", fellowship, God, or to become better human beings…LOL. The problem for the alcoholic that is simply recuperating is that even though he hears all about what is needed to "recover" from alcoholism, he takes as proof the fact that bad things have stopped and good things are happening that all he needs is willpower and support to stay sober.

The sad part is that merely stopping drinking will bring this about in the life of any alcoholic. You don’t need A.A., God, the Fellowship, the Big Book, a sponsor, or anything else to make the "bad" things brought about by drinking stop and for good things to start happening. Just stop drinking! In fact, every active alcoholic intuitively knows this, that’s why they stop! (From time to time)

Unfortunately, there are many in A.A that will give the "program" and attending meetings the credit for this turn of events in this alcoholic’s life. And they will point to the "good" things happening in this alcoholic’s life as proof that they are working a "program"! Of course the real problem is that "not drinking" is the real explanation for the events in this alcoholic’s life and unless they actually do work the program (ALL of the twelve steps) they will drink again.

There is a solution. Almost none of us liked the self- searching, the leveling of our pride, the confession of shortcomings which the process requires for its successful consummation. But we saw that it really worked in others, and we had come to believe in the hopelessness and futility of life as we had been living it. When, therefore, we were approached by those in whom the problem had been solved, there was nothing left for us but to pick up the simple kit of spiritual tools laid at out feet. We have found much of heaven and we have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed.

More About Alcoholism (Big Book)

Unlike the alcoholic discussed earlier, the "recuperating" alcoholic can stay "sober" for months, perhaps up to a couple of years. Pretty much for as long as new "good" things keep happening. But, the time is limited! Sooner or later something "bad" will happen and without a spiritual foundation they will be driven to drink for lack of any other choice. OR because the "good" things are so called because they appeal to self will and pride, thus doomed to disappointment. Leaving an emptiness greater than before quitting drinking, thus again driven to drink for lack of any other choice! OR the hallmark symptom of our disease, "Restless, Irritable and Discontented" kicks in and they (as always) are driven to drink.

How do you spot this type of alcoholic? He’s been in A.A. more than six months and has not worked steps 4 & 5 yet AND points to the fact that his life is getting "better" as proof that he is working a program. How do you work with this type of alcoholic? I guess in the same way you do with the first type of alcoholic I discussed, try to teach them as much about the disease of alcoholism before they drink again (which they will) and hope John Barleycorn teaches them enough so that when they return they will surrender!.

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