Sounds like a rationalization “programmed for addiction” but it’s a truth and realization.
In the schools by the television, by commercials, and by media they taught me who and what to be from my first innocent learning experience of a child they polluted my purity with lies. As they polluted my ancestors before me.
They taught me that fear was shameful by words like chicken shit and pansey.
Why Are Addicts in so Much Emotional Pain? Why do addicts seem to have a proclivity towards self destruction?
Why are addicts so inclined to blame others for their own choices?
And the biggie, why do our sponsors teach us to not ask “why”?
Answer number one: THE PROBLEM
I was in so much pain that I needed to numb myself due to a life-time of hiding away my true identity. By hiding intense feelings and thoughts away my pain lived inside me till I finally was taught how to let it all out.
Addicts are really good at one thing…”the game of denial”. I blinded myself for many years.
Am I an addict? Addiction is a symptom. What other symptoms do I have going on that may reveal to me what my addiction was really about.
In a crowded room full of people would I be attracted to the sickest person in the room? Have my relationships been riddled with abuse and betrayal? Do I have a problems communicating on a respectful level when I am upset? Do I fear my feelings because they make me intensely miserable? Do I have a hard time sharing my fears and opening up to people? Do I have a hard time sharing my most intimate feelings, hopes, and dreams? Do I have ANXIETY, ANGER, DEPRESSION, LOW SELF ESTEEM? What about mental health problems such as depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), PANIC ATTACKS, self harm, suicidal thoughts. Or learning and earning difficulties, lower educational attainment, difficulties in communicating behavioral problems including anti-social behavior, criminal behavior?
Good Morning, Fillae Blusterers. I don’t know about you, but I have one of those brains which is constantly talking to me. It wants to analyze every situation I encounter, inventing reasons why each thing happens and how it is all part of a plan to hurt me (or, more precisely, my ego). It parses the speech of everyone around me, inventing motives for their words and fanciful backstories filled with sinister purposes. It loves to re-tell stories from my past, pointing out the errors I made and inviting me to feel badly all over again.
One of the most amazing things I’ve learned on my journey in recovery and spirituality is this…I can tell my brain to EFF OFF! I’m not a slave to all of the ego-driven thoughts and messages it creates. I can choose to accept certain messages (“Turn right at the next corner to avoid traffic”) and let go of others (“Here’s an opportunity to get even with someone”).
Even better, I’m learning that I can give my brain direction. I can order it to use its pattern-recognizing powers to see how all of the beautiful little things occurring around me reveal the presence of a Divine Spirit. I can guide it to look for the good in each person I meet. It can watch for opportunities for me to help others, serving joyfully. And, I can tell it to take a break from time to time, letting me just be, quiet and peaceful, right here right now.
___________________________________________–by Fred Hundt
I let all my secrets out of the bag with my first sponsor who is now passed away. She was a counselor at Bridge House who by no coincidence helped me and several other women learn how to heal from grave emotional disorder and addictions.
We are all still sober today that was in 2006. I remember one of the counselors was talking to me. I was sharing my horrific past with him and all the tie I told him of my tragedies I had a twisted smile on my face which was helping me to NOT FEEL the emotion attached to the stories. It was my safety net I would not feel my past! He looked at me and said “Lori what you are telling me is traumatic and yet you are smiling”. At that moment all of my feelings connected back to my body. I was no longer cold as stone separated from my real life. When I finally allowed my feelings to re-attach themselves to me I was able to start processing my past. Things that I should have cried and wailed over but didn’t were making me sick. Prior to that I had gone to a woman’s meeting where all the woman cried and felt their pain. I was stone cold, I walked out of that women s group and told my soon to be sponsor/counselor that ‘I had no business in that women s group
BECAUSE I HAD NO EMOTIONAL PAIN” and at the time I really believed it, that was how deep in emotional denial I was. But my feelings buried and festering were coming out sideways in hate, resentment, and self-loathing. I was buried alive in guilt and shame. I used to turn red with shame regularly. I was so deep in shame that I had a cancerous tumor grow in my leg till finally it was surgically removed in 2000. My counselor told me that people that take out their pain on others by yelling at them and attacking verbally and wrathful people have heart attacks and people that repress their emotions and bury their pain get cancer.. That was me. Since then I have learned how to let it all out. I spent years processing by crying, screaming in my car (not at people like I mentioned) When I wailed and moaned guttural sounds little by little the grave emotions left my body. We were taught to do that in therapy. the first time I heard one of the girls do the guttural sounds it made me very uncomfortable. I felt shocked that it was somehow wrong and she was absolutely insane. But she had been in group longer than me and showed me how to save my life emotionally. Moaning hurts no one. It’s a natural process when we get sober that the past resurfaces in us from deep in our bowels. We ask ourselves “what’s wrong with me why do I feel like I lost my best friend yet nothing bad has happened?” I was told that I need to cry about the intense events in the past that I never allowed myself to feel.
Doing a through fourth step accompanied with daily prayer and step eleven meditation goes hand in hand with therapy and therapeutic exercises. I didn’t make this stuff up it was given to me as solutions to anxiety attack, panic attacks, fear and shame
STEP FOUR, STEP 12, AND SELF-WORTH. AGREE TO DISAGREE BY GAINING SELF-WORTH, GAIN SELF WORTH BY WORKING THE STEPS
Having a different opinion than my fellows is ok. Expressing varied views and opinions is good. Debate is good and necessary for the progress of A.A. AND OUR NATION. We have elections in every aspect of A,A, except regular meetings. We learn to agree to disagree because it is the mature and emotionally sober thing to do. Even in a facebook A.A. group varying outlooks and opinions are part of healthy social expression. DISRESPECT AND PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE INSULTS ARE A WHOLE OTHER MATTER. Time to learn which is which if we don’t already know. And if we don’t know how to disagree with a fellow without running away no doubt it’s because of a valid reason stemming from our past. We shouldn’t be hard on ourselves or others if we or they are in the process of growing up emotionally.
AGREE TO DISAGREE by working the 12 steps.
Without “agree to disagree” there would be no Alcoholics Anonymous or any of the other 12 step programs. Without agree to disagree anything that involves political decision making and voting would be chaos. Firstly humans always will and always have had varied opinions and viewpoints on topics. When we have business meetings in A.A. whether it be in our home group, inter-group or at area assembly there are important matters at hand and decisions to be made. Sometimes the outcome of these votes will effect A.A. as a whole. These votes are not about “me” as an individual. The votes and varied opinions though they may differ than my own choices or viewpoints do not mean that I am bad, wrong, ugly or any other negative adjective for having different viewpoints than my peers. Sounds a little crazy when you say it outload but this issue is why fights break out over minor disagreements people perceive that if someone has another opinion than theirs that they are belittled somehow. The thing is if a man has low self-worth then he takes many things personally as an insult about himself. Low self-esteem always has its feelers out looking to protect itself against perceived insults. Low self-esteem is always in “defense” mode. It hones in on comments or actions that have nothing at all to do with itself and perceives them as if they are putting him down and expressly meant to insult him. Let’s face it low self-worth thinks that the world revolves around its belly button.
What are the solutions to low self-worth? Notice in the fourth step grid on page 65 http://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/en_bigbook_chapt5.pdf in the “effects my” column of the fourth step. After every resentment “pride” and “self-esteem” are at the core of every resentment. It’s not that the resentment gave me low self-worth it’s that low self-worth is the prime breeding ground for resentments because it puts us on the defensive. So typically if I have low self-worth then the chances of me being able to engage in a peaceful disagreement such as a business meeting vote and debate or an election of some sort are slim. With addiction we continually go against our ingrained conscience and each blow against our conscience is a blow against our self-worth.
And if we were raised in a home where every disagreement or varying viewpoint ended in a violent fight it’s no wonder we are squeamish around any hint of varying opinion.
So what then do we leave all the important elections, crucial debates and decision making to those who understand peaceful debate and didn’t grow up in a violent home where agree to disagree was never exhibited? HELL NO! We learn, we grow we find out how to achieve the self-worth needed to NOT take every comment personally! Image how nice it would feel to not get emotionally triggered every time we try to socialize? So, we do a painful and honest fourth step. We do a candid fifth step and share with someone who shows respect and empathy not some “beat you down” sponsor who hasn’t gained any self-worth themselves.
We do 12 step service work until we are blue in the face! We take meetings into jails and institutions even if we feel like our anxiety is going to kill us! We stifle our expression of pen and tongue unless we are speaking with respect. We journal until we are blue in the face because getting out our fearful feelings WILL RELIEVE OUR ANXIETY. We get a same sexed sponsor and gain a support group who will show us respect, and if they don’t respect us then we respectfully tell them, …no we “ask” them not to do it again because we consider their action toward us disrespectful. We remember that we can’t make anybody do or think anything, if they don’t show us respect we WALK AWAY and find friends that will show us respect by choice. We will find that once we start to work the steps and engage in steps 10 through 12 on a regular basis we won’t have to command and defend because people will automatically show us respect. Even fulfilling our part of probation is an emotional growth experience. Doing a couple years’ probation in early sobriety will most likely benefit us in many ways. Once we have worked the steps and put the things on our fourth step that we were most ashamed of, those things we did that we NEVER WANTED ANYBODY TO EVER FIND OUT these are the things that need to be on that list the most. If we can’t be honest with our steps we won’t gain the self-esteem needed to agree to disagree.
We do these thing even though they are new and scare the hell out of us emotionally. We do not hesitate to make a “fear list” even though we may have a year or two sober because there is no shame in being afraid. The people that hide their fears are the one’s that suffer the most emotionally. Being afraid is part of the human condition and if we are newly sober SOMETHING IS WRONG IF WE ARE NOT AFRAID. So after we write down all our fears pertaining to loss of our loved one’s loss of our social status and loss of our security we have a talk with our higher power and ask for some “faith” and to learn how to better trust that Higher Power. If we have a resentment that won’t let up we pray for that person to receive all the blessings that we wish for. And we do the work that 75% of the people in A.A. are too far into denial to see that they need to do as well. And every time we catch ourselves looking for the differences instead of the similarities in a meeting we pray for help with that because relating to others in A.A. is one of the ways we get well. Just some solutions.
NO RELATIONSHIPS BEFORE A YEAR SOBER..SO THEY SAY IN AA. the suggestion has much merit but there are exceptions to the rule.
We can quickly destroy all our loving relationships due to natural knee-jerk reactions that fend off fear and the feelings that fear creates. Some deadly knee-jerk solutions are blame, criticisms, hate, playing the victim or the oppressor anything that relates to putting down and condemning others to make ourselves feel better if even just for a short while. There is no shortage of people to condemn including ourselves. In the meantime we lose what our hearts really need and crave…to Love and to be Loved, to comfort and to be comforted, to understand and to be understood, to follow our conscience and to live guilt-free.
If you want to read what Alcoholics Anonymous’ take on dating and sex is read page 69 from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. Also here’s the link to the Narcotics Anonymous literature on the topic.
There are some awesome suggestions in both texts. I feel obligated and inspired to write my own experience on the topic as an A.A. member since 2006. My sobriety date is 04-15-06. My name is Lori E. and I am a recovering drunk, heroin addict, crack-head, and co-dependent. Given all of the things that I have recovered from including cigarettes I needed more than just A,A, to get better.
However without A.A. I doubt I would still be sane and sober. I am the Chairman of the New Life Group in Gainesville, Florida. I have done my share of taking meetings into the very jail I got sober in and the institution that taught me emotional healing. Bridge House at Meridian Health Care. http://mbhci.org/treatment-services/residential-inpatient-services/ saved my life and it cost me about $4 a day for 28 days if memory serves. I do know at the time of my stay the government was footing most of the bill. They allow A.A. to bring meetings into inpatient on a regular basis including women meetings which at this phase of my sobriety are my favorite. Women open up on issues that are so pertinent to their healing that would otherwise be taboo in mixed meetings. I remember they told us that only one out of the 30 patients in our group would still be sober after a year. We proved them wrong due tothe excellent psychological therapy that we received from psychologists working there at that time. There is a group of 5 or 6 of us who are pushing the 10 year mark of sobriety. “Trauma in recovery” was the name of the therapy group. And we had a “women’s issues” group also. Out of the two therapists who saved our lives and taught us how to emotionally process (live with feelings) one has passed away and the other still works there.
Three of the women that I got sober with including myself have been in long term healthy relationships that began during the first year of our sobriety in 2006. Two of us are with men that have at least 7 more years sober than ourselves and we met these men in the program. Technically that makes those two men 13th steppers but we can laugh about that now. Thank god for the 13th step! 13th stepping is when a member with say a year or more sober preys upon a new and vulnerable member. Technically this can be a very bad thing so I won’t make light of it without explanation. I believe if we are over the age of 18 we are responsible for our choices and that includes when we are newly sober.
We women in my outpatient therapy group were dating early on but we took every action and choice that we made regarding our new relationships into the group for feedback and guidance. We all spent at least a year in that therapy group 2 to 3 nights a week. Since we had a support group we were not technically as vulnerable as your typical and newly sober woman. Without that group I would not be in a mature and happy relationship today. But it took allot of work on myself to change. So two of us found our men in A.A. and the third women a total miracle because she found her husband in Bridge House. Hers was what we call a re-hab relationship. Re-hab relationships rarely last. Usually what happens is the two people leave rehab and use drugs together. Next they betray one another and the relationship ends in a total train wreck. That’s the odds.
Even our wise counselor at Bridge House told us that from what he had seen people who get into relationships in their first year always relapse. I remember in group one day Dr. Rand Maryowitz told us that he had never seen a relationship work that had started in the first year of sobriety. Us women looked at each other reading one another’s minds we thought, “there is no way we are ending this relationship! It feels too good.” And it was good, the trick for me was to survive the crash of the fairy tale expectations which was one of my patterns of co-dependency.
I wanted to RUN AND BLAME
so many times when my feelings would get hurt and I felt he had wronged me. That was me a runner and a blamer. I was the victim. Each time I felt that way I would call my new friends from group instead of running. I would then realize one of two things, either my new partner had not wronged me at all or he had unknowingly done so and I just needed to communicate with him on an honest level and let him know how I felt and why I felt I was wronged. Not so I could be “right” but so we could get to know each other and learn what one another considers disrespectful. If you are with a partner that is willing to work with you and communicate at a core and honest level then you have a chance of gaining a life-long mate. Soul mates THE FACES OF LOVE
RULE NUMBER ONE- STOP BLAMING MY PARTNER FOR MY OWN FEELINGS AND MY OWN CHOICES.
RULE NUMBER TWO- TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR EVERYTHING IN MY OWN LIFE. INCLUDING MY PAIN AND INSECURITIES
RULE THREE-LEARN WHAT TO DO WITH THE INTENSE FEELINGS THAT WON’T GO AWAY.
I had spent my whole life blaming others for my shit. It took a strong support group, a good counselor, and A.A (the twelve steps to be precise) for me to make the transition into self-responsibility. Here are some of the articles that talk about the solutions to relationship sabotage. I really had no idea what a healthy relationship was until I got sober and allowed myself to be emotionally vulnerable and teachable.
The thing is we get hurt and betrayed then we put up walls that protect us from that happening again. But unfortunately the instinctual walls of a sick addict push love out and bring fear in. I had to learn how to be okay with me. I had to let myself off the hook for all the mistakes of the past and make amends where I could. I had to invite God into all the areas of my life that I had been shielding Him from. Without a Higher Power the healing process does not have the supernatural punch needed for an emotional make-over. Therapy, 12 steps and God. Three ingredients to a super dooper recovery! I know many people in A.A. have given up of intimate relationships. Many times when they do give up then, finally they find their soul mate. A partner cannot fix us. They cannot process our feelings for us or build our needed self-esteem only we can do that by doing the next right thing. And continuing to do the next right thing. Here are some articles about relationships and what it takes to be a partner.
If you seek a full recovery from addiction A.A. Works for some people, therapy works for others, and spirituality works for yet others. Combine all three and you up your chances of staying sober by at least 30%. But be sure to choose an empathic, caring type therapist, you will need it to balance out the intolerance of many A.A. sponsors and members. And furthermore I recommend a Spirit-filled church (holy roller type). Dry and Spirit-less churches that don’t really believe in the gifts of the Spirit such as prophecy, healings, miracles, deliverances, and open-praise aren’t usually as effective in the miracle department. Make certain that your church at least believes in the power of the blood of Jesus and the laying on of hands for healing and deliverance. Yes again the holy rollers. Truly every spiritual experience I have had of high magnitude has been where people praise God openly. Not to say a spiritual experience cannot happen to you at home alone. I have also seen that happen. It’s just way more likely to happen at a tent revival than in the bathroom at home. And then there’s the spiritual awakening and a psychic change. If you work the 12 steps out of the 12 and 12 and big books honestly and thoroughly several times you may just get the psychic change needed to stay sober.
FLASHBACK FEELINGS -I woke up this morning with the feeling of impending doom. The feeling that I am bad, that I have done something wrong, that I am not good enough or am good enough and just don’t do what I should.
The Old Me
I had a dream the first year I got sober. (I have been sober nearly 10 years today) this dream in early recovery revealed to me the personalities in my head that drove me to addiction. In AA we like to call them the “committee”. These personalities for me are three people. One is a brassy red headed “bitch” for lack of a more precise term. She loves to tell me how worthless I am. She loves to put me down by never ever looking at my accomplishments or my good deeds. This brassy haired bitch cuts me down at any opportunity. If she gets her way….I will hate myself utterly. She will never ever be satisfied with my actions and who I am. She is the personification of Hate and if I listen to her and forget who she is I will believe her and fall into her awful deception. My self-worth will become skewed. I must be aware of her at all times and ignore her incessant lies. Giving myself positive affirmations and seeing myself as a literal child, innocent, good, and spiritual fends her off. Giving thanks aloud to my higher power silences the bitch. Taking a walk, going to a meeting, writing my feelings, fears, and thoughts, these all silence her.
My second and third personalities who wants to destroy me iare “sloth” and his brother “false pride” The first man lies in bed at all times. He will not and cannot get out of bed. Beside his bed are bleachers filled with an audience this audience watches him at all times and he is aware of them. What this man wants me to do is stay in bed and do nothing like him. No work no fun no social life no exercise no showers no shopping no eating, especially no cooking to eat right.
Subconsciously fear tells me that if I stay paralyzed then the red-headed bitch can’t tell me my actions are worthless…at least that’s what the man in the bed thinks. If I do nothing I won’t get an “F” on my report card of life. If I stay hidden from the world I won’t be a failure. But that won’t stop the bitch really it only makes her stronger. If I let fear paralyze me it will cause more fear. My mind will become more and more negative. The 12 steps, the program of AA or NA, meditation, therapy, nature, pets, love, dancing, exercise, step five. These are all solutions that combat fear and negativity. My words have power I should never speak harshly to myself or others. It hurts me by giving power to a supernatural negative karma.
The male personification also wants me to think that the world revolves around me and that everyone is watching what I do. He wants me to think that people are judging me harshly, and that I need to perform and wear a mask for the audience in the bleachers. He tells me that I need to put on a production, a facade rather than actually live my life for me and be honest to people. He wants me to repress all my feelings and fears and pretend I am some perfect human with a perfect life. The F.I.N.E. syndrome- Fucked up, insecure, neurotic, & emotional.
My fourth personality is a little girl. She is a victim who is afraid. She doesn’t think that she has any value. People have abused her and been very mean to her. People that she trusted have betrayed her. The little girl has been wronged and told that she is worthless many times over. She is a direct reflection of my injured heart.
My older sister was very mean and critical of me from the very moment she became threatened and jealous of me at a very young age. My parents never knew they should validated my feelings and encourage me…I became afraid to confide anything to anyone at a very early age. They made sure to let me know that if I felt it then “it” was wrong. I was molested and abused and never ever told anyone, they did not have a role of protector for me whatsoever. I thought I was bad and it was my fault. This little girl was the wounded and sick “me” until I healed and learned to process feelings and fears. The other personalities are my survival skills as twisted as they may be. Emotional processing and communication skills are CRUCIAL for women to maintain healthy emotions. Learn here: http://www.recoveryfarmhouse.com/12-steps-and-the-right-therapy-go-hand-in-hand/
Getting to know our addict is very helpful. How? To be aware of the core reasons that we have tried so hard to numb even destroy ourselves is part of the healing process. We should learn to love all aspects of ourselves and to be understanding as to why we did or do what we do. We were children when our psyches were formed. Many of us addicts just didn’t have a chance emotionally. But we can change our self-image can change. Think of recovery as not destroying those personalities of our addict but rather we silence them. They are no longer on the forefront of our personality. We literally built a new identity in AA. Now Who am I really?
Next I give you an assignment if you will. I have discovered who I really am. And if you are clean and sober you can discover who you really are as well. Not the addict who would love to surface, not the injured child but rather the pure soul level person who was created by God absent of all the wounds, flaws and character defects. After we clear away the wreckage of our past by working the 12 steps and getting therapy who do we find walking in our shoes? For a time it’s helpful to take on the A.A. persona. Quoting lots of cliches and only doing A.A. sanctioned activities. But at some point we are living the program, it’s now time to re-define who we are outside of A.A. After all walking and talking like an A.A robot is just another form of fear and hiding who we are. It’s time to embrace our true and innocent selves. Here are my findings after clearing my own wreckage. I encourage you to write your own three natures down. This is an empowering exercise.
The New Me
MY THREE NATURES
The Shaman, the Priestess. I am connected to my Higher Powers and I hear my Spirit Guides clearly. I do what is best for me and others. I know my shortcomings and keep them in check. I am aware of my core issues and work through them when they come up. I walk in the Light, Strength and Power of God! I have visions of past, present and future. I can look deep into your eyes and see your heart and soul, I am spiritually gifted and use my gifts to heal.
I am a sensitive child of God who can be hurt emotionally because today I can feel and that’s good. I am a human being and God created me with feelings. I don’t have to claim I don’t care what anybody thinks because that would be a lie. Wanting people to love me, care about me, and think highly of me are all God given traits they in no way make me weak. I am a strong and courageous child he above all just wanted to be Loved and be fulfilled by her Higher Power. I have to cry sometimes to clear out the emotional cobwebs. I know what the world is I accept it but don’t like some of it. I side with truth. I love color and fantasy and the supernatural. I am open-minded and non-judgmental.
My third Nature is a strong and powerful woman who in real life has overcome many obstacles and predators. The powerful woman is athletic and a fighter if need be. She is a survivor. She-I am a writer and seamstress a mother a protector. I have the power to give and to receive. I know how to make money and get what I need to keep a roof over me and my Childs head. I love travel and am comfortable doing anything alone that I do with a partner. I don’t need anyone in particular. I do not rely on anyone person I am self-supporting. When I fail I get back up. I am a student humble enough to be taught and I am a teacher strong and confident enough to teach. I can easily speak in front of a room full of people. I start the day with a knowledge of my character flaws so I don’t have to engage in them. My Higher Power said (Jesus) The things I do you can do also…and more.
By Adam J. Pearson. Recovery Farmhouse Thanks you Adam Pearson for your courageous bravery which you have exhibited by addressing a topic most people run from. The topic of shame is one that should be addressed by each of our hearts. Until we examine our shame we cannot claim to know ourselves. If we say we have no shame we have not examined ourselves any further than ego and false pride will allow. We will not be ashamed of being ashamed!…..The Farmhouse.
The Wisdom of Eamonn Perkins
Eamonn Perkins is a wise, humble and tremendously compassionate teacher from Ireland who spends much of his time working with addicts and prisoners. He’s so low-key that, as of this writing, he doesn’t even have a website. In a 2014 interview, Eamann said something brilliantly concise and and equally incisive:
“If you truly knew me, you wouldn’t like me,” that’s the mantra of human existence. “
I love this line. It’s so simple and so profound. It’s one of those ideas that is so powerful that it momentarily stuns us into silence. Words like these hit home somewhere deep within us and resonate with something in the darknessthat wants to be seen, a hidden truth that yearns to come to light. I couldn’t agree more with the truth of the statement, especially in our current global situation in which we have so much information and yet paradoxically feel so lost, are so socially connected and yet so lonely, and are so encouraged to puff up our egos and yet so inwardly drowning in a sea of shame.
And if shame–the intensely painful feeling that we are in some way flawed or not good enough and are, therefore, unworthy of love, belonging and connection–is the cause of our drowning, then it’s no surprise that we’re all desperately searching for a lifeline out of it.
“If you truly knew me, you wouldn’t like me” is the secret belief, the shameful idea, the “mantra of human existence.”
When we believe this story, we meet each other from a place of fear and put up fronts and facades. We operate from a feeling of inadequacy and hide out of reflex. We refuse to let ourselves really show up and be seen out of the fear of being judged or rejected. And very slowly and very quietly, this message, which is the voice of shame within us, begins to stifle life. Without understanding, we watch it happen, wishing we had the words to describe what is going on and the tools to handle it.
As if paralyzed, we watch shame crush our free expression. The fear at its core blocks our creativity and replaces honesty with self-defensive lies. It makes us scramble for escapes and distractions to avoid the excruciating pain that is fundamental to shame. And while saying that we would never want to be anything but authentic, we find ourselves so afraid to be real and not belong that we choose to be inauthentic in order to fit in.
Shame is Widespread
Lady Godiva statue by John Thomas (1813 – 1862), Maidstone Museum, Kent, England.
This pattern is so common and yet so unspoken. “The less you talk about shame, the more you have it,” says the brilliant and inspiring shame researcher Brene Brown in her renowned TED talk, “The Power of Vulnerability.” “The only people who don’t have it” she continues, “also have no capacity for human empathy or connection.”
Shame is incredibly universal. I’ve seen it in the students I’ve taught. I’ve seen it in the men and women I’ve known. I’ve seen it in my friends. I’ve seen it expressed in the media on TV. And I’ve seen it in myself. For 25 years of my life, shame stifled and held me down like a heavy and unspoken weight. I feel for, and with, all of those who struggle with shame because I get them. Shame varies in the details from person to person, but its core is always the same.
This is one reason why I’m open about shame, because I’ve struggled with it, because so many people do, and because shame grows in silence and “cannot survive being spoken” (Brown, 2013). When I do openly talk to people about shame, I tend to hear the same thing over and over again: “I thought it was just me…” Oh yeah. I know that feeling. Shame is tremendously effective at making us feel like we’re the only ones who feel it, when the truth is that it comes up in nearly all of us.
Shame Itself is Fear, Our Prison and the Key to Freedom
Facing shame can sometimes feel terrifying because shame itself is fear, the fear of not being enough and being unworthy, unlovable, and rejected as a result. The basic truth, as I see it, though, is this: if we want to flourish, if we want to be boldly authentic, if we want to truly love and be loved, if we want to transcend fear, if we want to cultivate kindness and forgiveness, if we want to find peace, then we need to face shame rather than deny, repress, and project it. We need to meet it in an intelligent and self-compassionate way that works.
And that’s why I spend so much time and so many words writing about shame. Because it’s the substance out of which we forged the bars of our internal prison. And it’s also the key to our liberation.
Resources on Shame and Cultivating Shame-Resilience
If anything I said above resonates, rings true, or sounds familiar to what you or people you know have felt, here are some resources that I’ve found helpful that will give you some powerful insights into shame and shame-resilience.
Above all, I’d recommend reading the amazing book “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way we Live, Love, Parent and Lead” by the shame-researcher and brilliantly compassionate and inspiring Brene Brown. This book literally changed my life. It gave me words for feelings I had felt for years and had never been able to express. It cast light on powerful shadows. And it empowered me with useful tools. I’ve read it 3 times. It’s that good. It literally changed my life.
In addition, here’s a wonderful Positive Psychology article on Brene Brown’s “Shame-Resilience Theory” if you’re into a more psychology-oriented academic approach.
If you want some down-to-Earth distillations of the core principles from Brene’s book as I’ve applied them in my life, here are a few articles that I’ve written on the subjects of shame and how to empower ourselves with resilience against it. These articles are grounded, not in hypothetical theories, but in both solid research and in my own experience and practice. My general rule is that I only write about tools I’ve actually used and found helpful in my own life. If I haven’t used it and found it to work, I don’t write about it.
However, you don’t have to take my word for it. Let your own experience be the laboratory and the judge. I’m right there in the arena with you, facing the same issues. We’re in this together and we’re never alone, even though shame can make us feel that way. There are useful strategies that work to empower us to work with these things and the purpose of my writing is to share them.
Here’s a brief guide and orienting overview to my writings on the subject:
“Silencing the Praise: Why Seeking Approval Fails to Fill Our Inner Void” introduces shame and identifies it as the name of the void we feel within us, the void that says we are “not good enough” and are thus unworthy of love and belonging. It then explains why approval-seeking fails to fill the void of shame because shame invalidates approval even when we do receive it. We are not hopeless, however; at the end of the article, I introduce a few healthy alternatives and powerful strategies to meet shame with resilience and compassion.
“The Heart of the Void: Finding the Assumptions at the Heart of Shame” breaks shame down into two key components: a feeling part and a thinking part. The feeling part involves the painful emotions at the heart of shame (e.g. fear, anxiety, inadequacy) and the thinking part involves the core assumptionsabout ourselves that are at the root of the feelings. This article specifically explains how to discover these assumptions and then how to reality-check andtransform them once we find them. This practice is a powerful tool for our shame-resilience arsenal.
“Finding the Calm Within the Storm: Shame-Resilience in Practice” breaks down Brene Brown’s powerful shame-resilience method into clear steps and gives a real-world example of how I applied it to one shame story in my own life. I’ve seen tons of articles about the method online, but very few concrete examples of how we apply it in our own inner experience. This article was written in an attempt to fill that void and also to practice “the courage to be vulnerable” that Brene Brown champions.
“Forgive and Be Free: The Liberating Power of Forgiveness”offers a useful practice for compassionately addressing the feeling part of shame throughforgiveness. Forgiveness was a subject that I took for granted for a long time because I didn’t realize how powerfully liberating and empowering it truly is. However, it was a key part of the shame puzzle for me.
“Release the Past to Free the Present: Another Meaning of Forgiveness” expands on the previous article to explain how forgiveness helps us lovingly liberate our present from the stranglehold of the past. Since shame is powerfully rooted in our past thoughts, perceptions, and experiences, forgiveness thus is a powerfully compassionate practice for skillfully handling shame. This article explains how this works.
Shame sometimes expresses itself as catastrophizing or obsessive worst-case scenario thinking. “Catastrophizing: How to Handle Worst-Case Scenario Thinking” explores the fascinating dynamics of catastrophizing. It also offers a powerful way to handle catastrophic thinking so that it ceases to drive us towards unintentional self-sabotage and drag us out of the joy of being present.
Dissolving shame is like dissolving a poison that is killing, one drop at a time. In its place… space, air and welcoming of life. That’s what happened for me, finally. Keep writing about this, Adam, it’s needed.
QUALITY SOBRIETY HAS MANY FACES AND THE FACE OF PAINFUL EXPRESSION EXHIBITS TRUTH. I AM NOT AFRAID TO LET YOU SEE MY TEARS THEY ARE A MANIFESTATION OF THE NINTH STEP PROMISE THAT “FEAR OF PEOPLE” WILL LEAVE US.
The face of recovery that shows no pain or tears is a misrepresentation of one’s true self and a deep deception to us all.
The face of recovery that shows no pain or tears is a misrepresentation of one’s true self and a deep deception to us all.
Yesterday I felt horrible and I wasn’t sure why. I kept having a bad re-occurring memory of me at a very young age feeling rejected and even loathed by my father. I wrote about the memory and shared my feelings with my close confidants in AA. I felt a huge relief after I shared my core insecurities of inadequacy and worthlessness. But there was more…there was something else going on with me yesterday and in the past few weeks. I have been working toward some business goals and things were looking pretty darn good where finances are concerned. Then suddenly out of nowhere I had some pretty big set-backs occur that threw me for a loop.
I have had expectations; high expectations that my websites and business were on their way up! When everything took a turn down hill at one time I was shocked. I did not expect the setback at all. I beat myself up for not using the money I had been making in a more responsible way. Somehow I really didn’t expect my E-bay sales to slow down either. I realized this morning that I had lost hope. I felt like my efforts were stupid…like “what did I think I was doing expecting my financial life to be above average or even average for that matter Who did I think I was.” “Did you forget young lady that you are a piece of shit and don’t deserve money”. “You have lived from week to week all of your life and it is not going to change because your Higher Power will see to that!” “Give up hope for the good life Laura because you don’t deserve it, who do you think you are!” This is what my head said at a very, very deep subconscious level mind you. And that is what my feelings dictated so I laid down in hopelessness losing the warm reassuring vision of a bright future and concentrated on fear of the future instead. YIKES!
Please keep in mind when you are reading this and maybe judging me as totally wretched. The logical mind in humans says one thing while feelings and emotions can speak quite another thing. And just because my logical mind knew I really had nothing to worry about because God always takes care of me. I still experience the insecurities. False pride will not allow a man to confess his weakness. Without confession negativity multiplies. Fearing what other people may think of me if I do admit weakness means that I feel inferior to others anyway and am ashamed of who I am.
False comparisons are just that…they are false. I should not compare my insides to other people’s outsides as they say in AA. People wear masks and to a certain extent masks are necessary. We don’t usually “unless we are writers” need to advertise our struggles and weakness to more than one or two close confidants. However in the name of compassion and sharing so other people will not feel so inferior themselves we should let them know what is going on inside of us and that we are not perfect by any means. I share to let other people know what works for me emotionally, spiritually, and mental health-wise.
“Fear of people and economic insecurity will leave us” so says the Ninth step promises in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. But what I was going through was a definite financial insecurity….I needed to put my future….and my thoughts into the Loving hands of God. I have a Third Step God box that me and some ladies in AA all sat down and made for ourselves. It is stuffed full of fears that have passed.
And so I had not lost my spiritual gift called hope I had just misplaced it per-say. I experience deep and wrathful anger during that period at which time I prayed deeply that I wouldn’t hurt anyone by my words.
I learned a valuable lesson as I sat I said to myself and God, “I can see why some people do not seek God and reject Him all together. My feelings of anger were so deep that I could only do what I knew was right and true from my experience. Because in the moment of my rage I hated everyone including God and myself. That hate made me realize that I have judged many a man without walking in their shoes or feeling how they feel or going through what they had been through to get to the place for which I looked down on them.
ISN’T IT STRANGE THAT IN THE DEPTHS OF MY EMOTIONALLY NEGATIVE AND UNKIND PLACES WHERE MY SOUL SLIPS AGAINST MY OWN WILL. IT IS THERE THAT I AM HUMBLED AND FIND MY MOST VALUABLE SPIRITUAL LIFE LESSONS.
MONEY AND THE RECOVERING ADDICT. FREEDOM FROM COMPULSIVE SPENDING.
How do addicts handle their finances after years of spending money on the wrong things and suffering the regret? In the past personally I crossed many moral boundaries to make my money and then spent it on drugs instead of paying the bills, buying important things for my family and myself. Since I now have years of sober time under my belt I do question my occasional compulsive spending, I analyse it and am now sharing it with you.
I remember at the start of my recovery I continued in my willingness to cross moral boundaries to get money a time or two when I needed that money to get to a meeting or put toward my rehab stay. I had the gift of desperation that is a key in opening the lock of sobriety. I don’t save money well I never have. Neither have my parents, they didn’t teach me good financial planning or skills. However since I have been sober I do much better with my money, I get my bills paid even though sometimes they are late. I enjoy shopping but if I know a bill is due I usually pay it first. I say “usually”.
When it comes to walking in a Wal-mart with a pocket full of money even though all I need is a gallon of milk I will tell myself “I know there’s something I need” just so I can shop. Shopping is a high for me and if I go to the grocery store hungry I may forget all about my bills temporarily until I get home and wish I hadn’t spent so much money. I wonder…is it the shopping or the beating myself up that I get more satisfaction from. Maybe subconsciously the thought of just being good bores me to tears and since I no longer drink and drug because it became too painful I must replace that debauchery with another of a different flavor. One thing sure if we are busy doing Step 12 we won’t have time for self abuse.
The cycle of guilt is a merry-go-round that does not enjoy being put to rest. Whether it be illicit sex, stealing, yelling at our loved ones, gossip, over-eating, or greed recovering addicts seem to have a need to keep the merry-go-round of guilt and self-punishment alive. After all what will we do with out emotions and thoughts if we don’t have some negative aspect of ourselves or others to focus on?
The 12 steps help us to STOP the cycle of guilt and remorse. Perhaps not completely however, believe it there are degrees of guilt. Remorse can be so deep that it becomes intolerable after all where does depression step from if not from a deep nagging dissatisfaction of one’s self? The program gives us all kinds of new things to focus on and yes new things to criticize and balk at. Aren’t the very nature of steps 1,4,6,7,8,9, & 10 about asking ourselves “what have I done wrong today and in the past”? YES THEY ARE however the steps offer us solutions to that guilt so we don’t have to walk around ashamed of who we are. Without steps two, three, five, eleven and 12 our wonderful recovery program is nothing more than [ more of the same], more insanity and a continued process of self-abasement without the solutions. At the same time without the self-examination of our shortcomings we cannot clear the wreckage of our past and put our emotions from “disorder” to order, It is completely understandable why so many people take a peak at AA and then decide it’s not for them. They see all the negative self-examination and say “It does me no good to dwell on the past there is nothing I can do about it now its gone.” To an extent they are spot on and that is the best attitude if a person does not have steps 2,3, 5, 11,12.
Ignoring and repressing guilt will only get us so-far. Unprocessed emotions will come out of us in the form of criticisms, gossip, verbal attacks on other people, and it will turn bitter inside of our bellies and prompt us to jealousy, envy, and make us sick. Repressed guilt turns to shame which turns to fear and hate. We as recovering addicts need the 12 steps like a fish needs water. We must not give way to homicidal and suicidal thoughts but instead have the courage to do self-examination and admit our wrongs and then tell someone about it. We must let the cat out of the bag by doing our Fifth Step which is so important for our emotional recovery. Our relationship with God is so important but we must have at least one confidant that we can tell anything to. Where there is no sense of accountability personalities digress.
So how does all this fit in with our finances? We recognize when and if we are using money to continue somehow our cycle of shame and guilt. If we learn to work the 12 steps properly and as women focus on our feelings when doing so and honor them by validating and sharing them in our fifth step we can then let the pain go rather than hold onto it like Gollum held on to the ring….his Precious. We shall put our emotions into a state of “order” rather than sick and depressive “disorder”. By admitting that we do experience guilt and shame instead of labeling such feelings weak and shameful we can and will simply grow out of them.
It says in the Big Book that resentment is the number one offender. That means it will get us drunk or high before any other emotion. And sure, I get that.
RESOURCES FOR PANIC ATTACKS AND ANXIETY DISORDER I woke up angry as hell today! I went to check on a recent order I had made online. I couldn’t get into my account. I have had several problems with ordering from a certain online store so I was very aggressive with my tone when I called them. “I just want my fabric!” I realized I was wrong about the way I spoke to her so I sent her an email apology. Seems she locked me out of my account by making my email address invalid. Ouch! I never wanted to hack a system so bad in my life to get back into my account. I am angry as hell and don’t like the way that feels. I realize I have been feeling allot of anger recently.
My new and healthy emotional process works like this; I don’t shut down my emotions because that leads to anxiety and depression. But rather I ask myself why do I feel so much anger toward myself lately? Why have I felt self-destructive even? I give thanks to my Higher Power several times out loud as a defense against hate.(it works) I take a look at all the good and positive things that I have been doing lately. Sometimes flashback feelings of self-hate just happen. There are times when I regress back to my childhood my sister criticizing me my mother ignoring me and my dad invalidating my identity.
WAIT A MINUTE! WHY AM I WORKING ON SELF-RESENTMENT ISSUES WHEN IT’S EVERYONE ELSE THAT I RESENT BECAUSE THEY ARE SO WRONG AND BAD? My emotions are the fault of everyone else right? Wrong! They can’t process or fix me emotionally…all they can do is give my ego a temporary fix. They can’t build my self-esteem or give me inner peace. If I often resent other people it directly reflects the way I feel about myself deep deep down within my heart. Resentments toward others are always about me. Alternatively if someone wrongs me it is appropriate to get hurt or angry by and at them. But this is different than an on-going resentment because I am able to let the anger go, anger is a healthy emotion when it flows through us rather than getting stuck and festering.
I am a worthwhile child of God I tell myself! I refuse to believe the lies my head is telling me of how worthless, and stupid I am. I AM A HUMAN BEING AND HAVE A RIGHT TO BE WHO I AM! I pray for all of those who I resent including myself. Next I get the heck out of the house and see the bright new world because…even though I woke up very angry I refuse to take my shit out on anybody which is a test of my emotional sobriety and…
THIS MY FRIEND COULD BE THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!__________
“God, Please help me to be free of anger and to see that the world and its people have dominated me. Show me that the wrong-doing of others, fancied or real, has the power to actually kill me. Help me to master my resentments by understanding that the people who wrong me were perhaps spiritually sick. Please help me show those I resent the same Tolerance, Pity and Patience that I would cheerfully grant a sick friend.** Help me to see that this is a sick man. Father, please show me how I can be helpful to him and save me from being angry. Lord, help me to avoid retaliation or argument. I know I can’t be helpful to all people, but at least show me how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one. Thy will be done.”(66:2, 66:3, 66:4, 67:0, 67:1)
**Dear God, I have a resentment towards a person that I want to be free of. So, I am asking you to give this person everything I want for myself. Help me to feel compassionate understanding and love for this person. I pray that they will receive everything they need. Thank you God for your help and strength with this resentment. (BB, Freedom from Bondage: 552)
I didn’t get sober to be miserable although at times that’s unavoidable. If I don’t learn to live life on life’s terms and have a peaceful and somewhat loving existence I may end up being one of the MANY suicidal old-timers who kills themselves when they have no-one left to blame for their misery. Unfortunately the suicide rate among alcoholics and addicts in recovery is high.
I have done a first hand survey among sober alcoholics and most people I have interviewed who have over 15 years sober know at least 3-5 people who have committed suicide while in recovery. Myself at 9 years sober know at least 2 and possibly more due to vague explanations of cause of death by authorities and family members of the deceased.
If you think about it you probably have had at least one or two in your own hometown, sober and suicidal.
Please I am not trying to be negative but rather want to express the importance of getting down to underlying causes for addiction rather than continuing to apply band-aids to emotions that require antibiotics. It’s imperative that we learn how to process our emotions in a healthy way so our emotional disorder doesn’t become grave emotional disorder. The way to do that is by getting honest about the way we feel with people who are empathic and won’t shut us down and label it self-pity. Please read my article about solutions to intense negative emotions. At a year sober we ask “what’s wrong with me?”
Things change, ideas change, and I change. I wrote this article today which is my experience with a #1 addiction offender
EMOTIONAL VAMPIRES ARE REAL AND THEY ARE RUNNING RAMPANT IN THE ROOMS OF AA!
Two important rules-of-thumb; if they gossip about other people to you then they gossip about you to others. Number two, “Know people by who they show you they are not by who they tell you they are.”
What is an “emotional vampire?” An emotional vampire doesn’t know that they are sucking strength and peace from those around them. They simply have an inherent ability to push your emotional buttons. They can trigger in us the emotion of struggle and control accompanied by anger. Intolerance and a general negative excitement of sorts is what they bring out in us. Or put plainly they easily rile-us-up by their conversation.
Yes this sounds dangerously close to the “blame-game” however its something different. Once we are aware that certain people have this effect on us we can avoid them…we don’t invite them into our homes. Now if everyone pisses us off and we label the whole world, ’emotional vampire’ then we may lack the ability to take responsibility for your own feelings. Some people are just sand-paper to us.
Other people CAN CHANGE THE COARSE OF OUR LIVES. I asked my partner “why is it that I seem to absorb the people that I hang around.” When I spend time with my sister, as neurotic and confused as she is I part her company with a negative attitude and often-times I am critical of her. Whether we get along with, like, or dislike our neighbors we always take something away from our interaction with them. Perhaps that is partly one of the spiritual answers to “why” the 12 step programs work. We as humans need one another to spiritually & emotionally feed, nurture and stimulate us. We are as one, every man woman and child on this earth is our brother & sister.
Ya, ya, ya but where is the wisdom in this well-founded theory that we are all one? The wisdom is to open our minds and channel-in beneficial information from our positive friends and neighbors. And to hear with our hearts which direction we should go to find the humans that feed us Love. Time & chance figure into many aspects of our reality, don’t believe them for a minute when they echo in your ears “THERE ARE NO COINCIDENCES.” Really? So if every little thing that happens on the face of this big earth is planned out by the creator then all is “providence.” In which case, we are all robots anyway so we may as well hang up our hats and go to sleep in the back seat of the car…and stay asleep. NO! Sorry I don’t buy it. If the word ‘never’ or ‘always’ is in the sentence its usually inaccurate. As the great & wise “Preacher” King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes: “Time & chance play a part in everything!” Amen Solomen!
“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”
The kinds of people to avoid are the negative, soul sucking emotional vampires that will never be filled no matter how many victims they suck into their lair. But really these are just sick people, the complainers, the antagonizers, the creators of Kayos! Those that will stab us in the back as soon as we get half-way turned around. These are the ones that although they are a great distraction from our own pain we will have to detox from them once we break away from them.
We may feel an emotional hangover because of the way that they draw out our own lower, negative nature. This is not a blame tactic, we are always responsible for our own actions including choosing our company. In simple English they tempt us to act out in some character defect…usually gossip so we have to work harder when we are around them to keep our side of the street clean.
BUT WAIT! Let’s talk about these more Loving less fearful people that seldom engage in kayos and the manufacturing of misery. When we spend time with these people they encourage us. We open up to them because we feel comfortable talking to them, they don’t seek to find the wrong in everything we share. We share our worries and they are understanding and quick to remind us that we are good people. “Encouragement” is not a four letter word even if it seems that way in certain cultures. When we walk away from these people we feel strengthened, we feel validated, we ask ourselves why we don’t see these people more often. As providence has it I believe God puts certain people in our lives so we have half a chance to survive. IF YOU DON’T HAVE A PERSON IN YOUR LIFE LIKE THIS THEN IT’S TIME TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE AND GO TO A MEETING.
“Fear not” is easier said than done. We need to learn the 12 step tools and especially invoke step three to keep fear at bay. There is no shame in revisiting a third step to remind us that God has our back! One of the first things we do when beginning our walk in sober school is identify, seek, and find a Higher Power. Step five in the Big Book is the magic step that alleviates our guilt & shame but make no mistake, it is not a one-time job! Unless of coarse your perfect or sociopath.
John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. “They say that the most used phrase in the Bible is “fear not”
The psychological make-up of an addict
Many of us when we were very small children were often told by parents that we had nothing to be afraid of when we expressed our intense child-like fears. Unfortunately during our forthright expression of true feelings our parents often implied by their lack of empathy and understanding that our fears were not only unfounded but ridiculous and perhaps absurd. These adults knew no better.
Parents do not usually know that some validation of our feelings along with comfort and logic was necessary for our emotional health. Therefore our intense little feelings were invalidated, we felt “wrong” for being afraid. After-all our parents knew best how we should feel so our fears must be wrong. But instead of that making our fears go away it motivated us to hide our fears for shame. My parents used shame to control me. They used shame to oppress me and steal my dreams and hopes.
What’s worse once we got to pre and elementary school we found out just what kind of people express their fears openly. We learned about the scaredy-cats, the chicken-shits, the pussies and the yellow-bellies. We learned that people who express any form of fear will be ostracized greatly by their fellows and friends. We must be bad we must be wrong!
And so we learned to stuff down those big fears into our guts, we learned to act, and we learned to put on the mask of fearlessness. No-one would call us cry-baby again! Ever! We learned, even…to shut off our tears. Showing any kind of hurt emotional or physical would label us weak. So we turned our hurts to anger. Who could blame us…we didn’t want to be labelled by everyone. Between our parents and our school-mates we were really left with very few people if any in whom we could confide our true feelings so we could let them out.
Most of us women in addiction were sexually abused as children. We hid the feelings from that away as well…deep in our bowels lie the pain and hurt of a wounded, neglected, and abused child. We did not trust that our feelings were right therefore we could not trust our parents to tell them what happened…or maybe our parents are the culprits of the abuse. Either way we had no adult to confide with about the abuse and the feelings of self-loathing that resulted from it.
AND SO GOES THE STORY OF THE TYPICAL ADDICTS EMOTIONS…expression of feelings was off the table so what would we do with all those feelings inside us that were ready & able to cause an explosion of wrath. We usually weren’t cruel people we didn’t want to take out our feelings on others so we beat ourselves up for being who we were.
We developed a voice in our head that screamed at us for things we said and did and things we didn’t say and do. We became our own worst enemy.
The self-hate, the anxiety, and the depression that we felt had to stop!
SO WE MEDICATED! After-all the last thing we would do is confide in someone so they could turn around and use it against us!
Ohhhh how the drugs worked, ohhhh how they made us feel better…for a while anyway!
Robin Williams-an addict in recovery hung himself today. Why would anyone with all that money, in the program, sober for quite some time want to kill himself?
“Our liquor was but a symptom, so we had to get down to causes and conditions.”
I have a friend who is a therapist and in 12 step recovery. He loves both programs. But he has quoted me shocking numbers of addicts/alcoholics in a 12 step program who have committed suicide. The statistics are staggering. What you will find behind the statistics is an ability to express and share negative feelings. . My friend insists that all his sponcees do regular fifth-steps in meetings by telling “WHAT HAPPENED AND HOW IT MADE ME FEEL.”
FEELINGS ARE NOT AN OUTSIDE ISSUE, THE SOLUTIONS DO NOT LIE IN SHUTTING DOWN OUR FEELINGS AND PRETENDING THEY DON’T EXIST.
“WE ARE AS SICK AS OUR SECRETS”
WE MUST FIND AT LEAST ONE PERSON WE CAN TELL ANYTHING TO.
IN THE U.S. SUICIDE STATISTICS FAR OUTWEIGH OTHER COUNTRIES.
The solutions to anxiety and depression are simple but not easy. You can find them on my website:
Which Feelings Need Addressing & is Step 10 enough? I woke up in the middle of the night with an intense feeling of impending doom. I felt like I was somehow in a position where I had no safety. I felt like I was dangling miles high in the air with no safety net. In my heart and mind I must be putting my well-being in the hands of the wrong thing. It is not uncommon to sub-consciously put our faith into a cigarette or a pill while in recovery from a traumatic addiction. When in that addiction our neuro-pathways had been trained to take the direction where drinking is a solution. Sometimes in recovery our brain takes a wrong turn if you will. All we need do is put our faith back on the right neuro-road where we depend on our spiritual God rather than a person, place, or earthly thing. When I was a very young child I remember having an intense realization that one day I would die. It frightened me because there is no earthly solution for death. It prompted me to seek and connect with my Higher Power.
When I experience impending doom all I have to do is pray and tell my Higher Power how I feel (fear) and remember that He/She/It does have my back and the feeling of fear will leave me. Maybe it was the prospect of death itself that haunted me. Perhaps I had awoken from a nightmare that I don’t remember. Do I need to write a fear list? If the feeling does not let-up by prayer alone then “Yes” back to Step Four!
The fear list is an important part of our on-going maintenance in sobriety. You will find the directions for it in Step Four of the big book. “But that’s Step Four I should be over that!”….So some say. However my experience is in the matter of emotional sobriety and overcoming grave emotional disorder I revisit the fourth step as often as needed and Step Ten is far from enough maintenance to keep my emotions in check.
In Step Ten the book reads that we are pretty much cured of regarding drink & drug as a solution, this is true to any extent. “The problem has been removed, it does not exist for us.” However emotions and emotional sobriety are another matter, if I don’t stay emotionally balanced I will eventually see alcohol as a solution. Absolutely we do “recoil” from alcohol if we work the steps but will we “recoil” from being self-destructive or hurting others? Or will we just switch to another self-destructive habit?
STEP TEN-“Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”
This is a very limited prospect of which is useless without the rest of the 12 steps.
Step ten works good enough for a quick apology or when simple self-acknowledgement of a defect then a little prayer will resolve resentment, shame, guilt or fear but if it doesn’t rectify my deep negative feelings a little more work may be necessary even though I have worked the steps thoroughly. Truly Step Ten is not much of anything without the rest of the 12 Steps actively in place in our lives. Furthermore without prayer and meditation we are usually not spiritually fit enough to take our own inventory anyway.
Do I have any unresolved resentments I ask myself? If so I need to pray for that person and if that doesn’t work I do a step four and five including “my part” and not eliminating “wrongs done to me” and how both of those have made me feel. If it brings up deep feelings I let myself feel them and I cry.
If I have a reoccurring memory of an event in my past and it is attached to an intense feeling; that is when prayer is not usually enough. That does not mean I don’t pray. It just means that there is something in my past that I need to explore with an empathic listener who can hopefully relate to the event. I write down what happened. Have I wronged anyone? Do I feel guilt or shame? Remember our heart does not have to make sense it just needs to express itself, raw, & without editing. I share my feelings with a listener whom will neither shut me down, shame me, nor invalidate me for my feelings.
Staying disconnected from our feelings is an old survival skill that worked. To truly process core feelings we need to connect with them 100% and write, cry, scream, talk, moan, run, or even punch (the bag, pillow) them out.
Let’s face it folks some AA, NA members are in the business of invalidation. These members will always look for the differences instead of the similarities. Furthermore they will look for the “wrong” in anything you propose to them. This may work for some people…but blame is a principle of co-dependency not a principle of healing in recovery.
Do I feel dirty, wrong, and bad? We must not allow our intellect to cloud our fourth step by invalidation. Admitting core feelings like “bad, dirty, wrong, disgusting, or cheap sounds embarrassing but these are the common human feelings that surface after living an addicted life. These deep feelings need to come out or they will make us sick. Let’s face it not only have most of us crossed our own moral boundaries when in addiction but we also have core issues that need addressing from childhood. Oftentimes adults taught us that we were just plain “wrong” and that we don’t even have a right to be who we are and feel how we feel.
Remember we in recovery usually reach out for some secondary dependencies or lesser addictions when we get sober. You won’t hear it talked about in the rooms much but that’ what we do.
There are two kinds of people in AA those who struggle and admit it and those who struggle and don’t talk about it. We certainly don’t struggle at all times and we do reach a place of peace if we work the steps but we are never finished doing the work while human and alive.
Do not be too hard on yourself for that is a character defect within itself! Come on folks! We are all doing the best we can for right now. From what I have experienced in Narcotics Anonymous the way they sometimes ostracize fellows for secondary addictions it feeds into the sickness of keeping secrets, repressing emotions, and feeds our shame issues. Some groups forbid members to chair meetings if they are on much needed psyche meds or pain meds even non-narcotic meds. Intolerance and a lack of acceptance for others and their personal medicinal status is just that…a lack of understanding and empathy.
In recovery we often struggle with sick relationships (co-dependency), cigarettes, food, sexual promiscuity, anger issues, even your non-narcotic prescription drugs…nevertheless we are doing way better than we were before AA and the 12 steps. Do not think that your recovery is counterfeit if you struggle with one of these? Believe me we all struggle at times. You will find that when one of us overcomes ALL of our little crutches we then become highly judgmental, and our control issues hit their highest peaks. It’s always something! Not a justification just fact. Best we accept ourselves and other as human and remember “OUT OF THE PROBLEM INTO THE SOLUTION”!
Disclaimer: Oftentimes people in recovery from addictions, usually men do not need to ever return to a fourth step after doing it once, they don’t need to talk about their feelings, nor do they need an empathic listener. They are emotionally and spiritually healthy. These type fellows have either had an intense spiritual healing experience or they have gone to therapy for a year or more and worked through their core emotional issues, or have done both.
Alcoholism in itself is traumatic experience to our hearts and minds. My suggestions in the following articles are for those in recovery who have a knowledge of the 12 steps and have had trauma in their past and are in need of an emotional healing from that.
It’s the way of some of the AA old-timers to go to an extreme by denying that their emotions exist. They confuse emotions such as anger or hurt with character defects. A feeling is not a defect again I say it comes from our heart which is a place of truth. Actions are the only things that come under the heading of “character defect” . These old crotchety types will teach the new-comer that crying is self-pity and that expressing hurt from being wronged under any circumstance no matter how horrific is always a character defect in us
POET & SONGWRITER JOHN MELLENCAMP EXCERPT FROM “PINK HOUSES”
“Oh but ain’t that America, for you and me
Ain’t that America, we’re something to see baby
Ain’t that America, home of the free, yeah
Little pink houses, for you and me,
oh baby for you and me
Well there’s people and more people
What do they know, know, know
Go to work in some high rise
And vacation down at the Gulf of Mexico
What do we do after we have processed our painful traumatic pasts, we have a new set of friends in AA, we have let our feelings out, talked about them and the circumstances surrounding our feelings, (make no mistake it is vital we express both our feelings and the circumstances that surround them,) we wrote about same, identified & related with others about same, talked about our shame, and thoroughly worked our steps, we have reconnected with God YET we feel bored. We feel something needs to be done, its as if the spark is gone from our recovery and all we do is work, work, work!
So, I tell my partner “Partner” I say, “I am bored and feeling unfulfilled because I must work, work, and work some more!” He says to me; “partner, set your eyes upon the CARROT” . He jogs my memory by his suggestion. I had forgotten how valuable the carrot is for me emotionally and how it improves my attitude. And so I do just that. I work, work, work, and keep my thoughts on my up and coming “vacation down at the Gulf of Mexico Oh yea! I pack my camera, my bathing suit, I buy a $3 raft and I am on my way! Yaay!! I have worked and I deserve a rest to reflect, revitalize, and remember how good life really is!
And yes, the next paragraph of the song by the way talks about “the pills that kill” but I shall save that for my next article on that and the choice of taking meds for pain, anti-depressants, psych meds etc. while in recovery. If I can’t go to the gulf then I will go to the local springs or wherever I can get with nature and be refreshed. I count my blessings and am filled with gratitude when I get close to God’s natural creations and then I do it all over again.
Step Twelve work gives me a purpose when I share the solutions at meetings. AAers need to talk about what is going on with them. It is not our place to shut anyone down who needs to express their emotional pain. Recovery is about learning what to do with our emotions not pretending we don’t have emotions. Staying in emotional denial feeds anxiety, fear, and secret-keeping. We are as sick as our secrets and that includes secret emotions.
It’s the way of some of the old-timers to go to an extreme by denying that their emotions exist. They confuse emotions such as anger or hurt with character defects. A feeling is not a defect again I say it comes from our heart which is a place of truth. Actions are the only things that come under the heading of “character defect” . These old crotchety types will teach the new-comer that crying is self-pity and that expressing hurt from being wronged under any circumstance no matter how horrific is always a character defect in us.
Oftentimes alcoholics have been sexually and emotionally abused as children and have never had the chance to express the pain associated with the abuse. Getting sober will always bring those deep pains to the surface so we need an outlet. God gave us tears for a reason and crying is absolutely a part of the healthy emotional process. We who have learned the remedy for addiction share the solutions for the newcomers pain in meetings and that is a twelfth step action.
We gain fulfillment by sharing in meeting however it can get old continually being around negativity especially when we just want to enjoy life and stay on a positive train of thought. Nothing wrong with taking a break from meetings when we know how to live the program.
When we vacation down at the Gulf of Mexico we get to go to out-of-town meetings that are new and different. That in itself is a positive change.
And so we use the carrot as one of our survival tools for the good life in recovery.
A THOUGHT:Yep acceptance is a part of healing. Where there is no acceptance there is denial., However denial is also one of the stages of healing. Denial keeps us alive until we are ready to face past traumas and process or cry them out…or scream…or write…or punch the bag.
WRATH IS ONE SUBCONSCIOUS WAY OF DEALING WITH UN-EXPRESSED FEARS
Sometimes people are very mean so what do we do? We try to understand and accept that people are often wrong. It is easiest to accept mean people when we keep in mind that they are hurting emotionally possibly very deeply. People are often taught by parents and adults to hold in their tears, to fight back and never express their their fears.
Sometimes when we feel anxiety its highly beneficial to just get up, put on our shoes, walk outside and scream what ever it is we are feeling. A great release will come in us by doing that exercise. When a person is mean to us we can just smile and respond with a kind word. In Proverbs it is written “A kind word turns away wrath.”
Sometimes their is a deep and abiding anger in us, we must not be belittled because we are angry. Anger is not a sin however taking that anger out on others is. Wrath is when we project our own intense anger onto other people, blame them for our feelings and then attack. We must not allow others to belittled us because we are hurt and cry. It is better to cry and let our anger out than to let it fester and turn to rage.
Life is full of laughter and joy, sorrow and pain we are not weak because we have pain nor are we better than anyone else when we are able to laugh. Why were so many of us taught that certain emotions are unacceptable and shameful? I believe that it is usually the people that are in the presence of a person having an emotional upheaval who are uncomfortable and try to shut them down. It is hard to watch our children cry and scream but that is something we should accept rather than shutting them down. We can guide our children to a private place if they need to scream and cry and be empathic with them showing care and understanding rather than labeling their feelings wrong and socially unacceptable.
When we lose a loved one we need to mourn that loss not stuff it down till it turns to anxiety, depression and makes us sick. Why do you thing it is that most serial killers are white males? I have a theory on that and it is directly connected to the fact that we do not allow our white men to express their feelings as children. My God our men have been taught that it’s weak to cry, panzy to have fears and chicken-shit to express themselves. No wonder our men are so emotionally sick. Why is it that some men come back from the war with PTSD and others go through worse events and come back emotionally sound. Crying and expressing feelings when they are most intense is a huge part of healthy emotions. However we live in a world that says: Keep a stiff upper lip, turn your hurt to rage, turn your fears to violence.
Hispanic men express their feelings more easily because their mothers did not condemn them for having feelings and tears. We of the Caucasian race need no longer be ashamed of our feeling nor need we any longer repress them. We can begin by writing them down that lets them out of the box of our mind. Next we can confess them to a trusted understanding person. Then who knows before long we may be proclaiming our human and natural feelings in meetings so other men can find the astounding relief that they are not the only one’s who feel fear, shame, and other insecurities. Please, we are in recovery we no longer have to pretend.
We are as sick as our secrets, the truth will set us free! Yes there are people that take our weaknesses and try to use them against. However once we have talked about our weaknesses they and the people who would like to use them against us no longer hold the power. Anyone who would use a man’s humanity against him is far sicker than the man who is able to share his humanity so others may be healed.