When I watch the news or read ads on my Facebook, twitter, ebay, or any other media input, even when I have conversations with other people…I ask myself ; What do they want? What are they really saying and why? For the last ten years since the onslaught of social media developers have been working hard for powerful people. They have been finding and perfecting new ways to PROFILE YOU and we the people. What they are doing with this mind power is open to the highest bidder. Money is power and the powerful want more power. Just be aware. Choose your battles, don’t let battles choose you. The powerful are now armed with the ability to single out huge groups of people to react in the way they want. These wealthy billionaires can control not only Facebook America but also Facebook Europe, Facebook Russia, Facebook, Twitter, of the entire world. Sure people will not easily cross moral boundaries but, now it’s evident where which boundaries lie and where they don’t. Think about what even a small percentage of mind control on global levels can do. See mind control techniques here.
Relationships and Early Recovery by Fred Hundt
When I came into recovery, carried into the Psych Ward for my threats against myself and others, I felt as alone as I’d ever been in my life. My girlfriend was done with me, I’d alienated most of my friends and my main relationship problem was that I didn’t have any. I had to face the fact that, for the first time in my life, no one was going to “rescue” me. I had to face my addiction and my demons and I needed to accept help honestly rather than manipulating people and situations.
In early sobriety I heard the AA maxim of not getting into a new relationship for at least a year. I didn’t understand it then, but listened to my sponsor’s advice to take things slowly, earning my way back into my girlfriend’s life with my behaviors, not promises. He also warned me against turning meeting camaraderie with women in the program into anything more.
Looking back, I’m grateful for the AA approach and my sponsor’s “Easy Does It” advice. In early sobriety I needed to build a relationship with me. I’d been avoiding myself through alcohol for years. I had to learn to face myself, spend time with myself and, eventually, even begin to like myself. I also needed to build a close working relationship with my Higher Power. I learned to talk to my HP through daily prayer, to connect through meditation and to listen to the quiet voice of Spirit within. Building those two relationships was a full time job…I couldn’t have given them the attention they needed if I had been involved in a romantic relationship.
I watch newcomers in the rooms get involved in relationships and I see the roller coaster rides they take. I remember that in my early sobriety I needed less drama, not more. I’d had plenty of it in my last few drinking years. I needed the calm and quiet of those months to learn about serenity and how to achieve and maintain it in my life.
Part of what I realized about myself in early recovery is that I was a “taker,” not a “giver.” As much as I tried to wrap my behavior in noble motives, I had always looked at relationships entirely from the point of view of what I could get from them. I always expected that the “next” woman would save me, would make things all right. When that didn’t happen, I pulled away. I usually didn’t even have the courage to break up. I would just make myself emotionally unavailable until she broke up with me. That allowed me to play the victim or the martyr. I didn’t know how to have an honest relationship! If I had pursued a new relationship in early recovery, I’m certain that I would have defaulted back to my old behavior. Falling back in the part of my life would have risked relapse, too.
Over months (and years) of sobriety, parts of the program began to sink in. I began to learn humility and thought of myself less. I began to focus on how I could serve others without expecting anything in return. I learned that I could be honest with my Higher Power and with the people in my life. Today I have a wonderful relationship with the woman who had “written me off” that night I went to the Psych Ward. I’m grateful each day for the opportunity to serve her and for the simple joy it brings me. I can’t give anyone else relationship advice, but can share that the AA program has worked for me in this and all areas of my life.
I AM LORI E AND I AM A RECOVERING ALCOHOLIC
How To Get Sober
Typically, those who have experienced what they are teaching to others are better teachers than those who have not and are merely teaching out of the book per-say. We in AA don’t use the word “teacher” because there are too many emotional issues attached to the word for addicts. Sponsors are teachers and we teach our sponsees how to live sober. That’s one of the most important jobs a teacher can have. If I had not been successful at staying sober for over nine years myself this article would be less authentic. I came from a life of deep dark heroin, cocaine, methadone, Xanax, alcohol and nicotine addiction. This article is heartfelt and I am mustering up some compassion for those still suffering from addiction so I don’t become too far removed from where I have come from.
Simply put…Before I could get sober I had to hit bottom. My bottom was crack dens and then jail. But jail was a step up from where I had been. First step to sobriety was prayer. I prayed and prayed some more. I have not stopped.
Then I did almost everything the people in AA and rehab suggested I do. I did get into a relationship with a guy who had seven years sober at the time. We are still sober today…but he is a rare find, hence the prayer. He is a gift straight from God.
90 Meetings in 90 Days is a very important suggestion for many reasons like to establish new sober friendships. To create new patterns, habits. To learn the twelve steps and traditions. To get a sponsor. To work the 12 steps. Begin doing Twelve Step work like chairing meetings which builds new new worth. To build tolerance and patience. For gratitude to see people worse off than me. To share my own experience, strength, and hope which adds to my gratitude and self worth by remembering how far I have come. For accountability which has a big part in keeping me sober in the beginning. Basically 90 meetings in 90 days resets our brain and jump-starts our recovery. People newly sober are like sponges. To a point we absorb recovery sitting in repetitive meetings.
Next I sought God with my heart and at churches. I sought a spiritual connection in places where people seek God.
CONNECT WITH THE WOMEN AND GET THERAPY
Next I did group recovery therapy with other women in rehab and a brilliant psychologist. Rehab and AA authorities teach newcomers to stay away from romance and relationships for an entire year, including sex. However if you are a person capable of independently working your own 12 step program and not falling into a codependent life-style which pulls you away from working hard at recovery, then perhaps you won’t trade your sobriety-in for the closeness of a man or woman’s affection as so many newly sober people do. I promise you no matter how much my partner (a man) was there for me we just were not able to relate to each other at a core level like me and the women relate.
My life-partner gave me excellent suggestions but when it came to the core level emotional processes that needed to take place for me to heal it had to be the women who listened, cared, and empathized in the way I needed. My soul so badly needed to finally be validated and realize I was not chronically different and I dod not have to be ashamed any more. I saw myself as a child and realized my own innocence. I did not have to condemn myself anymore. My sisters and I are one. This connection phenomena is crucial to healing.
I disliked women didn’t trust them and thought I was protecting myself by not opening up to them. I had to let my walls down and tell people that I was afraid. Tell them that I was ashamed. Me the tough girl is a women who has a heart that wants to be loved and a ‘part-of’. My Higher Power gave me the connections I needed. I found a safe place with my new women friends.
My boyfriend on the other hand…he makes me laugh. Laughter is so important when your getting sober. It releases the feel-good endorphins we all need so badly.
WORK THE 12 STEPS
I worked the 12 step of Alcoholic Anonymous. The first time I did the steps was in rehab and my fourth step was all blame and anger. I was furious at everyone, I hated myself. The second time I did them I wrote a fifty page fourth step on all my resentments, and thing I resented myself for and was ashamed of. I did writing on each one to get my pent up feelings out. Trust me the men will say it’s all wrong to do it that way, well most men. But for us women it’s a life saver. Some people stay in deep denial over their resentments and short comings. While others beat themselves to a pulp over their mistakes. All I know is the truth will set us free but we need to speak that truth to a sponsor. I needed a sponsor that would not shut me down and invalidate my feelings and thoughts. I had that all my life. It was my fifth step therefore all I needed was an empathetic listener so I could get it all out.
“CALL YOU ON YOUR SHIT” SPONSOR
I have heard many times those that need a kick you in the ass sponsor who “calls you on your shit”. If someone is still in deep denial over their-part of event of the past I can see where that could snap a person out of it. You know if that’s the kind of sponsor you need. That does not mean that you are worse than those that need the more mellow empathic sponsors. It just depends on your personality.
My Brain needed washing
If I would have had the call you on your shit sponsor I would have fired her from the get go. I consider certain things disrespectful that others may not. Such as name-calling and spewing out authoritative orders in a public place to show they are inn charge and superior. I am an addict not a dog. Don’t order me around like one. I can’t control the behavior of other people but I can walk away. Respect is the first vital component in a successful relationship. Respect from a sponsor and anyone for that matter is something I have found in sobriety. They say “We teach people how to treat us.” And we should know a person by who they show us they are not by who they tell us they are.” There is no perfect sponsor and we wouldn’t relate to one if there were. But through prayer we can get the sponsor that is perfect for us.
Next more prayer, more meditation and on that note…lots of nature. The ocean, the beach, the springs, the river. Buy a raft and go float. Get lots of sunshine and lots and lots of water. Personally I drank allot of grape juice not sure why but I believe your own body will tell you what it needs. Easy on the coffee at least the impure coffee with additives and fake creamer. Easy on the sugar but fake sugar is worse. Lots more nature. Meditate with crystals. Put one on your forehead, close your eyes and try to concentrate on one sing thought or prayer. After you do that long enough you will clear your mind. This step 11 exerciser with give you patience and insight, it will promote enlightenment.
Lastly Step 12 Service Work
I started chairing meetings at sixty days sober. I took commitments for service work such as bringing meetings into work release. Bringing meetings into the jails and the rehab center. I was hot and heavy into service work for the first five years I was sober. I kinda slacked off since then but still participate just not as much. Service work is where my self-esteem and confidence where molded. The benefits of service are immense. And there is no telling what it has done for my karma.
That’s it in a nutshell. AA builds lives.
Most religions teach forgiveness. Forgiveness is a part of self-Love because when we forgive we receive peace of mind and healing on an emotional and spiritual level. But, is it easier to forgive a stranger or a family member? Don’t we tend to allow family members much more leniency where our boundaries are concerned?
I recently had an argument with some family members. We argued back and forth and one of them un-friended me…temporarily that is. However when my nephews new wife entered the picture and began verbally attacking me suddenly I realized that I had totally forgiven the members of my family and now despised this strange women that my nephew had recently married. I found myself hoping for their speedy divorce so everyone would see what a bitch and traitor she is
Yes it’s a good thing that I so easily forgave my family but it’s just as important to forgive strangers. I thought to myself; “screw that bitch who does she think she is? She doesn’t deserve my forgiveness!” However, my unforgivness or “resentment” toward her is not hurting her at all. On the contrary it’s actually hurting me. Resentments are poison that live inside out bodies until they make us physically sick. Furthermore a resentment can morph into full blown hate. And then into wrath where we are lashing out and spewing evil words from our mouth.
Jesus said “It’s not what enters the body that pollutes it but rather what comes out of the body that defiles it.” http://www.blueletterbible.org/bible.cfm?b=Mat&c=15 They say in A.A. a resentment is like eating poison and waiting for the other person to die. And really every resentment stems from a lack of love for one’s self. (Big Book page 417) http://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/en_bigbook_personalstories_partII.pdf
“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.
When I am disturbed,
It is because I find some person, place, thing, situation —
Some fact of my life — unacceptable to me,
And I can find no serenity until I accept
That person, place, thing, or situation
As being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.
Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God’s world by mistake.
Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober;
Unless I accept life completely on life’s terms,
I cannot be happy.
I need to concentrate not so much
On what needs to be changed in the world
As on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.”
Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition p. 417 If I am angry at others it is something in me that is ill-at-ease that is sparking that anger. I know this. Please, I do not mean that anger is a “wrong” and “bad” emotion. It is a valid feeling that is part of the human condition. If I am angry there is a reason behind it if I can just get to it and understand it so I can let it go.
I have found that for myself most of my anger stems from my unreasonable and even slightly irrational desire to be perfect in my own eyes. If I say I want to be God it soundS ridiculous however, that is the core character flaw of most addicts and alcoholics in recovery. It is where controlism springs from and lord knows there are a boat-load of control freaks in A.A.
Ok but how do I go about forgiving someone I hate or am disgusted with? Journalling what happened and how it made me feel in regard to my resentment is very helpful as well and is part of the letting go process. Being as concise as possible when describing ny feelings is very important. Words like “I felt weird” or “uncomfortable”, “uneasy”, are not direct terms. If I felt insecure or afraid or the fear of loss, or hateful, angry lesser than or ashamed I should write it down.
Remember feelings of shame, fear, and insecurities do not have to be logical to be valid and real. If we shrug off every intense feeling because it is illogical to our intellect or originated in our past then we are still repressing emotions and they will eventually come out sideways usually at those we love most.
Firstly the most handy and simple solution is to pray for those we resent. Again, they teach this in A.A. and it’s also in the Bible Start by praying every day for the person we resent. If that doesn’t work then write out a formal fourth step to get to the bottom of what it is that we are really afraid of regarding the resentment. There is ALWAYS fear at the core of every resentment whether (Big Book step fourhttp://www.stepsfoundation.com/Assets/Documents/4thStepForm.pdf
I want to stop right here and interject one of the most important parts of the forgiveness process. In spite of what A.A. teaches about “my part” and EVERYTHING SURROUNDING A RESENTMENT BEING “MY FAULT”, the truth is there are abusers and very mean people out there who have not and will not hesitate to abuse small children in unthinkable ways. When we have been wronged it’s important that we don’t blame ourselves for not knowing how to let the pain and violence that was inflicted on us as children or adults, go. People can tell us all day long to forgive and “let it go” but if we don’t know how to let it go their instructions do us no good. Furthermore if I was abused as a child, as many addicts were it is clearly not my fault. Many of us tend to blame ourselves and beat ourselves up for things we didn’t have “a part” in. Granted if we hate our abuser then that is “our part” and we need to let that go by working the 12 steps.
It is apparent in A,A. that there are two types of people. Those who are much too hard on themselves and are hyper-aware of most of their character defect patterns. And those who remain in deep denial of their shortcomings and are incapable of recognizing their faults on their own. These types do well with a sponsor that will not hesitate to point out their shortcomings for them. As long as the light bulb goes off when their sponsor points out their patterns they can then work a successful fourth and fifth step….with their sponsors help. The hyper-aware types don’t need a sponsor to further point out defects they have already beat themselves up for for far too long. These types need a more empathic and nurturing type of sponsor, caring, compassionate, understanding. Both types are being nurtured in their own ways. What one man considers “disrespect” another man considers that same thing “love”. To each his own.
Making a Fear List is documented in the Big Book as part of the fourth step, of which many people overlook. Learning to identify the fear that lives behind our intense feelings is part of the life changing self awareness that comes to us when we work the 12 steps. However these fears live in us at a core, or root childlike level. Most people are ashamed of their core fears and rarely want to admit them to themselves much less to others in a fifth step. “The truth shall set us free”. If we address these core fears and share them their burden will be lifted from us along with the shame of who we are.
So many times we hear in A.A. “I don’t care what people think about me.” When in all reality if we don’t care what our fellows think of us then we are bordering on sociopath. It is completely natural to care what our fellows think of us and to fear what people will think of us as well. Fear of what people think of us should most likely be on our fear list. Ninth Step Promise “fear of people will leave us”, but not if we don’t do the work. We label this flavor of fear “society”.
The next big fear is “security”. who doesn’t fear losing their car or home once in a while. Specially if we live from week to week or moth to mon financially.
The third primary fear of loss is labelled “sex”. Fear of losing our sexual partner is a big on. So many character defects can be triggered by these fears of loss. Jealously, envy, greed, worry, lying, cheating, and stealing are all motivated by fear of not having enough money or enough control over our significant others. Where are they at? What time will they be home? Who were they talking to? Why were they out all night?
So we right down our fears and then we go one step further…Below the surface, why am I really afraid of losing my significant other? Two things 1. I am not trusting my Higher Power and 2. I have self-esteem issues, I don’t think I am good enough. If I were totally confident in myself and in God I would not fear losing the three S’s, sex, society, and security. 99 times out of 100 if I am disturbed it is because I am afraid of losing and I am not trusting God. So what’s the solution?
I repent of my lack of faith, trust, and I ask my Higher Power to forgive me and help me to trust Him, It, Her. Also working steps 10 through 12 on a regular basis will increase my self esteem and bring me closer to God through prayer and meditation
The 12 steps work. they were developed for addicts, thing is most people that work the steps do it at a very superficial level. Few people will admit that they fear and have self-esteem issues. Obviously is I have low self-esteem it will make me very ashamed and uncomfortable to broach the topic in a candid way.
TOOLS TO STAY CLEAN AND SOBER
THE SAME THINGS I DID TO STAY SOBER NINE YEARS AGO I DO TO KEEP ME SOBER TODAY. TEMPTATION STRIKES AT NINE YEARS SOBER! DOES THAT MEAN MY SOBRIETY IS NOT QUALITY SOBRIETY?
I used to love to drink the frothy brown head on the top of a cold Amber Bock or Dark Heineken beer. I preferred my beer nearly frozen. I would chug down the first one till I remember getting a warm fuzzy feeling in the pit of my stomach. Then I felt the alcohol coarse through my veins almost like a shot of heroin straight into my blood stream. I would sit around with my friends connecting on a level that made me feel brotherhood and a sense of belonging. I had found my place in life and it took alcohol to get me there.
So when I walked to my neighbor’s house yesterday to pick up my little dog I was a bit taken by the ice cold cooler full of Amber Bock and the fellowship that I found. At nine years sober I must admit my mind went to a place where I asked myself, “Can I safely drink? After all I am a different person now.” When they kindly offered me a beer I laughed and told them that I quit nine years prior and that drinking got me in trouble. They laughed and said, “We thought that was the whole reason TO drink….to get in trouble that is”. I kindly laughed-back enjoying the prospect of being enabled by alcohol to do the things that my pesky conscience wouldn’t allow. And is that the “why” behind the wealthy man’s reason to drink as well as the poor man’s? Who knows? All I could remember were the good times and that’s ok temporarily that is. I did have some good memories of drinking and met some wonderful people.
The counselors at Bridge house Rehab gave us a little sobriety tool called “play it through”. This tool, if you really do want to be free from the miseries drinking brings, works. It works for me and it works for those I got sober with back in 2006 who are still around.
My brain’s travelling neurons then took an abrupt turn into an exit ramp and caught my pain-staking-ly built sobriety bridge. By doing the “next right thing” and by God’s grace I have built a bridge over the carved out and well used roads in my brain labelled “This way to Hell”. After nine years of recovery my minds neurons have learned to travel on the well-lit highways or “neural-pathways” of sobriety. And what did I find on my well lit road leading me away from the Hell that I have had enough of? You guessed it, I found awareness. I recovered the memories of the hangovers, the regrets, the wrongs I committed, and my destructive actions. I found memories of throwing up, of waking up so thirsty from a black-out that was so deep it could only have been induced by poisoning my brain. I remembered crashing my vehicles, and the regret of sleeping with countless men just so I could feel I had some value. I remembered the jails. I remembered my moral compass and self-esteem being crushed even further into the dirt. I remembered doing the things that a hurt child of God does while just trying to make sense of a young life filled with betrayal, evil, hurt and pain. And so I knew then as I sat on my neighbor’s porch that drinking was not my choice, not today and hopefully never again.
SO IS MY SOBRIETY QUALITY? I DIDN’T DRINK, I USED THE TOOLS, I DIDN’T DISRESPECT OR JUDGE MY DRINKING NEIGHBORS, I AM NOT ASHAMED OF WHO I AM AND MY THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS. QUALITY SOBRIETY HAS MANY FACES INCLUDING A FACE OF PAIN. BUT THROUGH IT ALL IT HAS A FACE THAT HAS EYES TO SEE PAST THE EVIL INTO THE GOOD. YOU BE THE JUDGE.
Satan or self?
What would Satan do….just a little joke joke…remember rule 62 : Don’t take yourself so damn seriously! But pretty sure Satan would play the blame game and not take responsibility for his own actions. In AA we learn to own all our actions. Own it!
Hmmm Alright since we are talking about the voices in our heads. I choose not to glorify Satan or give him credit or blame for my own consciousness. How-ever I acknowledge the existence of evil and dark forces whatever name they may be given.
Anyhow I personally have a committee sitting on bleachers in my head. They observe and sometimes criticize my actions. I will label them “society”. They are my perceptions of what others think of me and they could be accurate or way off base with their ideas. They believe that “The world revolves around my belly button” per-say.
Here are the rest of the people in my head. I have a guy (sloth/fear) who lies in bed all the time and wants me to stay paralyzed in bed. He wants to hide from the light of life. Get busy dying instead of living. Its best I resist him he wants to isolate me.
Then I have a red-headed woman who is simply “fear and attack” she is very critical of me and others. Really she just needs to know everything is going to be OK and she does not have to be afraid and react in critical and insecure fear. She is a part of me I need to accept her to help her heal.
These characters are in essence are my core “character defects/flaws”. They were revealed to me in a vivid dream at about a year sober. I wrote the dream down; it was a revelation of who I am and who I do not want to be. They are NOT some enemy rather a part of me in need of healing. They should be understood, resisted, ignored, and I should be aware they are usually mistaken. They will push Love out of my life in error by their/my misguided self-destructive solutions of resentment, blame and twisted perception.
If I label the committee some evil outer entity then the 12 steps, fear list and sexual inventory are useless in over-coming them. Only thing I can do with Satan is the third step by which I put him and his demons into the God box or into God’s hands. The only thing I can do with Satan is resist the temptation he, it, they, and I put in front of me.
The steps really do work when I work them! As for Satan why concern myself with him when I can neither change him nor kill him? I can only work on my own stuff; Satan will answer to God who gave him the power to tempt me in the first place. After all doesn’t the Bible say “all things are of God” 2nd Corinthians 5:18.
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 darkness that 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.
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6 thoughts on “The Prison and the Key: Why I Write About Shame”
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- Lisa Kahale
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.
Well said, Lisa. I totally relate. Thank you for sharing.
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.
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!__________
HERE IS THE “RESENTMENT PRAYER” FROM BB, Freedom from Bondage: 552) THANKS TO http://friendsofbillw.net/twelve_step_prayers
A 4th Step Resentment Prayer:
“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
God is Love. I have run the gambit where religion and spirituality are concerned.
I believe in Christ He is my higher power. I use the terms “He” and “Him” even though I believe my Higher Powers are Spirit not flesh. I also believe they could become flesh anytime they want. I use the “Him” term because I am just so used to it, I do hope it doesn’t put you off.
Anyway Before I met Christ I had a prayerful relationship with who I call “God the father”. Christ brought me closer to, God the Father. I had one drastic life altering white light experience where I was delivered, yes delivered (one of those religious terms unpalatable to many especially to recovering Catholics & addicts) from a life of deep and twisted addition. I learned allot about God’s Grace and unconditional Love after I turned my back on Him by sinking into a deep dark and long relapse. I say I learned much about His grace because he again pulled me from the mire and brought me into the program of AA.
The first time I got sober due to my white light experience I was also involved in NA. I didn’t work the steps or get a sponsor. The second time I got sober I pretty much did everything suggested and learned and worked the steps more thoroughly than most woman I know. (I can say that because I have worked the 12 steps with countless woman and I know to what depth of awareness they worked. Granted this doesn’t make me better or of more value than any soul just self-aware. False humility is not one of my defects I won’t hide behind a mask of false bravado pretending to be unaware of my own accomplishments for fear that acknowledging my progress would be vain or defective. (Pet-peeve sorry) There is a thing called footwork and I have done plenty of it! I won’t stand by and say I don’t know anything either as I have seen countless both blessed and knowledgeable men do. That would be dishonest of me wouldn’t it seeing that I KNOW different.
These misguided attitudes are a luxury to those who perhaps fear that if they did acknowledge any goodness in themselves or acknowledge that they achieved (for lack of a better term) an “A” or “B” level of recovery they would quickly be swept away by the false pride that would send them plummeting to their last and final grave & incomprehensible relapse. Let me point out that one character defect (false humility) will not protect oneself from another character defect (false-pride). It’s not the little quirkish traditions of local AA lore that get and keep us sober. And certainly self-degradation won’t keep me close to God or sober for that matter.
Let me also clarify what humility really is, it is the awareness of one’s own character flaws or patterns. We acknowledge these patterns not so we can publicly announce them but rather so we may avoid acting them out. Sitting in a meeting and stating that I am garbage without God and the program implies that God does make junk. Do I need God to be good and stay on track? Hell yes! However no matter how reliant upon my Higher Power I am cutting myself down openly or privately is a form of condemnation, harsh judgment and criticism.
Ok back on topic…God the supercomputer. For us Bible believing folks we like to validate ideas by lining them up with the word. It’s written that “man was made in the image of God.” The Bible speaks of the “hand of God” and other various body parts such as His eyes, arm, and mind. Scientists have proven that our human brains are a computer of sorts. A fleshly computer to be precise. In deep meditation I have had many visions but most recently I have had visions that make me believe God can download us mere mortals with any program he wishes. He can change out our hard drive or do a complete recovery on us. Is it coincidence that when you clean out a computer it is called a “recovery”? Ok I know what your thinking…Lori’s cheese has finally fallen off the cracker. Lol!
When I was delivered from addiction the first time around I was clean for years I stayed on a pink cloud for at least a year. Prior to that I was plagued with anxiety, and panic attacks, I was a heroin and cocaine junky who had to have a shot of dope to get out of bed in the morning. After one touch from God my thinking was changed dramatically. I no longer had anxiety or panic attacks. After one download in a little Baptist church in the meadow. As windows 8 calls it, by one “refresh” I was set in a direction of service and Love toward mankind. I received a new operating system with my files or memories left intact. My resentments were quelled and my sickness abated. I loved my mother again that in itself was a miracle.
Let’s face it folks steps 10, 11, and 12 are the maintenance steps when I meditate I get spiritually fed, I get a disk defragging, a disk cleaning, and vital updates. Why is it different this time clean and sober for me? Granted I had much joy my first round of sobriety, I learned allot, I changed in a huge way morally and I became Loving but God had only begun my overhaul. The first time I was sober I didn’t wholeheartedly believe that I was a good child of God. I believed with my head but my heart deep down was telling me that I was bad and of Satan. I still carried deep shame within my heart from the sexual abuse I suffered as a child and my actions during years of addiction. Deep down I knew I would screw things up again. Why?
There are three things that I did different this time (I got sober this time in 2006) One; this time I worked the steps with a sponsor honestly and thoroughly, everything came out in my fifth step. Two, I got empathic recovery therapy and learned how to continually share my true, illogical and fearful heartfelt inner feelings. People are usually ashamed of their true feelings because nobody (well most people) wants to be vulnerable or be looked upon as different. The thing is everybody except perhaps true sociopaths have illogical fears and deep child-like feelings that they don’t like about themselves. So we cover them up with the mask, distractions and lies. Therapy taught me to vent these feelings so they don’t fester, or turn to rage, and obsession. Thirdly this time I practiced meditation on a regular basis for the first six years I was sober. What this did is open my mind to receive God’s blessings. Meditation improved every aspect of my recovery and most importantly helped heal me both emotionally and spiritually.
When I say “meditation” I don’t mean picking up a book and reading a passage. I am talking about the kind of meditation that takes an hour a day to be still, silent, and open. Meditation when practiced regularly brings a steady flow of continuous spiritual experiences that can move mountains and heal the heart the soul and the mind.
Funny thing…different things have different ways of communicating. Animals have their own way, humans speak to humans verbally, computers have their own language, electricity speaks to the light bulb and it reacts, the light speaks to our atmosphere and it reacts and becomes visual, the sun speaks to the flower, the moon speaks to the Earth, even water speaks to our bodies and we live. Action and reaction but how does man speak to God? Should we use our tongue as if God were a man that has ears…perhaps so but God my friend “looks upon the heart” so it is written. Should we not try seeking God with words straight from our heart and then talk to Him with our minds as well?
Seek and you shall find but seek with your hearts language for it is the language of truth absent of all the editing that our mind thinks should be done. For out of the heart bursts forth the well-springs of life. Eternal Life“
What is logical to the mind is folly to the heart and what is truth to the heart is valid to God.”
THE BIG BOOK
FEELINGS FOLLOW ACTIONS NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND!
|GOOD FEELINGS FOLLOW RIGHT ACTIONS MORE ACCURATELY PUT.
“On awakening let us think about the twenty-four hours ahead. We consider our plans for the day. Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives. Under these conditions we can employ our mental faculties with assurance, for after all Gad gave us brains to use. Our thought-life will be placed on a much higher plane when our thinking is cleared of wrong motives. “ This quote is taken from pg. 86 of The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Today my mind may be telling me that my life is a disaster and that I am a mess! I refuse to believe this because today I am taking action for my recovery and my well-being. Today I will help others & do no harm. I will exercise, eat right, and go to a meeting.
Many times before I joined AA and learned how to live and take responsibility for my own actions I used to often say “I don’t feel like it!” I said this in response to being faced with many responsibilities. I said it when people asked me to go places, on social outings, to the beach, on a road trip, pretty much in response to anything that would take me out of my isolation and out of the state of sloth.
I used to think I had to wait until my feelings were right to do the task at hand. I would get to-it when I felt up to it. I feared somehow that it would hurt me to take an energetic action. Somehow I felt I had to nurture the deep emotional pain that was inside of me. Depression & isolation were my bedfellows. Not to mention I feared subconsciously the unknown and felt it was a risk to go to new places and do new things. However what I feared was an illusion.
I have since learned by working the steps and addressing core issues that feelings nine times out of ten, are a result of my actions and I can act my way into good feelings. Please understand that healthy emotions include a certain amount of grief, hurt, pain, and anger and so-on that should be neither ignored nor shrugged off. We should not put a mask over our feelings nor should we let them rule us.
Emotional balance in recovery and understanding when to ignore feelings and when they should be addressed & processed takes time and much work. In early recovery it’s beneficial to both explore our feelings with a therapist or empathic listener on a regular basis and to spend time doing recovery based activities, laughing and forgetting ourselves and all our self-consciousness. However we mustn’t swing from one extreme to the other. Labeling all feelings character defect based is very dangerous but also labeling all feelings a priority at all times is just as dangerous. Just because our feelings are always valid does not mean we let them paralyze us or always give-in to tears.
Good feelings do follow right and constructive actions. If I get up in the morning and feel like crap I do not have to make my day follow suit. I don’t have to create a crappy day. I must not allow my feelings to rule over me and oppress me. If my character defect is sloth then the spiritual remedy is to repeatedly take action contrary to sloth such as go for a run or go outside grab the hose and pour cold water over my body and take a walk. If I clean my house I will feel better about myself. (Opinion) Sloth is a spirit that attaches itself to humans and tells us immobilizing lies that we hear in our mind.
Sloth is the enemy of recovery as is wrath. If I am angry I should never, ever take it out on those around me. Again in early recovery we must learn outlets for anger. Denial and distraction works for a while but it is not a solution. The rage I feel inside is MINE I need to own it and then learn the solutions for it. I have written many articles on the solutions for anger. Anger is not the defect of character wrath is.
My message today…..feelings follow actions not the other way around. You are a beautiful child of a Creator. God don’t make junk! No one taught you how to deal with the intense feelings that drove you to drink and drug therefore you are innocent. You, if you are an alcoholic or addict are a sick person trying to get well not a bad person trying to get good. In this way its true AA is not a moral program. However if you continue working on the steps and stay in meetings, work with others and do the maintenance steps of 10, 11, and step 12 you will learn to follow your heart and this will bring you peace and morality both. All morality really is, is the act of following one’s own heart of which we also call the conscience.
We in early recovery must first learn what our true heart’s desire is so we may follow it to find peace. Many of us for survival sake learned to disconnect our hearts truths from both our intellect and our sense of reality through deep denial. He who learns to follow his own heart and resists perfectionism has found wisdom.
STEP THREE….LETTING GO & LETTING GOD
AT A YEAR SOBER WE ASK; WHATS WRONG WITH ME????
Real Recovery doesn’t always feel or look like quality sobriety
|“If anybody knew how I really felt inside they would know that I am not doing well in my recovery. I feel like something is wrong with me. I must be doing something wrong! I am sober but I am depressed, I am sober but I still have anxiety attacks. I mustn’t tell anyone how I feel or they will know I am not really emotionally sober. I don’t have quality recovery how could I if I did I would not feel like this.”Hmm??? Ever hear anybody share the above statements in a meeting? Most likely you answered no. However the above scenarios show the way that many addicts think and feel even though they have worked the steps and regularly work steps ten through twelve.WHY????????????
First let’s define this type of thinking and what it’s connected to in us. Let’s explore the dreaded word, feeling, and thought called “SHAME”. Alcoholism & addiction have been explored and painstakingly researched by many experts who have finally defined addiction as a “shame based disease”.In the Big Book it is written that alcohol is but a symptom of an underlying problem. And that we alcoholics suffer from spiritual and emotional maladies. So what is this underlying malady and how do I fix it? In “How it Works” it is written that some of us suffer from “grave emotional disorders”. It says that those who suffer from these disorders can also get better and stay sober. Well guess what ALL ADDICTS AND ALCOHOLICS SUFFER FROM EMOTIONAL DISORDER in my opinion. It takes some serious open-mindedness and lots of journaling, meetings, therapy, working with a sponsor, prayer and meditation to get in touch with and admit to ourselves our underlying malady of shame.Shame tells us that we are not worthy of a Higher Powers Love. Shame tells us that we don’t deserve anything good. Shame tells us that we are bad, wrong, evil, and that we must keep who we are a secret or we will never have anything we want or need. Starting the day from the platform of shame blocks us off from so many good and spiritual things. It causes us to have to justify and defend ourselves. It causes us to be in defensive mode. It shuts us off from Love. Shame shuts us off from God even in our prayers we block off certain parts of our heart hiding parts of us from our Higher Power in hopes that even He, It, She will Love us if we pretend to be someone we are not.
We must first realize that we are human and we will never be perfect as long as we are human so we can never ever approach God as a perfect and totally worthy person. We must quit hiding and keeping secrets from God and man.
We should lay on the bed or floor stretch our arms out as far as we can to our sides focus on God and expose all of our heart to God. We should approach our Higher Power in all honesty and transparency and say; “here I am just as I am, I want a relationship with You I need your help.”
We are our Higher Powers creation and we were created INCOMPLETE that’s why we feel so incomplete. Not because we are bad, wrong, unworthy etc. but because that’s the way we were made. We are only complete & fulfilled when we exercise an ongoing relationship with our creator. Fulfillment, enlightenment, encouragement, comfort, and healing are some of the things we get from opening up to our creator. That’s why the steps work, they show us how to have a spiritual connection with our creator.
WE ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO FEEL GOOD ALL THE TIME
NEGATIVE THOUGHTS THAT ATTACH THEMSELVES TO MY FEELINGS ARE NOT FACTS.” FEELINGS themselves ARE FACTS because they are very real to us and come from our hearts experiences. It’s the thoughts that get us in trouble. If we don’t honor our feelings and journal them, talk about them then we are dishonoring and invalidating who we are. Our unhappy feelings come from somewhere real and often times we need to do some crying, some screaming (not at anyone) some beating the bed with our fists to get these intense feelings out in a healthy way so they don’t come out sideways at other people.
All humans have a capacity to be hurt emotionally by others, if we do not have a healthy outlet for hurt it will evolve into anger and continue to live inside us until we connect with it and express it in a healthy non-attacking way.
Depression is anger without enthusiasm
WE DO NOT RAMBLE ABOUT HOW BAD OTHER PEOPLE ARE AND WHAT THEY DID TO US UNLESS IT’S ON PAPER. WE ONLY NEED TO SAY IT ONCE OUTLOAD, IN A MEETING AND AGAIN TO OUR SPONSOR OR EMPATHIC LISTENER. It’s the talking about “how it made me feel” that heals us. It made me feel worthless for example or it made me feel dirty etc.
We woman will die if we don’t talk about the way we feel. Criticizing others, character assassination and living in blame are character defects that we should not confuse with the expression it takes for healthy emotional order.
ACTION: What about anxiety? The fourth step in the Big Book has an exercise called the “fear list”. We write down all our core fears, we explore them.
REMEMBER FEARS COME FROM OUR HEART AND DO NOT HAVE TO BE LOGICAL. Just because our mind knows we don’t have to fear something if our heart fears it we should recognize it and honor it. Furthermore we should not let our shame throw us into the deep river of denial. Our fears need expression if we want to stop the anxiety attacks. So we write all our fears down and consider them. We realize we are not trusting God and that our faith is sometimes little if we are in fear. So rather than sticking our fear in the “denial box” we stick it in the “God Box”. We then ask God to remove our fears and help us to rely on him, it, or her.
THOUGHT PROVOKING QUESTIONS: Why is screaming a natural response to intense fear? Screaming releases boatloads of endorphins and is a solution to fear. Why do some soldiers come back from the war with PTSD and others don’t who have the exact same experiences? Because often times we were taught that our expressions of fear and hurt and anger are wrong, bad, weak, stupid, ugly, disgusting etc. We were taught that our healthy emotional expression was wrong by some adult when we were very young and so we believed them and we became ashamed and shut down our own healthy emotional process.
God gave us vocal cords for a reason we can either save our face or save our ass! It’s time to let the emotional child within us out of the box so she, he can have a half way decent recovery.
Anger & Resentment Issues
In AA we are sometimes taught by comments in meetings and other people’s attitudes that it is a shame to be angry. We learn that if we have a resentment even when wronged we have somehow failed so we receive a giant “F” on our recovery report card! We get the feeling that if we are angry our spiritual condition is less than it should be.
Granted if we were made of Love and Love alone anger would be below us and not in tune with our own natures because if we were only Love we would be only Spirit. BIG HOWEVER! No matter how much we meditate, pray, read the big book, go to meetings confess our shortcomings, work on core issues, call our sponsor, resfrain pen and tongue etc. etc. we will still eventually become angry and hurt because we are humans and anger is one of our primal key human survival emotions. ANGER IN SPITE OF POPULAR BELIEF IN THE ROOMS IS NOT A CHARACTER FLAW. Wrath on the other hand is a flaw and also one of the seven deadly sins. The trick is not to allow our natural anger to become wrath by hurting ourselves or others in result of it. We in recovery must learn how to admit our anger to ourselves, God and another human in spite of our shame. And so we say to ourselves; “its ok I am angry” and then we move on to the solutions of how to express the anger in a healthy way to let it go.
We journal our feelings. We write a letter that we will NEVER send journalling all the reasons for our anger. We leave logic and self-conscience maturity behind and we write our core feelings toward ourselves, others, and our Higher Power if need be. At the end if we have wronged anyone, are not trusting God, or are playing God in our minds we admit our part. We ask our Higher Power to remove any defects of character.
WE DO NOT BEAT OURSELVES UP FOR HAVING EMOTIONS. Our emotions should flow through us and out of us. We addicts tend to hang on to feelings and not let go. We revisit our Third Step…we are in God’s care and we sigh a sigh of relief and giggle at ourselves a bit for forgetting we are human.
Killing by AA Cliche
OUR CLICHE’S AID IN SAVING OUR ASSES, BUT WE SHOULD BE CAREFUL HOW WE USE THEM WHEN AIMING THEM AT OUR FELLOWS. WHAT IS THE MOTIVE BEHIND THE CLICHE? MOTIVES ARE RELEVANT. SOME ADDICTS DO KNOW HOW TO TAKE A HELPFUL TOOL AND CAREFULLY TRANSFORM IT INTO AN ARSENAL OF WEAPONS.
I have a razor sharp cliche and it’s aimed at YOU! YIKES! Like “Keep comin’ back”. Everybody in A.A. knows that sometimes it is code for “your an idiot maybe if you come to enough meetings you will grow a brain.” Or how about “some are sicker than others” which is code for “your way sicker than I am buddy!”
Emotional Sobriety 101
I want to investigate the topic of AA cliches and some common uses for our little sayings. Keeping in mind that if we did not have human weakness, fear, shame, regret, guilt, remorse, joy, happiness, sadness, we would be sociopath.
What is the fine art of killing by AA cliché and who is it that uses such ratchet techniques? Firstly anybody who has been around the rooms for a while knows that we in AA have lots and lots of little helpful sayings that when we apply them to ourselves and put them into action not only do they aid us in our recovery but they can save our lives.
Also, when we are trying to make a helpful point to others in a meeting, giving advice to those who ask for it or telling our story at jails or institutions we quote the cliche to help make our point. These sayings also help the newcomer remember the solutions by adding the little saying to their recovery toolbox to put into action.
Oftentimes it’s easier to remember a catchy phrase and put it to use than to remember the principles and instructional paragraph size readings behind the phrase. Sayings like “Out of the problem into the solution” are priceless to an addict who is spinning around inside their mind and obsessing on a fear. We remember to just get out of the fear by choosing a solution and taking that action.
So what’s killing by cliché? Can such wonderful things as our innocent AA sayings be used in a wrong way? I don’t know can the bible be used in the wrong way? Hell yes and often!
An AA cliché is best used with the RIGHT MOTIVE and the right meaning; right motives behind the cliché are vital . When the alcoholic is still miserable, suffering from low self-worth and has a boat-load of wreckage yet to clean up from their past or present the old survival skills are still in place. They are still hurting, sick and suffering. Lashing out at others sadly brings them relief. Putting other people down is the only relief and form of self-worth they can get right now. They either don’t have the healthy and respectful solutions for emotional pain or they have chosen not to use them. However most of us sober or not do know right from wrong we know that in AA if we blatantly attack someone verbally our fellows will call us on it. The verbal attacker would be ostracized publicly and shamed for being mean and disrespectful. So instead the attacker do a little passive aggressive dance. They seek out emotional vulnerabilities in others such as a newcomer who has the courage to admit they are afraid or an old-timer who has the courage to admit they are going through an emotional time. This is how we get help and feedback. But the emotional butchers hone out addict traits in people with their high powered alcoholic perception and strike with the AA sword lopping off the emotional head of the recipient striking fear in them to never open-up in a meeting again.
Under the guise of “telling the truth” (truth should be tempered with respect and care even gossip is often truth) they cut off the emotional head of their vulnerable fellow by teaching them to never open up in a meeting again. Healthy emotions are indicative of talking about our problems, crying, venting, journaling, processing not stifling, repressing, hiding and denying that our feelings are there, that my friend is how we got sick to begin with. “We are as sick as our secrets.”
Sharing experience strength and hope is done by hearing the topic of the first share person and then asking ourselves can I relate to that, if so how, what solutions worked for me when I went through THAT SAME THING. By sharing that we undergo or have undergone the same personal and emotional struggles, and fears as the original sharer we don’t put them on the defensive or belittle them. We don’t punish them for having trouble staying sober. If we can’t relate to them maybe we are not an alcoholic regardless if we don’t relate then we have no business sharing advice. We don’t punish them for struggles or ignorance, we are not better…we are just perhaps in a better place.
It is by the Grace of God that we are sober when we start sober bashing with clichés we hurt ourselves and others. When we quote an AA cliché we should share what it means to us so the newcomer understands the right use, the loving use for the saying. “Keep it simple stupid” is one perfect example of killing by cliché. These sayings were not made so we can call the alcoholic wrong, stupid and bad and engage in fault-finding and criticisms while we are pretending to be helpful. the cliches should not be used to set ourselves above others by belittling.
“Help others do no harm”. Recovery is not a lesson in how to further harden our hearts and teach others to do the same. Recovery is about staying sober and becoming better people.
THERAPY VS PROGRAM?
“I WON’T CO-SIGN YOUR BULLSHIT!”
One of the first steps of true healing is expressing our deepest fears and hurts. We should have at least one person who won’t shut us down. Someone we can tell anything. But first we have to become courageous enough to let our heart be heard.
“I won’t co-sign your bullshit!” scream the 12 step sponsors to the detriment of their heartsick fellows! When and how is it okay to let out our hurt while attending Alcoholics Anonymous? Sponsors tend to shut down our pain when it’s bubbling up in us and ready to explode. That is not healthy. Teaching mere distractions from our core issues is dangerous. At some point in our program we need to get to our core reasons for drinking and drugging. Meditation and prayer will help that. And working the steps first is fine. As long as we find an empathic friend or therapist who we can tell anything to. “What happened and how it made me feel” is the magic guide to what we need to express from our heart. This is what we need to let out. And believe me our feelings DO NOT HAVE TO BE LOGICAL. We should not invalidate our feelings just because they don’t make sense to our mind’s eye. There is a great need in AA to understand the difference between co-signing bull shit and showing Love by exerting understanding, compassion, and care.
Part of our step 5 should be “what happened and how it made me feel” regarding our most intense memories and feeings in our past.
There is a great need to understand the difference between self-pity and the expression of valid feelings such as anger, and hurt.
Human feelings that result from an abusive past need expressed for us to stay or get sane.
The words, “I know how you feel, you have a right to feel your pain, even if, the feelings derive from years prior” are words that can heal a heart. Most addicts have stuffed down tears for years that desperately needed to be cried. Usually when we get clean & sober all our un-cried tears come to the surface and scream to get out. We then ask ourselves: “What’s wrong with me? I should feel good I tell myself! Next our sponsors quickly tell us to “get over it and write a gratitude list” as they watch us slam the door in the face of AA.
Gratitude lists work great for self-pity. However when it comes to the horrible feelings of grief that result from abuse and other childhood trauma all our sponsors suggestion does is add to our low self-image and push us out the doors.
The most common “grave emotional disorder” that addicts in the rooms suffer from is the inability to process deep hurts and trauma. We have turned our hurt to anger and search for a scapegoat to blame for our intolerable feelings. Our hurts have morphed into anger because “grief”, is unacceptable in our society and in AA unless someone dies. When we experience any other cause of emotional pain except what’s socially acceptable we are often told to just “GET OVER IT!” So driven by shame we bone-up, pretend we are tuff-girls and boys, file our feelings under the “wrong and weak” category and make ourselves sick till we have no other solution except to numb our so called “Invalid feelings”.
Is it no wonder that when one of us relapses so many seem to be so devastated by it…
even when we scarcely know the person who went back out? We are desperate to let out some of our grief in a way that is acceptable to our fellows. We all step up our meetings and talk about our pain and loss when it usually has nothing to do with the guy who just relapsed. Few of us were taught by example or in school that it’s ok to scream and cry feelings out, or that crying is a part of emotional health.
Grave emotional disorders
are not healed by just writing down [our part] and transferring all the blame from one scape goat to the next; [ourselves]. Please don’t hear what I am not saying…we addicts have boatloads of character defects that we need to work on however, not all grave emotional disorder is solved by doing a guilt based fourth step.
Typically Bill was too hard on himself. He was depressed for years and doing his fourth and fifth step did not touch his deep depression. There comes a time when we must pause from blaming ourselves for where we are at emotionally if we are to find answers and heal.
THERE IS NO WRONG FEELING
Taking responsibility for ourselves includes learning how to process hurt, anger, guilt, remorse, disgust, fear, and pain. We must quit running from our emotions to recover. We should start journaling “what happened and how it made me feel. This is a magic cure to depression. Then when we get comfortable with that we can share our feelings no matter how ridiculous our head tells us they are. Labeling feelings wrong, staying in denial about them till they come out sideways at those we love most is dysfunctional. That’s what happens when you call your heart “invalid” and say; “I should not feel that way.” Intense feeling need journalled and shared. Intense feeling can be cried out, screamed out, we can beat the mattress, beat the couch, get a plastic bat and beat a strong tree. This gets feelings out. Sounds crazy huh? Well repressing intense fears and feelings is what gets us sick. Letting them out is one of the most important parts of true recovery.
Have you ever asked why there is so much finger-pointing going on in AA or the world for that matter? And why is it that so few alcoholics and addicts in recovery find healthy and loving long term relationships? We can’t make our significant others’ responsible for our feelings and show them Love at the same time. So many alcoholics just settle for the fact that they will never be able to have a successful relationship if they are to stay sober. Ouch!
Lastly have you ever heard anyone in meetings pit therapy against the program as if there were a war between the two? How about putting religion against the program or pitting religion against therapy (that’s a common one in the church). The fact is these all three are good they are not at war at all. Combining a therapy with the program and a spiritual program along with it will give you the edge you need to recover.
Every person I know that shows quality sobriety; have used a combination of therapy, a 12 step program and seek spirituality. All three are good and all three work if we are willing, open-minded, and honest enough to not practice contempt prior to investigation on any of them.
Therapy vs. program or therapy enhances program?