Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A program of action

"Faith without works was dead, he said. And how appallingly true for
the alcoholic! For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his
spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could
not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead. If he did not
work, he would surely drink again, and if he drank, he would surely
die. Then faith would be dead indeed. With us it is just like that."

~Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition, Bill's Story, pg. 14

There are a couple of sayings in SLAA that support the message that Bill W. was conveying in this passage. One is "My best thinking got me here." Another is "My sick brain can't fix my sick brain." I have to DO certain things, new things, things that don't feel comfortable all the time in order to change my perception, and as a result change my thinking and ultimately my behavior.

I used to think I just had to stop acting out. But isn't that a Step 1 issue? I'm powerless over my addiction and if I COULD just stop acting out, then what's the point of all the rest of this? Why do I need faith if I can just stop my behavior? My addictive mind is a spiritually and emotionally barren land. My acting out behaviors erode my spirit and cause me to feel hopeless, depressed and worthless. Sure, I may be able to make myself feel good for a little while, but deep down, I can't live with myself. Living in a world that is so out of control, so consumed with thoughts of another person, another sex act, another rendezvous -- it simply causes me to feel and act insane. And how can I possibly hope to fix that insanity?

After trying to "think" my way through Steps 2 and 3, I finally started "doing" what the program asked me to do -- go to meetings, make phone calls, do service as a way of life and sobriety, read the literature, write, do an inventory, identify my primary defects of character and ask that they be removed, make amends, practice prayer and meditation, be rigorously honest with myself, refrain from acting out one day at a time. By doing those things, I came to believe in a power greater than myself, because I saw a power greater than me at work in my life. And the more I did these things, the more willing I was to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understood God.

I believe because of the order of the Steps, many of us (I did it too) spend a lot of time trying to argue with ourselves and others about the whole "God thing" ... when if we just "make a decision" to WORK the program, that's enough to get us started.

The more I help another addict, the more I reach out for help, the more I look at my own feelings, behaviors and actions and let go of what others think, say or do, the more I go to meetings and hear other addicts share their stories and share my own, the more I study the literature and search out my questions in it and with others who have studied it -- the more richly I am blessed, the more hopeful I become, the more sure I am that there is something bigger than me at work here. I am not comfortable with my old way of life anymore. It is far less intriguing to think of hurting someone else with my sickness. I am willing to say I am sorry, and let go of blaming the whole damn world for my problems.

If I get away from my program, if I let up on PRACTICING these principles in all areas of my life, if I think I can take a day's vacation or a week's vacation from DOING what the program tells me to do, I lose ground. I am not cured. I have accepted I never will be. I simply get a daily reprieve from the deep emotional and spiritual pain that living in my disease gave me.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The 11th Tradition

I was recently honored by a request from a student journalist to submit written answers to questions about my sexual addiction and recovery. Upon sharing this news with a long-time member of the "Alpha" 12-step fellowship -- AA -- I was quickly reminded of the 11th Tradition, which says: "Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, TV, film, and other public media. We need guard with special care the anonymity of all fellow S.L.A.A. members."

With the help of this friend, I was also able to recognize that I might not be respecting the 11th Tradition as it relates to my own personal blog either. So, I went out in search of AA's stance on how the 11th Tradition relates to today's technologically connected world.

Here's what I found: http://www.aa.org/lang/en/en_pdfs/mg-18_internet.pdf
MySpace, Facebook and other social networking Web sites are public in
nature. Though users create accounts and utilize usernames and passwords,
once on the site, it is a public medium where A.A. members and
non-A.A.s mingle.
As long as individuals do not identify themselves as A.A. members, there
is no conflict of interest. However, someone using their full name and/
or a likeness, such as a full-face photograph, would be contrary to the
spirit of the Eleventh Tradition, which states in the Long Form that, “…
our [last] names and pictures as A.A. members ought not be broadcast,
filmed or publicly printed.”
Experience suggests that it is in keeping with the Eleventh Tradition not
to disclose A.A. membership on social networking sites as well as on any
other Web site, blog, electronic bulletin board, etc., that is not composed
solely of A.A. members, is not password protected or is accessible to the public.

That said, I will take the advice of some other bloggers who have addressed this issue and continue to talk about my recovery, about meetings, about the 12 Steps, but I will not make mention of any particular fellowship to which I belong on this blog, as I attempt to honor the 11th Tradition.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Learning humility

"Another great dividend we may expect from confiding our defects to another human being is humility...a word often misunderstood. To those who have made progress in AA, it amounts to a clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to become what we could be. Therefore, our first practical move toward humility must consist of recognizing our deficiencies. No defect can be corrected unless we clearly see what it is. But we shall have to do more than see. The objective look at ourselves we achieved in Step Four was, after all, only a look. All of us saw, for example, that we lacked honesty and tolerance, that we were beset at times by attacks of self-pity or delusions of personal grandeur. But while this was a humiliating experience, it didn't necessarily mean that we had yet acquired much actual humility. Though now recognized, our defects were still there. Something had to be done about them. And we soon found that we could not wish or will them away by ourselves." (Twelve and Twelve, Step Five, pg. 58)

Humility was the subject of both of my daily readings today. I like the concept that humility is a "clear recognition of who we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to become what we could be."

I have been so busy in life trying to be what I thought would make other people like and accept me, that I have had very little idea of who I truly am. Any concept of who I am was met with the idea that I surely wasn't enough -- I wasn't good enough, not polished enough, not comfortable enough, not attractive enough -- just simply not enough.

Today I recognize that I am an imperfect part of the universe and that what I am is not all I can be, but it is enough today to love myself and share love with others.

My character defects, as is suggested in the 12&12 reading above, don't just go away because I want them to. Despite doing my step work, I sometimes am dishonest and have the propensity to "hide" because I am concerned about what others think of me. That's not humility. Humility is accepting who I am and being willing to share that authentic self with others as a means of practicing healthy, honest behavior. Still, I am afraid of being weak and vulnerable, and the truth is that by my own willpower, I cannot give up that fear. I have to do the action of the 12 steps to help me work through those fears and then let go of the outcome. I may still cling to isolation and dishonesty 10 years from now. If that is the case, there is still more work to do and the defect is still serving me in some way.

I am grateful today to be learning about humility and its true definition.