Alcoholism and Addiction, The Sobering Facts of Spiritual Recovery
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Life has more meaning and feeling than I could have ever imagined. I simply think and appreciate life. My family and friends mean the world to me. I no longer chase the next mind numbing misfortunes.
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I sat in the back of a patrol car having blown a whopping 0.2 for alcohol on a breath analyzer. My second DUI in three years. Little did I know that this arrest would lead to my life of recovery.
This article Alcoholism and Addiction, The Sobering Facts of Spiritual Recovery is long overdue but is being written and shared with the world to clear the air on a subject that the majority of mankind simply does not understand and is unwilling to explore. I dedicate this article to my family and hope all those affected by my alcoholism and addiction will read it, to better understand how it relates to them and me.
I've been writing articles online for over five years now, on a wide variety of subjects that interest me. It was suggested that I do this by a family member that had grown tired of reading my long, rambling emails on subjects that they found had no merit in the reality of everyday life. They told me that I could actually earn a good living writing articles and that they generally didn't buy into the crap I shared with them so it was a waste of my time to write it, and theirs to read it.
When I first got sober on July 7, 2004, it was suggested to me that I keep a journal of my thoughts and ideas about my recovery as it would help to clarify my thinking by putting my thoughts into written words. I was told that I should write in such a manner that anyone that picked up my journal and began reading would be able to emphasize with my experiences.
Admitting that you have a problem that you cannot solve on your own is embarrassing and shameful. The guilt associated with admitting your an alcoholic and addict, which to me is the same thing because alcohol is drug, make no mistake, prevents more people from seeking help than perhaps any other reason. No one likes admitting they are helpless or that they can't control themselves but psychoanalyzing yourself can prove to be a futile effort without practice and training.
"The love that you withhold is the pain that you carry."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
The amount of alcohol or drugs you consume isn't the determining factor for addiction, it is how often this occurs. Even if you only ingest a small amount a everyday, this is what determines your dependency. The habit of altering your brain chemistry daily even in small dosages is still dependency.
They say in the rooms of AA that alcoholism and addiction is a disease of the mind created by the addiction itself, that when you learn to think of it as an entity or force with its own desires and needs, it helps you to realize that once you have contracted this disease it is always with you, it is never is cured. Most people don't understand this concept, most people believe that once you are physically sober you are cured.
Let me be clear there is NO CURE for alcoholism or addiction, recovery is a life long process. One is never 'recovered', there is no past tense for the word recovery when it comes to dealing with alcoholism and addiction.
The key to learning a sober lifestyle, something I had no experience with in my adult life, as I started drinking in the eleventh grade, is developing a spiritual awakening. What I didn't realize in the beginning of my sobriety is there are many different forms of this idea. Most spiritual awakenings by non-addicts, is due to some life threatening or near death experience (NDE).
After being sober for a couple of weeks and not having experienced anything remotely close to what most people would associate with a 'spiritual awakening', I began to research the idea by reading as much as I could find on the subject. At the back of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, Appendix II, entitled Spiritual Experience, I learned that a Spiritual Awakening didn't have to be a sudden epiphany, this was quite the relief to me.
In the first few chapters of the Big Book it describes how sudden revolutionary changes are described in one's character and personality, when gaining a measure of sobriety. This is attributed to having had a 'spiritual awakening' and can be on par with a religious experience. However the majority of recovering alcoholics and addicts have what William James ( a social psychologist) calls a spiritual awakening of the educational variety, as it comes about slowly.
It begins to dawn on people that they are tapping an inner resource they never knew existed before, what most people slowly recognize as A Power Greater Than Themselves. This can be a profound and amazing experience once recognized and is the basis for the spiritual recovery process.
When I first read the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, I was pretty sure I could handle most of the principles but the God concept I was wary of, having never developed any leanings towards organized religion. What helped was being told that my concept of God could be of my own making and did not need to conform to anyone else's standard.
The last two paragraphs of Appendix II, the Spiritual Experience, were the key to my recovery and when I read these words I felt a great burden lifted from me.
We find that no one need have difficulty with the spirituality of the program. Willingness, honesty and open mindedness are the essentials to recovery. But these are indispensable.
"There is a principle that is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance - - - that principle is CONTEMPT PRIOR TO INVESTIGATION!"— Herbert Spencer
I was about to leave my home in Denver in early July of 2004, days away from the bank putting a lock on the doors of my house and making me homeless. My plan was to hitchhike to Montana and see Glacier National Park before I died because I knew my life was coming to an end and I wanted to see it before that happened. The plan was to do a Into The Wild maneuver and try to survive as long as I could, knowing I would probably starve to death like the guy in the book.
I was calling all my friends saying goodbye, when one of them asked me if I had ever been sober. I told them the longest I had ever achieved any sobriety was six weeks and it was six weeks of hell. They suggested that I get a hold of an old friend that disappeared in the early 80s and had gotten sober and gave me his number. I called and explained the situation, the first thing he asked me, "Was I powerless over alcohol and cocaine and was my life unmanageable?"
Hell that was a no brainer, "Yes, I just can't drink like normal people and once I start, it leads to me doing drugs and spending money I don't have." In the course of the following conversation I saw a glimmer of hope, a pin-point of light at the end of a long dark tunnel. He arranged for me to spend some time with a mutual sober friend in Colorado, going to some meetings and feeding me.
I traded a $600 cherry table with that friend (one my few remaining possessions), for a one-way airplane ticket to Tennessee and arrived at the Nashville Airport, with a backpack, a fishing pole, the clothes on my back, $7 dollars and some change in my pocket, owing $192,000 dollars, scared, apprehensive and alone.
I weighed 135 pounds at the time because the crackhead/alcohol diet plan not only is less filling and taste great but will help you get rid of all those material items you don't really need such as cars, jobs, girlfriends, household appliances, TVs, stereos, you get the picture. Let's face it food is overrated, you would be amazed how long you can survive on just water.
It had been suggested to me that to get sober I should go someplace where I didn't know anybody (In this case just one person that had been sober for twenty years), so that relapse wouldn't be an option because I knew no one that would enable me to sleep on a couch or feed me. That is why I picked Nashville, Tennessee, after sobering up for three days by staying with a fellow member of AA, I checked myself into a halfway house run by a former NFL player called Chips On the River and thus began my road to recovery.
Learn Hidden Secrets
It is said the reason AA works is because it is made up of a room full of alcoholics and addicts and that only those suffering from the disease can understand another sufferer. This is beyond a doubt true and has been proven to me, sometimes very painfully, over and over again.
The first time I spoke at a 'meeting', everyone around me was laughing, not at me but with me. Of course I didn't think I had said anything funny but in hindsight, I could see why my comments would be funny.
I had told this group of people that I was an honest crackhead, which got a big laugh and that I didn't lie, cheat or steal. I told them that if I could achieve 30 days of sobriety I could handle the rest on my own and wouldn't need their help or God's. I truly believed that once I learned to drink responsibly, which is what I thought AA was all about, that I could go home and get back to my old life.
At the time I had no clue about addiction, although I had read most of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous on the plane, it didn't really sink in and most of it was abstract ideas to me because I had no experience with the concepts. I learned to accept the truth, that I was a a liar, a cheater and a thief but it was a tough pill to swallow.
Initially I wanted to understand addiction, so that I could think my way out of the situation. I thought if I understood addiction intellectually that it would provide me the means to defeat it, boy, was I in for an awakening. There is no defeating addiction, there is only surrender. This is a common misconception, there is no thinking your way out of addiction.
Addiction does not discriminate, it attacks lawyers, doctors, judges, scientist, janitors, ditch-diggers, journalist, housewives and even social workers and psychiatrists. It makes no distinction and is not dependent on how smart you are. If getting sober was easy anyone could do it just by Saying NO, as Nancy Reagen told us.
A friend in the program told me that addiction is like a boxing match, if you get into the ring with a superior opponent and each round it defeated you, pummeling you and beating you down, eventually even the most stubborn of us will admit defeat and surrender.
I wrote in my journal on August 27, 2004
When I left Denver, it is true I was running . . . hoping to escape my problems. I had fought my addiction for 27 years to no avail, but he who fights and runs, lives to fight another day. I no longer fight my addiction. I have admitted defeat to addiction, not to life. I have changed my tactics by changing my lifestyle. It started with the simple truth that I was powerless and my life was unmanageable.
I have given my faith to a higher power and asked for help. I have been helped by a fellowship, willing to show me a different way. I have opened my mind and become willing to honestly seek a different path. A light grows stronger in me everyday. A light that I am willing to share with anyone that wants it.
I never thought I would ever feel this way. Fifty days of sobriety came one day at a time. Thank you Lord for sharing your light with me, so I could share it with others.
Addiction is illogical, it simply makes no sense, so trying to understand it is a exercise in futility. However to grasp how it works and how subtly and sneaky it can be you have to first achieve a measure of sobriety. In my opinion this cannot be achieved in 30 days, or even six months but more like a couple of years.
I say this because when you use alcohol and drugs it twists the way you think and communicate, it alters the way you think. It obscures the truth and brings a fog over your perceptions and perspective. It basically dulls your senses to the point that you no longer think of others first but only of your own ego.
I suspect that it takes many years of continuous sobriety to untwist your mind and to begin to think clearly or in a manner that you did before you began to use alcohol and drugs. Alcohol and drugs stunts your emotional growth so if you began to use in your teenage years, your mind initially returns to that emotional state but is clouded with the thought processes of adulthood and the way you learned to think under the cloud of addiction.
Denying the Truth
The bottom line is most practicing (drinking) alcoholics refuse to deal with any issue or information that threatens their paradigm, whether it be the emotional baggage of their past, new information that may threatened their way of life or events that could undermine their lifestyle. Some may see it as a comfort factor but the underlying theme is that dealing with any information that may lead to deeper self inspection gets ignored, suppressed and avoided.
This is due largely because they wish to avoid having to address the fact that deep down they know they have developed a problem and the guilt of having to admit it, prevents them from dealing with it, consciously. Because of this it makes it very difficult to address any issue that concerns these drinking habits and how it may affect the sober people in their lives, this is known in the rooms of AA, as denial.
Denial is not just limited to alcoholics, it affects every man, women and child on this planet and is the emotional fear response triggered by our fight or flight instinct. This instinct, that social psychologist have termed Cognitive Dissonance, is very real and is designed as an defense mechanism designed to protect the ego.
When humans are confronted with any new information that may threatened their perceived view of their world, Cognitive Dissonance kicks in and triggers two basic forms of action based on the emotion of fear.
To deny the information altogether, by not reading or listening to it, either by walking away from the speaker or refusing to read the new information in its entirety.
To argue against the information, by creating scenarios or ideas that fit the new information into their paradigm or poking logical holes in why the new information can't possibly be true.
Often the most basic form of this denial is to attack the messenger and question their integrity, motives, sanity and sobriety. This, 'best defense is an offense tactic', is quite common but clearly shows that subconscious acceptance of the information has been recognized.
This serves to move the real topic away from the subject by distraction and misdirection. Magicians use this type of tactic to distract their audience during magic tricks because it works. Distraction is used to move the focus away from the truth and when dealing with alcoholism it is most often used to prevent a person from dealing with and recognizing a truth that is painful.
However this is actually one of the first signs an individual recognizes that they have a problem, a feeling of anger and resentment. The resentment they feel is being directed outwards, towards others, in the form of anger. Humans develop resentments when they see character traits in others they don't like and realize they have them as well.
Recognizing this type of behavior in yourself, is what allows us to begin the recovery process but requires that we take a fearless and moral inventory of ourselves. This why learning to be completely honest with yourself and others is paramount to the recovery process.
Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
Tough Decisions Are Part Of Sobriety
I have been sober now for eleven years and in that time I have never been around the family I grew up with for any 24 hour period in which they didn't drink alcohol in front of me. While the act of drinking in front of me doesn't bother me, it is the decision of others to do so that does bother me.
I see my family once every two to three years, that is 712 days or 1,068 days. What bothers me the most is that surely in that amount of time my family has drank enough booze to satisfy any urges they have for alcohol and would have the respect to abstain from drinking alcohol for one day in front of me. However this has never been the case and they simple take for granted that I'm OK with this behavior.
Now where I live, none of my friends drink alcohol or use drugs and are perfectly happy people, the only time I see people drinking is when I visit my family. They have never come to my house in Tennessee, except when I graduated from college and then of course they drank then as well. Even on the night of my graduation from college, my parents and brother and sister took me out for dinner and sat there and drank in front of me, without even bothering to ask if it was acceptable to me, as if I had a choice.
Upon leaving they handed me a big bag of what initially I thought was the uneaten food they had purchased for staying in the condo they had rented for three days. It turns out, it was all the booze they hadn't drank. They asked me if I could find someone that wanted it?
Hello, Anybody Home?
When you get sober, part of that transition, part of creating a new life for yourself is to only have sober friends, that's people that don't drink or use drugs. Handing an alcoholic a bag full of booze is analogous to handing someone that is suicidal a loaded gun or giving a crack head a rock of cocaine and a crack pipe, or giving a heroin addict a syringe and some black tar horse.
A sober person in recovery would never do such a thing because they understand that alcoholics do not need an excuse or reason to start drinking, they just need an opportunity because all it take is one drink, one beer or one shot and it is all over. Just smelling alcohol gives me the creeps and I run, I get away as fast as I can.
I know in my heart, that if I ever go back to drinking and using, you can put a fork in me because I am done.
I truly recognize that I will not recovery a second time, this is my only chance at living a sober life. My family does not understand this and may never, not one person in my family has ever taken the time to read the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, even though, they are all avid readers. I suspect because then they would recognize that they ALL have drinking problems and would prefer not to have to face that truth about themselves.
That's OK, that is their choice but it also requires that I make difficult choices as well, on whether or not I want to be around them and put myself in a situation in which I must endure their drinking in front of me.
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Recently I was invited to participate in a family reunion in Oregon, which is a long way from Tennessee for those that are unfamiliar with their geography. I really wanted to go but of course it would require that I endure people drinking in front of me . . . hmmm, what to do? My thinking was that perhaps my family would be agreeable to not drinking for the time I was there and I would make my visit short, so as to not infringe on their rights as adults.
The first thing I did was call my spiritual counselor and discussed the idea with him to get his take on the situation and to find out if he thought I was being unreasonable or what would be the correct course of action. He suggested that I contact a family member that I trust and discuss the idea but do not under any circumstances make any demands or ultimatums because he thought it could potentially blow up into explosive emotional scenario and that I should avoid that at all cost.
I decided that I would discuss with my brother and sister the idea of the family abstaining from drinking during the time I was there. First I called my brother and initially he was agreeably to the idea, after all another family member is allergic to peanuts and restrictions would be made for their condition, so why not for me. I was amazed and happy by his response. However the next day I got an angry email from my brother accusing me of not having fully 'recovered' (remember there is NO PAST TENSE in the Recovery Program) and that I was being selfish and rude.
Then I contacted my sister and expressed my idea with her . . . well the conversation ended in a shouting match, with her trying to tell me what I think and feel. Obviously this idea didn't go over too well with her and she accused me of being selfish and insecure, among other things. I want to be clear here, I am the world's expert on how "I think and feel", please do not try to tell me how I do either because you simply do not know, period end of story!
I had made them both promise me that they wouldn't discuss this matter with my mother before I had a chance to speak to her and discuss the matter and they both agreed.
To make a long story short, I contemplated this idea and my feelings about how I should raise the topic with my mother. I have learned that if you have a difficult decision, that is weighing heavily on your mind you should give it time to percolate and to ponder it from many different angles. The reunion is in late April, early May of 2016 and my conversations with my brother and sister was in late December of 2015 and early January of 2016, so I had plenty of time, to decide my next course of action.
I again called my spiritual counselor and related the new information and the things I had found out from the conversations with my brother and sister. His advice was to let things 'simmer down' and to wait a at least a week, so that you could think about things and how both your brother and sister's reactions made you feel before talking to my mother. I felt this was good advice and so I went into contemplation mode and even explored the topic in a series of meditations, I also asked the people I work with.
Of course none of these people drink alcohol, so they couldn't understand why my family wouldn't simply not drink around me. They didn't see it as a big deal and couldn't understand how anyone would pick alcohol over another family member. They didn't see how it should even be a problem at all and couldn't understand why it was even a topic of contention, when it should be just a foregone conclusion.
In hindsight I waited too long, both my brother and sister discussed with my mother, what I had specifically asked them not too. I should have realized this is what would happen but I felt I had time and sadly I did not. My mother sent me an emotional email saying I had ruined her dream vacation and that I was uninvited and to stay away from the reunion . . . my decision had been made for me and once again I'm portrayed as the bad guy.
I went back and reread her email that was sent January 22, 2016 and she seems genuinely confused about why I wouldn't address the situation with her first and for some odd reason doesn't seem to understand how people drinking around me 'might' be a problem but that it is my problem and there is absolutely no reason any of them should have to alter their behavior for me. She goes on to tell me that it is selfish of me to ask them not to drink around me and that I should think of others first and not how there behavior makes me feel . . . so there you have it.
What pained me the most, was not having been uninvited but that she didn't even ask me for my version of events before deciding that she didn't want me there. I mean certainly I could have been asked how it made me feel or why I had an issue but this was not the case. It was simply assumed that whatever my brother an sister had told her was the truth and anything I had to relate to the topic was irrelevant.
William Cope Moyers
A Cry For Help
Here is a poem I wrote, when I knew I had reached a bottom and thought for sure the end was near. I cannot begin to describe or share with you the complete and utter hopelessness, fear and pity one feels when they have lost all hope and can see no way out of their self imposed despair.
The Stygian darkness rules supreme, where evil dwells and serpent eyes gleam.
Embracing the darkness that fills my soul, I scamper and crawl like a wounded troll.
Remorseful souls hover and float, in endless pools of hatred I gloat.
My hatred rules like forsaken kings, spreading my devastation on diseased wings.
Despair and isolation rules the night, engulfing my Universe like a cancerous blight.
Crying in anguish, I scream with fright, not knowing or caring if I am right.
Allowing the hopelessness to fill my soul, I wallow in pity of a bottomless hole.
You can feel the despair and emotion I felt in those days in the words above and it comes from knowing that you have brought all of these feelings on yourself. I can truly recognize why some people would chose to take their own life and I'd be lying if if I told you I didn't consider the idea many times.
Early in sobriety I often wondered why I would have to endure such anguish and despair to get sober but it is much easier to see the light when you are surrounded by darkness. The hardest part for me about getting sober was learning how to forgive myself and this is an ongoing process because the more clear your mind becomes the more your remember past events.
I want to be clear I did many things drunk and on drugs, that I deeply regret and wonder how anyone could forgive me.
I often wonder if perhaps my subconscious mind had orchestrated the events, knowing full well that my brother and sister would break their promise to keep the information between us and talk to my mother as way of forcing her to un-invite me. Regardless it taught me several valuable lessons about trust and that we need to love each other unconditionally, despite our character defects and faults.
I hold no hard feelings for my mother, brother or sister and my mother and I have talked many times, since then, of course we carefully don't mention any of the sad events leading up to her email or about the reunion.
My brother and sister haven't talked to me since and I often wonder if it is because they feel bad for what they did or if for some reason they think I owe them an apology. I have no hard feelings for them either, they were simply doing what they do. A leopard cannot change its spots, they are who they are and I still love and accept them for being exactly whom they are at this time. We are all on a spiritual path of enlightenment and we all learn at different levels of awareness, so I cannot judge their decision or actions as wrong.
We are given free will to make our own decisions and to shape our lives as we deem necessary and I cannot project my thinking or feelings onto other people just accept and love them, after all we cannot, nor do we have the right, to try to change other people to conform to our wishes.
I think it is important for me to recognize that if being around people that drink makes me feel uncomfortable then I shouldn't try to pretend it doesn't bother me and simply accept it, deal with it and decide not to be around those people, even it is family.
They know for a fact that they couldn't come to my house and drink and this may be one of the reasons they have decided not to visit me, that is their decision and I respect it, even if I don't agree with it. So they should be able to accept my decision not to be around them when they drink and if this means we will not see each other . . . then so be it.
I have hesitated from publishing this article for months because I don't want to hurt my families feelings if they were to read it but I have to say the whole overall feeling I have from the experience is to be quite honest . . . one of liberation, freedom and to a certain extent serenity. It may be hard too understand this but I feel very similar to when I endured the pain and realization of Step 5 in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and the relief from Step 6.
5. Admitted to God, ourselves, and another human being the exact nature of our wrong.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove of these defects of character.
I have been unwilling to admit to myself how much my families drinking has on my own feelings and serenity. So when I was asked not to attend this reunion, it literally felt as if a huge burden was lifted from me, perhaps this is selfish of me and if so I apologize.
It is sad to reflect on the possibilities of not being around the family that I grew up with because of their insistence to drink in front of me and how it makes me feel. However I refuse to project negative feelings about the situation and sincerely hope they enjoy their time with each other in April.
I want to be clear that it isn't the actual event of drinking that bothers me, it is the idea that they need to alter their consciousness to interact with me, that bothers me. It hurts my feelings that my family feels the need to numb their emotions and subdue their feelings to interact with me, that bothers me the most. My thinking is that why would I want to travel across the country to be limited to only interacting with folks during the day, when they are sober and have to retreat to the isolation of my room at night, when they start drinking.
I don't live in isolation here in Tennessee because I have chosen to make my friends sober ones and do not have to deal with any hard feelings associated with being around people in altered states of consciousness. I do have friends that drink and if I attend gatherings where alcohol is served I merely leave when things become uncomfortable for me.
Being in house full of people that drink doesn't give me the option to leave but to isolate myself, this is the problem I would have with this kind of reunion where everyone is living under one roof for a period of time. I know in my heart that we will come to a compromise in the future, so I don't feel this is the end. However it is important for me to think of my sobriety first because without it, there would be no chance of seeing each other again.
I hope my family can forgive me for feeling this way at this moment and perhaps in the future I will learn to be around people that feel the need to alter their state of consciousness to find serenity.
This article Alcoholism and Addiction, The Sobering Facts of Spiritual Recovery has really helped me to clarify my thinking and to release the negative energy associated with the entire episode. It is just one more bump on the road of recovery and Spiritual Awakening. I hope and pray that one day I will get a phone call telling me that I don't mind abstaining from alcohol for three or four days, let's get together and on that day my heart will soar! Until then all I can do is pray and project unconditional love into the Universe, thank you for reading.
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© 2016 somethgblue
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