Anna David shares her 10th step work with us. One of my favorite things in recovery is that way many people with solid recovery share their 10th step stuff with us in a way that provokes laughterwiththem. This laughter, which in other contexts could be cutting or toxic, somehow fosters insight, fellowship and growth.
I cannot afford to continue to have the reactions that I do.
The fact is, even at 13 years of sobriety, I’m a big reactor. You could argue that part of this is good: I have a near childlike exuberance for things at times. Yay, I’m fun! But you could also argue that most of this is bad—and when I say bad, I mean bad for me more than anyone or anything else. At the end of last week, I had a few stressful things come up—things that a person with a very calm sensibility might have taken in, nodded at and gone about their business.
A related epiphany: I still pretty much think the rules don’t apply to me, that I shouldn’t have to put up with certain things. Part of this is the result of the way I was raised and things that happened that showed me I didn’t have to follow the rules but at this point it doesn’t matter why I’m like that; the point is that believing this only causes me pain. Right now I have a piano player who lives above me, a guy I’ve attempted to reason with about how much his musical theater act upstairs at all hours interferes with my wellbeing and ability to work. We’ve come to no resolution. But the one thing I’m realizing that I haven’t tried is to just see if I can tolerate it—to see if I can remind myself when I hear it that this is the risk you take when living in an apartment building, that I can move out when my lease is up (and always, from now on, take an upper unit) and that I can leave when the noise gets to be intolerable. I’ve noticed that I jump right to This is a disaster which makes me believe I need a dramatic solution, skipping through humbly trying out various ways of making a situation more tolerable.
Precovery involves several simultaneous processes: physical depletion of the drug’s once esteemed value, cognitive disillusionment with the using lifestyle (a “crystallization of discontent” resulting from a pro/con analysis of “the life”), growing emotional distress and self-repugnance, spiritual hunger for greater meaning and purpose in life, breakthroughs in perception of self and world, and (perhaps most catalytic in terms of reaching the recovery initiation tipping point) exposure to recovery carriers–people who offer living proof of the potential for a meaningful life in long-term recovery. These precovery processes reflect a combustive collision between pain and hope.
Unfortunately, it can often take decades for these processes to unfold naturally. If there is a conceptual breakthrough of note in addictions field in recent years, it is that such processes can be strategically stimulated and accelerated. Today, enormous efforts are being expended to accelerate precovery processes for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and other chronic disorders. We as a culture are not waiting for people to seek help at the latest stages of these disorders at a time their painful and potentially fatal consequences can no longer be ignored. We are identifying these disorders early, engaging those with these disorders in assertive treatment and sustained recovery monitoring and support processes. Isn’t it time we did the same for addiction?
This made me think of Debra Jay and her efforts to continue refining, improving and expanding the role of family interventions.
Calix is an association of Catholic alcoholics who are maintaining their sobriety through affiliation with and participation in the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. Our first concern is to interest Catholics with an alcoholic problem in the virtue of total abstinence. Our second stated purpose is to promote the spiritual development of our membership. Our gathering today is an effort in this direction. Our conversation and our association together should be a source of inspiration and encouragement to each other, geared to our growth toward spiritual maturity. Our participation in all other spiritual activities of Calix, such as the frequent celebration of the Liturgy, reception of the Sacraments, personal prayer and meditation, Holy Hours, Days of Recollection and retreats, aid us in our third objective, namely, to strive for the sanctification of the whole personality of each member. We welcome other alcoholics, not members of our faith, or any others, non-alcoholics, who are concerned with the illness of alcoholism and wish to join with us in prayer for our stated purposes.
(The “Tribes of the recovering community” series is intended to demonstrate the diversity within the recovering community.I have no first hand knowledge of most of the tribes, so inclusion in this series should not be considered an endorsement.)
In I Thought It Was Just Me, I refer to the kind of laughter that helps us heal as knowing laughter. Laughter is a spiritual form of communing; without words we can say to one another, “I’m with you. I get it.”
True laughter is not the use of humor as self-deprecation or deflection; it’s not the kind of painful laughter we sometimes hide behind. Knowing laughter embodies the relief and connection we experience when we realize the power of sharing our stories—we’re not laughing at each other but with each other.
It reminds me of Ernie Kurtz’s writing about laughter at meetings
The laughter that takes place at an AA meeting is not laughter at the speaker, it is laughter at self. This is why it is so healing. Any genuine Twelve-Step meeting will have laughter, the humor that comes from the embrace of this image of imperfection.
Founded in 2012, The Y12SR Foundation is a program of Off the Mat, Into the World® (OTM). Our mission is to empower the lives of individuals and families affected by substance and behavioral addictions with relapse prevention practices that enhance physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
We realize our mission through a holistic approach that addresses all aspects of the multi-dimensional self (physical, emotional, mental, behavior and heart,) promoting a greater understanding of the disease of addiction, peer generated support and leadership development.
There are some meetings in Minchigan. Looks pretty cool. Maybe I’ll check it out and report back. (That should be pretty funny. I’m pretty stiff, have lousy balance and I’ve never done yoga.)
We’re seeing a growing body of research on the mechanisms of change in 12 step recovery. Tonigan and Greenfield recently published an article in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.
Working the 12 steps is widely prescribed for Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) members although the relative merits of different methods for measuring step work have received minimal attention and even less is known about how step work predicts later substance use. The current study (1) compared endorsements of step work on an face-valid or direct measure, the Alcoholics Anonymous Inventory (AAI), with an indirect measure of step work, the General Alcoholics Anonymous Tools of Recovery (GAATOR); (2) evaluated the underlying factor structure of the GAATOR and changes in step work over time; (3) examined changes in the endorsement of step work over time; and (4) investigated how, if at all, 12-step work predicted later substance use. New AA affiliates (N = 130) completed assessments at intake, 3, 6, and 9 months. Significantly more participants endorsed step work on the GAATOR than on the AAI for nine of the 12 steps. An exploratory factor analysis revealed a two-factor structure for the GAATOR comprising behavioral step work and spiritual step work. Behavioral step work did not change over time, but was predicted by having a sponsor, while Spiritual step work decreased over time and increases were predicted by attending 12-step meetings or treatment. Behavioral step work did not prospectively predict substance use. In contrast, spiritual step work predicted percent days abstinent. Behavioral step work and spiritual step work appear to be conceptually distinct components of step work that have distinct predictors and unique impacts on outcomes.
An interesting interview with DFW’s biographer about his recovery. Check it out.
On the influence of 12 step recovery on his life and writing:
I think over time its core message—the need for human interaction, being modest about your self and your powers, humility before your situation—become his core literary positions as well. In the program DFW turned his back on what he saw as his callow, show-offy youth.
I like the video and agree that making recovery more visible is important in reducing stigma. Last year I wrote:
Am I the only one who is really underwhelmed with these recent pieces on whether anonymity in AA has been rendered quaint?
To me, they seem to fundamentally misunderstand AA’s anonymity.
There’s plenty of room within AA’s traditions for activism and public education, AA members are just advised not to identify themselves as AA members in the media, avoid presenting themselves as representatives of AA and draw attention themselves.
There is nothing in AA’s traditions that prohibits publicly identifying oneself as an alcoholic in recovery as long as they do not identify as an AA member. The 12th tradition does, however, encourage caution and humility.
I’m out as a recovering person, my full name is on this blog, but I also respect the dangers for individuals and mutual aid groups.
I wish this project all the best, but losing the tradition of anonymity is pretty frightening to imagine.
“Choose [your memories] carefully. Memories are all we end up with … You’ll have a thousand pasts and no future.” –The Secret Behind Their Eyes (film)
A friend shared this On Point episode with me and made a connection between it and resentments.
This matter of appropriate, helpful, deliberate forgetting is very fascinating.
We’ve talked before about role of the brain’s memory circuits. I’ve also been very interested in the similarities between PTSD and addiction. Both are characterized by intrusive, powerful, multi-sensory, involuntary memories.
The On Point episode discusses that the capacity this helpful forgetting relies on executive function which we’ve discussed is impaired AND depleted.
So…addicts may have limited capacity for this kind of helpful forgetting. Maybe this explains and supports 12 step recovery’s emphasis on letting go of resentments.
Further, the idea in the quote above may help explain the emphasis on gratitude and the power of gratitude lists. Aren’t gratitude lists really an attempt to choose what to remember?