Well due to the prompting of one kind member of this sub and shopping it around to counsellors and members of my local fellowship. I am writing a book. The basis of which will be these posts. It’s a terrifying proposition but my fellows believe it’s a book that needs to be written, maybe even overdue. So thank you for your support in making this from my venting into something that might be of use to others.
I’ll finish the posts for 10, 11 and 12 for the series on this sub, then I’ll start writing the manuscript. Without further delay:
The very nature of continuing revision is the nature of the scientific method. Let us continue to improve and correct our own method of living as we move forward through this experience of our lives.
Although that was the first and best, fanciest sounding summary for this chapter I could come up with, something about it didn’t sit right with me. I found as I continued writing this and the next step, I felt there was a hole in my psyche, a sort of weak spot or tear. That sort of emotional gut feeling is something I now keep an eye out for. This one I couldn’t quite figure out until something knocked it lose.
At the time of this writing one of my favorite actors has just died of an overdose. I didn’t even know he was a sober guy. He was just a great actor. I would have been even more of a fan had I known he had the same issues I had. The thing that freaked me out is he had over three times the clean time I do. He had money, he had a career, respect of his fellows and in short, everything I thought would keep me sober once I got it. When I completed the journey from the misery of early recovery ( for me it really was awful) to the success and prosperity I’m working towards, surely the compulsion to drink and use will be entirely erradicated. But that’s not what the programs of the 12 steps say. The combined expereince and gathered wisdom of those groups has shown that we can be freed from the compulsion but we’re never free of the desire. If I ever get to a place where picking up our addiction seems like a good idea again and I don’t talk about it, I’m in real trouble.
The other day I found myself battling with depression as I often do. I’m winning the war but battles are sometimes lost. I wake up in the morning, earlier than I feel like but well rested. I try to think of a reason to get up and think about what I might do with the day. Unless it’s something I’m really into or can’t back out of, I’ll resolve to stay in bed on days like this. And it’s on these days I can start my cycle of depression. It begins with oversleeping which gives me a sense of lethargy and general “downness” out of that comes a complete lack of desire to cook anything healthy for myself. Once I’m there I always grab some kind of quickly available caffiene, usually and energy drink or pop. Even operating the coffee machine seems like too much. The caffience suppresses my appetite enough that I cruise into the afternoon feeling like a zombie. I sit myself in front of my computer and watch bad movies and play video games. Anything to be anywhere but in my head and I wait for the storm to settle. This usually lasts about three days.Lately I’ve gotten it down to as little as one day. Sometimes I can even short circuit it before it begins.
A lot of alcoholics and addicts have a lifelong battle with depression. I’m happy that after only a decade I’ve been able to improve mine so much. The common thread is that no matter how short or mild in intensity my depression is, I’ll never truly be free of it. And my addiction is much the same. I will always have to take measures to arrest it. Much like depression it has a wide variety of tools available to keep it supressed and managable. Many of them are the same actually. Exercise and a healthy diet spring to mind.
As the elements of this maintence are varied. Sometimes using those tools feels like fighting a war on multiple fronts, such is working step 10. The overall strategy of the process outlined by the 12 steps is to so change your mental landscape as to eliminate the triggers and circumstances that lead to acting out ones addiction. Being a human invention implemented by humans on imperfect human minds formed by human lives, it is fallible. The transformation is never total. This s not a flaw in the process it’s simply a reality of the topology of human minds. We can stop our old actions, eventually we can change our old thinking, even heal our emotional damage with all that change, and perhaps because of it, we are still us. Our sickness never leaves as it’s part of what we are. That’s why step 10 is necessary. We must continue to repeat the process of the steps until they become habit and eventually, instinct.
The only way that I know of to fortify my new way of life is to continue to practise it. My goals will move forward or sideways. Sometimes back when I’ve gotten too bold and my mind let’s me know I’m taking on too much. With enough practise I get to a place of it being wonderfully self regulating. If I don’t do enough I start to feel bad or worse, bored. Boredom causes me to take rash or destructive action just to “spice things up”. Its easy to critisize but as non-believer with no ultimate consequences, my real oblivion a certainty at the end of my life I’m occasionally seduced by boredom because I “Want something to happen.” Usually I’ve been taking it too easy and not challenging myself. It’s a consequence of feeling and being better. I’m capable of more now. If I don’t run this dog it’ll start eating the furniture.
If I strive too far beyond my capability I become overwhelmed, become frozen and take a shot to my self-worth. I’ll shutdown until I recover enough to regroup and try again. This is another thing that happens less often and I recover from more quickly now. Time was, any failure would result in weeks of depression and morbid contemplation. Eventually I shared about this and got help. Trusted friends and sponsors in recovery taught me, very patiently, how to make managable goals and acheive them. Finishing the things I start, no matter how small, was how I learned to think of myself as worthwhile. Nothing is more damaging to my self-worth than continued patterns of failure. This, now that I’ve wrote it, I realise, is an example of working step 10. I worked the first 9 steps on a problem in my life. I realised I was wrong, I had been using an old pattern, admitted it was kicking my ass, asked for help from those I knew could help me, inventoried and got something new that would allow me to work toward fixing it.
Now some people find it useful to analyze their actions on a daily basis. Taking the step somewhat literally they take an inventory daily and review it. I myself did that for a time and found it a sound practise. Much like having and using a gym membership or taking 45 minutes every day to enguage in mindfulness meditation I find I only do it when I feel I need to.
One of my favorite circuit speakers once commented in a talk he gave that most recovering addicts he knew would only work the next step when it had become one of only three choices left to them: Use, Blow your brains out or, Work the next step. The kind of black humor that as one of those who face an impossible killing ailment, I really apprecaite.
That is the nature of many addicts and alcoholics. We want a medal for running out of a burning building. We will be presented with a wonderful program of recovery and a vast fellowship of people to support us in the working of it. What awas our reaction to being presented with this oppurtuntiy. Well I can share my reaction: Grow suspicious. Argue with it. Focus on how I’m different. Find loopholes to avoid looking at the stuff I don’t want to look at. Resist.
Isn’t it wonderful that even with all this reluctance a person like me can still benefit from the fellowships based on the 12 steps. Now matter how I railed against the people in my fellowship that had different ideas or, faught my sponsor on how I was to work a certain step, I was always welcomed back. It is this spirit I think that is embodied in the 10th step and that those who practise it, realise their own fallibility. They understand what it is to strive for an ideal and fall short of it. And to after years of recovery have those days we all have, where the best thing you do that day is not use.
Thanks for reading.