Recovery is Hard

splashd-arnettb_copyWhen I was 10 years sober–1987–I lived in Winter Park, Florida. I was a drug/alcohol counselor . I remember a pivotal AA meeting when AA was deciding to root out “crosstalk”. I believed and still believe crosstalk; used with loving, kind guidance; is the main way we learn about ourselves. That was the moment or time that the 12th step community took a giant step backward.

Bill Wilson had written in a Grapevine article in 1958, “I think that many oldsters who have put our AA “booze cure” to severe but successful tests still find they often lack emotional sobriety. Perhaps they will be the spearhead for the next major development in AA, the development of much more real maturity and balance (which is to say, humility) in our relations with ourselves, with our fellows, and with God.”

For 39 years I have watched many leaders in the 12th step community choose not to mature emotionally. Our health is rooted in our emotions so we can’t help anyone beyond our own emotional growth. We each have our own answers but sharing how we found ours helps others to find their answers.

So relapse is about being dry and not sober. Although I have been in recovery for over 39 years and haven’t drank or used any mind-altering substances, I have been dry many times. Sometimes for whole years. Much depended on why I was choosing to be in denial. I don’t think denial is about lying. But rather, I believe it is about not knowing the truth. You can’t lie about something you don’t know about.

Your mind, body and emotions either work together so you experience your life more fully or they are each one using avoiding behaviors energy. The way to control your life is to control your thoughts and words. From your words come your feelings.

The secret of gaining control of any addiction and/or problem is to learn to use your energy in a positive manner. Often this means relaxing into a situation or experience as opposed to “fixing” or “solving” the situation. We always have the ability to control our thoughts, words and deeds. No one else makes anyone feel anything. Our response is always our choice.

I like Will Arnett. I like his TV series about living in recovery “Flaked”. While he was filming, writing, and directing it, he relapsed. And he talks about it. That takes real courage. I always tell people that relapse that they aren’t starting over. They are building on what they already learned.

From The Hollywood Reporter: “Will Arnett: A Comedian’s Open Wound Laid Bare”:

“Two hours into lunch, Arnett looks up from the scraps of pizza on his plate and reveals something he hadn’t intended to share. “As I was writing all this shit [on Flaked] and I start shooting it, I started getting confused about where I was at,” he says, then hesitates as he decides if he wants to continue. He does: “Hardly anybody knows this,” he says, pausing a second time, “but I started drinking again.”

He’s vague on details, though he insists he’s been clean now for at least a few months, back in AA meetings when they don’t conflict with the boys’ twice-weekly T-ball practices. “I described it at a meeting recently like a whistle off in the distance for a train you know is coming for you,” he says. “It was a bummer, but it happens. And for me, it happened as easily as it had [the first time]: It was right there.” He had tried justifying the slip to himself as something he needed to do to play the part of Chip, but over time, he hated the way it made him feel. “I was filled with shame.”

Much like 15 years earlier, there was no cataclysmic event, no car crash or barroom brawl that jolted him back to sobriety. “I just know where this path goes, and it’s a dead end,” he says. “I’m not the smartest guy in the world, but I’m smart enough to know that this is not where I want to live. And I’m a dad now, a parent first and foremost.” He called up a friend whom he’d helped get sober years earlier, and got the support he needed. If Flaked scores a second season, he plans to have Chip follow a similar path and turn to his friend Dennis (David Sullivan) to get him sober.”

Photo credit.

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