There’s an old phrase in computer programming that goes… “Garbage In – Garbage Out”. In other words, if I program a faulty code, I’m going to get a faulty outcome.
The A.A. Big Book, on page 60, states “The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.”
Watching someone you love struggle with addiction or alcoholism is extremely painful. I often liken it to watching someone dig a deep hole.
Recently during the U.S. Open a professional golfer swatted at his golf ball while it was moving. He knowingly did this in violation of the rules that govern golf. In a subsequent tournament another professional golfer took a drop with a golf shot that was controversial at best and which some of his fellow players characterized as cheating. Both of the situations were unfortunate and sullied the reputation of both players. It is said that golf doesn’t build character – it reveals it.
I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had with a woman embarking on recovery that is traumatized by abuse in some way, shape or form. I think we can all agree that the word abuse riles up a certain distain in each of us. But have you ever thought about yourself as the abuser? Ouch, tough question and I bet most would say no way! However, the same women I talk to are also abusers of themselves. This is not an accusation I state lightly as I am also an alumni of abusing myself. I am talking about negative self-talk, self-hate and self-loathing. Regardless of its origin, I believe we are all guilty of this on some level. I used to beat myself up with demeaning and horrible statements when I didn’t live up to my unrealistic expectations. Calling myself a stupid this or an incompetent that. Even for an accidental toe stubbing! Can you imagine if you stubbed your toe and I hollered at you that you were a total moron? Have Mercy, that’s not even logical or remotely loving and respectful!!!! My friends….is this not verbal and emotional abuse? I had to ask myself, would you say these things you claim about yourself, in your head, to another living human being? Heck no!! So why is it ok to have this running commentary in our heads and spirits about ourselves? It’s not!! Its verbal, emotional and mental abuse towards ourselves and by ourselves. And it’s not ok!
At many AA meetings, somewhere in the program, a person asks “Could we have a moment of silence for the alcoholic who still suffers?” We are briefly quiet, perhaps thinking of someone we know whose suffering is all too clear to us. I also think of those whose suffering is over because they lost their lives in a struggle with alcohol or drugs.
“With dignity we will stand for ourselves, but not against our fellows.”
-“From Survival to Recovery”
She sat next to the bed. I hadn’t touched her in months. She didn’t seem to notice - she didn’t say a word. I felt guilty. I felt ashamed. I felt like I had been unfaithful.
There had been so many excuses. “I’m too busy. I’m too tired. I’ve got more important things to do”. Excuses all...
Finally, I reached over and gently brushed off the dust from her jacket. I started my daily readings – again.
I worked 20 years in Rehab, and for a long time, I saw it do a lot of people a lot of good. As rehab has evolved over the years, it has moved from an introduction into the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous into a medical, medication, and mental illness model of treatment. The old model was “one drunk helping another over a cup of coffee.” I remember when there was a sign at the admissions entrance of my old rehab that said “AA Members Always Welcome”. I remember when my first morning staff meeting would tip the phones off the hook so they wouldn’t ring. We would shut the door and spend 20 minutes in prayer and meditation for the spiritual well-being of the unit. We would read from “Twenty-Four Hours a Day” and “As Bill Sees It.” The unit supervisor used to say “The patients will always reflect the spiritual well-being of the staff” and “They won’t get better than we are.” We thought of our unit as one recovering community.
When I first came into the program I stumbled upon a few formulas for sobriety. Now I’m not a numbers guy and I’m really quite math-phobic, but this was simple math that made sense to me. My first formula was - put as much time into your recovery as you did into your addiction.