Emotional sobriety

Some of the members in my fellowship – who have done the 12 Steps completely and have some solid recovery – refer to themselves as “recovered.”  Their obsessive thinking, their compulsive behavior and their acting out is behind them.  They have experienced a spiritual awakening and are now free from the tyranny of their addiction.

But in a very real sense, our recovery as addicts is ongoing.  I am more inclined to refer to myself as a “recovering” addict.  Just like an onion, there are many emotional layers that need to be peeled away as I continue my recovery.  I am working towards more emotional sobriety.

Emotional sobriety was first introduced by Bill Wilson – one of the founders of AA –  in the publication known as The Grapevine.

“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.”

Emotional sobriety is all about balance and maturity.  Achieving emotional sobriety will take much longer than sobriety from our addiction.  But the benefits are great.

Many of the promises that we read about in our program literature are referring to emotional balance:  A new freedom and a new happiness; we will… know peace; the feeling of uselessness and self pity will disappear, etc.

 As you continue in your recovery, be careful to note how your self loathing is disappearing.  And notice how your relationships are improving as you become more at peace with your self and your surroundings.

What is powerlessness?

Last week I likened addiction to a 500 pound gorilla.

Would you consider getting in the ring with a beast that not only outweighs you, but is a hundred times stronger?  I didn’t think so.  Neither would I.

And yet we tried to take on our addiction every day, year after year.  It wasn’t until we were beaten to a pulp that we finally gave up and admitted defeat.  We thought we were wrestling with ourselves.  We thought we could pull it off ; we thought we could quit whenever we decided we wanted to quit…

But why is addiction so powerful?  How come we can’t seem to just stop?

Addiction is known to be ‘cunning and baffling.’  Just when you think you’re done with it, it rears its ugly head and pulls you back in to its lair.  And there you remain still deeper than the time before.

The reason you are “powerless” is simple: You are unable to choose.

Your actions are based upon your compulsions.  We call it ‘acting out.’  You have the greatest intentions of stopping, quitting, giving up the booze and the one-night-stands.  But you can’t follow through.  Why?  Because you’re lost in your obsessions and controlled by your compulsions.

And it’s the 12 steps that help to reverse compulsion and pave the way for strong decision making.  Working the steps breaks the power of the addiction.  No longer must the addict be led around by the nose and made to act shamefully.

“The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”

Compulsion lies at the heart of powerlessness.  Remove the compulsion and you regain your strength to act powerfully, decisively.

As you continue to work the 12 Steps, celebrate the fact that you are getting increasingly more powerful – able to make good decisions.  Be grateful that you are becoming a person with the inner strength to think powerful thoughts and take positive action.

Hammering on Others

One of the most common expressions used to describe losing your temper is to “fly off the handle.”  This phrase refers to the head of a hammer or axe coming loose from its handle while it’s being used.  Several things can happen as a result:

  • First, the hammer becomes useless – no longer good for work.  When a person loses his temper, he often loses his effectiveness.  Anything he says may not be taken seriously and is likely to be unproductive.
  • Second, the hammerhead – twirling out of control – is likely to cause some type of damage to anything in its path.  The person who loses his temper causes damage even if he doesn’t realize it – perhaps physically to people or objects in his way, and nearly always emotionally to those who feel they are the victims of this uncontrolled wrath.
  • Third, the repair of both the hammer and the resulting damage takes time.  The person who loses his temper may recover quickly, but the victim of a hot temper rarely recovers as quickly.

Keep your temper today.  Nobody else wants it.

What constitutes a solid 1st step?

How are we to understand the words: “We admitted we were powerless over (our addiction), that our lives had become unmanageable?”

Let’s try to unpack this 1st step by examining the intent behind the words.  Let’s face it, we’re not just talking about an addict who has hit bottom – at the end of his/her rope.  This first of the 12 Steps is the foundation of the remaining eleven.  Let me explain.

There are three things understood, three things that are inherent in a solid first step:

  • Acceptance
  • Hope
  • Resolve

In what way are we accepting?  By admitting to our complete powerlessness over the addiction.  By realizing that – by ourselves – we haven’t got a chance.  It would be easier to get into a boxing ring and wrestle a 500 pound gorilla than to take on your addiction single-handed.

For what do we hope?  We hope for change, for success, for transformation, and for grace.  We are, surely, at the end of our rope.  But by admitting defeat we are not resigned to it.  Instead, we recognize a turning point in our lives, and begin a whole new chapter in our own, personal story of addiction and recovery.

To what are we resolved?  To action!  Even though we have admitted to our powerlessness, we know we are not helpless.  And we have said to ourselves, “Enough is enough.  I’m done with this shit.”  We stop saying, “I know I really should…” and we start repeating, “I absolutely must…!”

Remember – your first step is foundational to your recovery.  A solid grasp (acceptance) of your own powerlessness is necessary if you hope of taking any action toward lasting change.