Anyone that knows me, even in passing, will be well aware that recovery of any kind and from any issue is at the forefront of my life. I am in recovery from a list of substances and behaviors that almost killed me many times, and undoubtedly sent me to the abyss of insanity.
The day I decided I’d had enough of living in the realm of addiction and decided I wanted out was to change the course of my life forever. My complete obsession with removing myself from pain and suffering due to my inability to cope with life, and my selfish avoidance of pain and reality by using any substance or other pastime that feels good (which is, I believe, my core disease) has, as I’ve said many times, ran me into a lot of trouble. My new recovery obsession has lead me to read and study a lot of literature on 12 step programs, as that is my chosen path to sanity and truth and all the other good stuff.
While I have always been aware that there is some jargon from rehabs and things quoted in 12 step meetings that were never in the Big Book, the original 12 step manual, I kinda let it go over my head. I thought that stuff didn’t really apply to me or affect me. BUT recently while reading a blog of another recovering person, who has years and years of sobriety, I realized that in fact, that stuff does affect me, and it most definitely affected me in early recovery. And you know what horrible nasty feeling it summoned up? GUILT.
So what are these untruths that I speak of, I hear you say? Well, things like the sex issue for example. You know that “you shouldn’t get into a relationship for a year” thing. Or is it two years? I never can remember, because it’s actually not in the Big Book anywhere. In fact the whole issue of sex starts on page 68 of the Big Book and basically tells us that, like with all the other issues in our lives, we must find an ideal of how we want our sex lives to be. It reminds us to take into account not just our own needs, wants and desires but also consider the other person or persons involved and to be aware of how our behavior affects our partners. It tells us that absurd extreme opinions exist concerning this issue but at all costs “We avoid hysterical thinking or advice..Page 70, 4th edition BB”.
If there is one thing a person is when they stop drinking first it’s horny. Right? It’s as much of a problem for most of us in early recovery as the drinking was. I heard this “No relationships” thing bandied about the rooms many times, and quite frankly, as a newcomer, I felt shame because I couldn’t keep my sexual desires under control. However, I didn’t hear anyone share about their own sexual conduct or exploitations much. Just mostly that you shouldn’t be doing it. Sounded more like a Catholic Sunday School than a group of people, who obviously, if they were alcoholic and frequented parties and bars and such, had PLENTY of work to do on their own sex lives. Indeed it is no secret that Bill W. had his own issues when it came to sex; he was after all a flawed, human alcoholic like the rest of us. So this scarcely spoken about issue left me with feelings of yet more guilt and inadequacy. As if I hadn’t got enough to deal with already. The most disturbing thing I have heard in recent times about this subject was a sponsor who told a sponsee that was already in a relationship to get out of it, that there was to be no relationships for at least the first year! Sorry WHAT?
Which leads me to the next item on my bullshit list. Sponsorship! Sponsors are not mentioned in the Big Book either but I don’t really have much problem with the idea, as without mine I’d have no clue what the program was about. I have seen some nightmarish sponsor sponsee relationships in my short time in the program. Luckily, my sponsors know their responsibilities and have, I hope, passed the wisdom of the program onto me without all the added frills. Sponsors are there to take you through the Big Book and the 12 step program. While we are to share our 5th step with a sponsor and discuss our life issues with them, they are not there to dictate how we should live our lives, be our jailers, dictators or moral idealists. It is always helpful to see an issue from another perspective but we don’t need to be made feel like 2 year old kids and be slapped on the wrist. The role of sponsor can be grossly abused at times and can fuel the ego of those who think they know best. None, more so than the recovering alcoholic or addict, seeks approval; we crave to be a part of something good and we want to do it right. We are after all, internally oppressed perfectionists.
However, the fact is a move away from reliance on our own thinking as well as other people is what the 12 step program encourages and promotes. It is Gods will not our own and not our sponsors that is highlighted in the Big Book. They talk about a spiritual experience, not a sponsor experience as the result of working the 12 steps. There are many wonderful people in the program who have great wisdom and are more than willing to share it with others, but beware the guru, dictator type!
And one of the biggest and most dangerous issues spewed from the mouths of very ignorant people is “If you are taking medication then you are not clean or sober”. God almighty this one makes me so angry. Where pray tell in the Big Book does it say that? I have heard of people being so ashamed of taking medication because of this totally untrue, and assumed program principle that they stopped taking their meds and became very ill. This statement is particularly dangerous for and seems to relate mostly to those who need to take psychiatric medication. The Big Book states that the 12 step program is not a cure all and encourages seeking outside help when needed. That means seeking medical advice from a medical practitioner and not relying on the opinions of those, who again, think they know best.
In my endeavor to become well in mind, body and spirit I have come to understand that the aim for me is to be able to intuitively know how to deal with issues that used to baffle me. The only way for me to do that is to understand the 12 steps and the writings of the Big Book as best I can and avoid the pitfalls that do not relate to my program in anyway. There are many tools to help us on our way. Choose them wisely.