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It’s Just not program!…stuff that has nothing to do with AA

7 Comments 11 February 2014

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.


- who has written 69 posts on I Love Recovery.

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7 Comments so far

  1. Michael says:

    Thank you for sharing, and I agree with your perspective. I’ve also studied many different 12 step approaches and feel that what’s contained in the Big Book speaks for itself, and if followed through daily practice and application is more than enough to spawn a wonderful life in sobriety.
    I specifically like what you said about relationships and the sex part, and my favorite thing about the Big Book’s approach is that I can actually have it. :) Though I am speaking from a place of contemplation more than actual experience (as I’ve yet to have any kind of romantic relationship since actually doing the inventory), it looks very promising, and the results I’ve gotten in platonic relationships from this work have been nothing less than revolutionary. I see the process working because I am actually taking into consideration how I have always reacted to the opposite sex and that learning to live what’s in the Big Book comes first, so that I’ll have a foundation to face what will inevitably come up.
    You know, in NA they added a lot of those slogans to their literature, and having started my journey in that fellowship I used to hold tight to my right to use them and to the validity of them, just like I held on to my right to have plenty of ideas that didn’t work. Getting an understanding of the actual recovery process in the Big Book has taken me past much of this, and I’ve done that by listening to many workshops of men who explain the whole entire process from the prefaces to working with others, and by working the steps myself and utilizing a sponsor. Yes, God is in there too and I’m sure that it means something that I only mention It as an after thought. I’m not spiritually enlightened just yet. ;)
    I’ve had sponsors who tried to control me and played morality coach and they didn’t last long. I tend to pull away from anyone who tries to control me or tell me how to think. On another note, I have my first sponsee and we’ve been working together now for about two weeks, and it’s wonderful! I shared my experience with getting into a relationship before working through the steps, how I became completely consumed and addicted, and suggested he get work through the steps before going there. I know that is not in the book yet I believe that will raise his chances of making it. Any of your experience as a sponsor would be much appreciated. Thx!

  2. Naomi says:

    Oh Nickyo…I can’t tell you how this needed to be addressed. Sponsorship to me is friendship to help us work on and understand how the steps work. Not to tell us how to live our life based on what someone else thinks or live there life( For me how could I possibly tell you what is best for you and your life, cause I am growing and changing and so are most of the people in our program of choice ) I am all about open discussions, with a women group about the subject of sex, For years i had four girlfriend that I meet with at our homes ever week to talk about such things. For a long time the guilt was eating me up about The sex issues…I am a single female and tho I might be older, I still like sex!! I will say that with most of my day to day living, sex has been something I had to take a real hard look at… how it was making me feel about myself, and also the other person. I have shut down, withdrawn out of fear of going through yet another failed relationship. Meetings are a must for me, I haven’t gone to one in a while…not excuses just the way it is. I know for sure I will always need help with one thing or another meeting are a must Dr. and Medication are needed for everyone at times. Come on were human, not one should ever tell anyone not to seek help when its needed. Thank you my friend for this post Luv U xoxo

  3. Jason l says:

    Wow Nickyo. I am with Naomi on this. What a refreshing read. The wisdom that you have brought forth leaves me in aww. Everything you talked about was an issue that I had and kept to myself for so long as I attended meetings. I always found it funny that sex was the big thing in opinion but also never discussed in depth. It didn’t take long to realize why. In my opinion it was because in a lot of cases people that were new and week were sometimes prayed on by people that should have known better and sex happened. But just like everything else if you don’t talk about it it doesn’t exist. Anyways thank you for amazing blog. I look forward to the next.

  4. Irisheyes1 says:

    Thank you very much, Nicky. You touched on some important issues here. xo

  5. karen says:

    Oh my…..all I can say is I couldnt agree with you more on all topics. Thank GOD my sponsor was my seed and friend prior so he knew how to handle me and got me several years with his guidance (yes,I had a male sponsor that I had dated 5 years prior and we did not have sex while a sponsor, it wasnt about that)….
    Thank God you wrote this because there is some serious BS in the rooms and people full of it and we have to be aware.

  6. sheila says:

    The suggestion was avoiding ‘relationships’…since we are barely capable of caring for ourselves. I didnt hear anything about no sex. ;)

  7. Roger says:

    I enjoyed your thoughts. I am glad that I was married when I first entered AA and did not have to deal with the no sex rule. I went through a divorce at 5 years of sobriety. Several of my first dates after that were with AA woman. I certainly loved dating sober woman, but my AA romances never lasted long. I do know several AA and NA couples that do very well, but I never was able to make it work. As Jimmy Buffet says, “it could be my fault.”

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