Sunday, November 4, 2007

Courage of My Convictions



This is Manjusri, the Bodhiisattva with the Sword of Discriminating Wisdom. She sits on my mantel and I will be invoking her presence and guidance often in the coming weeks.

I know a woman who is healed of alcoholism. She once identified as an alcoholic and spent many years in AA. She no longer has an alcohol problem. She drinks on occasion and it does not affect her life either negatively or positively. She once told me that if I really wanted to recover from the problem to let her know. So I did.

I am beginning a process with her similar in some ways to the 4th Step in Alcoholics Anonymous which states: "We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." I will be starting by examining all the beliefs of my southern culture, the tribe I was born to. All the beliefs - whether I feel they personally affect me or not. I will meet with her on a weekly basis to do energy work and begin to explore how these beliefs have manifested in my life.

One belief I hold that is not of my culture is that people can recover from alcoholism without abstaining forever. I'm sure this is why I've had ongoing issues with relapse. I have the belief, but have not had the courage of my convictions or the intent to make that my goal. I tried to remain in the prevailing paradigm because it's so fixed in our society. But it is incogruent with my belief. She did not ask me to commit to remaining sober through this process, but I have made that commitment to myself. I don't see how it will work otherwise. I have no idea how long it will take or what else will be involved, but I'm in for the long haul.

I have some fear and trepidation, but this feels so much more sincere to me than anything I've done in decades around this issue that I know I will walk through it. I will, of course, be letting you know how it goes.

31 comments:

thailandchani said...

I agree with all you've written here. There are different things that are right for different people which doesn't seem to be recognized much in western binary culture.

I don't drink at all simply because I don't care enough to work with the moderation of it. Instead, I chose to stop forever but that was simply a choice.

It will be interesting to hear what you have to say about these new treatments as they go along. :)

Yes.. I do "know" you, by the way. (From the yahoogroup)

Journey Through Life said...

Good luck with this new lady. She sounds wonderful!
I have a friend who is a recovered alcoholic. She also has the occasional drink with no problems.
I wish you all the success and happiness on your journey. May you find the best way of doing things for you.
Annie
xxx

Angela said...

Great to see you Thailand Gal and you, too, Miss Annie, as always.

claud said...

I wish you only the best with this, Angela. I think what you're doing here is so important -- finding the truth for yourself and finding a story that works for you. As you know, AA has worked for me, but I believe that's because I really am powerless over alcohol -- there is no way I can make alcohol work in my life and I'm done trying. But I know of people who've been misdiagnosed, and even misdiagnosed themselves -- people who have had problems with drinking that look pretty bad but that couldn't be classified as alcoholism...at least not by me, since the absence of control is such an important part of the definition to me.
In any case, I can't imagine anything more important than any one of us finding out what the truth is for ourselves -- how awful it would be to call yourself and alcoholic and not be one! Or to treat a disease you don't even have.
You're in my prayers always and I hope all you find is beautiful and true.

Tons of love always,
claud

Anonymous said...

What!? Again you willingly travel this road that has never provided you more than shame, self-loathing and despair. Every drink that has ever passed your lips has carried the intended purpose of inebriation. But now you have found a 'coach' that can, what, transform the chemical properties of alcohol? This isn't recovery, this is justification and enabling. And under the guise of working a 4th Step? Sounds more like a tired repeat of pages 30 & 31 of the Big Book.

I have little doubt that at one time alcohol offered meaning or a form of comfort to your life. Many can say that. But alcohol has brought nothing but disappointment
since then. You were wise to see that. You are foolish to think your relationship with alcohol can change when every time you drink you prove it has not.

Trust your wisdom, not your wishes.

Ben

The Dream said...

1. If someone still drinks on occasion, they are NOT a "recovering" alcoholic - there is no such thing as a "recoverED" alcoholic.

2. I am grateful to be an active member of both AA and Alanon. Both are working for me.

3. I no longer have the compulsion to drink (true miracle). Recovery is less about NOT drinking for me, today, but MORE about this basic fact: I AM RECOVERING FROM MYSELF.

4. There are other vehicles for getting sober/staying sober; however, if a person drinks at all, they are NOT sober. A.A. is NOT the only solution, true. This program has saved my life; Alanon has saved my sanity. This is what works for me (and for MANY others).

Angela said...

Claudia,

Yes, what could be more important than finding out the truth for ourselves? Not much that I can think of. You've built such a beautiful life for yourself, with AA as your foundation and you're a brilliant friend and role model. That we as friends can make room for this discussion and still love, respect and absolutely support each other in our chosen paths says a lot about us I think.

I knew I was opening myself up to a lot of criticism here, but you manage to state your point clearly, with wisdom and honesty and respect for us both. Thank you for that.

And you know all that love, right back at ya, sweetie. :)

Angela said...

Ben,

I find it very interesting that through all these months of my writing, you have not offered one statement on these pages. That you choose now to submit your opinion feels like a big cat waiting for just the right moment to pounce upon its prey. One friend assures me you're coming from a place of love. One friend says, well, so was Hitler. Whatever, it feels like an attack to me and I don't appreciate it.

Angela said...

The Dream,

I'm so glad you've found a solution in AA and Al-Anon. However, considering the statistics, that about 5% (and that's a high estimate) that go to AA stay and remain sober I will need to disagree about how many it actually helps.

Sherri said...

Angela,

My problems with alcohol were more about the party than the drink, because I never drank outside the party setting. I had a huge problem stopping the party, but when the party was over, so was my desire to drink, so I don't consider myself an alcoholic.

Especially after struggling with a loved one's ongoing addiction. It was not the same.

But in both our cases, the main hurdle was honesty with ourselves. My loved one is starting to be honest with himself, and is improving immensely. The first truth for him was that AA was not helping.

Your honesty is a shining light. I think you are going to be successful in your search for sobriety, Angela. And you just might broaden some narrow minds in the process.

whatalife said...

Angela,

Please give up on AA. You aren't ready to accept what it has to offer, and your involvement with it just adds to your resentment list.

Those who care about you are giving you the truth. It is the disease that is governing your behaviors, and we recognize the symptoms. That you perceive this information as personal attacks is another symptom of the disease.

By the way, step four has little to do with your belief system. It is not "beliefs" that cause us to drink. Read step four in the book; the first thing we are instructed to do is make a list of the people we're mad at. Resentments are the number one reason we drink.

I'm not attacking you personally, although I expect you will see it that way. Your defensiveness is just another symptom, and I recognize that you want to drink so badly. PLEASE DO. The writer that encouraged you to follow the advice on page 30 was right on. You need to prove to yourself that alcohol will always cause you problems.

Angela said...

Whatalife,

Actually, I have no desire to drink today so thanks anyway, but I think I'll pass.

shaunyb said...

Hey Ange,
I just popped in for the first time in weeks. I don't have time to read all the posts; I will later though. I just wanted to say without delay that I agree w/Claudia. I didn't read anything that sounded like you were deluding yourself. I'm right there with Claudia, as you know, in wanting only the awesomest best for you, you beautiful gal. Hope to talk soon.
Love,
Shaun
p.s. please ignore the gmail address: e-mail me at shaunbiddle@yahoo.com

Angela said...

Sherri & Shawn,

Sherri, as always I appreciate your thoughts and your friendship. Shawny - I miss you and hope things are going really well!! Call me when you can.

whatalife said...

"considering the statistics, that about 5% (and that's a high estimate) that go to AA stay and remain sober"

Since you don't identify a source for this statistic, I wonder where such a figure can be determined. AA is an anonymous program, no records are kept, no documentation is compiled.

It is possible that a mere 5% of those COURT-ORDERED to meetings stay sober, which would not be surprising, since most in that situation have no desire to quit drinking.

The weird thing about statistics is that they only apply in general terms. It is interesting that you used this one to discredit what Dream said about recovery success. For someone claiming to be authentically open-minded, you seem doggedly determined to prove that AA can't possibly work.

Isn't the proof in the pudding, Angela? Millions have experienced long term recovery thru AA. Your self designed recovery has proven so ineffective, that you are now exploring ways that you can continue to drink.

Which, as I stated before, I think you need to do. The lessons of the past have not proven to you that alcohol is the main source of unhappiness and undesirable consequences for you and those who love you. You haven't "hit bottom," if you'll forgive my using an AA term, and you need more proof.

That's the wonderful thing about this disease. If you are an alcoholic, time will prove it to you. If you survive long enough.

Those of us in recovery see that you are dancing as fast as you can, grasping at whatever you can to releive your fears and discomfort. Holding on to old ideas can be comforting, but it can also keep us from moving towards growth and health.

bella said...

I have no wisdom or advice. I'm guessing you're not really looking for this anyway. :)
This much I do sense, that we are all, each of us in our own way, doing the best we can and know how to do in any given moment.
May this new step on your journey be life giving.

claud said...

To Whatalife: Please don't presume to speak for everyone in recovery, as I am in recovery and I don't see this exactly as you do.

What I see is that I can't possibly diagnose another person's alcoholism, and that the type of smug certainty you display is more typical of "the brainstorm or grouch" than of the "live and let live" attitude we strive for in healthy sobriety.

My goodness, do you think there's any chance -- however remote -- that you MIGHT be wrong? Could it be that even you, "know only a little?"

Kikipotamus said...

Angela, I used alcohol in an addictive manner from the age of 14 to about 26. There is a lot of use of alcohol to numb feelings in my family. Now I do not use alcohol that way and I can have a glass of wine with dinner every few weeks. Usually, I just choose not to.

For a while, I used food to numb my painful emotions and was size 16 and growing. Now I have a healthy relationship with food and am back to a size 8.

I could go on and tell you other things I have used in an addictive manner in the past.

Your post has elicited a lot of response and zinged some peoples' hot buttons, hasn't it?

I honour your journey.

whatalife said...

to Claud (and Angela),

You are totally correct that I misspoke in my last post. Re-reading, I see that you are right to identify my smug know-it-all attitude. I'm sincerely sorry.

I would never want to presume to diagnose someone else's disease. That was what I meant to get across in encouraging Angela to try the controlled drinking. She'll know soon enough if it's a problem.

My apologies. Thanks, Claud for bringing the short coming to my attention.

Anonymous said...

But I have posted here before, Angela, approvingly. I just didn't use my real name. Admittedly, I have observed from the sidelines as you went about building a comfortable life for yourself. I could wish nothing less for you since kicking you out of our apartment for drinking.

Any attack I make now is upon the substance and what I know from firsthand experience it does to you. That is not love, or Hitler.
It is simple observation of my own relationship with alcohol, your own relationship with alcohol, and thousands like us.

Few here know you full history regarding alcohol. But none here who have an inkling of that history are saying,"Oh yeah. You're fine now. Go ahead a drink". And though your history be little known, you are doing a fine job of forecasting your future.

Ben

thailandchani said...

Got your message about the obnoxiously slow page load on my site. I *think* it's fixed. I moved all the blogrolls to a different page. Hope you're able to get in now. :)

jennifergg said...

Oh Angela. I know very little about this, since I've never been in a program and I don't know, though I wish I knew more, about AA.

What I see is this: my own life. There have been many people (my mom, my dad) who have made me think about my relationship with alchohol. I know they/us won't pass any requirements for abuse. But still, I wonder. The motives, the results. We all are too often powerless.

What I am trying to say is that your struggle is more universal than you might realize. I don't know of anyone who doesn't have a story to tell, a horrible one really, about how their relationship with some substance, be it food or alchohol or drugs or sex, has damaged their self worth as a human being, deserving of love and support and forgiveness.

I couldn't presume to think of telling anyone what was right on the comments of a blog...all I can say is be true, folllow your heart, and god speed. In me, you have a friend, and let me know if you need anything, and please let me know if you start an new blog and I will re-link. :)

lunarmusings said...

Wow... I think I have shown up late to the game...

I am not in AA, although my father was an alcoholic and I have sought various modes of self exploration and development over the years that can be catagorized as both conventional and unconventional. So in my self development meanderings, I have come across many in the program and have been a Social Worker taking in-patient clients to meetings. And in that experience I have often wondered about the act of naming oneself an Alcoholic (for life).

I don't have any answers, and I certainly don't mean to step on toes, but I think that discussions like this one are important for all of us to learn about one another and perhaps grow a bit more in our compassion.

The way we name or story ourselves serves potently in the reality we create. So if some one who has an active addiction to Alcohol, or any other substance begins to work on waking up to their internal drives and the source of their need to numb out, or self medicate, why couldn't this be an evolution that creates transformation? In other words, today one is an alcoholic due to the behaviour of using this substance to alter thier state, but tomorrow, this is no longer part of thier make up.

I feel that the act of continuing to call yourself an alcoholic and to reinforce the belief that one never recovers from alcoholism can be stifling to the growth potential inherent in that person.

Again, these are just my thoughts and wonderings. I would love to hear what others think.

But I do need to say, that Angela's ability to come to this blog and open herself, share her process and her truth is profoundly courageous and healing. For her and for those of us who receive the Heart Truth of her sharing. I would like to see a way for each of us to have different opinions and beliefs about what life paths are available to us and honoring those differences without harsh criticisms or projections.

Blessings to you all...
e

Jane said...

Good morning Angela,

I'm proud of you for writing your thoughts and beliefs here. This is a place where you should be able to express your thoughts any way you want.

My ex-husband is a recovering alcoholic and drug abuser. When he first came out of the hospital in 2000, he hit an AA meeting daily. I think it's been several years since he went to one now. At first, I was concerned that without the program, he'd go back to drinking and self-medicating. what I find now is that he has found his own way of avoiding drugs and alcohol. Whatever works for him is what makes me proud of him.

Anonymous said...

Angela,

Go for it! Everything you've been through, good and bad, has made you who you are--a beautiful, intelligent, curious, compasionate, passionate, productive, loving member of this planet. Now you are going to go a little deeper. I am someone who knows you well and knows your history, and I don't see this as threat to your sobriety if you want to stay sober. I see it as more knowledge.

Those who call you foolish or say you're an alcoholic in denial don't know you, obviously. They are speaking from their own very personal experiences, not yours. Keep them in perspective.

I love you, Cindy

Angela said...

Jennifer,

I have always felt your warm heart and extension of friendship. I appreciate it so much now. Thank you.

Angela said...

lunarmusings,

I am so aware of the power of language and story in my life. I think I may have mislabeled myself for a long time, or maybe it was a label appropriate at one time, but no longer.

You are a wise and loving woman. Thank you for really moving the discussion here to a higher plane.

Angela said...

Cindy,

You told me once you couldn't write well. I beg to disagree my dear! That was beautiful and to my sister in body and heart, I love you.

Anonymous said...

Angela my wish and hope for you is- continue to
~~Walk in truth~Walk in beauty~~
Peace and love - beej

ps: Claudia most often says "it" far better than me. ;>)

The Dream said...

You know, I would NEVER suggest that someone go out and do some "controlled drinking" - I don't care what The Book Book says about it. To me, that is absolutely heartless. This is a deadly disease.

Angela, the statistics show a 10 percent success rate - those who will spend the remainder of their lives on the planet sober. I hope to be of that 10 percent. A.A. is currently helping over a million people, though I don't have the exact number (and it DOES change).

As I said before, it's working for me. I choose to only speak for myself. I also don't try to sway anyone over to my way of thinking/believing. Last time I checked, I wasn't perfect.

My own father NEVER went to A.A. and has spent the majority of the past 30 years without a drink. He is grateful for that - and so am I.

What I DO know is that AA has enabled me to experience a life I never thought possible. Really, much of recovery is a very personal journey - one on one - between the person and their Higher Power. That is one of the few things I KNOW to be true (today).

All the best in your journey, Angela - truly. Peace.

Angela said...

The Dream,

Thank you for sharing true experience, strength and hope. You are a shining example of the success of AA and everyone that it helps. I appreciate your visiting here and commenting.