Taking Directions From A Madman



“…on a good day my illness talks away to me and I don’t listen,
one a bad day, I listen,
one a very bad day, I talk back.”

A saying often heard in AA meetings in the UK.
This little saying as kept me sober so many times. Sober and sober, sane and sober.
Entering into a full blown conversation with one’s addicted mind is like asking a madman (or woman) for advice.

When one’s thinking is the product of an anxious amygdala it is no longer seems to benefit us but makes things worse! It seems deluded, overwrought, despairing. Thoughts no longer seem to be our friends.

I have practiced over the years to attempt to let my thoughts pass, or to identify the negative emotions at the roots of my thoughts and let them go.

I have found my thoughts are seldom my friend, often leading to a place of emotional pain, confusion and frustration.

They are often counter to my happy well being and this is almost a definition of a mental disorder, which is what addictive behaviour is – a mental disorder. An affective disorder giving rise to a thought disorder.

A personality disorder!

It is not like having a mental disorder or having addictive behaviour plus the mental effects of  co-morbid disorder, it is a disorder in it’s own right. Co-morbidity makes this mental disorder more intense, more complicated.

If my thoughts are distorted as the result of dysregulated emotions (as they appear to be across all addictive behaviours) I only have behaviour left, as a tool in changing my life around for the better.

Recovery is for me then about taking action to change – e.g. doing the 12 steps, helping others, mending relationships from the past, building a relationship with a sponsor/mentor – this is all action based, changing our behaviours to change our thinking and emotional states.

Changing our behaviours changes how we act – so we act differently and find out ultimately not only that we act differently but that our thinking, self esteem, sense of self, motivation, etc improve to.

That is my experience.

Acting differently and seeing results in how we feel and think, immediately gives us a mental read out on a potential self, although this snapshot of possibility can often be a bit frightening. But it is all one step at a time, one day at a time, more will be revealed in it’sown time.

If we do not change how we act in this world, we take the same impaired decisions, end up having the same distorted, deluded thoughts have the same troubling negative emotions. If we have not done anything to change we will not change these.

A simple exercise is to help some one else worse than off than you. There are so many therapeutic benefits to this – empathy is increased for another human, and indirectly for oneself, motivation increases to repeat the behaviour, self esteem is increased, thoughts are more positive and emotions too, just from helping some one else.

This is all from action (don’t fix this person with your recovery genius and excellent ideas, or by over emoting, just act positively towards them, help them help themselves and help yourself at the same time).

When the emotions and related thoughts are faulty all we have felt in recovery is to change behaviour and in changing behaviour we eventually undo previous negative learnt behaviour.

This is why recovery takes time, a lot of time in some instances. As long as there are improvements and we are starting to feel better in ourselves and those around are feeling better then that is all good.

We do recover but it will take longer that our addicted minds want it to. We want recovery NOW!

We become someone new through simply changing our behaviours. Who would have thought?

I resisted this idea as being to simple and simplistic. I felt I would become a robot. But the opposite was true. I resisted it as being too “behaviourist”!

What happened was that I started to become more human rather than too robotic.

I acted in a way I did not normally act, I went against the grain of me. I approached people via by behaviours rather than hiding away from them in my normal behviour of isolating. I gradually became more part of the world, by acting in it.

Again, in many cases, I acted almost the opposite of how I normally acted.

Slowly but surely I’d say that changing my behaviours changed the outcome of situations, it reduced my fear of others and raised a sense of trust.

I found I could be useful just by acting differently.

The solution to my problem rested in what I do not in how I feel or think.

Change suggests action.




  1. susan freeman · September 14, 2015

    Thankyou for your posts. They help clarify why I am I a twelve step programme and why it is working for me! You help me to integrate my therapeutic background into my understanding of my recovery. Invaluable!


    Sent from my Windows Phone ________________________________

    • alcoholicsguide · September 14, 2015

      thanks Sue, nice to hear from you again, your kind words mean so much – I do believe we should not be “frozen in time” as Bill Wilson warned against (I see my writing as a continuation, in a modest way, of his striving for insights into this strange illness) but to embed what we know in experiential terms into the increasing sum of knowledge we have gained about psychological processes involved in addiction and recovery. Shame is at the heart of my addictions, for example, but was not mentioned in the Big Book and was only really examined by psycho therapy in the last thirty years or so (after an over reliance since Freud on the role of Guilt). There is post on social identity theory and addiction on my other blog today too – http://insidethealcoholicbrain.com/2015/09/14/recovery-as-a-process-of-social-identity-transition/

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