Keys to Recovery Interview

I was delighted  to be asked and honored to take part in one of the excellent “The Hope Interviews” with Steve Jones for the recovery newspaper “Keys to Recovery” – our interview is on page 9 and it was a  experience strength and hope type interview from both a 12 step recovery and a neuro-psychological perspective, showing how these perspectives are very compatible and how we need a spiritual solution to a neuro-psychological problem.

http://www.keystorecoverynewspaper.com/

WE

This week saw Alcoholics Anonymous celebrate it’s 80th Birthday.

Many media outlets have stated that AA was founded 80 years ago but this is not correct.

AA was co-founded 80 years ago when Bill Wilson passed on a message of hope to Dr Bob, or Dr Robert Smith to give his full name.

Dr Bob like Bill Wilson had intermittently stayed sober via involvement with the Oxford Group but they had always relapsed back to drinking.

When Bill Wilson first met Dr Bob he convinced him that he had a spiritual malady coupled with a abnormal reaction to alcohol, which meant he could not control the amount he would drink and could not control when he was going to drink, he had, in effect,  become powerless over alcohol and only help from a power greater than himself could help him.

The original power greater than himself, as for millions of alcoholics  over the last 80 years (and for some it stays this way) is another alcoholic. One recovering alcoholic or a group of recovering alcoholics is a power greater than oneself.

The message of recovery is usually from someone who has recovered from alcoholism, this is a power greater than yourself as he/she has used certain tools to recover and this is now being passed on to you, as they were passed onto him or her. The solution to your alcoholism is the same as the solution to their alcoholism.

There are no individualistic programs or people simply doing their own thing, it is a collective program of action.

Thus at the heart of AA is one alcoholic helping another get sober. It is a reciprocal relationship. Helping other get sober helps us stay sober too.

It is the most perfect win-win situation.

The wounded healer principle personified.

Bill Wilson had got this idea of abnormal, or allergic reaction to alcohol, from a physician, Dr Silkworth,  who had treated him at Towns Hospital.  It seemed to account for his uncontrolled drinking.

Dr Bob did however relapse again soon after receiving the message from Bill Wilson, briefly, and this only served to reinforce his view that Bill Wilson was correct about this abnormal reaction to alcohol and his inability  to continue not drinking  under his own steam.

Today this would be termed “despite negative consequences”.

Hence his first day of sobriety is taken as the first day of AA, although the AA organisation as we know it today took longer to come in to being.

It symbolizes that this was the day when one alcoholic helped another alcoholic achieve lasting sobriety.

Dr Bob, it is aid, went on to help over 5,000 alcoholics achieve sobriety and died sober.

The basic tenet of this, is that it takes one alcoholic to help another alcoholic achieve sobriety. This has been borne out in millions of cases around the world.

Millions of lives have been saved not to mention the lasting benefits it has brought to families, and societies once harmed by alcoholism.

When asked what he thought was the greatest accomplishment of the 20th century, Henry Kissenger replied, “Alcoholics Anonymous.”

AA saved my life and I can never put into words the gratitude I have for AA. I cannot express how happy it has allowed my wife, family and friends to become.

I can never properly describe the chrysalis effect it has had on me and on everyone close to me.

The age of miracles is still my us, our recoveries prove that. It is a gift that keeps giving, freely.

Thus my original point is not semantic, AA was not founded by one person, it was co-founded as we alcoholics achieve sobriety with the help of other alcoholics.

It is “we” of Alcoholics  Anonymous, as the very first line of the Big Book of AA states.

In the twelve-step groups the focus is not on the individual self, but on the group or the community. Mutual aid and equality are the core principles of the twelve-step groups. Each member of AA help themselves by helping others who are in the same situation.

Essentially as one academic put it, The «power»
referred to in several of the twelve steps is therefore unrelated to religion; it refers to the potentially healing power inherent in interpersonal relationships based on reciprocity and equality.

Most active ingredients accounting for AA’s benefit are social in nature, such as attending meetings, and the 12 steps mention “we” 6 times but not “I” once.

AA’s 12 steps are a spiritual program of recovery but at the heart of that spirituality is the role of sponsoring.

Sponsorship embodies the fellowship’s  altruistic orientation, reflecting a “helping and helper  therapy principle” . Sponsorship plays an important role in the recovery process.

High sponsor involvement over time has been found to predict longer recovery .

Although social support is key to early engagement in the Twelve-Step membership, over time, spiritual issues emerge as increasingly important and helping others achieve recovery is at the heart of this.

The spirituality of AA is exemplified in helping others, it creates a feeling of wholeness and connectedness with others.

This is why we celebrate this great anniversary, this co-founding of AA, as it is the start of this therapeutic and spiritual connectedenss with other alcoholics needing help and giving help and with the wider world.

Thank God For AA!

 

 

Why?

This blog is written for alcoholics and those who love and live with them, by alcoholics in recovery.

 

For those who know what it is like to live with alcoholism but would also like to know why alcoholism affects the alcoholic and those around him in the way it does.

 

We write this blog to help us and you understand how the alcoholic brain works and why they sometimes do the things they do, why they act the way they do?

 

Why is it sometimes that everything is going great and suddenly the alcoholic in your life overreacts and acts in an emotionally immature way, which can often cause hurt to others around them?

 

Why do they suddenly cut off their emotions so profoundly it leaves your emotions in limbo, confused and upset.?

We hope to explain this disease state and behavioral disorder, which alcoholics themselves call an “emotional disease” , a “parasite that feeds on the emotions” or quite simply “a fear based illness”.

It appears that alcoholics in recovery are aware to a large extent of what they suffer from so why do they do what they do sometimes if they know what is going on? Are there times when they cannot help themselves?

Why do alcoholics, even in recovery, sometimes engage in endless  self defeating resentments?

Why do they project into future scenarios and then get emotionally paralyzed by doing so, get stuck in a cycle of catastrophic thinking?

Why do we run through the list of cognitive distortions on a daily basis?

This is not to condemn but to understand. Knowledge we believe is power. It aids understanding and compassion of another person’s suffering.

We as recovering alcoholics still, after several years of recovery, can still engage in such behaviours. We do not wish to hurt anyone, especially not our loved ones, but sometimes do.

We sometimes get wrapped up in ourselves and act in a selfish, immature and inconsiderate manner.

We need help with this, at times, distressing condition. That is what it is.

Distressing, based on a emotion and stress dysregulation, even in recovery, hence we have to manage it.

On a daily basis. It does not return to normal. To balance. To equilibrium. We have to take certain actions to restore emotional equilibrium.

Hence it can be hard work, hence we sometimes we come up short and emotionally overreact.

We have a distress based condition which has to be managed.

We also have to give ourselves a break, don’t distress ourselves further with perfectionist ideas of “should” – just do your best! That is usually good enough for most people. Why not us?

We are not saints, progress not perfection!

Or as progress not perfectionist!

Recovery changes the brains of alcoholics for the better.

As we are personally well aware, self knowledge does not bring recovery – only action does.

This action could be helping others, praying, meditating, going to meetings, talking to someone who knows what you are going through etc. Connecting with others, in the same boat as you.

It does work, if you work it. It removes the distress that feeds alcoholism and addiction.

The distress that makes us catastrophic thinkers, to having intolerance of uncertainty about the future, struggle with our emotional natures, etc

Recovery helps us deal with negative emotions and anxiety in a rational manner via the help of others.

We become different people in recovery. More considerate of others, more emotionally mature and emotionally sober.

We learn to deal with situations which used to baffle us! In dealing with these we deal with our alcoholism because we solve the problems that used to make us drink or use in the first place.

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Affects Everyone in the Family

The USA ‘s #1 health problem is alcoholism and drug dependence.  For decades, NCADD and our National Network of Affiliates have seen how the disease of addiction not only affects the individual, but millions of family members.

Fathers, mothers, single parents, couples straight or gay, regardless of ethnicity or social group, rich or poor….drug and alcohol abuse can destroy relationships.  Most of all, young children and adolescents suffer the greatest from the effects of the abuse of alcohol and drugs in the family.

But, with help and recovery, both for the individual and the family, families can heal together.

What Can Families Do ?

Learn About Alcohol, Drugs, Alcoholism and Addiction:

Our ability to cope with anything is a function of how much we know about what we are up against.  Although you have been living with alcohol and/or drug problems for some time, learning about alcohol and drug addiction is a critical first step.  You cannot rely on common sense or popular myths (preaching, complaining, acting like a martyr, dumping the alcohol or drugs).  Getting the facts about how alcohol and drugs affect the individual and the family is very important.

Seek Help and Support For Yourself:

The disease of alcoholism and addiction is a family disease and affects everyone close to the person.  Not only does the alcohol or drug user need help, so do you, even if you don’t realize it at the time.  You and other family members need and deserve appropriate education, help and support in finding healthy ways to overcome the negative effects of the disease.  Education, counseling and Mutual Aid/Support Groups can help you realize that you are not alone, that you are not responsible for the drinking or drug use and that you need to take care of yourself, regardless of whether the person you are concerned about chooses to get help.

NCADD Affiliates offer a range of services including help for individuals and family members.  If you are concerned about your own alcohol or other drug use or that of someone you care about—a child or other relative, a friend or co-worker—please make the contact.  You will be able to speak to someone who will listen, assess your needs and provide information about available services, costs and how to deal with another person’s alcohol and/or drug use.  Help is just a call or visit away—Make the contact now!

Learn What You Can Do To Help:

Treatment programs, counseling, mutual aid/support groups are all options for getting help.  Only the person using alcohol and drugs can make the decision to get help, but you can help create the conditions to make that decision more attractive.  Seeking help and support on your own can encourage interest in treatment or self-help.  Look into treatment options and costs together and express your belief that treatment will work.

If Needed, Consider Family Intervention:

If the person you are concerned about is unable or unwilling to seek help, you should consider a planned, professionally directedintervention. Intervention, with support of a trained and experienced interventionist, is a powerful tool for the family to receive education, guidance and support, with a focus on getting the person to accept treatment.

Be Patient With The Recovery Process:

As with all chronic illnesses, everyone needs time to recover and regain health.  For both the individual and family member, there may be relapses or breaks in treatment.  Old tensions and resentments may flare up occasionally.  Learn from these events and stay focused on recovery.

Hope For Long-Term Recovery: 

While addiction to alcohol and drugs has no known cure, the disease can be stopped once the individual abstains from alcohol and other addictive drugs.  Today, there are millions of Americans living life in long-term recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs.  And, millions more family members and children of addiction have also found recovery!

 

NCADD link http://ncadd.org/get-help/family-information-and-education/144-family-education

 

Artwork Copyright

Alcoholic Outsider Artist

The Family Afterwards…

Today we listen to the research wisdom of William White in relation to family recovery, especially long term.

Family recovery is much overlooked and not adequately supported long term in terms of “after care” which is incredible when one considers that interpersonal factors such as family relationships contribute in a major way to  relapse?

Instead of spending millions upon millions on cue reactivity and attentional bias studies which look at how recovering people are supposedly constantly drawn to alcohol and substance cues in the environment like lemmings to a cliff (when this does not seem particularly evident in the literature, particularly in relation to being relapse factors) or on anti-craving medication when me and scores of other alcoholics and addicts in recovery rarely have these once they have ultimately accepted in our innermost selves that they are alcoholic/addict (and if we do, we can deal with them via our support networks), why does research funding via various funding bodies and various universities not look at the efficacy of supporting families in long term recovery, certainly to around the 3-5 year mark, at the very least?

I suspect one would find that support of family recovery long term, possibly in extended recovery communities, may be the most potent way to assist long term recovery?

Why doesn’t research address what works, and why it works rather than trying to develop the next miracle pill? 

Craving is also a symptom of an underlying condition, it is this condition that recovery should be treating?

We have the solution already? Why not support it to increase it’s efficacy long term?  We, via research and funding, could very possibly increase long term recovery, period.

Just a couple of ideas to put out there?

Back to William White and …

The Ecology of Recovery –  there appears to be a historical shift in recovery away from intrapersonal dynamics to a more interpersonal dynamic. From a recovery within with self, looking at the self,   to a fuller recovery involving others in one’s recovery life such as families and recovery communities.

Family Recovery – if we attend to families at all in recovery, it is brief and very short term. Unfortunately,   research suggests that recovery is actually “horribly destabilising” for families. 

The Trauma of Recovery

Families are at a high risk of disintegrating in the early stages of recovery. So we need to build “support scaffolding” for these families. Recovery  does little to prepare or support families in recovery. Stephanie Brown refers to this as the “trauma of recovery”!  We still do not know the extent of what that means or the extent of our roles in recovery in guiding families, according to William White.

Please also click to this link to watch a series of videos on family recovery by SAMHSA which are very illuminating about the process of recovery and describe a process of recovery I have gone through myself with both my  wife, nuclear and extended families.