The Final Destination Arrives At You


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One month ago I was hoping to start EMDR therapy for my PTSD.

Unfortunately it has not happened as yet. I spent the whole summer preparing myself to start therapy but it is yet to start.


My wife also suffers from PTSD and anxiety disorder. Due to this and that, I have been looking after her for the last few weeks, supporting her, and getting her back to work as she had been off with acute stress. This was exhausting given my current emotional state.

Then someone tried to kicked my front basement door in – unsuccessfully I am glad to say.

It was however a bit traumatic and upsetting, this invasion of our privacy, this violation of our home.

So I had to fix the door. Unfortunately it also rained and rained the night of the attempted break in and the basement room got flooded which cost nearly £2000 to fix.

Fortunately the Insurance will cover it but it is still distressing and stressful. I have spent days installing cctv and security lights.

So I had to get my wife back to work followed by this break in followed by having to work with builders for the last four-five weeks (a long story in itself!).

The basement door was replaced and then the laminate floor was taken up as it was ruined by the flood. Then we realised  we may have rising damp so we had to get that fixed.

The floor was treated and the walls painted with a tar. The basements steps are had to be re-cemented and the front windows and doors resealed to prevent further problems with damp.

We then laid tiles which took forever and re-plastered the ceiling which has been damaged, strangely by the flooding also as the roof is below ground level, i.e. in the basement.

It has been stressful and exhausting. I could lie down on the floor and sleep, if they weren’t full of dirt and plaster. I have done all this while in a stew of trauma which is like a puss capsule waiting to burst.

All my life I have been a person who fixes stuff, helps people out in an emergency. A go to guy.

As a child I tried to be a caregiver, caretaker to my Valium dependent mother. I parented her as she struggled to parent me. I also took all my father’ anxieties about his troubled wife and his general woes.

I grew up in role reversal.

I am primed to help in emergencies.

I never had anyone to share my concerns with.  My sisters would ask me how are you? Then not wait for the reply.

It was a prelude to me having to listen to how they were. I have been a receptacle for other’s to deposit their anxieties. Often without offering this service.

Who listened to me? I have always felt like a “poorly drawn boy” tiny, lacking definition in my mind’s eye when I look back at my childhood.

There is little substance to my self schema

I somehow need to get better drawn, coloured in, made more full, more me. Take back the pieces of me strewn across the wreckage of my past. Piece them together to see what I end up with, end up as.

At the moment I feel I am in danger of disappearing.

Is this a bad thing? This feeling of evaporating. Is the old me disappearing, am I shedding skin, a turtle-like replacing a shell with another?

Hopefully a lighter shell!

I do not fear emotions like before, however negative or troublesome. I think something is coming to the surface, like a vapour on my stew.

Impurities  being cleansed just by my decision to look at my trauma therapeutically, professionally.

This may have started a stampede of squashed emotions, trampling their way to the surface of my mind to get recognition, to finally be heard.

All I know is that if I don’t deal with my trauma it will deal with me. It is the most pressing concern for me not only in terms of general mental well being but in terms of relapse risk. It is by far the greatest risk to relapse.

I find AA meetings are good for sharing about certain things,   to a certain extent, for sharing what is going on with me but no longer fully. AA does not really deal with shame, trauma or the other issues that propelled my addictions to near death and psychosis.

It deals with shame of addiction for sure but The Big Book was written at a time when even psychotherapy did not consider shame, instead concentrating on guilt.

The steps deal effectively with guilt and the shame around what we have done to other people, sins of commission,  but they do little in my opinion for the sins of omission, the sins sinned against us. What do we do with this stuff?

The stuff that often propelled our addictions in the first place? Haven’t some of us been just dealing with the cart and not the horse?

Just some observations.

Roughly 65% of AAs have outside help, with what? The causes of their addictions?

Or certainly development childhood aspects which later contributed to the severity of their addictions?

This is where I am at, looking out for others while fit to burst myself. I am bottling up a primal yell, and request to be heard, at last.

As the youngest in my family I had no one in whom to deposit my anxiety and distress. To offload on.

AA has been instrumental in helping me share tonnes of stuff about my alcoholism. My trauma and neglect form childhood has often met with fairly closed ears. Some things people don’t want to talk about in depth. Some things they don’t want to touch for fear of making worse. I can relate to this. I have done this myself for years in recovery. But now it is inevitable that I deal with this stuff.

The damn is about to burst as I have said and will do…eventually.

I will hopefully keep you posted.

I am also very hopeful that it will have a chrysalis effect too.

I have  faith that God goes deep!

I know It All but I am Not Good Enough

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When I was in early recovery I have major problems around telephoning my sponsor when I needed his help.

I would leave it as long as possible before calling him.

I would be such emotional distress before I finally picked up the courage to phone him.  Why?

I kidded myself that he was busy, had his own life to live etc, which was partly true. I did not want to bother him.

Secondly I thought well he is just going to say this or that, I know what he will say so why bother, why bother then? I had a great gift of foretelling the future then!?

So on one hand I though why bother, I kinda know the answers all ready. So why was I in emotional pain then, if I new the answers?

This seems like arrogance on the surface but there is more to this than that.

They say in AA that we recovering alcoholics are egomaniacs with low self esteem, we are either the greatest or the worse, swinging between these two extremes with not much in between.

This is getting closer to the truth. However I do not think we are simply ego maniacs because this does not tally with the chronic low self esteem many of us have experienced.

There is certainly an emotional immaturity which goes with egomania which many of us have. In fact the low self esteem may reflect this too.

But for me, both thinking we know it all and having chronic low self esteem point to something else.

I have heard sponsors say their sponsees do not listen or do as suggested because “they know it all” or have all the answers, that they are in fact sponsoring themselves. There is some truth in this but I do not think it is based on arrogance.

If there is arrogance or a dismissiveness of a sponsor’s suggested actions it may be based on something else.

I think that there is a false pride here which is masking a deep seated sense of shame.

Sponsees, like me, often do not call on the phone sometimes because they do not think they are worthy of your time.

This is one of the main reasons I did not ring. I was not good enough, or deserving enough. Why would my sponsor want to help me!? The lowest of the low?

What appears as arrogance or dismmissiveness may actually be caused by the flip side of the false pride coin which is chronic shame.

Specifically a fear of rejection.

I and others fear the sponsor rejecting them in some way. They fear the sponsor saying “I am too busy now” “I can’t help you now” or “I’ve told you this before!” etc although in my experience this has rarely happened.

Looking back it is now clear that I was projecting my sense of worthlessness on to my sponsor. I was convinced that he will feel the same about me as I feel about myself in other words. I was rejecting me before he had the chance.

These are defense mechanisms guarding against the threat of rejection and have fears of abandonment issues at their core.

They say the alcoholic is scared of nothing more than rejection, this sense of abandonment.

It, for many, goes back to chronic insecure attachment to parents in childhood but for many it doesn’t, it is just there as a knawing hole in the soul.

The challenge is to coax a sponsee out of the dark shadow of rejection fears and fear based shame.

I had major issues with trust when I was in early recovery.

This was another reason for not calling my sponsor. I did not trust him enough.

On a couple of ocsasions I could not sleep and got into a panic attack, fearing that I would relapse. I rang him as he said ring whenever I needed to. I needed to, at 4.00am in the morning. He answered the phone and calmed me out of my panic and helped me return to my sleep. He got me through another night.

He was there whenever I needed, at whatever time, always, he was there to help. As a result I gradually grew to trust him. As a result I gradually grew to believe what he said was true to about recovery and life continuing to get better, which it has. He as telling the truth.

He is the the main reason I am alive today.

His love and tolerance was not conditional, it was there on tap whenever I needed it. it was not like my mother’s at times conditional love, dependent on this or that. It was simply there when I needed it.

Through that I came to trust in a Higher Power, in God.

Encouraging a sponsee, full of shame and rejection issues, with insecure attachment issues to trust and believe that what you are suggesting he does in order to recover as you have recovered is in his interests and is done via your sense of love and care is one of the toughest tests as a sponsor I have found personally.

I have been sponsoring a couple of people again recently – one has a comorbid condition of paranoid psychosis and the other is an alcoholic of my type.

The answer may lay in convincing the sponsee that it is we who recover not him or I individually but we together.

I would have not recovered without the help of other people in recovery, without God’s Help.

We learn a sense of trust, attachment and belonging via community groups like AA and others.

We are deserving of recovery, God believes so, and so do I and we of AA.

We are good enough is His eyes, we are special enough, we are deserving of the unconditional love that many of never fully received as children.

There is a person on the other end of the phone waiting to help you.

Helping you helps him too, helping your recovery helps him recover too. We are in this together. We are no longer alone.


The Roots of All Our Troubles!?

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Most of my distress and emotional pain in recovery comes from wanting stuff, and not getting my way or not accepting things as they are.

As Bill Wilson noted, we seem to get distressed when we don’t get what we want or feel people or trying to take away what we have.

This was his observation after a decade of psycho analysis with the psycho analyst Harry Tiebout.

A decade of therapy also showed Bill Wilson he has two default settings in his relationship to other human beings – he either tried to dominate them or he became dependent on them for his sense of self and emotional well being. In other words, he became dependent on others, on external means for approval and elevating his self esteem.

This is similar to relying on external means, i.e. alcohol, drugs, addictive behaviours to regulate our emotions and bolster our low self esteem.

We are in a sense co-dependent on other people for our sense of esteem.  We rely on others in terms of how we feel about ourselves.

As a result we are guarded against those that we perceive will reject us or be negative to us, harm us in some way and we seek to dominate these folk or we are dependent on those who are kind to us, help us and care for us. We swing at times between these extremes.

Some of us are “people pleasers”, some of us are dismissive towards others. I can be a dismissive person more than a people pleaser. It is all manipulating our interaction with others to our selfish ends.

Some of these tendencies are the result of our childhoods and how closely attached we were to our parents.

Some of us have this knawing feeling of not being good enough, have a hole in the soul which we are/were kinda always unconsciously trying to protect, shield from the world.

It is a strange feeling of not wanting to be found out of being less than, not good enough. “If people realise what the real me is like, they will reject me!” type thinking although a lot of this is unconscious and does not pop in to our minds as thoughts but is an unconscious self schema that shapes our behaviours.

In simple terms we manipulate via people pleasing or we push people away via being dismissive and putting others down, we guard against any threat of perceived rejection or threats to the self via defense mechanisms such as projecting what we do not like about ourselves on to others.

We often do not like traits in others because they somehow mirror traits in ourselves although we are not always conscious of this.

We have difficulties in our relationships with others, these relationships are often unhealthy and ill.

Some of this is touched on in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, but much of it comes from later observations by Bill Wilson after the publication of the Big Book and my and others’ observations since.

I have seen in myself how fear and shame seem to drive most of my maladaptive behaviour.

My illness of addictive behaviours.

I have an illness of chronic malcontent, things are rarely good enough and I am rarely good enough, according to my “out of kilter”  thinking which  I usually try to ignore, turn over to God or on occasion challenge via reasoning and sharing with other people.

My thoughts are often not my friends, they are often not in the service of my ongoing well being, quite the opposite in fact.

This is how a mental health disorder manifests itself as distorted fear based thinking which appear, if acted upon, to make one’s situation a whole lot worse.

We can not rely on our thoughts and feelings or, in other words, our Self Will. Our self will has become impaired and is no longer in the service of our successful survival.

I have found over the last decade in recovery that when I turn my Will over to the care of the God of my understanding that I am restored to sanity and my thoughts are sound, they are on a higher plane as the Big Book tells me.

I can become the fullest expression of me in the God, not the ill, deluded version while running under my own self will. That has been my experience.

It is only with God’s help that I get restored to sanity or reasonableness.

When I have a fear of not getting stuff and this is linked to insecurity, as mentioned in the Big Book, it is usually in relation to my pocket book, financial insecurity, personal relationships, self esteem etc.

I will now look at this fear based reaction to my security which is mainly to do with stuff out  there (external) such as work, people and how they affect my sense of self before looking at how my internal sense of self, based on the fear based emotion of shame seems to play a pivotal role in my relationship with others and the world around me.

I am assailed externally by fear of what other’s think about me and internally about what I think of me – when these two line up it can have a powerful and damaging effect on my psyche.

Desiring stuff seems at the root of my fear based stuff – the exquisite torture of desire which soon loses it’s so-called relish and just becomes torturous.

Alcoholics do not seem want stuff like normal folk, but have a pathological wanting, an all consuming need to get stuff regardless of it’s worth or value.

We seem to compulsively seek to relieve an inherent distress of not having what we set out to get. Our decision making seems fueled at times by this need to relieve distress rather than the intrinsic value of what we are seeking.

We seem to become manic in our pursuit of things and end up overdoing whatever we are doing via this stress-based manic activity.

This seems compounded by not always being able to read our emotions or somatic states.

One of my own difficulties is realising I am hungry or tired and I can often end up exhausted by over-doing stuff especially manual work around my house. My stop button broke a long time a ago and probably did not work very well to begin with.

So we have  stress-based compulsive need to do something and very limited brakes in the brain stopping us and very little emotional feedback going on, a limited consideration of  “aren’t we overdoing this a bit?”

Desire obviously runs contrary to the idea of being in God’s will, in fact it is being in Self Will that seems to create distress in many people with addictive behaviours.

I would add to this that I also get distress via fears of rejection from others, I suffer from fear based shame to a chronic extent.

Shame, also the consequence of being in Self Will, was not really mentioned in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, mainly because it was not really known about as a psychological or psycho-therapeutic concept then.

Much of the Big Book was influenced by  psycho-analysis which did not consider shame, but rather guilt, in psychological disturbance.

In fact, it has only started considering the role of shame in the last few decades.

So I would add fear of not getting what we want or having something taken away is also complemented by shame-based fears of being rejected.

For example there is an undercurrent in fear of things being taken away, of it being because we are not good enough, deserving enough, have failed in some way, which are shame based reactions.

In fact the Big Book gives me a good idea of the “sins” or “defects of character” I have when I have a resentment but does not explain why I have resentments in the first place.

It explains this as selfishness, self centredness… the root of all our troubles.

It does not, for me, clearly explain why we resort to these selfish, immature, emotional reactions or why we persist with resentments?

It does not explain the emotional immaturity at the heart of alcoholism,  this spiritual malady of inappropriate emotional response to the world around us?

Bill Wilson was struck himself, when he started working with other alcoholics, how much they were plagued constantly by various resentments. How they were haunted by memories of situations in the past, how they swirl around and pollute their minds in the present. How they could not let go of events in their past?

For me he was seeing the root of this spiritual malady, this emotional disease.

For me we engage futilely and distressingly in resentment because we have an inability to process and control our emotions, they overwhelm us and we often react by people pleasing (shame) or react via various defense mechanisms (also shame based).

Defense mechanisms are central to psycho-analytic thought – such as projection etc, the idea that we  expel “out of ourselves what we do not like about ourselves onto others.

Sometimes others expel the same negative emotions on to us. I have found this a fairly common trait among male alcoholics in recovery settings and meetings.

I was discussing this with a newcomer last week, how people who seek to “put us down”  do so out of shame and induce in us all the negative emotions they are experiencing themselves!

The newcomer gave me an example of a resentment he was experiencing after this guy at a meeting said “get off your pink cloud” a phrase that refers to the sometimes  mildly ecstatic feelings of early recovery.

This made the newcomer ashamed that he could have been so stupid for being on this pink cloud, as if this was a selfish indulgence!?

I explained to him that his pride had been hurt, he was in shame and his “apparent” depression every since was simply prolonged self pity.

If we leave self pity to fester long enough it becomes depression, that is my experience anyway.

I said the other guy was probably “hurt” to see a newcomer having such a good period of recovery (God does want us to be happy, joyous and free after all) – I said his false pride was hurt too, that he was not having the recovery experience at present of the newcomer (possibly because he wasn’t putting the effort in) and was in shame (not good enough) and self pity. This mesh of negative emotions can link up fairly instantaneously I find.  It is the web my spiritual malady seeks to ensnare me in.

The guy was probably in guilt too as he could been working on his recovery more.

As a result this guy put the newcomer down to alleviate his own sense of self, his low self esteem.

He “had to” react with arrogance, dismissiveness, impatience and intolerance, because his shame, which is a fear based emotion, made him fearful of his own recovery and fear makes one strangely dishonest (at times deluded), This is my experience.

All because a newcomer had the temerity to be enjoying his recovery?

Not completely, this is half the answer.

The other part is that this guy, if an alcoholic like me, has real difficulties accessing in his heart and mind how he actually “feels” at any particular time. Or rather what emotions he is experiencing at any particular time.

This guy could have been experiencing guilt or shame for example.

Instead of saying to himself I am feeling guilt that my recovery is flabby  compared to this newcomer or that I am being an arrogant “know it all”, putting this newcomer in his place because  he had been in recovery longer – although being in recovery and being sober are different things I have found.

Either way, if he could perhaps of had the ability to say this is how exactly I am feeling he could have acted on this emotional information rather than reacted to it.

What do I mean by this?

Well, if I was feeling guilty about this newcomer it would cause a disturbance in me because I have difficulties processing my emotions.

It would have turned up therefore as a resentment of someone having something I do not have and as them taking away the illusion that my recovery was going OK?

I would have found this threatening to my sense of self so I would have reacted via defense mechanisms. I would have strangely blamed this person for making me feel the way I did! Even if this person had no such intention of hurting my feelings I would blame him nonetheless via my defensive reactions.

It is as if my emotional well being is dependent on other people and their behaviours, this is my spiritual malady, my emotional disease.

As I would have had a resentment, it would have had a wolf pack of negative emotions attached.

In this instance I might have have acted differently.

If I had been in God I would have been more sane for a start and had more loving tolerance for a newcomer.

I would have been acting not reacting. I would have had empathy for where the newcomer  “was at in his recovery” as I had been there once too.

This love and tolerance for the newcomer evolves the displaying of virtues (the opposite of defects are virtues).

What virtues? Well as the newcomer was relatively new I would attempted to be patient, empathetic, kind, gentle, tolerant, considerate  etc. These prevent the defects occurring I find.

If we practice virtues instead of defects then the brain changes for the better and we recover quicker. Our positive loving, healthy behaviours change us and our brains via neuroplasticity for the better.

Attempting to live according to God’s Will (which is a state of Love) also helps me not react but to act with Grace.

In Grace we can still experience negative emotions but God allows us to see them for what they are and not react. His Grace takes the distress out of thee negative emotions. This is my experience.

This allows me to do a quick inventory of my negative emotions and a prayer to God to have them removed. My experience is that they are always removed and that we are immediately restored to sanity.

I do not necessarily have to react to my feelings of negativity about myself, someone else does not need to experience the consequence of my resentments.

I can manage my spiritual malady or emotional dysfunction, I have the tools to do so.

I also impressed upon the newcomer that what the other guy was experiencing and was reacting is also how he, the newcomer, reacts and how I react too.

It is what our spiritual malady looks like I believe, it is the map of my impaired emotional responding.

I also impressed upon him that mostly I can manage this emotional dysfunction but often I fail to and get into a resentful anger.

This is why I have to forgive the other guy as I have been forgiven but also to forgive myself (or ask God to forgive me my shortcomings) for my reactions.

We are not perfect, far from it. We are far from being Saints but have a solution Saints would approve and achieve a kind of transient sanctity in this 12 step solution of letting go and letting God.

We have to show love and tolerance for each other as we suffer the same illness/malady. Dismissing others like us for having what we have and acting as we do is like a form of self loathing. We have to forgive ourselves and each other for being ill. Self compassion allows us to be compassionate  towards others.

Also we need to be aware what we project on to other alcoholics is the same thing as they project on to use and sometimes we project if back.

So we have two main ailments, distressed based wanting which results in the same negative emotions as being in a shame- based fear of rejection.

I can get out of the distress of wanting/needing stuff by asking God to remove those negative emotions which block me off from Him.

For example, if I really want something and feel someone is preventing me getting that thing or that they are taking this thing away from me I have a hunting pack of negative emotions running through by heart and pulsating through my veins, propelling me to want that thing even more! As if my very life depended on it?

These feelings are translated as “how dare you take that thing/stop me getting that thing” – False Pride – followed by fear of being rejected – Shame (this is because I am not good enough)  and possible Guilt (for something I must have done wrong as usual) – then leading to “poor me” and feelings of Self pity, all because I am in Self, so I am being Self Centred and not considering someone else’s view so I am Selfish.

I retaliate via by “I”ll show you/I’ll get you” emotions of Dismissiveness, Intolerance, Arrogance and Impatience – my “I’ll put you down to make me feel better!”

All because I am fearful that you are taking away something from me or rejecting  me –  Fear and Fear is always accompanied by dishonesty.

I will act out on these somethings, if I do now use my spiritual tools and let Go and Let God, usually by eating too much, Gluttony, having a shopping spree, Greed, engaging  sexual fantasy/activity Lust of “freezing” through fear in the subltle sin of Sloth (procrastination).

A perceived slight or a rejection can have an incredible emotional effect on me

This is all emotion dysfunction and immaturity. I have resentments because they are a true sign of emotion dysfunction.

The mature way to to access, identfiy and label how one is feeling and use this information to reasonably express how one is feeling. This way we do not retaliate, fight, flee or freeze. Instead our emotions do what they are supposed to do. They are suppose the tell the fronts of our brains to find words for our feelings. Not to tell the bottom of our brains to fight back or run or freeze.

Let me use an example.

I had an argument with a guy once who suddenly proclaimed he was upset by what I had said. I was amazed as this guy was reading his emotions, identifying verbalising/expressing them to me in a way I have never been able to do.

My alcoholism is rooted in an impaired ability to read, identify, label and express my emotions (otherwise called emotion processing) – as a result my emotions have always troubled me and been so troubling in their undifferentiated state that I have always either avoided them or ran away from them.

I have sought refuge from my negative emotions in alcohol, drugs and other addictive behaviours. It is this that propelled my addictions, this inability to deal with my negative emotions. I dealt with them externally via addictive behaviours, not internally via emotion processing.

My emotions became wedded in time to being undifferentiated arousal states that prompted me to seek an external way to deal with these troubling emotional/arousal states.

Today when I engage in the above emotion dysfunction, engage in the above web of defense mechanisms it is because I have not been able to locate in me what feeling is disturbing me ?

On occasion it is, as the guy above said, because I am upset. I have not learnt the ability to say that I am upset etc. The words for these feeling states somehow can continue to elude me unless I am in God’s Grace.

God does for us what we can not do for ourselves!

Finding out what is really going on with us emotionally is at the heart of recovery. That is why we have to constantly share how we are feeling with others so that we can find out what we are feeling.

Unless, we let Go and Let God and ask God to remove these negative emotions/sins/defects of character we end up in a futile increasingly distressed spiral of negative emotions.

We end up cultivating much greater misery.

As soon as you can, let Go and Let God.


There is a map of Emotional Responding Tattooed on my Heart.

When I was doing my step four inventory as part of my 12 step programme of recovery  I did it pretty much as suggested in the Big Book.

My sponsor at the time asked me to do an additional part that is not explicitly mentioned in the Big Book.

He said to list all the negative emotions (or defects of character) that I had been in the grip of and exhibiting in relation to my various misdemeanors and the resentments I had held against various people and institutions over the preceding decades.

This turned out to be a brilliant idea for two reasons.

First it showed me that  I held a multitude of resentments because I had a problem of emotion regulation.

I did not realise that the engine driving this emotion dysregulation was chronic shame.

I realised when doing my step 4 that that I had not previously been able to leave various supposed slights and abuses from my past in the past because I did not have the emotional maturity to look at these episodes reasonably and objectively.

In other words, I had not processed these episodes emotionally and embedded these events in my long term memory like healthy more emotionally mature people do.

Hence when I came into recovery I had hundreds and hundreds of resentments swirling around my mind, poisoning my thoughts and sending constant emotional daggers into my heart.

My past constantly assailed me emotionally, randomly attacking my mind.

My step 4 and then 5 showed me that I did  not have the natural ability to deal with my negative emotions.

Secondly, listing all the negative emotions I had when I held a resentment against someone was very revealing in that when I held a resentment, any resentment, and against a wide variety of people, the negative emotions listed where generally the same! In fact they were all interlinking in a pattern of emotional reacting, one activating the other. It was like a emotion web that ensnared one in increasingly frustrating states of emotional distress and inappropriate responding.

This was quite a revelation!? That I respond in exactly the same way to my sense of self being threatened?

That there was a map of emotional responding tattooed on my heart.

I was drawing up a web of my emotional dysregulation, a route map of all the wrong ways to go, to emotional cul de sacs.

It was a list of the negative emotions which appear always when I felt anger and resentment against someone for hurting me and my feelings.

Just as revealing where the negative emotions listed which clearly showed how  I react, and can still react to people who I believe have caused my hurt or rejection.

In fact it seems now that I treat all insult, intentional or otherwise, in a very similar way.

I have spent years trying to work our why?

I got as far as deciding it was an inherent problem with processing negative emotions, which it is.

However, there seems to be a problem specifically with a patterned mesh of negative emotions which are activated when someone upsets me.

In fact I think this pattern of interlinked negative emotions occurs simply because of inability to identify, label and share the simple fact that I have been upset  by what someone has said or acted towards me.

“Shame is a fear-based internal state being, accompanied by beliefs of being unworthy and basically unlovable. Shame is a primary emotion that conjures up brief, intense painful feelings and a fundamental sense of inadequacy. Shame experiences bring forth beliefs of “I am a failure” and “I am bad” which are a threat to the integrity of the self. This perceived deficit of being bad is so humiliating and disgraceful that there is a need to protect and hide the flawed self from others. Fears of being vulnerable, found out, exposed and further humiliated are paramount. Feelings of shame shut people down so that they can distance from the internal painful state of hopelessness.”

“… unacknowledged thoughts and feelings become repressed and surface later through substitute emotions and dysfunctional behavior. Other emotions are substituted to hide the shame and maintain self esteem. Anger, exaggerated pride, anxiety and helplessness are substituted to keep from feeling the total blackness of being bad. The buried shame is expressed through defense mechanisms that shield negative unconscious material from surfacing.

Anger responses are modeled and learned in some families. The anger response is more comfortable than feeling the shame for some individuals. Families where coercive and humiliating methods of discipline are used develop children who are shame prone. Behavior become driven by defenses that function to keep from feeling bad. Reality becomes distorted to further protect the self from poor self esteem. The transfer of blame to someone else is an indicator of internal shame.

Children who live with constant hostility and criticism learn to defend against the bad feelings inside and externalize blame on others. External assignment of blame is a defense against shame. People who are super critical have a heavy shame core inside.”

I was working with someone last year and we had a disagreement and this guy said to me “I am upset” and “You have hurt my feelings” I was taken aback. I thought I never say things like that. This guy was an Olympic champion at expressing how he feels compared to me. I never say I am upset because it also seems to be an undifferentiated emotion that I have trouble accessing, mentalising and expressing.

I have not been taught as a child or since to simply say I am upset.

Instead of acting on my upset by saying to someone,  you have hurt my feelings  I do the opposite,   I react and attack them in my head, my thoughts, my words and sometimes in my actions. Sometimes I “get them back” somehow. I make them pay in some way.

Honesty is the heart of recovery and I am being honest. The years of recovery reveal many different things, some of them not so palatable.

I grew up in a family that did not express emotions like the ones I had mentioned. We reacted via anger and put downs hence I have grown up to be dismissive.

My dismissiveness and my arrogance are parts of defence mechanism against rejection, they guard my inherent sense of shame. I am full of shame, more so than fear, although these two overlap. Shame is in fact fear evoking.

I hide my shame away under an anger of emotional hostility, stay away or else! I will get you back somehow. Sometimes I am in shame and offend via my attitudes.

I also have other ways of reacting in an emotionally unhealthy way that my step 4 showed.

If someone hurts me, according to my step 4, my angry resentment of what they have said or done makes me ashamed. This can quickly prick my sense of self pity (uselessness and hopelessness) which is something I have always rage against (rage is an essential part of shame plus I rally against this feeling of powerlessness) and I retaliated via excessive pride (I am better than you, I will put you down and see how you like it!) I put you down in my mind or through the words uttered from my mouth by arrogance, dismissiveness, impatience and intolerance.

I do so because I am being dishonest and fearful.

I do some because I am self centred and selfish.

These are all parts of my emotionally entangled web that is spun when I react to some sense of rejection.

Sometimes the shame persists for some time and I try to relieve it by behavioral addictions, too much shopping, too much eating, too much objectification of the opposite sex.

Not enough action, or effort to change my feelings in a healthy manner.

My step 4  showed me this is the unhealthy fruit of my greed, gluttony, my lust, my sloth.

My spiritual malady.

Add in perfectionism because that is the quick way to do nothing, a fear of failure  that paralyses.

These are my main negative emotional  reactions to the world that often scare me and make me feel ashamed.

I have felt powerless via your comments so try to to steal some power back by making my self seem more powerful over you.

I respond to feelings of humiliation by humiliating you, I react to my chronic shame by attempting to created shame in you.

Some days I react more adversely than others.

For example, this family have just moved into my neighbourhood, they seem wild and out of control.

I am not only fearful (leading to dishonesty in my thinking, catastrophizing, intolerance of uncertainty about how they will behave etc) I have reacted to their arrival via shame based defence mechanisms and reactions. I am shamed and disgusted that my neighourhood has come to this. I am dismissive of them, intolerant, impatient and arrogant towards them. All shame based reactions.

Last night the police were called to their home and one of them was handcuffed and put in the back of the police van.

My head went “I told you so!”

It was a very shameful scene for the whole family.

When things had died  down and calm restored I spent the evening not in my fear or shame but in empathy and compassion.

How embarrassing for them how shameful.

I relate to them as they are out of control, my family was at varying times completely out of control too, traumatic and this is what has created a chronic shame in me, even still now after 10 years of recovery!

My shame responded and related to their shame.

Nobody wants to be out of control, to be teetering on the verge of the next disaster, the next moving of home, the next calling of the police,  the next swirling carousel of unmanageabiilty.

No one.

I related and all my negative emotions retreated to source like a evening tide on a beach.

I relate to my fellow human beings when I am not in fear or shame.

When I am in fear and shame the same pattern of negative reactions entrap my heart in its’ poisonous grip and I react in a way I would not choose to, if more reasonable.

This is what the heart of my alcholism looks like. Not a pretty sight some days.

The most beautiful thing about me most days is the fruits of my recovery.

Now at least I can see how I react and can take steps to deal with it.

I have a spiritual tool kit that deals with this emotional disease.

Whether  I stay in fear or shame is now my choice. A choice I once did not seem to have.

This is what recovery has given to me.

I do not have to cultivate my own misery through blind reaction.

Via an Amazing Grace I can now see what ails me.

Via AA I now have the tools, never taught to me in my family or in my troubled home environment.

I have gone home in AA. I learnt an attachment to those in AA and others.

I share my feelings of shame with those who know what that feels like.

Together we share our pain and we recover.




The Discordant Echoes of the Past

The last six years of research has been dedicated to trying to understand a fundamental part of my illness of addiction, of me.  People often say there is more to you than addiction.

To which I normally answer yes, there is also recovery.

I don’t mean to be smart arsed by this but I view recovery not only as a healing in many ways, physiologically, physically, emotionally, cognitively and spiritually but also as a ongoing process of learning about me, the various strands that have contributed to my illness and the various aspects of my recovery which also give insight into what was wrong in the first instance.

If certain aspects improve in recovery there is a fair chance these were impaired in the addiction cycle. I believe there is a lot more to addiction that the end product of addiction, namely chronic pathological addictive behaviour.

Various aspects have contributed to the need to externally manage troublesome and painful internal feeling states.

Recovery according to my wife has made me a nicer person, more loving and considerate and easier to live with. Better company,  more mature in my emotional reactions and more responsible. I hasten to add that I have some way to go still in some respects. In simple speak, I have become less selfish, self centred and less me, me me!

These to me seem like the traits of addiction, this self obsession.

Other factors have fed into this manifest self obsession too however.

Recovery has been a continual process of learning how to do life in a more healthy, emotionally mature way, in simple terms. I have had to learn so many things, the things  more healthy people take for granted and learnt years ago.

Somehow I never learnt how to do some basics, was never properly taught these basics or always had inherently difficulties with certain basic, developmental skills.

For example my emotional life was a complete failure, continually running away from my feelings, avoiding them as if they were actually injurious to the self!

I have spent years trying to work out why I ran away from my feelings and from a very early age. I have that type of curious head.

In early recovery I was astounded that I could not feel what emotions I was having, could not generate a mental perspective on what emotions I was experiencing, could  not identify and label and thus use as a way to make effective decisions. My decisions were always based on the “distress” of not knowing exactly what I was feeling, actions were taken simply to escape this distress.

I had in effect an emotional disorder and that this emotional disorder seemed to precede, initiate and propel by addictions.

Addictions were the place I went to in fleeing me and my negative emotions. They were the tools I used to regulate my negative moods, emotions and negative sense of self.

Me overwhelmed Me – I appeared to need help regulating Me so I chose and used stuff outside of me which seemed to work originally in provide escape but increasingly contributed to this escalating problem of my inability to live with me.

Someone described the spiritual awakening which results from doing the the 12 steps of AA as fundamentally changing how we think and feel about the world and our place in it!

So what do I think and feel about the world and my place in it?

And has this changed in recovery?

Generally I would say I have had a revolution in how I relate to the world, it no longer scares me like it did, I am no longer to ashamed take my rightful place in it.

That does not mean I no longer struggle with fear and shame. In fact the longer I am in recovery I see these two factors as contributing most of the distress I can feel in recovery.

Fear I have always been aware of – we have a fear-based illness it is often shared in AA meetings but shame?

Six years of academic research has clearly shown me that this fear based illness is a distress based disorder. Neuropsychology has shown that the experiential wisdom and insight of 12 step groups has always been correct.

Fear/distress causes me problems via certain avenues such as catastrophic thinking, fear of an uncertain future, distorted /dishonest thinking.

Fear can lead to a wide range of other negative emotions. But honesty is often the first port of call for fear.  I find fear leads immediately to distorted dishonest thinking. Honesty comes from the ancient Greek “to be in (one with) God” so I guess dishonesty is not being in God which is the opposite to being in fear. Interestingly the Christian Bible refers to the Devil as the Father of All Lies!

I had not however realise that shame creates just as many emotional difficulties and emotional pain as fear!

Shame and fear certainly effect each other but both can take the lead.

Fear is referred to in the Big Book of AA “This short word somehow touches about every aspect of our lives. It is an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with it.” but shame is rarely mentioned!

This is not surprising as there was little research into the effects of shame of illness back then in the 1930s, in fact research into shame is relatively recent, in the last 25 years. Interest in shame came form an academic article which called shame the “master emotion!” which can effect and amplify all other negative emotions. Thus it has just a profound effect on emotional well being as fear!

I was delighted to come across this research recently as I have always been looking for answer to a vexing question, ever since early recovery in fact.

In early recovery, and since, I have always wondered when someone hurts my feelings, intentionally or otherwise,  I suddenly have this warm sensation, this spreading dendritic/branching type feeling in my heart which when activated captures my heart and pollutes my head with negative thoughts about me.

I suddenly feel hurt, upset, less than, smaller, weaker, hunched over, feeble, and then I get these other voices suggesting the person who upset me is right, I am worthless helpless, useless. Who the hell was I thinking I was, sure I was kidding myself?

I feel that I have been assailed, my head swoons, I lose my bearings. I am under some seemingly grievous emotional attack!

These feeling and thoughts multiply against the audio soundtrack of my tormenter’s voice which then blends into orchestra with my own and other voices of negative self perception.

I am suddenly strangely paralyzed by this emotional avalanche.

Other negative emotions are detonated such as self pity, the ever present sense of “poor me”.

Eventually other emotions may get activated too like fear and dishonest thinking.

I can work myself into quite a emotional state replaying the scene of my supposed insults via resentment and the re-sending of situations, feeling and thoughts from this and other previous episodes in my  life. Other negative mood congruent memory is activated and soon there are other similar memories of similar insults supporting this insult and my increasingly sense of low self esteem and self worth.

I found it impossible for years to stop this spreading emotional feeling and distorted thinking after it was first activated.  It simply continued  against my will. When activated it takes ages to reduce. In fact the intensity of the emotion always seems to get worse before any hope of it getting any better!

I usually need the help of a loved other to help me through it.

It feels as if there has been an emotion explosion in my heart?

One emotion explodes and it then detonates other emotions is the best way I can explain it.

These leads to increased negative thoughts about self and the reinforcing of a negative self schema ingrained in memory from childhood on.

It seems to confirm all the worse things about myself.

Chastises me for having thought any differently!

All because I took a slight at what someone may have said to me!

Often I have found out afterwards that I had misheard and misinterpreted the words and that no insult was intentionally given in the first instance!

My fear-based misinterpretation led to all these negative emotional reactions and cognitive distortions which all then ran away with themselves.

Now in recovery I feel that shame has just as profound an effect on my negative emotions as fear – in fact shame can lead to fear and vice versa. But to me now, it seems that shame is that negative emotion that detonates the other emotions that spread dendritically across my heart.

I have finally found out what has been at the heart of my emotion dysregulation –  shame.

Shame and fear also have similar parents – namely trauma /abuse, insecure attachment as a child to a primary caregiver.

Addiction doesn’t exactly help with shame either!

The trauma incidents I experienced in childhood have led to a fear based responding to the world and what I would call chronic or toxic shame.

A knawing feeling of being less than, not good enough.

An emotional achilles heel.

The above feeling of shame and the resultant negative emotions and thoughts that it detonates are the result of what is perceived  as insult and rejection. It is often said in recovery that the recovering person fears nothing more than rejection, as it brings that damning emotion of shame.

At least fear can activates action, shame always paralyses. Fear can embolden, shames weakens.

We sufferers of toxic shame thus very vulnerable to this type of “putting us down” or the feeling of being rejected or even “found out”.

We spend our lives constantly guarding against it, although we are often unconscious of this.

I sometimes wonder if the “hole in my soul” was shame-shaped?

This is why shame inspires the constant use of defense mechanisms, the myriad of self defence mechanisms that we use against shame, rejection and which I will discuss next time around.

As for the solution to the above perceived insult, pray for forgiveness or simply forgive the person who allegedly insulted you as it exonerates him/her of being a imperfect human being while doing the same thing for you at the same time.

Accept the gift of our communal and very human imperfection when you can.




You are Enough, We are Enough!

“The wounded healer” refers to us, who suffer greatly from shame, helping others via love, tolerance and understanding who also suffer greatly from shame.

We can help others and be helped because we all know what it is like to feel the chronic, toxic shame the drives addictive behaviours.

Our understanding of shame is not out of a book it is real, lived experience. We know how it can drive one into chronic addiction and we know how to recovery from the persistent effects of this shame.

The main thing that struck me when I first went to AA was a lack of judgement which was amazing considering I was very jaundiced at the time.

I was accepted in the group without  reservation. This greatly helped my damaged sense of belonging, my not feeling part of.

It made me feel that this is the place I need to be. Have always needed to be?

The “shares” or testimonies of other recovering people made we realise they suffered the same shame as me and had worked to overcome it via the steps, via having fellowships, people in their lives who understood and who helped them. They told me of their triumphs over their emotional difficulties, over their chronic lack of self esteem, over not feeling good enough, of feeling less than.

A failure –  they talked about me and how I felt about me. How I had always felt about me!?

I had never been in a group of people who had talked so openly about their intimate feelings which was amazing. In doing so they were talking about my intimate feelings too. This gave me a sense of not being alone anymore. They seemed to be shining a light of hope into the dark recesses of of my shameful psyche.

It addressed my sense of isolation right away.

I had spent my life feeling not good enough, bad, l had that knawing feeling of less than, that hole in the sole.

I was like these people. They were like me.

I felt and continue to feel more like these people than I do my own family.

They became my surrogate family, my newly learnt attachment.

They were like me. They had not learnt this stuff out of a book, by professional observation but by having been through this stuff themselves. This was real not learnt.

They had been there. They were here now for me.

They knew what they were talking about.

This was the beginning of my psychic change. A person who was to become by therapist at the local treatment  was at my first meeting and he later said that he felt I had a psychic change at that my first meeting.

I had come in utterly beaten, at  death’s door and had left with hope.

The journey started with hope.

I had found a portal in the universe – it was Alcoholics Anonymous but from the shares it might have been called Shame sufferers Anonymous.

Shame ran through every share. They say fear is the corrosive thread which ran through our lives but it is equally the case that shame does too and causes just as much distress and damage.

It is difficult to live life when you do not have your own back, believe in yourself as  worthy of the good, healthy, things  in life. That you are not worthy them. That these things happen to others. Not you as you do not deserve them.

Why recover at all when you are not worth it?

This is how many of us feel? We are not worth it, this recovery.

The truth is the opposite, we are worth it. We do deserve it.

We are heroes who suffered so much and come through so much. We deserve happiness more than most! As a result we have  so have so much to offer others. We are all wounded healers.

We are here to help others like ourselves, in a way that only we can!

It was via others, like parents that we have this shame and these negative self schemas.

It is through human relationships that these start to heal. Shame is a social emotion which needs a social treatment.

We need to reconnect to overcome the isolating force of shame.

You are enough! We are enough!