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An excerpt from the latest issue of the 24 Newsletter.
Many people who start out with a full dose of the strong-program approach for their primary addiction quickly find that they are unwilling to give up other things that are incompatible with their new life on the Program. This failure at the level of rigorous honesty has clear consequences resulting in a life that drifts off the Program, whether you ever drink again or not.
And it is at this point in a recovery that the Four Absolutes become indispensable as “yardsticks” (Dr. Bob’s term) in conducting our daily affairs. And if you want to just back up to the utter baseline, it’s the First and Second Absolutes: honesty — beginning with self-honesty — and then purity.
It’s gagging on the Second Absolute that drives many people out of the Program. Maybe not violently by running out to get drunk, but more subtly, where you just want to relax and enjoy yourself — find the famous “easier, softer way.” Whether it’s a forty-five year old alcoholic in a mid-life crisis or an eighteen year old with a desire to sow some wild oats, or a guy or gal who’s been around in recovery anywhere from three to thirty years and is finding the Program increasingly boring, the problem is a difficulty with the first two Absolutes, especially the Second.
From early on, my Dad had a message for those of us in this bind that was as big as anything I have ever run across in AA. He saw from the beginning that the Twelve Steps are too good to be just for alcoholics only, or to apply to the single symptom of addictive drinking only. He was powerfully moved in passing on the good news of the Program to “carry the message” to anyone he knew who was suffering from spiritual starvation, regardless of whether they qualified for full citizenship in AA as a for-drunks-only club. And he spent his whole life trying to practice the Steps across the board in all areas of his life. The very first thing that he did after he recovered from alcoholism and drug addiction was to take the Twelve Steps and start practicing them for his food addiction and for his nicotine addiction.
He joked in his AA lead about his food addiction. It is a stage in recovery for many alcoholics. You get your appetite back and you get your mind back, and you get what they called the chuck wagon horrors — an appetite that is literally insatiable. He went from 128 to 178 lbs. and mother was referring to him as “moon.” He also had a three-pack-a-day cigarette habit, and he started to drop the chain of addictions successively — first the alcohol and drugs, then the nicotine, then the addictive eating. Surprisingly, this approach of dropping the whole chain of addictions does not turn out to be the joyless trip of self-denial that you might think. Quite the contrary. This, in many cases is in fact the easiest, softest way.
Believe me, as a person who tried very hard for his first seven years in the Program to do it the other way, this proved for me to be the only way. And over the years I have seen many, many similar histories. Whatever your remaining problem areas are, you can’t fail if you just don’t quit and run away from the challenge that the phrase in Step Twelve “in all our affairs” presents. Rate of progress isn’t even that important in itself. Just don’t give up, don’t cop out, and don’t run away from the Steps. That’s all it takes. All the difficulty and arguing and self justifying is over when we give our selves entirely to this simple Program. Find out what you need for an honest practice and get it. Get that or you’ll never maintain a long-term recovery. You will never recover from the low-level depression, or anxiety, or the resentment that’s driving you while “abstinent” to a life of quiet desperation. It’s not about being a saint and not about being a star performer it is about becoming, “entirely ready” and “willing”— just as it says in Step Six.
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