Recovery has been an amazing journey for me over the years. I have gained immense insight into honesty, compassion and humanity that is offered so sparingly in this world from AA , or “The Rooms”, as they are commonly referred to. A healing-centered fellowship that has a wide open door policy for absolutely everyone!
One of my favourite things about working with individuals in Recovery is freeing them from mislead dogma that is held in the rooms. If you were anything like me, you faced some dark times when you stopped living a life of wild debauchery and started to investigate a sober life.
As it says in the Big Book (p.133), “a body badly burned by alcohol does not often recover overnight nor do twisted thinking and depression vanish in a twinkling”. Man oh man did that point prove itself to be true in my case. Walking into the rooms I really had no idea just how sick I really was. My acute refusal to admit defeat and put my hands up in surrender didn’t strike me as a winning formula for me. Alcohol, for many people, is really just a soothing elixir we consume that provides us with a few moments of sweet release from the bondage of our mind’s internal turmoil. And let me be clear about this point of contention, not all minds recover from a hopeless state by sole means of the 12 steps!
The importance of having someone thoroughly educated in the literature of recovery is absolutely vital. Far too often we have a group of loud-mouthed big talkers in a room repeating sayings that they have heard from other people in the rooms that seem to hold weight, but are completely false. It is the blind leading the blind principle that falls into play in Alcoholics Anonymous that keeps people sick. As my father would always tell me growing up, “ignorance of a law excuses no man”. Unfortunately, according to the traditions of AA there is no governing body in recovery that deems someone worthy of taking someone through the 12 steps and sponsoring people. This can sometimes leave room for people to plant opinions in the minds of newcomers instead of facts. Feel free to take a quick second to visualize Jack Nicholson in a Few Good Men telling us all that we “can’t handle the truth”. Once again, let me refer back to my initial point and motive behind this article to bring you freedom and not condemnation.
AA Big Book – How It Works (p.58)
“There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover…”
The word many is underlined for a particular reason here, and its definition is a “large number of”. It does not say all, everyone, or even most people recover from these mental disorders that so many of us enter the rooms with. The reason many sponsors out there, who probably infuriate you with the task of reading the Big Book with a dictionary is because it is a matter of life and death for many. Nobody wants to tell you this, but many of you out there who are ignorant of these vital details can cause significant harm in the lives of others in the room due to your ignorance.
I’m sure some of you out there are starting to feel your blood boil from that last statement, but let me reassure you that ignorance isn’t so bad after all. If you look up the word’s definition you will come to release all that it means is “lack of knowledge”. And, like what was lovingly beaten into my thick skull over and over was that for me not to qualify as ignorant any longer, all I had to do was educate myself with more knowledge. Even guys like me who barely passed in class could handle those terms. I could handle ignorance going forward because it was so easy to fix.
AA makes absolutely no other promise than to show you “precisely” how to recover from Alcoholism which of course is a mental disorder according to the DSM-5, but is not inclusive of all mental health issues and medical disorders. If anything, it makes a strong case for outside medical help on page 133.
“God has abundantly supplied this world with fine doctors, psychologists, and practitioners of various kinds. Do not hesitate to take your health problems to such persons…Try to remember that though God has wrought miracles among us, we should never belittle a good doctor or psychiatrist. Their services are often indispensable in treating a newcomer and in following his case afterward.”
In other words, if you have a problem with depression, bipolar, manic episodes, OCD, panic attacks, etc. please leave the house right now and go see a doctor. If that means you can better manage your mental health with medication-all the more power to you! It is absolutely not a “relapse” to take medication, you are not inferior and need not carry even an ounce of shame around it, it does not mean you didn’t do a thorough enough job on your steps, and it *absolutely does not mean that God doesn’t love you enough to have this situation sorted for you as a result of the steps. If anything, God has provided you with a plethora of doctors and medications that can make your life much more manageable.
Few follow this absolute truth in recovery circles, especially if they are of a religious variety. This plagues people with all sorts of low lying feelings and thoughts which are easy to come by when you have been struggling with self worth for years. The sad consequence of this kind of condemning belief system (ignorance) is that many people relapse, die, or unconsciously say to themselves that “God clearly doesn’t love me enough to heal me”, which perpetuates sickness and shame for years. Shame and God as many of you spiritual warriors out there know are completely mutually exclusive. They are not co-conspirators in your suffering, but rivals to the nth degree.