At what point in time do suggestions need to turn into musts?
This week we have lost two young members of the recovery to overdoses. Were these people of the variety that the Big Book states are “constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves (p.58)” about how sick they really are? Why is it some people get well and others fail to get the message?
As a typically obstinate character in the early days of recovery, I know for a fact one of the biggest impediments to me getting healthy was this invasive thought that I didn’t need to do everything that was asked of me, and that somehow I would break the mold and get healthy through the discovery of my own recovery master plan. I wanted to believe that I was special and different than the millions of others who had come and succeeded before me.
For some, I have been one of the lucky ones who continues to tread the happy road to destiny, and let me reassure you that the reason for my success in sobriety had little to due with intellectual capacity or difference. So, after years of having those blindspots slowly revealed to me, I now sit in a position to believe that these “clear-cut directions (p.29)” can be applied to as a life saving treatment for alcoholism. The problem is, you can lead a horse to water, but you sure as hell can’t force it to drink the water that will save its life.
I really struggled my first 2 years in recovery, and things didn’t really take a turn for the better until I came across my third sponsor who was a hard ass ex-biker, ex-ferry hijacking madman, ex-convict, not to mention ex-menace to society. For some reason my ears opened to his wisdom, and I seemed to trust his words for the most part. Without this aggressive bootcamp-like approach to the program of action, I have a wild sense that I might not still be sober. The often spoken of ‘suggestions’ turned into musts, and then and only then did I start to gain some traction and peace of mind.
Taking the easier softer way would have been far easier, but a guy like me would have ended up just drinking again because I wouldn’t have been able to arm myself with the tools I would need for the low spots and intense emotional suffering that hits us all from time to time. My sensitivity to the world is what my problem has always been, but today I don’t suffer from the long lasting emotional bumps and bruises for quite as long. “We alcoholics are sensitive people. It takes some of us a long time to outgrow that serious handicap (p.125)”. When they say a long time, what they really mean to say is it can take years upon years!
Some say it was a selfish act of them to basically kill themselves through drug use. I seem to to view it through a different set of lens. Their brains didn’t take these drugs to the point of overdose for fun. They took these drugs to stop themselves from feeling pain. Instead of picking up one of the defence strategies that are taught and developed through the 12 steps and recovery community, they picked up something they knew they could always count on to temporarily relieve themselves from suffering.
“We alcoholics are undisciplined (p.88)” people who want the reward that comes only after the investment of hours and hours of long-suffering work from minimal effort. I have yet to come across anything of value in life that comes with little sacrifice. If you had a few hours free to skim through the Big Book and underline the word suggestion in the first 164 pages, you might come across it a few times. But, if you were to scan the first 164 pages for the word must you would blown away by how many times it is used, emphasizing the necessity of the action you need to take to get better. When I hear people saying this and that is “suggested” my blood starts to boil a little. Knowing the mind of the addict and alcoholic far too well by now, I know it only leaves the door open for complacency. And there is absolutely no room for stagnancy when it comes to a mental and spiritual sickness. We are granted a reprieve from addiction but it is always “contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition (p.85)”.
“Yes, there is a LONG period of reconstruction ahead (p.83)”.
I think it to be arrogant to assume that this is the only way people can remove themselves from the suffocating forces of addiction, but I also think it is incredibly foolish to say you are a member of a 12 step program if all you are doing is going to meetings holding people hostage with your problems and not doing anything about them.
Many of you reading this may feel my tone towards the death of these two individuals as insensitive, and I’d agree with you. But at what point in time do we say to ourselves, enough is enough? Patting someone on the back and telling them everything is going to be fine only enables people to continue in their suffering far longer than they need to. I for one would far rather be called insensitive for arming someone with truth, than to kill them with kindness through the use of some overused platitude that will never actually save their life.