From the BlogMeet Ron

CHUCK D.

The great artist is the simplifier. 
–Henri Amiel
Just as an artist creates through simplification, so a person’s recovery process grows and deepens as one simplifies their life. This isn’t easy to do in our fast paced and high-powered world. We have often complicated a problem by our way of thinking. Sometimes we take pride in how complex we can make something seem. We look for hidden meanings when the truth is on the surface. We give long explanations for our actions when none is called for. We suspect a person’s motives when taking him at face value loses nothing. We take on a battle when we could just as well let it pass.
Most of us don’t think of ourselves as artists. Yet we are each given a profound, creative opportunity – to fashion a meaningful and worthwhile pattern in our lives. As we seek to do the will of God today, it is as if we are taking a lump of clay and creating an image from it.
As I go about today’s activities,
may I find ways to make it a simple and creative expression.
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Every closed eye is not sleeping, and every open eye is not seeing. 
–Unknown
Things are not always as they seem, even with us. Sometimes we get settled into a routine in our program. We are beyond the early struggles with detachment and sobriety. We have encountered many of the benefits of recovery. We attend our meetings and we know the words and ideas of the program. Although it all looks good on the outside, when we’re honest with ourselves, we know our spirit has gone flat. This is a serious situation and needs our attention.
When the inside feeling does not match our outside appearance, we need to become vulnerable again. We need to talk about how we really feel. Maybe little secrets we have been holding have deadened our program. Perhaps we haven’t admitted a pain in our life. Maybe we have been seduced by the power of looking good and have traded away the genuineness of being known by our friends. The renewal of this program is something we feel from within, and we can continue to be renewed.
I pray my eyes will be open to see and my program will stay alive and genuine.

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Lets Ask Bill 
 
Q – Do alcoholics as a class differ from other people?
   A – Some years ago the doctors began to look at Alcoholics Anonymous and they got about thirty of us together and they said to themselves “Well, now that these fellows are in A.A., and they won’t lie so badly, and maybe for the first time we’ll get a good look at what the interior of a drunk is like.” So a number of us were examined at great length by psychiatrists, and all sorts of tests taken, and the object of this particular inquiry was to see whether alcoholics as a class differed from other people, and if they did, just why and how much.
   A number of us were invited to attend the conclave, and a number of learned papers were read, and finally one of these physicians (a very noted one – the meeting took place at the New York Academy of Medicine) began to sum up what he thought the conclusion which they had arrived at was this: that the alcoholic is emotionally on the childish side. That the alcoholic is a person who is more sensitive emotionally than the average person. And then, they ascribed another quality to us – they used the word “grandiosity,” they were grandiose (meaning by that that as a type we were what you might call “All of nothing people.”) Someone once described it by saying all alcoholics hanker for the moon when perhaps the stars would have done just as well.
As a class, we’re like that, said the doctors. (Memphis, Tenn., Sept.18-20, 1947)

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To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of
loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude. 
–Henri J. M. Nouwen
Knowing our loneliness and admitting it to us is the beginning of a spiritual path for many people. Today we are on a spiritual journey. We already have the means to translate the pain of our loneliness into a deeper spiritual dimension. Most folks in this program came in deeply aware of their feelings of isolation. Now, with the companionship of our Higher Power, we can spend time alone and use it for spiritual growth. As we develop a relationship with ourselves and deepen our knowledge of our Higher Power, our loneliness transforms into solitude.
In this quiet moment today, we can be more accepting of ourselves than we were in the past. We admit loneliness has caused us pain, but now we can see that it also can lead us to our deeper self where we find serene solitude. This change is a movement into the spiritual world.
Thanks to God for the solitude I have found in my life.

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Lets Ask Bill
 
These excerpts from various talks and articles by and on Bill W. reveal a wealth of the thinking and insight of the co-founder of A.A.
Q – What is meant by mental obsession and the obsessional character of alcoholism?
 
A – Well, as I understand it, we are all born with the freedom of choice. The degree of this varies from person to person, and from area to area in our lives. In the case of neurotic people, our instincts take on certain patterns and directions, sometimes so compulsive they cannot be broken by any ordinary effort of the will. The alcoholic’s compulsion to drink is like that.
 
As a smoker, for example, I have a deeply ingrained habit – I’m almost an addict. But I do not think that this habit is an actual obsession. Doubtless it could be broken by an act of my own will. If badly enough hurt, I could in all probability give up tobacco. Should smoking repeatedly land me in Bellevue Hospital, I doubt that I would make the trip many times before quitting. But with my alcoholism, well, that was something else again. No amount of desire to stop, no amount of punishment, could enable me to quit. What was once a habit of drinking became an obsession of drinking – genuine lunacy.
 
Perhaps a little more should be said about the obsessional character of alcoholism. When our fellowship was about three years old some of us called on Dr. Lawrence Kolb, then Assistant Surgeon General of the United States. He said that our report of progress had given him his first hope for alcoholics in general. Not long before, the U.S. Public Health Department had thought of trying to do something about the alcoholic situation. After a careful survey of the obsessional character of our malady, this had been given up. Indeed, Dr. Koib felt that dope addicts had a far better chance. Accordingly, the government had built a hospital for their treatment at Lexington, Kentucky. But for alcoholics – well, there simply wasn’t any use at all, so he thought.
 
Nevertheless, many people still go on insisting that the alcoholic is not a sick man – that he is simply weak or willful, and sinful. Even today we often hear the remark “That drunk could get well if he wanted to.”
 
There is no doubt, too, that the deeply obsessional character of the alcoholic’s drinking is obscured by the fact that drinking is a socially acceptable custom. By contrast, stealing, or let us say shop-lifting, is not. Practically everybody has heard of that form of lunacy known as kleptomania. Oftentimes kleptomaniacs are splendid people in all other respects. Yet they are under an absolute compulsion to steal – just for the kick. A kleptomaniac enters a store a pockets a piece of merchandise. He is arrested and lands in the police station. The judge gives him a jail term. He is stigmatized and humiliated. Just like the alcoholic, he swears that never, never will he do this again.
 
On his release from the jail, he wanders down the street past a department store. Unaccountably he is drawn inside. He sees, for example, a red tin fire truck, a child’s toy. He instantly forgets all about his misery in the jail. He begins to rationalize. He says, “Well, this little fire engine is of no real value. The store won’t miss it.” So he pockets the toy, the store detective collars him, he is right back in the clink. Everybody recognizes this type of stealing as sheer lunacy.
 
Now, let’s compare this behavior with that of an alcoholic. He, too, has landed in jail. He has already lost family and friends. He suffers heavy stigma and guilt. He has been physically tortured by his hangover. Like the kleptomaniac he swears that he will never get into this fix again. Perhaps he actually knows that he is an alcoholic. He may understand just what that means and may be fully aware of what the fearful risk of that first drink is.
 
Upon his release from jail, the alcoholic behaves just like the kleptomaniac. He passes a bar and at the first temptation may say, “No, I must not go inside there; liquor is not for me.” But when lie arrives at the next drinking place, he is gripped by a rationalization. Perhaps he says, “Well, one beer won’t hurt me. After all, beer isn’t liquor.” Completely unmindful of his recent miseries, he steps inside. He takes that fatal first drink. The following day, the police have him again. His fellow citizens continue to say that he is weak or willful. Actually he is just as crazy as the kleptomaniac ever was. At this stage, his free will in regard to alcoholism has evaporated. He cannot very well be held accountable for his behavior. (The N.C.C.A. ‘Blue Book’ ©, Vol. 12, 1960)

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The craftsman does not always build toward a prior vision.
Often images come in the process of working.
The material, his hands – together they beget. 
–M. C. Richards
We awaken in the morning, and the day is an un-built creation. We have some ideas about what we will accomplish today. But our Higher Power also has some things in mind, which are not yet part of our consciousness. We have lived long enough to know that every day brings surprises. We know in advance we will be frustrated in some of our desires, and we may be helped or advanced in others. But what about the totally unexpected? Will we even notice the subtle opportunities? Will we see an opportunity for a friendly conversation? Do our plans unwittingly prevent other possibilities from intruding?
When we hold loosely to our daily plans, we are more open to knowing the will of our Higher Power. Then each day is a spiritual process. It becomes a combined creation of our Higher Power and our own consciousness.
Today, I will hold my own plan loosely so that I can continue to be open to the healing powers of God.

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How does A.A. work
Q – Just how does A.A. work?
A – I cannot fully answer that question. Many A.A. techniques have been adopted after a ten-year period of trial and error, which has led to some interesting results. But, as laymen, we doubt our own ability to explain them. We can only tell you what we do, and what seems, from our point of view, to happen to us.
 
At the very outset we should like it made ever so clear that A.A. is a synthetic gadget, as it were, drawing upon the resources of medicine, psychiatry, religion, and our own experience of drinking and recovery. You will search in vain for a single new fundamental. We have merely streamlined old and proven principles of psychiatry and religion into such forms that the alcoholic will accept them. And then we have created a society of his own kind where he can enthusiastically put these very principles to work on himself and other sufferers.
 
Then too, we have tried hard to capitalize on our one great natural advantage. That advantage is, of course, our personal experience as drinkers who have recovered. How often the doctors and clergymen throw up their hands when, after exhaustive treatment or exhortation, the alcoholic still insists, “But you don’t understand me. You never did any serious drinking yourself, so how can you? Neither can you show me many who have recovered.”
 
Now, when one alcoholic who has got well talks to another who hasn’t, such objections seldom arise, for the new man sees in a few minutes that he is talking to a kindred spirit, one who understands. Neither can the recovered A.A. member be deceived, for he knows every trick, every rationalization of the drinking game. So the usual barriers go down with a crash. Mutual confidence, that indispensable of all therapy, follows as surely as day does night. And if this absolutely necessary rapport is not forthcoming at once it is almost certain to develop when the new man has met other A. A.’s. Someone will, as we say, “click with him.”
 
As soon as that happens we have a good chance of selling our prospect those very essentials which you doctors have so long advocated, and the problem drinker finds our society a congenial place to work them out for himself and his fellow alcoholic. For the first time in years he thinks himself understood and he feels useful; uniquely useful, indeed, as he takes his own turn promoting the recovery of others. No matter what the outer world thinks of him, he knows he can get well, for he stands in the midst of scores of cases worse than his own who have attained the goal. And there are other cases precisely like his own – a pressure of testimony which usually overwhelms him. If he doesn’t succumb at once, he will almost surely do so later when Barleycorn builds a still hotter fire under him, thus blocking off all his other carefully planned exits from dilemma. The speaker recalls seventy-five failures during the first three years of A.A. – people we utterly gave up on. During the past seven years sixty-two of these people have returned to us, most of them making good. They tell us they returned because they knew they would die or go mad if they didn’t. Having tried everything else within their means and having exhausted their pet rationalizations, they came back and took their medicine. That is why we never need to evangelize alcoholics. If still in their right minds they come back, once they have been well exposed to A.A.
 
Now to recapitulate, Alcoholics Anonymous has made two major contributions to the programs of psychiatry and religion. These are, it seems to us, the long missing links in the chain of recovery:
 
Our ability, as ex-drinkers, to secure the confidence of the new man – to “build a transmission line into him.”
 The provision of an understanding society of ex-drinkers in which the newcomer can successfully apply the principles of medicine and religion to himself and others.
So far as we A.A.’s are concerned, these principles, now used by us every day, seem to be in surprising agreement. ©(N.Y. State J. Med.,Vol.44, Aug. 15, 1944).
Second Answer
A – On the surface A.A. is a thing of great simplicity, yet at its core a profound mystery. Great forces surely must have been marshaled to expel obsessions from all these thousands, an obsession which lies at the root of our fourth largest medical problem and which, time out of mind, has claimed its hapless millions. © (N.Y. State J. Med., Vol. 50, July 1950).

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