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Addiction & AA

So I was reading a blog posting the other day about Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) which I found to be rather interesting. Should you want to read it here you can do so. To give a brief synopsis, the posting goes through several myths or issues with the general AA program. I’m not sure if I totally agree with them and thought I’d make a post following my last one about addiction as a bit of a rebuttal or commentary on the myths that this other posting expresses.

One “myth” that the posting suggests exists is that you have to “hit bottom” in order to get well. I think it is true the addict has to hit a low point or else you have to often have something give you a jolt that says how they are living needs to change and your life will be BETTER if you change. It does not necessarily have to be becoming homeless or living in a cardboard box because they cannot afford anything else. It just has to be something in their life’s experience that is not something they’re willing to live with anymore and thus shows them that making changes in their life is beneficial for them, their social network, and perhaps their community at large in some way. Maybe I am wrong, but it seems to me that something that jolts the addict out of distorted thinking and minimization or denial is necessary for snapping back into reality to realize that change is beneficial or necessary.

I was watching an episode of Lindsay on OWN the other day which is a documentary series following Lindsay Lohan in her path to recovery and re-establishing herself in her professional life/community. Her coach for the first 30 days with regard to her addictions was seen talking to the camera stating that addiction is a “self-centered thinking disease” which rang true to me. It seems to me that addicts are so focused on how they are feeling and whether they need their substance or behavior of which they are addicted to in order to feel comfortable. They need to focus on what they need in order to feel satisfied or comfortable in their lives. Thus I feel there is some merit to insinuating a selfishness of an addict. That is not to say that the soul or being of the addict is intrinsically selfish, but it is to say they are so enmeshed within their ego that they cannot see beyond themselves necessarily, and thus “hitting bottom” allows them to break free from ego enmeshment and begin to see others and how their focus on themselves has had a negative effect on the broader community. Their higher self is freed from the shackles of the addiction to see all that it has done that the ego enmeshment tried to hide over time.

That brings me to another myth in the post: “You must surrender your will to get well.” I suppose that can be taken in different ways, but the way I see it is to surrender ego enmeshment to the higher self so that the higher being within us or that manifestation of the higher being that lives in each individual at a soul level is able to see the damage that is done to the body, to the possessions, the families and the community. Upon surveying the damage, admitting to it and showing some kind of remorse for actions is helpful to others to see that the addict really is not selfish in essence, but their addiction was a result of being so enmeshed with their ego that they had no ability to truly perceive much beyond themselves and their needs or desires. It allows the addict to make amends with all things and people in their lives. It allows the process of forgiveness and letting go of the past to happen because their is no longer a need to hold on to anything or to grasp at straws to find ways that the egoic self can survive and profit. It does not have to be overly religious as I perceive it, not by any means. It might be spiritual, but I did not have to use the religious terms for any form of higher power in order to write my explanation for this point about AA to be deemed important to the process. Surrendering is not to say that the individual is incapable of managing their life and therefore need to sit back and put their feet up while the universe takes control and makes everything happen in the world. In fact, it might be a God or the universe that is responsible for pulling families and communities through when an addict has a position of power or some high level of status. Perhaps God comes in for those people when they have no other choice in their understanding as a way to do anything with the situation. The addict might just be surrendering their ego enmeshment so that they realize how difficult it is for others to have coped with the monstrosities that they had to endure due to the addiction.

I’m not sure whether counting days of abstinence is necessarily useful. It doesn’t necessarily have to mean you go back to zero days when you have a bad day or week of relapsing. It could, in fact, be empowering to consider how far the addict went in life between relapsing periods. Perhaps their first time being clean they lasted 1 year, the second period following their first relapse lasted 5 years. It would be a means of showing the addict they are improving. They are able to go further and further every time they focus on being clean and sober.

I’m not a fan of labels, and lumping all addicts into a category such as “drunks” may only make them feel more self conscious or feel less confident in being who they are and having comfort in being themselves. I’ve known people who have indicated that some AA groups are not for them, that they found themselves denying that some AA group could help them because the members of the group simply did not fit with who the individual was or is. They need a group that has people in it who are like them, who they might aspire to be like in order to know that it is a right fit for them. Perhaps a bunch of homeless people who do not appear likely to be a university professor would not be appropriate for a hard working addict that simply wants to achieve more of a status in life but feels unable to do so. That individual might feel more at home in a community of AA members who include someone like a mayor or government official, a university professor, someone who is admitting to not being able to handle things in their life and is involved with a substance or behavior that is done repetitively by them and is thus an addiction. This point in the myths post also suggests that the term “drunks” implies addicts are pleasure seekers which I’m arguing their ego is, their enmeshment with their ego makes them seem like pleasure seekers but that isn’t necessarily what they are or who they are at a soul level or necessarily what their higher self is and they may not be so enmeshed with their ego that that other part of themselves isn’t able to show through at times. It very well can show through, but just not all the time.

When I read the myth about things being one day at a time, I couldn’t help but consider Eckhart Tolle. There really is only the present moment, so taking things one day at a time or one moment at a time is all you can do because there is no way to really live in the future. We make it up as we go in the moment. There is no benefit to living in the past. It’s done and unalterable. We can have regrets, but we might as well forgive ourselves and others for these where it helps because beating ourselves up over something that happened 10 years ago has no positive effect on the present moment other than to fuel negative emotions. I don’t think the one day at a time approach is intended at all to be demeaning to addicts. The ego enmeshed self might take offense to the approach of one day at a time, but that’s an egoic defense mechanism to give and keep power within the ego. It is nothing more or less than that.

Depending how you look at an approach to healing of any kind, whether it’s healing addiction, or healing physically or any other way. The intent of the process is important to perceive correctly in order to understand how it all works. If it is not perceived correctly, it will be misinterpreted and the perceiver will be unable to comprehend the process from the misinterpreted view point quite likely. Perhaps I am off my rocker, and totally view Alcoholics Anonymous and its way of be as different from my perception to what it really is as Pluto is different from Earth.