I was returning home the other day after our noon time meeting where we had a discussion about the word “sanity” in the Second Step. The definition of “sanity” is: “the ability to think and behave in a normal and rational manner; sound mental health”. For many this idea that as alcoholics we are “insane” is, forgive the expression, a hard pill to swallow. For me it was relatively easy since my medical record would substantiate some visits to mind altering institutions to tighten the loose screws. It was easy for me to admit to the insanity. God’s restoration was a little more difficult to swallow early on but as I advanced in the steps that relationship was reformed and solidified.
At the meeting and on the ride home I was basking in the glory of feeling as if I was someone who could really share on this step because I was no longer insane, having been restored by the Lord. Full of self-satisfaction my mind shifted to my resolution to change my eating habits This was an attempt to lose the twenty extra pounds that I have been carrying around since quitting smoking at the beginning of the new millennium. For many years I had been suffering from the delusion that my late middle-aged body still resembled its younger form. Having been restored to sanity and no longer delusional about my weight I headed to my local supermarket.
I walked around the store listening to the canned music, looking at the canned food and even taking a break to go to the can. As I wandered I picked up a couple of items to get me on my way towards a new pants size. I went to the 14 Items Or Less check out and put my items on the belt. When I got to the cashier she looked at the belt and then looked at me and instead of saying “Did you find everything you need sir?” she said “Are you sure this is what you want sir”? Startled I look at my potential purchases and there I saw a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey Ice Cream a pint of Cherry Garcia Ice Cream , followed closely behind by a six pack of chocolate Slim Fast. The definition for delusion is: “an idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument, typically a symptom of mental disorder”. I guess its back to Step Two.
Over the past forty three years I have been involved in the most successful healing program in the history of mankind. The program has saved my life and the lives of millions. It’s a program that is always successful at healing those afflicted with the disease of alcoholism. The program has founding principles which distinguish it from all other disciplines of healing and care. The program is a design for living that can be successfully applied to many other diseases and life problems. In fact, it’s twelve steps have been utilized in over a hundred different programs dealing with everything from gambling to overeating and compulsive debting.
Over the past fifty-six years I have worked in the healing professions. My first real job being at Children’s Hospital in Boston in 1965. Over the years I have worked with developmentally disabled, physically disabled, psychiatric patients, street kids, high school dropouts, displaced homemakers, the homeless, alcoholics and drug addicts, I have taught reading to people who could not read. By combining my experience in both venues with my own personal recovery and my professional life in human services, I have developed some strong ideas about caring, loving, and spirituality and their importance in healing mind, body and spirit. They are not new ideas, but they are often forgotten in this high tech, clinical buzzword filled milieu of treatment of both medical and emotional ills. This article will discuss one area but many of the ideas expressed here can be applied across the broad spectrum of human illness and healing.
Most treatment programs today do a fine job of bringing their participants to the table of tools necessary to achieve complete and continuous sobriety. They present a table full of all the best that psychology, addictionology and self-help programs have to offer. The approach is virtually the same whether an inner city court ordered program or the finest most expensive “spa” treatment center. All treatment is successful if the participant is willing and unsuccessful if he is not. The key to treatment is to bring clients to the point of willingness necessary to pick up the tools at their disposal.
Over seventy years ago two hopeless drunks discovered, with God’s guidance, a concept that has healed millions of alcoholics. They developed a program of recovery that can be universally applied. The three main principles to which all success can be attributed are: finding God, cleaning house and helping others. Treatment is mostly concerned with the middle principle. It”s the only one of the three that focuses inward. It’s where the self-centered nature of the alcoholic likes to hang out, for loosely interpreted, cleaning house is “all about me”. “All about me” is what had been killing us. Treatment does discuss spirituality and guides participants towards finding a Higher Power by sometimes even having “Spirituality Groups” as part of their program. But the one principle which is virtually ignored by most treatment programs is the “helping others” component.
This component is the great discovery of the founders of AA. To ignore is to deprive the primary principle of healing to those we are teaching to stay sober. About twenty years ago I worked in a “Children’s Home” in Maine,.an excellent facility for emotionally disturbed children. I worked with boys aged ten to fourteen in a homelike cottage. We had a “team” approach and all the professionals would meet twice a week in a room to discuss the kids cases. One day there was a psychiatrist, a clinical psychologist, a social worker, a teacher, a nurse, a nutritionist and all of the workers concerned with the care of the boys in the cottage. We were discussing a boy who had become violently out of control for no apparent reason. No one could understand how to quiet him when he had these tantrums.
There was one person in the room, a matronly LPN who worked the night shift. After about a forty-five minutes discussion with all the professionals weighing in she said that she knew how to quiet him down. There was a rocking chair in the living room and she would sit this ten-year old on her lap and rock him and sing to him and hold him. He would cry and finally fall asleep. She had the key, just as Bill and Bob had the key. We all have the key when we reach down inside our hearts and help others.
I have a modest proposal for all my friends in the treatment field and the caring professions and it is simply this: build into your programs a component that allows your clients to get outside of themselves and help those who are sick and suffering from something other than addiction. Many, like those who are hungry, homeless, terminally ill or aged have no choice about their circumstances. By allowing your clients to learn this third principle “help others” their own eagerness to clean house and find God will be greatly enhanced. You will be truly treating the root of their disease…self-centeredness. There are so many worthy causes, wonderful opportunities to serve others and so much need in this country and world.
As I spent the last month watching my father recover from a life threatening illness I was impressed by the level of care of the nursing staff in the ICU, the surgical recovery floor and the rehabilitation facility. I was so fortunate to be with my Dad as he was surrounded by family. I to walked by room after room of lonely elderly people who were at their final home. Taking a moment to smile, to say hello to talk to the men and women in their wheelchairs in the hall ways it occurred to me what a wonderful opportunity for recovering people to provide love and service. A novel feature of this facility is that it houses a day care center for staff. By mixing the children with the elderly residents, there were many smiles and much healing energy apparent.
This energy is possessed by all of us and when we learn to get outside of ourselves and help others we are healed of any and all problems. Is it no wonder that the people we elevated to iconic spiritual levels such as Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Ghandi, Martin Luther King are all people who have devoted their lives to the service of others. It seems that everyone in the treatment industry is looking for the latest, newest stateof-the-art approaches to addiction. Theories and modalities abound as we continue to seek the very best treatment opportunities for our clients. Sometimes its hard to keep up with the buzz words and the terminology and the new acronyms. Each facility seeks to have a new unique approach that set them aside from or above all the others. By going back to the basics in human relationships and permitting their clients to find the joy in helping others we will truyly give them the most healing tools in the spiritual tool kit: Love and Service.`
CYBERSOBRIETY is a compendium of Information, Inspiration, Wit and Wisdom For the Discriminating Recovering Human
My name is David Glenn and I discovered a life of recovery from alcohol and drugs on September 8, 1977. Over the years I have been successfully abstinent from both substances through the fortunate combination of working a twelve step program, good therapy and good medication. I have worked in the field of recovery in many capacities but in 1990 I started my own business. I published a 40 page recovery newspaper called The Solution. For almost 20 years the paper was the leading information journal for the recovering community of South Florida. South Florida had become the recovery capital of America with more Rehabs, Halfway Houses and other recovery oriented businesses. They were very supportive of my paper and my paper was supportive of the thousands of people recovering in South Florida.
With the ascendence of the Internet and the decline of the print media I decided to sell the paper to a company better prepared for a web edition. As so often happens the new owners misunderstood the mission and put profit ahead of service. As a result the web edition failed.
Over the years I have moved on to other service projects but I have always been asked to restart the paper. Also I have really missed the pleasure I derived from publishing it. Recently a good friend suggested that I do a blog. I thought about it for a while and I realized that it would be a good way for a 76 year old recovering guy to stay active, engaged and somewhat hip in this new millennium.
Last night my wife and I went to Dairy Queen for my favorite Reeses Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard only to find out that it had been changed to a Reeses Pieces Cookie Dough Blizzard. Just like the Blizzards the print media has changed. There was a long line and two teen age young women were in front of us in line. I knew it would be a long wait and they were unfazed as they spent the time on their cell phones. I commented to them that many people have bad things to say about cell phones but cell phones have made waiting easier. I had to go get mine and they laughed in agreement. It occurred to me that the ability to enjoy Cybersobriety while waiting in line at Dairy Queen could never have happened in 1992 when I created my first Solution on a Brother Word Processor that I Cut and Pasted with actual scissors and paste. Change is good. I truly hope that all my subscribers enjoy my Cybersobriety blog as much as I enjoyed my Reeses Pieces Cookie Dough Blizzard.