Loading
Todays Date:
Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

SHAME, The Dark Horse

By Ben Gallaway LISAC, CSAT

Shame is an emotional experience that was, until the past few decades, so neglected it might have been considered psychology’s stepchild. Research identifies shame as an important element in aggression, addictions, obsessions, narcissism, depression, and numerous other psychiatric syndromes. In this article I will clarify 12 step recovery, addiction treatment and ongoing therapy as they relate to shame reduction work.

The Pioneers

BrenĂ© Brown, Ph.D., LMSW has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame. She has written several New York Times bestsellers, Daring Greatly, The Gifts of Imperfection, and I Thought It Was Just Me. As a researcher, she discusses the ‘less than feelings’ so many people experience. This feeling — is shame and covered in all of her books.
Dr. Brown is quite clear that many human beings identify with shame, and not only those who suffer from addictions, trauma and co-dependency.

“Shame is a profoundly debilitating emotion. It drives our fears of not being good enough. We can learn to feel shame about anything that is real about us — our shape, our accent, our financial situation, our wrinkles, our size, our illness, or how we spend our day.” — BrenĂ© Brown

Many people identify with this dark horse…shame.
In 1988, John Bradshaw wrote Healing the Shame That Binds You, a book read by millions of people across the world. In it, he discusses concepts surrounding toxic shame and how it becomes the fuel for addictions and co-dependent behaviors. At the time of the book’s release many people started to understand co-dependency as a shame based illness.
“To be shame-bound means whenever you feel any feeling, need or drive, you immediately feel ashamed. The dynamic core of your human life is grounded in your feelings, needs and drives. When these are bound by shame, you are shamed to the core.”
— John Bradshaw, Healing the Shame that Binds You

Many people in recovery started to connect the breakdown in their relationship with self and others, as being rooted in toxic shame. Professionals in the treatment field began to view core trauma and family of origin shame as co-occurring issues to substance abuse and process addictions.
Bradshaw and others were helpful in the development of understanding how successful addiction treatment is about treating unresolved trauma and toxic shame, alongside interacting addictions.
Today, in residential treatment centers it is common to treat trauma, shame and addiction side by side. John Bradshaw’s very important recovery work continues to improve lives and has greatly influenced the field of recovery. Dr. Brown’s work is helping many individuals who carry the weight of a distorted self-concept. Both Bradshaw and Brown are true pioneers.

Childhood Shame and Adult Defending

 In my childhood I experienced violence, which is overt abuse. The problem for many individuals is, if the abuse they experienced was covert or subtle, they can easily minimize it by comparing it to the extremes, such as physical violence. Subtle abuse can create just as much wounding.
Many of us were abandoned or neglected, and our shame is rooted in the unconscious belief we were less than deserving of our parents time, attention or affection. For the child who loses a parent to death or divorce, it is not what happened to them, but what didn’t happen for them. No matter what our circumstances, we grow up feeling lonely, worthless, and many of us form overly dependent or love addicted relationships.
Enmeshment is another childhood set up. When a child is used to fulfill something in a parent, or family system; like unmet needs, unlived dreams, goals and aspirations. Enmeshment between a parent and child will often result in over involvement in each other’s lives so that it makes it hard for the child to become developmentally independent and responsible for their choices. In functional homes the energy runs from the parents to children.
Adults who were the little parent, rescuer, or tried to be perfect for the family will incorporate shame and disown parts of their self. Generally they disown certain feelings and needs and avoid emotional intimacy and closeness in adult relationships.
When a shame bound individual begins therapy, it is not unusual to distort what happened to them in childhood. Healing will require deep work and the skill of a professional to help sort out the past. The distortions come from how children believed they had power; which caused reactions in others. Children internalize parent’s feelings and behaviors and make anything negative as well as things positive about themselves.
By internalizing shame and making everything about them as adults, the family of origin parents will be shielded from responsibility. Shame bound adults tend to blame themselves or others, but family of origin work is not about blame, it is about assigning responsibility. If we are going to be accountable for our mistakes, why not hold others accountable for theirs? When we can clarify our history, our shame is reduced.
Building strength in recovery is about gaining information that starts to connect with one’s ability to self-parent. The main issues surrounding self-parenting are affirming the self, taking care of our needs, and limiting our indulgences.

Shame and Self Esteem

Our self-esteem is related to our internal value as human beings. Too much shame distorts this value causing us to feel less than, worthless, unlovable — even defective. We fear exposure, hiding behind an image, becoming extremely aloof, or acting shameless. Addictions, co-dependency and toxic shame are joined at the hip.
The power of toxic shame can infiltrate our identity and become rooted in our thoughts and belief system. A shame bound individual will deny parts of the authentic self and start to develop an adapted self — with a complex defense system and often, multiple addictions.
In this process we will either view ourselves as less than, or develop a ‘one up’ control driven set of behaviors to compensate. Some people become ‘one down to self’, and ‘one up to the world’. This shame fueled process may have started in our childhoods where we began to carry the shame of others who were not being responsible for their feelings and actions.
The addictive or co-dependent process will enhance the development of a shame based personality. One of the most difficult things for any human being to experience is the loss of the true self. We all want to love and be loved. It’s difficult to have any relationship if we are struggling with our since of self.
If we don’t learn to value ourselves from the inside (self-esteem) then we will do the opposite — value ourselves from the outside (outer-esteeming), becoming hostages to the circumstances outside of ourselves.
 Our thoughts and feelings about who we are will become dependent on a relationship with someone, or something outside of ourselves. This outer-esteeming causes our value to rise and fall based on what’s going on in our environment. True self-esteem doesn’t rise or fall, it is the belief we are precious and equal to others.


Shame and Addiction

The following is an illustration of the development of shame through an addictive family system.
 Tim is an active alcoholic, married, with a five year old daughter, Amy. She will grow up to be an adult child of an alcoholic (ACA) and his wife will become more co-dependent as the family disease progresses.
One afternoon after running errands, he stops for a drink on the way home before Amy’s birthday party. Unintentionally he stays out well past the time intended. When he does arrives home, he’s drunk. The party is ending as he bursts in the door, and his behavior embarrasses Amy, her friends, his wife and family members. Later, Tim and his wife have a heated, merry-go-round argument.
As per the script, the next morning Tim wakes with one hell of a hangover. He doesn’t remember much and he’s filled with remorse, guilt and shame. And.... once again he promises to never let this happen again. At that moment he really believes it.
Yet, the result of his behavior will cause Amy and her mom to internalize and carry shame about the previous night and all the others . In time, both will of them will develop stronger defenses because of their wounds.
 In Tim’s case, because of how the addicted brain is hijacked to the development of chemical tolerance, he will repeat the behavior, and circumstances will get worse for everyone. His attempts to control his behavior will become part of the loss of control experienced by most addicts. In not understanding his true powerlessness over alcohol; self-judgments and his shame core will increase.
His wife may attempt to fix and control her internal feelings of shame by shifting the focus on Tim’s problem, and the disease of addiction will rule this family. You can imagine all the different ways a family system will adapt to the shame and addiction. By introducing recovery to the family, the scenario for this family can change and the greater the chances they can begin to heal.

Healthy Shame and Guilt

The feeling of healthy shame signals us to limit ourselves. It’s our reminder to stay humble. If we are shameless, it’s easy to act offensively. A shameless individual is one up, non-contained and usually unaware of their offensive impact. The tendency is to ‘play God’. Healthy guilt lets us know when we break our own rules. Guilt is about what I do or don’t do and shame is about who I am.
With a healthy since of self, we can recognize our mistakes and learn from them. In a shame bound individual the belief is I am a mistake. A healthy response to guilt is, I did something wrong that I need to correct.

Recovery and Relapse

A high percentage of individuals in 12 Step programs grew up in addictive family systems or levels of dysfunction. It is not uncommon for them in recovery to experience toxic shame and pain from childhood wounds. This will usually show up in intimate relationships, where we ‘act out’ our unfinished business. Adding shame reduction, trauma work or ongoing therapy to the mix of sobriety is beneficial on the recovery journey.
Relapse happens long before we act out our addiction. When we carry shame we are much more susceptible to relapse. Some people isolate, keep secrets, act out compulsively in process addictions like sex, gambling, spending and overeating attempting to gain relief. This creates more shame and pain which elevates the need to medicate feelings which accelerates the cycle of relapse.
There are times when individuals in recovery need outside help from a therapist to wade through the self-doubt maze that was founded in a difficult family history. The disease of addiction is chronic. It does not go away.
There are those who relapse right after treatment because they believe they lost their safe place to open up. When a person is shame bound it kicks up a lot of anxiety and many fear reaching out for help in 12 Step meetings. With support and encouragement, and the realization that most people who attend 12 step meetings are there for the same reason— to stay on the path and form healthy relationships.
Professionals can help build support for clients within the continuum of care, especially after treatment. The field is filled with resources and it is our responsibility to do our due diligence. Two of the largest 12 step fellowships are Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Finding a home group to attend and allowing people get to know us is essential.

My Journey

Throughout most of my life, I felt less than, unlovable and didn’t fit in. I tried to be the best at everything, and in the progression of my addiction, I began to sabotage myself. I formed a pattern of attempting to be the best, or the best at being the worst.
I used success to buy off how small I felt and would fulfill the belief by sabotaging any success I did had. I tried to kill my pain with painkillers. It didn’t work and I entered treatment for close to a year in the late 80’s. The carried feelings from growing up in an abusive home started rearing its ugly head soon after. But I found a therapist who worked with me on my shame and it was recommended that I join a men’s therapy group. Through the process I learned I had to become vulnerable to those closest to me. My wife did deep relational work with me, and together we made a commitment to heal.
When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make.Let’s dare to show up and let ourselves be seen.

Ben Gallaway has worked in the field of Addiction and Trauma Treatment since 1989. Ben is owner and Director of Enchantment Workshops where he Customizes Educational Intensives and Workshops for individuals, couples, groups and families who suffer from the effects of Trauma and Addiction. Ben is certified as a Sex Addiction Therapist through IITAP and is an Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor through CADAC and ICADC.
Contact Ben at 602-228-8737  or visit www.enchantmentworkshops.com

Truth or Sabotage?

I work with a rental car agency that gets me good deals. When I began to use the agency I phoned in an order to the owner, who is a friend of mine. When he emailed me the confirmation, I discovered he made an error on the pickup time of the car. I called him back and he corrected it. This happened not just once, but three times. Hmmm.
I told the agent that I planned to recommend his service for participants of my residential retreats. He told me, “Great! Just be sure to have them book online—that’s a lot easier for me than processing a phoned reservation.”

Suddenly I realized why the agent had consistently messed up my orders. He didn’t want to take phone orders. His errors were subterfuged ways of saying, “I don’t want to do this.” When he finally told me the truth, I was happy to change the way I ordered. But he had to tell me the truth first. 
We all seek to express our truth. We all must express our truth. There are two ways to express your truth: directly or indirectly. If you do not express your truth directly, it will come out in odd, aberrant, and damaging ways. Self-sabotage or sabotage of others occurs when you don’t speak your truth directly. 

Honest expression of truth ends sabotage.

I had an office assistant whom I asked to pick up a laser printer cartridge on her way home from work one day, and she agreed. The next day when she came to work I asked her for the cartridge. “I couldn’t find the shop,” she told me. We found a map to the shop and she went off that day after work to find it. The following day she again returned empty-handed. “I got there after they closed,” she reported. I let her off work early that day to make it to the shop on time. The next day she told me, “I forgot to bring the company credit card.” 

Finally I picked up the cartridge myself without a hitch. The truth my assistant resisted telling me was, “I don’t want to do this.” I wish she would have told me that up front; it would have saved both of us time and trouble. When you don’t tell the truth up front, your truth comes out in weird ways that make more trouble for everyone.

We all have the ability to do anything we choose to do—IF we choose to do it. The story is told about Joe, who came home from work one day quite tired. As he was unwinding in front of his TV during the evening, Joe’s buddy phoned him and asked Joe if he would help him move his refrigerator. “I’d sure like to,” Joe answered, “but I had a tough day at work and I’m beat. Maybe another time.”
Ten minutes later Joe received a phone call from his girlfriend, who had just gotten back into town after being away on a business trip. “I’m back, honey,” she told Joe. “I just got a new Victoria’s Secret lingerie outfit. Would you like to come over and help me try it out?”

Did Joe suddenly have energy? You bet! He wasn’t lying to his buddy when he said he was too tired. He was too tired because he wasn’t motivated. We all find the energy and means to do what we choose to do. We find no energy to do the things we do not want to do. If we are forced to do things we do not want to do, we will find a way not to do them. That’s how powerful we are. The question is, will you express your preference honestly, or will you create veiled situations to get your point across?
You don’t have to get sick to get out of school, have an accident to get out of work, or have an affair to get out of a marriage. You can simply, clearly, directly express that you do not wish to do this. You might ruffle some feathers, but the cost will be far less than illness, accident, or a nasty divorce. Yet there is a hidden value in direct communication. You might create a solution that surpasses simply staying unhappily or leaving dramatically. By expressing your feelings you might be able to change schools, transfer departments at work, or deepen your intimacy, connection, and reward in marriage. Truth has ways of getting to solutions that sabotage does not.
 
Ceanne Derohan wrote a classic book entitled, Right Use of Will. We are always using our will. But we may not always be using it in alignment with our good. Your will is like an automobile with its engine running and the gearshift in drive. You can steer the car onto the main highway and take the most direct route to where you want to go. Or you can drive it through many detours and byways, over bumps and through walls. Ultimately you will get to your destination, but one path is a lot more direct and fun than another. 
   The universe rewards authenticity. Things are supposed to go right, and they usually do. When you say yes to what you choose, and no to what you do not choose, you are living in alignment with yourself. Life asks no more—or less—of you than this. 

Alan Cohen is the author of many popular inspirational books, including Enough Already: The Power of Radical Contentment. Join Alan beginning September 1 for his acclaimed Life Coach Training to become a professional life coach or incorporate life coaching skills in your current career. For more information about this program, Alan’s other books, free daily inspirational quotes, and his weekly radio show, visit www.alancohen.com, email info@alancohen.com, or phone (800) 568-3079 or (808) 572-0001.

Freedom

The highest and greatest of the human freedoms is to choose your attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Victor Frankel, Man’s Search for Meaning. It’s not the circumstances or challenges of life that define us. it’s our response to life that does.
The concept of Spiritual Freedom grew from Viktor Frankl’s incredible accounts of how some people triumphed emotionally and spiritually over the most horrific circumstances of Auschwitz. Freedom comes from making conscious decisions about who you are, and deciding what is what the nature of your soul and character. If we don’t consciously decide whether we want to be a person of integrity, truth and compassion, we can never be free. Once we do decide, however, we can never be in bondage to anything.
In one snap decision, you can begin to be the person you came here to be. You simply cross the gap. The gap is that pit we get to in our process that seems scary and filled with past experiences which continue to control us and make decisions for us — none of which are in our best interest.

Here’s how to deal with your gap
But first, why bother? It’s simple. When you are conscious, it is not possible to deliberately do things that are not good for you. So let’s go for it. When you get to the gap, to get back in control, the flow looks like this…
The person, circumstance or event that creates fear or anger

Triggers sensory overload/overwhelm over the threshold limit

Pause to identify the feelings in the gap that have been triggered. The majority of them will ALWAYS be from your past.
Then
recognize you are sensory overloaded.

Then we make a choice, either negative, or positive,

Negative choices: To regain control, avoid chaos and get out of fear.


To do that we…
Avoid-Bail-Close down    
Results in depression          
Anxiety
Fear/terror                
Disconnection            
Addictions                

Blow-Expel Energy-Vent
Results in anger
Sarcasm
Contemptuousness
Abuse to self or others
Blame          

Or you could make a positive choice: and change your internal response to be able to handle life with peace and serenity by reminding yourself you are an adult. As an adult, your tolerance to change, chaos, challenge and triggers is greatly improved and you need not respond in the same way you had to as a child.. These triggers are NOT who you are, they are just triggers from the past which have become your internal map of reality. You are not what is falling apart, your internal view of reality is falling apart and will come back together better and you are evolving to the next level.
 Begin to witness what is happening. Be an objective, curious observer. Decide not to move into any negative response and just watch the process. As soon as you begin looking at the fear, you’ve become bigger than it is and you are back in control, and that leads to positive decisions and …

Conscious Evolution
 The flow of this process is based upon research done by Bill Harris, Director of Centerpointe. The importance of it is monumental. Despite all the wonderful electronic, techy, fun gadgets we have and all the luxuries of our era, we are still not happy.   We have not yet achieved peace with ourselves, or each other. Take it from this older but sagey broad, at some point you will understand that there are no answers to achieving freedom out there. All the answers are in you. There is no one that will give it to you, create it for you or insure that you can keep it. Freedom is something that you give yourself through self-mastery, through impeccable integrity and through living in truth. It’s an addiction you can have and we can all support, called waking up.
You don’t need a class or a guru. You just need to breathe the next time you are triggered and remind yourself that the most exciting trip in the world is the one you take to yourself. We wish you every freedom, spiritually, emotionally, physically and intellectually. Just create them all. Go ahead.

Moving Forward

Anticipating our responses to life’s events and learning to cope with left over negative feelings is one way we learn to take care of ourselves. By continuing to evaluate what currently is happening in our life is part of the process. Learning how to protect ourselves in the real world can sometimes become an issue for us in recovery.

For those who have experienced trauma, past events may have left us feeling powerless over what happens in life today. Trauma can often undermine our sense of competence, even faith in our own judgment. We may feel uncomfortable protecting ourselves, particularly in new situations, thinking, “Why bother trying?”, “It doesn’t matter what I do,” or “Nothing I do makes a difference.”
If we believe this inner dialogue, it is easy to continue to be subjected to emotional harm or stay in unhealthy relationships, jobs, not living to our true potential. However, we all have choices. We can choose to seek a safer route to get where we are going, taking steps to protect ourselves, learning to trust by being with safe people and, of course, having healthy boundaries.
Part of being human is recognizing the need for the inner sense of emotional connection with others, as this is our basic need for intimacy.

Emotional connection is also one of the most effective ways we can cope. Receiving support from others is a form of emotional connection. Following a trauma, we may find it difficult to hold onto a positive feeling of connection, even with our supportive friends, family, or therapists. The time when we most need support, understanding, and acceptance, is often the hardest time to ask for help.
When we live through a trauma, it is not unusual to feel completely alone in our pain. It may appear to us that no one else can possibly understand what we’re going through. But by opening up and sharing our fears with those we do trust, we are often surprised to discover they too, may have shared similar experiences.
And while it can be difficult to hold onto connections when alone, looking at photos of someone we’re thinking about can help us remember a treasured time. Re-reading letters, listening to a tape of someone’s voice, can help retrieve a sense of connection or closeness. Looking at, or using a gift received from them might lighten to burden. Remembering special times, even writing a note, whether or not the person will ever receive it, helps us feel closer in someone’s absence.

If you don’t feel comfortable discussing problems or hurt feelings with another person, try this:
When you notice that something isn’t working, think through a past event but imagine it happening differently so it turns out with a better ending.

Here is a situation: Debra often went out with friends on weekends. As long as she was with a large group, she always had someone to talk to and enjoyed herself. Several times when she went with just one other friend, however, she felt self-conscious and drank more than usual. The morning after such evenings, she always ended up regretting some of her behaviors and choices, and often feeling embarrassed.
Here is an example of how Debra could imagine a different scenario: She could imagine things would have been different if two or three friends had come with her rather than just one. What would have happened if she and her friend had gone to a movie instead of a bar? Where else could they have gone? What other things could they have done? Why limit her activities to drinking?
What would have happened if she had said to the friend that she’d rather not drink? Perhaps they would have gone out and enjoyed each other’s company in a setting where alcohol was not served. As Debra imagined these various scenarios, some of them felt more comfortable than others. Some seemed more fun than others. Debra can use all this information to plan ahead for new ways of being with herself and friends. Maybe some boundary setting would have made a huge difference in the outcome of their evening.

Maintaining Interpersonal Boundaries

To have an interpersonal boundary is to know where you “end” and another person “begins.” It is also to know we have a right to allow and not allow others to enter our personal physical or emotional space. Maintaining appropriate interpersonal boundaries is an important self-protective coping skill. Figuring out comfortable and safe boundaries can be difficult for those who have experienced violations such as unwelcome touch or harassment and emotional abuse. Such survivors may feel loss of power or control leaving them vulnerable to future violations. A natural and protective response is to withdraw. Withdrawing in order to be safe can work; but in the long term, it can interfere with meeting other basic needs such as trust and intimacy. It’s a challenge to trust and be open after a severe boundary violation. Trust and openness include risks. Taking risks is may seem difficult after being hurt, and yet risks can enrich our lives as well.

Healing the Wounded Child

By Mike Finecey, MA, LPC, LISAC


Remember being three years old? This was to be a time when what happened yesterday was forgotten and tomorrow was of no importance. A time when we truly knew what it was to “live in the moment.”
Each of us is born nearly perfect and capable of unconditional love, simply seeking to be loved. We were unconditional and entered into a life where conditional life abounded around us. These were the training lessons learned by the unconditionally loving child coming into contact with a conditional environment.
The creation of the wounded child is developed from the unconditional self entering into conflict with the way we were conditionally trained. As we attempt to make sense of the conditions of our environment as young children, we will modify our behaviors to be loved as we learn and experience our negative emotions; sad, lonely, pain, hurt, rejection and fear.
As we modify our behaviors to be loved, we learn to withhold, deny, hide, and run away from our own feelings. If our learning of negative emotion goes unattended and unresolved, we learn to repress what we feel and the wounded child is born as our authentic self diminishes in value.

Birth of the Wounded Child

In healthy family systems a child learns how to emote what is felt in a healthy manner, while learning to have empathy and sympathy for others. As we experience negative emotions, we’re able to talk to our parents, siblings and others to seek understanding and guidance on “how to deal with” our feelings.
In unhealthy family systems a child learns how to repress negative emotional feelings and pain. And those who are guiding us are often the ones who are creating the pain.  They are unavailable to relieve the pain of the wounded child. Whether coming from a healthy or unhealthy family system, we all grow upu using uses the lessons we learned, healthy or unhealthy for guidance and decision. Wounded children often have historys of trauma, abuse and deprivation, both witnessed and experienced.
Experiences such as divorce, various forms of abuse, being a child of an alcoholic or addict (ACoA), abandonment, rejection, perfectionism, unworthiness, not being loved and many other forms of woundedness create the wounded child who learns to repress and control the pain, becomes an adult without the skills of how to self-care.

Development of  Wounded Children

A child between the ages of 5 and 10 seeks to be loved and will do whatever needs to be done to be loved. If that means being quiet, hidden or to endure pain, that’s what a child will do. When we lose our authentic self, we’ve missed the lessons of how to feel our negative emotions and solve problems in a healthy manner. When we’re younger than 12 and need to repress and mask pain, our brain isn’t fully developed to problem solve so we hold ourselves accountable for what is happening. If parents are fighting, it must be our fault. The wounded child, as an adult, has two primary fears. Fear of rejection/abandonment (fear of being alone) and/or the fear of intimacy (fear of being known).

Healing the Wounded Child

As adults when we feel pain, we respond in an emotional manner and age of a young child.The trainings we need to learn as a child to become a healthy adults are safety, a sense of control over our own environment, nurturing, support, encouragement, respect as a separate person, consequences, responsibility, skills, worth and value.

To accomplish this we must be willing to re-parent ourselves in healthy ways. Re-parenting; to let go of control of repression and masking of feelings and allowing the truth of what we feel to surface. We learn to nurture and create new solutions to old behaviors. To re-parent is the ability to put the child behind the adult while the adult protects the wounded-child until trust is regained by new experiences as an adult. The goal is not to eliminate the wounded child, but to transition from wounded to emoting, where we show our feelings while having sympathy and empathy for ourselves and others. It takes time and can require support and guidance of others. Awareness of one’s woundedness is the beginning of one’s healing and recovery.

Mike Finecey, MA, LPC, LISAC is the co-founder and Clinical Director of North Pointe Counseling Center specializing in the treatment of Trauma, Abuse and Deprivation. He is the co-author and facilitator of Breaking Free...a Journey, a 20-hour intensive workshop that focuses on healing from traumatic life events. Breaking Free is offered monthly to the public and is privately contracted with organizations such as treatment centers and community-based foundations. For more information: 800-273-3429 or www.npccaz.com.

It’s A “We” Deal

Last month I celebrated 23 years clean and sober. I thought about all the times I tried quitting the destructive behaviors which ruled, and were ruining my life. How many times had I said, “This is it, no more!” Yet, I repeated that pattern over and over again. Powerless.

Me, powerless? Until I entered the rooms of a 12 step program, I had no clue I was powerless. It was easier to blame my genetics, where I lived, the job I had or the friends who just didn’t get me.  I learned to look outside my world and point the finger at my circumstances as the reason my life was deteriorating. A bubble filled with shame, guilt, fear, delusion, blame and anger… that’s where I lived. Someone told me early on, don’t ever forget your last drunk. I haven’t. Thinking about it still sends chills up my spine.
In the beginning it was difficult asking for help. “Why am I going to come clean to complete strangers and talk about all my awful secrets? Won’t they throw me out?” I wondered, “Are all these people just like me? They can’t drink either?” Understanding that concept was an eye opener.

Then it started to resonate; the fellowship, the sober people I began to meet  — we were in this together and it was a ‘we deal’. Bill Brown told me that on our first date. What I have learned is there are many things I cannot do alone. I cannot sponsor myself, be my own therapist or best judge of what is right for me. I need help and have to ask for it.

I have learned to swallow my pride and become willing to be vulnerable in front you. My ego will tell me I can figure out problems alone, but when I listen to all the crap I tell myself, I’m headed in the wrong direction.

The “we” deal is a simple formula. First my Higher Power, sponsor, fellow sober travelers and taking my chair in the rooms where I now feel comfortable. Listening instead of lecturing, being open to new ideas and reaching out my hand.

Because it isn’t all about me, it’s about us. To everyone trudging the road, I thank you for getting me here.

Barbara