Last night a friend was over to the house and we talked some about addiction. They noted that they just did not do well with alcohol, that addiction was a familial issue. They decided they were just not going to drink. They also noted that they were not going to go to AA or Alanon because they had done that in their teenage years, did not like it, and found the folks to be very judgmental and rigid. I recognize this can be an issue in AA meetings. I don’t push people to AA if something else is working for them. I know that with 30 years of sobriety, I find that the “bleeding deacons” tend not to respond to whatever heresies I might throw out because, well, it has worked for me for 30 years! I also noted to my friend that since getting sober there were times when I did not attend an AA meeting for five years. These days I generally plan to attend one meeting per week, but I have not been to a meeting in about one month.
The night before I had a two-hour Skype with a friend and colleague who sometimes I see once a year, sometimes more regularly. We are planning for some projects that will bring us together a bit more for the next year.
About three years ago I got back together with my “best friend” from high school that I had not seen in over 35 years. We hit it off perfectly and we now see each other for an evening’s reflection about every six months or so, when we are in the same general area as we live some 8 hours drive apart.
This list goes on . . .
. . . I don’t take the inconsistency as a fickleness on my part toward relationships or recovery. I know that to deal with my addictions I must be in sync with a recovery path every day. Sometimes that synchronicity is through AA meetings, sometimes through talking with others, sometimes in writing this blog. I know that a blog will not keep me sober or abstinent anymore than an AA meeting will if I am not truly seeking a solution. I very well recollect many years ago sitting in an AA clubhouse or in the rooms of Nicotine Anonymous, savoring the effects of the drug would bring as soon as I could plan my escape from the meeting. What I enjoy is that over the years I have acquired a bunch of tools for recovery that work well in different situations. Which tool do I need today? A screwdriver? Hammer? Pen? Book? There are a bunch. But what I also know is that if the tool I have picked up is not working, I need to put it down and pick up another. I am grateful today for the ability to choose.
I have taken Meyers-Briggs type personality tests for some 30-odd years (see Jung test lists at this link for examples). I consistently come out INFP or INFJ. In the more distant past, I would review the characteristics of my type, and think “I like this” or “I need to work on that” and so forth.
Less than 10 years ago, I was in a job that just was not working – I was pretty miserable. I loathed going to work every day. In a gesture akin to grasping at straws, I took an online Meyers Briggs test again, and once again came out as INFP and reviewed the characteristics of my type. But this time, I also saw there was a listing of suitable and unsuitable careers for my personality type. The unsuitable career list contained everything that I was doing on my job at that time. The suitable list contained job types that I had done in the past with great satisfaction or performed then as a hobby or in an avocational capacity.
I immediately saw the resolution to my dilemma – I was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Within six months I applied for and was hired at the position I hold to this day – with great satisfaction.
What I find particularly interesting about this story is that I am certain that when I took the Meyers-Briggs test in the previous 20 years, the favored/disfavored career listing was also available, however, I did not notice that information until about 10 years ago. The saying that When the student is ready the teacher will appear seems relevant here.
As well, though seemingly intuitive, why did I take the tests for 20 before I considered accepting my true self? If the test has any validity, I should not read the results as “I like this” but “I don’t like that” and instead see the type as “This is who I am.”
I also think about how this being true to one’s self is truly a process and not a single event. I am grateful that being in recovery allows me the opportunity to travel along that road.
I had this fixation a long time ago that to be a published author would be a measure of my life worth in some way. And then I published a bunch of stuff, and that fixation went away. I now turn down publishing opportunities unless I really believe in the project. So it is not publish or perish, but publish what and where I believe – one of the reasons for this blog.
I have been thinking of this more too of as I move toward my “retirement” which is actually only a transition to another kind of career. I think of this idea in terms of Twelfth Step work. I am incredibly grateful that sobriety has given me the opportunity to live a life in recovery and meaning. Professionally, I value most and feel the best about my ability to empower others in their process toward finding meaning in their own lives. This comes back to the Wounded Healer I blogged about last week.
This thing is a three-sided coin. On one side I am able to be of service to others in sharing my experience, strength, and hope. On the second side, this sharing and being in community with others is also a learning and growing experience for me. On the third side, I know that I must give it away to keep it. Working with others provides me that opportunity.
That old line of publish or perish means little to me. Perhaps more fitting is “serve or starve” or “give it away or give it up” or . . .
By their wounds, we are healed. We often speak of the ‘wounded healer’, the person who is able to be an instrument of healing because of her own wounded and the way in which those wounds have been used. In my experience, many of those who have endured great pain and have transcended its damaging effects have a remarkable power to draw others to them when they are in need of strength and consolation. – Kenneth Leech, We Preach Christ Crucified, p. 25.
The Twelfth Step of AA goes “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and practice these principles in all our affairs.” I realize discussing this very simple statement could consume many, many blog posts. A quick rewrite for me goes – “Through the process of recovery, I live in a world of gratitude, solutions and possibilities. I want to share this message of experience, strength, and hope with others who came from the same place as I. As well, in claiming my place in this world, I also want to live this message in everything that I do.”
I recollect saying in a recovery meeting once that I really enjoyed that folks in recovery were highly qualified to be a part of recovery solutions of others. A trained counselor shot back about the need for their professional expertise and training. To me, this is where the wounded healer concept comes in. Professional services, counseling, and so forth are great – I have used them a bunch – but I also know that having lived through addiction and into the process of recovery provides one with a sense that cannot be obtained except through the experience.
This understanding is one reason I am attracted to the idea put forward in messages like the Anonymous People film. If the significance of the wounded healer is true, then those in recovery have an obligation to live into the Twelfth Step. It’s not a matter of ego, it’s a matter of doing the next right thing.
Have carried this card for 30 years now!
Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them. – AA Promises
I play this game of sorts with students I advise these days. I ask them to list the 10 ideal jobs they would like to have today. We then discuss how to morph the attributes of those 10 jobs into a single position. The discussion focus now shifts from a job to a career. Next we consider both the formal and informal education needed to develop the skill set and experience to start on that career path. I note that the process may take a lifetime with many shifts and complete changes along the road. That is a career is a process, not an event.
Naysayers to this approach might argue that I am setting students up for failure – that there are economic and market limitations that prevent such unlimited possibilities. I consider those nattering nabobs of negativism to be dream stealers or dream killers. This cynical view, if replaced by a plan of action, will demonstrate that we certainly can move toward that ideal career.
I find that recovery is much the same. The AA Promises might seem completely unattainable to the person fresh into abstinence from their addiction. But there are a myriad of recovery programs, including of the 12-step variety that work well for me, that offer a plan to reach those goals. I am convinced that if I do the work, based on my experience, strength, and hope, living into an ideal recovery is not only possible but the very likely result. That too is truly a process and not an event.