“What you talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”

Jenna, over at Drinking to Distraction, inspired me to write this piece with her well written and honest post here.  What really stood out for me in her post were her thoughts about alcoholism and recovery.

As mentioned before, I view the problems people have with alcohol as a continuum, with those who have never drank on one end and the late-stage, chronic alcoholics (like me) on the other.  Because alcoholism is a progressive condition, between those two extremes there’s a wide spectrum where people can find themselves at any given time.  In Jenna’s words, there are “many shades, grades, and natures” among us.  Social drinking, problem drinking, alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence are just four intermediate points on the continuum that are often mentioned.

With that in mind, there certainly must be a continuum of remedies for us, from Nancy Reagan’s “Just say no” to a host of psychological therapies, through to AA’s introspective emphasis on the alcoholic’s problems other than alcohol as the solution, and many other ‘treatment’ methods.  They all have a degree of success; one mountain to climb with many paths from which to choose.  Yet none of them will work in anything approaching 100% of cases.  While we are all alike in many important ways, we are all different in ways that are just as important.  Where one person drinks to relieve social anxiety, another drinks to forget; another drinks out of boredom, another to alleviate depression and still another to elevate the highs–and so it goes.

Where does all this leave us, those who have been in the problem, made it through to the other side, and now wish to help those who still suffer?  Jenna’s conclusion is that we keep a dialog open to help those who are still living in the problem.  I agree with her.

I’m a firm believer in the power of personal testimony.  One of the best ways I can reach others is by sharing what it was like for me, what happened to get me through the problem to the other side, and what life is like for me now.

I was taught years ago that when I’m teaching, or simply want to convey a specific message, and the other party(ies) aren’t ‘getting it,’ the breakdown is on my end, not theirs.  I’ve found through the years that open dialog in the language of the heart combined with two-way communication is the surest formula to get any message across, no matter what the subject happens to be.  To that end, I do my best to keep an open mind when others share their experience, and I can then pass that experience along as a third-party anecdote.

Keeping an open mind also keeps me in a learning mode, ever reminding me that I don’t know everything, or even all that much, about either the problem or the solution.  I’m fairly certain that for me, to stop investigating and learning will lead to yet another relapse.  And I have every reason to believe I won’t survive another one.

The more people we have actively sharing and discussing recovery, the better the odds that someone will read (or hear) what they need to hear and progress down their own path to recovery.  It still amazes me when I think of all the times I had heard the same thing over and over without the slightest understanding, then someone rephrases it, no matter how slightly, and it’s like I was smacked upside the head with an iron bar.  “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear,” but we can improve greatly on that by being ‘seen’ and ‘heard’ prior to their readiness.

One other item I noted in Jenna’s post:  It appears she has come keypad to keypad with one of the Tormenters I’ve written about before.  Well, it happens.  I’ve come to the conclusion that regardless what someone says (or writes), given a large enough audience there will be someone who will take exception to it.  This is as certain as death and taxes.

I’d love to hear from all of you on the topic.  Whether you’ve been through the problem and come out the other side or you’re still looking for your answers, agree or disagree, hit me with a comment!  Thanks!

BTW–The title of this post comes from the TV show “Different Strokes.”  I couldn’t help myself.

  1. Very powerful message in this post. I feel that many of us use the blogging atmosphere as more than just self-therapy. There is hope that our words may one day help someone else, and that is more rewarding than all the riches in the world.

    PS I really enjoyed Jenna’s blog as well. Thanks for putting the link in your post.

  2. Such a wonderful, honest post. Though I haven’t made AA part of my recovery (yet…), I know that service plays a very important role. Your writing and your willingness to reveal yourself here does just that: provides a service to all of us seeking honest, personal recovery and to take better care of ourselves and others. Thank you!

  3. Excellent post and I have now added Jenna’s blog to my recovery blog roll. So many of us believe that AA is the only way and others get sober through church, volunteer work, or something that works for them. Drinking for me was escape. I loved living in the fantasy world I created by my drinking. So, when I had to stop drinking and begin working AA’s 12 Steps, I wasn’t happy at all. One of the things that still bothers me about myself, even though I have been sober several 24 hours, is that I still want to fill myself from something from the outside, rather than using my Higher Power to fill up that “God-hole” I have in my heart. Talking to another suffering person helps me so much and also knowing that I have to “keep it green” to progress in recovery. But again, self-knowledge avails me nothing and I have to look deeper to find out what really is going on. I think that besides the open dialog between other alcoholics, looking at ourselves is probably harder than anything we can do. I am glad that AA is a one day at a time program, because if I had to do it more than that, I am not sure I could.

  4. “Where does all this leave us, those who have been in the problem, made it through to the other side, and now wish to help those who still suffer? Jenna’s conclusion is that we keep a dialog open to help those who are still living in the problem. I agree with her.

    I’m a firm believer in the power of personal testimony. ”

    Yes . Without the stories of those who came before me I would be….

    who the hell knows where I would be. Dead maybe. Surely on the way to alcoholics dementia following in my mothers footsteps.

    I have been astounded by the outreach in BlogLand. What would a virtual world of sobriety have meant to me when I was working to get clean and sober? 24/7 support.

    My own blog has been reshaped by fellow travelers asking for my story about recovery. It is a service and it cuts both ways: telling my story helps someone; telling my story reminds me of what I stand to lose and how much I have gained.


    I love your blog. I really do,

    Peace, Jen

    • Hey, Jen! There’s no doubt in my mind that I’d be long dead by now without the recovery sites on the internet. At the time I received the “gift of desperation” to quit drinking and recover, no one in the rooms of AA answered my pleas for a sponsor. So I came on-line and found not one, but many, who helped me navigate my way through the Steps. Thanks for being here!

      • I was thinking that! I was thinking of how HARD it was to find a sponsor I could relate to. We did not have the internet; you just had to wander meetings and juggle that with life knowing KNOWING That the juggle decided whether or not life would go on!

        This virtual medium is a true blessing. I see in working in my life and in the lives of people just beginning the walk to sobriety

        one day at a time add to that

        one click at a time…

        THANK YOU for being here…


  5. Thanks to all for the comments! While I only started this blog a little over a year ago, I’ve been writing about recovery on the internet for several years and can attest to the power our words have to help others on the journey. It is most definitely a rewarding experience.

    Jenna, you’re probably more AA than you realize. We don’t need to become members of that fellowship, or follow along in ‘the book’ as we progress in recovery. The principles at work in the Steps are universal in their action. It’s all about re-discovering our true values, and bringing our actions in line with them. To think of the Steps as anything more than a roadmap (with built-in compass/GPS) is to mistake the pointing finger for the moon.

    Mary, I guarantee that the only place you will find your answers is inside yourself. And it’s one of the many paradoxes of the spiritual life that the harder we look for those answers, the harder they become to find. Do you have a meditation practice that you follow?

  6. So glad to have found your blog…love your writing style and honest, simple (well-written!) message. I’m struggling with the shades of grey and the message I get in meetings, but I’m confident I can make them work if I want to. Thanks for the message.