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Al anon feels too much like church to me

Old 11-11-2010, 08:27 PM
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Sometimes I do wonder if handing it over is a trick of my brain.Even if it is, it's working and that's ok by me.I need results and relief , n ot an explanation anymore.
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Old 11-12-2010, 02:44 AM
  # 42 (permalink)  
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Originally Posted by grewupinabarn View Post
I was trying to wrap my head around this very issue today. The conclusion I came to is:
> I want to change, because habits and behavior I learned from being around alcoholics make my life (relationships, job, even just feeling comfortable with myself for any amount of time) difficult, to say the least. From alanon, I have learned I am not alone. Being around alcoholics, be they a wife, husband, parents, or children, seems to magically create thought patterns that are hard to shake, even if the alcoholic or alcoholism has left our lives. Alcoholism/codependency is the 'gift' that keeps on giving. I think of this as 'Step zero'.

> I can't change me by myself. Sitting in a room alone, I am not going to make any change at all. I can't do brain surgery on myself. This is my powerlessness. I am sure some have stopped using/drinking/obsessing on their own, but I haven't heard of anyone achieving at least some degree of serenity and comfort with themselves without help that was external to their own will and knowledge.
Self+Self=Self; no change there. I think of this as Step 1.

> I think admitting one needs help makes one buy a self-help book, go to a therapist, join a group, or start posting on a web site. We admit we lack the tools to fix ourselves. Some recovery programs focus on will alone as the key to recovery (such as rational recovery), but they still advise buying their book (cd, software, ect.). Thus we look to a power greater than ourselves (or at least greater than our problem). Like me, many find some of that power in the sharing of a group.

Self+Other=Change. I think of this as Step 2.

> I believe that the power of any program, including 12 step programs, lie in making me work my recovery. It gives me homework. I recall some famous study that showed that learning most most effective when students did something active (such as riding a bike or writing), and reading was less effective, and listening the least effective. So I think we recover best when we 'turn over' our problems and our recovery to the guidance of something else, be it God, a group, nature. For me the key is committing to being guided by a will other than my own. That will can be the order one senses in nature itself, or the sound advice one hears from a group, or what a functional and fully self-accepting me would do and say.

I turn my will and life over to what I think will guide me best. In my case, I do believe in that there is conscious presence in the universe and he/she/they/it is aware of me and can well guide me better than I can guide myself. Sometimes, my belief gets weak and a simply think of the collective wisdom of my alanon group.
If Self+Other=Change, then 'Other' is damn important in my life. I think of this as Step 3.

I choose to work the rest of the steps, 4 to 12, and I choose to work them in Alanon. YMMV.
Full disclosure: I have gone to 5 therapists over the years, and none produced the progress that I have achieved in Alanon. Part of the reason for this is that having been raised by 2 alcoholics, I am an instinctive people-pleaser. I think I wanted my therapists to feel like they were helping, even though I was paying them! My alanon group does not let me get away with that.

Yeah, I get a little uncomfortable with the hug stuff, but its a pretty small sacrifice considering what I get out of meetings.
I really love how you broke that down into stages of not tackling it alone, that no man is an island type of thing. That self+self=self, which equals no change.
That really spoke to me, thanks. I fully agree.
Now if I could only get the A in my life to see that....
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Old 11-12-2010, 08:35 PM
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With sincere pre-emptive apologies to the faithful, I'd like to also come out as a frustrated & angry agnostic/paralytic. Obviously, it's impossible to even approach supernatural business with any pretence of authority, but to me, the suggestion that some kind of transcendental moral order exists is almost offensive. I won't get all hot about the problem of evil, but the idea that children need suffer, from abuse, war, disaster, and diseases; that whole civilizations could be wiped out; that a particular few *this* world are due special consideration, and others not (including the historical millions who until very recently wouldn't have had the opportunity for Christian redemption), is just perverse.

I mean ok... maybe it makes sense in the context of some alien rationale, but if it does, man... the payoff had better be good.

I'd also like very much to believe in the higher self concept... and in my better moments, I verge upon it. I feel life is precious in and of itself. Given the statistical unlikelihood of animal life, of consciousness emerging in humans... what an amazing stroke of luck we have, if nothing else. And what a shame to waste it. (If something else... brilliant... would love to be a believer.)

My problem with the idea of a higher self - would love correction, here - is that gut instinct doesn't always steer you right. (This is too often true in my case, yes; and for others, whose early lives have been sub-optimal, let's say.) I'm not sure instinct/the life force is ever free of culture, bias, and belief. (Have read a bunch on this - though far from enough! - I guess Malcolm Gladwell's summary of social psychology in Blink is as good a place to point to as any.) I'm not sure where healthy guidance might come from... I think someone is lucky, if they happen to have been exposed to individuals, beliefs and institutions that broadly offer the supports we can mostly agree a 'good' human life requires.

I'd love to believe in self-empowerment, and free will... but, if causality holds, so does determination. (Neuropsychological studies seem to be showing that our brains 'know' we (our bodies) will do things before we do.) The only reasonable argument against determinism is randomness, which doesn't help in a discussion of free will, as we normally understand it.

I guess I'm a kind of fatalist, and a hypocrite, because I'm trying not to be.

In terms of the implications this has for 'getting better'? No idea. I look to studies (inasmuch as I'm able to concentrate), and try to keep a sceptical eye. And try to follow good feelings, in keeping with the higher self notion (and because, well, they feel good.... though of course this is a leap of faith...).

Pleased you were able to find a group that felt good

Last edited by notforgotten; 11-12-2010 at 08:41 PM. Reason: oh... mistakes.
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Old 11-12-2010, 08:48 PM
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and on the therapy tip... there's so much variety in the quality of available care, so much ideology there too... and in the studies... easy enough to fall into the grip of some cultish belief or other. here, i'm actually referring to clinical (vs social or cognitive) psychology and psychiatry. faux and dangerous science, a lot of that, i think. i speak as a former drug company guinea pig.
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Old 11-14-2010, 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by notforgotten View Post
I'd also like very much to believe in the higher self concept... and in my better moments, I verge upon it. I feel life is precious in and of itself. Given the statistical unlikelihood of animal life, of consciousness emerging in humans... what an amazing stroke of luck we have, if nothing else. And what a shame to waste it. (If something else... brilliant... would love to be a believer.)

My problem with the idea of a higher self - would love correction, here - is that gut instinct doesn't always steer you right. (This is too often true in my case, yes; and for others, whose early lives have been sub-optimal, let's say.) I'm not sure instinct/the life force is ever free of culture, bias, and belief.
What a thoughtful, well-articulated post. Thank you. I would have quoted all of it, but wanted to address the part above.

I will not characterize this as "correction," but more like the way I reconcile the dichotomy you pointed out.

These are my beliefs only, and I do not expect or even care one way or another to have agreement from anyone else.

I do believe that gut instinct always steers you right. I believe it is the higher self looking out for me in ways I don't always understand or heed. The biggest problem I have is the ability to discern the gut instinct. The parts of me that are conditioned by culture, bias, etc., are generally not my gut instinct, but something else pretending to be it--such as my ego. I also have to try and sort out the committee of voices that try to pretend to be the gut instinct as well (mom, dad, that harsh grade-school teacher, my ex-husband, the person who once told me my forehead was abnormally large, etc.) So, my ongoing challenge is to learn what is my higher self, and what is not. I don't expect to ever completely master it, but getting it right more and more often is what I'm trying for.

L
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Old 11-14-2010, 12:43 PM
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Hello notforgotten, and pleased to "meet" you

Originally Posted by notforgotten View Post
.... With sincere pre-emptive apologies to the faithful, I'd like to also come out as a frustrated & angry agnostic/paralytic. Obviously, it's impossible to even approach supernatural business with any pretence of authority, but to me, the suggestion that some kind of transcendental moral order exists.....
no worries, respectful discourse is always appreciated.

The way I see it there are two separate issues that get tangled up in the concept of a "Higher Power". One is the _religious_ concept, which belongs in religious organizations and is well maintained there. An entirely different issue is the _recovery_ concept, which starts with the awareness that _everything_ I have tried to fix the problems in my life has failed, the acceptance that I need some form of _external_ help to get me out of the mess that I am in, and the willingness to ask for that help.

The recovery concept has nothing to do with the transcendent, or the religious. Some people choose to mix the two different concepts and that works for them. Others choose to keep the separate. That is why the whole business of "as I understood" is such a central tenent of the 12 step programs.

Originally Posted by notforgotten View Post
.... My problem with the idea of a higher self - would love correction.....
Actually, any attempts at "correction" would be in violation of the concept of "as I understood" So I won't even try. What I see is that recovery is _not_ about a "higher self". My self is fallible enough allready, thank you, I don't need to elevate my fallibility to a higher order. The recovery concept is about a higher _concept_. A concept that sets me as an _equal_ member of a group whereby we all work together for the common good. ( That's a part of the "traditions" of a 12 step program )

Originally Posted by notforgotten View Post
.... The only reasonable argument against determinism is randomness, which doesn't help in a discussion of free will, as we normally understand it. .....
You're heading off into epistemology, and if we take that road we'll eventually wind up at Nietsche and Descartes Discourse on Method. Neither of which will provide a ray of hope to somebody who's loved one is dying from alcoholism. That's the difference between discourses on philosophy and recovery. In recovery we're trying to save people from the horrors of this disease.

But if you _really_ want to get deep into determinism vs. randomness look up "chaos theory" and "local minima". Spruce up your math skills and get ready to give the above two philospheres a run for their money

Originally Posted by notforgotten View Post
.... I guess I'm a kind of fatalist, and a hypocrite, .....
Only if you start with the assumption that the human mind, within it's limitation, really _can_ grasp the fundamental nature of the Universe. See Georg Cantor and Kurt Godel for some thoughts on that matter. If you are willing to accept that the human mind is incapable of such understanding, then you can happily admit to being confused about mutually exclusive realities and go about your life enjoying what is positive.

In any case, getting back to recovery, there are many different ways of surviving addiction, of which the 12 step programs are only _one_. You have to shop around much like you would for a dentist or an auto mechanic. Find one that gives you the results you need and get back to living the life you want.

Mike
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Old 11-14-2010, 01:01 PM
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Originally Posted by LaTeeDa View Post

I do believe that gut instinct always steers you right. I believe it is the higher self looking out for me in ways I don't always understand or heed. The biggest problem I have is the ability to discern the gut instinct. The parts of me that are conditioned by culture, bias, etc., are generally not my gut instinct, but something else pretending to be it--such as my ego. I also have to try and sort out the committee of voices that try to pretend to be the gut instinct as well (mom, dad, that harsh grade-school teacher, my ex-husband, the person who once told me my forehead was abnormally large, etc.) So, my ongoing challenge is to learn what is my higher self, and what is not. I don't expect to ever completely master it, but getting it right more and more often is what I'm trying for.

L
This is exactly what I think, although I can only speak to, and from, my own experience. My gut instinct does steer me in the best direction that it is possible for me to go... always. It isn't omniscient, it doesn't always make objective sense, and it doesn't have something to say about every situation, but it is, absolutely, the best I've got. Like LTD, the more I listen to it, the more clearly I can discern it from the host of impulses competing with it.

To me, life is like one of those 3-D computer generated images that look like a chaotic jumble of colors and shapes swirled at random. If you relax your eyes just right, the image emerges from all that, but you have to learn to look at them with your eyes unfocused... just so, and then you see what's in the picture. Gut instinct is the tool that allows me to do that.

But, I've come to realize that not everyone experiences this.
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Old 11-14-2010, 02:48 PM
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I felt the same way about 12 steps (too god-centered). I found a "Families Anonymous" meeting I like. For me, letting go was key. I was hanging onto the fact that there may not be a god/higher power as much as the "religious" folk were clinging to their god. My RAH has been sober for 8 months. THAT is a miracle, an achievement, something I could not imagine. I don't care if there is or isn't an hp. The importan tthing is I am working on being a better person (the alcohol is almost irrelevant at this point as it was only a distraction of deeper, underlying issues for me, the wife, and for my RAH.

I decided to let go about the issue of an hp. If the 12 steps work for you, awesome! If not, I hope you find something that does!
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Old 11-14-2010, 03:04 PM
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I really enjoyed this thread! I found myself thanking everyone! THANK YOU!
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Old 11-22-2010, 06:53 AM
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opt out --too much touchy feelie stuff

Originally Posted by Babyblue View Post
yeah the hugging is a bit much .. i need my personal space!
I was not a hugger or hand holder when I came into Al-Anon. It was foreign to me. Why wouldn't it be--I grew up in an alcoholic home and married an alcoholic. The last time I held hands in a circle was at Girl Scout camp singing "Taps."

I gritted my teeth through the handholding stuff and got used to it. Afterall, I could handle it as an eight year old. I could have stepped back from the circle to avoid holding hands. It isn't the hand holding that bothers me--it is the Lord's Prayer, which is a prayer associated with Christianity. So, I can hold hands with the group because I want to be bonded to them as part of the Al-Anon program but I don't won't say the prayer. That meets my personal needs.However, today the groups I attend close the meeting with the Serenity Prayer and the Al-Anon Declaration.


Al-Anon gives everyone choices-- and asked people not to hug me. I learned to speak up to say what my needs are instead of expecting members to second guess my needs for me. In other words, I am responsbile for me. I don't expect Al-Anon to change just because I don't like something. So, I adjust to what is happening and take actions that are best for me.
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Old 11-22-2010, 07:34 AM
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Good morning everyone...hope everyone had a great weekend. i did. although sick, i was happy that my AH didn't over drink himself into a coma.

about the alanon thing and religion.... i wanted to go to alanon but not if its like that.... i don't attend church, i don't relate much to folks that do....especially the reborn again christains (no offense). so if they start talking god this and god that i fear i will walk out and not look back. that is why AA didn't work for my husband. we are not without faith, we are just strongly opposed to organized religion and anyone who uses it as a crutch to solve their problems. god didn't put me in this position, i did. i want to be able to help myself through this with maybe the help of others who have been there and know.... and can freely and openly talk about it. now i feel like i am back to square one.

i really wish i could find a group that is not based on any religions.... it just won't work for me, and that goes for the hand holding and hugging. i have a friend like that who is so sappy and always trying to hug and touch and she alone is enough to annoy the pants off of me!! i can't imagine doing that with strangers. i sound like a cold person don't i? but i'm not....
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