Saturday 22 November 2014

A missed #AddictionChat

@LEAFcouncil from Wednesday night's 9 P.M. (E.S.T.) #AddictionChat on Twitter (tm) asked me to answer some of the questions from this past Wednesday. I had no time to go. I was teaching myself how to format so I could get my two e-books published. Ten hours later... I did!

Okay, here goes then:
1. Introduce yourself, what brings you to #AddictionChat and where you're from.
SpikedUpFrog, my computer brings me here and I'm from the Interwebz.

2. In your opinion, what is the role of spirituality in a person's recovery?
I don't know. I know what awe is but the concept of spirituality has not been personally useful to me.
I don't accept supernatural or preternatural claims at this time because good-enough evidence for these claims are lacking. Unfortunately, for those not affiliated with a religion, "spirituality" can lend itself to New Age beliefs and mysticism.
I understand something about belief, which is why I don't much argue with those who find comfort in faith. I have witnessed the harm that New Ageism can do and am much against that sort of thing.

3. Must a person be connected to a formal faith community to have long-term recovery?
I've been continually clean since September 8, 1980.

4. Some believe that 12-step programs are cult-like. Do they require a belief in God?
Thinking that a 12-step program is cult-like or has some characteristics of a cult is a separate question from the requirement to believe in God.
Alcoholics Anonymous shares a few characteristics with "cults" but also has some differences from a "cult." There is a newer word for "cult" but I can never remember it. It is actually a phrase. Not "newer religious movements" either. Something else referencing the manipulative nature of cults.

Bill W. was raised as a Methodist. He joined the Oxford group which was an evangelical Christian sort of outfit. The recovering alcoholics chose to separate from the Oxford group because Roman Catholics were threatened with ex-communication if they retained their association with the Oxford group.
The Big Book was set up with the idea that an A.A. member would believe in a God or would come to believe in one. This is most evident in the chapter to the agnostics.
Having a door knob as one's higher power does not work any longer when Bill W. went on to mention that the higher power that one chooses must be personal and loving. A door knob cannot love you. Neither can nature.

@SeanStOnge has the right of it when he talks about the Big Book and what it says about a belief in God. 
According to the Big Book, belief in God is absolutely necessary. The phrase "as we understood him" was added due to the intervention of an atheist in the rooms. The man called "Ed the salesman" was an atheist and in spite of what Bill W. wrote about him, he remained an atheist. It is reported that he penned a book about being an atheist in long-term recovery but I haven't located a copy yet.

For those of us who have a sincerely held non-belief, we have to do something else.

5. What about atheists? Does "spirituality" in recovery apply? How do they adapt 12-step programs?
I don't use the word "spirituality" or the phrase "spiritual but not religious." I had to re-write the steps so that way I could work them and remain in recovery.

6. How does spirituality enhance a person's recovery? This question applies to those with faith, agnostics, and atheists.
I don't do spirituality because I have not found it a meaningful term in my life.

7. When new to recovery, the "Higher Power" thing is a mystery. How does one figure that out?
I came in believing but as I progressed through my recovery, I found it more intellectually honest for me to be an atheist.

8. What are some ways that a person can nurture their spirit and enhance their recovery?
I don't recognize spirit as being something real. There are things that human beings in general can do and do do in order to nurture themselves and make a better life for themselves. People in recovery are not so different from other people.

9. When it comes to holidays, how does a person in recovery navigate faith if it is different from their family's?
I live in a country where right now it is not dangerous to self-identify as an atheist. My family situation is such that I am out to them as a non-theist. I eat Thanksgiving with them. I give presents to the nieces and nephews for Christmas. There is nothing that I have to do unless I choose to.

10. Finally, if someone has questions about faith/spirituality and recovery, what resources would you suggest?
If they are believers or they want to believe, I refer them to members who do believe. If they are atheists, agnostics, free-thinkers, secular humanists, or nones, they can go to the aa agnostica website or some of atheist forums which do offer support to those of us who are clean. There are also other means of recovery which are not 12-step oriented such as S.O.S.-- James Christopher's program Secular Organizations for Sobriety or Save Our Selves-- Women for Sobriety, and a few others.
I've covered the resources for folks like me in my newly published e-book called "Another Atheist in Recovery" up at Barnes & Nobel. It is an ePub so it can be read on any reader. It is also free from D.R.M. because I hate the D.R.M. You can buy the book if you are really interested in one example of how an atheist might work recovery at:

Monday 10 November 2014

Holidays and Holidaze

     Since I first got clean, people have been complaining and whining about "the holidays." I did too. At some point, I got over it but a few others perhaps did not. Recovery is as easy or as hard as we make it. 

     Here are some things you can do in order to not have meltdowns over a time of year that can be enjoyed or ignored rather than feared:

1. If you don't like a holiday or don't think you can manage to stay abstinent/ clean/ dry/ sober, then cancel it.
     * Not recommended if you have children. *
You can always visit the relatives the day after for leftovers.

My best Thanksgiving was the one I spent in the woods with my dogs and a couple of hiking buddies. For a meal, we heated up cans of turkey vegetable soup in a fire that we built in the snow.

2. You can volunteer at a soup kitchen or other place that is serving meals to those who need one. This just may get you out of yourself long enough to understand that not everything ought to be about you now that you are in recovery. You can take a newcomer with you to volunteer.

My elderly father volunteered in a soup kitchen on Christmas one year. He has Lewy Body Dementia but at that time he was able to manage being a volunteer for the day. He enjoyed himself immensely.

3. You can ask to work so that some other co-worker can have the day off.

I have specifically asked to work holidays and I enjoy doing it. This is another way of giving.

4. You can go Christmas caroling around the neighborhood or sign up to visit a nursing home or hospital on a holiday. Bringing in a simple program-- story-telling or singing-- is much appreciated there. You can take a newcomer with you.

A bunch of acquaintances and I did this one year in several neighborhoods. We had loads of fun. No one turned us away.

5. If someone wishes you a "Merry Christmas" and you celebrate something else or nothing, it really does not hurt you to wish them a "Merry Christmas." Same goes for Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice, and Saturnalia. Recognizing people in the ways that they wish to be recognized does not diminish you as a human being.

I am an atheist and I do this. (I understand that some people will boycott stores whose employees are required to say "Merry Christmas." That is a matter of choice). Not everything that people say to each other has to be perceived of or ought to be perceived of as a personal affront.

6. You can go to a meeting if that is something you do for your recovery. You can take a newcomer with you. 

For those who attend meetings, why not? 

7. You can go to a clubhouse or other place that has an alkathon or narathon. You will find meetings there. Maybe even some food, games, and friendly faces. You can take a newcomer with you.

I've spent several Thanksgivings and Christmases doing this and I had a blast.

8. Instead of worrying that your Thanksgiving or Christmas will not be perfect, you can participate in a food or clothing or toy drive in your neighborhood. Instead of buying presents for other adults, you can give stuff away to the less fortunate. If you have your own computer, you probably have an extra coat or sweater kicking around in your closet. Or you can host your own dinner and invite people who don't have a place to go for the day.

Dad taught me early on to pick out gently used toys for the kids in a local orphanage. Yes, it is wonderful to be able to give to others instead of focusing on my hang-ups or have nervous attacks over something that is supposed to be fun.

9. If you decide to brave being with family or friends who are not in recovery, you can grab a cup of coffee (or tea or hot chocolate or a combination of cranberry and orange juice warmed up in a microwave) instead of relapsing. You can also make an excuse and leave if you really must. You can call your sponsor or someone else in the rooms.

A cup of coffee reminds me of my recovery because I first started drinking coffee in recovery.

10. You can start your own traditions.

sapphoq itching for a coffee says: At all times, it helps me to remember why I am doing whatever I am doing. This includes family gatherings at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other times of the year. When I get self-absorbed, I forget that not everything is "all about me." Because it really isn't. Just saying.

Thanks to #AddictionChat on Twitter for an excellent discussion about the holidays last Wednesday at 9 p.m. EST.

Saturday 1 November 2014

Atheists in Recovery and the Fundy Factor

N.B. Absolutely no disrespect is intended to those of my close friends who identify as Christian, born-again Christian, fundamentalist Christian, or literal Christian. This piece is more a reflection on discrimination in the rooms of recovery directed at non-believers on the part of the more radical fundamentalist Christians who disrupt meetings with preaching and exhortation.
     I love my conservative Christian friends. Period.

     Yes, we do exist. Maybe we never believed in any gods and came in not believing. Maybe we decided we didn't believe during adulthood and also came in not believing. Maybe we came in believing but in the course of our recovery embraced atheism. [I fit into the third category].

     Some newcomers are mad at their god or gods. They usually calm down after a bit and manage to forgive their deity or deities. They are not seeking information about atheism and that is their right. Some newcomers may have never been exposed to any teachings about divinity. Upon discovering that sort of thing, they become believers. That is also their right.

      I am an atheist. I have thirty-four years of continuous clean time. The myth that "You must have a capital H Higher capital P Power" is a myth. There are more of us. I am not alone.

     The steps were written to be suggestions only. Check the writings of Bill W. as expressed in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous if you don't believe me. Bill W. also gave permission for the first Buddhist group to change the word "God" in the twelve steps to the word "good." See page 81.

     I don't pray. I don't meditate. I am not spiritual. I don't do woo woo. I had to rewrite the steps in order to be able to remain in recovery. And yes, I am very much in recovery.

     Meetings vary according to geography. That is to be expected. In our area, there has been an increase in the expression of fundamentalist Christianity. I went to an A.A. meeting yesterday where an outspoken fundy got a few friends to chant "May you find Him now" and "God could and would if He were sought" during the reading of How It Works. Annoying? Well, yes. Also annoying is when the fundy chairs and absolutely refuses to call on me. For my part, I choose my battles today. Being ignored at a meeting by the chair is not such a big deal. The funny thing is, the fundy is an excellent chair who keeps the meeting moving and on track.

     N.A. meetings here are traditionally more free-wheeling. But even there, I have been told things like "You're not a true atheist. You believe in the woods." [Huh?]

     Alanon and Overeaters Anonymous have also fallen to the fundy factor round here. CoDA is a bit more lax. I haven't been to Gamblers Anonymous or to NicA. [No, I don't qualify for every XA program. They do have open meetings]. ACOA and ACA meetings are too full of pain and anguish for me to even consider going to them. Dual Recovery Anonymous has substituted "God of our understanding" but that program too has more religious members than not. I've been to meetings across the country and the fundy factor is not as evident in some of those. 

     It has never been my intention to convert people to atheism. And I refuse to do that now. The problem is when there is an overmuch of fundy talk, some new people are driven away. I do believe in equal time. At meetings when the fundy factor gets out of control, when it is my turn to talk [if I am not ignored by the one fundy chair] I let people know that belief is not required in order to work a solid program. Yes, sincere atheists in the rooms do tend to seek me out.

     I read a joke on-line recently while doing research for a small e-book I am writing about being an atheist in recovery. 

Question: If you object to all of the God talk, why do you attend meetings?
Answer: I am part of the Newcomer Rescue Squad.

sapphoq needing coffee says: I don't exactly feel that way but there are days when I am getting closer.