Monday, March 19, 2007
I have a dear friend that I have known for over ten years. He was born about the time I was graduating from high school, so I have to admit I am old enough to be his mother.
I met him at A Course in Miracles discussion group. At the time he found showed up at the ACIM group, I was the only member of the group that actually came anymore. So I called everyone and assembled a fairly large group again so that this new friend might be part of it.
Later, when he had bouts of emotional distress, unemployment, depression, unreasonable anger, and suicidal thoughts, he assumed that the world (including me sometimes) were criticizing him and laughing at him and forces in the world were somehow preventing him from having a successful life. However, I stayed his friend and waited until he dealt with those things and so our friendship continued, mostly on e-mail in the last couple years.
What happened was that after I found help at a University Hospital Mental Health Clinic for one of my sons several years ago, got him a social security disability and mental health counseling and free medications (which he later decided to walk away from--my son's schizophrenic) my friend was watching closely -- not saying a word.
Much later, my friend thanked me for "showing" him that this type of help was possible and that he had taken advantage of it and gone for help. I was amazed and glad for him. After he moved out of state, he continued to do well for himself and continued with the federal programs and some state assistance for expenses and medical care.
I just emailed him a few weeks ago that he sure had made a lot of progress in the past few years, and he agreed.
Recently, though, he had some sort of flashback, I guess. Started out raging against an irritation in his environment (excessive noise at his apartment complex) and then went from extreme anger into unreasonable and severe depression. I was aware that he'd gone through this type of set-back before, and I was really concerned for his health and safety. I thought maybe his medications could be to blame or they were becoming ineffective, so I called him and urged him to call his doctor or the pharmacist and let them know how he was feeling, and that he (nor anyone!) should have to suffer from what he was going through!
[Incidentally, several years ago there was a scare that antidepressants could "cause "sudden suicidal thoughts. In fact, when I took anti-depressants for 10 months or so during the time I was having a some depression (probably related to change of life issues) I distinctly saw the warning on the pharmacy paperwork for that medication that said if you have sudden feelings of suicide LET SOMEONE KNOW, GET HELP, CALL YOUR DOCTOR. Even though the drug companies continue to deny it, a few people are still committing suicide while on anti-depressants. If it's only ONE person, that's too many, in my opinion.]
My friend didn't want to talk on the phone, so I just told him I cared about him and wanted him to take care of himself. This is what friends do and say when a friend is facing an emotional crisis. Care. Urge them to get help. Right? It's a normal and natural reaction. I didn't try to meddle or tell him what I thought was wrong, just asked him to call his doctor and have his medications checked. (I am no longer suffering the Alanon and Codependency symptoms of having to "fix" or "save" everyone! I have genuinely learned how to care about and to how help people, and have spent time as a home health aide and a hospice worker. I have a Ph.D. in holistic health for goshsakes!) I still believe in LIVE AND LET LIVE. Only, with another L: LOVE.)
Later that week, when I was thinking about my friend and wondering how he was doing, I realized that he seemed to have a lot of "symptoms" similar to the AA's and Alanon's that I have know, myself included. Even though my friend doesn't drink or take illegal drugs, he had a difficult childhood which is what Codependents are. So I sent him some information about Codependents Anonymous and the 12-Steps. I have always considered Alanon and AA to be "self-help" programs for very unique and independent people. It was sort of a "take-it or leave-it" message.
But the truth is, I think the 12-Steps are miraculous. I and countless others owe our continued survival and our sanity and our ability to live in the world now, to the 12-Steps programs. I still have relatives, a few of my sons included, that could use the 12-Steps but they haven't "hit bottom" yet, so the 12-step programs have been unable to help them yet. The 12-Steps sure are continuing to help me get through my sons' addictions and alcoholism and mental illnesses.
When I finally admitted I needed some help more than 33 years ago, I didn't turn to my parents to "fix" me or expect my spouse(s) and friends to put up with me acting crazy and depressed. (Well, maybe I could have spared my kids a lot of my early misery...)
No, by some coincidence, I found out about the 12-Steps and went to Alanon and a few years later to into the AA Program. I celebrated 31-years of sobriety of Feb. 14th. I'm not bragging. I'm grateful.
A coincidence is, you know, a minor miracle in which God wishes to remain anonymous.
The 12-Step program is a spiritual program, not religious, and not psychology but a program of recovery for the people that want it. Those who want to trade in their misery. (They also assure you, if you don't like the program, your misery will be refunded. Not funny.)
Most alcoholics/addicts would not be insulted if you call them alcoholics or addicts even sober or clean. In fact, you can call us just about any name in the book, and we will heartily agree. We were definitely those miserable types of things and more.
In the 12-Steps we learned to become teachable, became willing to change and be changed (important difference) and also became willing to turn our lives over to something greater than ourselves (in some cases the individual AA or NA or Alanon group, more often a Higher Divine Power some call God, or sometimes GOD just means Good Orderly Direction.) But through the 12-Steps and the Grace of God, we began a lifetime of recovery and discovered a life worth living again. Not just to be of service to others, but to learn to love everyone even ourselves!
So here is what I offer anyone who stumbles on this blog and relates to some of the listed characteristics and wants to find a way out of their misery. It works, if you work it.
Blessed be, Sandy
Alcoholic/Addict Personality Traits (that also include some Codependents)-- taken from the internet.
To gain insight, consider carefully this commonly accepted list of personality traits found in the Alcoholic/Addict person. These are characteristics that occur in normal people, but in the Alcoholic/Addict are exaggerated and uncontrolled. These things render Alcoholic/Addicts incapable of being at peace.
Low Frustration and Tolerance seems to be the most consistent trait. This is the inability to endure, for any length of time, any uncomfortable circumstances or feeling. The Alcoholic/Addict is impatient.
Anxiety that state which seems to exist in all people, exists in an exaggerated way in Alcoholic/Addict persons. They are subject to nameless dreads and fears. This anxiety drives Alcoholic/Addicts and Alcoholic/Addicts to "fight or flight". Sometimes this is called free-floating anxiety.
Grandiosity is worn as a protective amour to hide feelings of low self-esteem. In reality, although Alcoholic/Addicts nourish an inflated image of themselves, their deep conviction is one of self-worthlessness.
Perfectionism sets impossible goals with inevitable failures and resultant guilt. The Alcoholic/Addict is an idealist. This idealism may be one of the reasons for success after recovery. They can be exceptionally fine workers once the illness has been arrested and after the perfectionism has been reduced to reasonable proportions.
Justification Alcoholic/Addicts are masters at this. Justification is the science of arranging to do what we want to do, then making it appear reasonable.
Isolation and deep insecurity deprive the Alcoholic/Addict of the real generosity needed to make close and enduring friendships. They become loners.
Sensitivity exaggerates all the unpleasant interpersonal relationships experienced by the Alcoholic/Addict person. This inevitably produces extreme resentment.
Impulsiveness "I want what I want when I want it." This is probably related to a low frustration tolerance. In some ways the Alcoholic/Addict takes pride in this impulsiveness, as though it were a valuable asset.
The Alcoholic/Addict can't seem to enjoy a job or task and long before completion is already moving on to something else.
Defiance is a common response to society as a whole, whether the Alcoholic/Addict is under the influence of a mind-altering substance or not. This is associated with a feeling that one does not fit, exactly, into society.
The 12 Steps (click on the highlighted words for more information.)
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol/drugs/people, places and things - that our lives had become unmanageable
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
- Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
- Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs