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Relapse, Judgment, and How “Clean and Sober” Changes Over Time

Welcome to our discussion based on Joe C.’s Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life. We post choice quotes from the daily reading, as well as the discussion questions, and encourage you to think on it and respond in the comments. Please keep our community guidelines in mind while commenting.

Accept your backsliding as normal–as something that happens to almost all people who at first improve emotionally and then fall back. See it as a part of your human fallibility. Don’t make yourself feel ashamed when some of your old symptoms return, and don’t think you have to handle them entirely by yourself and that it is week for you to seek some additional help.

-“How To Deal With Back Slide,” SMART Recovery

…As we progress, what it means to be clean and sober changes for us. Some of us take a good look at our caffeine intake or our smoking or our rationalizations about cash-register honesty, physical fitness, short-cut-seeking or imbalances in our work, health or home lives. “To err is human” is the point that today’s quote makes. Recovery is not a competition; it’s a journey.

Discussion questions

  • Do I believe that effort, not just results, is what matters?
  • Do I hold pernicious ideas about addiction resulting from a lack of character or do I see it like any other illness?
  • Am I judgmental about relapse?

Regarding Our Weekly Discussions Here

Hey friends!

We wanted to address a few concerns brought up during the business meeting regarding contributing to the discussions here, and why we may not have gained much traction:

Concern: Maintaining anonymity

One of our business meeting attendees brought up concerns around anonymity. Although the comment section does ask for your name and email, you are more than welcome to use a pseudonym, and your email is not accessible to anyone outside of those who maintain the site.

Of course, we will be keeping the emails completely private–and we’re maintaining the site updates and such so as to keep your information secure. You can always create a new Gmail account for free, if you’d like an extra layer of privacy, too.

Concern: Contentious comment sections

This is a very real concern–by now, most of us are familiar with the internet advice of “DO NOT READ THE COMMENTS,” and how things can get on internet forums. This is exactly why we put together the community guidelines. We highly recommend you give them a read, but at the core, they say: please don’t be a jerk.

Comments are moderated, and moderators reserve the right to delete any comments that violate those community guidelines (and/or change the content of the comment to, “I’m a buttttttttttttttttttt,” or something equally creative and mature because what’s moderation without a sense of humor?).


The goal is to create a safe space for us to speak on this site, which doesn’t mean hand-holding or lack of frankness, but creating a space in which people can share their experiences, strength, hope, and doubt (as all are a relevant part of sobriety and processing our experiences) freely.

We are doing everything we can to help protect you and make this space exactly that. If you have any questions or concerns, please come to the next Sunday Beyond Belief business meeting or grab me (Lizz!) after the meeting. If you’re feeling shy, you can also drop any questions/concerns in the comments below.

xo,

L & Your Secular AA Buds

 

Wisdom and Truth: Looking Inside is Part of Sobriety

Welcome to our discussion based on Joe C.’s Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life. We post choice quotes from the daily reading, as well as the discussion questions, and encourage you to think on it and respond in the comments. Please keep our community guidelines in mind while commenting.

“Prajñāpāramitā” translates as “the perfection of wisdom.” The problem with The Truth, if we are seeking it from an outside source, is that there are so many versions of it. Looking for guidance is wiser than going it alone, but to expect the answers of life to be granted from an outside source is folly. Like pursuing substances or processes to fill our void, the idea that the truth is “out there” is never more than partly true. Clues and direction can come from outside sources but our journey in life involves finding our own truths. The Truth may be a moving target because, like the world around us, we are changing.

….We hear in the fellowship that it’s a “we” program, not an “I” program–we don’t have to do this alone. But the reason the program works only for those who want it, not for all who need it, is that each person needs to do the work: write the lists, muster the courage and face the truth about him or herself. No one will check to see if we’ve done our Twelve Step homework. If we do the work, we find enlightenment. Suffering is met with perspective instead of avoidance. We gain wisdom–it isn’t granted. We accept the world as it is. We have power to help ourselves and others but not unlimited power.”

Discussion questions

  • Am I waiting for something or someone?
  • Do I take responsibility or do I delegate blame and wait for direction?

The Portland Alano Club Recovery Art Walk Needs Artists Like You!

Just a quick reminder:

The Portland Alano Club is being transformed into a gallery and will be hosting an art walk on September 23rd, 2017, 7 PM – 9 PM.

If you’re an artist and would like to show (and possibly sell!) your work, please fill out the artist submission form on their website.

Hopefully we’ll see you there!

Loneliness, Autonomy, and Becoming Self-Supporting in Sobriety

Welcome to our discussion based on Joe C.’s Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life. We post choice quotes from the daily reading, as well as the discussion questions, and encourage you to think on it and respond in the comments. Please keep our community guidelines in mind while commenting.

It means giving up searching for a home, becoming a refugee, a lonely person who must depend on himself….Fundamentally, no one can help us. If we seek to relieve our loneliness, we will be distracted from the path. Instead, we must make a relationship with loneliness until it becomes aloneness.

-Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1939-1987)

…What does it mean to make a relationship with loneliness? As a spiritual principle we don’t seek “outside contributions” to cure us, make us whole or reassure us. The Seventh Tradition means we are alone in our financial affairs. We may have sponsors but we are in charge of recovery–it isn’t done to us or given to us. We may feel connected to our groups but not dependent on them for every decision. We grow beyond being dependent or enabling others. Some of us have families but we don’t need them to be complete.

Discussion Questions

  • Am I “fully self supporting, declining outside contributions” as a spiritual daily practice?

Secular Sobriety Discussion: Enemies, Mismanaged Feelings, and Step Four

Welcome to our discussion based on Joe C.’s Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life. We post choice quotes from the daily reading, as well as the discussion questions, and encourage you to think on it and respond in the comments. Please keep our community guidelines in mind while commenting.

We don’t have to be enemy-free to be successful in recovery. IN fact, our rightful paths may rattle the foundation, which may lead to more adversaries. Understanding anger is essential for sustained recovery, and personal inventory plays an important role in mapping out the cause and effect of our conflicts. Today we look at Step Four.

….Some inventories look at the good and bad: shameful acts vs. great accomplishments, healthy expressions of fear and anger vs. unhealthy expressions of fear and anger and our histories of deception and avoidance vs. examples of bravery and honesty. Mismanaged feelings are addiction triggers. Step Four uncovers the emotional triggers that set off the freeze, fight and flight reflexes.

Discussion questions

  • If I am awaiting my first or tenth Step Four, are my expectations in check and do I have a plan–a timeline for starting and completing it?
  • Are anger and other triggering feelings still a mystery to me?

Secular Sobriety Discussion: The Quiet Conscience, One Day At A Time

Welcome to our discussion based on Joe C.’s Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life. We post choice quotes from the daily reading, as well as the discussion questions, and encourage you to think on it and respond in the comments. Please keep our community guidelines in mind while commenting.

Then, without realizing it, you try to improve yourself at the start of each new day; of course, you achieve quite a lot in the course of time. Anyone can do this; it costs nothing and is certainly very helpful. Whoever doesn’t know it must learn and find by experience that a quiet conscience makes one strong.

-Anne Frank

Anne Frank reminds us that life is lived a day at a time, and if we make small progress each day great strides happen over time…The quiet conscience that makes us strong, referred to above, comes from accumulated days of right living.

Discussion questions

  • Do I welcome my setbacks as life lessons and know they are part of the human experience?
  • Goals are worthy beacons to follow, but do I appreciate each day’s progress, including the back and forth? Do I have the strength that comes from a quiet conscience?

Secular Sobriety Discussion: Bravery and Regret

Welcome to our discussion based on Joe C.’s Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life. We post choice quotes from the daily reading, as well as the discussion questions, and encourage you to think on it and respond in the comments. Please keep our community guidelines in mind while commenting.

…maybe there are many times in recovery when we “look death in the face.” Every ego-shedding stage of recovery is another small death of our narcissistic selves. Shame and guilt dissipate a little more with each Step. With each demon we face, we become a little more courages and authentic. Self-disgust is just the flip-side of grandiosity; both are distortions of a healthy self-image. We may struggle with our self-image for the rest of our lives. As we gain perspective, the two-headed dragon of self-loathing and overcompensation has less power over us.

Discussion questions

  • At the end of my life will I regret not doing something I should have given an honest try?
  • Is there something I could stand to apply some double-oh [a la James Bond] bravado to?

Secular Sobriety Discussion: Pace, Prioritization, and Perfectionism

Welcome to our discussion based on Joe C.’s Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life. We post choice quotes from the daily reading, as well as the discussion questions, and encourage you to think on it and respond in the comments. Please keep our community guidelines in mind while commenting.

Perfectionism and impatience sidetrack sober, balanced living, and they are worth understanding. Do we ever forget we are human? Do we ever forget to ask for help? Some of us are workaholics and all of us have workaholics who impact our lives. Some of us are doubly blessed or double-losers, depending on how you look at concurrent disorders. Imbalance in work can lead to other addictions. There is no making up for lost time–that’s an illusion. Impatience may be part of a chaotic life that kept things way too busy for touchy-feely time. Sometimes we are rushing for arbitrary self-imposed deadlines. What’s that about? If we don’t have time to do it right, how do we always find time to do it over? If perfectionism or impatience pesters us in recovery, or worse yet, if we self-righteously wear our impatience or perfectionism as badges of honor, why not check in with someone about this?

Discussion questions

  • Do I come from a chaotic or dysfunctional background?
  • Have I inherited naive or unrealistic expectations?
  • Is my pace good or am I impatient?
  • Have I prioritized my day and left time for spontaneity?
  • Am I a perfectionist?
  • What does this tell me about my stage of recovery?

Secular Sobriety Discussion: Denial and Unpleasant Truths

Welcome to our discussion based on Joe C.’s Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life. We post choice quotes from the daily reading, as well as the discussion questions, and encourage you to think on it and respond in the comments. Please keep our community guidelines in mind while commenting.

In The Ecologist, Pat Thomas expressed how these ideas are transferable in his article on climate change denial–one more way we sidestep an inconvenient truth. Thomas’s article, “How to beat denial–a 12-step plan” identified the following:

Simple denial is a digging in of our heels, refusing to bend to any facts or reason; Minimizing makes the problem less serious; Rationalizing crafts excuses; Intellectualizing sidesteps emotional engagement by theorizing; Blaming insists fault is elsewhere; Diversion points to “bigger” problems; Bargaining sees us negotiating deals that we won’t be able to follow through with; Passivity has us surrendering to the futility or impossibility of problems; and Hostility uses “the best defense is a good offense” approach–like a porcupine, we hope they will find us too unpleasant to confront again.

Discussion questions

  • How familiar do these denial traps sound to me now?
  • Of the rackets above, what’s my favorite for avoiding unpleasant truths?
  • Do I have [denial-busting] skills learned in the rooms that could be a good example out in the community?