Thursday, August 6, 2015

Is commitment the secret to recovery?

I hear the word commitment in the recovery rooms a lot.  In OA its “Committed to my abstinence” in AA it’s “committed to sobriety” but is that the answer? Is it even helpful?

Commitment (noun):
1: an act of committing to a charge or trust
2 a :  an agreement or pledge to do something in the future
b :  something pledged
c :  the state or an instance of being obligated or emotionally impelled

What is the primary motivator in the above definitions?  An exercise in self-will.

Commitment appears 4 times in Alcoholics Anonymous. The first is in Bill’s Story, talking about how Ebby Thatcher avoided commitment to an asylum (page 9). In more about Alcoholics it appears 2 more times (Pages 31 and 36), both times in the context of going to an insane asylum as the only alternative to doing the steps to become recovered. Finally in “To Wives”, if health is deteriorated enough it may be necessary for health’s sale to be committed to a hospital. The very idea of making a commitment to the process is foreign to what is shown us in Alcoholics Anonymous. 

So why is it we talk about “commitment” as part of the solution?

Self-will, it’s that simple.  The very cause of our disease, “self will run riot,” forces us to want to maintain control and “be committed” to our recovery. Does it make sense to use the very practice that is a root cause of our disease? Does shooting up to quit drugs make sense? Drinking booze to stay sober?

It seems to me that the problem lies in a use of language.  In “How It Works” the phrase “will not completely give themselves to this simple program” seems to get translated as “Committing” to the program. Giving one’s self is not an act of self-will, it is an act of desperation or surrender.  Our reliance on “Commitment to” Sobriety/Abstinence/Clean is simply our attempt to be in charge.  

One thing in all of the recovery stories in Alcoholics Anonymous are these people were desperate.  The choice was literally get recovered or be put in an asylum or die. I don’t hear that desperation in the rooms anymore.  I hear slogans like “easy does it” or “let go and let God,” all nice sayings, but not descriptive of the desperation one needs to have coming in to these rooms. Is it a matter of life and death or a convenient choice? I want to be recovered because even at 450 pounds now, I don’t want to die. I can’t hang out at 450 and say “this is where God wants me” because that is not God talking, its Gregor’s frightened ego trying to get me to give up.

People come to the rooms and look for the “trick” to stay sober.  There isn’t one. Being recovered is a status that occurs by working through all of the steps, completing the steps, not just reading them. If you really have come to the understanding that you are “powerless over (insert addiction here)” you realize there is no self-will that can fix you. Postpone the inevitable maybe, but to be recovered is more than that to me. It means I have to move forward.  The only option to recovery is not inside myself. It is through that external Force.

True recovery is a gift of your Higher Power.  It is the removal of the obsession from your disease. It isn’t an act of commitment or will. It is the results of getting out of yourself, that lack of selfish behavior.  The best model to be recovered from addiction is the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous.  In 1939 it predicted discoveries in addiction that took 50 years to confirm. The “Ohio” group, where Doctor Bob lived, indicated there was a 90% recovery rate.  Now a days, relapse is expected.  And the program is changing to be a relapse recovery, not relapse prevention.

So the question is: Is the idea of falling back in to my addiction over and over acceptable to me?

For me the answer is no.  I will be celebrating a 2 year sobriety from my food addiction in October (2015) I look forward to celebrating a 25 year food sobriety someday, not because “I can do it” but because I know I can’t. I don’t have the power to resist a 6000 calorie a day eating addiction.  I am not capable of controlling what I eat.  God has let me loose the obsession with my food.  I now enjoy what I eat and I eat a reasonable amount because   food is no longer my solution.  Food is simply something I need to do.  I can now deal with my trials like a regular person.  I’m not perfect so I’m still learning the tools to live with action instead of eating.  Progress, not perfection.

Do you think you can be the first person to self-will your recovery and make it last or is it that constantly getting back on the wagon is just the way it is?

Giving yourself over to this program, is not a commitment, it’s a surrender that makes the rest of the program possible.  It’s not self-will but honesty that makes that possible. 

Gregor - Back from the brink! From there and back again. A spiritual Hobbits journey.

1 comment:

  1. I had somebody try and post a comment, I had Anonymous posts turned off. But I thought they brought up some good points in an e-mail. so I'm posting the comments on their behalf, and responding. I invite further comment.

    I had a psychiatrist tell me once that expected one relapse a year in his patients. I thought of this when a drug addict I knew in one of my therapy groups relapsed, overdosed, and died. That’s a horrible thing to expect.

    What about the person who has a decade or more of recovery and is getting bored with the process? Commitment may be what helps them keep working the steps until they have a deeper spiritual experience.
    -- Anonymous

    Commitment might keep you coming back, but is that all the recovery you want? If commitment is all that is keeping you, if there are no results you can point to, no motivation or some level of joy, then you are participating in a diet club.

    The secret as I see it is to find that joy, surrender what I have pent up inside. Surrender is an act of faith I’ll admit. And it is rooted in the idea that we are powerless. That what we have does not work.

    By committing to something, in the long term, I am only creating an opportunity to fail, based on past experience I know that about me. My commitment will always end up failing.

    You need to “Put the plug in the jug” and that does take a self-will commitment. In the beginning there is that white knuckle experience until we learn to surrender. So commitment may be a step, but only in so far as you stop the behavior in order to see what your life looks like without these solutions (addictions) that we use. By stopping the behavior we see how powerless over our addiction we are, then how unmanageable our lives are when we are not in our addiction. That is both sides of the first step. You can’t take that step if you are still in your addiction because you can’t see how little the addiction actually benefitted you. Folks that claim that you do the first step before you come in to the rooms (I thought that) are wrong. Coming in to the room is step zero: “Admitted I need help.” After the addiction is out of the way, you can start to see what life is outside of that comforting filter of food, drugs etc.

    If you never surrender, and only have commitment you can’t move on to the promise of being “recovered.” That is the trap of commitment. You seem to be losing weight, clean or sober, but you still have the obsession. Because your “sel-will commitment” keeps you that way, there is no motivation to “come to believe in a power greater then ourselves that can restore us to sanity.” Hence the rest of the steps are pointless. When you unconditionally surrender to the idea you can’t control your addiction, you are then free and motivated to look to the outside source of Power that even atheist seem to find if they do the steps and commune with their definition of a higher power.

    I hope that helps.