The Next Frontier-Emotional Sobriety

Current topics and news from The Grapevine.

The Next Frontier-Emotional Sobriety

Postby Karl R » Sun Sep 13, 2009 1:31 pm

Bill W.---From the Grapevine Digital Archives.
Copyright © The AA Grapevine, Inc. (January 1958 vol. 14 no. 8 ). Reprinted with permission.

cheers,
K.

___________________________________
The Next Frontier--Emotional Sobriety
Below you will find the substance of a revealing letter which Bill wrote several years ago to a close friend who also had troublesome depressions. Bill asks us to note that this letter should occasion no concern as both Bill and his friend are today "in the clear"--Ed.

I THINK THAT MANY oldsters who have put our AA "booze cure" to severe but successful tests still find they often lack emotional sobriety. Perhaps they will be the spearhead for the next major development in AA--the development of much more real maturity and balance (which is to say, humility) in our relations with ourselves, with our fellows, and with God.

Those adolescent urges that so many of us have for top approval, perfect security, and perfect romance--urges quite appropriate to age seventeen--prove to be an impossible way of life when we are at age forty-seven or fifty-seven.

Since AA began, I've taken immense wallops in all these areas because of my failure to grow up, emotionally and spiritually. My God, how painful it is to keep demanding the impossible, and how very painful to discover finally, that all along we have had the cart before the horse! Then comes the final agony of seeing how awfully wrong we have been, but still finding ourselves unable to get off the emotional merry-go-round.

How to translate a right mental conviction into a right emotional result, and so into easy, happy and good living--well, that's not only the neurotic's problem, it's the problem of life itself for all of us who have got to the point of real willingness to hew to right principles in all our affairs.

Even then, as we hew away, peace and joy may still elude us. That's the place so many of us AA oldsters have come to. And it's a hell of a spot, literally. How shall our unconscious--from which so many of our fears, compulsions and phony aspirations still stream--be brought into line with what we actually believe, know and want! How to convince our dumb, raging and hidden "Mr. Hyde" becomes our main task.

I've recently come to believe that this can be achieved. I believe so because I begin to see many benighted ones--folks like you and me--commencing to get results. Last autumn [several years back--ed], depression, having no really rational cause at all, almost took me to the cleaners. I began to be scared that I was in for another long chronic spell. Considering the grief I've had with depressions, it wasn't a bright prospect.

I kept asking myself, "Why can't the Twelve Steps work to release depression?" By the hour, I stared at the St. Francis Prayer. . . "It's better to comfort than to be comforted." Here was the formula, all right. But why didn't it work?

Suddenly I realized what the matter was. My basic flaw had always been dependence--almost absolute dependence--on people or circumstances to supply me with prestige, security, and the like. Failing to get these things according to my perfectionist dreams and specifications, I had fought for them. And when defeat came, so did my depression.

There wasn't a chance of making the outgoing love of St. Francis a workable and joyous way of life until these fatal and almost absolute dependencies were cut away.

Because I had over the years undergone a little spiritual development, the absolute quality of these frightful dependencies had never before been so starkly revealed. Reinforced by what Grace I could secure in prayer, I found I had to exert every ounce of will and action to cut off these faulty emotional dependencies upon people, upon AA, indeed, upon any set of circumstances whatsoever.

Then only could I be free to love as Francis had. Emotional and instinctual satisfactions, I saw, were really the extra dividends of having love, offering love, and expressing, a love appropriate to each relation of life.

Plainly, I could not avail myself of God's love until I was able to offer it back to Him by loving others as He would have me. And I couldn't possibly do that so long as I was victimized by false dependencies.

For my dependency meant demand--a demand for the possession and control of the people and the conditions surrounding me.

While those words "absolute dependency" may look like a gimmick, they were the ones that helped to trigger my release into my present degree of stability and quietness of mind, qualities which I am now trying to consolidate by offering love to others regardless of the return to me.

This seems to be the primary healing circuit: an outgoing love of God's creation and His people, by means of which we avail ourselves of His love for us. It is most clear that the real current can't flow until our paralyzing dependencies are broken, and broken at depth. Only then can we possibly have a glimmer of what adult love really is.

Spiritual calculus, you say? Not a bit of it. Watch any AA of six months working with a new Twelfth Step case. If the case says "To the devil with you" the Twelfth Stepper only smiles and turns to another case. He doesn't feel frustrated or rejected. If his next case responds, and in turn starts to give love and attention to other alcoholics, yet gives none back to him, the sponsor is happy about it anyway. He still doesn't feel rejected; instead he rejoices that his one-time prospect is sober and happy. And if his next following case turns out in later time to be his best friend (or romance) then the sponsor is most joyful. But he well knows that his happiness is a by-product--the--extra dividend of giving without any demand for a return.

The really stabilizing thing for him was having and offering love to that strange drunk on his doorstep. That was Francis at work, powerful and practical, minus dependency and minus demand.

In the first six months of my own sobriety, I worked hard with many alcoholics. Not a one responded. Yet this work kept me sober. It wasn't a question of those alcoholics giving me anything. My stability came out of trying to give, not out of demanding that I receive.

Thus I think it can work out with emotional sobriety. If we examine every disturbance we have, great or small, we will find at the root of it some unhealthy dependency and its consequent unhealthy demand. Let us, with God's help, continually surrender these hobbling demands. Then we can be set free to live and love; we may then be able to Twelfth Step ourselves and others into emotional sobriety.

Of course I haven't offered you a really new idea--only a gimmick that has started to unhook several of my own "hexes" at depth. Nowadays my brain no longer races compulsively in either elation, grandiosity or depression. I have been given a quiet place in bright sunshine.

Ed. note--The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, twelfth century Italian friar who founded the Franciscan Order, will be found on page 47.


Bill W.
_______________________________________-
User avatar
Karl R
Forums Old Timer
 
Posts: 3835
Joined: Sat Jul 19, 2008 3:06 pm

Re: The Next Frontier-Emotional Sobriety

Postby Tommy-S » Thu Dec 06, 2012 4:04 pm

The Daily Reflection talked of Emotional Sobriety today, so it seemed like a 'sign' to resurrect an old post (Thanks Karl)

The Grapevine published this in '58, so Bill was probably in his second decade sober, and seems to meander some on his way to:

In the first six months of my own sobriety, I worked hard with many alcoholics. Not a one responded. Yet this work kept me sober. It wasn't a question of those alcoholics giving me anything. My stability came out of trying to give, not out of demanding that I receive.


Action, Action, Action... The Magic Word. There is something painfully simple (today) about the Fact that I can not think about ME if I am thinking about others... a Principle that page 20 (Big Book) declares My very life as an ex-problem drinker depends on my constant thought of others and how I can meet their needs.

My very life... And I find when I am focused on helping THEM, my emotions quiet themselves, mainly because they are usually tied up with the Unholy Trinity...Me, Myself, and I

Step's 10, 11, 12 (12 x 12) speak of Emotional Balance, Emotional Stabilty, and Emotional Sobriety... Maybe this is due to 'entering the Realm of the Spirit' Step 10 brings (BB, pg 84)

The Spirit connection, the result of clearing the pipes I did in the first 9 steps, is a connection to some Higher, Better, Larger world (& I am a little more right-sized in respect to it)where Love & Tolerance are our Code (though my capability to demonstrate this needs practice), and Life contains MORE than ME.

At least, that's how I understand it today... And I reserve my right to change my mind tomorrow. Who's knows, I may get a better mind. :D

Action is the Magic Word, and Passing it On is Life Saving... Mine and others

Thanks, Tommy
Together, we don't have to cave in or wimp out to that Fatal First One, no matter what today!
User avatar
Tommy-S
Forums Old Timer
 
Posts: 2296
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2012 3:11 pm
Location: Norfolk, VA

Re: The Next Frontier-Emotional Sobriety

Postby ann2 » Fri Dec 07, 2012 1:58 am

When I got to e-AA a lady with just a little less time than me (I mention that because I think it's relevant to our interaction) asked me if I had *quality* sober time. You can bet I reacted and over-reacted to that question. She poked me for sure! I told her I was sober and grateful for it. But what else could I share? That my marriage was foundering, that I was considering taking the child of my husband, my daughter, away because I didn't know what else to do with myself?

This lady got me thinking about "quality" and a lot of other things . . . just why was I sober? I began to notice how other AA members behaved and I saw a real lack of the promises in my life coming true, those that are mentioned in meetings sometimes.

Was it just enough that I was not drinking? Or was there more out there?

Because of this prod, and many more comments from my new online AA community, some joking, some serious, I decided to take the steps as written in the Big Book. The process was a revelation and gave me the beginnings of comprehending the word serenity.

I am not saying I'm emotionally mature by any means. I think the infantile King Baby is still alive and active in my mind. The point is, as Tommy says so clearly, that as long as I'm *doing* something about it, I have a chance to experience something greater than myself and my pitiful understanding of living. I'm devoted to something.

That sounds fairly mature, actually. so forgive me my occasional snits :-)

Ann
"If I don't take twenty walks, Billy Beane send me to Mexico" -- Miguel Tejada
User avatar
ann2
Forums Old Timer
 
Posts: 8687
Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2004 2:01 am
Location: Somewhere in Sweden

Re: The Next Frontier-Emotional Sobriety

Postby Tommy-S » Fri Dec 07, 2012 9:51 am

Thanks, Ann

Of course I haven't offered you a really new idea--only a gimmick that has started to unhook several of my own "hexes" at depth.


Bill calls it a 'gimmick', and I am OK with using Gimmicks... As long as they work.

The belief that there is a Design for my Life that is Happy, Joyous, & Free, along with the Primary & Singleness of purpose trying to help other Alcoholics up from that Mad Realm, seems to keep me on the beam.

Also, with time and Crap Fairy Battles, I have come to understand everything is survivable...As long as I don't make that FAtal Mistake of caving in or wimping out to a Drink.

Mature? My sponsees gave me a t-shirt when I was 25 years sober that read "Sometimes plays well with others, and only occasionally needs adult supervision"... because it took me that long to 'earn' it :)

I'm in good company... Thanks.

Tommy
Together, we don't have to cave in or wimp out to that Fatal First One, no matter what today!
User avatar
Tommy-S
Forums Old Timer
 
Posts: 2296
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2012 3:11 pm
Location: Norfolk, VA

Re: The Next Frontier-Emotional Sobriety

Postby Duke » Fri Dec 07, 2012 10:39 am

Thanks for pointing me to this Tommy. I feel a great kinship with Bill when I read about his struggles with emotional sobriety. I’ve occasionally sponsored someone who doesn’t seem to struggle with the emotional angle at all and it baffles me. I am so thankful that How it Works contains the statement that “There are those too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.”

My experience with emotional sobriety is that no matter the level of emotional response to various life situations, it can be survived with peace of mind as long as I am willing to keep it in perspective. Learning how to do that has been the study of years.

I distinctly remember sitting at a meeting, three to five years sober, asking that someone please tell me when I would stop being plagued by powerful negative emotional responses to life. I don’t really remember the responses I received, but I do recall that was when I started to explore at depth, what being honest about my emotional condition meant.

What I found was, like Bill, when my emotional responses arose out of my basic self-worth issues and dependence on others, I often found myself stopping at prayer and waiting for the feelings to abate before taking action. It wasn’t a conscious decision or a lack of understanding, but rather a deeply ingrained pattern that had managed to work itself into and around the principles I’d learned without my really realizing it.

The honesty I had to attain was the willingness to understand and act on the spiritual truth that no matter the source or intensity of the emotion, relief is always the result of taking action and not the prerequisite. I know this sounds simple, but as we say, simple truths for complex people.

What I started to do, and continue to do, is relentlessly practice the tenth step on every negative emotional response I have without exception. Of course I don’t do it perfectly, but I no longer lie to myself that this or that situation is different.

Bill puts it as knowing “absolute dependency” for what it is. I put it as never making an exception for practicing the principles based on the size and shape of the emotional response.

I continue today to be a person who experiences the emotional side of life vividly. As long as I keep them in perspective and remember practicing these principles trumps all, I’m okay.

Thanks again Tommy. Made me think.
"If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.", Mother Teresa
User avatar
Duke
Forums Old Timer
 
Posts: 3684
Joined: Sat Jun 25, 2011 3:35 pm
Location: Kansas, USA

Re: The Next Frontier-Emotional Sobriety

Postby PaigeB » Fri Dec 07, 2012 1:55 pm

What an excellent thread! I feel like I want to chop out parts of what you all have said and paste them as a quote so you know that I have heard you and to comment on each individually but I realize this would become too long a post! Good stuff people and I thank you for all you have said!

My sponsor is big on adding "emotional" to the often heard "physical, mental & spiritual" sobriety. She gave me Bill's letter on emotional sobriety very early in our work together and it fit right in with my inner pull to practice "love & tolerance" as my personal code.

From the letter by Bill
..by loving others ....I couldn't possibly do that so long as I was victimized by false dependencies...For my dependency meant demand--

...by offering love to others regardless of the return to me...This seems to be the primary healing circuit: an outgoing love... can't flow until our paralyzing dependencies are broken, and broken at depth. Only then can we possibly have a glimmer of what adult love really is...

happiness is a by-product--the--extra dividend of giving without any demand for a return...

The really stabilizing thing... was having and offering love to that strange drunk on his doorstep (and everyone else*). That was Francis at work, powerful and practical, minus dependency and minus demand.
My stability came out of trying to give, not out of demanding that I receive.

..If we examine every disturbance we have, great or small, we will find at the root of it some unhealthy dependency and its consequent unhealthy demand... Then we can be set free to live and love...
(* emphasis mine)


Love Love Love... Love in ACTION.
If I'm not able to say how I'm working my program today, then I'm not working my program.
The e-AA Group's 7th Tradition link: www.e-aa.org/group_seventh.php
User avatar
PaigeB
Trusted Servant
 
Posts: 10393
Joined: Fri Jun 24, 2011 12:28 pm
Location: Iowa USA


Return to The Grapevine Magazine

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests