Getting Sober / Staying Sober

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Why Secrets Are So Dangerous

There are a number of slogans and sayings that get chucked around in health circles, which some people find really helpful, and other people find both helpful and irritating, depending upon their mood.

One of the most common sayings, although not an actual slogan, is telling people directly or indirectly that they are as sick as their secrets.

The message behind the saying is that people need to open up, tell either an individual or a group what is going on in their life, or what it is from their past what is troubling them.

People will rarely question this message, in part because the process of 12 step recovery does involve an individual realistically assessing the past, sharing it with someone on a one-to-one basis and making amends harm done as a basis for moving forward and staying sober.

A degree of defensiveness can often mask a sense of underlying anger, which in reality is often protective rather than confrontational.

As Sick As Your Secrets ?

The problem with telling people that they are as sick as their secrets is that it often moves away from what is suggested in the book Alcoholics Anonymous to a different level.

This either puts significant pressure on people to share at meetings, and pressure on people that they should be telling everyone everything about their lives.

This is a hugely important issue,  and unsurprisingly is really to do with boundaries.

When anyone starts the process of getting sober and staying sober they are quite likely to have experienced a significant degree of isolation, often both physical and emotional, often for a significant period of time.

Any emotional isolation is likely to have had a fairly devastating affect on the individual, often making them highly inward looking and secretive about their lives.

Telling individuals like this that they are as sick as a secrets can seem to make sense,  as they will often think that they have to force their way out of that isolation in order to share and get better, otherwise they will drink again.

The process or an individual frame themselves in this type of isolation is as detailed in the book Alcoholics Anonymous. It is not a forced process and never should be.

A sense of moving out of this type of emotional isolation can only come from the individual feeling safe enough to let go of the various emotional  coping mechanisms that they have set up within themselves.

Coping Mechanisms

These coping mechanisms are essentially what the isolation involves, and need to come down so that the individual can have a healthy sense of understanding what their own issues are.

What is key is that they come down from within, not as a result of being pressured from  outside.

Whenever an individual is starting a process of getting or staying sober, either in a rehab or in a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, it is a fair bet to say that the last thing in the world they need is any more external pressure.

Whilst every individual’s life is different, and their circumstances different, it’s a fair bet to say that they are already experiencing a high degree of internal pressure, as well as probably external pressure as well.

Telling people that they are as sick as their secrets invariably puts pressure on them. They either feel that they have to share at meetings, or that they need to share things that they are not ready to yet own themselves emotionally.

Pressure

This type of pressure and the ensuing belief that people have to tell everyone everything about their lives often replicates the type of enmeshment found in alcoholic homes.

This is not surprising given number of AA  members who grew up having been affected by someone else’s alcoholism.

It is important to realise the distinction between privacy and secrecy, and to realise that this is fundamentally a boundary issue, and one that can be hugely important in people’s recovery.

Bottom line is that putting pressure on people who are vulnerable is always a no no, especially when it potentially takes away from them one of the main things that they need in order to get well, a sense of safety at meetings where they can simply learn to be themselves.


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Why People Struggle with Being Vulnerable

People quite often like to categorise emotions as being good or bad, with emotions such as anger and self-pity been thought of as bad or weak .

Emotions such as gratitude and a positive outlook are thought of as good healthy emotional states.

Truth is that judgement of any emotional state is of itself counter productive.

Emotions are neither good nor bad of themselves, neither strong no weak, they simply are.

This may sound a bit trite, but is really important because of what ones emotional state can tell us about ourselves.

Many people in 12 step recovery struggle with emotional drives once they get sober.

Often the alcohol has been used as a way of quite simply blotting out the emotional pain someone has lived in, and has been used to simply avoid reality.

Getting Sober

When someone gets sober, one of the first lessons that they learn is that this is, how do they live with themselves sober.

This may not be immediately obvious at a conscious level, but they soon into realise that the emotional unmanageability of their lives is often as strong as the practical unmanageability of their drinking which caused them to seek help.

One of the important part of the process of 12 step is recovery is to be able to consciously look at and evaluate how our emotions work at a normal instinctive level, simply because on a daily basis people just act or react to what goes on around them.

This can be particularly true when someone has a high level of anger or resentment that determines their attitudes and their reactions to much of what happens in their life.

The book Alcoholics Anonymous describes resentment as the number one offender, and says it destroys more alcoholics than anything else.

Anyone who has lived with their own anger, or with an angry alcoholic, drunk or sober, knows the power of resentment, and how overwhelming it can be.

Information

Perhaps the most important thing to realise about our emotional states is that they give us information about ourselves.

The process of the 12 step program allows us to consciously evaluate this information at both a head and a heart level.

Being able to develop a degree of self awareness is a huge freedom, even if it does not seem so at the beginning throughout the process.

Knowing what one’s own emotional baggage and drives are, does give you the freedom to be able to process them, even if it is painful or takes you to dark places.

Thinking of people as being emotionally weak or emotionally strong is a fundamental misconception.

The real problem behind this attitude is one of judgement. If someone is judging themselves or other people for how they are feeling, they will be completely unable to accept it as a real state.

If they cannot accept that, in reality they will never be able to change it.

The term emotional  sobriety is often used to describe the process of people coming to terms with their more complex and serious emotional drives that may only begin to become apparent after someone has been sober for a while.

This journey can be a tough one, but ultimately is the only real root to any lasting happiness or internal sense of stability and peace.


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