Tag Archives: Secular Humanist

It Just Ain’t Fair, Mama Mary, They Never Treat Me Right

Fair Warning: This gets a bit long, feel free to skip about at will.

So. At the continuing care once-weekly small group therapy that I attend once a week at a satellite treatment center associated with the in-patient treatment center I had gone to, they do periodic evaluations with treatment plans that go with it. The first one, which I received very shortly after intake to aftercare, I disagreed with, had wanted to talk about it with the counselor and therefore never signed it. I never talked with her about it, which is as likely a result of my own cowardice as it is a result of never had an opportunity to raise the issue (if I’d really been that concerned about it & been able to summon up the courage, I surely could have made the opportunity to talk with her about it). They never really noticed, as far as I know. It looked as though it was mostly canned, copy-paste kind of stuff, anyway, and after a while, although I never quite forgot about it, I dismissed it as nothing in particular. Until I got my next one. Now, as far as I know, they still don’t have a copy of the first one (unless they just printed out a copy of it & left it blank). I got the new eval & treatment plan on Monday. I’m going to quote at some length sections of it.

I continue to have many long-standing resentments, as evidenced by: a. I often blame others for my current problems; b. I am easily angered by the behaviors of others, and my anger causes me to overreact to their behaviors; c. I frequently use phrases such as, “they always,” “they never,” “nothing is ever fair,” etc.. [sic] In the past I have used these resentments to justify my use of alcohol/drugs.

I’ve lined out the lines that I disagree with. Which is nearly all of it, except that I certainly do have a lot of resentment to deal with, but this is rooted in stuff that I need to dig at with the aid of a therapist I think; it is distinctly possible that I have, at least subconsciously, justified drinking myself to the point of blackout every fucking day because of these resentments. In some ways, yes, the behaviors of other anger me; this is more social issue stuff, though, and is part of having a social conscience and being a screaming liberal. In order to help me with this, I’m to read “Freedom From Bondage” from the BB (done, multiple times, will read again, got it), talk with group members about 3 times I’ve been forgiven by someone else (fair enough, I can do that), talk about individuals I need to forgive (how does one go about the process of forgiving an entire group of children?, but ok I’ll see what I can do – given that I know this is never actually going to come up in group, I’ll at least journal about it – the 3 people that read this may get to read that, too :-P). and talk with my sponsor about the statement in the BB “Resentment is the number one offender.” (This is a good idea, I think, once I get a permanent sponsor – still looking at C for that; I certainly have spent a good deal of time pondering this.) Anyway, this isn’t the bit that really bothered me, so moving on.

I do not have a social network which is supportive of my recovery, as evidenced by: a. my friends are substance abusers; b. I do not socialize with any recovering persons; c. my roommate is a substance abuser, d. I find it difficult to make new friendships in recovery, etc.

To the extent that I have a social network, they are all uniformly supportive of my recovery. They may not always know precisely how to go about doing that, but they are. Hell, they got me into treatment. I love them for the evidence that is of how deeply they care for me. They cannot be faulted if I don’t reach out to them the way that I know that I should; that is my fault, my weakness. Even if I haven’t figured out how to overcome that weakness, I know at least that it’s mine. A) My friends are most definitely not substance abusers. They are able to drink responsibly, something which, now that I am not drinking, I recognize I am unable to do. B) I do not socialize. Period. End of story. Although I’m trying to, and I admit that it is extremely difficult. I am even trying to socialize with recovering persons (or person, at any rate; I’m an introvert, let’s do this one person at a time and work our way up, shall we? Groups are… a fucking nightmare at this point). C) My roommate is not only not a substance abuser, but has been extremely conscientious in completely abstaining in my presence. He had one or two drinks when we went camping last weekend, and he drank when he went on vacation. (I was not there, much to my chagrin, and I suspect if I had been, the vacation might have gone a bit differently, and so I’m glad he got the chance to get away and cut loose a bit, really. I felt awful when I found out that the reason he hadn’t been drinking at all was because of me. He never drank much, anyway, and that only when he was out with friends; he doesn’t really go out that much, soooo… I felt {feel} bad that he’s been doing that, although enormously grateful.) D. Self explanatory to anyone that’s got a single fucking clue what it’s like to be so very very introverty as me. It’s all hard, really really hard.

I’m supposed to choose 2 people from group with whom I’d like to strengthen my relationship. No. Doesn’t work like that. Well, maybe the one guy, but hardcore AA’ers might get pissed since he’s an addict only & not an alcoholic. I like his reserve and the devil’s advocate position he often takes. I’m also supposed to talk with an AA member (done) & volunteer to help set up chairs, or wash dishes & what-not. Most of the meetings I go to, there’s not much of that to be done. I take coffee around when appropriate, help break down tables/chairs at my Thursday meeting. I probably should see if I can do more, though. That’s supposed to be the road into service work, especially for the newly sober who don’t have enough sobriety time, to serve in the official service positions. And I’m supposed to talk about the “negative impact my substance abuse has had on my social group and activities.” I’ve about talked that one to fucking death. There’s not even a horse left to beat, it’s just a bloody mess on the side of the road.

Broken Tree

The above essentially pissed me off because it dissed the people that care about me the most, and I get a little Mama Bear (sorry, Ms Palin, you don’t get to trademark that shit) about the Circle, about my Family. However, perhaps more relevant to this blog is the following section. Here’s where it gets really fucking nuts. Ready?

My past experiences with religion have been negative, resulting in a reluctance to examine a Higher Power concept, as evidenced by: a. I am unwilling to attend Twelve Step Meetings because I do not want to hear about the need to have a Higher Power; b. I feel angry toward religion and religious people; c. I feel anger toward those who say they are religious but behave as “hypocrites”, [sic] etc.

Where to start, where to ohmyfuckingjesus start? This is not just shit that I disagree with, it’s patently false. To say that my past experiences with religion have been negative just because I’m pretty up front about the fact that I do not believe in a god, any god or deity, is pretty goddamn presumptuous. It’s also false. I didn’t stop believing because my experiences were negative. In fact they were, by and large, pretty positive, at least as I thought of them, then. I wanted to be a priest, for chrissakes! And a theologian to boot! And, in the end, that – seriously pondering & thinking about this stuff, is what started me down the slippery slope to recovering from religion. There were a lot of other factors that made space for that deconversion to become possible, but it is certainly clear that someone like me is not going to spill that kind of very personal reflection-stuff in small group! And I am not and have not since the beginning of treatment been reluctant to examine the concept of Higher Power. I knew it was going to be difficult as an Atheist, so I tackled that head on pretty much right out of the gate. I’ve come up with a couple of concepts that work for me, don’t have fuck all to do with the existence or non-existence of a deity, and that I continue to tinker with as the need arises.

Okay, getting to the bullets. A) I go to meetings about 5 times a week, and that’s stepping down to a manageable level from the 2-3 a day I was attending for the first 2 months out of recovery, excepting most weekends (I tried those & mostly, the weekend meetings, much to my surprise, are fucking huge for one, so I don’t like them, and then also when I have my daughters, they don’t really like going & it’s not usually appropriate for them – we tried a couple of times). B) The only anger I feel toward religion is of the Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens type. I fucking love those guys. Well, and maybe Jennifer McCreight & Greta Christina & well-the-list-gets-bigger-as-we-go-along. I do not hate or feel anger towards God. Let’s get that clear. For the same completely obvious reason that one does not hate elves and trolls and fairies or even Darth fucking Vader. They do not exist. C) I only feel anger towards hypocrites in the same kind of social conscience sort of way I spoke about above. And I can’t feel too much anger towards anyone I see behaving hypocritically in my personal life since I have to reflect on the extent to which I am or have been a goddamn hypocrite myself.

So, to help me grapple with my lack of fucking belief, I’m to read, guess fucking what, the “Spiritual Experience” appendix in the BB. Done. And Done. And done. And fucking done. I frankly don’t find it to be all that magically deep, profound, or inspired, but I’ll keep going back to it from time to time to try and see what others see in it. Not that it’s bad, either, but it’s nothing that hasn’t been said before. I’m also supposed to talk with the group (won’t happen, not because I’ll refuse, I just know how our group works, and it just won’t ever come up) about my understanding of the material and how it may “relate to my search for a Higher Power.” Ugh. The search is done. It’ll get tinkered, but I don’t want to pretend to believe in God just because that’s what most people in AA associate with Higher Power. I’m also to talk with the group about the concept of using “Good Orderly Direction” as my HP. Fuck that trite bullshit. I will not use the word God in any form to describe what my idea of  a power greater than myself is. The thought behind it, I understand. I get it. It even works for me in some ways, but if I say “God” in the context of HP, I have just given the rest of the people within a proverbial earshot tacit permission to believe that I mean it in a way that approximates the same way that they do. No. Flat. No. “I will discuss the way in which this would help me in my recovery.” Well, lady, it won’t. It won’t help at all. In fact, if you really want to see someone slip and fall from our group (which you seem to, since you keep lamenting the fact that noone in our group has in the last couple of months – huh? really? this is something to lament?) go ahead and keep pushing this issue. I guarantee it will drive me to the bottom of a bottle of cheap-ass Canadian whiskey faster than any other goddamn thing.

Ok, almost done, stick with me. Sorry this has taken so long. All of this, in the end, would be neither here nor there, beyond just making me mad, if it weren’t for the fact that this is the shit that insurance (i.e. work) is paying for. So now I’m worried that if I make too many waves or simply stop going, this will come back to them and negatively impact me at work. As in, negatively impact the fact that I still have a work. The woman that wrote this was not there on Monday and I’m fairly certain that next Monday, being the 4th holiday, there will not be a small group meeting, so I’ve got a full 2 weeks to get this all twisty and boiled up in my head. Yay. If anyone reading this actually made it to the end, you’re a goddamn trooper. Not the faceless stormy kind, the knife-wielding rope-tying kind.

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5,000 Pound Fucking Phones and Fucking

Been a little while. So this one’s likely to go a bit long on me.

Last week I had what I’m pretty sure amounts to an anxiety attack of sorts. That’s what I’m calling it, anyway, with the caveat that I’ve not got the medical expertise to actually label it that and that I’ve never had one before and therefore don’t have much to compare it to. I don’t think it was the full-on real deal, but it did last about 18 hours, including sleep (I dreamt that my brother and I killed someone or possibly two someones and I was freaking out about hiding the evidence and the bodies and wondering what the fuck had just happened – I may be rethinking this whole Wishing I Could Remember My Dreams thing). It was incredibly surreal and uncomfortable and once again, there was no wall of whiskey to protect me from whatever it was. I have absolutely no desire to do that ever ever ever again. I’m pretty sure that it was kicked off by all the stress surrounding the uncertainty of whether or not I will be keeping my job, but it spiraled out into all kinds of other things that were very unfocused and difficult to keep track of. During this whole thing, it never even occurred to me to call someone, anyone at all until someone pointed out to me that I should call someone. Even then, though, I couldn’t do it.

In small group this week (technically, continuing care, but really, it’s small group therapy), this became the topic of conversation, and the counselor said that it was a self-esteem issue for me. Although I hadn’t connected that particular underlying issue to that particular dot, I probably should have, and regardless, it hasn’t made it any easier to pick up the fucking phone. I did get over it a little and call my sponsor and meet with him last week, but haven’t talked or e-mailed or anything with him since then; I don’t know if I thought getting over it once would suddenly remove the difficulty or what. No magic pills here, little lion man. Ugh.

I do also confess to being a little annoyed at the counselor’s diagnosis of self-esteem because when I told her the very first time that I had met her that this was an issue for me, she solved the problem in 10 seconds or less by telling me that the solution was to help others. OK, fine and wonderful, and not to say that it isn’t true either, but – won’t be going to you for individual therapy. Or perhaps I should get over that annoyance and go to her anyway. On the other hand, though, I’d prefer to keep one-on-one and small group counseling separate, I think.

It did also come out that I am ‘not religious’ at small group, which was, oddly enough, related to the isolation topic. When I was religious, that was the entirety of my social group. Then I went into the military, where the drinking began to get serious. Then I got out. Then I became not religious. I have not gone out and made social connections that had nothing to do with booze or God in so long that I am completely at a loss. No idea what I’m doing. Not even a little.

Moving back a little, counselor’s reaction: “What do you mean by you’re not religious anymore?”

“I mean that I’ve come to the conclusion that there probably is no God.” Confused look on her face. “It’s just that simple, I’m not angry about it or anything like that, it just is part of who I am, and that’s all. Nothing to it.”

“Okay, well, what was your social group outside of religion back then?” Give the lady credit for getting over the no-God and moving on pretty quickly.

“That was it.”

Then the conversation progressed a bit further and we went around the room. Turns out, I’m not the only alcoholic in the room that tends to isolate. Most of us in that group do. So now I have homework. Call this other guy in the group, even if it’s just to say, “Hey, calling because I’m doing what I said I’d do and, you know, calling.”

Which brings me to the last little thing for this blog entry, and it’s either really funny or really frustrating. When asked if I had a home group yet, I talked about one meeting I’ve been going to pretty regularly that meets at 6:15 in the morning 3 days a week that I really like. I mentioned that the only down side was the lack of women in the group. “What, for dating?” Shit, she caught me off guard, dating is the very fucking last thing I was thinking about when I mentioned that. In fact, the only reason I had mentioned it was because the one or two women that show up for that group had mentioned how nice it was when another woman showed up. “Umm, no. I just like more balance. No dating.” “You know, you shouldn’t do that in the first year of sobriety.” “Yes, I know. Dating is… well, it’s not… well, it’s complicated.” I left it at that, hoping it would go away. Nope. Kept getting shit for it. Somebody mentioned a possible meeting that I might like. Counselor: “Are there girls there? You know, for balance.” “Look, I’m not a dude’s dude! I don’t like talking about guns & shooting shit or fixing cars, I like talking about books & politics & shit!” Jesus, I wish I’d kept my fucking mouth shut just then.

Ok, but here’s the question that occurred to me later, which I did in fact have the good sense to keep inside my mouth: Why do all the married or otherwise coupled couples get to couple in their first year of goddamned sobriety? Why do they get the incredible comfort of another human being’s skin and breath next to theirs, another human being’s fingers to tangle in theirs, another human being’s chest to rise and fall against their back all night long, and the rest of us just have to fucking do without fucking? Just wondering.

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An Atheist at AA

I am an atheist. I am also an alcoholic. The one has fuck-all to do with the other. However, the treatment center that I successfully went through and ‘graduated’ from less than a week ago is 12 Step, Alcoholics Anonymous based. AA has a lot of God in it, for anyone that hasn’t looked into it. The program itself is a bit more flexible than that, but they refuse to edit the AA basic text (the Big Book, as it’s called) out of a reverence for it that is very like the religious person’s reverence for their holy text(s), and to put it bluntly, the Big Book was written from the perspective of people whose milieu was 1930s very White, very Protestant, and very Male. And this is the Midwest. The coasts may have adapted and have meetings where altered versions of the Steps and Traditions are read and they don’t end every meeting with the Lord’s Prayer, but not here in the Bible Belt.

However, I needed and need help. Sobriety is not something I was able to accomplish on my own. I tried. And tried. And tried. And it hurt. A lot. I hurt myself nearly to death, and I hurt a lot of the people I love. Fortunately for me, I have the most wonderful friends in the world that care for me and love me even more, I think, than I gave myself leave to love them. They got me into treatment, and here I am. More background later, I’m just trying to get this going before I lose my nerve for now.

So this is going to be the story as it unfolds of my journey as an Atheist/Secular Humanist going through the AA program and holding on for dear life. Should be a good time! So help me stay sober, love, and this’ll all work out.

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