Thursday, June 5, 2008

Letter to Dr. Davis from an Audience Member

[Note: Dr. B.J. Davis, Clinical Director of Strategies for Change in Sacramento, was guest keynote speaker at the 2008 LifeRing Congress in Berkeley May 31 2008. See Congress review page. After his talk, which was met with a standing ovation, Dr. Davis received the following letter from an audience member.]

Dear Dr. Davis:
I attended your presentation at the LifeRing Congress yesterday. I am passing on a monumental and heartfelt thank you for offering me something that you may very well not be aware of. Your efforts helped me release something that although I was not fully conscious of, I have been holding onto for several years now. I struggled with binge drinking, starting in 1998 and came close to death on a few occasions. I was admitted into Clearbrook - a 28 day, 12 step program in Pennsylvania in 2002. I had attended AA meetings prior to that time and it never resonated with me. In fact, the bulk of that which AA stands for always felt completely contradictory to who I am and what I believe.

Quite frankly I found the whole thing offensive, short sighted, and erroneous. At the same time, the aggressive, hostile, shame-inducing, punitive, thoughtless, deeply insensitive, and invalidating tactics of the 12-step treatment center made AA, on its own, seem light-weight, in terms of harm. My time in treatment is truly one of my most disturbing memories - in my adult life, anyway. I hesitate to go too deeply into it because firstly, it would require dozens of pages, but more importantly, I believe that to whatever extent I hold the responsibility for having created the circumstances for which I ended up in treatment, I am also able to create and put for my solution to the same extent. I like that the solutions to all of my life challenges remain in my hands.

Since years have passed since my treatment, I felt that for the most part I had moved beyond my negative and enormously frustrating feelings as well as the deep conflict that I endured during my 28 days. During your presentation, it became apparent that I had not fully let go of that experience and its impact, until today. As I heard you speak the very essence of what I have felt, believed and attempted to express on countless occasions -- during and subsequent to my treatment, I realized that there were still pockets of stored sadness, desolation, deep frustration, and even fear -- fear of once again being misunderstood, or being accused of having a sick-mind, even though I knew (ironically, in my mind) that my mind was precisely the very part of me that held my solution. If my mind had guided my decisions, I never would have had a drink. I was always clear that my poor choices and decisions were directed by emotional conflict, pain, etc. and my mind at those times was abandoned.

To hear you speak so confidently and knowingly of the very things that I too have known, yet have failed to successfully communicate and in some ways, fully embrace, proved to be quite a profound experience for me. Therefore, I have to point out your one inaccuracy, which is that you said at the beginning of your presentation that you did not have anything profound to offer. That proved to be unquestionably false for me. As I heard your wise and insightful words combined with your compassion, understanding, and alignment with universal truths that transcend any short-sighted concepts and beliefs espoused by AA (and other organizations), I somehow felt compelled and safe to release whatever was left inside of me that once felt so hurtful.

Without sounding too dramatic here, I came close to leaving the room during your presentation, because I actually got teary eyed and was fearful I might just burst into heavier tears. Yet my tears did not reflect any current sadness, but rather a release of old sadness, replaced with a renewed feeling of freedom and hope that I had neatly tucked away and fiercely protected. Thank you so much for offering me the segue between having shut myself down and feeling safe and free to re-open certain places in my heart and mind.

Again, I may be treading dangerously close to drama here, but after treatment, I felt much like I imagine a little boy would feel after being punished for doing something wrong that in reality he didn't do at all. Or better stated, being accused and punished for doing something wrong and bad in the face of attempting to do something quite pure, innocent and good. Your insights touched me similarly to how a boy would have felt if a parent believed him for the first time after years of carrying around the guilt and shame for something he never did. That pretty much sums it up for me.

Truly, thanks so much for your courageous efforts, your big heart and your wise mind. I personally think you should have an endless supply of Ben n Jerry's and anything else your heart desires..... and so it shall be.

(Name Withheld)