Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Letter to My Addiction

One of the exercises in the Recovery by Choice workbook -- and it's an old exercise, widely used, not invented by me -- is writing a letter to one's addiction. You write a "Dear Jane" letter to the addiction, then you write your addiction's response to the letter, and you conclude by replying to the response. In the framework of the "A" (addict self) and "S" (sober self) metaphor, it's a dialogue between the S and the A.

Mark J. did this exercise last month and read it out loud to his group. So many people commented on it that it came to my attention, and with Mark's permission I'm reprinting it here:

Dear Jane,
I am writing you this letter in regards to discontinue our relationship altogether. I want to be forthright with my stance on this. We have spent a time in our lives that for life safety reasons I realized needed to be ended. I ask of your acceptance of this as I need to move on and pursue a life that is productive to my development and responsibilities. There were good times, yes. However the damage to my well being both physically and emotionally has caused me to seek recovery and I’ve found it to be a life worth living. Let me not leave out the fact that I have caused damage to others as well when we were together. Let me state again that I am taking action at this writing to cease relations with you permanently.

I have read your letter and think you maybe need a break for a while and I am more than willing to let things cool off (or until you finish your phase). But let’s be serious, you know we are meant to be together. A break from this relationship is fine with me, but to consider never seeing each other again is not like you. You are the one who sought me ought and wooed me with your words, touch and actions in all situations when you felt the need. You came to me! Through those times we produced the best sensations and moments of true genius that you demonstrated to others. The music on computers you made was untouched in individuality. You were afraid of talking to the people you really wanted to talk to until we were together. When we were together you consciously new it was better than sex and you ignored sexual advances with the thought that sex would get between you and I. We had mystique. It was I with you the greatest spiritual moment in your life happened, and you dare wonder if it was real or imagined. Of course it was us. Do I need to go on? I think you know the answer to this question. So now after all I have given to you, this is suddenly something you would never consider again? I know you romanticize about me and you think you can shut out or use your bullshit recovery techniques to stop yourself from me. However, I’m always here and that makes you wonder doesn’t it? You can’t forget about us can you? I understand you are going through some voluntary brainwashing to delude yourself from our relationship, however to think you’ll leave me for good is not something I’m worried about.
In remembrance of old times,

Dear Jane,
I have read your reply and cannot overstate the fact that you and I together is life threatening to me. I will die and hurt others along the way. While it is true that there were times together that still bewilder me, I am working towards moving into the now and there is evidence that this is happening. I simply enjoy being sober more than the ups and downs of being with you. The adventure of life is unfolding and I know in my heart that I can always find a way sober no matter what may happen. The past experiences with you brought a change in how I wanted to live. I don’t want to shut my memories out and accept that I will remember the “good times” as well as the bad. This is not a war and I will not fight you. I just simply will not take you. The things that I thought I needed you to do with me I now am doing myself and I don’t need an audience to tell me when I know something is right. From this moment on I choose a life worth living.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

LifeRing in 2010 and Beyond

The LifeRing Service Center in Oakland was humming and buzzing last week with the Expansion Committee mailing.  In a few days, every LifeRing convenor in the world should have the committee's proposals in hand. (If you didn't get one, it's probably because we don't have contact information for you in the database.)

The committee of eleven worked long and hard to produce these proposals, and they deserve a full and detailed reading.  The time for membership discussion is from now to March 15.  You can send feedback via comments on the LifeRing-10 discussion blog, or via email to service@lifering.org, or via snail mail or phone to the Service Center (1440 Broadway Ste 312 Oakland 94612; 1-800-811-4142).

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Growing in Dublin

This email came in to the Service Center this week from a counselor in Dublin, Ireland:
I am writing to you in the hope that I may receive information about facilitating LifeRing meetings within our organisation. We are a community based organisation based in Dublin 12, we work with both problematic alcohol and drug users. We have at the moment A.A meetings being held each week, but it has come to our attention that the amount of people attending these meetings is far less than the amount of people who need help. When we put the question to the people who don't attend, their response is that they believe it was themselves who chose to drink or take drugs and that it should be themselves who chooses and has the power to stop. Since finding out about and from reading your web-site,(which I really enjoy and agree with) I have mentioned it to some of our service users and they seem excited at the idea of attending these meetings.
I understand that there are 2 meetings being held in Dublin, but I am hoping that maybe we can facilitate them here also. Is there any possibility of this? Or can I receive some information please about training myself to become a convenor of LifeRing.
Dennis S., the LifeRing convenor who founded the first two LifeRing meetings in Dublin, promptly contacted the writer and offered his assistance and cooperation.  It's very likely, from the looks of it, that Dublin will soon have three LifeRings.

Note that this email comes from a counselor at a program that so far is exclusively 12-step oriented.  If you looked at this program from the outside, seeing only the surface, you might write it off as a stone 12-step program, beyond hope.

But the clients on the inside have different ideas.  The amount of people attending the 12-step meetings, the writer observed, "is far less than the amount of people who need help."  That's just about a universal condition in every 12-step program.  As we know from AA's own triennial membership surveys, reported in Don McIntire's journal article (covered in my book Empowering Your Sober Self), out of 100 people who approach AA, at the end of 90 days, 90 per cent have walked away.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that there's a gap here.  To its immense credit, the staff at this program in Dublin actually asked the people who don't attend AA, why don't they?  This is almost revolutionary in a profession that's very strong on talking at clients but not so good at listening to clients.  But the client-centered spirit of Carl Rogers is penetrating even into substance abuse treatment, the most backward province in the kingdom of mental health treatment, and the result is what you see:  clients who insist that they're not powerless to get free of alcohol and drugs, and who want support groups that acknowledge that power and reinforce it.  In short, clients who want LifeRing.

Even in Ireland.  Or perhaps: especially in Ireland.