"The whole spiritual journey might be summed up as humble hope." Thomas Keating

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Self Righteous Indignation is a Drug

The following is an excerpt from an interview with David Brin in Wired:
But the notion of self-righteous indignation being a drug high seems to develop naturally out of recent scientific results that show that addiction is actually the most natural of human processes. You’ve heard the phrase “addicted to love.” Well, you can deliberately enter less salubrious mental states. You can deliberately go to Las Vegas, and the slot machines are now tuned to track the pattern of your behavior at the slot machine and change their rewards pattern so you start getting more rewards when it calculates that you’re about to stand up and give up and leave. So there’s gambling, thrill addiction. Well, it turns out that there’s substantial evidence that self-righteous indignation is one of these drug highs, and any honest person knows this. We’ve all been in indignant snits, self-righteous furies. You go into the bathroom during one of these snits, and you look in the mirror and you have to admit, this feels great! “I am so much smarter and better than my enemies! And they are so wrong, and I am so right!”
And if we were to recognize that self-righteous indignation is a bona fide drug high, and that yes, just like alcohol, some of us can engage in it on occasion — as a matter of fact, when I engage in it, I get into a real bender — but then say, “Enough.” If we were to acknowledge this as a drug addiction, then it might weaken all the horrible addicts out there who have taken over politics in America, and allow especially conservatism to return to the genteel, calm, intellectual ways of Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Life Second to None?

I hear that a lot at meetings, that there are all these recovering alcoholics who have lives second to none.  That never really sat right with me, and when I was trying to get sober, I thought it was a lot of BS.  Here's the thing, when I was trying to get sober, I was just trying to get through the day without a drink.  Later when the compulsion to drink diminished, life was better, a lot better, but still there were challenges.  I diligently began to work the steps, and became more accountable to myself and others.  Life continued to get better, but also sobriety brought adulthood face to face with me, and things like a real relationship, a career, and a house complete with mortgage brought me into a whole different dimension.  My life became pretty normal.
That last statement is probably the most profound thing an alcoholic can say.  Pretty much by definition an alcoholic cannot live a normal life; in fact it's a miracle to say that an alcoholic is living a normal happy life.  Shooting for the stars for an alcoholic is no more than holding down a job and not getting divorced.  Hell, waking up in one's own bed (dry), knowing what happened the night before is a miracle.    
The point is, paying a mortgage, having dinner with someone you love, caring for others - for an alcoholic this is shooting for the stars; for an alcoholic a normal average life is a miracle.
Dennis S.

Interesting discussion

An interesting discussion has begun based on a March post on Forgiveness, Revenge, and Justice.  Check it out.

Monday, June 4, 2012

It's a fellowship, not a book club

I have always been grateful that I went to a few meetings before being exposed to any of the literature.  If I had read the Big Book while drinking I would have been much less open to coming to AA.  The 1930's inspirational literature style of it would have driven me nuts.  Reading the Big Book after being exposed to how people apply the program in their lives made all the difference.

The literature contains principles that form our common ground.  For that reason the Big Book, the 12 and 12, AA Comes of Age and the other classics are very, very important.  They are not, however, sacred texts that should be taken as the ultimate test of every practice or idea.  Our experience as a fellowship plays that role.  If we don't know more about recovery and living in sobriety than Bill Wilson did in 1939 then we have been doing something very wrong for the last 73 years.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

AA is not a personal success story

AA is not a personal success story.  It is instead the story of our colossal human failures now converted into the happiest kind of usefulness.  It is not a conquest. It is ending the war, surrendering unconditionally.  It is a gift freely given.
Fr. Tom Weston

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The way we listen

The way we listen to others who are annoying, perhaps sharing inappropriately, the way we listen to them, open ourselves up to them, purifies the the spirit like nothing else.

(Paraphrased from Fr. Tom Weston)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Highest Rank

I was reminded over the weekend that the highest rank anyone can achieve in AA is 'sober'. 

You become a member of AA when you say you are a member and as a member you get one equal share in the fellowship.  No one can tell you that they have x years more than you so their opinion is more valid.  We all learn great things from newcomers and we've all heard old timers who might be less wise than we would hope.

It is a radical democracy.  Let's exercise it.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Another thing I keep forgetting

Finally I am coming to the conclusion that my highest ambition is to be what I already am. That I will never fulfill my obligation to surpass myself unless I first accept myself and, if I accept myself fully in the right way, I will already have surpassed myself. For it is the unaccepted self that stands in my way and will continue to do so as long as it is not accepted.

A Search for Solitude. Edited by Lawrence S. Cunningham (San Francisco, HarperSanFrancisco,
1996): 220

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Forgiveness, Revenge, and Justice

At yesterday's meeting my group ended up discussing righteous indignation, resentment, and the desire to see others punished.  I think this is an area where the Big Book and the other literature I can think of right now are insufficiently clear.

At the end of the meeting a newcomer asked me where to draw the line, how to give up all resentment and anger without becoming a doormat. That, of course is a very important question and one we hear a lot.

I think the answer lies in the distinction between justice and revenge.  The program's ban on 'righteous indignation' is not a ban on moral evaluation.  Forgiveness does not mean being a judge, bringing down the gavel and declaring 'not guilty'; it means letting go of the pain.  When we evaluate a situation in which we have been injured we have to be careful not to seek vengeance, to find joy in seeing others punished.  But that does not mean we stop seeking justice, both for ourselves and others.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Worst Sin

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that's the essence of inhumanity. -- G.B. Shaw
I agree with this.  Human beings are not complete in isolation; we are herd animals.  We need each other in a very profound way and indifference toward others, silencing or isolating others are ways of denying them their humanity.  

Needless to say, this is a sin of which I am guilty.  As much as I hate being invisible, I often fail to see others.  As with so many of my shortcomings, I just have to work on that.