Sunday, January 6, 2013

Step 4 and Resentments, Institutions and Community

In 12 step programs we are encouraged to do a step 4 listing all the persons, institutions, and or principles we had a grudge against. Later we look at how grudges develop because we have unrealistic expectations. These persons, institutions or principles get between us and security (and or money), our sexual desires (marriages, mistresses, lovers), our ambitions (where we want to go, who we want to be) and our personal relationships (our friendships, status etc.)
Some of the institutions are as follows:

Government - in the 12 step programs there's the recognition that commonly individuals are emotional immature, fixating in their development at a time of trauma in childhood or at a time when they turned to their addictions to deal with the anxiety that followed the trauma or stress that was occasioned with something as everyday as "growing up". So there's a tremendous amount of anti authoritarianism in the society and this shows up with anger at paying taxes, frustration with the arms of government starting with the world, federal, provincial or state and moving down to city and local strata.

 Religion - it follows if we are antiauthoritarian and verging on anarchist like most 'king babies' are would want to be 'accountable' to a God, or even a 'higher power'. We certainly don't like the idea of accountability and we certainly don't like the idea of 'spiritual laws' since we're not particularly happy with 'speed limits' on the highway that we can be fined for ignoring. We don't even like gravity and would want to fly not that we would want others to have this capacity since that would interfere with our own flights of insanity.

Education - we generally encountered rules in home and then in the first institutions of school and church. The schools were a kind of training ground for adulthood and we often didn't like to do as the teachers or principals said and we didn't like completing assignments as we were told to or when we were supposed to. We didn't like the hierarchy there and we didn't like our inadequacies being made public. It was alright when we were the A student or the winner on the sports team or the soloist in the choir but we weren't particularly happy to have no attention so often got negative attention. Later we'd blame what we'd come to know as 'defects of character' on the organizations that were supposed to be moulding our character.

Money - The institution of money and how some people had more and we had less and how families and tribes got more and others got less all upset us to no end. So often we'd focus on these 'entitlements' rather than consider our own 'benders' and 'wastes' and how we'd alienated the institutions that might help us get more money.

Work- the need to contribute to society and have a job and participate really peeves the addict who would rather be out playing hooky and pursuing pleasure so since work often delays gratefication with the primary pleasure pursuits of the addicts it's soon forgoten that work is a means to an end and increasing work becomes anathema.

 Family - this is an institution that gets a lot of flak from the addict because of the unrealistic expectations that addicts and alcoholics have placed on family members. If they can blame their parents or siblings for their losses or lack of achievements then they don't have to look at themselves and god forbid their 'addiction'. Addiction works like a virus in a computer hiding itself by every means possible and yet taking over all programs and making them work poorly, like a cancer really. Alcoholism and addiction have been called 'cancer of the brain' and the 'great chameleon' since they appears as everything but addiction. The Addict or alcoholic then ascribes the 'problems' whatever they are to 'family' or 'work' or 'school' or some individual or institution.

The Banks - we didn't like the banks if they didn't loan us money and if they loaned us money and then they wanted it back with interest. We didn't like the paying back part. Anything that interfered with our personal pleasure was something we developed a grudge against.

The Courts - we came to realize that while the government was a problem if we'd ever dealt with the courts directly they were even more of a problem because the judge might well not agree with our view on the way things happened in an event that got into his court room. We might object to only lawyers being judges, only educated people being judges, judges having so many powers, the way the courts worked, lawyers, the way lawyers were recompensed, the history of the courts, any number of aspects of the courts that we could bitch about if we somehow got an unfavourable judgement.

The Prison System -if we found ourselves in the institution of the jails we had a lot to be resentful about.

The Medical System - we could have a grudge against this. Sometimes alcoholics blame their liver failure and gut bleeds and all the other failures of the body to deal with self poisoning, on the care of the doctors, nurses and hospitals, rather than consider who caused the problem and who can stop the drinking and drugging.

The Psychiatrists and Asylum - if we found ourselves in the psychiatric system we could develop real resentments against the whole deck of cards that makes up what people insist is 'reality'.

There are the 'mind police' we have resentments against, the 'feeling police', the 'gender police', the 'sex police' and increasingly all these police and punishments of the courts and jails and psychiatrists and asylums were overlapping.

We didn't like anyone who interfered in our freedom. Society - so what it came down to was we wanted to be alone with our addiction what ever our pleasure lever was that we, (like the monkeys who have a brain operation to their pleasure centre and will spend all day pressing the lever until they die if they're not physically disconnected) didn't like anything that got between us and our 'pleasure lever'.

So others, humans in general were a curse to others unless they were somehow helping us, building levers and putting electrodes in our monkey brains, otherwise, be gone. So it's not surprising that so many people with addictions are in the end very unhappy unless they are actively drinking or using or have the electrodes in their brain hooked up and they're pressing that lever 24/7. Wow!

So addiction tends to break down relationships reducing their reciprocity, decreasing their depth, and increasing their shallowness. People may pull away from long term friends and claim new using friends are just the same as family and friends known for years. Suddenly the person met last week, usually a buddy who shares the addiction is as important as a person who knew the person for decades and stood by them through thick or thin.

In Jaggerts curve of the decline of alcoholism there is a movement away from others to the source of addiction, anything that takes time from being 'available' for the 'call' of the addiction or to respond to the 'craving' for alcohol gets put aside. Increasingly a person stops belonging to community, going to work, attending church, being a member of a club or organization. They become solely 'on call' to their new God, whatever is the addiction, what ever lever they've got their brain's pleasure centre electrically hooked up to. So they're distracted and not really present for anything but their addiction where they worship at the alter like the greatest zealot.

Having rejected all the community institutions as a result of addiction which ultimately aims to have them alone with their addiction when they stop their addiction it's not just stopping the drug or alcohol that is 'recovery'. In medicine setting a fracture isn't the cure if the patient stays in bed where the broken leg took them. Rehabilitation is walking again.

Rehabiliation in terms of the disease of addiction and alcoholism is termed 'recovery'. The 12 step program was developed to assist people in recovery and understanding. Hence the person who sarcastically in a meeting says "a thermometer has degrees and you know where we stick them" is likely to have left school and formal learning and avoided education and formal learning, to their own detriment, despite no longer being a drunk or a drug addict. In this regard they need to address their own unresolved anxieties with the education system and let go of the long seated resentment at perhaps leaving school or failing, or perhaps return to school to make the achievements they want in recovery. Similiarly a person who 'jokes' 'sarcastically' that they are a 'recovered catholic' might well need to look at their own leaving the church and return to change the church or start a new church, join a different church or at very least let go of the resentment against an 'institution' that has served billions. Institutions are generally simply organizations that individuals have solidified to enhance the good of some activity.

Even the military is an organization that improved on the original need of a small group to defend against another small group. If I had resentments against the military I might perhaps become involved in the peace movement. But the idea of the 'critic' and 'righteous anger' is beyond the alcoholic and addict because part of the disease of addiction and alcoholism was the mental process whereby we became the most adept 'critics'.

Dr. Paul O. a famous writer in recovery said he could find fault with a blank wall and if you didn't see the problem that made the problem even worse.

Today whenever I hear others or find myself 'criticizing' an institution I ask what would I replace it with and how much time am I willing to put into this alternative. If I'm not going to run for government and sit in parliament and listen to old fat cats belly ache and complain and argue, then maybe I should just accept that politics is never about the best but rather the picking of the least bad. In the case of the alcoholic or addict I have to stop thinking with the 'idealism' of a child and 'participate' to see how getting anything done in this world is like herding cats.

Institutions have developed often over hundreds to thousands of years to deal with the the principal problem of the alcoholism or addict, talking alot but not getting anything done, criticizing a lot but creating little. Recovery is about creativity. It's said that a 'meeting' of a 12 step group only needs a 'coffee pot and a resentment'. A person in addiction will leave the meeting and go off alone to be available for the call of their addiction whereas a person in recovery might well leave a meeting and go off and set up another meeting more to their liking. The world is such that if I don't like a school I can create my own, and the same goes with churches, laws and governments, if I wish to invest the time and energy that those whose names are associated with the major institutions did.

Personally I'm more often than not thankful that others will take on the leadership and invest the time and energy that makes for the olympic champions of society no different that those olympic champion athletes. I also know that recovery means I'll participate in community and contribute creatively. As Dr. Phillip Ney, a spiritual psychiatrist liked to day, the world doesn't need another bitter critic especially if they're an old man or old woman.

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