I realized that I was an alcoholic and went to AA on Nov. 24, 1976. I never drank again nor did I ever think that alcohol could help any problem I had. From that day, I knew that I was a pickle and could not go back to be a cucumber. Or, as I choose to interpret that change, that I was a butterfly with no desire to be a caterpillar again.
However, it wasn’t until June, 2009, in my 33rd year of recovery, when my husband left me for another woman that I hit my emotional bottom. Bill W., the cofounder of AA, wrote in a letter reprinted in the Grapevine dated July of 1956 that he believed the next frontier of AA would be emotional sobriety.
The main emotional support system I had in June, 2009, was my husband’s (now my ex) large extended family. The night he left, 60+ people left my life. I had no warning of this complete abandonment. Today I am grateful for this experience. I finally had to give up my “prideful self-sufficiency”. As Bill W. wrote about in his letter about emotional sobriety, I had become dependent on the family and gave up that complete surrender to the God of my understanding.
Bill W. writes in that letter:
The following excerpts from a letter of Bill Wilson’s was quoted in the memoirs of Tom Pike, and early California AA member. Tom did not use the name of the person addressed — perhaps because he was still living.
Here in part is what Bill Wilson wrote in 1958 to a close friend who
shared his problem with depression, describing how Bill himself used St. Francis’s prayer as a steppingstone toward recovery:”
”I think that many oldsters who have put our AA “booze cure” to severe but successful tests still find they often lack emotional sobriety. Perhaps they will be the spearhead for the next major development in AA … the development of much more real maturity and balance (which is to say, humility) in our relations with ourselves, with our fellows, and with God.”
“How to translate a right mental conviction into a right emotional result and so into easy, happy, and good living … well, that’s not only the neurotic’s problem, it’s the problem of life itself for all of us who have got to the point of real willingness to hew to right principles in all our affairs.”
“Even then, as we hew away, peace and joy may still elude us. That’s the place so many of us AA oldsters have come to. And it’s a hell of a spot, literally.”
“Last autumn, depression, having no really rational cause at all, almost took me to the cleaners. I began to be scared that I was in for another long chronic spell. Considering the grief I’ve had with depressions, it wasn’t a bright prospect.”
“I kept asking myself, “Why can’t the Twelve Steps work to release depression?” By the hour, I stared at the St. Francis prayer … “It is better to comfort than to be comforted.” Here was the formula, all right, but why didn’t it work?”
“Suddenly I realized what the matter was … My basic flaw had always been dependence, almost absolute dependence on people or circumstances to supply me with prestige, security, and the like. Failing to get these things according to my perfectionist dreams and specifications, I had fought for them. And when defeat came so did my depression.”
“There wasn’t a chance of making the outgoing love of St. Francis a workable and joyous way of life until these fatal and almost absolute dependencies were cut away. Reinforced by what grace I could secure in prayer, I found I had to exert every ounce of will and action to cut off these faulty emotional dependencies upon people, upon AA, indeed upon any set of circumstances whatsoever.”
“Then only could I be free to love as Francis had. Emotional and institutional satisfactions, I saw, were really the extra dividends of having love, offering love, and expressing a love appropriate to each relation of life.”
”Plainly, I could not avail myself of God’s love until I was able to offer it back to Him by loving others as He would have me. And I couldn’t possibly do that as long as I was victimized by false dependencies. For my dependency meant demand … a demand for the possession and control of the people and the conditions surrounding me.”
”This seems to be the primary healing circuit, an outgoing love of God’s creation and His people, by means of which we avail ourselves of His love for us. It is most clear that the real current can’t flow until our paralyzing dependencies are broken, and broken at depth. Only then can we possibly have a glimmer of what adult love really is.”
After I completed a 5th step about my part in creating the abusive marriage that I was in up to June, 2009, I realized that I still wasn’t getting to the source of the matter. I no longer feared abandonment—I had survived. But why didn’t I feel completely free?
The clue I found about myself was about always having been socially isolated. I found this out by reading about PTSD. A year later after this discovery and my study of the problem and the solution, I finally found ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics). I had gone to ACOA in the 1990’s and benefitted from it. BUT ACA and ACOA are completely different. Check out the Laundry List from ACA.
And the rest, as they say, is history. I was finally home. The Red Book told me why.
“The Laundry List represents the fear and distorted thinking which result from being raised in a dysfunctional family. We are not at fault for developing these survival traits, but we are responsible for our recovery. Recognizing the link between our adult lives and our childhood years is clouded by our loyalty to the dysfunctional family system. Even if we seemingly have rejected our dysfunctional family’s lifestyle. We can still carry it with us wherever we go.”
“ACA believes there is a direct link between our childhood and our decisions and thoughts as an adult. A clue that we are affected by family dysfunction can be found in our problematic relationships, perfectionism, addictiveness, dependence, or compulsive and controlling behavior.”
I found the Red Book of ACA—the answer to my prayers for release from my addictive self—in my 34th year of recovery—at the age of 70. Praise God. I am finally free.