First Segment - Openness
This week we are discussing Principle 5 which is Openness and once again I will be using the fantastic book from Patrick Carnes “A Gentle Path Through The 12 Principles” which I would highly recommend to anyone listening.
So this Principle of Openness goes together with Step 5 which is “Admitted to God, ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” For all you atheists and agnostics out there Step 5 can also be “Will talk to another person about our exact nature.”
MOST OF US SHOW UP at our first Twelve Step meeting with all sorts of trust issues. We trusted people we shouldn’t have. We didn’t trust people we should have. We didn’t tell the truth. We didn’t do what we said we’d do. We didn’t stay faithful to our partner. We kept secrets. We invaded other people’s space. We violated our own value systems. We didn’t even know what or whom to trust. In fact, we didn’t know how to trust and we certainly didn’t trust ourselves. In order to trust, we first need to belong. Yet most practicing addicts don’t feel they belong anywhere—except, perhaps, with their addictions or with other addicts.
So the book touches on two topics next which are The Longing to Belong and Becoming Known.
When in addiction, did you feel like you belonged or were you trying to fit in? When you started going to meetings, how quickly did you feel the bond between yourself and other members?
Finding Your Voice
Bonding is the key to openness. When we have people we can trust and a group where we belong, we can begin to open. We open our minds to new ideas and new ways of seeing the world. We open our hearts to empathy, compassion, and love. And in Step Five, we open our lockbox of secrets and wrongdoings and tell them to someone we trust.
Something else essential happens in this process. In opening to this person and admitting the exact nature of our wrongs, we make ourselves vulnerable. Our witness learns all about the mistakes we’ve made, the harm we’ve caused, and the values and vows we’ve broken. Yet the listener doesn’t disrespect us, or criticize us, or go away upon knowing about our flaws and wrongdoings. Instead, he or she accepts us. Our disclosure doesn’t end the relationship; it deepens it.
In that Fifth Step, we began opening our mouths and speaking the truth. Our voice may have been a hesitant whisper at first. But as we deepened our recovery, told and retold our story, and bonded with more and more people, our voice naturally gained strength, confidence, and volume. This is a wonderful thing, but too much of a good thing can be a problem. As some folks work the Steps and Principles, their voices become too strong, too confident, and too loud. I think of my uncle, who can best be described as stark raving sober. For years he has told almost everyone he meets how wonderfully sober he is. He’s addicted to letting the world know about the benefits of sobriety.
Many of us go through this stage in our own recoveries. After a while, though, we become quieter about our sobriety. We realize that our words will never be as profound as our actions and our openness. We speak from our hearts, but not too loudly or too often. We find a middle path between muffling our voice and drowning out others’ voices.
When you did your original 5th Step, how was your voice? Quiet & hesitant? Confident but subdued? Loud and fervent?
After you were in recovery for a year without relapse, how was your voice when you talked about your recovery? Quiet & hesitant? Confident but subdued? Loud and fervent?
Has there been a time since then when your voice was not in balance? When was that? How was your voice back then? Quiet & hesitant? Confident but subdued? Loud and fervent? Looking back, why was it out of balance?
Do you sometimes find yourself pulled towards that same lack of balance? If so, under what circumstances or conditions?
What can you reasonably do to limit those circumstances or conditions in the future?
When you speak about your recovery today, how is your voice? Quiet & hesitant? Confident but subdued? Loud and fervent?
Finding Your Ears
Openness involves listening as well as speaking. In Twelve Step groups, we learn to listen openly, without judgment or cross talk. Although this quickly becomes a habit in meetings, it takes practice and focus to listen as openly in our daily life. This is particularly true when we ask for help. Not everyone will respond by giving us perfect guidance or information. Some comments will be irrelevant or inaccurate. Other responses may be critical, or even offensive. Practicing Principle Five includes listening without reacting or judging. We learn to stay open even when people say things that hurt or confuse us.
How have you dealt with this during your recovery? Has it been a strength or a weakness? How have you dealt with criticism throughout your recovery journey so far?
The book touches on a few more topics in regards to openness but a lot would be deeper, soul searching topics to be done alone. Hopefully we have done Principle 5 justice here though.
Second Segment - Topic of the week, “Have I gone through stages in my recovery? Can I avoid both delaying and rushing my own progress? Recovery is a way of life, not a crash course in feeling better and reaping rewards.”
So this was a meeting I chaired in ARAA (All Recovering Addicts Anonymous) on Thursday and I thought it would be good for us to talk it over. We had two new member meetings in Georgia this week so I was short on options for Topic of The Week.
Third Segment - “If you have learned how to disagree without being disagreeable, then you have discovered the secret of getting along—whether it be business, Family relations, or life itself.” Bernard Meltzer (1916–1998)
We can agree to disagree. If we are controversial in Step meetings, no one should balk. Being agreeable is not the key to maintaining sobriety. The fighters might have an advantage over the amiable ones in the recovery arena. The pain in the neck—the person who questions, doubts and asks for evidence—isn’t fighting sobriety. Rather, he or she is fighting for sobriety. We have all seen members who answer any challenge with “Yes, I know,” or “You are probably right,” and “Yes I should,” and then fall off the wagon without warning, eighty meetings into a ninety in ninety regimen. On the other hand, the restless and irritable newcomer whom you expect will never come back, considering the mood they left in, stays clean and the program takes hold. What looks like aversion may just be authenticity. Being disagreeable out of reflex is cynicism—a barrier to recovery. Treating the Twelve Step fellowship as a popularity contest is dangerous business, too. As the quote above suggests, sticking to our guns and having some tact is the best of both worlds. If our personal bottom line varies from group-think, that might be a concern, but not a deal breaker. This century, methadone patients are being treated for opiate addiction through harm reduction clinics. Disclosing this fact in our abstinence-based Step meetings could be met with unsolicited Advice. Evidence suggests that for opiate-dependent patients, prospects for relapse-prevention are much greater with a medically supervised regulation of blood and Brain chemistry. There is no shortage of quackery out there but many newcomers are enjoying far more cutting edge treatment than was available when our “traditional wisdom” was forged. Can old-timers be as open-minded as newcomers are asked to be?
Have I exercised my right to work the program based on my beliefs, bottom line and timing?