- Emotional Sobriety

Emotional Sobriety




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Emotional Sobriety

Postby Dallas » Fri Jul 14, 2006 7:23 pm

"The Next Frontier: Emotional Sobriety"

by Bill Wilson

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.

Those adolescent urges that so many of us have for top approval, perfect security, and perfect romance -- urges quite appropriate to age seventeen -- prove to be an impossible way of life when we are at age forty-seven or fifty-seven.
Since AA began, I've taken immense wallops in all these areas because of my failure to grow up, emotionally and spiritually. My God, how painful it is to keep demanding the impossible, and how very painful to discover finally, that all along we have had the cart before the horse! Then comes the final agony of seeing how awfully wrong we have been, but still finding ourselves unable to get off the emotional merry-go-round.

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. How shall our unconscious -- from which so many of our fears, compulsions and phony aspirations still stream -- be brought into line with what we actually believe, know and want! How to convince our dumb, raging and hidden "Mr. Hyde" becomes our main task.

I've recently come to believe that this can be achieved. I believe so because I begin to see many benighted ones -- folks like you and me -- commencing to get results. Last autumn [several years back -- ed.] 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's better to comfort than to be the 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.

Because I had over the years undergone a little spiritual development, the absolute quality of these frightful dependencies had never before been so starkly revealed. 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 instinctual 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 so 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.

While those words "absolute demand" may look like a gimmick, they were the ones that helped to trigger my release into my present degree of stability and quietness of mind, qualities which I am now trying to consolidate by offering love to others regardless of the return to 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 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.

Spiritual calculus, you say? Not a bit of it. Watch any AA of six months working with a new Twelfth Step case. If the case says "To the devil with you," the Twelfth Stepper only smiles and turns to another case. He doesn't feel frustrated or rejected. If his next case responds, and in turn starts to give love and attention to other alcoholics, yet gives none back to him, the sponsor is happy about it anyway. He still doesn't feel rejected; instead he rejoices that his one-time prospect is sober and happy. And if his next following case turns out in later time to be his best friend (or romance) then the sponsor is most joyful. But he well knows that his happiness is a by-product -- the extra dividend of giving without any demand for a return.

The really stabilizing thing for him was having and offering love to that strange drunk on his doorstep. That was Francis at work, powerful and practical, minus dependency and minus demand.

In the first six months of my own sobriety, I worked hard with many alcoholics. Not a one responded. Yet this work kept me sober. It wasn't a question of those alcoholics giving me anything. My stability came out of trying to give, not out of demanding that I receive.

Thus I think it can work out with emotional sobriety. If we examine every disturbance we have, great or small, we will find at the root of it some unhealthy dependency and its consequent unhealthy demand. Let us, with God's help, continually surrender these hobbling demands. Then we can be set free to live and love; we may then be able to Twelfth Step ourselves and others into emotional sobriety.

Of course I haven't offered you a really new idea -- only a gimmick that has started to unhook several of my own "hexes" at depth. Nowadays my brain no longer races compulsively in either elation, grandiosity or depression. I have been given a quiet place in bright sunshine.

(c) Copyright, AA Grapevine, January 1958
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Postby c0rnfl8kgrl » Fri Jul 14, 2006 8:07 pm

Wow. I am finding this quite poignant at this moment, as a newbie who is wondering how AA and the 12 Steps seems to not only keep people sober, but teach them how to actually live and enjoy life. Coincidentally, "Emotional Sobriety" was the topic of my home meeting last night. There must be a lesson in this that I am supposed to learn at this moment, or at least a comfort and reasurance that I am exactly where I need to be and learning what I need to learn. Thank you Dallas for this timely read!
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Postby anniemac » Mon Jul 17, 2006 3:28 pm

For my dependency meant demand -- a demand for the possession and control of the people and the conditions surrounding me.

Oh, yeah. The demand that those around me behave according to my script, and the subsequent let down each time that they do not, jams me up every time. Which, then, leads me to the topic of acceptance. As Dr. Paul said in his story in the BB, I do believe that acceptance is the answer to all of my problems today.

I know that some AA's state that his story is not part of the basic text and therefore shouldn't be quoted, etc., that does not negate the fact for me that his story, his speaker tapes, and the concept of acceptance have been incredibly helpful to me in my recovery.
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Lookie What I found: Emotional Sobriety!

Postby garden variety » Wed Dec 31, 2008 1:28 pm

Somewhere I missed this article Dallas posted a few years back.

I like how Bill Wilson talks about his depression and how he zeroes in on what he believes is the cause.

This is a remarkable piece that I think is written from the heart. I wanted to bump this up again and see what everyone else thinks about it. Also, Susan re-opened my eyes again to the topic of emotional sobriety. Outside issue or "inside job"?

God bless always and thanks for putting up with this squeaky wheel all year!
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Postby Dallas » Wed Dec 31, 2008 2:33 pm

Bill Wilson wrote:Thus I think it can work out with emotional sobriety. If we examine every disturbance we have, great or small, we will find at the root of it some unhealthy dependency and its consequent unhealthy demand. Let us, with God's help, continually surrender these hobbling demands. Then we can be set free to live and love; we may then be able to Twelfth Step ourselves and others into emotional sobriety.

Of course I haven't offered you a really new idea -- only a gimmick that has started to unhook several of my own "hexes" at depth. Nowadays my brain no longer races compulsively in either elation, grandiosity or depression. I have been given a quiet place in bright sunshine.


Looks like the daily practice of Steps 10, 11 & 12, to me!
:wink:

Bill wrote:Then we can be set free to live and love; we may then be able to Twelfth Step ourselves and others into emotional sobriety.


1. we can be set free to live and love;

2. we may then be able to Twelfth Step ourselves .... into emotional sobriety

:lol: :lol:

Happy, Joyous and Free.... MOST of the time! :wink:

Page 132-133 Big Book

"We're not a glum lot!"

Imagine that!!! :lol: :lol:

HAPPY Happy New Year.... we get to have New Year's Eve and New Year's Day... Every Day... as we can start over... on Any Day...
One Day At A Time!

Live and Let Live. Easy Does It -- but, Do it!, And... Pass it on!

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Re: Emotional Sobriety

Postby garden variety » Wed Dec 31, 2008 4:43 pm

Bill Wilson wrote: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.

...Emotional and instinctual 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 so 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 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.

He still doesn't feel rejected; instead he rejoices that his one-time prospect is sober and happy. And if his next following case turns out in later time to be his best friend (or romance) then the sponsor is most joyful. But he well knows that his happiness is a by-product -- the extra dividend of giving without any demand for a return.

That was Francis at work, powerful and practical, minus dependency and minus demand.

My stability came out of trying to give, not out of demanding that I receive.


I have a different read on it than "Steps 10, 11, and 12" letting me be free to be happy, joyous, and free.

Is Wilson talking about a "principle" more eternal and profound than even the AA program and the steps? Were the steps merely a means to an end? This is exciting!

I especially like what Wilson describes as the "ideal sponsor's" feelings about his protege as he grows and becomes a distinct person. That "old-timer" receives the by-product of happiness when his protege makes a friend and/or dare we say lover (that reference to "romance" sure didn't pass me by!) in the protege's next "encounter" with another alcoholic? Preposterous! Why - that is a leap way outside of the "vanilla flavored" box of preciously-held longtimer beliefs, at least around these here parts! Thanks Dallas for this remarkable snapshot of our founder's heart. Tell me more...

Does "emotional sobriety" boil down to a simple idea like this: to avail myself of God's Love, all I have to do is stop demanding that I be loved in return? I'm gonna think long and hard about this! This is an epiphany for me. I'm really glad you posted this bro!

Emotional Sobriety = the stability that is born from a heart that tries to give, while not demanding that it receive anything in return.

Thanks Bill. I'm trying to grow up to be just like you! :wink:
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Postby tj » Thu Jan 01, 2009 12:05 pm

Happy 2009 to all!!

Thanks for bumping this one up again, Paul. This is the way I read it:

false dependency=demand=expectations=desire to control=lack of acceptance=resentment

For me, this equation starts with me "thinking" that I know what is good for me. I guess the opposite of my equation above would be:

true dependency=surrender=open mind and heart=relationship with God=acceptance=serenity

Wow!! Thanks for giving me sooo much to meditate on today. Have a sober, joyous New Year's day.

Manette
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Postby Dallas » Fri Jan 02, 2009 2:27 pm

Bill Wilson wrote:Spiritual calculus, you say? Not a bit of it. Watch any AA of six months working with a new Twelfth Step case. If the case says "To the devil with you," the Twelfth Stepper only smiles and turns to another case. He doesn't feel frustrated or rejected. If his next case responds, and in turn starts to give love and attention to other alcoholics, yet gives none back to him, the sponsor is happy about it anyway. He still doesn't feel rejected; instead he rejoices that his one-time prospect is sober and happy. And if his next following case turns out in later time to be his best friend (or romance) then the sponsor is most joyful. But he well knows that his happiness is a by-product -- the extra dividend of giving without any demand for a return.


Gee Paul, thanks for your insight. :wink:

I've read that article on emotional sobriety here and there for the last 22 years... and I previously noticed the "AA of six months" but never noticed the "best friend (or romance)" part!

That sure does fly in the face of a few common held concepts:

1. Relationships in the first year.
2. Sponsorship of opposite sex.
3. Getting involved or emotional attachement between sponsor and prospect.
4. 12th Stepping those of the opposite sex.

My question: Does it mean it was for an AA of "Six months"... but you couldn't do it if you were an AA for seven months or longer? :lol: :lol:

Of course, we do have reference to AA Pioneer, Jimmy B., who 12th stepped a woman, and he married her a year later... and his story is in all three editions of the Big Book. Jim B. one of the first 100 AA's, struggled to be sure that the terms "God as you understand Him" was included in our text.

I don't really know any of the answers to the flying in the face of concepts held, etceteras... good ideas, I'm sure, that were developed over time and experiences... but, I do know that.... it reminds me to "not get too ridged in my thinking."

Was this kind of what Dr. Bob, had in mind, in his thoughts of "keep it simple and don't louse it up" with Fruedian concepts... etceteras?

Maybe it's another reason for "relax and take it easy" and "easy does it"... don't get so hard-core that our sobriety shell breaks easily! :lol: :lol:


Live and let live............ :wink:
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Postby garden variety » Fri Jan 02, 2009 4:08 pm

Dallas,

First of all let me say Happy New Year to you. :D :D :D

Next of all, let me say I LOVE SOBRIETY!!!

Ya know, the more I read that article, the more "feeling" I picked up from it. I love the book and I really do like those old-fashioned words and expressions - some say its "stodgy" - but reading and using a dictionary made it make even more sense to me. And those words in the book are just fine if you ask me, I don't care how long ago it was written.

But this here article by Bill Wilson, man that really blew my mind. It seems like it was written with more "heart" and maybe even more "honesty". But that's probably because the article just was meant to represent Bill's heart, and not the other 99 alkies that contributed.

See up here in Cleveland and Akron, like you once mentioned, nothing really "big" has been coming out of here since "Bethlehem" so to speak. But what seems to be developing into a trend is that "rigidness" you're talking about. The reasons why are probably many, and with good intentions. But certain things have really got blown out of proportion, and some ideas are taking us away from the progam and our primary purpose.

Those things that you listed - well they might be a good set of "informal" guidelines for the majority of alcoholics. But what I see happening is that they are getting applied to almost every single situation with no exceptions including folks with longer-term sobriety. There are sponsors that tell their sponsees "no relationships FOR YOU for FIVE years" which is uncalled for. Also, if there is a new man or woman who is pretty much "normal" in every way other than when it comes to alcohol, they get bombarded with crazy "war stories" which makes it harder to identify.

You and me can accept and understand something "informal". You know, like you said not being so wrapped up in a "good idea" that it makes our shells easy to crack. But what happens is, in this region, the "informal" starts turning into "formal" and "rigid". I mention REGION because you Cali AA's have a "different" way of learning and doing things that is more flexible. I know other Cali AA's and "Pittsburgh AA's" and so forth, and these folks are not as rigid or inflexible.

Well my sponsor and me have been shaking our heads in disbelief because of these "rules" and "ideas", and there are probably a good dozen or two more that we haven't listed. Both of us keep on asking ourselves what in thee heck is going on that a new man or woman can go in and out and in and out for 7 years, and not have a single sponsor that said "let's go through the steps" right from the start. There's something wrong. Plain and simple there's something wrong.

I was taught by a dear friend that when a meeting gets off course, and if I have the opportunity to comment, then I'm responsible to comment which is what I been doing around here lately. Which is especialy important when there are new people at a meeting for the first time and it's getting off course. That's not to say I comment "negatively" or in a way that sounds grouchy or mean or inappropriate. I try to stay focused on the solution which is always the 12 steps.

I agree with you - lets not louse this up by making it complicated. Or like they sometimes say around here, "the river runs fine without you pushing it".

Thanks again for the excellent article!
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Postby sunlight » Wed Jan 07, 2009 11:42 pm

Adventures in emotional sobriety!

When I first got sober, there was a man who came to our AA club who was well known in the program, mostly for his obnoxious personality.
He would always ask me what step I was on, sit me down & give me his take on it, then tell me jokes & make me laugh until I cried.

He told me I would never make it.

Then, as an amends to the club, he promised never to come back.

About a year later, I saw him at a meeting I didn't usually go to. I didn't share at the meeting,but he came up to me afterwards & said, "Look at you! You're pitiful! You're an emotional wreck. What does that sign on the wall say? It says THINK THINK THINK! It doesn't say FEEL FEEL FEEL! Do you have a boyfriend? I feel sorry for him because he has to cater to your feelings...." and on and on for TWO hours.
He ended by saying, "What the hell kind of sponsor do you have anyway? Get a new sponsor. Here's some names. Call them."

Everyone I told said not to listen to him, that he's a jerk. Yeah, but 2 things stood out: 1. He's not going to waste 2 hours of his life just to have sport with me, 2. He was right.

I got a new sponsor ( I called one he recommended, but when she was shoveling snow & a tree limb fell on her & killed her ) who's story in sobriety was just like mine, & we took the steps with emotional sobriety as the goal.

I was amazed before I was halfway through. My children were amazed, and they're my worst critics! And I comprehended the word serenity & I knew peace. They weren't just words, they were my life.

But it's an ongoing process. Like I have a daily reprieve contingent on my spiritual condition. And, it does require 10, 11 & 12. When I practice them, not just out of duty, but with a real zeal, then that St. Francis thing happens and nobody is more surprised than me! It's so exciting that it keeps me wanting more (of course! but too much of this good thing can be wonderful, cuz it's for everyone.) The joy is in the giving. Really.

I ran into Mr. AA a couple months ago at a meeting & said hi afterwards. He actually treated me like an equal. He confided that, after 33 years sober, he finally realized that women were good for more than sex. :roll:
I laughed til I cried!

It's never too late! Do not be discouraged! :D
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