Monday, March 22, 2021

Reading What They Read

When we have been in recovery a long time—(in our “Out of the Woods” years)—we have done a lot of reading. 

Most likely we have worn copies of “The Big Book”, and “The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions”. We probably have also been through, “As Bill Sees It” and several daily meditation books for people in recovery.

There are the specialty books for women and also for men. The Hazelden catalog and Central Recovery Press are favorite places to shop. 

Most of us, after years of recovery, discover another addiction or two, so we probably have some Alanon books on our shelves and maybe literature from OA or ACOA. As we progress in recovery we are looking for root causes, so we look at our family and our childhood for those factors.

And then, in the mainstream press, we find more and more self-help books and memoirs that offer us support and inspiration and compassion. 

So much good reading.

But there is another place to turn when we want inspiration and deeper insights into addiction and recovery and -how exactly—this program works. Those are the books that the early AA’s read. Those folks who started our program and who influenced what it looks like today read many books that we don’t talk about anymore. It can be insightful and fun to read what they read.

What we sometimes forget is that the early AA members stayed sober without any AA literature at all. Our fellowship was almost five years old before Alcoholics Anonymous (The Big Book) went to press. And it took a while for that book to reach most members of our new organization.
So, where did their ideas come from?

Well, because The Oxford Group preceded AA—and was responsible for getting Ebby and Bill and Dr. Bob and early members sober, many of them read The Bible—(Old Testament and New Testament). Hard to imagine talking about that in a meeting today

But they also read a lot of psychology. Two of the most important early reads for AA members were: “The Varieties of Religious Experience” by psychologist –and psychology great—William James, and “Modern Man in Search of a Soul” by psychologist and analyst, Carl Jung. You may recall that Carl Jung figures prominently in the earliest story and in the thinking of our founders. 

Two other classics that were considered modern thought in those years were also passed hand to hand in the AA communities were, “Man, The Unknown” by Alexis Carrel, and “The Sermon On the Mount” by Emmett Fox. In my home group there is a women’s study group that reads Fox’s “Sermon”  over and over. 

If you want to build your AA history reading and get some new inspiration give some of these older works a try. Especially William James and Carl Jung. You’ll find yourself saying, “Hey, that sounds like AA!” Because, in fact, AA sounds a lot like them. 

Monday, March 08, 2021

Getting Your Buttons Pushed

You know what it’s like to get your buttons pushed. No matter how long we are in recovery we can get tangled up. Suddenly in a conversation or a situation we are flooded with feelings that come from a past experience that is totally unrelated to the situation at hand.

That can be annoying or embarrassing or damaging if we are not aware that the feelings in the present belong to a situation in the past. But it happens, and it is an opportunity to grow. You’ll find a rich mine of material here for steps six and seven. 

You are going along, having a perfectly nice day, then in a seemingly benign conversation—or an email or a text—suddenly you are furious, or hurt or scared. What just happened?

You got your buttons pushed! 

It’s not comfortable and not fun but with the right attitude you can see the gift that this is. 

It is NORMAL to have this experience. The key is to watch for patterns. Is there a pattern in the type of person you spoke to? In their manner of speech? In certain words they used? In the issue you were discussing?

Here is what I tell people in my Workplace Communication class, but it also applies in our home life and our social lives:

If you want to be a good communicator you need to know where YOUR buttons are.

People can only push your buttons if YOU are not aware that they are YOUR buttons. This may be the most uncomfortable leadership skill you can acquire, but it’s ultimately more important than using the fanciest technology in your industry. 

If you don't recognize your own buttons you will always be tempted to say, "It's his fault or "It’s her fault." 

Always be willing to go back and look at your childhood experiences: 

Because that's where your buttons were installed.

When you have an experience of having your buttons pushed you CAN do more than react or repress. You can notice your patterns. Exactly what button was that? Who else pushed that? Who pushed it earlier in your life? 

The answers to those  questions will give you a lot of insight but don’t stop there. Take that pattern—and your insight--to your sponsor, wise friend or counselor. 

Sometimes our buttons get pushed at work, and that’s tricky territory. We don’t want to be unprofessional, but we can all get tripped up when a family wound shows up at work. We can forget ourselves and say or do—or believe—the wrong thing.

In that case you may want to talk to someone you worked with at another organization. If you are still good friends with a former colleague they can be a big help to your growth and change. They will help you remember how you were in that past job, and who pushed your buttons there. Again, look for the patterns. 

You’ll want to remember the safe sharing guideline: “Share. Check. Share.”  (Share a little. Check out the reaction. If you feel safe and supported, only then share a little bit more.) 

And keep it out of the realm of gossip. Gossip, even though it might feel good in the moment, doesn’t help us to grow.