Main page

My childhood


Social phobia




The Twelve Steps


All posts in chronological order

Ethical dilemma

Greetings all, I am sorry I have not posted in a while. One person complained that my posts were too depressing and showed unappreciation for the loop's support. My conscience started to hurt and I stopped posting, at least until such time as I felt definitely better.

However, I have received enough private email asking about me to return to the loop. So here is an update on my situation.

I had been having extreme difficulty surviving at my work (I am a software engineer). The situation was becoming untenable; I had panic attacks and crying spells through the day, I couldn't concentrate, and felt I was cheating hugely by drawing a salary and contributing little. So I asked my employer for a one-month unpaid leave, starting Oct. 7, which was granted. i would have liked more time, but cannot afford to go any further into debt. I return to work Nov. 4, and am still dreading that prospect.

I had thought of going full blast into recovery, surrounding myself with 10-15 meetings a week. I did not. I felt too drained and exhausted to make the pitch for more meetings, and as a result have been actually going to fewer then when I was working, and more SA than OA. I did investigate other therapies intensely, trying hard to find a better one. Right now, I am seeing a total of six, though I don't intend to continue with all of them. I also went to a naturopath to explore alternative solutions, and may also experiment with acupuncture. And I continue my antidepressant.

There are times when I feel better. There are others when I feel worse. I now obtain a few days' abstinence at a time instead of a few hours, but on the other hand I recently lost a record 67 days of sobriety in SA with a maniacal spree that cost $200, not to mention moral considerations.

Nothing seems to solve the loneliness, the ache and pain of the empty feeling of being unaccompanied, unloved, destined to wallow forever in the dark morasses of despair and despondency. It is a near-constant companion, even when I am with other people. A sense of endlessness is still very much with me.

I have tried to start new hobbies. I enrolled in a dance class, and a language course. I enjoy them both, but still the knife inside of me continues to twist. Sometimes I think it is unreachable, uncurable, without solution.

A growing sense of unease is also afflcting me with respect to Twelve Step programs. There is a fundamental but consistent contradiction between program teachings and the advice I receive from therapists. My therapists have told me a pivotal problem for me is self-hatred, guilt, and shame - I automatically fixate on my real or imaginary faults, wrongs, shortcomings, and character defects while ignoring good or positive things about myself.

The Steps preach searching moral examinations and ruthless hunting and giving up of defects. For me they have become virtually a how-to manual on beating myself up. The steps say that I am diseased, faulty, fundamentally wrong, and only a lifetime penance to meetings, service, and phone calls can keep me well. A more dismaying and disheartening philosophy is difficult to conceive of. Slogans like "your best thinking got you here" and "utilize don't analyze" seem to say to me: you are an addict; therefore your intelligence and judgment are untrustworthy in *any* matter, do as you're told or you won't recover.

One of the key themes of the steps is putting an end to egocentric, self-centered, inflated behaviour. The self is expected to be crushed, humbled, and submit to the will of God. My therapists have said my problem is not too much selfishness, but too little; not inflated self-esteem, but low self-esteem; not a lack of humility but a lack of pride.

There is also the nagging question of forgiveness of parents and giving up of resentments. The BB is dogmatic on the subject; anger and resentment are the "dubious luxury of normal men" but are supposed to be "poison" for me. Hence, program teaches I should never get angry, no matter what the provocation. I must turn all my resentments over to an HP, which to me is the same as suppressing them. My therapists advise the exact opposite; I *need* my anger to arrive at a fundamental sense of self-worth. Anger keeps me aware that my rights and boundaries exist. And I do believe that in my own experience, the driving force of my addictions has not been resentment, but the craving for comfort and love.

Similarly, therapists advise that it is both unnecessary and destructive for me to have to forgive my parents, that this is not a reasonable thing to ask a victim of childhood abuse and that it can lead to more self-shaming and destructiveness on the victim's part. Program once again holds the opposite position; that forgiveness is essential to recovery from addiction.

It may seem that I have to make a choice between continuing with therapy and with program. In fact one of my sponsors has advised making such a decision. Yet I balk. I have found *both* to be useful so far, albeit neither has been as rapid or effective as I wanted, and I don't want to give either up. I do not want to continue in the morass of depression, pain, and despair. Neither do I want to continue in my two addictions and the pain and suffering they cause me.

But the conflict between the two is tearing me apart. In one sense it is almost as painful as the old battles between my father and mother - two that I loved and needed were vehemently different in attitude and approach to life.

As always, wracked by fear and self-doubt,

Oasis, Oct. 29, 1996.