My initial exposure to the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous was back in 1991 or so as a 28-day guest of a residential treatment center in Memphis, Tennessee; however, as an extremely immature young man a couple of years out of college, my commitment to clean and sober living did not really take. As it turned out, I was not nearly ready to fully admit to what turned out to be a very real powerlessness in my still-blooming relationship with alcohol and drugs.
After working with families and close friends of opiate addicts in the most difficult stage of addiction (4th stage), I’ve noticed one primary characteristic present: negative enabling. Consistent exposure to active addiction has the potential to make the most stable person somewhat neurotic. Often, I see family and friends desperately trying to “sober up” the active opiate addict. These efforts almost always meet with failure because the most effective way to deal with an active opiate addict is often “counter-intuitive.”
Sweat poured off my body and I lay curled in bed, shaking uncontrollably. Physically, I looked like I’d just come back from a long-term stay with Bear Gryll’s in the wild. The “unabomber” became a nickname of choice for people who knew me during that transitory period of my life. Late that night, a nurse practitioner walked into my room and said, “We haven’t seen heroin withdrawals like this in years.”
I remember sitting in a 12 step meeting not long ago and hearing a newcomer, filled with the dubious elation of early sobriety, exclaim he was on a ‘pink cloud.’ For those who don’t know, the term ‘pink cloud’ refers to a state of mind, usually experienced in early sobriety, characterized by unusual happiness and grandiosity in spite of rather difficult life circumstances.
The seventh step of Alcoholics Anonymous urges us to embrace pursuit of humility as a fundamental aspect of staying sober. Humility is equally vital on the path towards a useful, happy life. Yet AA and NA meeting participants often struggle when trying to define humility. The modern world tends to associate humility with weakness, or at the least, an almost passive mode of existence. But is humility the way of weakness?