Thursday, November 4, 2010

Unhappiness and the spiritual malady

We had a good meeting tonight with the topic being happiness.  It seems to be an elusive thing for many in Al-Anon.  One lady tonight asked if there was a light at the end of the tunnel?  I know that there is because I could see nothing but darkness for a long time.  So if you've been going to meetings for a while, yet you still feel unrest and unsettled, maybe there is something else that could be done to remedy the situation.

It's not the external things that are unmanageable, although at times they can cause a lot of heartache. It's the inward unmanageability that made me miserable for so long. For me, I felt discontent, out of sorts with myself and others, and generally unhappy. With my disease of thinking, I had to get at the root of those issues that had affected me my entire life. I had to understand what the pain was within me.

For the alcoholic, it is clearly spelled out in the Big Book that a spiritual malady has symptoms like:
  1. being restless, irritable, and discontented,
  2. having trouble with personal relationships,
  3. not being able to control our emotional natures,
  4. being a prey to (or suffering from) misery and depression,
  5. not being able to make a living (or a happy and successful life),
  6. having feelings of uselessness,
  7. being full of fear,
  8. unhappiness,
  9. inability to be of real help to other people (page 52),
  10. being like "the actor who wants to run the whole show" (pages 60-61),
  11. being "driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity" (page 62),
  12. self-will run riot (page 62),
  13. leading a double life (page 73),
  14. living like a tornado running through the lives of others (page 82), and
  15. exhibiting selfish and inconsiderate habits.
These symptoms of unmanageability were prevalent in my life when I first came to Al-Anon and continued until I took actions to work at removing them. These actions were:
  • Getting a sponsor
  • Following the guidance of my sponsor
  • Talking to my sponsor on a daily basis
  • Working the steps with my sponsor
  • Being of service to others
  • Continuing to take personal inventory daily
  • Using prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with God daily
I don't know why there are those in the program who think that only going to meetings is going to solve the spiritual malady. It certainly helps to go to meetings, but unless there is recognition of powerlessness, the need to seek a Power Greater than myself, and being of service to others, I would not be getting the full promise of the program.

I hear people in meetings say that they have been coming for years to Al-Anon and yet, they don't have a sponsor, don't use a sponsor, don't work the steps, and wonder why they feel miserable. This program has so much to offer, if I choose to work it. I may know that I'm powerless but that's just the first step. There are Twelve Steps, not just one.

In working the steps, I learn to trust and accept what I hear in my interactions with other people in the group. I awaken spiritually to parts of me that have been blocked by my character defects. And I continue to grow spiritually through service to others.

So if I'm to benefit from all that Al-Anon has to offer and want the promises to come true in my life, then I need to work the complete program of recovery.


  1. I have found that there is always a gem that you can take with you from a meeting.

  2. When I read this post the first thing that came to my mind was that I didn't really know myself when I got to the program. I knew exactly what everyone else wanted or needed. The needs of others gave me purpose. After working the steps and doing everything that was suggested I was tranformed. I was a different person but I felt like something was missing. What I realized is that I didn't know how to have fun. I needed to find what gave me joy. It hasn't been easy fighting the need to work on something including myself but I have finally found the missing piece for me. Fun.

  3. yeah, it seems a little pointless to me. I mean, why join any thing and then complain if it isn't working...because you aren't working it?

    Would we join a gym and not go, then complain about being fat? (probably)

  4. How did you know those 15 facts all about me??!?

  5. So- it's not like a salad bar, right?

  6. Happiness, just like unhappiness, is less a state of being, than an outcome of habitual actions...

  7. Have a great weekend, buddy. Nice post.

  8. yes :) Nice post.
    half measures availed us nothing ..

    I find it strange that many just do bits and pieces with no fear of what the potentially devastating repercussions might be. who knows why? I have no idea. Some pick up the tools, others don't.

    I am glad I had the gift of desperation. But I am naturally quite a risk averse person too. Perhaps that had something to do with it? But to be honest I don't really know why I was willing to do stuff I didn't want to do to get well. I am just glad that I did. But I still have plenty of limitations and weaknesses left to address, so there are no days off really..

  9. I put up a grand fight against the AA program for about three years. I think the only reason I stayed was because I had promised my husband (just before he died when I had a year in AA) that I would continue.
    Finally I gave in and the results were/are amazing. This is a wonderful blog entry, Syd.

  10. Surprising how many people say they just want to be happy. Like it could just be served like a dish in a restaurant. Not so. Nice post, Syd, and you clearly worked the work to get to the place you are now, and you are still working it. In a much better place though.

  11. Such clarity. A wonderful post.

  12. "only going to meetings is going to solve the spiritual malady."

    Ding Ding Ding! Excellent insight, because it was my biggest curiosity about people who LOVED meetings and stayed unhappy the rest of the time.

    I've always said that meetings are first-of-all a place to hear how the 12 Steps work, find a sponsor, and share experience, strength, and hope through the steps.

    Fellowship is great, but Recovery is the Steps, yo.

  13. what a wonderful post! I love how clearly you listed the basics of the 12 step program. There is a big difference between "the program" (i.e., the 12 steps) and the fellowship (e.g., meetings)

  14. I look at the list of spiritual maladies and think, ahhh, progress not perfection. The list you made for the solutions is absolutely right. They are working for me, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but definitely working the program, all 12 steps, works.

  15. I went to AlAnon for 10 years before I got myself to AA, and I don't remember ever hearing in AlAnon literature the urgency of phrases like "half-measures availed us nothing" and "willingness to go to any lengths," or, "We must, or it kills us." These woke me up.

    What brings many people to AlAnon will kill them, too, but they don't realize it because they don't have to put down a drink.

    Much of what I learned in AlAnon was about boundaries, detachment, keeping the focus on myself (which, in the end, as an addict, I twisted to make me more selfish), and prayer. It's like the spiritual bedrock.

    I love AlAnon. It saved my life more than once. My life seems to work best when I work AlAnon's principles alongside AA's. I have to work both of them with "the desperation of a drowning man." BTW... this is the way my AlAnon sponsor works her program. If I hadn't seen her example, I'd really be up the creek.

    I dislike the phrase "Meeting makers make it." I REALLY hate it when alcoholic or addict authors write about how they "tried the program" and "went to meetings for years and years" and it never worked. Meetings are not are the sole focus of the 12 steps. They're important: many of us isolate and need to reestablish healthy, supportive community. But what saves people is the steps.

    Thanks, Syd.


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