Am I ‘Two’ Insecure?

I’ve found that when it comes to having doubts in life or in ourselves, we can be insecure in one of two ways. We can look up to people who are confident and strong, and be inspired to grow and be like them. Or we can be jealous of them and act out in ways that we think make us look confident and strong.

I was the latter of the two during my drinking days. But once I stopped drinking and admitted I needed help staying sober, I was fortunate to find people in Alcoholics Anonymous who understood me. People who loved me unconditionally, and explained how my pride and ego were to blame for my vain and pretentious behaviors, and my unhappiness.

I didn’t always like some of these people, but I listened to them anyway because I wanted to be like them—happy and sober.

In time I began to see that what they called ego was really fears and insecurities, and although I eventually stopped going to AA meetings, I still continued to change the things about myself that prevented me from growing both spiritually and as a person. (Mostly my negative thoughts and behaviors.)

I don’t pretend to be the most confident person today. Nor do I pretend to be the strongest. But I have grown enough to continue looking up to people who are, and try to be like them.

I’m just grateful that all those years ago (almost 21 now) that I found the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous and people there who wanted to help me stay sober. People that expected nothing in return, and were still growing themselves.

People I will always remember.

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I Should Video Tape This

I recently watched several old VHS tapes with recordings of family on them, and cried more than a few times as memories of moments gone by came rushing back.

Some of these recordings were from the family vacations my wife and I took our son and daughter on, while others showed us doing different activities with them. And some were of the kid’s birthday parties and family get-togethers my wife loved to have.

I saw happy people laughing and having fun, while being the camera man and making comments that I thought were funny, but I’m sure some people didn’t. And I saw myself in the videos as well.

The recordings were from an 8 mm camcorder I bought in 1993, and even with poor picture quality due to time and other factors, they were still fun to watch. Well mostly fun to watch.

The recordings on ten VHS tapes show moments from September of 1993 to New Year’s Day 2000. But the first two and half years are from my drinking days. Vacations where I was clearly buzzed on the boardwalk. Stuff I did with the kids, like making funny videos, where drinking beer was also involved. (Just me, not the kids.) And the birthday parties and family get-together my wife loved, where I made sure alcohol was on hand for the adults.

One of these videos, recorded in January of 1996, stuck out though, because it involves my children and was recorded just four months before I quit drinking for good.

I had been drinking for over 18 years and was very unhappy at that time, plus I didn’t have a clue what life was about. But there the answer was being recorded yet again, as I drank instead of truly enjoying moments like this with my kids.

I cried at times while watching it. And it made me wish I had quit drinking much sooner.

Although the video shows a mix of fun, happiness, laughter, and togetherness, it also shows the behaviors of a man who thinks he’s being a good dad, but sadly, like life, doesn’t have a clue what being one is about.

Besides my obvious drinking in it. (I take a few sips of beer on film, and make a joke about it each time.) The fun we were having, while not bad in any way, clearly demonstrates the sometimes subtle and hidden dysfunction within a family that a non-stereotypical drunk like myself, can create. (I didn’t drink every day. Still had a job, a home, and some money in the bank.)

What the video doesn’t show, however, is what contributed to the dysfunction, and to my drinking. The fears and insecurities I had all my life.

Here I am in this video, 36 years old, and you would think I was more of a funny friend than a father to my children. My immature behaviors and sometimes unfiltered words are anything but role model quality. And although no one would shudder or think what they saw was awful. I saw a lack of emotional growth in myself, and someone who used alcohol to face their fears and insecurities.

I don’t beat myself up over my past anymore, and even through my tears I knew I was at least trying to be a good father back then. But I simply was not capable of being a better one. (Thankfully they had a wonderful mother who knew how to be a parent.)

I wrote about my childhood in my book, which was far worse than anything my kids ever experienced. But I know my mom and dad tried to be good parents, and I watched them change for the better through the years. Which brings me to the video recordings after I quit drinking.

Watching those tapes, I can honestly say I slowly improved as a father, and as a husband. I wish I had tapes of family recordings up to now. I know they would show my continual improvement as a father and husband. And perhaps more importantly, continual improvement in myself.

As I remained sober, first through Alcoholics Anonymous and then on my own, improving on myself contributed to becoming a better parent and spouse, and certainly my long-term sobriety.

Actually there is another video that stands out that was recorded in August of 1996. It’s the first family vacation we went on after I stopped drinking. Like the other one, it shows a mix of fun, happiness, laughter, and togetherness, but doesn’t show the fears and insecurities I had.

What’s different, though, is that in this one, I was ready to face life sober, and finally become the person, father, and husband I never knew how to be.

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Putting Ice On The Black Eye Of Alcoholics Anonymous

For those wondering if any bad things they may have heard about Alcoholics Anonymous are true, well, let me say that some things could be better about it. However, the black eye many give to AA isn’t always fair. Self-promoting authors may put down this program, but it has saved countless lives over the years. Usually, such an author is trying to sell a book about how best to recover from addiction, and sometimes he or she even has an alternative program that costs money. (AA is free, so their way has to be a lot better, right?) There’s even a film being made about the horrors of AA. What has perhaps hurt AA’s reputation the most, though, is the often mandated attendance of meetings for those charged with DUI violations. These are people who would never have gone to meetings on their own. They include good people, not-so-good people, and those with criminal backgrounds.

Another fact is that people have changed a lot since 1939 when the first official book, Alcoholics Anonymous, was published. Also referred to as “the Big Book,” it could be said it was like a bible for many alcoholics. I use that word because, despite the mention of a higher power that people can use to help them remain sober, there is a lot of talk about God in it. I’ve personally met people, with and without substance-abuse problems, who shy away from conversations about God, and others who get angry if you bring up the idea that there is one. Imagine how people like that could feel if they’re told they have to go to AA meetings, on top of the fact that they don’t even have drug or alcohol problems. The truth is, getting a DUI isn’t proof that someone has a problem. In fact, statistics bear out that people who get DUIs usually learn from their experiences and drink more responsibly after that. Statistics also show that many people get sober on their own. No counseling. No therapy. And certainly no twelve-step meetings.

Alcoholics Anonymous worked for me because I did exactly what was suggested in another book written for AA called the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. It was published in 1952 to help people who were high-bottom alcoholics—they didn’t drink every day or lose everything. They were people like me who remained in AA long enough to be emotionally well on their own. Not perfect people, but ones who became stronger, more confident, and more caring in their lives through meetings and by practicing the Twelve Steps as presented in that book.

There are different paths that people with alcohol and drug problems can take that better suit them than Alcoholics Anonymous. As I said, there are some things that could be better about AA. But the same can be said about the whole recovery field in general. All I wanted to do here is to put some ice on the black eye that Alcoholics Anonymous has received, in my opinion, somewhat unjustly. This black eye they won’t try to take care of themselves, because they won’t change with the times. For example, among other outdated ideas, they still believe in the principle of attraction for the organization to survive (rather than promotion).

I get it. What they had to offer definitely attracted me. I liked the idea of there being a god of some kind, and I liked the idea of living a more spiritual life. What I don’t like is when any program that can help save someone’s life is attacked. In this case, it’s a program that hasn’t done anything wrong except for pretty much staying the same all these years.

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That Idea Just Doesn’t Fly

“In the early years of Alcoholics Anonymous the word pigeon was used as a term of endearment for new members who carried the message of hope and recovery. That’s fine. But with the shame and stigma of addiction still so prevalent in today’s society, the idea of calling someone a pigeon just doesn’t fly with me.” ~Darryl Duke

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Being Happy Without Being Special

“I’ve been sober for over 18 years, and the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous as they are written in the book Twelve Steps And Twelve Traditions were an instrumental part of my early recovery. I would read them everyday and I memorized most of what I read. I also practice them, of course, and even though I’m no longer a member of AA, I still try to follow the last three Steps as best I can today. It doesn’t make me special, but it does make me happy.”

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Understanding The True Meaning Of Love

Have you ever noticed how we use certain words to express ourselves without really thinking about their true meaning? We use the word insane to describe a person or some situation without regard to what true insanity can be. We say we’re depressed when we’re really just feeling down or sad. And we say we hate something when a simple “I dislike that” is actually closer to the truth. We do this with the word love as well. We say we love a certain food, some song, doing something, or some celebrity we don’t even know.

We can also overuse the word love, and perhaps take away some of the meaning to it. Have you ever felt almost parrot like when telling friends or family you love them every time you say goodbye on the phone, after a visit, or when leaving the house? Although I tell my family I love them all the time and mean it, I will admit there have been times when it was simply out of habit.

Another word we overuse without thinking about its true meaning is addiction. I hear people say things like “I’m addicted to Facebook,” “I’m addicted to chocolate,” or “I’m addicted to…” You can add your preference of video game, hobby, outdoor activity, or inanimate object here. Depending on your age, you may even remember a song called Addicted To Love. “Might as well face it, you’re addicted to love” went the chorus, and boy did I love that song when I was younger. Whoops there I go again.

Despite my attempt at humor here, as a recovered alcoholic I take addiction very seriously. Although I wasn’t like the stereotypes you see in movies and TV shows, I did drink without control at times and often chose drinking over being with my family. One could say that the love I had for alcohol was stronger than the love I had for my family, but when I think back to the many attempts I made at getting sober, love for my family was almost always the reason. I know it was certainly a factor in my last attempt, which resulted in a continuous sobriety of over seventeen years now.

However, while it may be true that love helped me get sober, it’s also true that had I not found Alcoholics Anonymous, I may never have come to realize that I needed more help than what love alone could give me. This is because love has very little to do with addiction. I was unable to love myself, I was unable to give my wife and children the love they needed, and near the end of my drinking career, I no longer loved drinking.

The thing was though, that I still continued to drink, and at some point the word insane, defined as “a state of mind that prevents normal perception, behavior, or social interaction; seriously mentally ill,” became an accurate definition of my thinking and my life. Perhaps this sounds like a harsh description for someone who didn’t drink everyday, did well at work, and had a few dollars in the bank. But even when I was desperately close to losing my family for good, I still couldn’t stop drinking on my own.

Fortunately what I found in AA, and especially in The Twelve Steps, was a way to change my thinking and my behaviors, and begin to understand the insanity behind my actions. I also found a  love that I never had before, which was self-love. It was in doing so that I realized when we love ourselves, we can express it to others more easily and fully understand the true meaning of the word.

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Are AA’s Eleventh And Twelfth Traditions Outdated?

A few pages inside the AA book Twelve Steps And Twelve Traditions is the date of the first printing. It reads 1953. At the end of the book it lists a general synopsis of the Traditions.

The Eleventh Tradition states. “Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.”

The Twelfth Tradition states. “And finally, we of Alcoholics Anonymous believe that the principle of anonymity has an immense spiritual significance. It reminds us that we are to place principles before personalities; that we are actually to practice a genuine humility.”

My time in Alcoholics Anonymous enabled me to grow both spiritually and as a person until I was able to do so on my own. I broke my anonymity with a book I wrote and continue to do so with a blog I write. I say this not for shameless promotion. I say it because I’m not ashamed of talking about my life and calling myself a “Recovered Alcoholic.” I want to shout to the world how AA, and more importantly, The Twelve Steps changed my life.

I have read and understand the Traditions; I know they are important to Alcoholics Anonymous as they apply to the Fellowship itself. However, my point is that The Twelve Steps are what helped me most in my recovery, and I can’t find in any of them where it suggests I need to remain anonymous.

I didn’t break my anonymity for fame and wealth. I wrote from my heart what I believed would help others with addiction. I talked about my fears and insecurities and how The Twelve Steps helped me to overcome them.

We were a much more private nation back in 1953. Our politicians and celebrities weren’t as exploited by the media as they certainly are today. Perhaps we were also a more spiritual and humbler nation back then too. These days it seems everybody and their brother wants and needs attention, and will do and say anything to get it.

When I think about what genuine humility means to me as mentioned in The Twelfth Tradition; I know I am a more spiritual person than before. I do put principles before personalities. And that I am surely being both genuine and humble in expressing my experience in AA and in life.

On the first page of chapter five in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous there is a sentence that states. “Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like today.” I can’t think of any better way to gain attention as it can literally save lives. So to those anonymous people who have already come forward to talk about their addiction; thank you.

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