Various Recovery Bits and Bobs
I’ve just got back from my walk to Aldi. It’s a warm sunny day, in contrast to the weekend, which was pretty grim. My local high street is still thronging with summer holiday tourists, although the coffee shop wasn’t too busy this morning.
My walk to Aldi is quite a good time to reflect on recovery issues. I had quite exciting dreams last night, which is sort of weird because excitement isn’t exactly my recovery narrative at the moment. Quite the reverse. It made me realise that dreams, in my case, seem to carry a feeling tone that is the principle meaning I seem able to immediately ascertain.
Whereas yesterday’s dream made me feel down because it featured characters from my real life that I do not exactly associate with joy and success (even though the dream did not depict failure as such), today’s dream gave me a surprising uplift due to the fact that I was being valued for my ideas and perspectives. I was asking various people whether or not they believe we have free will and having interesting and meaningful conversations. From my reading, both lately and historically, I understand this is one of the major questions that concerns not only philosophers, but also psychiatrists.
It also concerned me, and I have addressed academic essays that covered this topic — in art and in analytical a psychology (Jung). But in my dream I asked a couple of people and then gave my own point of view. My point of view was somewhat frivolous and jokey. I said I thought we could chop and change. I could have free will en route to the cafe. Then not, watching TV. I didn’t actually give these examples, but that was the gist.
I think the matter of free will is of pertinence to recovering addicts in twelve step recovery because of step one (wherever you take it): We admitted we were powerless over (fill in the blank) and that our lives had become unmanageable. It seems to me that what this step is arguing is that we have no free will — no control. We have no control when we take the (fill in the blank), nor do we have any control whether or not we will take (fill in the blank) at all.
The step doesn’t apparently address free will in general, just in the particular case of the substance or behaviour in question. Nonetheless, I think anyone who works the steps, will quickly come to realise that actually the steps posit the idea that we have no free will at all, except to the extent that we adhere to the principles of the twelve steps.
I’ve pondered the question of free will when it comes to the twelve steps in the last couple of decades. Something didn’t make sense to me because if I am making the choice to go to meetings and work the steps that means I do have some free will. Maybe not lashings of free will, but some and I think free will is a bit like pregnancy — you can’t be a bit pregnant. Some free will is free will. So this is a bit paradoxical. Conversely, when it comes to most other areas in my life, at this stage in the game — in contrast to my twenties, say — I think there is hardly any free will. Or a lot less of it than some aspects of culture might like to have us believe.
Another thought was: You can do all the right things in life, but that doesn’t mean things are going to turn out well. I think this is really important bit of information.
Another thing I was actually thinking about of my own accord, rather than simply pondering my dream life, was something a clinical psychologist I was seeing in London told me. She said, “Why don’t you compare yourself to people who are worse off than you instead of people that are more successful”. And this isn’t the only time I have heard this wisdom in the annals of mental health practices.
It’s a good piece of advice, although not something I have ever really practiced. Lately though, due to my daily routine, which consists of reading the Guardian and watching a lot of Crime on TV, I’ve become aware of just how badly off a lot of people really are. This applies to both fictional characters and real ones. Some people have really had a lot of shit to deal with. People that have really probably either done nothing wrong at all, or else had a really terrible hand dealt to them in life and didn’t see a way through. They couldn’t escape.
I’m basically of the opinion that I have had a lot of injustices to cope with, more than my fair share, in fact. With many of these situations I really am lucky to have lived to tell the tale. Countless people have told me that in their view I really am lucky to still be alive, but for a long time this observation had pretty much no impact on my consciousness. By now though, I’ve had so many near death experiences, I’m prone to agree. But this has never really made me feel exactly grateful.
So that’s my bit on gratitude — just read the papers and watch some Crime TV. You would have to be a total dullard not to feel like life isn’t so bad after all. Unless you’re watching that stuff in prison, which presumably a lot of people are; thousands, in fact. If you’re sleeping under a blanket in Haiti, trying to escape the current catastrophe in Afghanistan, or on a boat in the ocean in an effort to escape some persecution in your home country, this is obviously not an option that will be available to you. This is why I am of the option that, quoting that famous Jewish thinker, “Everything that starts with spirituality, ends in politics.”
I’ve also had another recovery topic on my mind today: amends. Making amends, which is the ninth step in recovery, and a pretty challenging step, as anyone who does it will attest. But perhaps that is for another day. I won’t go on because, I don’t know about you, but I have a pretty short attention span.