How it worked with me

“Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will completely give themselves to this simple program.”

This is from the beginning of chapter 5, known as “How it works,” in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. . .
My ability to advance or improve depends upon my willingness to listen and follow direction. But without the desire to change or surrender my lifestyle to a new order of living, then my ability to advance or improve falls to the whisper of lost opportunity.

I used to try and, “Set up shop.”
What I mean by this is I would organize my lies in order to manage or control my way of existence.
I refused to surrender to the idea that “My way” of thinking was the key ingredient to each of my downfalls.
I would set up shop, and by this, I would arrange my world like a pegboard in a mechanic’s workshop. I would surround myself with the right people, places, and things, so I could manipulate them like tools to maintain my idea of survival.
I knew who I could go to and who I could not. I knew who would soothe me, and I knew who would confront me. And as for those that confronted me, I knew how to use them too.
I always looked for the angles, or as it mentions in chapter five, I thought I could find, “An easier, softer way,” but I could not.

A mechanic with a workshop knows the ability of the tools in the toolbox. If the mechanic needs to turn or remove a screw, the mechanic knows where the screwdrivers are.
The mechanic knows the location and sizes for each driver as well as which driver to use for whatever screw needs removal.
If the screw will not turn, the mechanic might try and lubricate it. If the screw strips, the mechanic might extract the screw with a tool, or an “Extractor.”

To do this, the mechanic will drill into the head of the screw. Next, the mechanic will place the extractor inside the small hole, and while loosening, the extractor works like an opposite thread, tightening into the body of the screw until the screw loosens, and breaks free. Each of these details are carefully thought out until the screw is carefully exposed. This is when the mechanic puts in a screw of their own.

Me: I saw myself as a mechanic . . .

Whenever I was in a new surrounding; I set up shop.
Whenever I had new rules to follow; I set up shop.

And like a mechanic, I was aware of the tools in my toolbox. I knew who would allow me to slip through the cracks. I knew who would forgive my mistakes and I knew where to turn when I needed someone to make my life easy.
(or acceptable)

This is how I set up shop.
I looked for voluntary hostages. Same as one inhales while another exhales; I looked for people that would complement my sickness. I looked for care-takers.
I looked for those so caring they would sacrifice their own comfort for someone else.
Some people would consider them weak minded—but I do not. They had a high tolerance or threshold for pain.
I considered them to be a dedicated part of the alcoholic machine. And like any machine, alcoholism has gears that turn. It needs fuel to turn them as well as an on or off switch.
This does not suggest there is an off switch to alcoholism; however, I submit there were times when I needed to switch gears or shut down for an outward appearance.

I set up shop, and by setting up shop, I created a toolbox. I knew what tool to use for whichever purpose. And should my lies become too obvious or my shop close down; or should my caretakers and enablers realize their love was used like a mistreated tool, I would move on, and open another shop someplace else.

In many cases, I held on to some of the tools (or enablers) from previous shops. I did this in case my lies would again expose me, in which case, I would reach out to my old network of voluntary hostages with hopes that they would save my ass.
And there’s always someone willing to fill this position.
They were willing, not because my lies or manipulation is that good or spellbinding, but because there is always someone willing to keep themselves sick, and by caring for someone else above their own needs—the alcoholic machine rolls on without missing a gear.

My ability to become healthy changed the day I surrendered my shop and stopped looking for the angles. My ability to advance or improve changed the day I took action instead of having someone take action for me.
It is written, “Faith without works id dead.”
In my case, my life changed the day I decided to put work behind my faith.

I am often asked to speak with kids who, like me, struggle with this thing called alcoholism and addiction. The drug use or drinking may vary in style or occasion, but the symptoms and are always interchangeable.

Afterwards, parents always ask, “What do you think?”
“Do you think he’ll listen?”

The way I see it is manipulation always speaks well.
I know mine did.
Just because some says, “You’re right,” it doesn’t mean they listened or agree.
In many cases, the kids I spoke to were just sizing me up to see where or if I fit in their toolbox.

But me . . .
I give homework when I speak to people.
This is how I know if some wants to change.
I know this because actions speak louder than words and that where there is action; there is response

Parents always ask, “Do you think he listened?”
And I always answer, “Did he do his homework?”

Their response tells me everything

This is when I learn about the tools in the toolbox and who the voluntary hostages are.

But that’s not you . . .

Right?

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