BIBLE READING: ISAIAH 40:28-31
Step Eleven – “We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”
We all want to recover as quickly as possible. It’s hard to be patient as we wait for the process to work. Sure, we realize that we didn’t get to the difficult spot we are in overnight. We understand that we cannot undo a lifetime of damage in just a few moments. But still, it is a challenge to wait patiently. Every part of the recovery process requires time and patience. This step also requires that we learn to wait for God.
The prophet Isaiah gave us this promise: “But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Jeremiah said, “The Lord is wonderfully good to those who wait for Him and seek Him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord” (Lamentations 3:25-26).
Waiting on the Lord has its rewards. We can remain calm when it appears that we aren’t making any progress in recovery. God gives us the strength and stamina to bear up under the strain so that we won’t faint or collapse under it. As we develop patient faith in God, we will be able to endure to the end of the race—and we will win.
DIFFERENCES AND WARNING SIGNS.
When the term “high-functioning alcoholic” is mentioned, various types of drinkers often begin to question their own drinking and worry if they fall into this category. Part of this confusion is that many individuals are unclear about the differences in characteristics of social drinkers, problem drinkers and alcoholics. There is also a lack of awareness of what the true warning signs of alcoholism are.
Social drinkers are those individuals who drink in low-risk patterns. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “low-risk” drinking for females consists of no more than 7 drinks per week and no more than 3 drinks per sitting. For males, it consists of no more than 14 drinks per week and no more than 4 drinks per day.
Problem drinkers display clear differences between their drinking habits and those of alcoholics. In fact, according to the NIAAA, 72% of people have a single period of heavy drinking that lasts 3-4 years and peaks at ages 18-24 (typically occurs during the college years) that they phase out of. When problem drinkers are given sufficient reason to cut back on their drinking (ie, have a negative drinking consequence, debilitating hangover, becomes a parent), they are able to self-correct and return to drinking in a low-risk manner.
In contrast, alcoholics may be given countless reasons to cut back on their drinking but they are unable to permanently cut back on their drinking. Alcoholics may have occasions where they drank in a low-risk manner, but they inevitably return to their alcoholic drinking patterns. High-functioning alcoholics (HFAs) in particular tend to minimize their drinking by falsely labeling it as a “problem” or as “heavy” drinking because they often do not believe that they fit the stereotype of the typical alcoholic.
What defines an alcoholic is a person’s relationship to alcohol and not how they appear to the outside world in terms of their personal, professional or academic life.
Some of the following alcoholism warning signs are tailored to HFAs but are applicable to all sub-types of alcoholics and include but are not limited to:
1. inability to control alcohol intake after starting to drink
2. obsessing about alcohol (ie, next time the person can drink, how they are going to get alcohol, who they’re going to go out drinking with)
3. behaving in ways, while drunk, that are uncharacteristic of their sober personality
4. repeating unwanted drinking patterns
5. surrounding themselves socially with heavy drinkers
6. getting drunk before actually arriving at parties/bars (pre-partying)
7. increasing sense of denial that their heavy drinking is a problem because they are able to succeed professionally and personally
8. setting drinking limits (ie, only having 3 drinks, only drinking 3 days per week) and not being able to adhere to them
9. driving drunk and, by sheer luck, not getting arrested or involved in an accident
10. always having to finish an alcoholic beverage or even another person’s unfinished beverage
11. using alcohol as a reward
12. drinking daily
13. living a double life by separating drinking life from professional or home life
14. binge drinking (more than 5 drinks in one sitting)
15. having chronic blackouts (memory lapse due to excessive drinking) and not remembering what they did for a portion of their drinking episode
16. feeling guilt and shame about their drunken behaviors
17. taking breaks from drinking and then increasing alcohol consumption when they resume drinking after a period of time
18. people have expressed concern about their negative drunken behaviors
19. engaging in risky sexual behavior when intoxicated
20. not being able to imagine their life without alcohol in it
If individuals display a number of these warning signs, it is important for them to address this issue. Finding someone in their lives that they can be honest with and admit they need help, can assist individuals in beginning this process. In addition, speaking with someone in the mental health or health care field, such as a therapist or social worker (preferably an addiction specialist) and/or medical doctor can help potential alcoholics receive a thorough assessment of their drinking patterns and provide suggestions for appropriate treatment.
There is no harm in at least checking out an abstinence-based program such Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART Recovery® or Women for Sobriety meetings. Each of these recovery programs has members who are HFAs as well as lower functioning alcoholics. Meetings are held in person as well as online and are typically listed on their Websites. It is most important for alcoholics to realize that they are NOT alone and that there are millions of sober alcoholics who now have fulfilling lives without drinking.
(Source: Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic: Professional Views and Personal Insights, Psychology Today)
Step 5 – I admit to God, to myself and to another human being the exact nature of my wrongs.
- After working through the fourth step questions, what do you realize about your limitations and capabilities?
- Describe any person who has helped you to see yourself more clearly and objectively in your process of recovery and of life.
- What qualities would you like to have in a sponsor? How do the people in the list of possible sponsors measure up to these criteria?
- Write down the names of the most trustworthy people that you know. Do you think that they would be willing or interested in being a sponsor for you?
- Describe your feelings and expectations about sharing your fifth step with your sponsor.
- List people that you can think of that you might share your story with. Write whether you think that they are a safe, risky or a bad choice to work your 5th step with:
Person Safe, Risky or Bad choice
- Describe who you have chosen to be your sponsor and how they reacted when you approached them.
- Describe what it was like in sharing the fifth step. How did you feel before, after and during the process? Are you glad that you have done this?
- Describe any celebrations or activities that you have done in honor of completing the fifth step.
Step 6 – I become entirely ready to have God remove all of these defects of character.
- Describe situations and events where you have been full of pride. What has this brought into your life that you like or enjoy? What problems has it caused you?
- Describe the kind of activities do you really enjoy (of course, NOT your addictive behavior).
- What are some healthy eating or exercise habits that you could start?
- What are some unhealthy eating habits that you could give up?
- Describe some secret GOOD deeds that you have done or would like to do.
- Describe situations and events where you have been greedy, overly needy or materialistic. What has this brought into your life that you like or enjoy? What problems has it caused you? Are you ready to give these attitudes over to the care of God?
- Describe situations and events where you have given in to lust without regard for others or any morality. What has this brought into your life that you like or enjoy? What problems has it caused you? Are you ready to give these lustful feelings over to the power of God?
- Describe situations and events where you have been dishonest. What has this brought into your life that you like or enjoy? What problems has it caused you? Are you ready to depend upon God to keep you from dishonesty?
- Describe situations and events where you have given into excessive eating, drinking, shopping or covetousness. What has this brought into your life that you like or enjoy? What problems has it caused you? Are you ready to let God take control of these behaviors and attitudes?
- Describe situations and events where you have been very envious or jealous of others. What has this brought into your life that you like or enjoy? What problems has it caused you? Are your ready to turn these situations over to God?
- Describe situations and events where you have avoided responsibility for your actions or lack of actions. What has this brought into your life that you like or enjoy? What problems has it caused you? Are you ready to allow God to help you take responsibility for your actions?
- List your major defects of character.
- What do you plan to do when these major defects of character begin to become evident? List each defect individually along with the proposed preventative behavior and how you will allow God to help you in your battle against these defects.
BIBLE READING: PHILIPPIANS 3:12-14
Step Six – “We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”
Getting entirely ready to have God remove “all” our defects of character sounds impossible. In reality we know that such perfection is out of human reach. This is another way of saying that we are going to do our best work toward a lifelong goal that no none ever reaches until eternity.
The apostle Paul expressed a similar thought: “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be…Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven” (Phil. 3:12-14).
This combination of a positive attitude and energetic effort is part of the mystery of our cooperation with God. Paul said: “Be even more careful to put into action God’s saving work in your lives, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, and giving you the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him”.
We will need to practice these steps the rest of our life. We don’t have to demand perfection of ourself; it is enough to keep moving ahead as best we can. We can look forward to our rewards with the hope of becoming all that God intends us to be. God will strengthen and encourage us as we do so.
BIBLE READING: 2 CORINTHIANS 12:7-9
Hindrances and hurdles in life are God’s gift to the self-sufficient. While He won’t let you use your weakness as a crutch or a cop-out, He will allow it to keep you dependent on Him. The apostle Paul wrote, “I was given a thorn…to…keep me from becoming proud” (vs. 7). Why would God keep you in touch with your limitations? To embarrass you? No, to empower you so that you can do His will. God’s intention is to increase, not decrease your need for Him. Perhaps this illustration will help you:
Imagine four steel rings: The first ring can support 80 pounds, the second ring 60 pounds, the third 40 pounds, and the fourth ring 20 pounds. Linked together, what’s the greatest weight the chain can support? Two hundred pounds?……..No, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so the answer is 20 pounds!
And it’s the same with us; we’re only as strong as our weakest areas. That’s why we sometimes try to excuse or ignore them. But that’s dangerous, because relying on your own strength may win you a few victories and accolades and then cause you to think you can handle everything on your own. It was because the apostle Paul was so brilliant that God permitted difficult circumstances that kept him on his knees, living in a state of forced dependence. After praying repeatedly for God to take his weakness away, Paul finally came to the place where he could say, “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (vs. 9). So today, depend on God!