The Centerline of Life

By Rick R.


We are all born with a Conscience and an Ego. We all have Instincts. As human beings, we are also born with the use of Practical Reasoning, and that separates us from the animals, who, for the most part, live by their instincts. The degree to which these assets and liabilities affect our behaviors differs in all of us.  

“Yet these instincts, so necessary for our existence, often far exceed their proper function.” (12&12 Step 4) 

Most normal people make mistakes in their lives and that is normal since no one is perfect. Most alcoholics, however, take their life to the brink of destruction before they become desperate enough to surrender and enter the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. Most alcoholics struggle with emotional difficulties that far exceed the normal range. Some of these troubles can be rectified simply by acknowledging they exist and being willing to change our motives and behavioral habits.

Unfortunately, a certain percentage of our fellowship have Deeper Rooted Emotional Problems that are permanent and cannot be cured simply by practicing A.A. principles alone. They are often masked by the use of alcohol.  When a person stops drinking and starts dealing with their behavioral problems, these things rise to the surface in the form of: O.C.D, A.D.D, Bipolar Disorder, P.T.S.D, and many others that can only be subdued by the use of medications.  In some cases, these dull the mind of the patient to the extent that they resist taking the medication and would rather live with the symptoms. Not knowing this, we sometimes misunderstand the people stricken by these deeper-rooted mental conditions and believe, by their sharing, that they are Resistant, Arrogant or Egotistical etc. when displaying behaviors that the average person is not afflicted with. These conditions are not always at the extreme levels.  Each of us, as  alcoholics, have a degree of behavioral problems outside of the normal range, else why would we need to attend A.A. meetings? 

Let us consider the normal range to be 5 degrees on either side of the centerline. The extremes of the abnormal behavioral problems extend out to 50% on either side of the centerline. Let us take Fear as an example. Some people are so fearful they are afraid to leave their home, while others are so fearless  they may dive off a cliff into a pool of water. These are extremes, and we all fall somewhere in between. Those of us who are fortunate enough not to be afflicted by those pre-mentioned mental disorders are blessed in the sense that, practicing the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous, can bring us back toward the centerline and we can lead a somewhat normal life.

For those ill-fated ones afflicted by those conditions, they can stay sober. But the behaviors are still apparent to us and, unless we can recognize and replace the habit of judging them by their outward behavior, we are still outside the normal range ourselves.  When we replace the habit of being judgmental with the habits of Compassion and Empathy, we are somewhat closer to the centerline. We can change all those alcoholic behaviors when we recognize them, simply by looking deeper into our motives for our actions pointed out in the A.A, program. Steps Six and Seven begin this process of recognizing our defects of character, based on our thinking, and changing the shortcomings or actions that result from those thoughts.

 “There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.” (BB pg. 58) 

My question is, do we have the capacity to be accepting when we recognize that some of us have these uncontrollable deeper-rooted issues and that we cannot compare them to ourselves and be judgmental about these difficulties?  Love, Compassion and Empathy are the centerline positions in these cases. They need our understanding.

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