To the Center Line

by Rick R.

We are all born with a conscience and an ego. We all have instincts. We, as human beings are also born with the use of practical reasoning. The degree to which these assets and liabilities affect our behaviors differ in all of us.  “Yet these instincts, so necessary for our existence, often far exceed their proper function” (Twelve and Twelve, Step 4). Most normal people make mistakes in their lives. 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 look into the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. Most alcoholics have deeper emotional problems that exceed the normal range. Some troubles can be rectified simply by acknowledging they exist and being willing to change our motives and behavioral habits.

Sometimes people would rather live with the symptoms

A certain percentage of our fellowship have deeper-rooted problems that cannot be cured simply by A.A. principles alone. They are often masked by the use of alcohol.  When a person stops drinking and starts dealing with behavioral problems, these things rise to the surface in the form of PTSD or others that can require medications. In some cases, people 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 arrogant or egotistical when displaying behaviors the average person is not afflicted with. These conditions are not always at extreme levels.

Most of us, being alcoholics, have a degree of behavioral problems outside of the normal range, or else why would we attend meetings? For the sake of argument, let us consider the normal range to be 5 degrees on either side of the center line. The extremes of the abnormal behavioral problems may extend out to 50% on either side of the centerline.

Practicing the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous can bring us back to the center line

Take fear as an example. Some people are afraid to leave their homes, while others are so fearless that they may walk in front of a bus. These are the extremes. We all fall somewhere in between. Those of us who are fortunate enough not to be afflicted by these maladies are blessed. Practicing the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous can bring us back towards the center line and we can lead a somewhat normal life.

photo credits available upon request to thepoint@aasfmarin.org

Other people can stay sober, but behaviors will still be still apparent. We must recognize and replace the habit of judging them by their outward behavior. Excessive judgment is also outside of the normal range. When we replace the habit of being judgmental with the habits of compassion and empathy we are somewhat closer to the center line.

We can change alcoholic behaviors when we recognize them simply by looking deeper into the motives for our actions. Steps Six and Seven begin this process of recognizing our defects of character, based on our thinking, and changing the 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.” (Big Book, p. 58). My question is: do we have the capacity to be accepting when we recognize that some of us have these deeper-rooted issues? We cannot compare them to ourselves and be judgmental about these difficulties. Suffering people need our understanding. Love, compassion and empathy are the center line positions in these cases.

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