Use as Directed

by Kathleen C.

How many times have we heard someone say, either in or out of A.A. meetings, something like the following? “The surgeon prescribed pain medication for me to take four times a day after my knee surgery, but I’m only taking it twice a day.”

“My doctor gave me a muscle relaxant for my bad back. I was supposed to take it only at night, but my back hurts all the time, so I take it in the morning too.”

“I am really having a hard time after breaking up with my boyfriend. I am so depressed, sometimes I think about killing myself. My program friends say I just need to do an inventory and I’ll get through it.”

What do all these statements have in common? They show that somebody didn’t read Page 133 in the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, where it says:

“God has abundantly supplied this world with fine doctors, psychologists and practitioners of various kinds. Do not hesitate to take your health problems to such persons.”

I was tempted to try to help her

Most of us have physical and mental consequences, whether from our drinking or just from life. Very few of us are qualified to practice medicine, but being typical arrogant alcoholics, we do it anyway. We don’t take enough of a medication that is prescribed for us, or we take too much. We don’t seek help when we need it or, worse yet, we advise someone else not to seek help when they need it. Trying to be our own or someone else’s Higher Power is not working a good A.A. program.

I once had a sponsee who was mentally ill. She constantly asked my advice about her medications—what she should take and what she shouldn’t. I was tempted to try to help her, and I did recommend she work the steps. Yet time after time when she asked me about her meds, I told her, “Ask your psychiatrist.” Even if I had an opinion, I had no right to give it to her. She would have taken it and run with it: “It’s OK, my sponsor told me to.”

Because I asked for help with the smaller problem, I had help available

When I myself had horrible pain from radiation to my throat after cancer surgery, I was taking way more than the prescribed dose of a narcotic (by suppository, since I couldn’t swallow). I wasn’t worried about getting addicted so much as overdosing. I called Carol, the oncology nurse. “Is the pain waking you up at night?” she asked. Oh yeah, I was waking up in agony, every hour. “Then the pain is burning through the drug, and you should take whatever you need to relieve your pain. I’m glad you called me. Keep me posted.”

I called Carol the nurse instead of trying to manage my pain on my own. I practiced Step Three and turned my will, my life and my health over to the care of my Higher Power, in the form of someone who knew what she was talking about. Just like it says on Page 133.

A few years ago, I was having a bad case of the empty nest blues. My daughters were away at college and getting ready to graduate. I shared about it at meetings. I talked to my sponsor. She reminded me how much a therapist had helped her when she was going through a depression.

Someone who knew what she was talking about

I found a therapist and started working with her. I got through my daughters’ graduation and move away from San Francisco with some tears but also much joy, thanks to her help. Then my mom called. She wanted to move into assisted living. She needed help with my stepfather, who was much older. We found a nice place in Petaluma and they moved in. Then she had some alarming symptoms, was diagnosed with cancer, and died three months later. My therapist was there for me, through my mother’s illness and death. Because I had asked for help with the smaller problem of my empty nest blues, I had help available for a really big sorrow. Whatever came along in my life, I could get through it sober. HP was taking care of me, just like it says on Page 133.

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