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This Is What I Learned

This new system is made up of three parts: The Steps of AA that show us the way through addiction and into an ideal way of life, The Enneagram to illuminate and define the way, and Emotional Sobriety to guide us through the tour.

This Is What I Found

1   That alcoholics are childish and immature. (Bill Wilson)
2   That all self-help systems are dedicated to the maturation process in some way.
3   That without self-help programs human beings will eventually mature, but that mentoring greatly enhances and accelerates the process.
4   That although we are all different we are really all alike – that we are packaged differently but our essential selves are made of the same stuff.

5   That what we experienced early on often creates delays in attaining maturity – especially within a dysfunctional home.
6   And surprisingly, that alcoholics and other so-called addicts, are not a bit different from the rest of us.

1 – On being childish and immature

Bill Wilson, during the time of AA’s was development, asked psychologists to evaluate alcoholics. Their conclusion was “…that alcoholics were childish and immature.” From the start my attention was seldom diverted from this conclusion that was directed at me. The process of maturation has become the focus of this work.

2 – All self-help programs are alike

Most religions upon entering their ranks will ask that one take a personal inventory with the aim of creating some self-awareness and a sense of responsibility – the essence of maturity.

Buddhists encourage meditating in order to develop personal insightfulness – the way to maturity
All self-help programs are dedicated to clearing the way to human fulfillment – to getting rid of the obstacles that divert us from reaching our natural potential – of maturing into fully developed human being

3 – Maturing is a natural process

Maturation is a natural process that eventually happens without the help of other mature people but the process is greatly enhanced with the help of mentors who define the possibilities that we are faced with.

Those among us who were born to wise parents are the most fortunate of our kind while the rest of us must seek a balance outside the home. By the time we are feebled by time and wizened to our foolishness and become more prudent with our energy, it is often too late to make the most of this wisdom. All of us at that point wish we had been more selective earlier on. Wisdom, the single most valuable product of maturation is not reserved for our old age rather it is a consequence of self-knowledge, not time. Maturity is a better choice. Mature people can always take part in childlike activities, while childish people cannot choose to be mature.

4 – That we are all alike

There is a range of human emotional responses to life and it is very broad but finite and can be explored.
As a species we are capable of a greater range of functioning than any other species on earth. Our two lowest brains, the reptilian brain, the middle brain are capable of preying on other species and we have developed a means of self-protection that has insulated us from outside threats. But the development of a third brain the cerebrum has given us the ability to understand what is meant by complex thought such as; “By this time next month we will have forgotten the seemingly huge threat that we know will come about tomorrow.” Certainly in that sense we are all alike.

Our ability to understand that there are multiple ways of looking at a single fact – that we approach the same proposition from very different angles is unique to our kind.

All of us are complex animals who are self-aware. Since we know only a small portion of everything that the human race knows we have a tendency to argue. That is part of but not the whole of the maturation process

5 – That we are influenced by our immediate society

Eskimos used to be a Polyandrous society. The woman was ruled the householdand there was no word for war or murder in their language. The most democratic groups in the world are some tribes in South America where every person, including children, contributes to the dialogue and is heard. Inside Attica in upper state New York all people are mean, including some of the inmates. The offspring of all these individuals will have a wide range of survival skills. Our parents, yours and mine, were incapable of giving us all we would need to meet life’s demands. They were very limited themselves and besides they had no idea about what we would need. Some parents prepared us for doing battle while others concentrated on more philosophical postures. What you got is all you’re going to get. The fortunate among us are those who learned to look within, the rest will have to learn that before the matter of maturity begins.

Jews are taught to get an education and develop chutzpah; Greeks argue about philosophy and come to the United States to open a restaurant; Italians like grandiose schemes and stone buildings; Americans can do anything except sustain a real democracy. No matter the talents or limitations we are handed, the outcome is ours to forge as links in the chain of human evolution.

6 – Our humanity is our lot

Today lepers are cured and mingle among us. Schizophrenics and individuals dealing with full neurosis are allowed to take charge of their own existence. Heart patients are patched up, educated about the coming dangers left to cope with the situation.

Among all of these there are individuals who are so taken by their misfortune that they make the event the center of their lives – for the rest of their lives. Most panhandlers have developed tales-of-woe far better than my imagination can conger up. That easily compares to a person who cannot stop preaching at the drop of a word. She will be a preach-a-holic until she can turn that around and stop with this incessant chatter. She will then be just another human being. All of us who forgo maturity are stuck in what could be loosely called addiction – gamblers, work-a-holics, religious zealots, over-eaters or anyone with fixations that require their full attention at the cost of no longer being able to do ordinary life. Some alcoholics and addicts are like that, but there are others who are not stuck in this rut. I drank for thirty-one years. Those who knew me then describe my drinking as suicidal – that I drank to kill myself. I now see what they were saying and have a tendency to agree. Today my life is filled with other things than drinking. I almost never even think about that.

Although my involvement with alcohol has left me with a subject matter that has my focus, it is not affixed to any ism but to the subject of maturity that reflects the human psyche. In my mind I am no longer involved with drinking. I am not involved with the recovery from drinking too much. I am a normal person who writes. Although at one time I used to say, “I’m Norm, and I’m an alcoholic” that statement no longer fits me. Now I am not sure if I could ever drink in safety or not because there is no evidence of that one way or another, but I am no longer the person whose life depends on concentrating on staying away from alcohol “one day at a time.”  My days are made up of one event after another in a series of vignettes of ordinary life just like everyone else who is not an alcoholic. Some can’t drink alcohol because their religious beliefs don’t allow it and I don’t drink because my previous behavior won’t allow it. There is a difference of motivation but it ends there. Now that I no longer participate in drinking I am just a teetotaler among men. I have also had a triple by-pass and I equally do not go around saying that I am a “triple bypass-a-holic.”

In some ways we are all eccentric. Calvin Coolidge was known to say very little throughout his lifetime. He was eccentric. I do not drink therefore I am eccentric. Now that connotation I admit to, but not the one that will hold me to something I was and am no longer, I am equally no longer a carpenter. I am not a teenager, and I am still a swimmer but no longer an athlete.
In conclusion heart patients, alcoholics, athletes, and carpenters, are not a bit different from the rest of the human race, unless if they insist on being so.

The above comments are a product of a great deal of hindsight.


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