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January 28, 2014

Beware of the False Start!


So I enjoy football, especially college football. There is a concept called a false start. In football, the quarterback has to call for the ball before his team can move. If anyone of them move before the quarterback calls for the ball, there is a penalty called a false start. That penalty results in the offense losing five yards.

Well that’s fine and dandy, but what does this have to do with recovery. In the “White Book” (Sexaholics Anonymous), it also speaks of a “false start.” The White Book notes the way we became addicted was at first it a pleasurable way to dissolve stress, relieve depression, or provide a mean to cope with a difficult life. That gave the apparent effect of reducing isolation, easing lack of emotion, loneliness, and tensions and providing a escape of gaining a false sense of power. 

“Eventually this new-found ‘friend’ not only seems to reduce inner conflict, boredom, and negative emotions, but also offers us fusion, validation, and a false sense of aliveness. As a matter of fact, all of these effects are false or at best only temporary. What seems to promise life is actually taking it away. Eventually, the process takes on a life of its own…. And unlike normal coping practices, our addictive thinking and behavior becomes obsessive and repetitive and are forced to serve a whole lot of other functions they weren’t meant to serve.” (p.35)

“Over time the sense of pleasure begins to diminish; we feel less relief. The habit starts producing pain, and hangover symptoms begin appearing when the pleasure is outweighed by the pain; tension, depression, rage, guilt, (and remorse), and even physical distress. To relieve the pain we resort to our “habit” again. As we constantly call on our addictive act for instant relief, our emotional control declines. We can go into impulsive behavior and mood swings, or which we are often unaware. Intimate and social relationships decline.” (p. 36)

At that point many seem to go into a zone in between of pleasure and pain. Often it is in that zone that addicts begin to seek recovery (i.e. begin attending meetings, starting to be a little honest about the practice of the addiction, etc.). But the addict at that point doesn’t really take it all in and really work the program. A “false start” is where an addict may begin “sort of working” the steps. It doesn’t work that way.

Now to the parallel to football. The quarterback has to call for the ball, and the center has to snap the ball before anyone moves. The “addicts” false start occurs when we begin going through the motions without full sincerity in wanting recovery, without wanting to really give up the acting out. All of you must want it, not just part of you. You can’t just show up.
The Big Book, (Alcoholics Anonymous) put it another way; “half measures availed us nothing.” The “quarterback” is the addicts choice to turning away from the addiction and committing fully to give it up and do whatever it takes to be free from the addiction. Until that decision is made (and all of the subsequent decisions to call others, get a sponsor, live one day at a time, etc.) then the recovery will be shaky at best, and the addict will not be able to stay sober. 

I personally had a false start, and it took about four months of working with a sponsor, attending meetings, and really working the program before I found Recovery. It is worth giving up what I thought was the best way of living for the real best way of living. Beware of your own false start, and give your all to it, and God can and will do for you what you haven’t been able to do all by yourself.