The power in a story.

Cecile likes to read the stories in the back of the 12 Step Big Book. Those are often neglected, but that’s where you learn how these programs actually work. Each story is unique and yet strangely similar. And there’s a little lesson for seekers in every one.

Not long ago I had reason to work on a project with some financial professionals whose background was in hedge funds– the giant investment vehicles for the superrich who want to avoid the usual regulations around increasing their wealth. It reminded me of a former patient, a successful manager of one such venture, who wound up in treatment with us after ten years of seriously hard drinking.

I had always pictured big-time financiers as strategists, but this fellow was more of a super-salesman — a genuinely clever individual who nonetheless seemed to feel the best use of his mind was to get over on anybody foolish enough to try to control him. Let’s just say that if he ever did have a solid moral compass, he’d pawned it long ago and lost the ticket.

For him, active addiction featured frenzied business activity fueled by a combination of alcohol and Ritalin. The pills were supposed to help control the alcohol. Naturally, he wound up using way too much of both. He had a real talent for buffaloing his family, but they eventually found the courage to stand up to him, and that’s how he first came to land in our lap.

Predictably, recovery involved multiple admissions to a host of rehabs — some luxurious, some not, and a few with bars on the windows. His pattern was to sign out early to get back to his real mission of making more money. He finally did begin attending AA, in the spirit of a man there because he’d been barred from everywhere else. He burned through more than a few sponsors before settling with an older gentlemen, a former Baltimore drug thug who’d entered recovery during a stretch in state prison. They seemed to relate to one another. That should tell us something.

For once, he followed his sponsor’s directions. Initially this may have been from fear of getting whacked. After a year or so he began sponsoring a newcomer of his own. It was something in which he took inordinate pride.

There’s a lesson for me in this story, about the struggle to attain a level of personal honesty and humility. But I’ll leave you to find your own lesson, the way they do in the Big Books.