Why the Use of the Word Former?
Formers Anonymous seeks to advance in the practice of change and recovery. The spirit of FA is not to compete or criticize. Rather we choose to focus on improving on what we have learned since the first templates of developing a system of addressing addiction and recovery.
While traditional models have worked for many, there are just as many or maybe more that it hasn’t worked for. We have met with both contempt and acceptance for our “forming ideas”. For those in a program that are angry with us for “changes” we have made to the existing systems we are relieved you have a system that does work for you. We support you in your decision to practice in that way. There are at least two others we are concerned for.
First, we are concerned with are those still suffering who are not attracted to that system for whatever reason. We will not blame the suffering for not adapting to the preexisting system, when what we have learned through experience is there is much success to be had in meeting people in their process as early as possible, in their place of suffering, using their language of relating, putting aside judgment and well intended labels. FA will not allow semantics to create barriers for the afflicted, whether they are in the precontemplation stage or in the process of change and recovery. We cannot say we would have better results if we had better addicts.
We will say if we had more compassion, positive human regard, nonjudgmental approach, driven by our own transparency, empathy and experience...and a refusal to have resistance for the addict’s resistance…then we will capture a handful that had nowhere else to go within the preexisting systems out here.
Second, are the others who accept the traditional model but live in silence knowing it is the best that is out there but forced to settle for something not a perfect fit. There are those who have long-term relationships within the current systems who have a lot to say about this as well. Many have said, “FA is the missing link” to earlier versions of support groups. Others continue in the group of origin and frequent FA as well. Still others have made FA their home.
While some, again, criticize this practice; we are glad you have such a solid connection of your choice. Long before FA there was no alternative for Formers. There were those sharing their time among different fellowships. Searching for the missing link. Some have said, “You are blurring the message.” We say, “Only for those not capable of being open minded. Only for those who have found the perfect fit. Maybe for those living in fear of change and adventure. And perhaps only for those pretending not to be stuck in rigidity and habit, like in our previous lifestyle.” Addicts are complex and intelligent, and naturally capable of creativity and invention. The first wheel that worked was not broken yet has been improved a million times. “Keep it simple stupid” is for the temporary moments of crisis, adversity, problem solving and not a viable way of living. If the message gets blurry for you we encourage you to stay rooted in what works for you.
If you are looking for the missing link don’t settle any longer. Pursue your change and recovery through the steps, as you understand them. Karl Marx was not a Marxist nor was Jesus a Christian. Do not allow the interpretations of others of self-help to dictate for you the meaning of your recovery. Do not allow the limitations of others to limit you. If your needs are not being met as much as possible you are more at risk for regression and relapse than anyone else. This doesn’t have to mean committing crimes or using substances. It can mean living a life less than what you deserve.
This is not permission or encouragement to abandon the program. It means to find a system within the 12 step fellowships to guide your change and recovery. No rush, take your time. Do not abandon the perfectly good ship you are on until you have a perfectly good ship to move to. If there is not one around you stay on the ship that you are currently on until such time it becomes feasible to board another. We follow the suggestions of our predecessors but also employ the ability to advance based on new knowledge and evidence as well as our collective shared hopes, strengths and experiences. We ask and encourage you to allow and support others to have theirs.
Who are any of us to claim the one and only “true path”? If you cannot support this then in the very least surely you can respect that what is working for you may not work for others. And even if you cannot support or accept us in this way…so be it…we can accept you the way you are. To each his own.
We are not resistant to your resistance. And we understand that underneath your disapproval is concern and desire for our wellbeing. But perhaps because of a lack of understanding and insight into the unique nature of the issues we live with cannot embrace our comfort with these changes.
There are some significant differences between the programs developed for those with substance dependencies and criminal personalities. Below is an excerpt from Fourbears: The Myths of Forgiveness written by the our founder of those differences:
However, the criminal most certainly develops a hybrid of issues. The question always comes up in treatment, which came first addiction (chicken) or criminality (egg). Neither. The personality did. Something has made this person susceptible to one or both. If drugs came first it can be assumed that something was already astray internally for that decision to be made as well as if criminality came first.
Sometimes the decision was the start of both criminality and addiction, therefore it can be argued it happened simultaneously. People experiment all the time, but most people do not take things to the extreme addicts and criminals do. Both types are driven by dependent personalities. However the result for a criminal is an addictive personality disorder. If you cross breed a pitbull with a poodle what do you get? Do you get a pitbull AND a poodle? No, you get a mix of both; some temperament from the pitbull and the poodle. You get some of the addict and some of the criminal.
Most programs take this into account and will include topics addressing the two. Job well done, right? Well, not exactly. There is a third layer to this, which is what I call the ‘hybrid effect’. The hybrid-effect is the third circle created by the overlap of the two dynamics. What you get when you cross the pitbull and the poodle is a Pittle.
The Pittle or the Hybrid Effect, which is often overlooked, is the unforeseen result of living with a set of dual personalities (that middle piece). If the addict is suicidal and the criminal is homicidal then the hybrid effect is a suicide-bomber. The addict’s energy is typically driven internally. The criminal’s energy is typically driven outward. The result of the hybrid effect is the combined energies being driven in both directions. I am going to die, but I am taking as many people as I can with me. The combined level of emotional and behavioral intensity is exponentially higher than if either of the personalities were working independently of the other. Most interventions fail to diagnose this dynamic therefore failing to address it in the intervention. In laymen’s terms, something is bound to go wrong when any of the disease, so to speak, is left untreated.
While traditional views of addiction can be compared to a bullet, criminality can be seen as the gun, a really big gun, with a lot of bullets. The bullet is a part of the gun. The gun is not a part of the bullet however.
For those out there willing to criticize our program and our way, in the very least you can see the most important issue just may be an issue of public safety. And if what is out there does not meet the unique needs of a criminal don’t we all have a responsibility not to interfere with attempts to address that and answer the call. Our criminal lifestyles are hyper-versions of the very worst imaginable type of addiction. If the image is still too difficult to grasp then remember the following events: Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, or the Oak Creek Sikh Temple shooting, or the terrorists groups of today to name a few. In these cases there isn’t just a homicidal person, but a suicidal homicidal person. This is a suicide bomber in every sense of the act. Is this what you think of when you say you are an alcoholic or an addict? Doubtful. Thus the birth of Formers.
We have many similarities. For example, shame and guilt could be said to be fueling both processes. While there are similarities, there are also significant differences, which for the sake of others can no longer, in good conscious, be ignored or folded into a model, which was not designed to address such hyper and complete corrupt moral, mental, spiritual and organic deficits. However, in the beginning it certainly laid the foundation for us to grow and learn from. We did not simply replace the name of the ailment to fit our needs through a cookie cutter approach. We thought deeply about this process and with every ounce of our every fiber desire to stop violent extremism.
What we have learned about ourselves is that we are dynamic beings rather than static. No one stays the same…we either are getting better or getting worse. Further, either process is by choice. If shame and guilt can be said to drive the forces that bind us to insanity how wise is it associate shame and guilt with the foundation of our change and recovery?
Consequently, we leave the world of self proclaimed and institutional labels such as criminal and addicts and embrace the title of Former. We move from the static position of living with a problem to the dynamic state of asset building through change and recovery.
Once we embrace change and recovery we can say we are no longer what we used to be. There was a preceding, earlier time in our former lives where we lived as criminals. The title Former relates to a lifestyle taking place in the past, be it five seconds ago or decades ago. Criminality being the first of two mentioned dynamics: past and present. Criminality versus change; addiction versus recovery. Our past is static and cannot be changed while as a human being we are dynamic and always in the process of change; be it for the better or the worse.
The title Former also implies someone who forms something; a maker; a creator or founder. Are we not constantly creating ourselves and our reality? As a Former we no longer practice insanity as a lifestyle, although the potential to engage in the world in that manner is forever possible, just as the residual effects and lingering wounds are eternal reminders of the fact we are just one decision away or neglected moment or issue from returning to active addiction and insanity.
We may have to abandon certain behaviors, people, places and things permanently to secure our change and recovery in a manner it deserves and requires to ensure our ultimate goals of living on a higher path are achieved. We have traded our past for our future, our weaknesses for our strengths, our fear for our courage, our despair for hope, and our disconnectedness for spirituality. Step Three allows us to identify ourselves as a person in change and in the recovery process. It clues others in to the fact that our former practices were rooted in insanity, loss of control and disconnected, but, today we are committed to a process of reconnecting to the world around us in a meaningful way.