Billiette Calling! Born Free!

AA FROM THE WOMAN’s SIDE

Born Free! by Billiette S. July 1974

   When I say, “I am glad I am an alcoholic”, some people look at me as if I have rocks in my head.  I am not ashamed of having been afflicted by this illness any more than I am ashamed of having had the measles, which left me with a greater handicap of extreme near-sightedness.  For years I went around half-blind and ashamed of my thick glasses for they are outside of me; and, if people don’t like me because of them, that’s their problem.  Alcoholism left me, not with weakness but the strength and courage to become a mature human being – Born free of the personality defects that made me a self-centered, ego-centric person.

   But it is not just the alcoholic that is in a prison of self today.  Their prisons of self are filled with projection (blaming everyone and everything for their problems), self-pity (poor me, everyone has it better than me), martyrdom (look at all I have done for you), self-hatred (killing, other than with guns or knifing them with their venomous tongues).  Perfectionism, procrastination, dishonesty, resentments, renationalization, intolerance, bigotry, prejudice, lust, gossip, and greed are human defects that make mighty prison bars to look through.

   The alcoholic can break through these bars by taking the 4th and 5th Steps and living the 12 Steps of AA.  But what do the other poor people do living behind these bars becoming workaholics, foodaholics, and psychosomatics leaving them mentally or emotionally ill, filled with anxieties, fear, and hatred?  Do they die without ever being set free of their earthly prison?  That is why I say, “I am glad I am an alcoholic, a recovering alcoholic – Born Free – released from the prison of that phony world that so many people are living in today.”

   AA has taught me not to hate myself or society – born free to love my fellow man.  AA has taught me courage, the courage to become an independent person – born free of fear and despair.  AA has taught me to be honest with myself and others – born free of lies and alibis.  AA has taught me to be me and not to be a phony – born free of inferiority feelings.  AA has taught me to be thankful for what I’ve got today – born free of jealousy of what others have.

  In AA I found God and fellowship.  I have learned to know the truth about myself and “the truth shall set you free.”  Yes, I am glad I am an alcoholic – born free to grow, to change, and to live as I have never lived before – free from anxiety, fears, hatred, and guilt!  The happy person does not always have wealth, fame, or intelligence in large measure.  But h/she does have the ability to be grateful for whatever she has, be it much or little.


Receiving Billiette’s Call – Born Free!

   Billiette’s Born Free column has many ideas needing attention!  So many that we will only tend a few here, with others carried forward to other Callings. Billie begins with what seems a strange idea that she is happy she became an alcoholic – it was an infliction that woke her up to the mess she was making of her life – a beautiful life she had been building with hard work growing up in the 1920s and 30s without a stable father but with a strong mother – Amanda. What could have happened to Billie’s thinking to cause such a tragedy?  I sense she is telling us in this column but it is a challenge to understand. It seems Mom’s extreme near-sightedness and her thick glasses affected her ability to actually see outside things and people, thus causing her to shut herself off from others. Billie was finally able to overcome her psychological isolation with her involvement in Fargo’s AA Chapter. 

   Billiette reveals a fact of life that I think we all experience in some way or other – it is an early life experience that leaves a ‘scare’ in us.  In Billie’s case, it was her poor eyesight requiring her to wear think glasses resulting in a self-image that was ill. She overcomes this and becomes a successful dancer, married high school star athlete, becomes a good wife, and the mother of five sons. Billie is one of Fargo’s elite personalities when alcohol grabs hold and brings her crashing down. However, she then says that “Alcoholism left me, not with a weakness but a strength and courage to become a mature human being – Born free of the personality defects that made me a self-centered, ego-centric person.”  I have an issue with Mom suggesting here that self-centered and ego-centrism are personality defects. They are essential aspects for developing our personalities, however, in Billie’s case alcohol interfered with her continuing development into adulthood.

   Billiette has identified a key factor in this development, our interaction with others, which involves projection, she defines it as “blaming everyone and everything for their problems.” Wikipedia’s definition is that “psychological projection is the process of misinterpreting what is ‘inside’ as coming from ‘outside’. It forms the basis of empathy by the projection of personal experiences to understand someone else’s subjective world. In its malignant forms, it is a defense mechanism in which the ego defends itself against disowned and highly negative parts of the self by denying their existence in themselves and attributing them to others, breeding misunderstanding and causing untold interpersonal damage. A bully may project their own feelings of vulnerability onto the target, or a person who is confused may project feelings of confusion and inadequacy onto other people. Projection incorporates blame-shifting and can manifest as shame dumping. Psychological projection has been described as an early phase of introjection”. Here is a lot to unpack, which we will do.  

   To begin, here is an excellent presentation on Carl Jung, the Shadow, and the Dangers of Psychological Projection and the video transcript.  We will use these resources as we move further into Billiette’s experience and understanding of alcohol and drug abuse. Open your journal and write a page on what has and/or is happening in your life.

Steven S. February 3, 2022

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