O is for Onion

A growing onion Allium cepa in a neutral backg...
Image via Wikipedia

There’re the onions that make you cry when you peel them and the Onion that makes you laugh, sometimes till you cry, on the web.  Then there’s the onion that is your emotional baggage, and that one makes you cry when you peel it as well.

Peeling back the onion is talked about a lot in self-help books and recovery rooms.

“For every layer you peel off, there’s another beneath it.”

The Surprised Onion Man
Image by smithco via Flickr

With this thinking, you could spend the rest of your life peeling onions and who wants to do that?

I encourage self-help, I’ve certainly read my share of it, but there comes a point when you just have to get on with life, and a little enjoyment of life goes a long way to speeding recovery.  I think people in self-help, in particular 12-step recovery programmes, can get stuck in paralysis of analysis and forget that the reason they sought help in the first place was because they wanted a better life.  I’m all for people getting clean and sober, quitting a destructive gambling habit,  taking off dangerously excess weight, or getting beyond any other harmful habit they may have developed, but is it really necessary to spend the rest of your life sitting in a room with a group of emotionally damaged (and sometimes damaging) individuals peeling emotional onions to infinity?  I don’t think so.

The Simpsons onion heads
Image by Dangana via Flickr

So if you’re fed up with peeling onions in 12-step recovery rooms, where do you go? What do you do?

Try doing something you enjoy. That’s right. Make a list of things you enjoy doing, and things you’ve always wanted to do but have never tried, and start doing them. As you cultivate new and healthier interests, you’ll attract new friends into your life; but if all you ever do is go to 12-step meetings, what kind of life will you have, and who do you think your friends will be?  It’s all well and good to have friends in recovery who you can share your experience, strength and hope with, and there’s whole gang of people on the planet who have never set foot in a recovery room who will gladly share their experience, strength and hope with you.  You’ve just got to cultivate shared interests and be open to connecting.

There’s a lot of fear in many 12-step rooms: fear that if you leave the rooms you’ll land right back where you were before, but how many people do you actually see in 12-step rooms who have been there more than 10 years? Heck, how many do you see who have been there more than 5 years? And how many do you see who say they left after many years and slipped back into the old habits and are now back at Step 1? Not many.  Because people do recover.  Is it possible that the fear they breed into you in 12-step rooms is a lie? Is it possible that when they say that if you leave the rooms and the programme you’re destined to ‘slip’ and slide back into the scummy mess you’ve slithered out of – is a misused and misunderstood phrase that has been passed around countless 12-step rooms, and repeated over and over like a mantra, until everyone believes it? Group mind can be a dangerous thing.

Please understand, I’m not knocking 12-step recovery rooms for people who are desperately trying to get off serious addictions, but there does come a point when it’s time to move on. Maintaining good, quality friendships developed in the rooms is a good idea, and it’s also important to cultivate friendships with people who have never even considered going to a 12-step meeting.

Glass onion
Image by alf07 °,° via Flickr

Yes, there is no end to the onion layers, and look how beautiful they can be!

The Onion: Journey of Self-Discovery Leads Man to Realisation He Doesn’t Care

5 thoughts on “O is for Onion

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    1. Glad the post gives you food for thought. I had some trepidation about suggesting that 12-step programmes can be as addictive as the addiction one is trying to overcome. What I really wanted was to impress upon the reader that we have choices, and that we need to focus on making healthy choices to overcome self-defeating addictions and behaviours. You can sit in 12-step meetings for your entire life, do the steps, and be active in the programme, and not get the life you want. It takes choosing fulfilling activities and cultivating positive, pleasurable relationships and community to build a complete life. With the right choices, the supportive relations and community emerges. 12-step rooms – although presenting as supportive – can sometimes be self-defeating and demoralising, and by spending a lot of time there the old relationship patterns persist.

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