Mapping Spirituality and Alcoholics Anonymous

Fourth edition (2001) of the Big Book, basic text of A.A. It has helped millions of men and women recover from alcoholism. Chapters describing the A.A. recovery program remain unchanged.

This project aims to map the patterns of adaption of spirituality through the infamous “Twelve Steps” as a commonplace in Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) programs in the eight wards of the District of Colombia. In their website aa.org, Alcoholics Anonymous provides information and resources for victims of substance abuse. More importantly, it defines the Twelve steps or principals found in their basic text that have helped millions recover from alcoholism. For example, they write, “A.A.’s Twelve Steps are a group of principles, spiritual in their nature, which, if practiced as a way of life, can expel the obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to become happily and usefully whole”. In this passage, aa.org recognizes that the principals found in the book Alcoholics Anonymous, their basic text since 1939, are rooted in spirituality for its founder was of the Oxford Group, evangelical movement that believed in emphasizing universal spiritual values in daily living. For aa.org, then, spirituality is an essential part of the recovery program because it leads to long-term sobriety.

In order to determine what alcoholics are finding common ground in it is important to define spirituality in terms of Alcoholics Anonymous. In aa.org’s document Frequently Asked Questions About A.A., they answer 44 of the most frequently asked questions about Alcoholics Anonymous. More specifically, they answer the question of: Is A.A. a religious society? They write, “A.A. is not a religious society, since it requires no definite religious belief as a condition of membership. Although it has been endorsed and approved by many religious leaders, it is not allied with any organization or sect… The A.A. program of recovery from alcoholism is undeniably based on acceptance of certain spiritual values. A.A. suggests that to achieve and maintain sobriety, alcoholics need to accept and depend upon another Power recognized as greater than themselves. Some alcoholics choose to consider the A.A. group itself as the power greater than themselves; for many others, this Power is God — as they, individually, understand Him; still others rely upon entirely different concepts of a “Higher Power”. In this passage, the A.A. society clarifies that their spiritual program is based on depending on a higher power which is open for personal interpretation. For Alcoholics Anonymous, then, the ability of their spiritual principles and values to adapt to different backgrounds is what allows spirituality to work as a commonplace for alcoholics.

A map of DC with its wards outlined. Provided by the District of Colombia Office of Planning.

This project focuses on spirituality in the District of Colombia (DC) and therefore to map spirituality, A.A. centers that incorporate the Twelve Steps were chosen. The District of Colombia is officially divided into eight wards and therefore this project will look at eight A.A. centers and the spirituality in their programs. In DC.gov, the office of planning provides a series of maps of the wards or regions that DC has been divided into. More specifically, it provides an interactive map that I used to verify that each of the centers I had chosen belonged to a specific distinct ward. The centers chosen and their respective wards will be listed here now:

For more information about each individual center visit my time mapper here.

Using the definition that spirituality is amorphous in the sense that each individual has the ability to choose what a higher power means to them, I have identified three adaptions to spirituality in terms of A.A. in DC which all share the common goal of sobriety.

The serenity prayer framed on the Dupont Circle Club’s wall.

The first adaption is institutions that take a religious focus by assigning God as the higher power that will guide you to abstinence. In wards one, two, and four, Walker Memorial Baptist Church, The Dupont Circle Club, and Takoma Baptist Church respectively use the Twelve Steps program with God as its higher power. For example, in their website Takoma Baptists Church advertises that they offer Twelve Step Recovery Alcoholics Anonymous meetings every Wednesday at 7:30pm with a mission to provide hope and healing through a personal relationship to God. Moreover, the Dupont Circle Club makes provides a variety of 12-Step Recovery groups and as a form of encouragement for its members has religious prayers or verses that go with the values of A.A. framed on the walls. For institutions like these, then, achieving and maintaining sobriety is based on turning oneself over to the hands of God.

The second adaption is a little more liberal in nature because it takes a form of meditation and combines it with Twelve Step recovery. Located in the third Ward of the District of Colombia, Shambhala Meditation Center opens its doors to all those interested in exploring the relationship between Shambhala Buddhist meditation and Twelve Steps recovery programs. The center holds a “Heart of Recovery” group every Wednesday from 6:30pm to 8:00pm. The center takes the basic principles of A.A.’s Twelve Steps and adapts them to fit with Shambhala meditation creating a unique road to sobriety.

The third adaption are centers that are more flexible in their interpretations of a “higher power” in the sense that they leave the interpreting to their members. In wards five, six, seven, and eight, CATAADA House, Clean and Sober Streets, The Better Way Program, and Federal City Recovery Services all employ a more flexible Twelve Step program. For example, CATAADA House is a free alcohol/drug intervention and prevention program that stresses the need for spiritual support when recovering. It promotes spiritual growth by employing the Twelve Step program that calls for the recovering individual to turn their life over to God or a higher power to attain recovery. Programs, like this stress spirituality but don’t define it like religious institutions would opening up spirituality as a commonplace even further.

By mapping spirituality through the different adaptions of the Twelve Step programs in the District of Colombia, it is evident how since its foundation Alcoholics Anonymous has morphed to include individuals with all kinds of backgrounds that suffer from substance abuse.

Annotated Bibliography 5 & 6

Scott, Catherine. “A Brief Guide to the Benefits of Urban Green Spaces.” LEAF (2012): n. pag. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.

In “A Brief Guide to the Benefits of Urban Green Spaces”, Catherine Scotts discusses the impacts of green spaces in urban communities. More specifically, she highlights that green spaces should be essential in communities for they have a positive impact on the health and well-being of not only the citizens but the temperature, climate change, air quality, flooding/water quality, wildlife habitats, and on the economy. For example, “Urban green spaces provide pleasant areas to relax and socialize, promoting greater levels of social activity and stronger neighborhood relationships”. In this passage, Scotts exemplifies how green spaces shape communities. For Scotts, then, green spaces have a vital positive impact on the ecology and citizens of communities.

Scotts guide will be used as a background source because this information will be relevant to the atmosphere that my built environment, Dupont Circle, provides for they have two strategically placed green spaces in their urban community.

The Cultural Landscape Foundation. “Landscape Information.” N.p., 2016. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.

Picture of the green space in Dupont Circle. It can be observed that the park is a populated shared environment.
Picture of the central fountain in the green space of Dupont Circle.

In their page ‘Landscape Information’, The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) describes Dupont Circle’s primary park (green area). More specifically, it gives a physical description of the park and its management. For example, TCLS writes, “Today the 2.25-acre park features a densely treed green space encircled by a paved concrete walk lined with benches and intersected by walkways which align with the adjacent avenues…The park is managed by the National Park Service and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978”. In this passage, the TCLS gives background on the green space of Dupont Circle. For The Cultural Landscape Foundation, then, it is important to provide data on the landscape information of parks, in this case the main green space of Dupont Circle.

In combination with the previous annotated bibliography I will use this source as background to help piece together the impact that this designed landscape has on the atmosphere of Dupont Circle.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Source: https://goo.gl/5EbPBX

Samuel Becket, an Irish writer, born in the year 1906 explores the foundations of human life in his writing. A famous quote from his writing is: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better”. Becket in his quote simply puts that failure is not as negative as society makes it out to be. Failure is a part of life, and the accumulation of failures leads to learning. This is important because of the increasing societal stigma over the fear of failure. The fear of failure comes from the need to be socially accepted, and society has shown that it favors those who succeed. However, how does one succeed without first failing? Each time one fails, one fails slightly less. Lets call this a successful failure. Successful failing leads to overall success because the more you fail the more you learn from those mistakes and know not to repeat them.

Becket writes this quote in a very simple form, which I think is to express how simple the issue actually is. How are you going to get better if you don’t practice and fail? One is not born successful, you must take the steps to get there and one of those steps is failing (repeatedly). One should not be afraid of failing because just like you everybody fails, it’s simply a part of life.

Caffeine Overdose

The New York Times Magazine published an article by Mali Wollan titled How to Keep Your Hands Steady. In her article Wollan talks about how to keep yourself calm when overdoses of caffeine cause your body to tremble. She gives four main behavioral rules: Get sufficient sleep, limit alcohol consumption, eat regular meals, and to keep a calm psychological state. Now lets apply this to college students. Some of us, like me, had never shown much interest in coffee pre-college (even though our parents are coffee fanatics that need a fix of coffee to start the day).

Central, visual, auditory, muscular, respiratory, urinary, systemic, gastric, heart, and epidermal symptoms of a caffeine overdose.

However, college brings a pile of responsibilities that all have deadlines and for us that don’t have much of a tolerance for caffeine have probably experienced a coffee overdose. Yes, there is such a thing. In the image titled: Main Symptoms of Caffeine Overdose the common symptoms brought from way too much caffeine can be seen. Common symptoms include: physical trembling, nausea, dehydration, anxiety/restlessness, and ringing of the ears. I remember when I experienced my first coffee overdose it went much like this meme:

A meme describing the stages of overdosing on caffeine. Credit here.
Source: goo.gl/pskKZu

I remember experiencing nausea, trembling, and extreme restlessness which overall caused me more stress because I could not get any work done. You may be thinking, simple don’t drink coffee there are other alternatives to increase alertness, little does everyone know that many of those drinks are caffeine based.

Popular energy drinks that contain caffeine. Source: https://goo.gl/VhkwW3

Energy drinks like JOLT Energy, NOS Energy, Monster, Red bull, Mountain Dew, and even Coca-cola contain different percentages of caffeine.

Now lets look again at the behavioral rules one should follow when intoxicated on caffeine: Get sufficient sleep, limit alcohol consumption, eat regular meals, and to keep a calm psychological state. These rules don’t seem hard to follow right? Most college students, including myself, find them very hard to follow. For college students sleep has become a series of power naps, three meals a day are reduced to maybe two and unhealthy (cheap) snacks, alcohol consumption is amplified instead of limited, and our psychological state is one of constant stress. What does this mean in terms of caffeine? Nothing good.

The average college student.

These subpar or even unhealthy living conditions mixed with way more than the recommended amount of caffeine (that we consume to try to compensate for them) yields to sleep disorders, addiction, extreme anxiety, cardiac problems, stomach ulcers, etc.

In summary, I believe Wollan’s four behavioral rules to not be applicable to college students. I know that for me overdosing on caffeine only increases stress levels because all you can do is sit and wait for the caffeine to leave your system.

 

 

A Numberless World

An article published by Caleb Everett Andrew in the newsletter Live Science talks about anumeric cultures or cultures where numbers are non-existent. It starts out by telling the reader that as one reads the article one is probably aware of: the date, the time, your age, weight, bank account balance, etc. This is our social reality, numbers and quantities play a big role in our lives. However, the use of numbers for quantification is a social mutation, making numeric cultures the abnormal ones, at least in a historic sense.

A picture of the Piraha (culture without numbers) who live along the banks of the Maici River in the Amazon. Credit here.

If means of quantification are seen through the lens of abnormality then these numberless cultures become normal. Societies whose cultures have numbers had to give their children these cognitive tools, which makes sense since all of us spent the better part of elementary school learning what numbers were and how to use them. To further solidify this a research paper by Susan Carey published by the National Institute of Health explores the concept of the natural number and concludes that natural numbers are a human construction as a response to allow for the representation of thoughts that are unthinkable without them (science and theory). This means that as natural as numbers may feel to you, they are not.

Naturally, our brains are wired to recognize abstract quantities. For instance, we know the difference between two apples and twenty apples. Cultures without numbers ‘quantify’ things by saying theres a few, some, or a lot. Studies have shown that adults in anumeric cultures have difficulty recalling and differentiating quantities as low as four.

Anumeric cultures gives insight into how diverse our global linguist culture is and how things we believe to be universal truths are not.

The Proximity Effect

It’s funny how much of childhood is about proximity. Like who your best friend is directly correlated to how close your houses are; who you sit next to in music is all about how close your names are in the alphabet. Such a game of chance… Allie and I stayed friends until she moved last year, but there was always something just a little bit humiliating about it, like we were two leftover heels of bread and together we made a dry sandwich.

In Jenny Han’s Chapter 8 of her book “To All the Boys I’ve Love Before” the main character, Lara Jean, talks about the formation and duration of friendships. Lara Jean talks about how when one is a child the friends you make and keep are based on proximity, in other words the people that you are with often. Even though I agree that this is true I also believe that this is not exclusive to childhood. I think that proximity is directly correlated to friendship duration in adulthood as well.

Think about your friendships or even past romantic relationships, what brought you together? For most people the top answers are: school, lived near each other, or some common activity. Being in close proximity with people allows you to get to know them and find common factors that make them more appealing. Psychologists: Frank w. Schneider, Jamie A. Gruman,

Book Cover of Frank w. Schneider, Jamie A. Gruman, and Larry M. Coults book “Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems”.

and Larry M. Coults call this the proximity effect in their book “Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems“. They describe the proximity effect as the idea that psychological and physical nearness increases interpersonal liking between individuals. The book later discusses the applications of the proximity effect, the psychologists write that by incorporating spaces into ones routine that bring us in contact with a lot of people the frequency of your interactions increases and so does the probability of friendship formation. They then define this as using the power of situation because by manipulating the locations one frequents you can enjoy the benefits of situational influence.

Example of how proximity causes people to get to know each other and find mutual likings that brings them closer together.

This makes one think about the nature of your own relationships and how proximity has affected them. For example, in Han’s book Lara Jean talks about how proximity formed her friendship and the lack of it caused it to dissolve. Another relevant example is me, during my freshman year at college I have lost and made friendships. I have lost friendships from back home that I attribute to the lack of proximity. People I used to see everyday I don’t anymore. Even people that I took classes with and was friends with first semester, when second semester came and we no longer shared classes our contact slowly decreased. However, I believe that these friendships are salvageable as long as the individuals regain proximity. For example, when I went back home during Winter Break I rekindled a lot of the friendships I thought I had lost because we were able to physically come in contact with each other. For these reasons, I am excited and nervous to go back home. I fear that the relationships I have built this year will not hold over the summer; but I also look forward to seeing all my friends and reconnecting. In conclusion, I believe that the increase of contact is what increases the likeliness of communication and therefore a relationship.

 

 

Winter Storm Stella

The Washington Post published an article by Chris A. Pabon titled About Winter Storm Stella and weird, variable weather about the winter storm Stella that hit northeast United States during the week of March 13, 2017. The article says that regions in northeast Pennsylvania received from three to five feet of snow and that nearly three days after the blizzard some streets were still waiting to be plowed.

Snowfall map and NESIS rating of Winter Storm Stella (National Centers for Environmental Information/NOAA)
Me outside of my aunt’s house in Reading, Pennsylvania.

This blizzard came during American University’s Spring Break which was from March11th to March 18th. During my Spring Break instead of returning home to the warmth of Puerto Rico I decided to spend it with my family in Reading, Pennsylvania, which was a victim of the blizzard. Coming from the Caribbean, where we have no changing seasons, I had never experienced a blizzard or winter storm before, so the experience was novel. The first two days were fun to see the snow fall and cover every surface available to it, however, after the third day the cabin fever set in. That afternoon my aunt sent my cousins and I out to plow the driveway before the snow solidified to the point where it cannot be plowed. I had never seen that much snow and even less held a snowblower/shovel. I only lasted a half hour shoveling before my muscles gave up from shoveling, who knew snow could be so heavy? I sure did not. I left my male cousins to shovel away while I sat next to the fireplace and tried to regain warmth in my body. All in all, I enjoyed my first blizzard; but, now that I can say I’ve experienced one I do not wish to experience one again.

DA: Exterior and Political #5

Snippet from Eric M. Weiss’s article in The Washington Post, “NW Businesses Fear Skyrocketing Taxes Will Push Them Out” that gives different stories of local business owners being pushed out by chain retail stores.

Eric M. Weiss published an article in the Washington Post called “NW Businesses Fear Skyrocketing Taxes Will Push Them Out“. In this article Weiss using local business owner interviews exemplifies how local businesses in the District of Colombia are slowly being replaced by chain stores. In this archive the story of Rosemary Reeds, ex-owner of  the dress store that was in Dupont Circle: Toast and Strawberries, is most pertinent to our complex local system, The Dupont Circle Club, in Dupont Circle.

Advertisement flyer of Rosemary Reed’s boutique Toast & Strawberries. Fashion Blog “Ooh LaLa Blog” writes a short post about Rosemary Reed and the closing of her iconic boutique.

 

 

An in depth article of the story of Rosemary Reed and her boutique can be found in Washington Post Staff writers, Michael Barbaro and Mark Chediak, article “Fixture of Dupont Retail to Close”.

DA: Exterior and Political #4

Snippet of a section of the DC Retail Action Strategy Document that highlights the problem with increasing rents in Dupont Circle.

The Office of Planning released a SWOT analysis of Dupont Circles Retail Market that highlights the growing problem of the decrease in local business population due to increasing rents. The Dupont Circle Club (DCC) is a local business whose previous local neighboring business have been replaced by retail chains over the years (this can be seen in posts #1, #2, and #3 of the exterior and political digital archives). This will serve to support my prediction that the future of the DCC is in danger.

DA: Exterior and Political #3

Street view of the building 1623 and its neighbors on April of 2014 (taken from google maps).

The street-view of the Dupont Circle Club (DCC) residence (building 1623) April of 2014 shows the addition of another retail chain stone. As can be observed the building 1623 is now sandwiched between two retail chain shops, Comfort One Shoes (as seen in 2011) and Lou Lou, a fashion boutique. Also, the local shop next to Comfort Shoes has also been replaced by Capital Teas, a big American tea company.  A change in the nature of the retail shops can be seen and this change will help foresee the future of the building 1623 and thus the DCC.