THIS is an amazing resource.
Many thanks to those who put it together.
THIS is an amazing resource.
Many thanks to those who put it together.
There they sit, casually stacked like giant golden poker chips, round as a smiley face, letting the pat of butter slide sexily across their surface ... but it's all a sham.
On their own, they're worthless.
Their real value is as a syrup transport system. That's what makes a pancake worthwhile.
Sure, it looks like the point of the meal is the pile of giant dough Frisbees, center stage in the middle of your plate, but they're only the pretense -- the ploy to enjoy syrup's sticky-sweet sugary goodness.
The other night, I was racing to the store to buy some snacks to watch a DVD. Thanks to a comfortable desk chair, a great monitor and DVDs-by-mail I have lately developed the habit of sitting and watching a movie (or TV show -- love those special features) while snacking at my desk.
And it hit me as I was running to make it before the store closed that the DVDs had become pancakes to the syrup of my snacks.
I had become less interested in watching the DVD than I was in snacking while doing so. There had been a shift in fix, if you will. The entertainment (escape) was no longer what I was watching, but what I was eating. In fact, I was hurrying to the store because on a (till then) unconscious level, if I didn't have my snack, I was a lot less interested in watching the DVD.
This is not a post about being powerless over food.
(Ummm, are you sure, Mr. SponsorPants? I hear you ask. And I would respond to that with something pithy if I hadn't been brought up not to speak with my mouth full.) I have had my messy (very) times in that arena, but that's not the point here/now.
The point is that, even in sobriety, under the level of conscious thought, for an addict, the fix can shift. Or, to try and express that in such a way as to reflect what happens in my head, What I think it's about might not be what it's about -- what I think it's about can become the cover, the excuse, for what it's really about.
There's a passage in the book "Alcoholic's Anonymous" (AA's Big Book -- and what I'm referring to here is on pgs. 35 and 36 in Chapter 3 'More About Alcoholism') where a man who struggled with relapse stops one day at a cafe, ostensibly to get a sandwich, but what he winds up doing is getting drunk. The Big Book uses his experience to illustrate that we alcoholics have a "curious mental blank spot" when it comes to remembering the fact that when we take that first drink our life goes to hell. The man describes all the various reasons (rationalizations) he gave himself as to why it was a good idea to stop at this cafe, and then, when ordering a drink, how his thinking became fuzzy. He says " ... I vaguely sensed I was not being any too smart, but felt reassured as I was taking the whiskey on a full stomach ... " (pg. 36)
In reading this over with a sponsee the other day I saw a note I'd made in the margin about the idea of rationalizations, and how sometimes they may start much earlier than people realize. Perhaps we collude on some level with our disease to actually build the blank spot. And as the road gets narrower I believe that our "curious mental blank spot" can manifest in the face of our sober fixes, too.
Consider, if a key factor in whether or not Alcoholics Anonymous can work for me is spelled out on the first page of Chapter 5 (pg. 58), 'How it Works', in the Big Book: "...Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves..." then this business of seeing when the sober fix shifts, when something becomes the pancake, is actually pretty serious. The passage in Chapter 5 goes on to say that these people "are not at fault, they seem to have been born that way" -- but I believe it's worth a think to wonder if the seeds of being "constitutionally incapable of being honest with myself" might exist dormant inside an addict, and can come to flower after we stop drinking, if we are not vigilant about these things. Looking at it from this angle I believe I have known people in AA who eventually became constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves after they'd stopped drinking. To draw a very odd parallel, sometimes clinically depressed people are at greater risk for suicide after their depression begins to lift, since they are no longer quite as debilitated by the depression and can then find enough motivation to do themselves real harm. So -- just a theory, but based on my observations -- I wonder if something similar might be the case when it comes to drunks drying out. Maybe after the chemical fog clears we can develop an even more ruthless potential for self deception?
Certainly for a sober alcoholic, in my humble opinion, if rationalizations become habitual then self-deception will take root -- and once it does I'm not at all sure it remains limited to one "spot."
Obviously, those of you who have worked the AA Program (or any 12 Step Program for that matter) to any degree at all are muttering at your monitor as you read this, "Umm, Mr. SponsorPants, hello? That's what the 10th Step is for. That's one of the things that a regular review of our behavior on a daily basis specifically prevents -- self deception taking root." Fair point, and I agree. Mostly.
I would suggest that it's also what a sponsor is for. Someone who hears my "stuff" on a regular basis and is committed to helping me apply AA's principles to "all my affairs" can be the outside voice to assist in my "inside job" of self examination.
It's an inside job, but it's not a solitary one. On my own when the fix slides over and I'm starting to kid myself I might miss it. I need an experienced "second opinion" -- someone who knows me -- to help catch what I might miss.
Sorry, but, am I the only one right now thinking, "Mmmm. Pancakes ..."?
First, some background, for the new kids:
Most Alcoholics Anonymous meetings offer chips to mark varying lengths of sobriety. Generally they include a chip for anyone in the room with less than 30 days (known as a Newcomer Chip), then chips at 30, 60, and 90 days -- followed by chips for 6 months and for 9 months. (Different parts of the country vary slightly on the demarcations of sober time acknowledged this way. One sweet super-overachieving meeting I know of here in my town offers a chip for every single month, from 1 to 11, in the run up to a year sober.) It is also a custom where I live to then acknowledge yearly anniversaries (the first year being especially significant to many) not only with a chip, but to have a cake as well, akin to a birthday cake. Usually people close to you in the past year "give" you the cake, which means sort of standing with you in front of the group and presenting it while the meeting sings "Happy Birthday." (And in my experience morning meetings seem to be better singers, though that observation is both completely personal and totally useless). The person celebrating the annual anniversary usually speaks for a minute or two ... or three or four or five. (The best advice I've heard on what to say when taking a cake in an AA meeting is this: Be grateful, be brief, and be seated.) To someone outside the 12 Step world this all may sound equal parts corny and creepy, but I assure you it's really sweet -- in fact it's one of my favorite parts of a meeting. I've often been moved by what the people taking a cake say about their past year staying sober, and how the people giving them the cake have helped them.
So, we all clear on the cake thing? Good deal.
The other night at one of my regular meetings, a young woman I know only through 12 Step relationships "took a cake" for two years sober. She is striking and very physically fit, with no small amount of personal charisma.
I even find her Some might even find her a bit intimidating. While she has never been rude to me or anyone I know, she is not given to smiling very easily or very often. I believe if one were to choose an adjective to describe the expression I've seen her wear most often it would be "fierce." (As in amazon-warrior-hunting-a-wild-boar fierce, not "Project Runway/Tyra Banks" fierce.)
Over the past couple of years she and I have had a sort of dotted line connecting us in various ways through AA. At one point I sponsored her sponsor's sponsor ... she changed sponsors a little while ago, and by coincidence I sponsor her new sponsor -- and for the past year I've sponsored one of her very close friends. (Hmmm ... there's just no gettin' away from me in this town. Might be time to move.) Thus, I've been aware of her not just from the meeting we both attend, but through the extended fellowship that AA creates. At no time did anyone talk about her to me in the sense of gossip, but occasionally there would be a "my friend seems troubled by X, how can I help them?" or "my sponsee seems stuck about X, how can I help them?" discussions.
All of which is to say I have a passing insight as to what has troubled her over the past couple of years, and I am thrilled to see her still sober, two years from the night she first walked into that very meeting she took a cake at this week.
We sang Happy Birthday, her sponsor and a friend gave her the cake, and she stepped up to the lectern to say a few words, remarking on some of the challenges she's faced in staying sober this year -- many, I think even she would admit, of her own making. (As has most certainly been the case many times over for myself over the years.)
She ended with a defiant grin and a roar: "I came in angry, and I'm still angry!"
Whoops and cheering from many in the room.
Who doesn't identify with such a rebellious spirit -- hell, who doesn't want to embody such a rebellious spirit. As has been noted in many places smarter than this foolish blog, one of the chief characteristics of the alcoholic is defiance -- of course when you get to AA this translates into a rebellion against an authority that doesn't exist -- but this lack of authority in no way dims our defiant natures.
After the meeting, going out for frozen yogurt with another sponsee who'd been at the meeting, he said, "I saw your face when The Fierce One took her cake."
"Oh?" I said, hoping I'd remembered to park my expression in neutral.
"Yeah," he said. "You disapproved?"
"No! God, no... nothing like that. It made me sad, is all."
"Well, imagine if we were at an OA meeting. Imagine someone standing up there and crowing, 'I came in 500 pounds, and I'm still 500 pounds!' You think there would be a lot of whooping and cheering for that?"
"No," he responded, "I guess not."
Surrender is not acceptance.
Acceptance is not agreement.
Powerless is not helpless.
Humility is not humiliation.
Selfish is not self-seeking.
Willingness is not "want to."
Self esteem is not ego.
Guilt is not shame.
Rigorous (honesty) is not brutal (honesty).
Disciplined is not rigid.
Taking responsibility is not assigning blame.
Primary (as in primary purpose) is not solitary (as in "only" purpose).
Dry is not sober.
When I was new to Alcoholics Anonymous I thought I understood what each of the words and ideas above meant -- certainly I could use them correctly in a sentence. I knew -- or rather, I thought I knew -- what you meant when you shared about them or I read them in the book "Alcoholics Anonymous" (AA's Big Book). But what they really, specifically meant, and (more importantly) how they differed from what I assumed they meant, took me, in some cases, a long time to sort out.
If you're new to AA, save yourself some pain, misunderstanding and frustration. Get a damn dictionary.
If you're not so new to AA, and you sponsor people, consider that how clearly you understand some of those words and ideas may have a direct impact on your ability to be helpful to people who struggle with sobriety so ... get a damn dictionary.
Recently I heard a good and earnest gentleman share in a meeting as to what he felt AA brought to the world. Generally I have an excellent auditory memory, which means that I remember very well what I hear (ask my sponsees), but I don't know I can be fair in trying to quote him exactly, so I won't try. I remember he used the word "gentility" a few times, as in one of the things AA'ers bring to the world is "a kind of gentility not found elsewhere," and it is sort of our responsibility to light the way.
I think that is such a lovely, beautiful, sentiment.
If you follow it to its logical conclusion, I believe you get something like The Crusades, or an equally "manifest destiny" kind of thing -- but still, it's a nice thought.
I know his heart was in the right place -- but this idea always troubles me. Deeply.
If I'm working the 12 Steps, then yes, of course, I may be an example of the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous, but that doesn't make people in the program some kind of standard bearer for "goodness" in the world. My primary purpose (not my solitary purpose, my primary purpose -- but that's a post for another time) is to stay sober and help another alcoholic achieve sobriety. That's the point of being an example of the principles of AA. Because it's a program of attraction, not a program of promotion. We're not selling anything. (Many of us are passionate about what AA has done for us, but our enthusiasm for our own experience is not a platform for "converting" others -- at least, it's not supposed to be. Certainly, some folks do sometimes get a little carried away in "carrying the message.")
Nor am I, in working the program, here to teach the people in line at Starbucks how to be polite to the barrista, or the people on the freeway how to take turns letting each other merge during rush hour, or any other "life lessons" kind of thing. While working an AA program makes me a nicer customer and a more considerate driver, that's a side effect. It's not in any way AA's "mission" that we're out there converting young Skywalker's everywhere from the Dark Side of the Force to the Light.
In fact, if that's the leap I make in moving through the world, isn't that a sly, stealthy form of expectation -- which will lead to some pretty brutal resentments? I can readily see myself, if this were my mind set, "performing" good Starbucks manners for everyone, then becoming silently furious that my shining example isn't taken up by others around me. "What's wrong with you people? Can't you all see how good I'm being? Don't I inspire you?"
(And special to the other codgers out there: If you ever find yourself resenting a sponsee, and it's not because of the usual nonsense, you might look under a few psychic rocks and see if that particular worm has turned. The 12 Step version of the Messiah complex has an especially thorny arrogance to it, with subtle but overwhelming expectations at its heart. If you're new to AA and you'd like some insight into that, have a peek in "To Wives," one of the Chapters in the book "Alcoholics Anonymous" -- AA's Big Book.)
Also, I must say, I bristle a bit at the inherent dishonesty in viewing ourselves as such saintly people. Speaking for myself, alcoholism kicked. my. ass. At no time did I wake up and announce to the Universe, "Today, I must seek a spiritual path." The only path I ever sought was the one of least resistance -- and as I followed it I kept one eye peeled at all times for the offramp of self indulgence.
(I am so, so sorry. Sometimes these metaphors really get away from me.)
AA does not have an exclusive on principles. I am certain that I could, without too much trouble, find any number of churches or synagogues or mosques or bowling leagues or high school teachers' lounges in which good hearted, ethical people are, to the best of their ability, working to overcome their fears and bring their own principled gentility to the world.
It's just that none of those good hearted, ethical people are on the freeway with you letting you merge at rush hour.
While my little list of Character Defects for the 21st Century will never replace The Seven Deadly Sins (and who'd want to? Go with the classics, I say) I have found, after ruthless inventory work and careful listening in several thousand AA meetings along the way, that these characteristics (and characters) while painful to live with -- whether inside you or around you -- are also fantastic spiritual teachers. (Pain is the touchstone of my spiritual growth, they say. To which I respond, "Ah, well then, I'd like to grow a little less, please, ok?" Not an option, it seems.)
Many of these are merely variations on self obsession or control, but as time has passed I've found that being more specific when I write inventories (rather than just writing "self obsession" over and over and over again, for example) can help me get much more out of the inventory process. I offer these here in the hopes that they may inspire you to find new ways to look at your own inventory work -- and also in the hope, of course, that you identify with none of them.
Funny/Mean -- Inside every joke, a knife. You laugh a lot when you're with them, but you don't feel especially safe when they're around, and you always leave feeling a little worse than when you arrived.
The Describer -- "I'm the kind of person who always/never/loves to/hates to ..." Lots of big descriptions of who and how they are in a way that goes beyond just sharing about themselves, and actually seems like walls going up more than it feels like walls coming down.
Stealth Narcissism -- You're sharing with them about something going on with you, and they share something of their experience on that topic, but then somehow in doing so you wind up talking about them a lot more than about you. At its most extreme, you don't even feel like they heard you and your problem becomes a platform for their self description.
My Damage Is My Identity -- All this self examination has given you a new understanding of what's "wrong" with you. And somewhere along the way it goes from being an examination of self to a definition of self.
Diagnosis Roulette -- If you're alone, you're isolating, if you're thinking about someone else, you're codependent, if you're shopping, eating or screwing you're fixing... every facet of your life is labeled with a dysfunction. So fun at parties.
The Poll Taker -- "What do you think I should do about this?" Asking for advice becomes just a long series of conversations about yourself on the same issue over and over and over with many different people, allowing you to stay in the problem and never really do anything about it.
The Contrarian -- Always the opposite opinion, always the contrary share. If you say it's maybe about acceptance, they'll say it's about the courage to change; if you talk about needing to change something they will counsel acceptance. It's like some sort of Recovery Debate Team exercise. This defect is an especially dangerous and slippery slope for sponsors with their sponsees that are not brand new to recovery -- if, after a while, every time your sponsee says "white" you say "black," well then, ummm ... you might want to look at that.
We come to Alcoholics Anonymous with our problems and we seek help. We look for some solutions, some direction as to how to deal with our problems. Usually we share about what's wrong -- either in a meeting or over coffee or something -- and then people, be it friends, random sober folk or our sponsors, offer suggestions as to what to do.
In my experience, there is no shortage of good suggestions in AA. After all, AA is built firmly on a foundation of suggestions based on experience, not opinion (with the occasional bullshit artist blowing smoke and playing at being a therapist or guru or something, but that seems to be a self-correcting issue).
Indeed the problem rarely lies in finding good suggestions -- the problem most often occurs in taking action on said suggestions.
And what fascinates me most is how very often -- especially after being sober for a little while -- people seem to think that a lack of willingness on their part to act on a particular suggestion means there is something wrong with the suggestion.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
It is not up to someone else to find a magic suggestion that suddenly calls you to action, lifting your dead ass up off the couch as if you lived in a Disney movie and tiny animated forest creatures were going to show up and help you get dressed or something. It's up to you to become willing to take the action. There is help available in every other arena in AA, save this one thing: Willingness.
"... it appears that there are certain things which only the individual can do. All by himself, and in the light of his own circumstances, he needs to develop the quality of willingness. When he acquires willingness, he is the only one who can make the decision to exert himself." -- "Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions" (AA's 12&12), Step 3, pg. 40
Most often I see people tangled up in confusion about the suggestion calling them to action, rather then they themselves developing the quality of willingness to act on a suggestion, in the area of sponsorship. After a short while sober an almost unconscious assumption seems to take hold, as if the sponsor is somehow responsible for inspiring the sponsee -- like some sort of 12 Step based motivational speaker: Anthony Robbins channeling Bill Wilson. (gah. what a freakshow that would be. No offense to Mr. Robbins intended.)
Certainly different sponsors I've had have been able to put things in such a way that I had greater understanding about something -- but really no one was ever able to give me greater willingness.
My personal experience mirrors the quoted passage from the 3rd Step above -- willingness had to come from within, no sponsor could provide it.
Many times I have asked God to help me be willing, but even that was much more about helping me find the willingness inside myself rather than God pouring it into me, like water from a pitcher fills an empty glass.
A sponsor can give deadlines -- hell, some even give ultimatums ("If you don't finish this inventory by Thursday that's it, I'm not willing to sponsor you anymore!") -- but those are just devices. The willingness to meet the deadline still must come from you, yourself.
If you find you've done a lot of sponsor hopping because you just don't seem to find someone who can motivate you ... well, ummm... you might want to look at that.
It was the big Friday Night meeting -- very social, held in the auditorium of a local hospital. They gave lectures in the auditorium during the day, to medical students and nurses and such I presume, (I don't think they wheeled the patients down there. To my knowledge "lecture therapy" isn't covered under Blue Cross, nor is it very effective. "And if you look at the diagram on the board here, you can see you're supposed to be getting better.") But because it served as a lecture hall as much as anything else, there was a little raised section against the wall, in the center of the room. (To call it a stage would be like calling a bush a tree.) It was perhaps a six inch rise and maybe two feet by three feet -- but it was stage enough to turn some of the shares in that meeting into performance art. ("I'm working on ... my fourth step ... and ... it's ... brought up ... all ... these ... feelings." Some nights it was like attending a William Shatner Impersonator's convention.)
Certainly I'd taken my turn standing there behind the lectern, in my first few years of sobriety, learning how to share ("How do you do that, Mr. SponsorPants?" I hear you ask. "You share." I answer.) Performing my feelings as much as talking about them, madly trying to gauge if what I was saying was ok or not. I remember some nights the walk down the aisle to that little raised section of the floor at the front of the room used to feel like the Trail of Tears. But over time, as I stayed sober, sharing in that meeting and others, I learned how to be authentic, to stop trying to figure out what I was supposed to say and to just ... say. And to share not just my craziness, which sometimes I had to do, but also my "experience, strength and hope." Eventually sharing became an important tool for me -- a way to gain insight into my own alcoholism and also be of service to others. After a few years I'd shared some pretty personal stuff, in the Friday night meeting and in other AA meetings at the hospital during the week.
So there I am, roughly three or four years sober, and one day, sitting in my usual chair in the big Friday night meeting, a voice in my head says, "You've shared too much here."
"I have?" I answered the voice.
"Oh yes. You've had way too much to say. Really exposed yourself."
"Really? I've exposed myself?"
"Yes. Too much. Now that they've heard you for a while, they're judging you. They're sick of you and they're judging you for what a mess you are. And for how you look. And just, you know, they're thinking you're not really very sharp. And perhaps not as far along as you should be."
"They ... they are?"
"Oh yes. Look around. Look at them. They're sick of you. And they're judging you. It's obvious, can't you tell?"
And the truth was, I had been feeling pretty raw in the meeting. I'd been feeling exposed and uncomfortable for a while now. The voice in my head made perfect sense.
The voice in my head made so much sense, I decided to stop sharing at that meeting. In fact, if I hadn't had a service commitment there (they'd elected me treasurer of the meeting a few months ago, and it was a big deal), I would have stopped going to the meeting altogether. Yeah. As soon as my commitment was done I was out of there. And you know what else? That's it with the sharing. Screw sharing. I wasn't willing to expose myself to judgment anymore. I was tired of talking about how I felt and how I was trying to work AA. I was finished with showing people what I thought and talking about my troubles and issues and problems. I was sensitive, damnit! I felt raw. I was exposed.
I was stealing from the treasury.
I wasn't feeling raw, I was feeling guilty.
I hadn't meant to steal -- one time after the meeting I just thought, oh, rather than swing by the ATM on the way to meet everyone for coffee I'll just grab five dollars from the treasury and make it up later.
Then it was ten dollars.
After a couple of weeks, twenty-five dollars. There were a lot of people at this meeting, so there were a lot of dollars. I was paying the meeting rent and reimbursing the literature guy and the cake guy and all and ... just ... sort of ... accidentally skimming a little off the reserve.
And then, since I felt guilty, I avoided thinking about what I was doing, so I lost track of the exact amount, which made it worse, since then in my head the amount assumed titanic, epic proportions. Which in turn made me avoid thinking about it even more.
But the bottom line was this: I had a secret. I had a secret in AA, about AA, and what was happening was my alcoholism was using it to begin to separate me from Alcoholics Anonymous.
If anyone reading this believes that people in recovery might anthropomorphize our alcoholic thinking by giving it a life of its own, describing alcoholism as if it's a voice talking to you in your head, I freely admit that it is, indeed, a fanciful way to express the process of alcoholic thinking. And as fanciful as it may be to express it that way, sometimes it really is as though something inside you suddenly woke up and stepped up to the microphone and started, in the most amiable, charming, and logical fashion imaginable, suggesting you either need to escape or destruct. That's always the lying heart of the choice alcoholism offers you: Run or die.
I sat on that secret for months. It nearly took me out.
I had heard it said often in meetings at the time: "You're as sick as your secrets." My sponsor back then used to growl that they were getting it wrong (he had a terrific growl which he would use to great effect sometimes). Back when he got sober, roughly in the year 4 million B.C., they used to say "you're only as sick as you are secret." Semantics aside, the message was clear.
I heard a speaker once talk about how, after an explosive and terrifying family event, he started driving into dangerous, seedy neighborhoods and picking up hookers off the street following his AA meeting every night. While at the time he understood the mechanism of how he was using the adrenalin and danger -- and then, layered on top of that, the eventual guilt and shame -- to deal with (or avoid dealing with) what happened in his family, the secret of what he was doing became so unbearable it brought him to a whole new bottom in sobriety, and nearly took him out.
Even though he understood the danger of keeping that secret, his understanding did not free him from the pain and festering sickness of keeping the secret. To be free of the pain and the sickness he needed not to change his behavior, but to tell the secret. In fact, waiting to tell the secret until after you change a behavior on your own is the antithesis of the recipe for recovery in AA.
I knew a guy once who was "Mr. AA." Popular, involved, big time circuit speaker... "Mr. AA." Except in one area of his life he hit a pothole, and he couldn't bring himself to share about it in a meeting -- his very "status" in AA became a barrier to his being honest about his problems. (With all due respect, for myself I call that Buying My Own Bullshit, whenever I catch myself thinking, "You're X years sober, you can't show that mess in a meeting!") And while there were a lot of circumstances of course, in my humble opinion that inability to share his secret was a big factor in his eventual decision to take his own life.
From my vantage point today I look back on the foolish, frightened, impulsive young man I was in early sobriety and see just how on-the-razor's-edge of going out and drinking over my secret treasury skimming I was. I've come to believe today that, far more dangerous than whatever messy behavior you're doing, in or out of the rooms, is keeping that behavior a secret.
Eventually I stood up at that meeting during the treasury announcement and owned what I did and made amends, both literally and spiritually. 49.5% of me wanted to just keep it a secret and 50.5% of me knew that if I did, I would drink. (Sometimes I think the art of staying sober a day at a time comes down to listening to that tiny, fraction of a percent of you that wants to live more than the rest of you wants to die.)
Keeping a confidence, choosing whom you share sensitive information with, is not keeping secrets. Keeping secrets is when you're hiding something, and you take action to keep it hidden, and no one really knows the full, unedited, true story.
For the record, that was one of the most difficult amends I've ever made. And also for the record, not everyone was gracious about it. A few people were angry, and they had a right to be. Just because you step up and make things right doesn't mean you get a pass from dealing with the consequences of your bad behavior.
Do you have a secret? Something fear and pride together conspire, egged on by your alcoholism, to prevent you from talking about with someone -- anyone?
If you do, I can tell you from personal experience that the pain of keeping the secret eventually (rapidly) becomes much, much greater than the pain of telling the secret and dealing with the consequences.
If you do have a secret, ummm ... you might want to look at that.