M(3), 2/23/15: The Journey of Open-Mindedness
This might have been the first time since I started my Monday meeting 2 1/2 years ago where I really, really did not want to go. This time of year in my part of the world can be tough… attendance is spotty at best, due to weather, and, speaking for myself, there is a general malaise that sets in by this point of the season. Plus this week’s literature selection is “chairperson’s choice.” Since I am the only chairperson, I am cursing myself for throwing this into the rotation, because I don’t feel like doing the work in terms of researching a good reading selection. Remembering that a regular attendee was singing the praises of a book a few weeks prior, I decided to go the easy route and just use that book.
The book is called Came to Believe, and it is a collection of short essays written by members of the 12-step fellowship about what the term “spiritual awakening” means to them. I believe I have read from this book once or twice before, but don’t recall it resounding with me. But on this frigid morning, feeling as lackluster as can be, I figured I will give it another shot, and if nothing else will make at least one meeting attendee happy.
Turns out, it made the entire 14 attendees happy, and I will include myself on that list! Just seeing all those seats filled lifted my spirits… we haven’t been that crowded in a long time. Plus, I got to catch up with a bunch of people I haven’s seen in a while. Plus plus, we had a newcomer attending because she heard what a good meeting this was. Heart-warming and rejuvenating, and I hadn’t even gotten to the actual meeting yet!
We were able to read two of the essays in the book. The general theme of each was the process by which one goes from having no belief in any kind of Higher Power to embracing a spiritual way of life. Neither writer had a dramatic, “burning bush” sort of moment; rather, the process involved a lot of “acting as if,” and realizing almost after the fact that faith had taken root in their lives.
Almost everyone who shared could relate to the idea of finding spirituality in a gradual way. One gentleman said he could not, at first, comprehend the idea of a Higher Power, so he had to take a practical approach to the 12-step program: attend meetings, take suggestions from others, listen with an open mind. In taking these small, practical steps, slowly but surely he came to see that the promises made by the program were coming true from him. The longer he stayed committed, the more his concept of and relationship with a Higher Power developed.
Another friend gave an analogy about faith: in much the same way that currency in and of itself has no value, the same can be said for faith. It’s not enough to simply be in possession of faith; as the saying goes, faith without works is dead. But if we develop our faith, and take action based upon that faith, now we have a currency of value in our lives.
Yet another regular attendee of the meeting built upon that thought process, and shared that his initial struggle wasn’t believing in God, but rather in doing the work necessary to develop that relationship. Step 3 in the 12-step programs tells us to turn things over to a Higher Power, but for this gentleman the catch was to do the proper work, and turn the results over to a Higher Power. For him the answer in figuring out this puzzle lies in the Serenity Prayer: asking for the serenity to accept unchangeable things, the courage to change what needs changing, and the wisdom to know the difference.
For me, both stories struck a chord, in that they reminded me of the earliest days of sobriety, and they illuminated some trouble I am experiencing currently. The idea of doing something in spite of disbelief reminded me of the earliest days of sobriety, and praying to God to keep me sober another day. As I’m praying I’m thinking, “Hypocrite! How is this prayer any different from a week ago when you prayed and didn’t stay sober?” And that same disbelief held true for meeting attendance, and bunch of other things that hadn’t worked in the past. But pushing past that skepticism and giving every suggestion an honest, open-minded (or as open-minded as I could be, anyway) try allowed me to experience for myself the miracles that the 12-step fellowship offers.
In a similar way, I am embarking on a new stage of self-discovery, in that I am participating in therapy, a subject I’m sure I will write about in more detail in the weeks and months to come. It occurred to me this morning as I read the selections that my feelings about therapy mirror the feelings I had about the benefits of 12-step meetings and praying in early sobriety: I strongly doubt there is any benefit to be had from speaking to a stranger about my life.
And yes, I have shared these feelings with the therapist. And no, she has not kicked me out of the office (but it’s early days yet).
And now I realize that I must continue the process with a great deal more open-mindedness. After all, if I had listened to my best thinking in active addiction, I’d shudder to think where I’d be, certainly not here typing this blog post. So I will do my best to lean in, and see what comes out of it!
An attendance of 14 people during Frigid February!
Posted on February 23, 2015, in Monday Meeting Miracles, Recovery and tagged 12 step program, 12 steps, AA, Addiction, Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcoholism, fellowship, God, Higher Power, Meeting, Miracle, Monday, Recovery, Sobriety, Twelve-Step Program. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.