Monthly Archives: May 2016
Oh boy, this will, of necessity, be short and sweet. Time (and fundraising snafus) have gotten away from me today, and a track meet is an hour from now!
Today we read Step 8 from the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. Step 8, for those unfamiliar with the 12 steps of recovery, reads:
Made a list of all the people we harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Step eight can be challenging to discuss in and of itself; it is tempting to mention it as a passing reference to a more substantial discussion of the meatier step 9 (the actual making of amends).
For my part, I shared how creating my eighth step list was much easier than I anticipated, because much of the work had been done in my fourth step moral inventory. I also shared that considering the harms I had done to others gave me a deeper gratitude for the relationships I held dear. In that deeper gratitude came an easier time accepting the character defects in others, since I could so clearly see how they had been accepting of mine.
We had an interesting mix of people in today’s meeting. The first group that shared had a significant chunk of sober time. The kind of time that can be measured in decades, as a matter of fact! From that group I heard a lot of wisdom that I honestly cannot hear enough:
- Step 8 has 2 distinct parts to it: the first is making the list, the second is finding the willingness
- Step 8 is truly a lifelong process, and there is no need to add stress by imposing deadlines
- It takes time to discover that for which you need to make amends
- The heart and soul of step 8 is forgiveness: forgiveness of self, forgiveness of others, and God willing, others’ forgiveness of you
- The longer one stays sober, the more clarity one gains in the amends process
- If the amends process is overwhelming, start simply, and stop doing that for which you need to make amends. If you’re sober, chances are you’ve already made a step in the amends process with many people in your life
The next group to share was the group with a relatively small amount of sober time (2 months, 3 months, 10 months). Their take on step 8 was just as fascinating, because they’re reading it and wondering at how such a thing works:
- Do you list someone if you can’t get in touch with them?
- What do you do if you made amends for something but you were not in recovery… do you do it over again?
- How can you even think about these kinds of things when your brain still feels likes it not clear?
Of course, the great thing about having a meeting with a mix of people is to share wisdom, and the long-timers were able to give out advice that they had been given in earlier days.
One really interesting and new bit I was able to take away came from a question from a newcomer: what if you want to make amends to someone who has died? The standard advice I have heard in response to this question is to write the deceased a letter, visit the gravesite, or visit your place of worship.
But today the advice given was to find a living substitute. Let’s say, for example, that you were selfish with your time and thus missed out on the last years of your grandfather’s life because you were too busy drinking. Now you’re sober and you want to make amends to him, but he is not around. Find someone meaningful, either to you or someone who would have been meaningful to your grandfather, and give the gift of your time and attention to him or her.
I had never heard that particular piece of advice, but it struck me as a wonderful way to pay forward the blessings of sobriety.
As always, tons of good stuff. For all my fellow 12-step readers, please share any nuggets of step 8 wisdom in the comment section!
Having to wrap this up to watch my son run track is a miracle on every level… he is doing what he loves, and I get to witness it!
Spoiler alert: so much good stuff at today’s meeting that my mind is still reeling. This might ramble a bit.
Today’s reading came from the book Living Sober, which I’ve described a hundred times so won’t bore you again, except to say it is an easy-to-read book with practical advice on how to get and stay sober.
Typically before the meeting I take time to prep a little bit, read through a book and thoughtfully select the reading. However, a case of the In-My-Headedness had my mind occupied, and I wound up spending time emailing with a friend to help me figure things out (which she did, and I am grateful, friend who reads this blog!)
And yes, In-My-Headedness is a real condition. Or if it isn’t, it should be.
All that said, I had to select a chapter in a hurry, so I picked Chapter 5, “Live and Let Live.” It vaguely applied to my crisis du jour, and every chapter in this book is a good one, so why the heck not?
It’s crazy how things work out. The chapter selection brought back to surface a very brief, and relatively minor brush with alcohol I experienced recently. Since I assume the memory was brought into consciousness for a reason, I shared the experience, not so much for myself, but for anyone else that it might help.
And for the rest of the meeting we talked about brushes with alcohol, and how it affects us. My conclusion is that where you are on your recovery timeline is the most critical component of how intensely if affects you. As I mentioned, mine was brief, and it did not affect me in a lasting way.
And I will pause here to comment how incredibly grateful I am to make the last statement.
A friend of mine with similar sobriety time to mine shared two stories of brushes with alcohol. The first was brief, and her choice to accept or decline was taken away by a well-intentioned friend announcing (loudly) that neither of them wanted alcohol because they are sober. So the issue there was less with alcohol, more with mixed feelings of someone choosing to take her anonymity away from her.
But her second incident was one that affected her more intensely. Here’s the scene: out to dinner at a chain restaurant with booth seating, she is trapped next to an enthusiastic beer drinker. Not wanting to call attention to her vexation, she endured the affair, but grew increasingly uncomfortable as the smell of beer became more and more pungent. By the end of the night, she felt like a wreck, and escaped as quickly as she felt socially correct to do so.
She considers it a valuable learning lesson, and an event she will never repeat. She will either opt out of such occasions, or she will see to it that she puts a healthy distance between her and the more-than-casual drinkers in the group. Her sobriety is too important for her to take chances like this one.
A few others spoke of more and less harrowing experiences that involved exposure to, offers of, or temptations with alcohol.
Then my friend in early sobriety raised his hand. I have referenced him the past few blog posts, feel free to refer back for more information. My guess is that he has almost a month of sobriety at this point.
He shared a very recent and poignant story of being offered a beer on Mother’s Day, which happened to be yesterday. He is at a point in sobriety where he not only craves alcohol intensely, he believes strongly that it would be a temporary salve to some of the more troubling physical consequences of his excessive past drinking.
On top of all this, he was feeling emotionally low; it was Mother’s Day and he has no mother. He did not go into further detail than that.
He shared that he said no to the offer of a beer, and had to walk outside to try to get a hold of his emotions. He was angry, and he is fearful: sure he refused this time, but what about the next time? He doubts his ability to stay strong as he did yesterday.
As is always the case, a newcomer’s share is always powerful stuff.
My experience, my story of addiction, my life, is as different as night is from day to this gentleman. Yet he shared this story, and I am transported back…
…Back to days of trying and failing at recovery, when even if I did manage to abstain, there was a very conscious voice in my head shouting, “Why bother? You know it’s just a matter of time before you pick up, might as well do it now!”
…Back to days in earlier recovery, when less intimate friends would be asking in astonishment why I was drinking soda, and convincing me that it was okay to drink. And my feeling of intense discomfort and painful self-awareness.
…Back to days when, comfortable with saying no to a point, then spending enough time around alcohol to where I started considering things like… Wow, am I really never going to have a sip of beer/wine/gin and tonic ever again?
…To current time, when someone offering me a cocktail is no more than a blip on the screen. Talk about gratitude.
There were some powerful other issues discussed, more in line with the topic of the chapter. Several of the group, and I will count myself among them, have a hard time figuring out the boundaries of the “let live” part of live and let live. At a bare minimum, it is certainly easier said than done!
All agreed that when we make even the most minimal effort at staying in the moment of living our own lives, and letting go of that which distresses us, we are living our most peaceful and fulfilling lives. The expression live and let live is timeless for a reason!
A day late, but hopefully not a dollar short, sending out love to all those who mother or who are mothered. Hope you had a wonderful day!
Another Monday, another great meeting!
Today reading came from Chapter 4 in Alcoholics Anonymous (The Big Book), “We Agnostics.” I’m too lazy to go back and check, but I’m fairly confident I have never selected this reading from the book in the 3 1/2 years I’ve been running this meeting!
But it’s a great one to read for anyone struggling with the concept of a Higher Power. I will sheepishly admit this is not a chapter to which I have paid great attention through the years; never having considered myself an agnostic, I generally thought my time was better spent on other chapters.
But in reading this morning, I related to the idea of the rewards of open-mindedness. The chapter speaks of ways in which history has proven the benefit of considering all possibilities, rather than assuming your way of thinking is the only way of thinking.
It reminded me of a time, years before I got sober, I bemoaned my inability to control my drinking. “I just want to drink like normal people!” To which the counselor replied, “Do you realize that ‘normal drinking’ for many people means not drinking at all?”
I may as well have walked out the office for as much attention I paid after that comment.
Because for me, at that time, there was no conception of a life without alcohol. So if I can go from that mindset to the one I possess today? All bets are off… anything I consider a given is up for debate. It’s a life-altering shift in thinking, I can tell you that!
There were two attendees who considered themselves agnostic prior to 12-step recovery. The first who shared recognizes that her spiritual path is still in the developmental stages, as she is still fleshing out a concept of a Higher Power that works for her. When she reads and finds references that smack of traditional Christianity-based imagery, she simply looks for the relatable part of the story, rather than reject the information because it’s not her concept of God.
The second once-Agnostic said she was anxiety-ridden when she realized that a belief in a Higher Power is a requirement. She thought that meant she had to hurry and “catch up” to all those who had an “edge” by having religion. Her sponsor quickly assured her by saying all those religious folks drank enough to earn a seat in the rooms, so how much of an edge did they really have?
What made her more comfortable was the knowledge that the development of a spiritual life in an ongoing process, and the only thing you really need to get started is, well, a willingness to get started!
The rest of the attendees who shared all came into the fellowship with a belief of some sort. Most were raised within an organized religion, but opted out once they were of an age to make decisions for themselves. One gentleman described it this way:
I believed in belief, now I just believe
That may sound confusing, but it made a lot of sense to me.
Everyone in the room agreed that the greatest selling point of 12-step spirituality is its inclusiveness: any concept of a Higher Power is welcome. Secular, non-secular, completely original and unique point of view… all ideas are welcome here, and all will get you where you need to go!
The gentleman I wrote about last week, the newcomer who was suffering from so many physical symptoms, was back this week and looking and feeling better!