Monthly Archives: March 2017

M(3), 3/20/2017: The Benefits of Self-Inventory

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Woo Hoo!  Enough said.

Today’s reading came from Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, and focused on:

Step 10:

Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

This was the first step where I realized these tools could be used for more than just staying sober… they were tools for a better way of life.  It’s such a simple thing, self-inventory, but it brings truly powerful results.  The kind of inventory this chapter talks about is a spot inventory, where you stop and consider what is going on, and your part in it, during times of distress.  There are more in-depth inventories as well, but the Step 10 is one you perform on a daily basis.

Every part of this chapter is incredibly useful, but what stood out the most to me this morning is the idea of an emotional hangover:

But there is another kind of hangover which we all experience whether we are drinking or not.  That is the emotional hangover, the direct result of yesterday’s and sometimes today’s excesses of negative emotion- anger, fear, jealousy and the like.  -pg 88, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

I wrote last week of a variety of life issues that were causing me discontent.  I predicted that they would all resolve by the same time the following week, though I doubted any of them would settle to my satisfaction.  And I would say, by and large, that I was right on the money.  It is one week later, and my part in those issues is done, none of them turned out the way I would have liked, and life is moving on.

When I was living in the throes of the negative emotions associated with the issues, I experienced emotional hangovers as a result.  I did not sleep soundly, I was irritable, and I had a vague sense of discontent.  But when I took the time to analyze the problem, figured out my part and acted accordingly, I felt better.  Most important, at least most important for me, I determined where my part ends and I did my best to let it go.  In taking the time to do this self-earching I more quickly move through the negative emotions, and am better able to let go of the resentments that develop as a result.

And since we all know that life issues rotate on a pretty regular basis, it helps to develop the practice of self-inventory.  Like any ability, the more we practice, the better skilled we are!

Today’s meeting was a large one, close to 20 attendees, and everyone who shared agreed that this is one of the best steps for improving our daily lives.  Here are some other great shares from this morning:

  • Another great take-away from the reading this morning is the notion that every time we are disturbed, there is something wrong with us.  This is a hard concept to grasp initially, but the more you ponder, the more sense it makes.  If we are involved, then we play a part.
  • Justifiable anger and justifiable resentments can be the downfall for many an alcoholic.  We are best to leave the justifiable stuff to people who can handle it.  Life becomes a lot simpler if we stop having to decide if a resentment is justifiable or not.
  • The step does not say to make amends when we get around to it, it say to make amends promptly.  When we take inventory and decide we’ve done wrong, we must make that amend as soon as possible.  This practice leads to a greater sense of inner peace.
  • The beauty of the 12 steps is in their simplicity.  For a lot of us, the directions we’re given in early sobriety need to be as simple as possible for us to comprehend them.  Luckily, there are wonderful people who have gone ahead of us who know how to tell us what to do in the simplest language possible.  Keeping things simple is the key to success!
  • This chapter emphasizes that learning the skills of effective self-inventory is a process, sometimes a lifelong one.  The knowledge that we need not be perfect in figuring out our intentions and motives is a relief, and allows us to be gentle with ourselves as we learn.
  • Another key point in the chapter is learning to restrain ourselves from impulsively taking the first action that occurs to us.  Almost without fail our first response is not our best one, so cultivating the skill of restraint is incredibly important.
  • Asking the very simple question, “Am I doing to others as I would have done to me?” is a simple and effective way to take self-inventory.

I hope everyone is enjoying this first day of Spring!

Today’s Miracle:

That my first day of Spring actually feels like Spring!  After last week’s snow storm, I wasn’t sure it would ever warm up again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

M(3), 3/13/2017: How Much Does It Really Matter?

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I’m sitting here debating whether or not to even continue typing.  Yes, I did just return from my Monday morning meeting, and yes, people had great stuff to share, but I’m not sure I’m in a calm enough headspace to transmit the messages I received.

I mentioned last week that a lot of stuff is going on, and that stuff continues.  I’m in the midst of three separate kid issues, which is strange since I only have two children!  I am still recuperating from a fractured heel that I thought would be long over by now, and I’m hoping against hope a car repair is done before we are hit by the Blizzard of 2017.

I should really stop typing now.

No, I really shouldn’t.  Maybe if I repeat all the great stuff I heard this morning, it will seep into my scattered brain.

The reading on which we reflected on this morning is entitled “Easy Does It,” something I picked haphazardly as I was late this morning.  Turns out to be a good pick, since my head is in the opposite space of being easy.  Here is a line I read out loud this morning:

If a strong inner core of peace, patience and contentment looks at all desirable to you, it can be had.  -Living Sober, page 46

I laughed as I read it, then of course had to explain myself in my share.  If I took the time and explained each of my various issues, they’re not anything out of the ordinary:  teenage mishaps, car trouble, slow-healing body parts.  But the theme that’s running through all of them is they require me stepping out of my comfort zone in some way, shape or form and confronting someone.  Any kind of assertive conversation (and in some cases I’ll go ahead and upgrade it to aggressive) makes me uncomfortable in the extreme.

And in virtually all of the issues where I am required to assert myself, I have very little hope of swaying the opposing party to my side.  Which of course leads to feelings of frustration before I even assert myself.

Some of the issues have been dragged out for ridiculous reasons, which leads to impatience.

So, to sum up:

Anxiety + Frustration + Impatience = Scattered and Lacking Peace

Here’s what I can say:  I know, even at the worst of my negative feelings, that sooner or later all will settle down.  Sooner or later each of these issues will resolve, and a whole new set will crop up.  I know this, and at times this knowledge can settle my nerves.

In the meantime, I talk about my feelings, and I get advice from those that have been there and done that.  From this morning’s reading, the greatest take-away I got was the importance of asking the question:

How much does this really matter?

If I ask that question for each of my various issues, often the answer is a fairly simple “not as much as I’m making it matter.”  Some of the kid issues my Devil’s Advocate can argue are important based on principle, or could potentially be stepping stones to bigger issues, but even in those cases, if I take a wide-angle view, these things are blips on the screen of life.

So if I find out I can’t pick up my car today, how much does it really matter?  I will likely pick it up the next drivable day after the snow storm.  In the case of my foot, if I’m in the boot a month longer than I thought I would be, in the span of my life how much does it really matter?  The kid issues… well, I suppose I can simply do my personal best, and leave the results up to God.  As much I wish I could, I have control over one person in this life, and it’s all I can do to control myself!

Here are some other great thoughts from this morning:

  • Everyone with children has issues with children.  It is the nature of the beast of parenting!
  • Sharing with people who understand helps, as does listening to people who have what you want.  If you are lacking peace, go talk to someone you feel has a good sense of peace about them.
  • Slowing down the process of anything helps to do it better, more thoroughly, and with less mistakes.
  • Taking time each morning in quiet reflection helps to make the entire day a calmer experience.
  • Remembering that for which you are grateful helps to alleviate the stressful parts of your life.
  • The theme of humility runs through this morning’s reading.  It is important to remember to keep our egos in check when trying to fix all the world’s problems.

For those of you who are getting hit with bad weather, I wish you safety and warmth.  For those of you in warm, sunny climates, I’m jealous!

Today’s Miracle:

The hope that I’m back next week with fabulous resolutions to all the issues I’m complaining about this week 🙂

M(3), 3/6/2017: A Story for Any Stage of Recovery

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Happy March to all!

Today’s reading was a personal story from the book Alcoholics Anonymous (“The Big Book”) entitled “It Might Have Been Worse.”  This story is an excellent read for a variety of reasons.  First, it describes eloquently the progression that is the disease of addiction.  Equally convincingly does the author describe the role denial plays into alcoholism, and the various ways denial manifests itself into the life of an alcoholic.  Finally, and perhaps most compellingly, the author describes how he came into the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous in order to stay sober, but found he received an entirely better way to live his life.

I got a lot out of the reading this morning, and I was surprised to find this to be so.  I actually walked into the meeting this morning doubtful I could keep my head in the game for the hour the meeting took place.  I’m having “one of those weeks,”  the kind every single human being on the planet has.  And truly, the fact that I can easily identify having a lot going on is progress, as is taking my mental inventory on a regular basis.  But still, knowing that I’m dealing with life issues the same as everyone doesn’t actually take those life issues away, and so I was distracted this morning.

But I also know that sitting around and ignoring responsibilities is not going to take the worry away, so I go where I’m committed to going.  And as is always the case, the meeting helped.

What I related to most in the story… well, actually, I related to a lot.  The author developed a problem with alcohol later in life, as did I.  The author could clearly remember a time when he drank without problems, as can I.  The author initially heard stories within the 12-step fellowship that made him think his problems were not relatable… so did I.

Unlike the author, who took to the principles of the 12 steps from his very first meeting, it took me a little while to buy into the 12 steps.  But once I got on board, I found the same result:  I went to meetings and followed suggestions initially to stay sober and nothing more.  But once I started following the suggestions, I realized that staying sober is only the beginning of the miracles that take place; every part of my life is enhanced by practicing the principles of the 12 steps in all my affairs.  The very reason I write this blog is to show that the 12 steps are really a blueprint for a better life!

The reading was a great selection for this particular meeting, as we had several people new or newly returning to sobriety.   A story that gives such practical advice as this one is sure to help anyone at any stage of sobriety, and it seems like the story resonated with everyone as much as it did me. Here are some other great take-away’s:

  • There is an excellent description in the reading about what it means to be powerless over alcohol:

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol- that our lives had become unmanageable.  This didn’t say we had to be in jail ten, fifty, or one hundred times.  It didn’t say I had to lose one, five or ten jobs.  It didn’t say I had to lose my family.  It didn’t say I had to finally live on skid row and drink bay rum, canned heat, or lemon extract.  It did say I had to admit I was powerless over alcohol- that my life had become unmanageable.  Most certainly I was powerless over alcohol, and for me my life had become unmanageable.  It wasn’t how far I’d gone, but where I was headed.       -pg. 354, Alcoholics Anonymous

  •  Denial is the most insidious symptom in the disease of alcoholism, and it is the one element that can come back no matter how much sober time one has.  There aren’t many diseases in the world that have denial as part of the condition.  A way to combat the return of the symptom of denial is to continue to treat the disease… go to meetings, read literature, share with others, develop a spiritual life, work the 12 steps.  By staying close to the things that got you sober you insure against denial creeping back into your life.
  • The reading talks about the use of alcohol as a form of self-medication.  Life gets rough, and the first thought is how to take the edge off, and of course alcohol is the go-to solution.  A big part of successful recovery is learning how to face life on life’s terms, without needing to chemically alter ourselves when things get stressful.
  • There are a number of AA expressions that the author references as helpful, and many in the meeting this morning agreed that these simple phrases have a powerful effect on living a peaceful life.  “First things first,” “Easy does it,” “24 hours a day…” these are all things that help us to get sober, but over time they help us to live our lives more effectively and peacefully as well.
  • The story distinguishes between the two components of the disease of addiction:  the allergy of the body and the obsession of the mind.  The first component has a (relatively) simple fix:  if you don’t take the first drink, you will not suffer the consequences of the “allergy.”  In other words, if you don’t take the first drink, you won’t crave the next dozen or so after!  The obsession of the mind is a little harder to grasp, and takes quite a bit longer to heal, but the 12 steps go a long way in restoring peace of mind, and thus removing the obsession to drink.

So much great stuff, and I’m thinking I still failed to cover it all.  Happy Monday!

Today’s Miracle:

Today, hitting publish on this post is going to count as today’s miracle.  Here’s hoping that this time next week I have all sorts of positive news to report from my life issues!

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