Monthly Archives: April 2017

M(3), 4/24/2017: Relationships are Everything

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I was draggin’ my wagon to the meeting today.  It was a busy weekend, and I’m not feeling 100%.  It is dreary and cold, which is atypical (I think, maybe not) for late April.  I slept well, but could definitely use some more.  It’s a very busy week coming up, and downtime is always a good thing.

The actual only thing that kept me from finding a substitute is that I had to miss last week, since braces came off my son. And I just didn’t have the heart to miss back-to-back meetings.  It’s a freaking hour out of my life, time to pull up the boot straps.

And, as always, I’m so glad I did, and for a variety of reasons.

It was a larger than usual group of late, closer to the high of 20 than it was the average of 12.  There were at least 3 people I have never seen before, and new blood is always a good thing for meetings.  A regular that had been missing was back, and that’s always reassuring.

Most importantly, the shares that came out of today’s reading took an unexpected and positive turn that I would have never predicted.

Every once in awhile I post about meetings that have more to do with “life” issues than with alcoholic ones; today’s meeting was that to the extreme.  The word alcohol rarely even came up in today’s meeting.  I love this kind of meeting the most, because it reassures me of what I’ve believed (and written about) for a very long time:  the 12 steps do more than keep you sober, they help to improve your whole life.

The reading, taken from the book Forming True Partnerships, is a tale about a husband and wife who got sober together, and weathered 17 years of a sober marriage, after 4 years of an alcohol-fueled one.  As I was reading the story, I was a bit concerned, as the story takes some dark turns.  I was concerned it would negatively affect the mood of the group.  I could not have been more wrong, which shows I should possibly stop worrying so much, and trying to think for other people so much 😉

For the record, what I got out of the reading was this:  applying the 12 steps to your whole life works.  It helps you get through challenging times, it improves relationships, it creates a peace that otherwise would not exist.

The author writes of her various attempts at controlled drinking prior to sobriety, and describes these attempts as similar to “switching seats on the Titanic.”  That not only made me laugh, since I had not heard that before, it made perfect sense to me.

She writes about how sobriety positively impacted both her marriage and her parenting skills; I can relate to that as well.

Finally, the author shows a remarkable ability to turn tragedies into learning experiences that make for a better future.  It was inspirational to read such a tale, and I am energized to put things into better perspective as a result.

Rather than make a bunch of bullet points as I have been doing all year, I am going to sum up the groups’ shares as a generic whole.  Because it was in listening to the various members of the group that I was enthralled.  Every person focused on the fact that our lives are comprised primarily of relationships.  In the case of the reading it was a husband and wife, but the truth is our happiness, or lack thereof, is almost solely based on the quality of the various relationships we hold.  If we are married, then the primary one is often a spouse, but just as easily it could be a significant other, a child or children, a parent, even the relationships formed in the rooms of our 12-step fellowship.

It would stand to reason then, that learning the proper care and maintenance of these relationships is paramount to our happiness.  And once again, the 12 steps play a huge role.  By applying the 12 steps, we look to clean up our side of the street, and focus on that which we can control… ourselves.  As soon as we make this important shift, absolute miracles happen all around us.  We feel happier, more settled, more confident.  We make better decisions, we are less impulsive, we pick less fights.  We are so much quicker to acknowledge our part in any situation.

As a result, we earn respect in a way that is unprecedented.  People see and feel the shift within us, and we get positive reinforcement.  And so the upward spiral begins.

And of course, we are human, and as such we are prone to error.  But the 12 steps take that into account as well… we look for progress, not perfection.  And we take things one day at a time, sometimes one minute at a time, so now’s a great time to restart.  And if not now, a minute from now.  And so on…

Hopefully someone was as slow to read this post as I was to go to my meeting, but has read it through and feels better for having done so!

Today’s Miracle:

The reminder that life is a journey, and not a destination.  I am given what I need, both in terms of blessings and challenges.  It is my choice with what to do with each!

M(3), 4/10/2017: Live and Let Live

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On this glorious Spring Monday morning we read from the book Living Sober, the chapter entitled “Live and Let Live.”

Of course, the expression live and let live does not originate in the recovery community.  In fact, the whole lesson today falls into the category of “human problems” rather than “alcoholic problems.”  But still, learning how to focus on our own lives, and refrain from concerning ourselves with the lives and opinions of others goes a long way to a successful sobriety.

I remember reading this chapter in early sobriety and finding it to be an eye opener.  I never thought of my addiction as being in any way related to the people around me.  I would hear people say, “I like to drink at my problems” or “I drank at people, not with people,” and those expressions made no sense to me.

But as the chapter let me know… I started drinking, as most do, with people.  Then, I became resentful when people commented negatively on the quantity I drank, or my attitude after I drank, so I decided to drink alone.  I compared my drinking style to that of others.  I preferred social functions with alcohol, and avoided those events that did not have alcohol.

And in all of those situations, people, and my reactions to those people, were involved.

It was a relief indeed to learn the mantra live and let live.  It reminded me that there is only one set of beliefs, opinions and actions I can control, and so to worry about anyone else’s is not only pointless, but it is counterproductive to my own serenity.

Two corollary philosophies I learned in recovery that go hand in hand with live and let live are:

What other people say about me is none of my business.

Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy?

When I am on my game, and embracing these three ways of living, then my life is peaceful indeed.

Like most lessons in recovery, it is one that needs to be reviewed on a very regular basis!  It is supremely simple to forget how good life is when I am living and letting live, and instead I easily fall into the trap of believing I know what’s best for everyone around me.

As always, I am grateful to start my week with positive and healthy ways to live my most peaceful life.

Here are some other great thoughts from this morning:

  • Often the focus is on the second half of this expression… the letting live part.  But equally important is the first half… live!  If we focus on living our own best lives, is is natural to let others do the same.
  • Often figuring out the best way to live takes time.  Early sobriety is confusing in and of itself, so patience is key in terms of figuring out what exactly brings you joy.
  • People who like to control things by nature find the “let live” part of this advice to be extra difficult.  It is a process to unlearn the habit of giving others our take on a situation, or offering our input.  Time and practice will help us strengthen this skill of letting things go.
  • Typically the root cause of our inability to live and let live is our ego… we think we know better, and therefore we insist on forcing our will on others.  Learning to get our egos right-sized will go a long way in learning how to live and let live.
  • It is our job to figure out the best way for us personally to live and let live.  For some of us, the challenge is in figuring out how to keep our mouths shut, and our opinions to ourselves.  For others, the challenge is in asserting our own needs and wants, and learning to live authentically, rather than trying to please those around us.  Either way, it is our responsibility to figure it out and challenge ourselves to living our best life.
  • When in doubt about which is the best course of action…. keeping our mouths closed or open… shooting up a quick prayer can do wonders!

Wishing everyone who celebrates a beautiful Easter holiday!

Today’s Miracle:

Spring, glorious spring!

 

M(3), 4/3/2017: A Life-Long Plan

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This morning we read from the book Alcoholics Anonymous.  I selected the reading “The Keys to the Kingdom,” written by a woman instrumental in starting the Chicago chapter of our 12-step program.

As always, there is loads of great stuff within the reading, but one paragraph in particular stood out to me:

A.A. is not a plan for recovery that can be finished and done with. It is a way of life, and the challenge contained in its principles is great enough to keep any human being striving for as long as he lives. We do not, cannot, outgrow this plan. As arrested alcoholics, we must have a program for living that allows for limitless expansion. Keeping one foot in front of the other is essential for maintaining our arrestment. Others may idle in a retrogressive groove without too much danger, but retrogression can spell death for us. However, this isn’t as rough as it sounds, as we do become grateful for the necessity that makes us toe the line, for we find that we are more than compensated for a consistent effort by the countless dividends we receive. -pg. 311, Alcoholics Anonymous

This is a great reminder for me to keep active in my own journey of recovery.  And when you think about it, it is counterintuitive to most things in our lives… if we are on a diet we restrict calories to lose weight, get to the desired number on the scale, and then set out on a maintenance plan.  Or we decide to stop smoking, and put a tremendous amount of effort into that process until it becomes more natural to not smoke than it does to pick up a cigarette, then we can more or less hit cruise control.  Even expanding out further, we work towards a retirement, we raise our kids until they are able to take care of themselves.  In most areas of our life we are working towards a goal that allows us to “graduate” in one way or another.

But this is not so in recovery.  Here we seek to grow, endlessly.  And sometimes this feels like the biggest curse in the world.  I’m guilty of these thoughts myself, on numerous occasions.  I’ve even said it out loud, “How come I have to always be the bigger person?  How come that someone gets to be a jackass without repercussion just because they’re not an alcoholic?”

But in reality this program is far more a blessing than it is a curse.  Because for the minimal amount of work it requires, if offers blessings a thousandfold.

Here are some other excellent points made this morning:

  • Not only are we lucky to have a lifelong program of learning, we are even luckier to have a fellowship of people on the same path.  These people are the foundation that keep us sober.
  • In the story the author talks about coming into the program and wishing for only a part of the peace and happiness she saw displayed among its members.  That sentiment is true for so many of us… we come in and think we’ll never be as happy as the members we see, but if we can be half as happy, and stay sober, we’ll be satisfied.  And of course the dream becomes a reality for a lot of us.
  • The story talks about the many ways the author attempted to control her drinking, to no avail.  Most of us in the meeting this morning could relate to the various ways someone can try to control drinking.  And in most cases, once you start planning ways to control your drinking, you’ve already lost control!
  • The story talks about the many blessing sobriety brings.  All of us present this morning have blessings we can list, but none so great as the blessing of healing a fractured relationship with your children.  It is the greatest gift of sobriety to be present and engaged in the lives of your children.
  • Some of us marvel, like the author, at how competent we were while in active addiction.  And if you can accomplish so much while not sober, imagine how much more productive you can be once you’re sober?  Active addiction takes mental time and energy that could be put so so much better use!

Today’s Miracle:

Sitting down and writing.  I know I’ve used that one before, but it still counts as a miracle to me!

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