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M(3), 2/1/16: Simple, But Not Easy

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Today has been a strange day thus far, for reasons that would be entirely boring to recreate.

One disruption bears mentioning:  as I was handing out books at the start of the meeting, the school nurse called with the report of a sick child.  Fortunately, there were 13 able-bodied replacements to run the meeting, and off I went to the middle school.  Since it turned out the most urgent thing my son needed was to sleep, and I had a family member at my house, I was lucky enough to go back and catch most of the meeting as a spectator.

This turned out to be a very good thing for me.  Last week I attended a meeting on the anniversary of my sobriety, and it was one of those rare meetings that I left feeling worse than when I started.  I had to take a close look at myself, and I worried that I was getting too big my britches.  Could I only enjoy a meeting that I lead?

Fortunately that fear did not come to pass, as I enjoyed the meeting as much from the attendee seat as I do the chairperson’s chair.  Today we read Bill’s Story from the book Alcoholics Anonymous.  Bill W. is the co-founder of the 12 steps of recovery; this chapter in the book describes how AA came to be.

All who shared marvelled at the process by which Bill W. created the 12-step program.  A rags to riches story (morally speaking rather than financial), Bill’s Story is captivating from start to finish.  The story depicts more than any other in the book just what miracles can take place when you put your faith in a power greater than yourself.

The process that Bill developed, which later became the 12-step program so many of us use today as a blueprint for our sobriety, was fundamentally a simple one.  And as he states himself,

Simple, but not easy; a price had to be paid.  It meant destruction of self-centeredness. -pg. 14, Alcoholics Anonymous

Simple but not easy was the phrase that stood out to me in this morning’s reading.  True for sobriety, true for so many other things in life.  And when I consider the stumbling blocks to most anything standing between a goal I desire and me, self-centeredness is usually in the mix.

The simplest antidote to self-centeredness?  Getting out of your head and into service.   And the results of this simple but not easy process are nothing short of miraculous!

Today’s Miracle:

Too many from which to choose today… loyal meeting goers who pitch in to help, compassionate school employees, the health of my children, generous family members, living in such close proximity to the school and my meeting.  Most important:  I am here to comfort my son!

Laying My Cards on the Table

 

A bleary Monday morning (afternoon, by the time I will be finished) in my part of the world, but always bright for me personally, because of my Monday morning meetings.  The format for this meeting is called rotating literature, which means the first week of each month I read from one AA book, the second week a different book, and so on.  The fourth week I set up as “chairperson’s choice.”  Since I am the sole chairperson at this point in time, I generally search for older pieces of literature within the confines of “AA approved,” usually early articles written by the founder of AA, Bill Wilson.  Every 4 months or so, there is a fifth Monday in the given month, which means I need to come up with some other random thing from which to read.  This weekend I had the idea that maybe I could set up a speaker for the 4 months or so a year where we have 5 Mondays in a month, today being the first of this particular series.  And since I came up with this idea so late, I figured I would book myself as the first speaker.

This is not the first time I have shared my story, but it is the first time I have shared it with the group that I started.  You would think it would get easier to tell your own story, especially if you have done it with the regularity I have (I am sober 15 months, and I have shared my story at a meeting about a dozen times).  Sadly, it does not get easier to share the shame, and the downward spiral.  I guess, technically speaking, it gets easier in the sense that I have the timeline down pretty well, and I can pinpoint various highlights (or, in this case, lowlights!) in my personal journey with greater ease.  But the actual act of opening up, and disclosing such personal information… well, that remains a leap of faith each time I do it.

But if I want this meeting to succeed, and I want people to believe in me, in my recovery, and my message of hope, I need to share what brought me to this point, and so share I must.

From the other side of the table, it is easy to see what can be gained by attending a speaker meeting, and listening to someone else’s experience, strength and hope.  You can hear what mistakes were made, the progressive nature of addiction, and what led the individual to the doors of AA.  You can find elements in the story that you can relate to your own life, and make connections that you did not know existed.  Age, gender, race, religion, career path… none of these things matter when the story of recovery is told… there is always something that resonates with another alcoholic, and it is in that resonance that the magic of AA resides.

But what about the other side… what benefit is there to the story-teller?  What is gained from the exposition of pain, in reliving the worst moments of your life?  For this recovering addict, the benefits are many.  First, telling my story reminds me from whence I came, and keeps fresh in my mind where I never want to return.  Revealing my personal truth, disclosing the worst parts of me, connects me to my friends in recovery in the deepest way possible.  It keeps me in the heart of the AA Fellowship, which is exactly where I need to be to keep my life in balance.

And, of course, it fills up the gap of the 5-Monday month!

Today’s Miracle:

Getting positive feedback, and true gratitude from my fellow attendees, makes the reliving of my personal demons completely worthwhile!

Self-Pity

Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the nonpharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality. –John W. Gardner

Self-pity was the topic of the meeting I attended this morning.  Disclaimer:  I am not filled with self-pity at the moment, and therefore it is much easier to write on the subject.  When I am deep in the throes of this emotion, all logic tends to fly out the window, so maybe I can write about it now, then have some reference material the next time I experience it!

In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill W. writes that resentments are the number one offender of alcoholics.  I must respectfully disagree.  At least for this alcoholic, self-pity is the number one offender, because when I am caught up in self-pity, I will start seeking resentments, and then the downward spiral begins.

Self-pity is certainly not unique to the addicts of the world.  Who on this Earth doesn’t enjoy the luxury of bemoaning all the problems life gives them?  I have yet to meet the person that doesn’t get some satisfaction in complaining about the various injustices done to them.  At the end of the day, though, where does it get you?  To date, I have not had one episode of self-pity that ended well.

So what’s the solution when you are caught up in this negative emotion?  The reading this morning suggested taking a step back and looking at your whole life, the idea being that there are many more blessings than there are injustices.  Sounds like a solid plan, but I know for me, when I am truly feeling sorry for myself, the last thing I am prone to do is attempt a gratitude list.  There were many in my meeting that felt differently, so I know it is a viable option, just not one I am likely to take.

Two things have effectively worked for me when I am filled with self-pity.  The first, and most readily available, is turning it over to God.  Just telling Him how I am feeling, and asking Him what I am to do with the feelings.  I’d be lying if I said the results are instantaneous, but sooner rather than later I am able to get a perspective on any given situation when I ask Him to help me with it.

The second thing I do is talk about it.  Just laying out the situation to someone usually puts it in perspective before I even get feedback.  Keeping it bottled up inside keeps the self-pity festering, which only leads to chaos, both internal and external.  Believe me, I have learned this lesson the hard way!

Today’s Miracle:

In a week of announcing my anniversary, today was the most special, because I got to announce it in my home group.  It was one year ago today that I found this special group of people, and to get to celebrate this anniversary with them was priceless.

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