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M(3), 1/23/2017: Two Sickies Don’t Make a Wellie

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It is still so strange to write 2017!  I wonder when I’ll get used to it?

Today we finished up the reading we started last week, which is a discussion of

Step 12:

Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

I like breaking up the step and discussing it this way.  Last week we talked about the spiritual awakening and carrying the message, this week we discussed practicing the principles in all our affairs.  Today’s topic is the one that has the most universal application, and it’s a reminder that I could benefit from reading daily.

What stood out for me in today’s reading was the reminder of the importance of staying in balance.  It is all too easy to get caught up in the business of life, and forget the basic but invaluable lessons learned in recovery.  I can be reminded of this lesson, and forget all about it again the span of a heartbeat.  As the chapter itself says,

“We found that freedom from fear was far more important than freedom from want.”  -Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, pg. 122

The next time I start to panic about the job search process, I hope I can remember that line!

In addition to the reminder for balance, I also heard the message of hope within the chapter.  One section reads:

“Service, gladly rendered, obligations squarely met, troubles well accepted or solved with God’s help, the knowledge that at home or in the world outside we are partners in a common effort, the well understood fact that in God’s sight all human beings are important, the proof that love freely given surely brings a full return, the certainty that we are no longer isolated and alone in self-constructed prisons, the surety that we need no longer be square pegs in round holes but can fit and belong in God’s scheme of things- these are the permanent and legitimate satisfactions of right living for which no amount of pomp and circumstance, no heap of material possessions, could possibly be substitutes. ”  -Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, pg. 124

Wow is that a run-on sentence!  Grammatical commentary aside, this statement is an important reminder of what we in recovery are working towards.

So I was reminded this morning to work towards balance in my life, and the benefits for doing so are too numerous to count.  Other great lessons learned today:

  • Remembering that “True ambition is the deep desire to live usefully and walk humbly under the grace of God” is the key to this step.
  • Fixing a marriage/relationship damaged by active addiction takes time; both patience and persistence are critical.
  • When it comes to repairing relationships, often the situation gets worse before it gets better.  It’s important to hear that so as not to throw in the towel too early!  Many of us experienced a long period of marital hardship in recovery.
  • Al-anon can be a useful tool for the family member of an alcoholic.  However, not everyone will agree with this notion, so the most we can do is throw out the suggestion.
  • Financial insecurity is another problem that can persist well into sobriety.  It is a process for sure, but the 12 steps teach us how to lose those fears no matter what our financial situation looks like.
  • Step 12, like every other step, is practiced one day at a time, sometimes one minute at a time!  We can feel very good about practicing step 12, then a minute later be thrown a curve ball that takes us completely off-balance.  The trick is to keep bringing ourselves back to center.

That’s it for today.  Enjoy the rest of your Monday!

Today’s Miracle:

The title of today’s post… someone said it today while speaking of relationships in recovery.  I had never heard it before, and was so delighted, I had to share!

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M(3), 1/2/2017: Ego vs. Addiction

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Housekeeping:  if I take time to reply to comments, I’ll never get this post written.  But I’ll do so as soon as I hit publish!  Overall I’d like to say a big thank you to all who commented, and I am thinking long and hard about all suggestions.  As I mentioned yesterday, circumstances are such that no resolution can be reached for a few weeks.  In the meantime, I am going to tinker about with different formats and see if I can’t come up with a way to transmit all the wonderful wisdom without the remotest possibility of breaking anonymity.

Having said that, today’s meeting was an actual first, at least I think it was… we did not have enough chairs in the meeting room to house the attendees present!  A great way to start an otherwise cold and dreary Monday, I’ll tell you that much.

As it is the first Monday of not only the month, but the year, we reach chapter one of the book Alcoholics Anonymous (“The Big Book”), “Bill’s Story.”  Bill is Bill Wilson, the co-founder of the original 12-step program of recovery.  And his story is a compelling one:  from one of the lowest bottom drunks that exists, to co-founding a program that is in existence and thriving 80 plus years later.

As compelling a story as Bill’s is, I am often challenged when I read it to find a part relatable to my journey of recovery.  Today, however, proved to be an exception, as a theme stood out for me in a way that hasn’t any of the past time I’ve read it.  And the theme is ego.  Bill truly believed that his self-will could conquer any challenge, win any war.  And for a long time, it did.  Remember, Bill lived through World War One, the roaring 20’s and the Great Depression, and his creativity, persistence and gumption got his to the top of a lot of heaps.  But ultimately he found his self-will was no match for his addiction to alcohol.  When he finally surrendered to that notion, miraculous things happened to him, and for a lot of alcoholics who followed in his footsteps.

So what’s relatable about that?  For me, it is a reminder of how insidious the ego can be.  How many of us have gotten sober a few days, weeks, month, or even years, then decided that “we’ve got this?”  Or we appreciate the value of humility for a while, especially when newly sober, but over time forget the value of staying humble?

For those of us who cultivate our spiritual lives, the ego is especially dangerous, for how easy it is to let those simple spiritual practices fall by the wayside as life gets too chaotic?  By the time we are in real need of a spiritual connection, we realize we’ve actually been disconnected.

For me, today’s meeting is a reminder to stay right-sized, and keep my ego in check.  Here is some other great stuff I heard today:

  • The story is an important reminder of what the alcoholic bottom feels like.  Who doesn’t vividly recall the horrific feelings of the morning following a particularly nasty drunk?  Or the hopelessness of the broken promise that we won’t drink today?
  • The 12 steps of the program are clearly explained as Bill tells his story of recovery.  If you read nothing else in the Big Book but Bill’s story, you will have a basic understanding of the 12 steps of recovery.
  • Reading the transformation of Bill’s life and attitude is a reminder of how different a life of sobriety can be from a life of active addiction.  You can almost feel the remarkable difference in his perspective and how it positively impacts his world, and the worlds of those around him.
  • Unconditional surrender is another theme of the story.  For a long time Bill believed he could beat this problem by his own means, but when he understood the concept of unconditional surrender, and applied it to his own life, miraculous things happened for him, and for countless others.
  • Addiction to alcohol can make the most logical and intelligent people strangely insane.  They can be incredible in every other area of their lives, and yet their logic completely escapes them when it comes to moderating alcohol.
  • Overcoming the hurdle of a higher power when one does not believe such a thing exists is covered wonderfully in this story.  Bill himself struggled with the notion of turning his will over, until he was convinced he could create a God of his understanding.  This concept got many an alcoholic over the hump of believing in a traditional God.

Hope everyone is enjoying the new year!

Today’s Miracle:

Writing two posts in two days.  It’s been a loooong time since I’ve done that.  And if I’m really on my game, another post talking about the WOTY is coming tomorrow!

M(3), 5/2/16: All Gods Are Welcome

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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?

Good point.

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!

Today’s Miracle:

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!

 

M(3), 2/15/16: It Works If You Work It

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A meeting chock full of great thoughts and ideas, at least there was for this participant!  This morning we read from the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, and focused on Step Eleven:

Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

The chapter that covers this step talks in depth about the many benefits of prayer and meditation.  In addition, it discusses methods to overcome agnostic/atheistic mindsets, as well as easy pointers on how to get started praying and meditating.

The first person to share talked about how he almost walked out of his first meeting because it talked about prayer and meditation.  Agnostic by nature, he was sure that the end of the meeting would be asking for money and/or a signed contract.  When neither happened, and he realized that he was in charge of his conception of a Higher Power, he stuck around and followed the suggestions given to him.  Thirty-six years later, and he considers prayer to be an essential component of his daily life.  He knows prayer and meditation works because he’s experienced the positive effects.  He realized early on that he did not have to know how something works for it to work; therefore, he stopped questioning the mechanics behind the power of prayer.

His last point, and the one that stuck with me the most:  he has learned through his years in recovery that it is not enough to ask for something through prayer, then sit back and wait for it to arrive.  He must be a participant in the process, and do his part to make things happen.

Another gentleman with long-term sobriety shared his prayer life journey.  I was trying to calculate his years of sobriety by following the story; I got up to 34 years before I got confused.  Regardless of the actual number, suffice it to say he’s been sober a long time!  He considers his prayer life an unfolding story, one that has developed slowly over time, and one he imagines will continue to evolve as long as he’s alive.  He said he started the way most of us do… a daily prayer book that asks you to read something small each day.  He said for years that is what his prayer life involved… reading, with not a whole lot of engagement on his part.  Over time he noticed that quite often the reading for the day would correlate precisely to something that was troubling him.  From there he learned to participate more in the process, rather than by simply reading a daily paragraph.  Finally, through a series of chaotic events, he lost track of his prayer routine, and found himself out of sorts with no real reason as to why.  He went to a retreat where the leader posed the following question:

If you find yourself in a state of discontent with no discernible cause, think back… was there something you were habitually doing that you stopped?

Bingo!  He realized he was missing his time spent in prayer and meditation.  He went home, fished out his “little black book,” and now makes sure he stays in practice.

A few attendees shared of their struggles with making prayer and meditation part of their daily routine.  All recognize the benefits of such a practice, but, like any new habit, it can be a bumpy road getting started.

Finally, a friend of mine shared her thoughts on the subject of prayer and meditation.  She is sober about 2 1/2 years, but I know from spending time with her that acceptance of a Higher Power has been her biggest struggle.  Turns out she is actively working on this aspect of her recovery; she remarked that the shine is off the penny, so to speak, in terms of meeting attendance, step work, and the various readings.  She knows she needs a deeper connection in order to sustain her sobriety, and she is seeking spirituality to fill that need.

She said she is learning, through her research and reflection, that attachment is the origin of suffering.  In other words, if she is suffering, then she has an expectation of an outcome.  Either she is trying to control what happens, or she is trying prevent something from happening.

As she was speaking, I recalled a conversation I had with my husband not an hour before.  I was explaining to him the root cause of some internal angst I have been experiencing, and seeking his advice on how to proceed.  His suggestions were, at first blush, unimaginable, and I told him so, and my defense of my opinion.  His face has that look that tells me I need to stop and rewind, but I was unable to fully decipher what specifically I had said to cause his expression.

So I ask him to please just tell me what is causing the pained look, since I have tried to decipher with no success.  He considers for a moment, then says, “Everything you’ve said since we’ve started this discussion, from you thoughts about what is causing your discontent to your reaction to my advice… that’s all Old Josie talking.”

And it was a light bulb moment… every single moment of disquiet I have experienced with regard to this issue, every quick fix action I’ve taken, and every subsequent action to correct the quick fix… all seen through the lens of pre-recovery thinking.  It stopped me in my tracks.

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Whenever I have found myself in the past heading down the path of old thinking, my correction has always been to deepen my efforts at prayer and meditation.  So it was crazy enough that this step was the one we were discussing.  A coincidence that is never a coincidence.

But then to hear my friend describe in layman’s terms a basic tenet of Buddhist thinking in a way I could understand, a concept that applied so directly to the discussion I was having with my husband, was the breakthrough I needed.

Attachment to an outcome = suffering

Yep, that pretty much sums up in a nutshell the source of my suffering.

So I got the wake-up call I needed this morning.  Of course, like my friend above said, the wake-up call is not enough.  I need to be a participant in the process.  The good news is that you can start just where you are when it comes to prayer and meditation!

Today’s Miracle:

Coincidences-that-are-never coincidences will always be a miracle to me!

 

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!

M(3), 1/18/16: Play it Again, Sam

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Today is the first big change in my rotating literature line-up.  Normally we would start with Step One in the 12 steps of recovery; today we started with Step Twelve and will work our way backwards throughout the year.  This change is an attempt to:

  1. shake things up after more than 3 years
  2. prevent the inevitable moans and groans in April and September… oh no!  another meeting on taking a moral inventory/making amends!

We’ll see how it goes.

Doing it this way presented two challenges, both of which occurred this month and are, as of this writing, done!  The first is that we just read this chapter last month, and the second is the chapter is a looonnnnggg one!

In any event, the 14 attendees did not complain (much), and now we are smooth sailing for the rest of the year!

So, for the record, and even though I just wrote about this a few weeks ago, Step 12 reads:

Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

I shared a few take-aways from this morning’s reading.  First, it is a good reminder that being of service is valuable all year long.  I don’t know about anyone else, but for me December tends to be a lot about others, January tends to be a lot about me… New Year’s resolutions and all that.  So a reminder to get out of my own head is a necessary one, right about now!

Second, the actual section I read aloud gave a poignant description of a spiritual awakening:

In a very real sense he had been transformed, because he has laid hold of a source of strength which, in one way or another, he had hitherto denied himself.  He finds himself in possession of a degree of honesty, tolerance, unselfishness, peace of mind, and love of which he had thought himself quite incapable.  What he has received is a free gift, and yet usually, in some small part, he has made himself ready to receive it.  -Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, pg. 107

What stood out to me this morning is that while I feel grateful to have received this gift, it is not a one-and-done endeavor.  Ongoing cultivation and growth is in fact necessary to keep this gift in one’s life.

Even though we are only 3 weeks into the new year, I have already attended three funerals, and am awaiting details on a fourth later this week.  I’ll speak for myself when I say… that is too high a number for my liking!  The last funeral I attended, this past Friday, was particularly hard to take:  an absolutely wonderful man, whose life, though marked with some impossible-to-imagine tragedy, was a shining example of grace and dignity in the face of severe adversity.

It was a challenge this weekend to not focus on the sadness of this death.  The reading this morning is a reminder that it is during times of much spiritual challenge is, hopefully, much spiritual growth.

From there a regular attendee shared she had a rough 2015 in terms of deaths and funerals.  In fact, those very situations are what caused her to pick up a drink after several years of sobriety, and she is just now getting back on her feet, recovery-wise.  So the reminder that spiritual awakenings take ongoing work is a lesson she has learned the hard way.

Another gentleman shared that he loved starting the new year with the last step, rather than the first, for one simple reason:  it sums up the whole of our program.  In fact, the chapter is such a long one because it takes the time to review all of the steps that come before it.  He said when he first started attending meetings, an “old-timer” told him to start with reading this chapter.  He said it clearly states what the Fellowship has to offer.  If, after reading, you decide you want what the Fellowship has to offer, then keep coming back!

Another member seconded the motion that step 12 is valuable to read up front.  For him it was like flipping to the end of a mystery novel:  now you know what you have to anticipate!

A friend talked about the need for ongoing self-development as well.  Even though she has a few years under her belt, it is easy to slide backwards.  She told a story from this very morning of a grumpy husband, and her reaction to his mood.  She reviewed her behavior, and while she sees the progress from where she once was, she also knew that there was more she could have done.  Immediately, she went back to her husband and “cleaned up her side of the street.”  She said time will tell if her husband chooses to forgive and move on; for now, it is enough to know she did the next right thing.

I told her she must come back next week, because she is leaving us with a cliffhanger… will the husband forgive and forget?  Stay tuned!

Today’s Miracle:

The value of service on Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

 

M(3), 12/7/15: Bullwinkle-ism

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Typing the date just gave me more than a little jolt to my system:

Christmas is coming!  Christmas is coming!

Today we read a story from Alcoholics Anonymous entitled, “AA Taught Him to Handle Sobriety.”  The selection below best sums up my personal take-away from the reading:

God willing, we members of AA may never again have to deal with drinking, but we have to deal with sobriety every day.  How do we do it?  By learning- through practicing the Twelve Steps and by sharing at meetings- how to cope with the problems that we looked to booze to solve, back in our drinking days.  -Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 559

Boy does that message resound this time of year!  Not only is there extra items on the to-do list, not only are there added family pressures, not only is this a time where stress runs high and time runs short, but all of this is happening simultaneous to when alcohol flows most freely.

I would say most of us in recovery have a time or two under our belts where we abstained from drinking.  All but the most physically addicted can stop drinking fairly easily; the trick to sobriety is staying stopped.

For me and the fourteen attendees this morning, we accomplish that trick with a twelve step program.  Others I know use our wonderful blogging community for support.  And countless additional roads to sobriety are out there as well, you just need to pick one and start travelling down the path!

It should go without saying that my experience is framed within the context of 12-step recovery.   It is this time of year especially that I am grateful for this fact, and for the exact reasons the author writes.  I can not drink, one day at a time, for the rest of my life.  And that is a miracle I hope I never overlook.  But the “beyond my wildest dreams” stuff of which people in recovery speak happens when I apply the twelve steps of recovery to the rest of my life.

Some other great perspectives came out of this morning’s meeting:

  • One woman, who of late has been struggling with relapse, has finally found a few days of peaceful sobriety.  She has been finding ways to sneak quiet prayer time into her hectic schedule, and she is feeling the benefits of it at last.  She wants to remain conscious of the power of prayer in her life.
  • A gentleman brand new to my meeting, but not the Fellowship in general, talked about how he related to the author’s continuing to drink despite increasingly dire consequences.  He was proud of all his “I never” statements, and continued to set himself apart as a result.  Inevitably, though, the “I nevers” came true until he hit his bottom eight years ago.  Now he remembers to look for the things he has in common with the people in the rooms of our Fellowship, rather than the ways he is different.
  • Another long-timer said that the 12-step Fellowship is the only place he’s ever experienced that takes care of so many things at once.  When he is in a bad mental, spiritual, or emotional space, simply attending a meeting brings him back to center.  The skills he learned here he wasn’t taught anywhere else, and so he keeps coming back, 28 years later!
  • A woman raised her hand to “piggyback” on the sentiment above.  She learned a long time ago (and I’m pretty sure she has at least a quarter of a century sober as well) “Recovery is for people who want it, not for people who need it.”  She said she used to go to a meeting where the chairperson started each one with a question:  who wants to stay sober today?  This question, and the physical act of raising your hand, is a reminder:  it’s not enough to sit in a chair.  Real recovery begins when you participate in the process.
  • Another woman related to the part of the reading that mentions learning to differentiate between our wants and our needs.  In times of turmoil, when she’s sure that what she wants is what she needs, it helps her to remember that God’s plan is better than hers.
  • Finally, a gentleman shared a term he coined that I have confiscated for the title of his post.  He said he has been afflicted with the condition himself, and frequently sees it in the rooms of our fellowship:

Bullwinkle-ism:  the condition that causes one to repeatedly go back to the same hat, thinking this is the time you will pull a rabbit from it.

Yep, I’ve been afflicted with that condition once or twice!

Today’s Miracle:

No longer suffering from Bullwinkle-ism; at least, the alcoholic kind!

M(3), 11/23/15: Holiday Family Challenges

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Very excited to report that we had 15 attendees at this morning’s meeting.  I can’t remember the last time we were over 12 people!

We read from As Bill Sees It, a book that is usually read by topic rather than by chapter.  Typically I select gratitude in honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.  However, any time I do this I get at least one or two comments about the number of times this month they’ve already talked about gratitude.  Which, if you ask me, means they could possibly use a little more gratitude, because it sounds a lot like they are complaining 😉

In any event, to prevent such grumblings, I selected another topic which is timely to many this week:  family relationships.  Here in the US we celebrate a family-centered holiday this Thursday, and all over the globe we have a variety of upcoming holidays that promote familial gathering.

It was a powerful meeting.  Besides the number of people present, the shares from the attendees had quite a bit of emotion within them.


One woman just organized and participated in an intervention for her alcoholic brother.  The intervention did not go well, and so the chaos continues for her.  She knows that as much as she would love to share with her brother all of the invaluable tools she has been given in her 28 years in our 12-step program; unfortunately, she can’t force him to take those tools.  All she can do is turn him over to her Higher Power, then do today what she needs to do to stay sober herself.


Another woman shared of her painful history with relapse, as it relates to family dynamics.  She had 5 years sober when she lost her mother to the disease of alcoholism.  The loss of her mother was a traumatic event in her life.  But instead of opening up about her pain, she held it in, told herself she was okay on her own.  From there it was a slippery slope… not sharing turned into a decline in meeting attendance, which turned into no meetings, which turned into a relapse.  She finally made it back into the rooms, and she will soon celebrate two years sober.  She learned a painful lesson:  stick with the basics, and you will never have to re-learn them!


A gentleman shared his no-fail remedy for challenging family relationships:  he turns the challenge over to his Higher Power.  He was taught in our 12-step program the benefit in a restraint of pen and tongue, and he first employs that restraint, then shoots up a quick prayer to help him navigate the troubled waters of whichever situation is in front of him. He said this simple act has brought an incredible amount of peace over his 30-plus years of sobriety.


Another attendee talked about the enormous amount of stress he currently faces; enough stress to create high blood pressure for the first time in his life.  He said that while he has quite a few obligations awaiting him this day, he knows it is equally if not more important for him to get to a meeting and share what’s going on with him.  He recognizes that he must put his sobriety first in order to have the presence of mind to deal with all of his other stressors.


Another woman, one who has been chronically relapsing for months, shared that she drank again this past weekend.  She had a few years of sobriety under her belt, but since taking that first drink, she has been unable to get back to the basics of recovery.  She knows that she must keep trying, because she wants the peace that sobriety had brought her back in her life.


Finally, a woman shared her go-to solution for dealing with holiday stress.  When she is dealing with challenging family situations, or just stress in general, she has a 2-step process for handling the situation:

  1. She checks in with herself and ensures she is behaving in a way about which she is proud
  2. She then lets go of the results of the interaction

She says the more a situation involves family, the more difficult it is to follow this process; after all, we are invested in the results of any family interaction!  But the more we focus on that which we cannot control, the less at peace we are with ourselves.  The less at peace we are with ourselves, the less peace we are able to transmit to the world.  It’s important to keep in mind that we can only control ourselves and our behavior; how anyone else wishes to think, feel and behave is under their control.  So let go of the results, and be amazed at how peaceful life becomes.


I told her and the group that I am going to take that advice as I prepare Thanksgiving dinner this Thursday… I’m going to throw that turkey in the oven, and let go of the results!

Today’s Miracle:

I’m praying that all readers of this post have a miraculous Thanksgiving holiday.  And if you’re reading and do not celebrate Thanksgiving, then I’m praying you have a miraculous Thursday!

 

M(3), 7/6/15: Hitting Snooze on Your Spiritual Awakening

I’m hoping all of my US friends had a spectacular Independence Day, and for my outside-of-the-US friends, I hope you had a wonderful first weekend in July 🙂

I had an amazing weekend myself, gallivanting with my family and best friend all over the big city of New York (and logged over 50,000 steps on my activity tracker to prove it).  As a result, I was dragging my wagon this morning, and was as reluctant as I’ve been in a long time to chair my Monday morning meeting.  Got there with minutes to spare, and only 2 people awaited me.

As the reluctance to be there grew, I reached for the reading that never fails to inspire me.  It is the last chapter of the first half of Alcoholics Anonymous, entitled “A Vision For You.”  I have described it too many times to count, so I won’t bother doing so again, but it is my go-to reading when I need an energizing lift.

The reading, and the meeting itself, did not disappoint.  Before we were through reading the chapter, we had a total of 10 attendees, a respectable number for a summer meeting.  The theme of the shares today was, not surprisingly, just what I needed to hear.  Before I get to that theme, I want to share my take-away from this morning’s literature.

Several times this chapter gives mention to the necessary component of a spiritual awakening in a 12-step-based recovery. For those unfamiliar with 12-step recovery, a spiritual awakening refers to the process of becoming aware of, and connected to, a power greater than ourselves, and building and strengthening a connection with that power to get and stay sober.

Although this could probably go without saying, that definition is my interpretation of the term “spiritual awakening.”  If it confuses you more than it helps, you can find all kinds of good stuff on the internet to help better your understanding. Important to remember, in grasping the concept of a spiritual awakening, is:

1.  It is an ongoing process, not a one-time event

2.  It is a unique experience; no two spiritual awakenings are the same

Back to the meeting:  I’m reading along and considering my unique spiritual awakening story, and I’m realizing that I have fallen off the beam with connection to my Higher Power.  Nothing dramatic, where I’ve renounced my faith, or taken some hard left morally, but that slippery slope that is so small it’s not terribly noticeable unless you’re paying attention:  morning prayers said hurriedly, not even an attempt to meditate, not even a passing thought as to how better to serve others.  It made me think, and hence the title above, that I’ve hit the snooze button on my spiritual awakening.

And I did share this with the group, but, in an unusual twist, I did not share until the end of the meeting.  People were anxious to get their thoughts out, which is a wonderful thing!

And in the majority of the shares, an incredible theme took shape:  people are sitting this Monday morning, incredibly grateful for their sobriety.  Apparently several of the attendees had a shared experience:  friends in the program with significant sober time suffering through a relapse, with the typical devastating results.

The people sharing this morning are not newcomers to sobriety, or the fellowship itself:  one has 10 years of sobriety, one has 25 years, and the third has one year sober currently, but prior to this had 14 years before a relapse.

And all say the same thing:  they continue to attend meetings, and stick to the basics of their program of recovery, so that they do not become one of the statistics.  It doesn’t matter how much sober time they have, all assert, because a program of recovery is worked one day at a time.

So in honor of my fallen anonymous comrade, and also on the words of inspiration from my friend ainsobriety, I came home from my meeting, I went to my neglected meditation spot, and I sat and meditated.  Time to deactivate that snooze button!

Today’s Miracle:

Hearing what I needed to hear today to be profoundly grateful for my sobriety

M(3), 6/15/15: Semantics Can Make a Difference

Last full day of school, for one kid anyway.  So last day of calm before the craziness of summer!

It is the third Monday of the month, so the reading comes from Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, where we focus on Step Six:

Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character

I have admitted this before, so must admit this again:  this is my least favorite step.  It seems impossible to me…  how can a human being be entirely ready to have all character defects removed?  Wouldn’t that make one no longer human?  And if something cannot be done perfectly, then why is the wording as such?  I think, even being a committed 12-step fellowship member for 4 years now, I don’t truly grasp the importance of this step.  The good news, and I have admitted all this at the meeting this morning:  there was a time when I did not grasp and/or had a philosophical objection to each of the 12 steps; now it’s down to just this one.  So there’s hope for Step Six and me yet!

Fortunately for me, the rest of the group of 11 had wisdom to spare, and I have a much better feeling about Step Six than I did going into the meeting.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • One attendee shared that she has been grappling a bit herself when it come to the application of Step Six in her life.  Like me, her initial interpretation is one of such an impossibly high standard, it’s a bit de-motivating…if I know I can never achieve this, why bother?  The way she uses it, in terms of discovering her character defects, is to check the motives behind her actions.  Turns out, presenting a facade of perfection to the world is a common theme.  So she ponders the other side of the coin:  what would being vulnerable, instead of presenting the facade, look like?  What would it feel like?  Are there small steps that can be taken to start moving in a direction?  With this train of thought, she feels she is thinking in the spirit of Step Six.
  • Another attendee shared something really fascinating to me, something counterintuitive to my thought process regarding this step.  In his opinion, self-acceptance is a big part of the process when tackling Step Six.  As humans, we all have character defects.  Like the disease of alcoholism itself, acceptance is the first step towards change. Given my recent work on self-acceptance, this is a theory I will be exploring a bit on my own.
  • A few attendees talked about the usual suspects in terms of character defects.  One struggles with being judgmental, another with chronic tardiness, another still with procrastination.  All three agree that it is a work in progress in terms of removing these character defects.  Progress, not perfection may be the mindset for all three!
  • One friend said she does not like the term “character defect” at all, it is just too negative!  She prefers using “characteristics that no longer serve us.”  In hearing it put this away, it gave voice to something that bothers me the most about this chapter:  it’s very negative, and has us look at ourselves negatively.  I really enjoyed this simple phrase switch!
  • The same friend said she looks at the whole process from a more positive perspective.  Instead of focusing on giving up something, she regards what she will gain.  In giving up impatience, for example, she will gain so much more peace and serenity.  Again, this speaks volumes to the criticism I found in reading this chapter.
  • Another gentleman sees the foundation of Step Six as developing the motivation to change.  For most of us, choosing sobriety and recovery came as a direct result of misery.  Either we were miserable because of the consequences of our addiction (legal woes, marital stress, family disarray, career jeopardy), or we were miserable within ourselves because we could not control our compulsion to drink.  Now, Step Six is asking us to look at the not-as-severe character traits that cause harm, and see if we can work to improve them.  Not because we are miserable, but because it is the right thing to do.  A daunting task, when shown in this light, but far from impossible.
  • The same gentleman had his own positive spin on this step.  Instead of just looking at the character defect, look at the larger picture, because there is usually an asset on the other side of scale, and things are just out of whack.  For example, if you are chronically late, typically you are being very productive doing something else.  Instead of berating yourself for all you are not doing, widen the lens, appreciate the good, and attempt to balance out a bit.  Again, this gave the step a better framework for me to grasp.

As usual, so much great stuff, what a blessing to start a week off with this much wisdom.  Hope everyone is having as wonderful a day!

Today’s Miracle:

Remembering to enjoy the last day of calm, before enjoying the craziness of summer!

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