M(3), 5/1/2017: Short and Sweet!
Today is the first meeting in a long time where I found myself looking at the clock and wishing it would move a bit faster. Attendance was on the lower side, but it was also that people were unwilling to share. It happens from time to time, but it doesn’t get less uncomfortable each and every time it happens.
And the reading was a solid one… we read a personal story from the book Alcoholics Anonymous. It was called “Women Suffer Too,” and it was written by one of the first female members of our 12-step program. Her tale is a compelling one, and inspirational to boot.
If nothing else, I can speak to what I personally took from this morning’s reading. While the timeline of her progression through alcoholism and recovery did not resemble mine whatsoever, I could relate to the emotions behind her drinking and subsequent sobriety.
Most notably, she wrote of the diminishing returns of alcohol, despite the increasing quantities she drank. Almost everyone in the room could relate to that. As time goes on, it becomes a chase… drink/ingest more and more in the hopes of recapturing the glory days when drinking/altering yourself was fun! Soon it becomes a situation where you know you are never going to recapture the nostalgia, and yet you can’t envision a life where you simply refrain. A dark place, but ultimately a hopeful one, as it usually the starting point of recovery.
The second part of the story that spoke to me this morning is the feeling of camaraderie she found within the fellowship. She found, through gathering with a group of like-minded individuals, that she no longer felt that she was alone in her troubles, or that she was morally depraved, or irreparable. She found that in allowing acceptance of her less than ideal but still human qualities, she found the motivation she needed to improve herself… and found peace within to boot.
The group that did share focused on some of the “before” parts of the story… specifically, the blackouts that the author was able to describe in colorful detail. A lot of us can relate to this unfortunate part of alcoholic drinking…. the absence of memory for certain parts of the night, and the discomfort that causes the next day.
That’s all I’ve got for today. Better than nothing, I suppose!
Heading out to celebrate my husband’s birthday!
M(3), 4/24/2017: Relationships are Everything
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!
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
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!
Spring, glorious spring!
M(3), 4/3/2017: A Life-Long Plan
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!
Sitting down and writing. I know I’ve used that one before, but it still counts as a miracle to me!
M(3), 3/20/2017: The Benefits of Self-Inventory
Woo Hoo! Enough said.
Today’s reading came from Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, and focused on:
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!
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?
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!
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
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, 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!
M(3), 2/27/2017: It’s a Family Disease
I’m not sure I’ve ever been more excited for a month to end… it’s so exciting to write that date out. We are almost there!
Today’s reading came from the book Forming True Partnerships, and this morning’s chapter concerns the family. The author is an alcoholic in recovery, but her story focuses on the way she handled the alcoholism she found in three out of her four children. She learned early on that the most effective way she could help her children was to let go of the need to fix them, and to be a good example of sober living. The story has a happy ending in that all four of her children find sobriety (even the one that did not become a full-blown alcoholic), and together they have 73 years of sobriety. Inspirational stuff for sure.
My first reaction to reading this story was horror. I have a healthy fear of even one of my children having to grapple with this disease, and how I will handle that issue should it arise. To have three children suffer, and to know that powerlessness, would seem too much to handle.
The silver lining I heard in this cloud is that she got to experience the miracle of recovery over, and over, and over again. By doing what she had to do to stay sober herself, she was able to be there for her children when they needed her, and she got to see them recover. What a blessing that must have been.
The larger message I read, the broader issue that impacts each of us, is learning to let go of the need to control and fix our loved ones. Even if it is not as serious as the author described, three children facing the crisis of full-blown alcoholism, virtually all of us struggle with the need to “fix” people in our lives. It is so easy to see the problem when we are outside of it… surely people would be happier if they just did what we can so clearly see they should be doing! But of course we are powerless over the actions of others, as well we should be. This lesson is an important one for me to hear on a regular basis.
And that was only what I got from the reading! Here are some other great insights:
- This message applies to all sorts of family issues, and it is all too easy to get sucked into the drama of a family member’s life. A 12-step program is a true gift in times of family crisis, because it is a reminder that we can only control ourselves.
- Even without children, we all experience the situation where we are asked to fix someone else’s problem. When this happens, it can jeopardize our own sobriety. It is important to remember to put our own recovery first. We are of no help to anyone unless we are on solid sober ground.
- There are so many side benefits to a 12-step program besides helping us get sober, and this reading touches on an important one: using the tools of the program to more effectively parent our children. So many of the pithy expressions we take for granted in our fellowship are useful messages for our children. Take things one day at a time, do the thing right in front of you, first things first… these are not just ways to stay sober, they are ways to live the best life you can live.
- This story is more common than you think. An alcoholic parent of multiple children is likely to go through this, and it can rip a family apart. It is so useful to read a story such as this, and learn the things the author did to keep herself sane and sober, and to put yourself in the best position to help your children. The biggest piece in the puzzle, and the most challenging part, is to learn to let go and let God.
- One of the sneaky ways to parent a child that you worry might have some of the characteristics of a potential alcoholic, is to let them see how your recover. Let them read the things you are reading, let them help you get sober, and hopefully a seed has been planted should the problem surface for them later in life.
- It is frightening as the parent of small children to spot the characteristics that could lead to the disease of alcoholism, so it is important to learn how to detach from this fear and live in the present. Again, we have no control over this type of outcome, or of the future itself. We only have today.
- When caught in a situation where you feel like you need to fix someone, it is critical to share what’s going on with someone you trust. For those in a 12-step program, a sponsor is critical… make sure you are bouncing your thoughts, feelings and actions off someone who has an objective view of the situation.
- This whole reading seems like it is about setting boundaries, something that is tricky for almost all of us to do, especially with our children. An expression that is helpful when trying to create healthy boundaries is “let go or be dragged.”
Hope everyone is enjoying seeing February end as much as I am!
My initial reading of today’s story did not do a whole lot for me. But thanks to the miracle of the wisdom of the group, I gained a wealth of ideas and perspectives that really helped me appreciate the story. I am so grateful for my Monday morning peeps!
M(3),2017: From Your Mouth To God’s Ears
A very happy Monday, and a happy President’s Day to my American readers! I’m hoping you are having as beautiful a day as I am having. It feels more like spring than it does late February in my neck of the woods!
Today’s reading was from Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, where we studied:
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.
There was a great crowd this morning… just enough people that everyone had a chance to share, a nice mix of long-timers and those with a smaller amount of sober time, a group of regular attendees and those who were new to the meeting.
When I read this particular step, I break it down and look at prayer and meditation as two distinctly separate things, though I suppose in an ideal world they would be connected. As for prayer, the chapter defines prayer perfectly:
Prayer is the raising of the heart and mind to God. -pg. 102, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
My prayer life, or ritual of praying, has evolved quite a bit over the years, and I imagine will continue to do so for the rest of my life. I am currently at a point where the bulk of my praying is conversational in nature… I talk to God, express gratitude, ask for intentions, in much the same way as I would talk to another human being. I shared as much with the group this morning, and I wondered aloud if I am missing something important by not including more formal prayers in my daily practice. I invited anyone in the group that might be willing to share with me the benefits they receive from praying in a more formal manner.
As is always the case, my fellow Monday meeting attendees did not disappoint. Each person shared with me the various ways they pray, and how their prayer rituals help them. Unsurprisingly, the list was a diverse one:
- Morning prayers said immediately upon waking
- Morning prayer said over coffee
- Morning prayers said on the commute into work
- Reading from a daily devotional book
- Listening to Christian radio
- Formal meditation
- Yoga as a form of prayer
- Chanting and singing prayer
Believe it or not, I’m not sure I listed them all! In every case, the benefits received were the same, no matter what type of prayer is uttered: a deeper relationship with one’s Higher Power. In deepening the relationship, each person reports receiving a deeper sense of gratitude, a feeling of connection, and an overall sense of peace that, prior to a prayer life, had not been experienced.
Most important, not a single person could list a negative side effect to prayer. There simply is no downside! Even those who fall on the spectrum of agnosticism did not find a drawback in attempting to pray.
The group did not speak as much on the meditation piece, so it is hard to try to write a consensus. Speaking for myself, and I know I’m repeating myself from past blog pieces, meditation is a practice I dearly wish to master. Hell, I’d settle for being able to claim that I am half-assed meditator! Sadly, I can make no such proclamation. Here’s what I can say: when I have been able to meditate on a regular basis, I am able to draw upon a reserve of calm that I don’t otherwise have. That calm allows me to pause in stressful situations, and thoughtfully consider the best way to react.
Regular meditation also deepens my sense of gratitude, and allows me to be more present in my daily activities.
Finally, I feel a strong sense of accomplishment when I engage in a regular meditation practice. Similar to when I exercise, I feel empowered by the regular practice of something I know is good for me mentally, spiritually and emotionally.
Maybe, just maybe, now that I’ve written all this out, the fire will be lit, and I will restart my meditation practice!
Writing a post when everyone is home from school/work. Usually people around means I am anywhere but in front of the computer!
M(3), 2/6/17: D.E.N.I.A.L.
Somebody astutely pointed out this morning that last night’s Super Bowl excitement took a good chunk out of our usual attendance. It was strange at first to see such a low number of meeting attendees, but by the end of the meeting I was grateful. I forget the intimacy a smaller meeting brings. Every single person got to share on his or her take on the reading, and a few of us shared twice. It was a lovely, nostalgic hour for me.
Being the first Monday of the month, we read a personal story from the book Alcoholics Anonymous entitled “Crossing the River of Denial.” A compelling tale of a woman whose ability to deny her alcoholism knew no bounds, this story touched a nerve with each of us in the meeting this morning.
I was hooked from the synopsis of the story, located directly below the title:
She finally realized that when she enjoyed her drinking, she couldn’t control it, and when she controlled it, she couldn’t enjoy it. – pg. 328, Alcoholics Anonymous
That line took me back to the thick of active addiction. Many a time I convinced myself that I had no problem, because when I chose to I could control how much I drank. What I failed to notice that on those occasions (that, by the way, became less frequent as time went on) when I controlled my drinking, I was generally not enjoying the occasion at all. I was too focused on keeping my drinking at pace with someone else, or counting the drinks I had, or making sure I drank water in between glasses. It’s fairly difficult to stay present when you are that preoccupied with the amount of liquid you are consuming.
Another theme of the story is the depth of denial one is capable of experiencing. The author suffered rather dire consequences, and hit lower and lower “bottoms,” and continued to deny her responsibility for her behavior. It was always someone else’s fault, there was always someone whose problems were worse than hers, there was always a justification for her actions.
Again, this theme brought back painful memories for me, as I was an expert at dodging blame. Either it wasn’t as bad as you were making it out to be, it wasn’t your business to be noticing, or why are you talking to me when you should be talking to (fill in the blank, someone whose behavior was far worse than mine).
Of course, all personal stories in the Big Book end happily, and this one was no exception. Once she was able to hear for herself that she was not alone in her thoughts and feelings, that others had gone before her and changed the course of their lives, she knew she wanted what they had. She jumped in with both feet, and her life is dramatically different today. She’s not sure which part of her 12-step work is keeping her sober, and she doesn’t really care. All she knows is that it works, so she keeps at it, one day at a time.
What a message of hope, and a great reminder not to get too caught up in the “why’s” of any given situation. Do what works, and give the result up to the Universe.
Some other great insights from this morning’s meeting:
- One of the great lines from the reading speaks to the idea of doing the next right thing:
“… the Big Book had no chapters on “Into Thinking” or “Into Feeling” – only “Into Action.” -pg. 336, Alcoholics Anonymous
- Some of us think that the great hope is to control our drinking, but upon further investigation we realize it’s not that we wish to control our drinking, but to drink as we wish and escape consequences. And when we are able to honestly acknowledge that, we are well on our way to choosing sobriety.
- The story is a good reminder of the value of keeping things green. It is easy to forget, as time goes by, how difficult and painful active addiction truly is. By reading the depths this woman experienced before choosing sobriety, we remember ourselves how painful it was for us.
- The unacceptable becomes acceptable is yet another theme of the story that is poignant for those of us in recovery. Almost all of us can point to a time where we said that we are not alcoholic because we didn’t (fill in the blank). As time went on and we continued to drink, those same statements became null and void. Because this is a disease of progression, all those things we claim we haven’t done become a “yet…” things that will eventually come true if we continue to live in denial.
- The word denial itself can be used as an acronym:
Happy Monday to all!
Learning from, and being inspired by, a small group of trusted friends!