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M(3), 5/1/2017: Short and Sweet!

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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!

Today’s Miracle:

Heading out to celebrate my husband’s birthday!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s Miracle:

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

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

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Woo Hoo!  Enough said.

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

Step 10:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope everyone is enjoying this first day of Spring!

Today’s Miracle:

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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Happy March to all!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s Miracle:

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

M(3),2017: From Your Mouth To God’s Ears

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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:


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.


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!

Today’s Miracle:

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.

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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:

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Happy Monday to all!

Today’s Miracle:

Learning from, and being inspired by, a small group of trusted friends!

M(3), 1/30/2017: 5 Years Later

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A happy Monday to all!  Today we read from Forming True Partnerships, a book that talks about the various relationships and how recovery impacts each.  Today’s reading came from the chapter on friendship, and the author wrote both eloquently and compellingly on the friendships formed within the 12-step fellowship, and how that connection keeps her coming back.

This meeting was a celebratory one for me, as I announced my 5-year sober anniversary to the group this morning.  The actual anniversary took place a few days before (Friday), and I already received my coin, but I was able to pass that coin around to my main sober network, and get their good wishes instilled into the metal.  At least, that’s the tradition in our neck of the 12-step woods.

The reading was a poignant one for me.  Nowadays my main network is, as I just mentioned, my Monday meeting group.  But since my anniversary was Friday, I had the option of attending a meeting that was vitally important to me in my first year of sobriety.  I don’t think I missed more than one or two of those Friday meetings that first year, and I went a heck of a lot in my second year as well.  By year three, I was tapering them off, as the commute had become unbearable.

So this year the coincidence of the anniversary falling on the same day the meeting was held had me considering the trek down-county.  That particular morning I had a horrible night’s sleep, and strongly reconsidered.  I was tired, cranky, I knew I could just as easily celebrate with my Monday peeps, plus there was a fear lingering in the background… it had probably been at least a year since I had seen a single one of those meeting attendees… what if I walk in and I know no one?  What if things are intensely awkwards since I had not been around in such a long time?

Finally, the correct thought hit me:  I don’t attend meetings so I can be heralded, I go to share my experience, strength and hope.  So with a prayer that my anniversary and whatever I was to share might help another, I set out.

Of course, none of my fears came to pass (which leads me to wonder… do they ever?).  With the exception of one or two, all the old regulars were there, plus a handful of delightful newcomers (at least, new to me).  I happened to arrive on the anniversary of the meeting, which meant good eats were there, and an incredible speaker who shared her story.  I left with more energy than I ever would have gotten from sitting around bemoaning my previous night’s sleeplessness.  I reconnected with old friends, was asked to speak at a future meeting, and left feeling a renewed sense of the fellowship.

All of which I shared at my meeting this morning, along with my most delicious homemade cake that I make (pound cake with buttercream frosting, my way of thanking this group for all their wonderful support through these 5 years).  Here are some other wonderful pearls of wisdom shared:

  • The value of the fellowship, and of connecting with other human beings, taps into an essential part of the human condition:  the need to be seen for who we are.
  • The reading, and the extolling of the fellowship within it, is reminiscent of our program’s 1st tradition.  Just like we have 12 steps, we also have 12 traditions.  The first one is “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on AA unity.”
  • Every aspect of our fellowship is a beautiful experience that is vastly different from the relationships we build in almost any other setting.  When we gather at a 12-step meeting, most of the time we are a group that would not interact in the “outside world” by a long shot.  We come from vastly different social circles, socio-economic classes, even geographically there can be differences.  Yet when we sit down for our 12-step meeting, we are virtually a family.  We have an inherent understanding of one another before we speak a word.  It is truly a priceless gift.
  • One part of the story referenced the television show from the 80’s, Cheers.   Specifically, the author writes about when the character Norm walks into the bar and, as the theme song sings, “everyone knows his name.”  For many of us, our 12-step group is much like that, where everyone not only knows our name, but pays attention to our innermost thoughts, and sincerely wants the best for us.
  • The fellowship is an amazing resource for those of us who consider ourselves introverts, shy, or have a hard time developing friendships.  It’s simply a matter of coming back and becoming a regular part of a meeting… the friendships take care of themselves organically.
  • The quality of friendships within the fellowship is often markedly better than the relationships formed with our drinking buddies.  Some noted that when the drink is taken out of the equation, the “buddies” go away, whereas the friendships within the fellowship have staying power.
  • A common expression used in meetings is “keep coming back.”  And the reason for that expression is that, in many cases, that is all that’s needed for success… just keep at it, and amazing things happen!

Today’s Miracle:

When I said that my Monday meeting peeps are my main source of support, I do my blogging circle of friends a disservice.  I started this blog at 3 months sober.  It is a freaking miracle that I am still writing this same blog 5 years later, and I owe it all the incredible friends I’ve made in the blogosphere along the way!

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My 5-year coin

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!

M(3), 1/16/2017: Carry the Message

carrythemessage

Today we read step 12 from the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.  For those not familiar with the 12-step program:

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.

As this step is lengthy, we divided the reading over the course of two weeks.  This week we read the first two prongs of the three-pronged step:  the part about spiritual awakenings, and the part about carrying the message.  We’ll read about practicing these principles in all our affairs next week.

Spiritual awakening as a concept is a tricky one to explain, as the meaning differs from individual to individual.  It is especially hard to grasp or appreciate when one struggles with the concept of a Higher Power.

From my experience, a spiritual awakening was one I could see happening after the fact; I was by no means aware of an awakening as it was happening.  But when I look back over the course of my sobriety, I could see critical junctures where I allowed for faith to enter, and the miracles that resulted from the decision to trust in a Higher Power.  And that kind of positive energy builds upon itself.  The more you are aware of it, the more it seems to happen!

Carrying the message pretty much sums up what I have been talking about with respect to my WOTY.  Service is the foundation of the 12-step program; the more you give, the more you get back.  The other nice reminder I got from today’s reading is that any and all service is beneficial.  You don’t have to chair a charity organization to make an impact.  Simply making the coffee for a meeting is service, and it is invaluable.

Other valuable takeaways from this morning’s meeting:

  • The spiritual awakening happens as a result of the steps, so there should be no pressure to have a spiritual awakening… just do the steps to the best of your ability, and good things will happen
  • When you are attempting to carry the message to another, it is easy to feel bad if the message is not received, or is rejected.  Carrying the message is about you, not the recipient.  Give to the best of your ability, and leave the results up to God.
  • Spiritual awakenings have a lot to do with emotional sobriety.  It’s not enough to put down the drink and achieve physical sobriety.  Finding a balance so life is not all about the high’s and lows’s… that’s the goal.
  • It’s great to talk the talk, as we often do in our meetings.  But step 12 is about walking the walk.  Our program is one of attraction, not promotion.  Therefore out very lives, and the way we carry ourselves… that is the message.
  • Step 12, as it reads in this chapter, is a nice snapshot of the whole program.  It takes you through step by step and shows you what the program has to offer.  If you are interested in learning about the 12-step program, flipping to this chapter is an excellent starting point.
  • Developing a spiritual life inside the 12-step fellowship is an excellent start, but to truly embrace step 12, it is critical to take the lessons learned here and carry them outward to life outside the fellowship.

For those in the US, hope you are enjoying the holiday of Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

Today’s Miracle:

Kids are home from school, and so far chaos has been kept to a minimum.  Here’s to the rest of the day remaining as calm as the first half!

 

M(3), 1/9/17: Easy Does It

easy-does-it-550x400

Today was one of those days where I took advantage of my “power,” as it were, and selected a reading I hoped would help me personally.  We read from the book Living Sober, and I selected the chapter “Easy Does It.”

I actually went in searching for the chapter “One Day At A Time,” only to find it was not in there.  I could use that prioritization as well.  And a blog post may soon follow on this one, as I find it one of the most useful adages in the 12-step lexicon.

But back to the subject at hand:  we read the chapter “Easy Does It.”  In terms of recovery, the chapter talks about the common thread of compulsivity that seems to exist in alcoholics.  We are the type to rarely let a drink go unfinished (alcoholic or not), we read until the book is finished, and, in a newer twist, and speaking for myself, binge watching television series is a great additional example of pursuing something until the bitter end!

And of course, there’s nothing wrong with many of these compulsive tendencies… most of them are, in fact, preferable to drinking.  But the chapter gently asks us to look at this piece of our personalities, and consider slowing down once we realize we are in the grips of this thinking.

Of particular import to me today was this section:

When we do find ourselves uptight and even frantic, we can ask ourselves occasionally, “Am I really that indispensable?” or “Is this hurry really necessary?”  What a relief to find the honest answer is frequently no!  And such devices actually serve, in the long run, no only to help us get over our drinking problem and its old ways; they also enalbe us to become far more productive, because we conserve and channel our energy better.  We arrange priorities more sensibly.  We learn that many actions once considered vital can be eliminated if they are thoughtfully reexamined.  “How much does this really matter?” is a very good question.  -pg. 45, Living Sober

Here’s what’s been the lather-rinse-repeat cycle of my mind for the past solid month… I sit with my boot on, thinking I need to sit in order to get the boot off.  Then as I sit I think of the various things that I’m not doing, and feel badly about not doing them.  I look around and see evidence of my not doing things… dust bunnies, empty refrigerator, laundry piles, etc.  At least this is how things look in my mind.  I finally get so agitated I get up and do something, anything, to relieve the pressure of not doing something.  Then I recognize that my foot hurts from, you know, walking on it.  Then I am depressed anew because all this means is a delay of healing.  And I sit down, and the cycle begins again.

 Preposterous, as I type it out, but it’s the truth.
So I read chapters like this, I talk about what’s going on in my head, and I remember that this too shall pass.  And guess what?  The house isn’t that horrible, I have teenage children and a husband who are more than capable of undecorating and carrying laundry baskets around.  And one way or another, I will survive the boot.
I will survive the boot.  I’ve just decided this is my new mantra.
In other, more recovery-related subjects, the following pearls of wisdom were shared this morning:
  • An almost unanimous decision that employing “easy does it” to one’s life is a work- in-progress situation.  Some days/weeks/months you’ll have it, and some you won’t.
  • Part of the trap of this personality booby trap is the idea that we’ll relax/take time out/start enjoying life once x, y or z happens.  I’ll start taking it easy after I get through the holidays, as soon as I get the promotion, once I clean the house.  But this logic is inherently flawed, as there is always a new item to get through/achieve/do.
  • Making a conscious decision to feed ourselves rather than delete from ourselves is important.  Taking time to actually schedule, in your planner or calendar, time each day to nurture yourself, will have untold benefits.
  • Claiming that you are too important to employ “easy does it” is a form of self-aggrandizing.  It’s especially important to ask the questions listed above (Am I really that important and is this hurry really necessary), as the ego could be at play.
  • Often we find a sense of disappointment when we are too goal-oriented.  We work and work to achieve a goal, be it materialistic or not, then find said goal did not give us the satisfaction we thought it would.  Then life becomes a series of pushing from goal to goal, with little appreciation for the journey that takes us to those goals.
  • Though it may be trite, appreciating the journey is as important, if not more important, than appreciating the destination, as so much of life is about exactly that… the journey.

Hope everyone is having an Easy Does It Monday!

Today’s Miracle:

True story:  one person, in his/her share (remember, trying to make things more anonymous) said the following:  “if there’s laundry to be done…. well then, teach the kids how to do it!”  It was said lightly, but it should be noted I wrote the paragraph above before the meeting.  So I’d say this reminder from someone who did not know I was fretting about this counts as my miracle!

 

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