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M(3), 12/15: The Beginning of the End

Today’s reading in the literature rotation for my Monday morning meeting was the first half of step 12 from the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.  Step 12, the final piece of the 12-step program’s puzzle, is:

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

Of all the steps, twelve is the longest in terms of reading, mainly because it has three “sub-points” that lie within it:

1.  Defining a spiritual awakening, and describing what it looks like

2.  Discussing the various and sundry ways in which to carry the message

3.  Identifying the various parts of our lives in which the 12-step principles can be practiced

The sharing from today’s half-chapter focused quite a bit on the spiritual angle of the 12-step program, and the benefits the conscious contact with a Higher Power brings to daily life.  We had a pretty decent mix of spirituality in the meeting this morning:  some find it almost childish to pray to a Higher Power, some consider themselves alternatively spiritual rather than the more classical definition that involves organized religion, and then we have a professional clergyman in our group.

And although every person who shared defined their Higher Power differently, had different interpretations of the term “spiritual awakening,” and had different manifestations of spirituality in their daily lives, all agreed upon this premise:  the spiritual component of their recovery not only helped them to get and to stay sober, it enriched their lives in ways they couldn’t have possibly imagined.

For me, step 12 is the one that has been the most transformative, and is the one I reference most in my daily life, so a step 12 meeting is always one I enjoy.  But today’s meeting had a special element about which I will share.  First, however, I need to lay some groundwork:

This past weekend, which I will write more about in a different post, my husband and I had a delightful “adults only” trip to New York City, where we stayed with one of our best friends in the world.  More on the weekend later, but there was one miniscule moment, where through the course of dropping items in the subway station (yuck), I reached in to the pocket of my very old jeans and discovered a hole.

Which then led me down the rabbit hole of a memory from active addiction that included that same hole in the pocket of those same jeans.

In the immediate moment, I was able to shake it off by practicing mindfulness:  getting out of my own head and being present in my current circumstances.

On the drive home, however, the debilitating thoughts came back, and I knew the best course of action was to talk about them, to shine some light on the memory in order to dispel it.  However, the only available resource was my husband, and my general policy with this type of issue is to avoid burdening him with these thoughts.  After all, my bad memories are usually his too, and it is not right to create a memory burden for him in the interest of unburdening myself.

On the other hand, I know he appreciates when I am open with what is on my mind.  Back and forth the volley went in my head, and I finally decided to proceed in sharing my inner turmoil.

He did not appear troubled; in fact, he expressed gratitude in my trusting him with these thoughts.  When I asked if my reliving this particular experience bothered him, he replied that it made him grateful for the progress that has been made in the years since.

All positives all the way around, because I was able to shake the malaise, although in the back of my mind I did marvel at this ability to compare then and now and feel the difference.  I concluded that because I was the centerpiece, I am too close to it to have that particular viewpoint.

Short story long, today’s reading includes the following passage:

When a man or a woman has a spiritual awakening, the most important meaning of it is that he has now become able to do, feel, and believe that which he could not do before on his unaided strength and resources alone.  He has been granted a gift which amounts to a new state of consciousness and being.  He has been set on a path which tells him he is really going somewhere, that life is not a dead-end, not something to be endured or mastered.

-Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 107

Honestly, even while we read it, nothing really hit me about this section, until a friend re-read it and shared what it meant to him.  And then, like a thunderbolt, I had a memory from active addiction, where I consciously thought about life as something to be endured until I was able to alter myself chemically.  The meaning of life, while in active addiction, was to hang on until the next time I could drink or ingest something to make it livable.

And the difference between how I lived life then, and how I live life now, was so startling, and so crystal clear, that tears came to my eyes.  And in sharing this bittersweet realization with the group, I felt the full power of step twelve in my life.

Love those full-circle moments!

Today’s Miracle:

Two weeks ago the regular attendees of the meeting decided to throw together a “causal luncheon” for after the meeting.  The “causal luncheon” turned into a feast with homemade lasagna, cakes and cookies, and much more… how lucky am I to know these amazing chefs and bakers?

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M(3), 11/3: A Vision For You

 

I know I say this at the start of every month, but… I can’t believe it’s already November!

Today’s reading selection was the final chapter in Part I of the book Alcoholics Anonymous (aka The Big Book), entitled “A Vision for You.”  This chapter more or less encapsulates the entire 12-step program, and does so in a beautiful, profound, and energizing way; it is regularly regarded as the most inspirational chapter of the book.  The image above contains the last two powerful paragraphs of the chapter, I get goosebumps every time I read it!  And I am not alone, this same sentiment was shared by nearly every attendee this morning.  This chapter reinforces for those of us lucky enough to call ourselves members of this 12-step fellowship, why we go to meetings, why we work the 12 steps, and why we are always ready to help the next suffering alcoholic.  The answer is that by doing these simple things, we are given a life that exceeds our wildest dreams.

I selected this chapter because if aligns with the feelings I experienced as a result of some events from yesterday.  A friend asked me if I would join her at a meeting she attends; she thought I might enjoy it too.  I agreed, and it wasn’t until that morning, when I mapquested it, I discovered a personal significance:  it is the very first meeting I attended after I hit my alcoholic bottom.

When I realized it, I almost called and cancelled.  What possible good could come of reliving that horrific weekend?  I could just as easily attend another meeting with her later in the week.  However, remembering that my going may very well be helping my friend, and it would be pretty darn rude to cancel that late, I decided to thumb my nose at these feelings and soldier on.

The ride to the meeting was chock full of unpleasant memories, and landmarks of active addiction.  Walking in to the beautiful stone church which housed the meeting, I passed the area where, on that frigid Sunday in January, I smoked probably a half-dozen cigarettes, still in so much shock that I had no real appreciation for the complete mess my life had become.

These unpleasant thoughts are rolling around my head as the meeting starts and the chairperson announces that the format is something called the “ask it basket.”  She explains that as this is a newcomer’s women’s meeting (both of which are facts that escaped me 3 years ago), they offer this format as an opportunity to ask questions in an anonymous way, and see how other women are handling/have handled said situation.  This turns my mood around quickly; this is a new format for me, and I’m always one to be captivated by shiny, new objects.

There were a bunch of really interesting questions, but the one that enchanted me, and the one I chose to use as the springboard for my sharing, was:

Why do we have to go to so many meetings?

I love this question, because it is absolutely one I was asking on a regular basis when I dragged my hours-sober-self into this very meeting!  I explained to the group the circumstances of my last encounter with this meeting, and how for the 8 or 9 months prior to it I had been attending meetings, but was anything but a true member of the fellowship.  Up to that point, I attended meetings because I was satisfying somebody else’s idea of how to get sober.

And on that day, I’m fairly certain I left the meeting the same way I entered it… shattered, heartsick, terrified.  But that night, praying to God in a way I hadn’t before, I considered those kind women who took time out of the meeting to show me some helpful sections of the Big Book, sections that are important to my sobriety even today.  I considered those women and realized they go to meetings because they want to, not because someone else wants them to.  They go even though they have years, some even decades, of sobriety.  Those women seemed happy and peaceful in a way that my brain could not begin to comprehend.

And on that night, I resolved to go to a meeting every day, and pray like crazy that I could get what those women have.  Failing that, I prayed that the obsession to drink and use drugs would be lifted.

That day, almost 3 years ago, I was awoken to my husband telling me to pack my bags, he was taking me to my Mom’s, he did not want me around him or the children anymore.  I arrived like the unwelcome surprise that I was on my Mom’s doorstep, and was met with horrified disbelief that I would be taking up residence there.  I was taken to the meeting, and I could feel the disappointment from my sponsor.  I left that meeting to go start my new life without my husband and children.

Yesterday, I woke up, gloriously refreshed due to the extra hour of sleep permitted.  I sat with my husband enjoying our morning coffee, and we watched our favorite Sunday morning program.  I drove myself to the meeting to spend time with my friend.  I went home, picked up my son, and together we celebrated a successful cross-country season with his team mates.  We returned home to get organized for the week ahead while my husband put the finishing touches on his world-famous chili, served in bread bowls that he picked up at the bakery while I was at the meeting.  We sat down as a family to devour the feast, then cleaned up and quietly ended our weekend in the family room in front of the fire.

It may seem counterintuitive to remind ourselves of our painful past mistakes and horrors, but, for me anyway, it keeps my blessings fresh, and reminds me of the progress and growth I’ve made.  It is absolutely worth it.

Today’s Miracle:

Two newcomers to my meeting today, and three anniversaries celebrated (3 years, 5 months, and 4 months).  In a group this small (13 people), that is amazing!

M(3), 10/27: The Medical Profession and AA

 

In the literature rotation of my meeting, the fourth Monday is labelled “chairperson’s choice.”  This week, I chose a selection from a book not used very frequently these days, entitled Alcoholic Anonymous Comes of Age:  A Brief History of A.A.  The book gives an account of the historic 1955 St. Louis convention, at which the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous assumed full responsibility for all its affairs.  It contains the lectures of many of the notable speakers throughout the convention, as well as discusses the three principles of the fellowship:  recovery, unity and service.

This morning we read the chapter entitled, “Medicine Looks at Alcoholics Anonymous.”  In this chapter we read the speech from a distinguished member of the American Medical Association, Dr. W. W. Bauer.  Dr. Bauer, in his address to the assembly, compares the societal view towards alcoholism to that of tuberculosis:  both are diseases that afflict people through no fault of their own, and yet at one time those afflicted with either illness were regarded shamefully.  He notes that same stigma was once attached to those afflicted with cancer.  Happily, though, both the medical establishment, as well as society itself, is slowly coming around to regarding these diseases objectively, without assigning disgrace to those who carry them.

He praises AA for its use of “group therapy,” as he calls it:  gathering support, sympathy and guidance from one another as each attempts to dispel the obsession to drink alcohol.  Many of the treatment options the medical profession offers the sick and suffering alcoholic was learned from cooperating with the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.  The partnership of the two – medicine and AA – is a mutually beneficial one.

By and large the group enjoyed the reading, although the glad handing that went on as one speaker introduced the next proved to be a time waster.  The standout of Dr. Bauer’s lecture, for me, occurred when he touched upon the importance of our attitude:

“Illness of the emotions is no more something to be ashamed of than is illness of the body.  We should no more hesitate to consult a psychiatrist than we should hesitate to consult an orthopedist for a sore foot.”

-pg. 240, Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age

It took time for me to stop feeling ashamed of having the disease of alcoholism; for a long time I could not let go of the idea that I should just be able to control myself.  Letting go of the shame felt as though a load was lifted off my back.  To borrow an idea from another 12-step fellowship:  I didn’t cause my alcoholism, I can’t control whether or not I am afflicted with it, and I cannot cure it.  One day at a time, however, I can do a few simple things that will remove the obsession to drink right out of me!

Other talking points, as shared by the various attendees of this morning’s meeting, included:

  • Our program of recovery has three legs upon which it stands firmly:  physical, spiritual emotional.  Today’s reading touched upon the physical leg, and it is so important, especially in the earliest days of sobriety.  Learning proper nutrition, what vitamins and minerals support healthy recovery, and touching base with a medical professional for any prescriptive needs all provide a sound foundation upon which we build our sober future.
  • In the last paragraph of his lecture, Dr. Bauer says:

“I am no psychiatrist, but I have confidence in saying this to you as I have said to thousands of patients, that the thing we need most of all in this world today is tranquility of mind.  Various names have been given to it.  Some books about it have been very popular.  Some call it the power of positive thinking, some call it peace of mind, some call it peace of souls, but I’m inclined to along with Billy Graham and call it peace with God.  Those are the things that we need.  And an organization like yours, in a world that seems to have gone materialistically mad, gives us courage to believe that there is still hope, that there is still idealism, and that we are going to win out over many, many of our problems, one of the most serious of which is alcoholism.”

-pg. 244, Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age

This paragraph stood out to a number of us today, in that we are so grateful to be part of a fellowship whose very goal is to achieve this peace for ourselves, and to have the honor of helping others do the same.

  • Finally, and this was echoed by almost every attendee who shared, was the appreciation of the “group therapy” component of our fellowship.  As one member put it this morning, “Putting a dollar in a basket to sit here and share my troubles, and have all of you help me, is a real bargain compared to the thousands I have spent in therapy!”  Another put it this way, “No matter how I feel, good or bad, I have never left a meeting disappointed… I am always in a better mental place leaving the meeting than when I went in.”  A friend who we have not seen a few weeks berated herself on her absence:  “I feel the difference when I stop going to meetings, just coming here and seeing all of your friendly, supportive faces brightens my day, and when I don’t go I feel like I’m missing something in my life!”

Today’s Miracle:

Sometimes it takes the miracles of others to become conscious of your own.  Hearing how much everyone gets out of meetings helped deepen my own appreciation!

M(3), 9/29: How Big of a Deal is an Alcoholic Slip?

 

Polarized would be the word I choose to describe this morning’s meeting, and never before have I had a chance to do that!

This being the fifth Monday in the month of September, I did a little research and came up with an unusual article to use as this morning’s reading selection.  Originally published in 1947 in the AA magazine Grapevine, “Slips” was written by Dr. William D. Silkworth, an American medical doctor who was tremendously influential in the founding of the 12-step program Alcoholics Anonymous.  Silkworth’s position in this article is that a relapse, or “slip,” to an alcoholic can be compared to the cardiac patient who, after time spent abiding by the rules of his condition, slowly but surely reverts to his old lifestyle that caused the heart attack.  In other words:  alcoholics are human beings first and foremost, and the poor decisions made by an alcoholic are often the result of flawed humanity, rather than by the condition of alcoholism.

I picked this reading because of its provocative nature.  The 12-step program to which I am accustomed tends to teach a bit opposite this idea, and yet one of the players instrumental in the development of this very program is stating otherwise.  Parts of the reading that spoke to me personally is the idea that alcoholism is a disease, but one that does not define me as a person:

Both in professional and lay circles there is a tendency to label everything than an alcoholic may do as “alcoholic behavior.”  The truth is it is simply human nature.  It is very wrong to consider many of the personality traits observed in liquor addicts as peculiar to the alcoholic.  Emotional and mental quirks are classified as symptoms of alcoholism merely because alcoholics have them, yet these same quirks can be found among non-alcoholic also.  Actually they are symptoms of mankind, ORDINARY PEOPLE.

-Silkworth, “Slips,” Grapevine magazine

This part made sense to me, especially as I mature a bit in sobriety.  As I observe the world and the people around me with the clarity of sober eyes, I realize that my character defects are common to those around me, whether they are alcoholic or not.  Remembering that to err is human calms the perfectionistic thinker who dwells within.

And yet, I had the vague sense that a critical something was off in this article, but, truth be told, I just figured my comrades on Monday morning would help me figure it out, so I put it aside until today.  And my friends did not disappoint!

The first several to share their opinion on the article viewed it favorably.  They liked the idea that we are human first, alcoholic second.  And each of the people who enjoyed the article emphasized the importance of remembering that relapses, or slips, happen long before the first drink or drug in ingested.  A relapse starts the moment we begin sliding back into old ways of thinking and acting.  If we continue down that path, the return to alcohol is inevitable.

The next group of people to share had a different opinion.  And while they used words like feeling “ambiguous” and “ambivalent” about the article, it was clear to me that they in fact disagreed with Silkworth’s opinion.  As one attendee put it, Silkworth is a doctor and therefore looks at it from a physical point of view.  Alcoholism, however, is a three-pronged disease:  physical, mental, spiritual.  When you consider the totality of the condition, alcoholism, and the effects of a relapse, are quite different that a cardiac patient who reverts to his previous unhealthy lifestyle.

The next attendee to share had even stronger feelings about it:  the article completely disregards the foundation of the AA program; namely, the need to discover and rely upon a power greater than oneself.  In no way does this correlate to a cardiac patient.  In addition, there is simply no comparison to the repercussions of an alcoholic “slip” and that of a cardiac one.  A cardiac patient can smoke one cigarette with minimal consequences, but there is no telling what may happen when a recovered alcoholic takes that first drink.

There was also an animated discussion on the use of the word “slip” when describing an alcoholic relapse.  On this point everyone seemed to agree:  a slip implies something accidental, whereas a person with sober time who chooses to drink does so with absolute premeditation.

There was a lively debate back and forth about some of the semantics of the article, but everyone seemed to enjoy reading it and, more importantly, considering his or her own feeling on the subject.  Another general consensus reached is that a healthy fear of picking up a drink is not a bad thing, in the same way that a healthy fear of getting burned by a stove, or being hit by erratic drivers is not a bad thing; both keep us safe.

I encourage readers who are in recovery to take a second a read Silkworth’s article… I would love to know your thoughts on the subject!

Today’s Miracle:

Participating in such a lively discussion, and taking that energy with me as I continue my day!

M(3), 1/13: The Value of Meetings

I want to write about an experience I had at my meeting this morning, but first, for the sake of continuity, I will write about the meeting itself, which was, as usual, a great one.  Eleven attendees, and the reading was a chapter from the book Living Sober, “Going to AA Meetings.”  The chapter breaks down for the newcomer what an AA meeting is like, the different formats that AA meetings follow, and the many benefits that can be gained through regular meeting attendance.  The group had some laughs reminiscing about our first meeting experiences, and how we have evolved through our various lengths of sober time.  All in all, it seems like everyone gained insight and wisdom from one another, the goal of any 12-step meeting.

Here’s the other part of the meeting I wanted to share, and hopefully I can describe it effectively.  My meeting takes place in a “clubhouse” of sorts.  For those not familiar with the term, a clubhouse refers to a facility that is used exclusively for 12-step fellowships.  Some are specific, such as an AA Clubhouse, which will run meetings several times a day, every day, and is usually open between meetings for people to socialize.  The clubhouse that houses my meeting is available for any 12-step fellowship, although in reality it mostly holds AA meetings.  It is a relatively new facility, less than 2 years old, and is struggling, both financially and in terms of actively involved members, and the future is uncertain.

One more piece of information to set the scene for this morning’s adventures:  it is a large and unsecure building.  At some point, the front door was permanently unlocked, and I have never sought out the reason for why this is so.  Since I am (more or less) only in the building during daylight hours, I have never thought much about this fact.

Back to the present:  I arrived, as I typically do, about 30 minutes prior to the start time, and I happen to pick up a gentleman who does not drive on his own.  Normally, he and I are the first to arrive, as luck would have it, another regular attendee was there early, and he brought someone with him.  I knew this because I saw his car in the parking lot.  The gentleman I drive and I walk in through the front door, and walk the short hallway to the meeting room we use.  To the right of the meeting room is a long dark hallway, which leads to other rooms.  As I’m opening the door to go into the room, I hear, from the dark hallway, a tentative “hello.”  Thinking it my friend, I say hello back, and continue into the meeting room.  Imagine my surprise when I see my friend already in the meeting room, so I walk back out to the hallway to see who was in it.  From the darkness  a disheveled looking man appears, holding the clubhouse phone in his hand.  He launches into a story asking if there was going to be a meeting, because he had been here on a Monday before hoping to find one, and finding the clubhouse empty.  By this point, both the mystery man and I are back in the well-lit meeting room with the other meeting attendees.  I cautiously explain that I run the Monday meetings, and I am always here, and he begins backpedaling, saying maybe it wasn’t a Monday, but in fact some other day of the week.  Everyone, of course, welcomes him into the meeting room, and we all begin the process of setting up for the meeting, which includes starting coffee, passing out books, and setting up several free-standing heaters to warm up the room.  In the course of this activity, we realize that one of our units does not appear to be there, at which point the mystery gentleman goes back down the darkened hallway, and reappears with a heater, saying he saw it in one of the other rooms.

Hmmm…

So here’s the conundrum for me as the meeting leader:  our traditions state, unequivocally, that the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.  On the other hand, this behavior is extremely unusual, and it was uncomfortable for me personally.  It would appear that perhaps he was setting up shop somewhere in the building.

How I resolved the issue of how to handle this gentleman, for the short-term (aka today’s meeting):  one of the attendees present is also on the board of the clubhouse, so I took my cues from him.  He shook the man’s hand, engaged him in conversation, and did not appear ruffled in the least that the heater was temporarily “misplaced.”  I watched this officer go back down the hallway, and I can only assume that he checked things out, and the mystery man did stay for the entire meeting.  The officer returned to the meeting, and, again, did not appear concerned, so I proceeded as I normally do.  At the end of the meeting, the mystery man left before me, and everything appeared intact.  The officer of the clubhouse left before I had a chance to speak with him privately.

So why am I sharing this story?  Because it was unsettling, for one, and this is where I can let out uncomfortable feelings.  For anyone reading who may be considering a 12-step fellowship, please don’t let this story discourage you… I have been a regular attendee at 12-step meeting for over 2 years now, and this has NEVER happened before.  Really, it is a strange set of circumstances, most buildings would be secure for this very reason.

I guess the other reason I am sharing it is to ask for advice… what kind of follow-up should I do?  Should I be fighting for more security in the building?  Should I be thinking about taking my meeting to a more secure location?  I would feel badly about this second option, for my meeting is one of a small handful that has stuck with it, and has regular attendance.  I don’t want to abandon these people, but… I don’t know.  It’s a strange and uncomfortable situation.

So, I would love some feedback:  how would you have handled this situation, and, more important, how would you handle it going forward?

Today’s Miracle:

That I have this support system on which to lean!

Monday Meeting Miracles: 11/18

I need to come up with a new way of saying that my Monday meeting was fantastic, because I fear I’m getting repetitive.  It was fantastic, 12 people, it seems these days that even when a regular attendee does not show up, I will have a newcomer to take his or her place.  Here’s what was cool about today’s meeting.  It is the third Monday of the month, which means a reading from the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.  Because it is November, we read the chapter dedicated to 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.  Of course I know this is what we are going to be reading, and so I have been considering how I am faring with this step in my everyday life, and I find that I am comfortable with the prayer portion of the step, but still feeling very weak in the meditation part.  I have written about my struggles with meditation several times in the past, and I don’t feel as if I have progressed very far in this department.

Back to the meeting.  I am contemplating what I will be sharing, and I am focusing on what I can say about my struggles with meditation, and a car pulls into the parking lot that I do not recognize.  Out of the car steps a gentleman I have not seen in at least 6 months, maybe more, named Brian.  And, of course, it is always so wonderful to reconnect with someone you have not seen in a while, but here’s what is amazing:  the last I saw Brian he was attempting to start a meeting in the same club house I run my meeting.  And that meeting was to be a moving meditation meeting. He wound up shutting down the meeting due to a lack of participation, but how fortuitous is it that as I am gearing up to talk about my lack of progress in meditation, he drives into the parking lot!

So of course I needed to share this serendipity with him and the other early birds to the meeting, and we had a fascinating discussion about the benefits and practical application of meditation in everyday life.  It turns out that two other early birds are well-read on the subject, and I was able to learn so much from them in the 20 minutes before the meeting even started!

Now, when a meeting is that interesting and it hasn’t even started yet, you know it’s only going to get better, and it did not disappoint.  The other attendees had just as great things to share, both on meditation, and step eleven in general.  Here are some of my take-aways:

  • Meditation is a process, and therefore takes time, patience, and practice; the results are cumulative.  The goal is not for a white-light moment; rather, it is a slow and steady shift in perception that, over time, leads to a substantive increase in peace and serenity
  • It is beneficial to establish a routine:  create a spot in your home that brings you peace, and intend for that spot to be a place where you will meditate daily
  • Meditation is about the absence of judgment.  So whatever comes into your mind, let it come in and go out, negatively judging it will only lead to resistance in meditation
  • Keep it simple.  Forget about all the fancy clothes, incense, music, and whatever else is associated with meditation.  Be still, be quiet, focus on breathing in and out.  Keep that up, and you will find yourself meditating as surely as those in the cloistered monasteries all over the world!

… At least that was what I was told.  I committed to the group that I would designate a spot (which I have), and I will attempt to sit quietly in that spot for a few minutes each day, and see what happens.  I am still toying with the time of day to do this, but for now I will try different times to see what yields the best results.  I am hopeful that this new information will help me to make some serious progress, and I will check in at some point and let you know how it goes!

Today’s Miracle:

An absolutely gorgeous day on the East Coast, warm weather that is unheard of in mid-November.  I will appreciate it while I can!

Do You Want to be Right or Do You Want to be Happy?

 

The answer to this question should be obvious.  Sadly, for me, it is not.

My Monday meeting report:  nice meeting, 6 attendees.  It was a step 7 meeting, which, predictably, centers on the subject of humility, a key concept in step 7 work.  What is always interesting to me is the mindset on humility as it relates to sober time.  I have noticed that people in early sobriety (which, of course, is relative, I am in early sobriety.  I guess to be more specific, people with less than 12 months of continuous sobriety) focus on humiliation rather than humility… they speak of the various shameful experiences they have had, and they relate their humility to these experiences.

Of course, true humility, at least the quality to which we in recovery are aspiring, has nothing to do with humiliation.

hu·mil·i·ty

  [hyoo-mil-i-tee or, often, yoo-] 

noun

the quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, rank, etc.
Here’s my evolution as it relates to humility:  in early days, when people spoke of the importance of humility, I essentially disregarded it.  I considered myself a humble person; if anything, I did not think highly enough of myself.  As time went on, and I worked the steps, I discovered, much to my chagrin, that in fact I needed to do quite a bit of work in this arena.  When I believe that the world revolves around me, I am not being humble. When I insist that my way is the right way, I am not behaving humbly.  When I am displaying self-righteousness, I am not displaying humility.
Like I said, I have some work to do.
Here’s an interesting story related to this topic.  In the course of the past 4 days, I have had various minor situations come up that have caused me to be irritable, restless and discontent.  These situations are minor enough that they are not even worth documenting, but are notable in that they happened in a relatively short period of time.  At one point I actually said to myself, “get to a meeting so you can find your answer.”  I went to a meeting, the topic was humility.  Hmmm.  Life goes on, apparently I wasn’t listening hard enough, because self-righteousness reared its ugly head several more times throughout the weekend.  Today’s meeting?  Humility.
Who says God doesn’t speak directly to you?
Today’s Miracle:
Last night, in what would be the pinnacle (or would it be nadir?) of my bad mood, I was reading a brilliant post by a fellow blogger (please check it out, it is beautiful… Sober Identity).  In the grips of my self-centered thinking, all I could focus on was how not far along I was, in comparison to her progress.  It was progress enough last night for me to shut down the computer and vow to re-read it when I was in a better frame of mind.  I did that today, within the framework of today’s meeting on humility, and it was as if a whole new set of words popped up… I could see all of my own progress, as well as feel genuine happiness for Lisa that she can see hers.  And so today’s miracle is appreciating the recovery of others… well done, Lisa!

The Steps in Everyday Living: Part Eleven

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.

Alright, we are in the home stretch!  That is what I thought when I got to this step while going through them, and that is what I think as I am writing this series.  Recovery-wise, Step 11 works in conjunction with step 10, and so are typically done simultaneously.  The way Step 10 is a mini-step 4, Step 11 is a mini-step 3 (Turned our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him).

Here’s the logistics of Step 11:  In the morning, say your prayers, and make sure to ask God to direct your thoughts and actions so that you may better serve His will.  This is important, because it is so easy to revert to self-will, asking for what we want, demanding what we think should happen.  So getting in the proper mindset, right up front, is important.  Next, take a minute to review your day, what’s on the to-do list, and what decisions need to be made.  Ask God for help with the decisions, and take some time to meditate.  Remember, praying is asking for God’s help, meditating is listening for His answer.  Conclude with a prayer asking to be free from self-will, since it is something that pops up again and again.

Throughout the day, when faced with anxiety or indecision, pause, and ask God for guidance, help, direction.  Turn the problem over to Him, and have confidence that He will handle it.

At the end of the day, take a moment and reflect on what you’ve done, both good and bad.  There are many different checklists available that you can use, if you find that sort of thing helpful,  but the idea is:  what did you do well?  what could you have done better?  what amends need to be made tomorrow?   Ask for forgiveness for the failings, thank Him for the successes, and pray for direction in determining any corrective actions that might be taken tomorrow.

This sounds like a lot of stuff, but in reality, each of these steps take but moments of each day, and I can tell you, make an absolute world of difference in the quality of my life.

I can’t say enough about how this step helps in everyday living.  The minute I feel out of sorts, I make it a point to shoot up a quick prayer and ask for His help.  Just that very small act almost invariably lifts whatever burden I am carrying off my shoulders, and I can breathe easier.  When I make the effort to clue in to my surroundings, I find He answers even more than I have asked of Him!

A Day in the Life of a (Recovering) Addict

So, if you’re tired of the same old story, oh, turn some pages. –REO Speedwagon, Roll With The Changes

I have a somewhat sheepish admission to make.  I have been taught that addiction is a disease of self-centeredness, and I can easily see that statement is true.  But, honestly, sometimes recovery seems self-centered as well.  I feel like I spend an inordinate amount of time checking in with myself, my feelings, my emotions, making sure I am balanced.  If I feel the slightest bit “off,” I worry… oh no, am I heading toward a drink or drug?  And certainly, this beats the alternative of active addiction, but I sometimes feel like dealing with myself is like catering to a toddler.

Having said that, I will also freely admit there are payoffs to all of this soul-searching, and this morning I had one.  First, let me back up and tell you what kind of a day I had yesterday.  I was on a tight schedule for the morning:  my plan this whole week is to do a “media blitz” to encourage attendance at the meeting I run, so I had (have) a plan to canvas a bunch of local meetings, hand out my fancy new flyer, and generally, yuck it up with the other attendees.  So, back to yesterday, I am backing out of the garage, son in tow, and it completely slips my mind that my father-in-law‘s brand new trailer is parked in our driveway.  I bump it hard enough to send it rolling, and now my son is screaming in my ear that it is rolling down the hill in our backyard.  I can laugh about it now, because it really did play like a sitcom.  Fortunately, it did stop rolling after about 2 feet.

Still, not a really fun way to start the day.  Now I have to call my husband and father-in-law and share this wonderful news.  Quick side note:  I only hit the hitch of the trailer, so the primary damage is to my car, and, thank God, it is cosmetic, but still.

I did not procrastinate, I made the phone calls (huge change #1).  One call went well, one did not, but that is a story for another time.  By this time, I was unable to get to my planned meeting early, and so all my lofty aspirations for the media blitz are gone for that day.  Alright, there are worse things, but the day keeps going (not stressing about schedule snafus, huge change #2).  I have another appointment right after, and for the sake of this post not going into the thousands, word-wise, I will simply state that I received some seriously disappointing news.  The kind of news that, in the past, would send me into a self-righteous fury that could last for weeks.  And I still have to deal the damned car!

There’s a little bit more, but mostly minor at this point.  So, in the spirit of checking in with myself, I find some angst (surprise!).  Now, more or less instinctively, my first thought is to shoot up a quick prayer.  Nothing fancy, just “God, I’ve got some stuff going on, I could use a little extra help” (huge change #3).  Next, I share my thoughts with others (huge change #4).  Finally, and I did this many, many times throughout the day yesterday, I reminded myself of what is in my control (my thoughts, my actions) and what is not (everything else, including, apparently, the fender).  Of course, that is huge change #5.   And, miracle of all miracles, the rest of the day really did improve, and when I went to bed last night I was genuinely at peace.

This morning, I was speaking to my husband, and I mentioned that I was still upset about the disappointing news I received yesterday (the actual term I used was “pissed off,” I have the mouth of a truck driver in everyday life).  He said, “You are using the word pissed, but are you really?  Because you do not seem at all angry like you would have been in the past.”  So I considered this statement, and he is absolutely correct!  In fact, a review of the whole day, and how it ended, is a complete testament to the 12-step program and it’s effectiveness in everyday life.

Today’s Miracle:

At the risk of being redundant, the realization of yesterday’s huge changes, and the conversation with my husband this morning, are both miracles.

All I Really Need To Know I Learned in AA

All I Really Need To Know I Learned in AA

Accepting your powerlessness makes you powerful.
Trust in God.
Let go, let God… with everything in life
Take a good look at yourself: the good as well as the bad
Confession is good for the soul
Let go of the stuff that isn’t good for you.
Act as if the bad stuff is already gone.
Be responsible for your actions.
Clean up your side of the street.
Admit when you are wrong.
Keep building on your solid foundation.
Sharing makes everything better.

Today’s Miracle:

An upcoming weekend with very little obligation and running around. Bonus: we get to have a date night!

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