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M(3), 10/26/15: Humility and Serenity are Strange Bedfellows

I can’t believe it’s been two weeks since I’ve chaired this meeting, but I’m so happy I’m back. ¬†Let’s hope I’m not the only one who’s happy ūüėČ

Believe it or not, it is the fourth Monday of the month… what the WHAT?!? ¬†In the rotation is the book As Bill Sees It, and the subject I chose is serenity. ¬†After last week’s post, where I disclosed my endless and needless guilt issues (quick note: ¬†I was overwhelmed with the incredible wisdom I gained as a result of everyone’s comments, thank you so very much), I figured I would seek a subject that is the opposite… focus on the solution, not the problem, right?

And serenity was the closest I could find in terms of guilt’s opposite. ¬†Plus, who couldn’t use a little serenity in their lives, right? ¬†Certainly the larger-than-average size group of attendees this morning thought so; all who shared claimed they heard just what they needed to this morning.

Funny how that works.

Two profound things came out of this morning’s meeting for me. ¬†First, multiple people disclosed that they are recently back from a relapse. ¬†Although the meeting was larger than usual, it is still a small meeting. ¬†To have a decent percentage of the crowd (I would guess about a third) to be starting over in terms of sobriety is a first for this particular meeting.

You would think that such a startling trend would be put a damper on the mood of the meeting; in fact, the opposite seemed to happen. ¬†Relief and even joy seemed to emanate from each of the individuals who spoke of their troubles. ¬†Not joy over relapsing, but joy in the fact that they were back where they needed to be. ¬†Some are facing legal problems, some worry that their hold on sobriety is tenuous, one is anticipating an upcoming surgery; his last surgery precipitated his recent relapse. ¬†But even with all of life’s issues, each person was grateful for the opportunity to begin again a sober life.

The second theme came from the collection of readings from this morning.  Although the topic was serenity, each reading spoke in one form or another of the importance of humility.  And each of us marvelled over the impact our humility has on our serenity.

And a quick reminder for those who don’t study recovery literature as those of us in 12-step programs do: ¬†humility is not humiliation. ¬†Rather, humility is¬†a reasonable perspective of oneself. ¬†Bill Wilson, founder of the original 12-step program, defined it this way:

The clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to be what we can be.

-Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

Seen from this perspective, it is easy to see why striving for humility might also bring about serenity.

It was in one of the discussions about humility that I had my thunderbolt thought. ¬†Let me back up and say that all of the readings had an impact on me, I had chosen serenity due to my recent lack of it. ¬†So all of the suggestions and thoughts were helpful. ¬†But at one point a gentleman was sharing about the idea of turning everything over to his Higher Power, and in so doing he finds serenity. ¬†So I considered this… would turning over these guilty feelings and incessant negative voices over to God help? ¬†Immediately the negative thoughts started, it is not even possible to gather and document them all. ¬†But the aggregate thought might be:

How do you know these negative voices aren’t God’s way of telling you to do something different? ¬†How do you know that the guilt isn’t from God, given as an impetus for change?

With that question came an immediate reply, one that caused all the negativity to quiet down, dramatically.  I actually lost track of the conversation in the meeting for a few moments because my mind was so quiet:

Because God would not torture you with needless guilt to get His point across… duh!

And just like that I had an answer that made sense. ¬†I can talk back to the nagging guilty conscience, because it’s not some wisdom from above, wisdom from above does not come in the voice of a nagging shrew.

Gotta love those Oprah-style aha moments!

Today’s Miracle:

I came in with some pretty high expectations for this meeting, and I left with a peace and serenity the exceeded those high expectations.  

One Day At A Time

I have had the opportunity to catch up on some blog reading, and an interesting theme came up for me, which is the mention of possibly the most common AA expression: ¬†one day at a time. ¬†Ask any person with long-term sobriety how they achieved this goal, and their answer will almost certainly be “one day at a time.”

I surprised to read that “one day at a time” does not work for people, that they have to commit to a lifetime approach to sobriety in order to be successful. ¬†I want to share a story, I may have mentioned it in passing before, but I will re-tell it, because it was the very first time that “one day at a time” really worked for me.

I have mentioned that the first few months of my sobriety were fear-based; in other words, I stayed sober because fear of consequences outweighed the desire to alter myself chemically. ¬†The next few months were probably, in looking back, “pink cloud” months. ¬†For those not familiar with recovery jargon, the term “pink cloud” refers to¬†a period of time where the addict experiences a reprieve from the struggles associated with early recovery. ¬†I was choosing recovery for me, not anyone else, and I was proud of the accomplishments I was achieving.

Somewhere around the 6 month mark, I was having a completely uneventful day… nothing bad, nothing great… and out of nowhere the thought came to me: ¬†“Will I really not be able to have a champagne toast at my daughter’s wedding?”

Please bear in mind, readers, at the time of that thought, my daughter was 12 years old, so why I needed to ponder this at all remains a mystery.

As ridiculous as it sounds, I ran with that thought and spent a good few minutes depressed and self-pitying… woe is me! ¬†I can’t have a sip of champagne years from now! ¬†But this is how addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful, if you let these thoughts take root.

Fortunately, I did not, and after a few minutes of worrying about this future quandary, I pulled the “one day at a time” tool out of my tool box. ¬†I asked myself, “can you refrain from drinking or using a drug today?

I can remember where I was at that moment in time, the relief I felt was that palpable. ¬†All I had to do was get through today without ingesting anything mind-altering. ¬†As soon as I re-focused on the present day, my serenity returned. ¬†I can let tomorrow take care of itself, because all I’ve got is today.

Anyway, that is why “one day at a time” is a key part of my recovery: ¬†it is like a get out of jail free card, where the jail is my addictive mindset!

Today’s Miracle:

For the first time in recorded history, I am completely ready for the first day of school, and I still have 6 days to go!

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