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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!

 

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Back to the WOTY

service-to-others

Off by a day or two, but still, three posts in a week… a-MAH-zing!

I wanted to get back to my choice for WOTY (Word of the Year).  I’ve been participating in this challenge for a few years now, with mixed results.  Two years ago I picked the word energy, and felt… well, energized by it!  Last year, I selected the word calm as my word for the year, and I would call that one a giant bust.  2016 was just about anything but calm!

This year I want to go in a different direction, and select an action word rather than a feeling.  I selected the word service:


serv·ice
ˈsərvəs/
noun
  1.  
    the action of helping or doing work for someone.
    “millions are involved in voluntary service”
    synonyms: favor, kindness, good turn, helping hand; More


    Why do I want to go with such a lofty word?  Because to me, service sounds somewhat sanctimonious.  But I don’t mean it that way at all.

    One of the greatest lessons I learned through my participation in a 12-step program is the value of getting out of my own head.  In fact, the final step in the 12-step process is just that… to pass along what you’ve learned to another person in need of recovery.

    And of course that specific type of service is a wonderful thing, but my word choice is a whole lot broader than that.  Here’s what I mean by service…


    Josie’s Definition of Service:

    Considering the perspective of another before my own.  Understanding rather than being understood.   Leaving people better than I found them.


     

    It’s really that simple, although as I consider the past few months, that would be quite a shift.  In sitting around and moping about my foot and unfulfilled career aspirations, I wasn’t sparing a whole lot of energy for the wants and needs of others.

    And either path, self-centeredness or service, is the kind which builds upon itself.  When I’m wallowing in self-pity, I can sink deeper and deeper.  Likewise, when I have the mindset of consideration and thoughtfulness, that tends to be contagious as well.   The question is:  which mindset provides the most benefit?

    Because that’s the truly amazing thing about service… that while the intention is to help another, you wind up helping yourself in the process.  So even if I sound all saintly by choosing the word service, really I’m just cultivating positive self-growth!

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    So there you have it… let’s try to make 2017 the year to give back.  Hopefully I’ll be better about checking in on the progress throughout the year!

    Today’s Miracle:

    The positive boost that comes from embarking on a new goal!

     

WOTY, A Recap, and Whatever Else Might Be in my Head

oogg1

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  writing is a muscle, and when you don’t exercise the muscle, you lose it, rapidly!  It’s easier to stay in the rhythm of writing than in trying to resurrect it.

But try I must, since my life is vastly improved when I use this outlet.  There’s been a lot going on, and so the unmotivated side of myself seizes upon these life issues and uses them as a handy excuse, a get out of jail free card, if you will.

And now, lo and behold, it is January 1st.  The last day of the holiday season (for the most part), and a time to look ahead and focus on self-improvement.  For the past few years I have participated in the WOTY theme (Word of The Year, an anchor to remind yourself of the priorities you’ve set for yourself in January); this year, given my pulling away from the blogging world, I was sure I would not participate again.  In fact, I wasn’t 100% sure I remembered 2016’s word of the year.

Then I woke up this morning, and a word popped into my head, and I can’t seem to let go of it.  And I haven’t found a whole lot of those lightbulb-y, aha! experiences of late, so I need to grab hold of them while I do.

So methinks I will be participating in the fun again this year.  But first, because I hate to do things out of order, I want to write a bit on where I’ve been and what’s been keeping me from the blog.

I’ve referenced the most obvious of problems a few times in the past 2 months, and that is an ongoing podiatric issue.  I elected to have a minor corrective surgical procedure in early November, and somehow I wound up with a fractured heel.  That sums up in one sentence something that, had I kept my writing muscles in shape, a subject matter that could have entertained you for hours.  Sadly, I did not, and I believe I am at last at a stage of acceptance about the whole issue.  My heel is fractured, it is a long and slow recovery (made longer and slower by my non-compliance, but give me a break, it was the holiday season), and there are worse things in life.  End of story.  Simple to say and write out now, but the mental process took some time.

A second issue took place since I’ve last written, and if I do what I should be doing, I will sit down in the near future and make a full and proper post about the experience.  I had another job opportunity come and go in the past few weeks.  This is not the first opportunity (or the second for that matter), but it was by far the most painful loss I’ve experienced in a long time.  I believed in my heart and soul that this job was meant for me. Simply put, I was wrong.  Or at the very least someone of importance disagreed with me, because they chose someone else.

I know many will be reading this and thinking “Oh boo hoo, you didn’t get a job?  Sing it to the choir, sister!” Or maybe your thoughts have trendier expressions than mine, who’s to say?  But what I’ve learned about myself through this process is how far I go to protect myself from disappointments such as these.  I assume failure before every new experience, so that if it happens I am not too shocked or upset.  I let my guard down this time, and ooh baby did it hurt.  And the timing of it was either awful or perfect… I had house guests arrive one hour after I received the news.  Not sure if this was a good distraction, or it prolonged the healing process, but as they say, it is what it is.  I believe there is more processing to come.

Finally, and possibly most irritating, was an incident that occurred a few weeks back directly after the weekly meeting I run.  A bit of backdrop:  I started the meeting 4 1/2 years ago, at the request of people who were starting a brand new clubhouse.  The goal of the clubhouse was to be a safe space for 12-step program members of all kinds to recover and support one another in recovery.  At the time I was horrified… I had only 6 months or so sober myself, who am I to start a meeting?  But I was convinced, and the rest is history.  The meeting is going strong, and in fact is one of the more well-attended ones in the club house.

Since that time I’ve backed out of most involvement in the clubhouse; once upon a time I attended their business meetings and social events, now I am almost exclusively using the space to run the Monday meeting.  I imagine it’s an evolution, and there are ebbs and flows, and I don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about.

But in the meantime all sorts of political changes have taken place, throughout all of which I’ve minded my own business.  I recently heard they elected a new president, and thought nothing of it until he introduced himself to me.  And something in my gut told me, at that very moment, that something was going to happen.  And I can tell you I don’t often get gut feelings.

And please do not get me wrong, the new president is a wonderful gentleman.  He introduced himself as though he did not recognize me, but I certainly know him, and respect his sobriety greatly.  And I stand in awe of his service… it is a huge undertaking to lead a clubhouse, and I respect his decision to do so.

A few weeks later he arrived oddly late to my meeting… there was at most 10 minutes left to go.  I did not think a thing of it, until he hung around waiting to speak with me.  My radar picked up the signal of distress, and I waited patiently through the “how’s your foot?” questions to see what was up.

And my radar was correct, he was coming to me with a problem that was brought to him.  He understands I write a blog.  He has not read it himself, but somebody in our local community has, and they are concerned that I am breaking the anonymity of a specific person, and that if this person were to find out, he/she would be devastated and leave my meeting.

So let’s back up here:  the person coming to me with the problem has yet to read the blog himself, and the person coming to him isn’t concerned with his or her anonymity, but someone else’s.  And they’re not speaking on behalf of that person, they’re just projecting a potential problem.

My defenses register all of this immediately.  But first, this is on the heels of a recovery meeting, second, the newly elected president is saying all of this in the gentlest of ways, so it’s not liking he’s “coming at me,” per se, and third, I detest all forms of confrontation and thus will always want to consider all options before I respond.  One last factor that I’m ashamed to include but will for the sake of honesty:  at the time of this discussion/suggestion, I truly believed I would be employed on a full-time basis in a matter of weeks.  If I’m working full-time I am no longer chairing this meeting, and this becomes a non-issue.

In the moment, I politely thanked him for the feedback.  He had expressed which individual was the concern, and I assured him that I do not think such an issue exists, but I will make sure to find out, as the individual and I are very close.  I then wished him a good day, and I actually have not seen him since.

Then the stupid job fell through, and I realized that I never actually dealt with the issue.  And I have been mentally blocked ever since.

To be fair, it was a busy holiday season, and all of the things I wrote about above were happening, and I’ve already declared how easy it is to make excuses.

So here is my vow:  I will get to the bottom of this issue, because I do completely respect the person in question.  As it happens circumstances prevent me from doing this for a few weeks, but I will get to the bottom of it.

In my heart I do not believe I have broken anyone’s anonymity.  The vast majority of the readership live nowhere near me.  If there is the smallest handful of local people reading this blog, and they put two and two together, it is because they attend the same meetings I do, and hear the same things I do.  I don’t use names, and only occasionally use gender.  I don’t talk give physical descriptions, or anything else that might directly point the finger to a specific individual.

But if the busybody source is correct, I will take immediate steps to back it down even further.

And now I have written a novel, and never even gotten to my Word of The Year.  I will leave you with the word, but will save the rationale for another post, since nobody has time to read any more out of my brain.  My Word of the Year is:

Service

And I have much to say about it, what that word means to me, and how I came to determine that I need this in the forefront.  I will also look back and see how 2016’s word impacted my year as well.  Until then…

Today’s Miracle:

Writing.  On a Sunday.  Out of schedule.  With a house full of people.  Enough said!

12/12/16: Be Good to Yourself

The title of this blog post, which also happens to be the title of the chapter we read in the morning’s meeting (from the book Living Sober) might seem counterintuitive given the endless tasks of the current holiday season.  Who has time to take care of themselves when there are gifts to be bought, presents to be wrapped, cookies to be baked, parties to attend, and all of this amidst our daily lives?

And the answer is:  make the time.  You can’t transmit what you haven’t got.  And if you don’t take the time to acquire the holiday spirit, then all the cooking, baking and shopping in the world isn’t going to give it to you.

Interestingly, this reading selection was not picked by me, but by a regular attendee of the meeting.  And he did not select this reading in deference to holiday madness; rather, he selected it in deference to my madness, and the madness that surrounds my ongoing foot troubles.

So let me back it up a few steps and fill you in on exactly what’s happening with the foot.  For several years now, I’ve had a problem with foot pain.  The more I exercise, the worse it gets.   Over the summer I joined a gym that is the most intense workout that I’ve personally endured, and so the recurring foot problem reared its ugly head.

Long story short, I finally went and had the problem diagnosed, found out there is a very simple outpatient procedure that can fix the problem, and scheduled to have it done in early November.  I was uncharacteristically on the ball with the whole process… asked in-depth questions, looked out in the calendar to get the best 5 day window for the healing process, organized my life accordingly.

And I had the surgery, and was told it was a success.  Except… my foot had more pain than before I started.  And so the last several weeks have been spent trying to figure out exactly why this is so.  This afternoon I have an appointment where the doctor will read the MRI and hopefully give me a firm diagnosis and solution.

This process… and I dislike wrapping it up like this, as if the process is complete, which it by no means is… has been inconvenient, frustrating, anxiety-producing, and has forced me to reach out for help in ways that make me extremely uncomfortable.

So when my friend first suggested the reading, I wanted to roll my eyes to the ceiling.  “Being good to myself” is all I’ve been doing, since I don’t have much of a choice to do anything else… my foot won’t let me!

Plus the chapter is all about sobriety, so I doubted it would have much relatability to my current state of affairs.

Then I read this section:

Now that we know alcoholism is not immoral behavior, we have found it essential to readjust our attitudes. We have learned that one of the persons least likely to treat the alcoholic like a sick person is, somewhat surprisingly, the alcoholic herself (or himself). Once again, our old thinking habits are cropping up.

It’s often said that problem drinkers are perfectionists, impatient about any shortcomings, especially our own. Setting impossible goals for ourselves, we nevertheless struggle fiercely to reach these unattainable ideals.

Then, since no human being could possibly maintain the extremely high standards we often demand, we find ourselves falling short, as all people must whose aims are unrealistic. And discouragement and depression set in. We angrily punish ourselves for being less than super-perfect.

That is precisely where we can start being good—at least fair—to ourselves. We would not demand of a child or of any handicapped person more than is reasonable. It seems to us we have no right to expect such miracles of ourselves as recovering alcoholics, either.

Impatient to get completely well by Tuesday, we find ourselves still convalescing on Wednesday, and start blaming ourselves. That’s a good time to back off, mentally, and look at ourselves in as detached, objective a way as we can. What would we do if a sick loved one or friend got discouraged about slow recuperation progress, and began to refuse medicine?  -pg. 42
So much for no relatability!  I have been beating myself up for all of this… it’s my own fault!  I should have never gotten the surgery!  And all that guilt gets me is more angst.  Thank goodness for the wise people in my meeting, and for their compassion and understanding.
So that’s me, and what I needed from this morning’s meeting.  The group had a really interesting discussion about the balance between being good to yourself and being self-absorbed.  Some worried that we, in our tendency to be all-or-nothing thinkers, might take the advice in this chapter too far, and find ourselves wallowing in self-pity disguised as self-care.
But the long-timers in the room had an entirely different perspective, and it’s the one I referenced at the beginning of the post.  You can’t take care of anyone else until you’ve taken care of yourself.  Once I get myself settled physically, mentally and spiritually, only then am I best able to reach out to others and provide service.  Doing it backwards short changes everyone involved.
Finally, and I’m ending on this because the story moved me so much… a woman shared that she’s been troubled by people asking for help but not being as honest as they could be, and the conflict that brings about for the woman herself.  Should she help someone when they are dishonest?
Another woman raised her hand and offered a true story she had been told some years ago.  There was a professional baseball player known for his generosity.  One day he was approached in the parking lot by a woman in need.  She told him her child was in desperate need of surgery, but she had no insurance and no way to afford the proper medical care.  He asked how much was needed, she told him, and without hesitation he gave her the money she needed.
Later his team mates criticized him, and told him, “Don’t you know she conned you?  There is no sick child!  She just wanted money!”
His immediate response:  “Wait… there’s no sick child?”
“That’s WONDERFUL news!”
For the baseball player, there was no confusion.  He wants to help others.  If they choose to be dishonest or take advantage of his generosity, that is out of his control.  He can only control his own actions, and that is what brings him peace.
Today’s Miracle:
That story made brightened my day, I hope it brightened yours as well!

M(3), 12/21/15: The Collective Boo Hoo

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And just like that, we are here at Christmas week.

Another packed meeting today, 20 attendees!  For the record we read from the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.  Because it is the 12th month, we read 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.

Because this is a long step, with an equally long reading associated with it, we read the first half today; we’ll read the second half next week.

Which turns out to be quite convenient, since we talked but little about this step in today’s meeting.  As it happens, the group had some venting to do!

I shared first, and I was able to keep my share in context with the reading. I have written this before, and I’m sure I’ll write this again:  when it comes to which of the steps had the most transformational effect on my life, step twelve is tied for first.

Step three is the other, in case you were curious.

My best guess for why both 3 and 12 are so important is that they have the greatest universal application:  anyone, anywhere, anytime can benefit from putting into action the suggestions in steps 3 and 12.

Which means that when I choose to use the spiritual awakening I was granted to help another, when I choose to practice the very basic suggestions given to me by this 12-step program everywhere in my life, not just within the confines of my recovery, then my life is exponentially better.  The moment I choose to get out of my own head in order to give assistance to someone else, my life improves.

It’s that simple, but its simplicity belies the profundity of its impact.

That was my take on the reading, but we took a major turn when I finished.  I’m not sure what it is about the holidays and family, but things were haywire with the group, at least with the portion of the group who shared.  Feelings of being misunderstood, familial expectations that lead to feelings of entrapment, confusion and resentment regarding the decisions of loved ones all permeated the room this morning.

A lot of people started their sharing with variations of the theme:  “I anxiously anticipate the end of the holiday season.”

You might think that I’m complaining, or perhaps resentful that this group of sad sacks pricked a hole in my balloon of optimism.  Far from it!  Every single person, by the conclusion of sharing their troubles, felt better for having shared it.  Not only did they state this to be true, it was visibly apparent… smiles replaced tears, countenances brightened, tones of voice evened out.  It’s like watching little miracles, one after the other.

Besides the actual act of sharing, the other element of improving each person’s mental state seemed to be absorbing the message within the reading this morning.  Now that the troubles are aired, each person remembered what they needed to do:  get out of their own heads, and be there for someone else.  And in so doing each seemed to take back some of the peace that this season promises.

And it brought me a lot of the magic this season promises!

Today’s Miracle:

Having this magnificent platform to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!

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