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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!

 

M(3), 11/7/16: Coincidence? I Think Not!

theres-no-such-thing-as-coincidence-living-vintage

I keep staring at the blank screen expecting a lightning bolt of creativity to hit me, and it doesn’t appear to be happening.  Now I’m going to try the “just start writing” approach and see where that gets me.

I’ll start with the meeting and wind round to why my thoughts are scattered.  Our reading selection today from the the book Alcoholics Anonymous, also known as the “Big Book.”  This year I tried something different in terms of this book.  For the 3 years prior to this one, I selected readings from the second half of the book, the part that contains all the personal stories.  To mix it up, in the year 2016 we read from the first 164 pages, which most consider to be the heart and soul of the 12-step program.  There are 11 chapters in this first part of the book, so today marked the end of this cycle.

I have been waiting, practically since January, to get to this month, because by leaps and bounds my favorite chapter is the one we read today.  It is called “A Vision for You,” and if you’ve read this blog for any length of time you have heard me wax rhapsodic about it.  It is so uplifting and energizing, I wish the book started with this chapter.

I’ll start with my share, as the reading of this chapter reminded me of a story from my early days of sobriety.  The chapter speaks of the serendipitous circumstances that connected the co-founders of the fellowship, their meeting with the third member, and the growth of the program that came from these meetings.  It brought to mind a not quite so miraculous, but still noteworthy story of my own:

When I first got sober, I went to meetings daily.  Specifically, I attended the same 10 am meeting that took place every day of the week.  In so doing, I got to know all the other regular attendees.  I happen to hit the 90-day mark on a Friday, at which point several of the long-timers announced that since I have my 90 day coin I am eligible to chair meetings, and so no time like the present.  Then they erased the chairperson for Monday and put my name in his or her place.

I can’t specifically recall, but I imagine I sweated out the weekend worrying about how I was going to pull off this responsibility.  Thankfully the chair rotation was different on the weekends, or I would have had to do it the very next day.

So Monday comes and I couldn’t be more nervous.  That meeting was significantly different than the one I run now in that it is a much larger crowd… figure 50 to 60 on average.  I start the meeting, and I suppose I do okay.  The break comes (halfway through the 60-minute meeting) and a gentleman comes up and introduces himself as Jim, tells me this is his very first meeting, and asked me a question.  I wish I could remember the question, but I’m pretty sure my abject fear at having to answer a 12-step question when I had 90 days of sobriety under my belt must have blocked it out.  I’m sure I said something, though I can’t remember specifically what, and as soon as was politely possible I connected him with the regulars in the group that I felt could give him the information he needed.

The rest of the meeting proceeded, and that was that.

By the time I hit the six-month mark, I was still attending daily meetings, but I was branching out and rarely got back to original meeting place.  However, for the milestone of 6 months I wanted to announce it there; it was a Sunday, and the only time I could get there was the 6 pm meeting.  I anticipated not knowing too many people, as I tend to hit daytime meetings.

To my surprise and delight, I knew the chairperson of the meeting:  my friend Jim, the one who had just started 3 months ago!  I marvelled at the fantastic coincidence, and I could not wait to share with him.  In fact, I raised my hand and shared out loud the story of how nervous I was, and congratulated Jim on achieving 90 days and chairing the meeting.  At the end of the meeting Jim found me and said he could top my story with one of his own from that day:

It turns out that his wife had dropped him off at that meeting 3 months ago, but he had no intention of staying.  He figured he’s stay to the break, but he had just enough money in his pocket to head out to the nearest open bar as soon as the halfway point came.  Something had him ask me a question, he has no idea what… his best guess is he wanted to be polite to me since I was leading the meeting.  My response was so kind that he figured he owed it to me to stay.  And afterwards when those gentlemen with whom I connected him were so kind, he figured he could give this a try.

And three months later, still sober, he was chairing meeting.

The moral of the story, of course, is that no matter how little you think you know, how little you think you have to give, it just might be the world to someone else.  I don’t remember what I said, but I know for sure it wasn’t anything profound or wise.  It couldn’t have been… I didn’t know squat!  And his taking the time to fill me in on that backstory made all the difference to me.  It was at that moment everything crystallized for me that when I pay attention, amazing things happen, all around me, every day.

From my share a few other people had similar tales of amazing coincidences-that-are-never-coincidences.  And a secondary theme of this morning’s share was gratitude, a most fitting theme for a November meeting!

Today’s Miracle:

I went a little long with my personal story, but today’s miracle for me is getting what I needed from that meeting today, as I usually do.  Even if I have to relearn the same lesson a dozen times, there is always someone there to teach me.  And for that I am grateful!

Additionally, the miracle of unscattering my thoughts via writing should be noted!

 

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