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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), 3/21/16: Spot Check

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Happy Spring!

It’s getting happy, though not quite there yet.  It’s sunny, but cold, I am mending from an illness, though not yet 100%.  Sorry I missed last week’s post, I missed the meeting as well.

Since time moves along whether I am sick or I am well, this week we covered Step 10 in the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.  For those unfamiliar,


Step 10:

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


Reading this step is timely, as I have been struggling of late with those self-critical voices that dog all of us to a greater or lesser degree.  My voices start out very innocently, and are disguised as The Objective Devil’s Advocate…

Are you sure you’re exercising as hard as you could?  I’m sure you’ve got more left in the tank.

Which turns into…

Of course you can do more, if you don’t then you have clearly failed to exercise properly.

Which can easily morph into…

You suck at exercise!

Now, this is one very small example, but multiply that by 1,000 and include every area of life, and you’ve got the inner workings of my negative brain gone haywire.

So reading step 10, and remembering some of its fundamental tenets, was particularly helpful this morning.   Things like:

Focusing on nothing but the negative is not the point of any inventory

A true and honest appraisal must, but its very definition, include the good that is happening.  It could probably go without saying, but once I start to look at the good that is happening in my life, I realize that it far outweighs the bad, and severely limits the negative chatter.

We need to look at progress, not perfection

This lesson can’t be taught enough for me.  It is so easy to wonder why I can’t do more, achieve more, be more, but what about what I’ve done compared to where I was?

In fact, the very nature of my share this morning had to do with the discontent I’ve felt while I’ve been sick… how it messed with my head, made me feel unnecessarily down on myself, and how I am looking to regain my serenity after visiting the doctor and having to take medicine.

A gentleman who shared after me talked about having the opposite experience, how the first time he went to the doctor in sobriety he was elated, because he could actually tell he was sick, since he was no longer self-medicating with alcohol.

Excellent point, one I had forgotten in my low physical state.

After that a newcomer shared, and said she looks forward to the day where she can feel sick in a legitimate way.  Currently even if she does feel under the weather, she will lie to her husband and say she feels okay so that he doesn’t question her drinking wine with dinner.

Message received, Universe:  there has been progress for this alcoholic!

Courtesy, kindness, justice and love is the way to handle pretty much anybody and everybody with whom we come in contact

Really, enough said here.  Well, one more thing… I need to include how I treat myself in that list!

A long-timer talked about how he favors step 10 above all else, because it is one that is so universal, and so easy to make progress.  In early sobriety, he could not think of something as daunting as putting pen to paper and writing a lifelong inventory, but he could look at the day and see what he did right and wrong.  By starting small, he was able to build up to the other, more labor-intensive steps.

Another attendee focused on the notion of justifiable anger, and whether we in recovery are entitled to it.  He has decided that for him, the answer is no… there is no excuse for holding onto anger in recovery.  In any situation where he finds himself resentful, he looks to correct his part in the situation, and let go of the parts where others are responsible.  Like everything else, this practice takes time and patience to cultivate.

Another gentleman talked about the gift he received from the regular practice of step 10:  self-awareness.  Knowing when to take action and when to sit back, when to open his mouth and when to keep it shut, when to push himself and when to rest, these are the fruits of the labor involved in a regular self-inventory.

So there’s hope for me yet.

As always, there was so much more shared than I can write down in one blog post.  I’m just glad to be back in the saddle!

Today’s Miracle:

Sitting upright and writing a blog post after having chaired a meeting.  After the past week, I can say that all counts as a miracle!

 

 

M(3), 10/20: Tabula Rasa

 

I feel inadequate.

As hard as I try, I do not feel like I can ever really convey the camaraderie, the empathy, the shared pain and shared joy that comes out of the simple 60 minute gathering of individuals every Monday morning.  But, of course, I will continue to try…

Today’s meeting focused on the tenth step in our 12-step program:

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

In practical terms, this step asks you to look at your thoughts and behaviors on a regular basis, and correct as needed.  The most common application of this step occurs at bedtime, looking back at the day and seeing what went well, what went wrong, and what needs to be fixed.  Certainly, though, self-examination can occur at any point in a day, as many times a day as needed.  In times of emotional distress, a quick “spot check” can often be the perfect remedy.

Step 10 is my personal favorite, and the regular practice of step 10 has yielded one of the best gifts in my sobriety:  the gift of honest introspection.  One of the simplest ways I put step 10 into regular practice is what I call the common denominator theory:  if I am aggravated with 3 or more people/situations at one time, then I am the common denominator, and therefore I am the problem.   I am also fond of pointing out the common denominator theory when it applies to others (especially my children, and you can imagine how much they love this).

A newer way of looking at step 10 has presented itself to me through a series of events:  the idea of starting in the present and moving forward, rather than feeling like every past situation needs to be resolved before I can find peace.  This is a concept that intrigues and excites me:  imagine if you could just take a relationship that you value but is fractured or filled with resentments, and simply start fresh at this very moment with a clean slate?  All past resentments and issues are wiped clean, and you have nowhere to go but forward?  For an Irish Catholic grudge holder like myself this is a novel concept, and one that will take much effort to put into practice, but the various God moments that have happened for me surrounding it make is a worthwhile project, and I will let you know how it goes for me.

From here the meeting took a number of personal turns:  a woman with a year of sobriety shared her story for the first time at a meeting.  She expected to feel empowered by this; instead she felt insecure and wobbly, and found her thoughts turn to alcohol.  She was so distressed by this thought process, she needed to share it with people who understood, and therefore came to the meeting today to “tell on herself.”  Happily, she was with a group who understands, and had a line of people waiting to speak with her at the meeting’s end.

Another woman, this one with decades of sobriety, has a speaking engagement of her own upcoming, and even after all these years, sharing her story, and public speaking, remains the most terrifying aspect of our 12-step program.  No matter how far along she has come, that negative self-talk rears its ugly head when it comes time to share her experience, strength and hope, and that negative self-talk tells her she has nothing of value to say.  The good news is that she knows what to do with these feelings, and that is to come to a meeting and share them with us, and in shining the spotlight, the dark thoughts are forced into the light and exposed for the fraudulence they are.

From these two stories all the following attendees piggy backed, and talked of the various insecurities they have that relate, and how talking about them helps to dispel the power those insecurities hold.

A few seasoned veterans brought it back to talk of the personal inventory, and reminded all of us to focus not only on what we need to fix, but also on all that we have done right in a given day/week/month.  We are often too quick to look at our mistakes, but what about all the wonderful things we have improved upon in our recovery?

That being said, I will focus on all the great stuff I am able to share with you, rather than bemoan all that I may have missed.  Hope everyone is having a wonderful Monday!

Today’s Miracle:

I promised some pictures of my son’s birthday dinner, and then I got too busy serving and forgot to take any really good shots.  The first two show the set-up of the rooms before the crowds descended, and the last is one puny shot that fails to convey the delicious glory that was fried chicken!  Everyone left with a full belly, and my son had a fantastic birthday weekend!

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Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

 

I have been offline for a week now, and I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed this community!  I have only just begun catching up, I feel like I’ve missed a gazillion great posts!

I am making this statement not just to say “hey!” to all the posts I’m late in reading, but also to bring up the point of today’s post.  The reason I was absent last week was because I was preparing for my son’s 11th birthday.  We were hosting a sit-down dinner for 15, followed by an ice cream party/sleep-over, followed by a trip to a trampoline place, followed by a lunch, I could go on for a while longer, but, suffice it to say:  a busy weekend that required a lot of prep work.  As a result, I was consumed with the details that involve making a weekend such as this one a success, and therefore let my usual sobriety-focused routines fall to the wayside.  Nothing overly dramatic, as I’m only talking a week, but enough small “concessions” that by Sunday I was feeling the effects of a full-on emotional hangover:  I was exhausted, cranky as all get-out, and reverting to behaviors in which I have not indulged in a really, really long time.

I woke up Monday, very excited to get back to a regular routine and lead my Monday meeting.  And at that meeting the topic (pre-arranged) was Step 10:  continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.  If I were to attempt to highlight the portions of the chapter that directly applied to my life, I would, in fact, be re-typing the chapter.  The focus of step 10 is to self-evaluate, at the very least daily, but, more specifically, when in any kind of turmoil.  Because if I am feeling turmoil, I am the root cause, and the only way to resolve it is to look at my thoughts, feelings and behaviors.  Guess what I failed to do the entire weekend?

The second part of step 10:  and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.  Quick side note:  as I was typing that last sentence, my husband called to say hi.  So I can now say that I have put into action the second part of step 10 as it relates to this past weekend.  Again, there is nothing melodramatic that happened, I believe all who attended the dinner party had a great time, they ate well, and my son had a fantastic celebration.  But only I am in my head, and I haven’t felt this out of sorts in a long, long time, and I don’t enjoy the feeling at all.  When I think that this is how I used to live life daily, I shudder… how in the hell did I live like this?  And I know, if I am feeling this bad, then there is no doubt that I am acting out of sorts as well, and so my husband, as usual, becomes my default punching bag.  I already feel better for having promptly admitted my mistakes.

So the moral of today’s story:  sharing your turbulent thoughts really does calm the mind, and try to keep constant the routines that keep you serene, even when you are stressed.  Because avoiding routine during stressful times is like throwing gasoline on a fire, and there is that much more to douse at the end!

Today’s Miracle:

Since I posted a picture of last year’s birthday cake, I figured I could do it again… it was a work of art!

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