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M(3), 1/23/2017: Two Sickies Don’t Make a Wellie

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It is still so strange to write 2017!  I wonder when I’ll get used to it?

Today we finished up the reading we started last week, which is a discussion of

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.

I like breaking up the step and discussing it this way.  Last week we talked about the spiritual awakening and carrying the message, this week we discussed practicing the principles in all our affairs.  Today’s topic is the one that has the most universal application, and it’s a reminder that I could benefit from reading daily.

What stood out for me in today’s reading was the reminder of the importance of staying in balance.  It is all too easy to get caught up in the business of life, and forget the basic but invaluable lessons learned in recovery.  I can be reminded of this lesson, and forget all about it again the span of a heartbeat.  As the chapter itself says,

“We found that freedom from fear was far more important than freedom from want.”  -Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, pg. 122

The next time I start to panic about the job search process, I hope I can remember that line!

In addition to the reminder for balance, I also heard the message of hope within the chapter.  One section reads:

“Service, gladly rendered, obligations squarely met, troubles well accepted or solved with God’s help, the knowledge that at home or in the world outside we are partners in a common effort, the well understood fact that in God’s sight all human beings are important, the proof that love freely given surely brings a full return, the certainty that we are no longer isolated and alone in self-constructed prisons, the surety that we need no longer be square pegs in round holes but can fit and belong in God’s scheme of things- these are the permanent and legitimate satisfactions of right living for which no amount of pomp and circumstance, no heap of material possessions, could possibly be substitutes. ”  -Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, pg. 124

Wow is that a run-on sentence!  Grammatical commentary aside, this statement is an important reminder of what we in recovery are working towards.

So I was reminded this morning to work towards balance in my life, and the benefits for doing so are too numerous to count.  Other great lessons learned today:

  • Remembering that “True ambition is the deep desire to live usefully and walk humbly under the grace of God” is the key to this step.
  • Fixing a marriage/relationship damaged by active addiction takes time; both patience and persistence are critical.
  • When it comes to repairing relationships, often the situation gets worse before it gets better.  It’s important to hear that so as not to throw in the towel too early!  Many of us experienced a long period of marital hardship in recovery.
  • Al-anon can be a useful tool for the family member of an alcoholic.  However, not everyone will agree with this notion, so the most we can do is throw out the suggestion.
  • Financial insecurity is another problem that can persist well into sobriety.  It is a process for sure, but the 12 steps teach us how to lose those fears no matter what our financial situation looks like.
  • Step 12, like every other step, is practiced one day at a time, sometimes one minute at a time!  We can feel very good about practicing step 12, then a minute later be thrown a curve ball that takes us completely off-balance.  The trick is to keep bringing ourselves back to center.

That’s it for today.  Enjoy the rest of your Monday!

Today’s Miracle:

The title of today’s post… someone said it today while speaking of relationships in recovery.  I had never heard it before, and was so delighted, I had to share!

M(3), 1/16/2017: Carry the Message

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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), 1/18/16: Play it Again, Sam

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Today is the first big change in my rotating literature line-up.  Normally we would start with Step One in the 12 steps of recovery; today we started with Step Twelve and will work our way backwards throughout the year.  This change is an attempt to:

  1. shake things up after more than 3 years
  2. prevent the inevitable moans and groans in April and September… oh no!  another meeting on taking a moral inventory/making amends!

We’ll see how it goes.

Doing it this way presented two challenges, both of which occurred this month and are, as of this writing, done!  The first is that we just read this chapter last month, and the second is the chapter is a looonnnnggg one!

In any event, the 14 attendees did not complain (much), and now we are smooth sailing for the rest of the year!

So, for the record, and even though I just wrote about this a few weeks ago, Step 12 reads:

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.

I shared a few take-aways from this morning’s reading.  First, it is a good reminder that being of service is valuable all year long.  I don’t know about anyone else, but for me December tends to be a lot about others, January tends to be a lot about me… New Year’s resolutions and all that.  So a reminder to get out of my own head is a necessary one, right about now!

Second, the actual section I read aloud gave a poignant description of a spiritual awakening:

In a very real sense he had been transformed, because he has laid hold of a source of strength which, in one way or another, he had hitherto denied himself.  He finds himself in possession of a degree of honesty, tolerance, unselfishness, peace of mind, and love of which he had thought himself quite incapable.  What he has received is a free gift, and yet usually, in some small part, he has made himself ready to receive it.  -Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, pg. 107

What stood out to me this morning is that while I feel grateful to have received this gift, it is not a one-and-done endeavor.  Ongoing cultivation and growth is in fact necessary to keep this gift in one’s life.

Even though we are only 3 weeks into the new year, I have already attended three funerals, and am awaiting details on a fourth later this week.  I’ll speak for myself when I say… that is too high a number for my liking!  The last funeral I attended, this past Friday, was particularly hard to take:  an absolutely wonderful man, whose life, though marked with some impossible-to-imagine tragedy, was a shining example of grace and dignity in the face of severe adversity.

It was a challenge this weekend to not focus on the sadness of this death.  The reading this morning is a reminder that it is during times of much spiritual challenge is, hopefully, much spiritual growth.

From there a regular attendee shared she had a rough 2015 in terms of deaths and funerals.  In fact, those very situations are what caused her to pick up a drink after several years of sobriety, and she is just now getting back on her feet, recovery-wise.  So the reminder that spiritual awakenings take ongoing work is a lesson she has learned the hard way.

Another gentleman shared that he loved starting the new year with the last step, rather than the first, for one simple reason:  it sums up the whole of our program.  In fact, the chapter is such a long one because it takes the time to review all of the steps that come before it.  He said when he first started attending meetings, an “old-timer” told him to start with reading this chapter.  He said it clearly states what the Fellowship has to offer.  If, after reading, you decide you want what the Fellowship has to offer, then keep coming back!

Another member seconded the motion that step 12 is valuable to read up front.  For him it was like flipping to the end of a mystery novel:  now you know what you have to anticipate!

A friend talked about the need for ongoing self-development as well.  Even though she has a few years under her belt, it is easy to slide backwards.  She told a story from this very morning of a grumpy husband, and her reaction to his mood.  She reviewed her behavior, and while she sees the progress from where she once was, she also knew that there was more she could have done.  Immediately, she went back to her husband and “cleaned up her side of the street.”  She said time will tell if her husband chooses to forgive and move on; for now, it is enough to know she did the next right thing.

I told her she must come back next week, because she is leaving us with a cliffhanger… will the husband forgive and forget?  Stay tuned!

Today’s Miracle:

The value of service on Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

 

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!

Monday Meeting Miracles: 12/23

I wasn’t sure which way today’s meeting was going to go, attendance-wise, being that we are two days away from Christmas.  At the start, it was just me and two other gentleman, so I thought, “Well, I wasted some baking.”  But ten minutes after the start of the meeting, we were up to 10 attendees, so hooray!

Today’s reading selection was the second half of step 12 in the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.   For those unfamiliar, Step 12 reads as follows:

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

Step 12 is a great one for sharing at meetings, because there is so much to discuss, and because it encapsulates the 12-step program so beautifully.  One person shared that what he took most from the reading is the importance of staying in good spiritual condition.  For him, that means regular meeting attendance, so that he can be reminded of what is important… and what is not.  A great thought for this time of year!

Another person found his focus on the part of the step that talks about carrying the message, and how much reaching his hand out to another in need enriches his life.

For me, what I took away from the reading selection today is the importance of maintaining the proper outlook.  In any given situation, I can choose to focus on what is going wrong, or I can choose to focus on what is going right, and my mental state will reflect that choice perfectly.

And what another great message this is for the season.  As I headed into the meeting, I was preoccupied with my ever-present holiday to do list:  will I have time to hit all the stores I need to hit?  What chores can I delegate (and be satisfied however they turn out)?  Will the kids manage not to kill each other while I am away from the house?  You get the idea.  And when my mind is going a mile a minute like that, guess where my serenity level is?

Just reading about the idea of changing my thought process was enough to stop the racing thoughts, and by the time I was finished sharing, I truly felt ready to leave the meeting and properly enjoy the holiday season, the school break, and even the shopping, wrapping and baking that still awaited me.

Which, when you think about it, is a miracle!

Today’s Miracle:

I am filled with excitement, not only because I got everything done I needed to today, not only because I am sitting down to write this post (which I never thought I would do), but because I vowed to myself that on December 26th my Christmas present to myself will be an uninterrupted morning, coffee ready and waiting, a comfortable chair, and my computer, and I am catching up on all the brilliant posts I have been missing by my wonderful friends in the blogosphere.  In the meantime, know that I miss you all so much, and I am praying that you are having a miraculous holiday season!

Monday Meeting Miracles: 12/16

Today is the third Monday of the month, so today’s meeting format is a step meeting.  Because it is December, we read the first half of step 12 from the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions:

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

Step 12 is a long one, so it is traditionally spread out over two meetings, we will read the second half next week.

Today’s meeting was a great one, well attended (13 total) and lots of meaningful interaction, both throughout the meeting, as well as before and after.  One of the reasons this meeting is so special to me is that, as the chairperson, I share first, and often (though certainly not always) the content of my “share” becomes the springboard for others.  So, today, as I read along with step 12, I attempted to relate it to what is going on in my life, and make the information meaningful for me personally, and I will share with the group the relationship between the reading and my life.

A quick synopsis of Step 12 for those unfamiliar with the 12 steps of recovery.  Step 12 is the final step, and is often described as three-pronged.  The first is the presumption that a spiritual awakening has occurred.  For me, there was no lightning bolt moment where the heavens opened and a lightning bolt sizzled.  It was more of a slow realization.  In looking back, the closest I came to a “moment” was when I fully realized that the steps that had worked so well in keeping me sober could also be applied to all areas of my life.  When I had that “a-ha” moment, and I started using the steps for more than just staying sober, was when I felt my spiritual awakening, and I believe that awakening is a life-long process.

The second prong of Step 12 is carrying the message to another alcoholic, and of course there are myriad ways for someone in recovery to give back what has been freely given to them.  From making coffee at a meeting, to raising your hand and sharing your experience, to showing another the 12 steps of recovery, and countless ways in between, carrying the message is something that anyone with even a day of sobriety can do.

The third prong of Step 12 is practicing the principles of the 12 steps in all our affairs.  This is the part that can often be the toughest, because it is so all-encompassing, but it is the part that brings the most serenity in my life when I am doing it to the best of my ability.

Where I am at in my life currently, it is the last prong of this step that is causing me difficulty.  Specifically speaking, I am finding it difficult to practice these principles when it comes to parenting, and of course I have written of these issues frequently.  As it happened, I had another encounter of the frustrating sort this very morning, and so it was about this subject that I shared.  I spoke about my frustrations in raising a child who can’t seem to learn from mistakes, and I feel like I’m out of options in terms of teaching.

Here’s what it boils down to for me:  who better than me to understand what it is like to repeatedly make the same mistake?  The fact that I assume the title “Recovering” implies that at some point in time, I was guilty of the exact same thing:  making a mistake, apologizing for it, then turning around and making the exact same mistake.  I should have all the empathy in the world, yet, over and over, I find myself reacting in frustration, and thus perpetuating the cycle.  Spinning my wheels, basically.

So the miracle of the meeting today is the feedback I received from the group.  From the Moms in the group who have been there, done that, I received empathy, and the feeling that I am not alone.  From the older gentleman in the group I received wisdom, and perspective.  And from absolutely everyone in the group, I received acceptance, which gives me the strength and courage to keep going.

Step 12 work at its finest!

Today’s Miracle:

After a morning of frustration, having a place to go and dump all of my problems, and turn my day around in 60 minutes, is an absolute miracle!

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