I for one need to remind myself that I am enough, all is good in the universe, and that I am doing the best I can with what I have. So much of life reminds of how we are either too much of something or not enough of another. We hear hourly how bad things are going in our world and country. And, there is plenty of pressure to be the best, biggest, strongest, and toughest winner in our world. How do we remain serene and sane in a culture that does it’s level best to knock us down and keep us feeling as if we are coming up short?
Two decades ago, I decided I needed to be reminded daily that I am enough, the world is a good place, and that I have assets to offer my loved ones. I began to write 5 daily affirmations starting each one with ‘I am absolutely’. Then I write 10 good/proactive things I did the day before that support my sobriety (like reading, writing, exercise, etc.). And, I also write 5 things that I am grateful for (starting out with the phrase ‘I am absolutely grateful for/that’). This daily ritual centers me, and and I find it to be most valuable in my mood and sobriety. When the storms of life toss me about, I know I have done my best to right my ship. Stay in the boat, keep rowing, and stay in harmony and balance with life.
My daily reader mentioned that “as a result of working the steps, our defects will be transformed into our assets”. Today’s questions were: How are my shortcomings transformed into assets? And, can I list the assets into which HP might transform my character defects? Here is a list from AA literature that some sponsors use. I prefer one that offers a list of corresponding assets on the opposite side of the paper. http://www.barefootsworld.net/aaonsteps4567.html
That way, people can visualize what they are shooting for. Personally, I shoot for the middle, and try my best to stay on that balance beam, or in the right lane of the road. If I stay in my lane and use the boundaries or parameters of social situations, and try to just be enough and not too much of either good or bad; the pressure is off, and the end result is no crisis or mess to cleanup. That seems to work for me. We are all just a work in progress. Easy does it, but do it.
We read from the our AA literature that all that is needed is complete willingness and complete honesty. One old timer told me once that it is much like a sculpture who chisels away from us, that which is not a part of us. Many newbies in the program wonder aloud, what will be left of me if these traits are removed. Others are a bit more stubborn and more confrontative in thinking, “hey, this is me: love it or leave it.” Neither gets too far in keeping those thoughts alive and well.
All, that is needed is a willingness and a honesty at whatever level the person can achieve…..anything is a start. How do we know we are ready? Well, that would have been a subject of step #1. Many times, I have referred back to step #1 when there appears to be no movement beyond step #5. There is no shame in reviewing and recommitting our prior agreements. A refresher course also helps the sponsor to ensure that no stones are left to be turned over. Here is step #6 in it’s totality: http://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/en_step6.pdf
I have been thinking about what it was like, what happened and what is it like now for me as I approach year #31. First of all, I must say I am surprised I lived long enough to see 31. There is no rhyme or reason for that, other than I survived and now thrive thanks to AA, sponsorship, and sobriety. When I first arrived, I was a card carrying, prideful agnostic who had tossed out God out of anger. So, it was suggested that the group be my HP. Thus, my first G.O.D. in program was Group of Drunks. That helped me through the first few years. I did not have to believe in anything but AA.
About 5 years sober, I ran into a sponsor who suggested that I write a want ad for a god that I could believe in, trust, and feel safe with. So, as result of that, my next G.O.D. became: Good Orderly Direction. My sponsor taught me that I had to eat breakfast, exercise, take actions (like service, calls, meetings, etc.) That helped me to be more accountable as well as more organized. It seems I never had time to meet with her or do assignments, etc. So, good orderly direction was needed in my life. Several years back due to a sense of contentment and ease, it was suggested that I reexamine G.O.D. and become more serous about staying sober, so then I adopted the G.O.D. = Gift of Desperation. When I hear myself say, “I never served time in jail’, or “I never got picked up for DUI”, etc. I need to remember that where but for the grace of G.O.D., there go I. I need to complete my sentences with the word “yet”. Try writing a want ad for a G.O.D. that works for you. Let me know how that helps.
A short version of tradition #6 is what Dr. Bob asked of Bill W. years ago, and that is to “keep it simple”. Now, some folks will tell you that K.I.S.S. = keep it simple, stupid. I prefer the word sweety. No amount of negativity or defamation will or ever has motivated anyone, especially stubborn girls like me to reform, change, or make amends in life. I do respond more favorably to coaxing, gentle words, and positive feedback.
In tradition # 6, we avoid anything that may distract us from our primary purpose (to remain sober and to help others get sober), and we do not have a profit motive in our humane acts towards others. To do otherwise creates a moral bankruptcy. We all can point out times when a well meaning member tried to involve us as their clients, tried to sell us something, or offered a therapy or treatment that they felt would help us get sober. If any of that ever worked, there would be no need for a 12 step program. So, we come together to work on a common problem and a common solution. That is called solidarity. That is the glue that keeps us together and the reason for being here. How has solidarity worked in keeping you sober?
Once time I was telling someone that I just was taking life “one day at a time”. The retort was less than supportive. The guy shot back, “That is how life was designed: one day at a time!” I used to think all those corny sayings we use around the tables (ie, one day at a time, keep it simple, etc) were boring and trite. I hate the idea of hearing How it Works or the traditions read every single time we met. My selfish little kid inside would mumble, “do they think we are stupid? Why do we have to keep hearing this stuff?”
As I grew into the recovery process, I recognized how lucky we are that those saying and readings have kept millions of people all over the globe sober. They have melded us together as cohesive extensions of each other, they have buoyed us up in tough times and have made us stronger as a result. I thank HP for making me stay put,, so that I would eventually come to love that which is keeping me sane and sober…. one day at a time for over 30 years. What keeps you sober?
Oh, procrastination, my great fascination.
How I cherish that you are nefarious.
I want to be perfect, so I plan and deflect.
There exists a list to help me persist.
No need to do that which I plan to undo.
Oh, procrastination, your are my distraction.
Some say just do it; I say forget it.
Why do today, what I can do any another day?
We all have character flaws that we coddle and cling to. My favorite is procrastination. I have it down to a science. In fact, I like to think of it as creative energy. The reality is that procrastination is the flip side of perfectionism. I firmly believe that we will let go of old habits and character flaws when the hanging on becomes more painful than the letting go. Step #6 suggests that we become willing to be willing. How does step #6 work in your life?
Tradition #6 states: An AA group ought never endorse, finance or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
Why would it matter if we let treatment centers or doctors/therapists run our meetings? After all, many of us have had to go into treatment or the hospital in order to get sober. Don’t we owe them a load of thanks? The reason we keep AA independent of outside influence is that we are protecting our primary purpose: to get sober and to help others find sobriety. We give freely what was freely given to us. If money, fame, or control becomes our motivation; we will lose sight of what we are here for.
If we let the health or mental health system take over our meetings, we become clients which reduces our chances of having any say so on how the meetings are run, what is read, or what is said. We become an “anything goes AA” meeting. It is up to the members to ensure that these meetings stay open and healthy for the the next generations to come. The way that is done is to follow the traditions, work the steps, and make sure AA only literature is read and that only AA is spoken in our rooms. Those of us who are familiar with the traditions, have a responsibility to insist that they be followed by our meetings. Keep AA healthy: follow the traditions.
A week ago, I fell on my behind and have been pretty sore since then. I have been accused of being a pain in the butt, so this gives new meaning to that phrase! It reminds me of an old timer in the meetings who used to say, “I have given up the right to have any chemical peace of mind”. How often we are encouraged (by advertising and well meaning advisers) to ask our doctor for this or that drug to mask a physical problem. We do not want to bear pain. We hate discomfort. We also shun simple, drug free solutions in favor of the ease and comfort of sedation. As someone with long term, chronic pain, I know the desire well.
One of the things I have learned along the way is that I cannot afford another addiction. I cannot depend on addictive substances to make my life easier or pain free. There are options out there that have worked for me. One of the best pieces of advise I got was “move it or lose it”. Exercise helps stimulate the endorphin hormones (what makes us feel good) and keeps the body in motion. Simple solutions such as ice or heat, eating well, and getting a massage, etc. will service to soothe the body. And, it will keep us sober. Isn’t that what we are here for? Please write and let me know what your experience with dealing with pain has been like.
I have often been told that the 12 steps are used as suicide prevention (helps us not kill ourselves), the 12 traditions are used as homicide prevention (helps us not kill each other), and the 12 concepts are used as genocide prevention (helps us not kill everyone). This may sound funny, but in all seriousness, if I do not use these daily, I get N.U.T.S. (Not Using the Standards).
Now, why should we bother to learn how these apply to our lives and sobriety? What is the purpose of having these standards for recovery? They are the glue that holds us together and keeps us coming back. If you have ever been around a dry drunk, you know that when you remove the alcohol from the alcoholic, all you have left is the ic! AA addresses this by encouraging the use of the 12 steps. If you have ever been to a group that does not use these standards and allows people to be in their disease, you know how important the traditions are in guiding group consensus. And, if you have ever been to an intergroup or district meeting where the concepts are not used, you will know how important it is that the leaders be more informed of their importance. I will spend sometime each month addressing each of these in order. I would encourage each of you to find a sponsor to work through these in the AA 12 X 12.
Life can only get better in the process. Drop me a line and let me know how these work in your lives.