We are in a time when we are all challenged to either speak up for those who are oppressed, or to shut up and let others be who they are going to be. The 12th step program teaches me to be patient and merciful especially when others are struggling with this disease. I still, after all these years, struggle with letting go and allowing people to find their own path VS standing up for what is right and just. If I had all the answers, perhaps I would write a book.
I do believe when others are being abused or harmed, then it is my responsibility to say no, speak up in their defense, and in some way lessen the damages to others. To stand by and no do anything is being complicit in the harm. The promises say that we will be able to deal with difficult situations more easily. I find that if I hand it over, wait 24 hours and talk to my sponsor, somehow, the right words and actions are revealed to me. The answers come more easily. That gives me hope. How do you deal with the pain of others?
I would be willing to bet that you cannot list 10 assets that you possess. The one question most prospective employers ask is, “what are your best qualities?” Most people will just sit there in silence and try to think of at least one good thing that they can report and not risk sounding like a braggart. In step #6, we read that “as a result of working the 12 steps, our character defects will be transformed into our assets”. In my opinion, defects and assets are just the two facets of the same double edged sword.
If you were to tell me that you were a procrastinator, I would counter that you probably are a very careful, methodical worker. If you were to tell me that you were such a people-pleaser. I would challenge you to think in terms of being someone who is careful with the feelings of others. None of us is all bad or all good. Our job in step #6 is to become willing to apply the better parts of ourselves in each of our relationships. If we are not willing, then we pray to be willing to be willing. A small change is greater than no change at all. Shoot for the middle of the road. Carry on. There are no mistakes in AA; just learning opportunities.
We are winding down on my first month of this blog. So far, I feel I am gaining a lot out of just writing this. I hope those who read this are as well. The final part of tradition #6 involves some interesting group inventory questions that I would suggest you take to your business meetings. Here you go:
- Do we respect the 12 traditions and teach the newcomers how to apply them in our meetings and lives?
- Do we discourage members from sharing or pitching outside agencies, hospitals, treatment centers, etc.?
- Are we careful not to use AA money to finance outside enterprises, churches, businesses, etc.?
- Do we sell outside (non-AA conference approved) literature?
- Are we careful not to use other members or AA contact lists to sell things or to promote our own businesses for our own personal gain?
- Do we avoid endorsing outside entities (such as treatment programs, experts, hospitals, etc.) These should help your meetings get and stay on track. We all want and need healthy meetings, right? The only way to ensure this is to have regular monthly steering (business) meetings, do group inventories now and then, and follow the traditions. http://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/smf-122_en.pdf This will keep those doors open for the next generations who will need AA in the future. For this, we are responsible.
For whatever reason this phrase was on my mind as I awoke today. The Big Book says, we do not necessarily “have to be in lock step agreement”. Anyone who has ever been oppressed, abused, confined, or lived under an authoritarian rule can tell you how our the hair on the back of our necks stands up, we rebel, and we will overreact when someone tells us what we must do in order to work this program. We will consistently be the dissenting votes when our meeting or intergroup takes a vote on something, even if we agree to the basic premise of the proposal. What makes us tick?
I can only speak for myself. I have decided to remember that each time I disagree with someone or something, does not make me wrong, nor does it make the other person(s) wrong. We can agree to disagree. This is a program of freedom and choice. We get to choose how to work the steps, who we work with, what meetings we go to, etc. The paths to recovery are as myriad as the many different people who are sitting at those tables. We need to remember that our primary purpose is what is of essence: to remain sober, and to helps others find sobriety. All differences are respected. Recovery is a great big hoop that anyone can jump through. Let’s focus one why we are here and respect all voices, as ours was respected when we came in.
My daily reading was about acceptance and acting as if. The questions were: “What person, place or thing do you have trouble accepting today?” Can you act as if you are in acceptance? Wow, I found myself struggling to accept a rainy drive in heavy traffic this morning. I had trouble accepting the truckers who seem to dominate and intimidate drivers in mid and mini sized cars such as mine. And, I am struggling to accept the choices people are making this week that will effect millions adversely in the long run.
When I have that many things eating my lunch, there is something wrong in my life and head. One wise woman in this program used to say, “When you cannot afford to pay your rent, why are you letting people live rent free in your head!” She also advised that any time I let people get to me, I am in actuality handing them my serenity and peace on a platter. So, my decision is to let these things hang in my head and heart, spoil my day, and distract me from living the moment, or I can act as if all things will go as they will go and according to Hp’s timing and planning. Life is so much better when I choose the latter. How can you act as if today?
Today marks the 50th anniversary of this Beatles hit. It took me back to my teens when my biggest concerns were grades, fitting in, and high school angst. I started drinking to escape my reality, oil the social wheels, and to have power in my life. Funny how we become dependent on the very thing that causes us the greatest level of pain. In the 60’s it was all about dropping out, making love not war, and rebelling against whatever the establishment demanded of us. It was great time to be young. Our generation brought about many great changes. But, not all of us made it out without scars and addictions.
People come to AA for many reasons. Mine was a spiritual awareness that happened without my permission. It was an awakening that for me was enough to pay attention to. I just knew that I did not want to die of this disease, even though I may die as a result of it. There are after all consequences for years of self harm. My living amends to myself is years of self love and self care. All I need is love: the love a HP, AA, and sponsorship/fellowship. What do you need in life?
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.