Wrap of Step #7

I am amazed that it the end of July already! I just wanted to leave this month and step behind with some wise things I have heard around the table on the subject of letting go of character defects. The first one is choose guilt over resentment, it is the saner choice” ~ Anon. This resonates well for me because guilt and shame never motivated me to change. In fact, I used to be a very angry drunk when these were employed. What did help me was to let go of my resentments and my expectations (which are really just planned resentments).  So, when I let go of others’ expectations of me and say no to irrational requests, it feels less uneven and very empowering.

The next one I have heard is humility is an action, not an emotion“. ~ Jan W, 2014. How we respond to those around us says a whole lot more about our mental well-being and compassion for them than all the feelings we have toward them ever will.

What would a loving person do/say? ~ Anon. I need to ask myself this daily and especially when I do not know how to respond. My mom used to say, “if you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” I am pretty quiet most days! Ha ha.

“Being human is not a character defect” ~ Sue I, 2000. Forgiveness and acceptance of self comes well ahead of forgiveness and acceptance of others in my book. Hurt people; hurt people. When I came to accept that even I had limits, self-defeating behaviors, and sore spots; I learned that so does everyone else. This old world needs more hugs and less blame. Step #7 offers this promise: Freedom from blame. I hope today is blame free for each of us.

Being Prepared

Being willing to achieve is not nearly as valuable as being prepared. ~ Anon

I saw this the other day, and it reminded me of getting and being sober. We spend years of hangovers and regrets swearing off then swearing on again. Our lives were consumed in pretending and promising to ourselves and others that we can act maturely when drinking, we can drink moderately in polite society, and we really mean no harm. To no avail. Many of us wanted to achieve sobriety. But, wanting and doing are totally different things as we have been humbled to learn.

Remember the acronym H.A.L.T.? Hungry, angry, lonely, and tired are the greatest bug-a-boos for any alcoholic. We cannot afford these feelings. I add S for sore (due to chronic pain). Life happens, and we will be confronted by these on a regular basis. For those who are new into recovery, I offer some tips and tricks: To avoid being hungry: eat breakfast, take healthful snacks to work, hydrate with water; not juice or pop. Drink warm lemon water before breakfast each day. To avoid anger: have some AA numbers entered on your phone and use them, take a walk, count to ten, do a step 10 inventory, and/or pray for the person. To avoid loneliness: go to a meeting, call until you get a human voice, walk around the mall, call someone who is struggling, or volunteer at an animal shelter or retirement home. And, to avoid tiredness: take daily naps, get to bed at a reasonable hour, avoid caffeine or cut back after noon, take 1/2 hour of quiet time before you sleep, move the TV/radio/stereo out of the bedroom, and consider not bringing work home with you. Preparation will reduce the exasperation and ensure continue sobriety.

Recovery is For Everyone

Can we help others in relapse? Love and prayer VS confrontation. Can I help you with food/steps to recovery? Can everybody recover? You don’t have to die this way. Attraction is not passive. ~ Anon

Recovery is for everyone, but not everyone is for recovery. I had to learn that the hard way. When I first got sober, it was like a new lease on life. I felt great. I had an appetite again! I loved all the new energy I discovered. My mind for the first time in years was clear and clean. I could actually wake up refreshed and ready for work each day. I knew where I was, who I was with, what I had done/said, and what I had consumed the night before. What a huge relief that there was no more walk of shame or guilt over anything. There were no surprises in the mail box or at my bank.

I started doing the AA 2 Step….you know: I got a problem, and I am going to fix yours! I wanted those around me (that I loved dearly) to find this program too! I wanted them to experience the joy, relief, and spiritual drive that I was going through. Wouldn’t everyone feel the same? Guess what: It fell flat. People started to shun me and find other people to go to bars and enjoy parties with. I was dazed and confused at first, then I got judgmental and angry.  At long last, I got real and learned that this AA program is for everybody that wants it, but not everybody will or does want it. This is a We program, but it is for self. Take what you like, and remember the rest. Eventually, it may be of help. If they like what they see in you and really want change, they will ask. Focus on those who did ask for help. Attraction is an action verb.

Lose Yourself in Service

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. ~ Gandhi

If you are wondering how you can be self-supporting on a limited budget, let me introduce you to the wonderful concept of service to others. Service is the rent we pay to dwell on this earth. Each time you give service, you open your spiritual world to growth potential a little bit more. It also widens your spiritual community.

I would not have met all the wonderful people in AA from all over the world and from backgrounds and religions completely unlike my own. Service can be as simple as making coffee, putting out the literature, leading a meeting, or just staying late to help clean up. It is all that easy and simple. Each hour spent in service is one more hour of sobriety. Give freely what you were freely given and do service.

 

 

 

Celebrate the Good

Celebrate what you’ve accomplished, but also raise the bar a little

higher for the next time you succeed. ~ Mia Hamm

Have you ever read the little yellow book called Living Sober? It is a quick read, but a real gem. I like to give it to sponsees. It is chock full of wisdom and practical advice. In the old days, long timers would give you practical advice and tips and clues on how to navigate soberly and happily in the moderate/social drinking world. Imagine that!

When I first got sober, it seemed like everyone was drinking, everyone was having  more fun, and booze was everywhere…even in my dreams. It used to scream at me in the stores and at parties, and it would try to jump into my grocery cart. Booze and I had such an intimate relationship, that it knew my mom’s maiden name! The smells made me dizzy and nauseous. So, I needed practical how-tos on what else to do instead of drinking. Avail yourself of the wisdom of the multitude of sober, healthy and happy AA people who have come and since gone. You don’t have to do this alone ever again. Welcome home!

Core Beliefs

Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is very uncomfortable that is called cognitive dissonance. And, because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore, and even deny anything that does not fit in with that core belief. ~ Frantz Fanon

The fears and feelings that we hold onto are the ties that bind us to our past. Unless we are willing to let go of the past, we cannot live in the moment. Our history is not our destiny. Those fears and feelings are core beliefs that we have about life, ourselves, and how the universe is revolving around us. They are based on false assumptions many of us made in the small, insulated social bubbles like family, our schools, and our small home towns. They were formed mostly in our youth by immature minds who were just trying to survive. In order to recover and to grow into our genuine autonomous selves, we need to challenge these beliefs.

What is true for us as youths, is not true for us as adults. We are adults who can choose to see these differently. We can also choose how we act and react to what is presented. We are no victims, but rather we are active participants. I understand that life is challenging, things do get scary, and those in charge of our world can be pretty darn nasty and hard to like. If you list all that you are powerless over today, I assure you that you will run out of paper. The only things we are in charge of us are our feelings and our fears. We get to decide how we will respond each and every time. Choose wisely and keep plugging along. You are not alone.

Just Another Day

Reach for the stars, even if you have to stand on a cactus. ~ Susan Longacre

People sometimes ask me how I stayed sober after all these years. I tell them the same thing I was always told when I asked old timers the same thing: Don’t drink and stay alive! No kidding. It is that simple. It is a simple program of recovery, but it is a hard one. The hard part is remaining teachable, recognizing you do not know everything, and having the willingness to accept and follow advice on how to do it differently.

Do you know how you can tell you are in recovery? You don’t. The people around you will notice that your behaviors are not so reactionary. Those who love you will be puzzled by the way you respond more lovingly. The banker and creditors will be shocked that they do not have to keep calling you and charging your accounts for late/missed payments. You bosses will enjoy more productivity, fewer “sick” days and more profits. Your kids and pets won’t be afraid when you walk through the door anymore. You may not notice, but they will. At first, you will feel uncomfortable, but soon this new lifestyle will feel more natural. Just look down at your shoes if you are not sure where you are or what direction you are going. Stay sober and stay alive. Pretty soon, you will be asked how you got where you are going.  Day after day, year after year….that is how you become an old timer.

Self-Love/Compassion

God, please help me see the truth about myself

no matter how beautiful! ~ anon, 2011

The secret to success in AA is in believing you are worth it, acting as if, and staying sober; so that you can appreciate this fact fully. I have said before, and I will gladly say it again: I do not respond well to criticism. I am not motivated by negative reinforcement. And, all the self knowledge in the world will not get and keep me sober. I must practice day after day, and year after year this thing called absolute love and compassion for myself and others. How can I be compassionate toward others when I beat myself up and find only fault in the mirror? I can’t.

Last night, I witnessed a conversion between a healthy member in AA and someone who does not embrace the concept of love and compassion toward self and others, yet is dry. What I heard a lot were excuses, blame and self sabotage when healthier options for living were introduced.  My questions for you are: is it enough to just be dry and drag yourself to meetings? Or is being healthy, happy, free, and truly sober a better objective? I choose the latter. So long as I treat myself like garbage, I will fee like garbage, and eventually I will say, “what the heck; I might as well be drunk.” Eat well, live well, and be well one day at a time.

A Pathway to Peace

The long version of the Serenity Prayer has a great phrase: “accepting hardship as a pathway to peace”. After a long life of taking care of others, single parenting, and a dealing with a large family enslaved in addictions; I am ready for some peace and quiet. Often, I am perfectly happy to be alone. I have gone as long as 4 days without speaking a word to anyone; even to myself. I like to practice quiet. Have you ever been to a silent retreat? One of my old friends in program practices silent retreats in her own home for whole weekends. I am still working on being that disciplined. The closest I have come is in not speaking. Somehow, the TV or radio keeps me company. I am a work in progress.

The AA 12 Step program attempts to teach us to be serene and at peace no matter how much crisis and confusion is going on. I will let you know when I achieve that. 😊 On most days and on most occasions, I can cope well. I am like the proverbial duck on water. I look like I am swimming along peacefully, but under the water, I am peddling like all get out. Serenity s all about radical acceptance. To radically accept everything, with no exceptions as it is in G.O.D.’s time and in harmony with the universe is the objective. Serenity is an action. Not reacting and waiting are very powerful verbs. I was told to wait 24 hours before responding to anything that threatens my peace. This allows me a chance to hand things over, and it allows enough time for the solutions to come. It is worth the wait.