A Source of Pain

We usually found that our defective ways in dealing with others were

a source of pain for us. `Anon

This to me is the phenomenon of being an addict. We will desire the very thing that will cause us the greatest amount of pain. It is tantamount to going out into the yard, picking up the nearest cement paver, and conking our heads with it; and, then wondering aloud why we are in pain and bleeding. That is the essence of addiction. Alcoholics/addicts will lie even when it is easier and simpler to just tell the truth. Even when the truth will reap rewards, and the lie will cost them punishment, they will choose to lie. This is not because we are bad people, we just have alcoholic, self-defeating ways in which to react to the world. We need self-discipline that is offered in step #8.

In Step #8, the key word is self-discipline. What does it take to be self-disciplined? The other night, I got a call from the AA help line. The young person on the other end of the line was struggling. I listened politely for about 2 minutes to her pain. I then asked her to tell me about H.A.L.T.: what was going on re. her hunger, anger, loneliness, and tiredness. She was able to tell me how distressed she was in all these areas. I then made some suggestions. What happened? Well, she had an excuse for why none of what I suggested was going to work. For every problem, there is a solution, but when we choose the pain and lies over recovery and the solution inherent in AA and sobriety, we choose the dis-ease. I am powerless over what others choose to do. We are either focused on the solution, or we are feeding the dis-ease. Choose recovery.



We find unacceptable in others, that which we find

unacceptable about our selves. ~ Anon

In step #8 we get the opportunity to review our past relationships, what went wrong, what our part was, what we learned, and how we can make things better. A few years back, I decided to adopt a “Do Over G.O.D.”. Remember when we were kids, and the game did not go our way? We would holler “do over!” By embracing such a G.O.D., I can relax and realize that even if I screw things up, I will be given another shot at doing things in a healthier way the next time. Goodness knows, there will be many more chances to practice this program every day and every hour for the rest of my time in this human body.

The bottom line that I get out of this step is that there is a bit of bad in the best of us, and there is a bit of good in the worst of us. That feels so much better and more even handed than thinking the whole world is out to get me, or that people spend their nights laying there thinking of ways to foil my plans. During my spiritual journey, I ran into a guru who offered this challenge: to express Namaste to each person I met. Namaste means “the divine in me bows to the divine in you. I do not do this regularly. But, I do come away from situations that are harder to like, and ask, “what is the lesson this person is teaching me?” That helps. Find the good in others and yourself. Find the balance.

A 3 Part Dis-ease

Feel, deal, heal. ~ Anon

We have a 3 part dis=ease that requires recovery on all three levels. Alcoholism is a physical, mental and spiritual dis-ease. In order to recover and regain our health on all three levels, we need to seek balance. The old analogy is the 3 legged milking stool. To have one leg that is shorter or longer would create an imbalance. If we were to attempt to sit on said stool, we would run the risk of falling on our collective keister. One assignment that I give the new person and anyone who suffers a relapse is to do an autopsy: list the 3 things that are causing you the greatest level of pain today…..it could be a physical, mental, or spiritual symptom.

Physical could be cravings, headaches, heart burn, etc. Mental could be depression, isolation, anxiety, etc. And spiritual symptoms could be anger, no prayer life, distrust, etc. I then suggest they ask HP daily for direction on what to focus on first. Somewhere around day 11 or 12, they will be led to what needs to happen. As sponsors, remember Tradition #8 encourages us to not try to fix anyone else. The more we can encourage the person to depend on HP/G.O.D, the stronger their sobriety will become. Consider the very possibility that we won’t be there tomorrow. Each of us must depend on a HP/G.O.D. that is greater than ourselves. As members of AA, we can support each other and offer our experience, strength, and hope. But, that is about it. The rest falls upon the alcoholic to develop a balanced sobriety and a solid relationship with his/her own HP/G.O.D.

Tradition #8 Questions

The vast good that AA does for alcoholics in this world on a

whole is done as nonprofessionals. ~ Anon

AA suggests that those of us in professional careers or who have degrees or licenses in our given lines of work; to leave our professional hats hung outside the rooms of AA. When it comes to recovery, we are all equals. We have just our experience, strength, and hope to offer the still struggling alcoholics. That is enough. I have some tradition #8 questions that may come in handy to ask of your groups, you as the individual in recovery, and then to see how they may apply to your personal life. You will be amazed.

  1. Do we try to fix other people in AA with professional advice, or are we content to offer our experience, strength, and hope as it relates to sobriety?
  2. Do we speak as professionals in AA meetings? (for example: medicine, psychology, legal, nutrition, religion, etc). Are we the Big Book experts?
  3. When we have a struggle, do we pretend that all is just fine? Do we ask others for help, or pretend we can handle things ourselves?
  4. Do we set up other AA’s as gurus or experts just because they appear smarter, more educated, or more together than we feel?
  5. Do we make others (old timers, volunteers, etc.) more responsible for our sobriety or meeting success than we should be ourselves?
  6. Can we distinguish between the AA workers from the AA members who share their experience, strength, and hope?
  7. Can we distinguish between the work therapists, psychologists, and treatment professionals do from the sharing of other AA members? These questions will help guide us toward better fellowship with our peers in AA and keep us more sober in our daily lives. Be a part of, not apart from.

Beauty and Diversity

Sobriety is a thing of beauty and diversity that rivals my most vivid dreams. ~ Anon

The fellowship that step #8 and tradition #8 offers us is one that is very diverse. This dis-ease is an equal opportunity process. Every belief system, race, creed, nationality, age, sexual identity, and economic level is represented. Alcoholism does not care where you come from or who you are. It will gladly destroy the fabric of your life no matter how big you think you are. In fact, the bigger you are, the harder you can fall.

For the first time in our lives, we learn to show and accept unconditional love, acceptance, and compassion for everyone who shows up at our doors and even for those who are still in the throes of this dis-ease. That is called fellowship. I will tell you that I bristled at the word fellowship when I was newly in AA. I equated that word with church and come to Jesus moments I had see in the past and did not trust. AA taught me that sobriety has nothing to do with religion. It has to do with spiritually supporting the recovery journey of each other without pushing our beliefs upon them. In fact it is the diversity in recovery approaches that makes this a beautiful thing. What a gift we have in AA.

Ignorance is not Bliss

Often, the greater our ignorance about something, the greater our resistance. ~ Marc Bekoff

After spending 3 days trying to get a 12 step tri-fold flyer put together, I have decided that I learn best by doing. I live life backwards. Instead of getting training or learning how to do it and then do something; I will take on a job or task, and then try to figure out how to do it. I call it baptism by fire. This time, I asked for a strong deadline, so that I do not dilly dally for months on end, reconstructing the project in my head daily (well, truth be told, in the middle of the night)! That is one thing I did differently this time. That was a sane change.

This reminds of step #8. We need directions. We need a sponsor who knows how to do this work. We need to not be so ignorant as to forego our sponsor’s direction and help. This is a WE program. We do not have to do this alone. We do not have to pretend that we know how to do something we have never done before. By using our sponsor’s experience, strength, and hope and by following directions, we can navigate the new waters ahead of us. We do not have to do this alone anymore. We have a fellowship as is promised in step #8.

A Symptom

I have a dis-ease of selfishness, and alcoholism is a symptom. ~ Anon

The very first recollection I have of when alcohol was a problem in my life was at a very young age. Perhaps you can relate.  My notion was that I would not get my fair share, which of course was the lion’s share of whatever was being served. I never drank to sate a thirst. I drank to get blitzed; to be removed of my reality. 1,000 was never enough, and one was too many, of anything.  Some call this black and white thinking…all or nothing. I know, for me that thinking infected my whole life.

In step #8 we are encouraged to pull back to veil of denial and investigate how we were selfish and self-centered in all of our relationships. This can be tricky because our inaction can be as selfish as our actions. For instance: To withhold our affections or boycott a friendship just because we are not getting what we want. To not express ourselves honestly when asked to for fear we may upset the other person. These are ways our inaction harmed others and ourselves. The AA program asks that we only change only little thing, and that is ourselves. It is a small price with some big pay-offs. Such a deal we get in AA.

Why We are Here

There are 3 reasons folks come into sobriety: the liver, the lover or the lawyer. ~ Anon

When we find ourselves saying we were never in rehab or jail, etc.; we need to remember to add the word “yet” to that sentence. The dis-ease is sometimes more progressive and faster in other people’s lives. I like to think that perhaps some of us just have lower pain level tolerances. It really does not matter why we are here or how we got here, so much as that we are here. We got lucky and found the solution soon enough to get our lives turned around for the better. Not everyone is that lucky.

While we are here, we might as well get busy and get better. Time is wasting. Here are some Step #8 questions that might help you in developing your list:

Was the harm done in thought or in action?

Have my attitudes resulted in actual harm?

  • Now put the names of those harmed into 3 columns: amends you will make right away and in person, amends you will make as time allows or by mail, and amends you feel “when hell freezes over” best applies. There may be a 4th column = amends to the deceased. We will talk about that some other time. If you feel unwilling, pray for the willingness to be willing. Enough said. I wish for you all a peaceful day.

End of Isolation

In Step *8, pg. 82 of the 12 X 12 it promises this: “It is the beginning of the end of our isolation from our fellows and G.O.D”. I came into the program as an proud, card carrying agnostic. It took several years and some very strong sponsorship that insisted on G.O.D. = good orderly direction (like praying, meditating, meetings, eating breakfast, getting to bed at a reasonable hour, service, etc.) to set me on a spiritual path. I do believe now in a power greater than myself. It is Mother Nature or the universe. Those are constants that preexisted me and will be here in some shape or form far past when I depart. There is a rhyme and a rhythm that I can depend on, and a concreteness that I can understand.

As a loner, I appreciate my alone time, but I do depend on fellowship and G.O.D. when I get stuck or cannot move beyond a certain issue or personal conflict. I like to call my sponsor daily or text, just to hear another human being. I usually call someone new in AA and an older timer daily. Service is my main thing in recovery. I like to keep my mouth and hands busy in productive things. I do a daily 10-12, pray, and meditate (an active form) daily. My recovery pace is as active (if not more) now than it ever was. In long term recovery, it is essential to keep up our efforts, lest we become complacent. Keep doing daily those things that got you sober in the first place.