Pain is inevitable; misery is an option. ~ Anon
When we venture into Step #8, we certainly will revisit the pain of the past. That pain was and is inevitable. Pain is a human condition. We have these marvelous bodies that can sense pain both physically and mentally. As a person who has chronic pain, I have learned to embrace pain as a friend. It reminds me that I am still alive, that I can feel, and that I have limits. In the past, I did not register pain or was taught to ignore it. For many years, I thought alcohol helped to numb pain and remove me from reality. It “did the trick” so to speak. The reality is that whatever was causing me pain was there the next day, and I had added shame, regret, and remorse on top of the pain. In other words, alcohol was not the answer, but was a contributor to more pain.
We learn in step #8, that there is/was just so much pain and not any more. It has/had a beginning and it has/had an end. Misery is the result of not letting go of the pain. Pain is optional. How we choose to act and react to whatever pain comes our way, is what really matters. In the AA program, we learn to stop being a victim, put on our big people pants, and face life head on. One day, one situation, and one relationship at a time, we get to choose misery or acceptance. Feelings and fears have no real control over us. The promises of AA give us a better and healthier way of existing in this life, pain or no pain. What a deal we have in AA.
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.
Whenever you see darkness, there is an extraordinary opportunity
for the light to burn brighter. ~ Bono
Today was a hard one. I said goodbye to a fur friend named Sophie. Each time I lose a friend through death, it brings me back to HP, the universe, and what I came to believe through this program. I was proud card carrying agnostic when I came through the doors of AA. I had a great deal of anger toward religion, authority, and what I had been taught to fear, not love and trust. It took a loving and very patient sponsor to guide me into what I know and love today. We must remain teachable and flexible. We just do not know until we know.
What I know today, is there is a kitty heaven. I say the word know, because my conviction is there is a hereafter; not because it has ever been proven. Whatever works for each of us, is what works. I believe animals go into a hereafter where their jobs are to teach new ones how to handle their humans here on earth. This gives me peace. It makes sense to me and comforts me to feel as if death is not so much an ending, but a beginning. That AA says, “take what you like, and leave the rest” http://www.12step.org/references/ at the end of the meeting comes in very handy. AA and the program of recovery is as diverse as its members. I am glad Sophie could go out as peacefully as she lived. She taught me grace and dignity even in death. Let go and move on.
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?
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.
One of my favorite readings from the Big Book is on pages 449-452 (yes, I am old school, and still use the 3rd edition) on acceptance. Anytime I find some person, place or thing unacceptable to me, when I hear in my head the “F” word being uttered, and when nothing seems to sit right with me and my ways; I surely need a refresher course on acceptance.
Does that mean we must all be nice and compliant no matter what? No, but I can speak my truth peacefully and quietly. Consider this: no one can hear you when you are shouting nonsense. And most folks will put up their guard and get defensive when they think they are being attacked. Using “I” statements and speaking about feelings will cause fewer arguments and may just result in being heard. Isn’t that what we all want anyway? Acceptance is the key to my serenity.