A Place of Neutrality

We feel as though we have been placed in a position of neutrality

– safe and protected. ~ Pg., 85, Big Book

When we first get sober, we run around trying to save others. I call it the AA 2 Step dance: Step #1: I have a drinking problem, Step #2: and I am going to fix you! We don’t get very far with that. As we learn quickly, what others do, say, or think is none of our business. We are powerless over other people and their decisions. If they want what we have, they will do what we do. AA is a program of attraction, not promotion. The same goes with spiritual awareness and those within the program. We each have our own HP, spiritual path, ways to pray/meditate, etc. that work for us. I find it helpful to talk to others, so that I can learn new things. But, generally speaking, we each have our own gig. And, that is okay. It would be a very boring world indeed if we all thought and acted the same way all the time.

Step #10 offers us a new pair of glasses. We get to view opposing opinions, differences, and lifestyle variances as perfectly fine; and in fact, exactly as they are supposed to be. We learn to understand that we are not in charge, we do not have to have anyone’s else’s answers, and we are not the AA police. I know we have all run into people in AA who can quote chapter and verse precisely, but then cannot apply the words to everyday living. AA savants, perhaps? I like to be able to see the words in our literature as all new each time I open the books. It is as if some AA elves spent the night rephrasing and editing the text. That keep sobriety all brand new for me. It is meant to be a text book, not a novel. It has the instructions for life right there at our finger tips. All we have to do is follow the directions. So, shift your gears into neutral and enjoy the scenery.


We react sanely and normally, and we find that this has happened automatically. ~ pg. 84, Big Book

I have to laugh because I cannot honestly tell you what is “normal”. It is said that it not healthy to be normal in an insane society. If the events of the last year does not demonstrate some crazy mass mania going on, then you are #1: not paying attention or #2: think it is just fine. There was a time when I craved chaos and was usually the one creating it. These days, I have very little tolerance for crazy. I understand when an individual person goes off the wall. That I get. I do not get a large swath of society bent on destroying the very fabric of a once good and free nation. I know my 10th step list has grown a whole lot longer!

What has this got to do with sobriety? Step #10 offers the daily opportunity to review what happened, who was involved, how we felt about it, what our fears were, and what was our part. I call it my sanity step. No matter how crazy everyone around me gets, I can have “serenity.” I can choose how to react and act. I can get a perspective on things, get with my sponsor and talk things over, and hand it over to HP. One thing I know is that I do not have to like what is going on or who is involved. I always tell myself, “you don’t ever have to do that again!” That seems to calm me down. Remember too, that it is not about me or you. Most of it isn’t. G.O.D. can and will lift and carry this too.

Forgive First

As long as we have not forgiven people for the harms they have done us, we will find it impossible to make sincere amends to them for our side of the conflicts.

~ AA wisdom

I wish I could tell you that I have done this recovery thing perfectly, but I have not. I wish I could tell you that all my amends went smoothly and without pain. But, I cannot. I also wish I could tell you that your experience will be mistake and pain free. But alas, I cannot say that either. Step #9 is about clearing up the wreckage of the past. Anyone that has lived on this earth long enough knows cleaning up wreckage of any kind is a huge and hard task to handle. In recovery, we have a coach or sponsor. Someone is on our team. They cannot do the work for us, but they can encourage, mentor, and support us through the process. I guess that is why they call it a “we” program.

So, forgiveness of others. What would that look like? I would prefer to use acceptance VS tolerance. The latter sounds like putting up with whatever the other person dishes out. That in my opinion and experience is a whole lot like playing judge, jury and executioner. I don’t want o go through my life judging and trying to abide by whatever nasty stuff is presented. I want to learn this thing called radical acceptance. The Buddhist teaching says that ‘what is, is. And, what isn’t, isn’t’. No matter how we shake it out, it will land on it’s head or it’s tail. Ours is to not understand how or why, but to accept the result and act accordingly. I am a work under progress. I will never graduate. Thank goodness for that.

Just for Today

Just for today, I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once. I can do something for 12 hours that would appall me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime. ~ AA Literature

I went to plug in my cell phone to recharge last night. And, lo and behold, I had not packed a cord for my week on the farm. So, here I am with no phone for at least 6 more days. Now, the old Jo would have gone into a five alarm fire, busted up the place and blamed the cat/kids/dog, etc. But, I am learning that all the rage in the world will not fix the problem. I didn’t have to call suicide hotline either. I did look around their home for a spare charger. But, alas there were none to be had. Now, I could go into town today and try to find one. But, it is unlikely that a town of 900 would have one for sale. So, I may go totally retro 80’s and not have a cell phone in my ear!

What does this have to do with sobriety? These little things were the very things that would make my house go crashing down in my drinking days. The reason being is that I had not attended to a laundry list of amends which compounded any minor scrape 10 fold. There is a silver lining in not having a cell phone; as there is a silver lining in making amends. We get a chance to practice living saner, simpler, and harmony with others and the universe.  Doesn’t that sound nice and peaceful? You bet! So, go retro. Put your cell phone down and go have a real conversation with a real person. Make that an amend to yourself. Treat your self to a human interaction. Or better yet, go outdoors and breathe in some beauty. Just for today, just be.

A Step #9 Perspective

When we finish our amends, most of us feel closer to our Higher Power than ever before. ~ Anon

Here we are in September already. This month, we will be working on step #9 and tradition #9. Step #9 reads: “made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” The key word for this step is unconditional love. Many of us never knew what that felt like to be unconditionally loved and accepted. In AA we learn for the first time to love and be loved without reservations. Isn’t that powerful and healing? When I first came in, it hurt to be hugged, and I was suspicious of others’ intentions toward me. It was hard to feel anything at all, let alone unconditional love and acceptance.

I had spent my whole life feeling that I was too much of some things and not enough of other things. So, I had a whole litany of reasons why I did not trust your love and acceptance of me. “You must be crazy!” was my first thought and reaction. The hugs hurt. But, I let you say those things and give those hugs reluctantly. Now, you can’t keep from the hugs, and I am the first to offer them. Funny how love will do that to people. It melts away the prejudice and fear. It cures all. In step #9, we can learn to extend that unconditional love and acceptance to those from our past.  One person and one day at a time, we can heal the past hurts and live in the present through the AA program of life. Such a deal we have here.


Anger toward Dis-ease

Alcoholism is cunning, baffling, and powerful. ~ Big Book

I would say that all addictions are cunning, baffling and powerful and extremely patient. Today, I am full on angry at this dis-ease that kills, destroys families, maims and harms those effected, and shows no misery whatsoever. Dang it all. Yet another family member is dying as a result of this dis-ease. He is my age. Heavens, I am just getting started. He had a whole life ahead if he had chosen differently. And, I am powerless over him, his choices, his dis-ease, and his consequences/early death. I want to be more powerful. I want the whole world to know that no good will come of harming one’s body with toxic chemicals. The answers to life’s problems are not in the bottom of a brown bag or brown bottle. That there is more to life than getting high or blitzed. That their lives and those of their loved ones matter more than a brief buzz.

I am powerless over all people, places, and things. The best I can do is express my sadness for his pain and stay sober. I can be the sober family member through this death too. It is not my business how others express their sorrow and grief. Whether they choose to be drunk or get high through this pain, is not my concern. I can be as angry as I want toward this dis-ease, but I do not have to express it in front of family members. I have a sponsor who will and can listen lovingly and direct me toward literature, etc. that will give death meaning and peace. So long as we live, we will have loss. It is our choice how will deal with this loss. Choose wisely.

Pain VS Misery

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.


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.

Letting Go and Moving On

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.

Act as If

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?