Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. ~ Thomas Edison
We celebrate Peace on Earth, but forget to practice it. We want happy gatherings, but choose to bring our old angry baggage. Long ago, I picked up the phone for support and understanding as I was heading out to be with my family (at a distance; for the holidays). The AA on the other end gave me a great life lesson: She told me that I had freedom and choice. I was shocked. I thought invitations were command performances. I thought it was required that I spend all of my free time and vacation days on traveling, cooking, gifting, spending, decorating, and being around family. She told me that I had a choice. And, even after I made the choice to attend, I had all sorts of choices beyond that: what to pack, what to wear, who to talk to, what to talk about, what to eat, where to sleep, whether to participate in gossip or not, how long to stay, and when to leave. I had choices! That in itself, is the freedom.
She set me free that day. That visit was the beginning of having holidays with my family that for the first time were peaceful for me. I started seeing my mom as another human being and an equal to me. I started seeing that the stress and anxiety that I had felt were from within and from having an expectation that my family would ever be perfect, functional, and happy. I had 10 more years of visits with my mom that were happy and peaceful. I got to know her on a personal level. She passed away some 3 years ago. I am glad that the 12 Step program gave me that 10 years to enjoy her and to make peace with her and myself. Remember that when we fail to plan, we plan to fail. Set your plans, follow through. Enjoy your own peace on earth. You deserve it.
The word resentment comes from the Latin word “sentire” which means, “to feel”, and when you put “re” in front of any word, it means “again”, so the word resent means “to feel again”. ~ Big Book Study
I remember many childhood years when Christmas was a whole lot of expectation and anticipation to the point where we could not fall asleep. As grown adults we know that expectations are planned resentments. Anticipation is another way to not be in the moment and to play the “if only” game. One guy spoke up at a recent meeting and lamented that he was expected to show up at all these holiday gatherings, but never gets a present. Isn’t that so like us!? I sure can relate. We expect to be rewarded for doing what most “normal” folks consider sociable and responsible adult behavior. Just for this holiday, let’s focus on the kids and the real meaning of Peace of Earth and good will to all beings. Let’s live simply, so that others can simply live.
Here is a simple acronym to consider attaching to your morning mirror or rear view mirror: H.A.L.T.
H = Hungry. Keep your intake to 3 meals and a snack. Focus on whole, fresh foods. Avoid the candy, etc. It causes depression and anxiety. Eat before going to events.
A = Angry. Breathe, go for a walk, or go to another room. Ask yourself if you want to have to make amends later. Do a 10th step inventory. Ask: What is going on with me?
L + Lonely. There are many people (AA’s included) who are institutionalized, laid up (sick), or unable to get out and about. Call or visit them. Volunteer at shelters. Call someone on your amends list. Be of service to others.
T = Tired. Pace yourself. Take a nap, go meditate, relax and enjoy the people you don’t normally see all year. May your day be merry and peaceful
I am simply too busy looking for a blinding revelation from the heavens or the fireworks, that I do not notice the miracles inherent in step #9.
I did not experience many oh wow feelings. I was not blinded by awe. Nor was I bowled over by any reactions to step #9. I did however experience great healing and peace of mind. I think that is more the typical reaction to step #9. Some of the most healing and peace filled experiences came from letters I wrote to people who had already died. Some folks might mock and overlook this tremendous opportunity to make amends to those no longer here. They dismiss this as silly and useless. I would say, unless and until you have gone through this process, you know not what you speak of.
One of these amends had to do with my dad. We had had a long and painful relationship. He was a baked in sexist, racist, bigoted and angry man. In AA, I learned to forgive and move beyond his pain. I learned that we each have good and bad in us. I learned that step #9 was for me; not him. He had to die to find recovery. His death was the catalyst for me to get sober. I did not want to die in regret and from the effects of a lifetime of abusing my body. I would not wish that on anyone. So, I wrote him a goodbye letter. The format is: I loved…I hated…I wanted…I wished for…I hoped for….and then, goodbye and then hello. Hello is for all that will be in life if I let go of my feelings and control of the outcomes. Do yourself a favor, and write a goodbye letter. It will launch you into a new realm of peace.
Before starting out to make amends, we must let go of any expectations
we may have. ~ Traditional AA Advice.
It is often said that an expectation is a planned resentment. Most of us that are experienced in making amends have learned the hard way that it is best if we are free of hidden agendas. What people do with our amends is their business, not ours. They have the right to refuse to accept it, accept it with certain conditions, or just let it go all together. Finally, we get to humble ourselves, admit where we were wrong, and clean up the messes of the past. This frees us to live among people and not hide out in the bar or bottle because of any shame/blame we have been carrying. What a relief that is! Sadly, this is the time that I lose many sponsees. It is scary, but boy is the payoff worth the sweat and effort.
I will say that working closely with a sponsor in step #9 is most advised. With the letters written in step #8, have your sponsor help you come up with an affirmative, simple statement for the amends. This way you do not find yourself stumbling over your own words, sounding insincere, and bringing up minute details that will harm the other person all over again. In other words, “I was wrong about such and such, and how can I make it right?” Doesn’t that sound better that rehashing all the gory details that no one wants to hear anyway? Most of the amends I have made have felt right, and I came away thinking that it was a much smaller deal to them than it was to me. We alcoholics have a way to make mountains out of mole hills, don’t we? Creative minds think alike! ha ha.