Today, I spent time with a group of spiritual friends. We did vision boards out of pictures/words/phrases we found in random magazines. A vision board is a picture of what you want to focus on or bring into your life. I usually set my objectives by writing them down. A vision board is just a physical reminder of what I am focusing on this coming year. I learned long ago that swearing off or on things and having resolutions never worked for me. And, being the perfectionist, single minded, and stubborn alcoholic that I am, I would make one slip up and then completely trash it all; since I could not do it just one day or one hour. I am pretty sure most alcoholics can relate to that! So, setting up objectives and focusing on those things that I want to draw into my life seems less threatening and more attractive. After all, AA is a program of freedom and choice. It is about abundance, not deprivation.
So, set your intentions. What is it that you wish to draw into your life? What do you want to add to life to make it sweeter and worth staying sober for? I like to divide my life into 5 parts: emotional, physical, spiritual, mental, and social. Find 1-2 things in each category that will enhance your life. These objectives need to be doable, measurable, and something I can report to my sponsor. I like to review every now and then to see how I am doing. If I have not acted on something, then I can see how I can make that more of a priority going forward. Set your objectives. Set your priorities. And, enjoy the process. The old saying “ask not; want not/” It applies to this perfectly. I do believe the universe wants what is best for us. It is our responsibility to identify what it is we want out of life, and then do the next best thing toward those goals.
What would a healthy person do? ~ Anon
Each year, for the last umpteen years, I have done this thing that truly has made a difference. I will share it with you. Take what you like and remember the rest. The problem with making New Year’s resolutions is that as addicted folks, we alcoholics tend to see things as all of nothing and as black or white. We have trouble finding the middle ground. So, when we swear off something and go cold turkey, and then we slip; we tend to see it as a total failure and a reflection on a whole year. We take it as an indication of how awful we are. In researching this and in my own spiritual journey, I came across some literature and heard a few speakers who offered this tactic:
Create objectives in the areas of your life that are lacking. I use: spiritual, emotional, physical, social, and financial (hey, I have a lot to work on!) Under each category, I set intentions to work toward. For instance, under financial, I set an amount to keep in a slush/emergency fund. Under social: I set an intention to go out socially once per week (did I say I am a loner? I am). I create this list not so much to push myself to reform over night or to beat myself up if I fall short. I set intentions, to make incremental changes that can be recorded, counted, and reported to my sponsor. This is a checks and balances system that helps me focus on what is important in my life, moves me forward toward a more peaceful existence, and holds me alone as accountable for my own happiness and security. If we want peace and happiness, we are responsible for affording that to ourselves and others around us. Enjoy the process.
Live simply, so that others can simply live. ~ Pema Chodron
Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned in AA was the concept of prudent reserve. I came into the program heavily in debt, with 2 bankruptcies, and I could not rub two nickels together to make a dime! I had learned my concepts of spending from an alcoholic father who would blow all his earnings and live two paychecks ahead of his earnings. It was either feast or famine in our home. I remember if one bank “overcharged” him for bad checks, he would go to the other bank in town, and start all over.
So, I took that same attitude with me when I left home. It did not pan out all that well. I remember trying to raise my son on little to nothing. For the last two weeks of each month, we had to decide between peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and soup or potatoes, carrots, and onions in a very meat lean stew and crackers. My son only had one pair of shoes each school year. Am I proud of this? Of course not. It took a heart wrenching amends to him that I had placed him in harm’s way and did not provide as best I could. I do believe what Maya Angelou said, “You only know what you know. When you learn better, you can do better”. That sounds a whole lot nicer than self-blame or shame.
My sponsor taught me to set aside a little bit each week, for a slush fund for emergencies, much like we do in our meetings. At first, I thought $300.00 was substantial, until I started experiencing the relief of having a great deal more tucked aside. I got rid of all credit cards, paid only in cash, and stopped ordering stuff via mail/online. I still look through the ads, but I set the sale brochures and pictures on the table. If at the end of the month, I still feel I need something, I give myself permission to buy it locally, thereby saving on shipping. If I do not have the cash, I do not need it. If I do buy one thing, I take two things out of my house. The life of being clutter free and cash only, and living within my means is a symbol of living simply, so that others can simply live. Living freely is recovery to me.