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.
When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace. ~ Jimi Hendrix
I was reminded by several desperate calls from newly sober alcoholics that the holidays are the hardest part of the year for many of us. I thought I would talk about this and perhaps offer some guidance on how to approach parties, people, and all the trappings of the holidays as a sober person. I first want to tell you that you are not alone, and you do not have to do this alone. Whether this is your first day sober or your 365th day, is not the matter. We all just have today. What matters is that no matter how happy or sad you are, you can be sober. Here are a few pointers to consider:
Plan Ahead: If we fail to plan, we plan to fail. Our basic and first response to stress or crowds was to have a few shots/beers to loosen us up. Now, we need other plans. So, make a plan and stick to it. I plan to arrive fashionably late, park a few blocks away (so I do not get boxed in), keep my keys in my pocket, sit/stand far away from and facing away from the bar, eat prior, bring a nonalcoholic beverage to share (sparkly cider is nice), Put a lemon slice &/or ice in my drink, not put my “drink” down, and focus on the people. If kids are present, I focus on them….they are the sanest ones there. I also stay just an hour or under.
Book End: Call your sponsor or someone else in AA to share where you are going, what is happening, and how you feel about it. When you get back home, call someone and share: what happened, what you did, and how you feel about it. This works. I still do this. That way, I am not in my head all night and day trying to sort it all out.
We will talk some more tomorrow. Have a wonderful, peaceful season. You are not alone.
If HP wanted us to be born into perfect homes with perfect parents, he could have arranged that. He trusted us to be able to learn and grow from those families that we were given in life. ~ Anonymous
I will tell you a story I heard when I first came in:
There was this guy who stumbled around AA for a long time, until he finally asked someone to help him. That sponsor suggested that he find a Higher Power greater and bigger than himself to pray to. So, the guy went out looking for a Higher Power. One day, while on a walk, he saw this great big old tree. It had great shade, hug arms, and seemed to be very old and wise. After all, had it not weathered severe weather and the ages? So, he decided that the tree was his Higher Power. He was filled with glee, as he could go out there and pray to the tree every day. He could touch and feel the tree, so he was pretty sure that his HP was real. This kept the guy sober and happy for many years. He knew that he had an HP that was sturdy, timeless, and strong enough to handle whatever problem he brought to it. Then one day, the guy came into his home meeting crying. He was inconsolable. Finally, the group asked what was wrong. All he could mutter was: “Dutch Elm’s Disease”.
Whatever your concept of HP is, is what will work for you for the time being. As you grow in the program, this concept will mature, much like any relationship. As you grow in sobriety, you will be more forgiving, less demanding, and more mature in the give and take that defines all relationships. We get back all that we give in this program. I know we could all be more serene and more sober on a mountain top or at a beach in the sunshine and away from all of life’s troubles. But, we are in the human element, trying to be spiritual in our day to day human surroundings. The best advice is I can give is to do the next best thing. Breathe. Lighten up. Don’t take things or people so seriously. Laugh. Relax. Suit up and show up for life. When you screw up, get back up. When you mess up, clean it up. Move on. If you get lost, look down at your shoes and realize that you are exactly where you need to be….in the moment. It is that simple.
It has been said that, “almost the only scoffers at prayer (and meditation) are those who never tried it enough.” ~ AA Literature
There are two types of meditation and many ways to perform meditation. The most common form of meditation is passive. This could be Focused Attention, Open Monitoring, Effortless Presence, Zen, Visspana, Mindfulness, Metta, Mantra, Transcendental, Yoga, Self-Enquiry, Taoist, Qigong, Christian, and Guided. Click on the link for detailed information on what these are and how they are practiced. I have tried a great many of them, but I must tell you that my little A.D.D. soul has trouble sitting still and quiet for any length of time. It is hard to quiet my brain. So, I was thrilled when I ran into a Buddhist leader who said there was second and just as effective type of meditation called “active.” Some of these might involve: Contemplative walking, measured breathing, Tai Chi, Gardening, Crafting, Creative Arts, Sand Mandalas, etc. I find that when I am in my head too much or emotionally upset; getting into the flow of motion helps clear out the confusion and helps me focus on solutions.
Here are 3 local AA meditation groups that I have heard good things about:
Mondays 6 PM: 4th Dimension Group St. Marks Disciple Center 1105 Grand Avenue Des Moines, Iowa.
Wednesdays 6:30 PM: Powell Treatment Center Conference Room Lutheran Hospital 700 E. University Des Moines, Iowa.
Fridays: 6 PM: Unity Church 414 31st Street Des Moines, Iowa.
Whether you are active or passive in meditation matters not. Do what works for you and your mind and heart. Just do it.
Remembering that our goal is to develop a closer conscious contact with God, prayer is simply what we do when we talk with our HP, and meditation is simply a way of stilling our minds and opening our spirits to God’s influence. ~ 12 Step literature.
The only way to do meditation or prayer incorrectly, is to not do them at all. At least, that is what the wise women told me when I got here. Having been a proud, card carrying agnostic for over 17 years, I was used to doing my own thing, trusting my own judgement, being rebellious, and and successfully fouling up every area of my life. My way of doing things got me here. If I wanted change, I had to make changes. If I wanted what the elders in AA had, I had to do what they did. Boy, did I hate that. But, I wanted sobriety, peace, and serenity. I wanted to feel sane in insane situations. So, I sat down, listened, and then acted as if.
Since I was pretty rusty at this prayer/meditation stuff, I just did the Serenity Prayer repeatedly, and I said please in the morning and thank you at night. Initially, I did not mean one word of it, but guess what. I started feeling calmer. I started sleeping better. And, I started thinking, these old timers have something going on here! So, then I tried a few more things that were suggested. I expanded my spiritual life. Guess what. It made me feel even more at ease and calmer. I believe it takes what it takes. Be patient with the newcomers. The booze has their brains all fuzzy, and thus they cannot focus as much as you may want. They cannot hear you when they are hanging on to life itself. Introduce concepts slowly. Relax, they will be ready when they are ready.
Just for today, I will be happy This assumes to be true what Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” ~ 12 Step Literature
My life is topsy turvy this week. I am working most days by 6 AM, and there is no WiFi there. So, you get my evening thoughts. Hopefully, they will make sense. Today, I decided that I can be as happy as I make up my mind to be. I had the opportunity to work with a few people who have made other decisions. I learn from working with others how good I have it. I am no better than they are. But with sobriety, I have been a better class of problems. I do not have to worry about being found out in secret drinking. I am not worried if a I see a cop following me. I no longer feel as if the world is handing me a raw deal or plotting to make me miserable.
Today’s problems are more like unsafe drivers, tailgaters, cat puke on the floor, my favorite TV program being preempted by news or weather warnings. Electricity going out during storms, etc. These are pretty doable and manageable. Right? Thank goodness for sobriety and AA. Life is good if we will have it. We “can have peace if we will have it,” ~John Lennon. I hope that you all find some peace and happiness today. Practice being happy. It beats the alternative. My worst day sober is still much better than my best days drunk. Breathe peace.
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.