Often, the greater our ignorance about something, the greater our resistance. ~ Marc Bekoff
After spending 3 days trying to get a 12 step tri-fold flyer put together, I have decided that I learn best by doing. I live life backwards. Instead of getting training or learning how to do it and then do something; I will take on a job or task, and then try to figure out how to do it. I call it baptism by fire. This time, I asked for a strong deadline, so that I do not dilly dally for months on end, reconstructing the project in my head daily (well, truth be told, in the middle of the night)! That is one thing I did differently this time. That was a sane change.
This reminds of step #8. We need directions. We need a sponsor who knows how to do this work. We need to not be so ignorant as to forego our sponsor’s direction and help. This is a WE program. We do not have to do this alone. We do not have to pretend that we know how to do something we have never done before. By using our sponsor’s experience, strength, and hope and by following directions, we can navigate the new waters ahead of us. We do not have to do this alone anymore. We have a fellowship as is promised in step #8.
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.
I am amazed that it the end of July already! I just wanted to leave this month and step behind with some wise things I have heard around the table on the subject of letting go of character defects. The first one is “choose guilt over resentment, it is the saner choice” ~ Anon. This resonates well for me because guilt and shame never motivated me to change. In fact, I used to be a very angry drunk when these were employed. What did help me was to let go of my resentments and my expectations (which are really just planned resentments). So, when I let go of others’ expectations of me and say no to irrational requests, it feels less uneven and very empowering.
The next one I have heard is “humility is an action, not an emotion“. ~ Jan W, 2014. How we respond to those around us says a whole lot more about our mental well-being and compassion for them than all the feelings we have toward them ever will.
What would a loving person do/say? ~ Anon. I need to ask myself this daily and especially when I do not know how to respond. My mom used to say, “if you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” I am pretty quiet most days! Ha ha.
“Being human is not a character defect” ~ Sue I, 2000. Forgiveness and acceptance of self comes well ahead of forgiveness and acceptance of others in my book. Hurt people; hurt people. When I came to accept that even I had limits, self-defeating behaviors, and sore spots; I learned that so does everyone else. This old world needs more hugs and less blame. Step #7 offers this promise: Freedom from blame. I hope today is blame free for each of us.
It is a sign of great inner insecurity to be hostile to the unfamiliar. ~Anais Nin
I have been told, and I am sure most new people in AA have been told this as well, that all I have to change is just only little thing: myself! The seventh step encourages us to draw closer to our original, genuine self…the untarnished, sober, and in your face self. The trick is to figure out who we are as individuals. The being that came into this earth came in naked and alone. It is a soul searching journey to figure out who, what, why, etc. while we are here. And, guess what. We leave the same way we came in: naked and alone.
Meantime, being sober gives us a unique opportunity that many folks never get. While others a busy living their lives, stuck in the same old rut, and trying to make a living; we get to examine and improve ourselves and our lives. We get to figure out why we are here, whether or not we believe in G.O.D., trust something bigger than ourselves, let go of that which we cannot handle alone, clean out our old heavy garbage, assess who we are and what we are willing to change, make amends so we can live without regret, keep our side of the street clean, pray and meditate for guidance, and work with others. What a deal! It is a small price to pay; and just one little thing that will pay off for the rest of our years.
My mom used to tell me (yes, many times!) to “mind your own P’s and Q’s”. I did love to mind others a lot! I used to wonder: what the heck were P’s and Q’s? When I came into the 12 Step program, I was given this assignment: Go through step # 7 in the 12 X 12 and see how many “P” words you can find. That kept me busy for about an hour. So, it effectively kept me sober for one more hour. I think most of the early days were filled with such assignments for that very reason: keep Jo busy and out of the bars. These days, I know when my character flaws are not in charge of me, I have a new meaning for P’s and Q’s: Peace and Quiet. For that I am grateful! When I am not practicing my old behavior patterns, I have peace of mind, and no one is steaming mad at me. It makes life so much nicer!
Later on, I learned that there are 6 P’s to recovery: perspective, pain, prayer, patience, process, and payoff. http://fine-anon.blogspot.com/2008/06/six-ps.html Gees, there is so much to learn. No wonder I am never bored. I get a new perspective by talking things over with a sponsor, reading, meditation, and journaling. Experiencing pain is my teacher. It teaches me that I am human and have feelings and limits. Prayer humbles me to hand things over and recognize that I am not in charge. Patience is necessary because it helps me slow down and realize that this is a process, not a race. There is no graduation. The process is in incremental steps for a reason: we cannot expect to change over night, and we need each step in succession in order to build upon the prior ones. A good foundation is necessary to have a stable and secure footing on which to build. And, finally, the payoff keeps us coming back. Those are laid out in the Promises of AA. Make a copy of these promises and put them on your fridge or mirror. Read them daily. That is what we are shooting for. May you find peace and quiet in your life.
The key word for tradition #7 is responsibility. With responsibility comes freedom. We give back freely that which we were given freely. In my experience, the alcoholics who stay in AA are those who get involved in service on day #1. Service can be as simple as making coffee, putting out literature, greeting others, or speaking at the meetings. Service keeps our minds, hands, and mouths busy; so we cannot find time to self-destruct or to be destructive toward others. Doesn’t that sound like a good idea? Through the steps and traditions, we are promise a life of sane and useful purposefulness.
I will take that any day in exchange for feeling depressed, anxious, undeserving, useless, and self-pitying. Most alcoholics come in with a whole lifetime of not belonging; and feeling useless and not trusted. We learn quickly this stuff that includes being apart of, unconditional love and acceptance, and trust. Heck, people offer us their phone numbers when most of our closest relatives won’t take our calls. Isn’t that something? Recovering people in AA offer us solace, love, and compassion when most of us have been disowned or kicked out of society. What a gift this program offers. What a deal. And, all we have to do is stay sober and give back freely what we were given freely. Such a deal!
Each step offers a certain freedom. Step #7 offers a freedom from self-reliance. We no longer have to be in charge of everything and everybody. We no longer have to pretend to know it all or have all the answers. We no longer have to figure things out all by ourselves. It is no longer the big bad world against little old self. We no longer have to fear making mistakes and being the mistake. We can depend on our groups, AA as a whole, our sponsors, and our G.O.D. I often say, “there is a loving and merciful G.O.D., and it is not me”. I say that because I need to hear it loud and clear.
Here is a nice summary of what one of us gets out of the steps:
What I Love About the Steps
- Frees me from blame and shame.
- Allows the doting love of HP to warm me.
- Frees me from responsibility to run the show.
- Purges and purifies me by the housecleaning.
- Means no secrets!
- Brings my ego to its right size through listing my defects.
- Removes my ego through the grace of HP.
- Softens my heart toward those I’ve hurt and those who have hurt me.
- Tears down the wall between me and others.
- Rewards me always with a good night’s sleep.
- Allows me to talk to HP and to hear HP speak to me.
- Makes me feel good about helping others.
Source: December, 1998, N.W. Farifax, VA
Enjoy the process. Relax in the arms of AA.
Life before sobriety is like a boxing match.
Life after surrender is like surfing. ~ Anon
Are you boxing through life or surfing? One old timer used to say, those is recovery are like ducks on a pond: we look like we are just peacefully sailing along, but under the water, we are paddling like all get out! I know my best days drunk could never equal how good my worse days sober have ever been. For one reason, I do not have to pile on regret, self-loathing and resentment upon the load I am already toting. In sobriety, we learn to take care of matters as soon as possible.
That is a far cry from our drinking days, when we would let things get so messy, that one small confrontation seemed to be the final straw on top of a number of unresolved messes. We were victims of our own making. In sobriety, we can go about society without shame or blame. We can be equals and just members, not above or below others. We can be productive and useful to our fellow humans. Thank HP/AA for the sobriety we have been given. It is a small gift that gives very large rewards. Start surfing and enjoy your sober life.
We are in a time when we are all challenged to either speak up for those who are oppressed, or to shut up and let others be who they are going to be. The 12th step program teaches me to be patient and merciful especially when others are struggling with this disease. I still, after all these years, struggle with letting go and allowing people to find their own path VS standing up for what is right and just. If I had all the answers, perhaps I would write a book.
I do believe when others are being abused or harmed, then it is my responsibility to say no, speak up in their defense, and in some way lessen the damages to others. To stand by and no do anything is being complicit in the harm. The promises say that we will be able to deal with difficult situations more easily. I find that if I hand it over, wait 24 hours and talk to my sponsor, somehow, the right words and actions are revealed to me. The answers come more easily. That gives me hope. How do you deal with the pain of others?
I for one need to remind myself that I am enough, all is good in the universe, and that I am doing the best I can with what I have. So much of life reminds of how we are either too much of something or not enough of another. We hear hourly how bad things are going in our world and country. And, there is plenty of pressure to be the best, biggest, strongest, and toughest winner in our world. How do we remain serene and sane in a culture that does it’s level best to knock us down and keep us feeling as if we are coming up short?
Two decades ago, I decided I needed to be reminded daily that I am enough, the world is a good place, and that I have assets to offer my loved ones. I began to write 5 daily affirmations starting each one with ‘I am absolutely’. Then I write 10 good/proactive things I did the day before that support my sobriety (like reading, writing, exercise, etc.). And, I also write 5 things that I am grateful for (starting out with the phrase ‘I am absolutely grateful for/that’). This daily ritual centers me, and and I find it to be most valuable in my mood and sobriety. When the storms of life toss me about, I know I have done my best to right my ship. Stay in the boat, keep rowing, and stay in harmony and balance with life.