Return of Sanity

For by this time, sanity will have returned. We will seldom be interested in liquor. ~ pg.84, Big Book 

It is assumed that by the time a person gets to step #10, that they are beyond the jitters, dt’s, and cravings. If not, perhaps a revisit to steps 1, 2, and 3 is needed. There is no shame in redoing things. A solid foundation is necessary in any building efforts. You don’t want to build on something shaky and weak. A thorough and fearless approach is best. As I said before, if there was black out drinking, perhaps the person does not even recall some of the harms done. This can trip you up. Take the time and effort to make sure of what you have:

Step #1: An admission of complete powerlessness and complete willingness.

Step #2: A belief that G.O.D. can restore us to sanity.

Step #3:  Complete reliance upon G.O.D. in all of our affairs.

That is the foundation that is needed. It is essential to long term sobriety. No exceptions. I have worked with many folks over the years. I can hear the words mumbled, but few have really acted as if they really were accepting of these basic tenets of sobriety. It eventually shows itself. The whole point of the AA program is to have no reason on this green earth to drink. In my experience, I am too busy and occupied; too hooked into AA to even think about adding alcohol to the mix. That is sobriety to me.

Cease Fire

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone – even alcohol.

~ Step 10 promises, pg. 84 Big Book

I am ready for October to begin and fall too! I love the crispier nip in the air and cooler nights to sleep. I think in a past life I might have been a bear because I sure love to hibernate! I slow down in the cooler seasons and sleep so much better. I suspect I am not the only one. One thing AA has taught me is that I am not unique. Dang. That shoots the ego all to heck. There is a list of promises and a prayer in most of the steps. I will go through these and how they apply to my life this month. They are on the bottom of page 84 if you want to read along. Feel free to comment and share your own experience, strength and hope.

The fight against alcohol was removed before I got here. I consider mine to be an “oh wow” spiritual experience. Some might consider it crazy. But, a voice said to me which sounded like my brother’s voice, “don’t you think you have had enough?” And, I heard it loud and clear. For the first time in my life, I did not drink the whole thing. I put it down. Actually it was 4 tumblers full of Peppermint Schnapps, on ice. The bar had announced  a last call for alcohol. That was always my cue to get a big supply before I had no more to get. I had no intention of walking away from alcohol that night, but I did. I don’t remember how I got back to the motel, whether or not I drove, who I was with, or what happened to my son that night, but I woke up and never looked back. I had had enough. I ceased fighting alcohol. The end was just a beginning.

There are no Mistakes

There are no mistakes; only learning opportunities. ~ Anon

I am off to get a new (to me) car. It has been nearly 20 years since I bought a car, so I am a bit rusty. I match my rusty old car! ha ha. What will make this different is I no longer just muddle through. I process and try to learn as I go. I am more interested in not having a debt load; than in fashion and style. Comfort over razzle dazzle appeals to me now. Simple things like a/c, auto windows, front wheel drive, etc. are far more important than rather or not I have the latest stereo system installed. It may be age, but I would like to think a stronger spiritual life is involved.

I thank AA and sponsorship for encouraging me to use tradition #7 in all of my personal affairs. Without that, I would not have most of the cash to pay for this newer car. I am still wondering how much to pay and rather or not to buy a warranty. That has all been handed to HP. “The answers will come, if our own house is in order.” Well, the promises in step #9 are evolving in my life. In my case, slowly, not quickly. But, they are surely coming to be. I look forward to having some secure wheels under me in the future. I may make a few mistakes in this deal, but I will learn from them. Perhaps in 20 years, I will be back at the dealership to practice these steps in all of my affairs. Don’t be afraid of mistakes. They will teach you.

Wake Up

When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside of you as fear.

~ Carl Jung

“It is time to wake up and smell the coffee.” At least, that was what I was told umpteen times. I wanted to scream obscenities. How dare they say that to me? Don’t they know how smart I am? Who the heck do they think they are? It’s my life and my body! I can laugh at the little girl within me. She was very angry and scared. It took several weeks for me to calm down and stop fighting everyone in AA that was trying to help me. I had a bee in my bonnet, and nothing set quite right for me. So, I would stomp my feet, slam doors shut, slam my book shut, and sigh heavily when they talk too long and read too much.

And, those in AA would say, “keep coming back.” Or, “we love you”. Or,”we are glad you are here.” This thing called unconditional love and acceptance was scary and foreign to me. I only knew rage, incrimination, and me and the kids against the world. Who would have thought this scared little girl would stay long enough to be one of those pesky old timers who would be saying all those loving things to new people? Who would have thought I would stay long enough to learn anything? I had never stayed anywhere for any length of time be it a job, a house, a relationship, or a town. Thank goodness I listened and learned. I thank AA for that.

 

We Will Love You

We will love you until you can love yourself. ~ AA slogan

How important that was to hear, when I first got to AA. Unconditional love and acceptance is what kept me coming back. I had never had that in my life, so at first, I was suspicious of what you people in AA wanted from me, or perhaps you were a crazy cult! Ha ha. The hugs hurt, the “keep coming back” frightened me. I did not want you to have my phone number lest you want to call me and interrupt my precious life or ask for money. I know. Pretty crazy, huh!?  That is what the dis=ease of alcoholism does to us. It is a isolating condition. It tells us we are not good enough, that no one will understand, and that we are not lovable.

When I first started drinking, it made me feel more social and glib… the life of the party per se. As the dis-ease progressed, I had lost most of my moderate drinking friends, as they were too boring. It was more expedient and more affordable to just load up for the weekend and drink at home. Or, so I thought. Thank G.O.D. that I stopped listening to the dis-ease and started listening to you folks in AA. That was the saner and healthier decision. It has paid off, I keep coming back because I know there are millions of young folks you need to hear, “keep coming back”, “we love you” and “we understand”. What a gift we have in the fellowship of AA.

Ignorance is not Bliss

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.

Living Simply

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.

 

 

 

 

Wrap of Step #7

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.

Just One Little Thing

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 P’s and Q’s

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.