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.

A Symptom

I have a dis-ease of selfishness, and alcoholism is a symptom. ~ Anon

The very first recollection I have of when alcohol was a problem in my life was at a very young age. Perhaps you can relate.  My notion was that I would not get my fair share, which of course was the lion’s share of whatever was being served. I never drank to sate a thirst. I drank to get blitzed; to be removed of my reality. 1,000 was never enough, and one was too many, of anything.  Some call this black and white thinking…all or nothing. I know, for me that thinking infected my whole life.

In step #8 we are encouraged to pull back to veil of denial and investigate how we were selfish and self-centered in all of our relationships. This can be tricky because our inaction can be as selfish as our actions. For instance: To withhold our affections or boycott a friendship just because we are not getting what we want. To not express ourselves honestly when asked to for fear we may upset the other person. These are ways our inaction harmed others and ourselves. The AA program asks that we only change only little thing, and that is ourselves. It is a small price with some big pay-offs. Such a deal we get in AA.

Why We are Here

There are 3 reasons folks come into sobriety: the liver, the lover or the lawyer. ~ Anon

When we find ourselves saying we were never in rehab or jail, etc.; we need to remember to add the word “yet” to that sentence. The dis-ease is sometimes more progressive and faster in other people’s lives. I like to think that perhaps some of us just have lower pain level tolerances. It really does not matter why we are here or how we got here, so much as that we are here. We got lucky and found the solution soon enough to get our lives turned around for the better. Not everyone is that lucky.

While we are here, we might as well get busy and get better. Time is wasting. Here are some Step #8 questions that might help you in developing your list:

Was the harm done in thought or in action?

Have my attitudes resulted in actual harm?

  • Now put the names of those harmed into 3 columns: amends you will make right away and in person, amends you will make as time allows or by mail, and amends you feel “when hell freezes over” best applies. There may be a 4th column = amends to the deceased. We will talk about that some other time. If you feel unwilling, pray for the willingness to be willing. Enough said. I wish for you all a peaceful day.

End of Isolation

In Step *8, pg. 82 of the 12 X 12 it promises this: “It is the beginning of the end of our isolation from our fellows and G.O.D”. I came into the program as an proud, card carrying agnostic. It took several years and some very strong sponsorship that insisted on G.O.D. = good orderly direction (like praying, meditating, meetings, eating breakfast, getting to bed at a reasonable hour, service, etc.) to set me on a spiritual path. I do believe now in a power greater than myself. It is Mother Nature or the universe. Those are constants that preexisted me and will be here in some shape or form far past when I depart. There is a rhyme and a rhythm that I can depend on, and a concreteness that I can understand.

As a loner, I appreciate my alone time, but I do depend on fellowship and G.O.D. when I get stuck or cannot move beyond a certain issue or personal conflict. I like to call my sponsor daily or text, just to hear another human being. I usually call someone new in AA and an older timer daily. Service is my main thing in recovery. I like to keep my mouth and hands busy in productive things. I do a daily 10-12, pray, and meditate (an active form) daily. My recovery pace is as active (if not more) now than it ever was. In long term recovery, it is essential to keep up our efforts, lest we become complacent. Keep doing daily those things that got you sober in the first place.

Pain VS Misery

Pain is inevitable; misery is an option. ~ Anon

When we venture into Step #8, we certainly will revisit the pain of the past. That pain was and is inevitable. Pain is a human condition. We have these marvelous bodies that can sense pain both physically and mentally. As a person who has chronic pain, I have learned to embrace pain as a friend. It reminds me that I am still alive, that I can feel, and that I have limits. In the past, I did not register pain or was taught to ignore it. For many years, I thought alcohol helped to numb pain and remove me from reality. It “did the trick” so to speak. The reality is that whatever was causing me pain was there the next day, and I had added shame, regret, and remorse on top of the pain. In other words, alcohol was not the answer, but was a contributor to more pain.

We learn in step #8, that there is/was just so much pain and not any more. It has/had a beginning and it has/had an end. Misery is the result of not letting go of the pain. Pain is optional. How we choose to act and react to whatever pain comes our way, is what really matters. In the AA program, we learn to stop being a victim, put on our big people pants, and face life head on. One day, one situation, and one relationship at a time, we get to choose misery or acceptance. Feelings and fears have no real control over us. The promises of AA give us a better and healthier way of existing in this life, pain or no pain. What a deal we have in AA.

 

There is no experience like telling a being who has been hurt spiritually and possibly physically that, “You are loved, this is your home, you are safe here and you matter. ~ Kathy Stevens

The word domestic comes from “domo” or home. Most of us think our homes are places of refuge and safety. But are they really? Are we living loving and productive lives, or are we angry and depressed? Step #8 gives the opportunity to evaluate just how things are going. We may be sober and have completed the first 7 steps. That is all well and good. But, there will never be a time when we can just lay back and rest. Remember, while we are in the meetings, this dis-ease is out in the hallway doing one armed push-ups. It is cunning, powerful and baffling…and very patient! We cannot stay clean on yesterday’s bath.

Step 8 is the big person step, where we put on our big girl or boy pants, suit up and show up. We take ownership of our issues, past and present, so that we do not have to go on being nonproductive and angry toward our fellow beings. A few years back, I began to incorporate my “do over G.O.D.”. Remember when we were kids and we lost the game? We would shout, “do over!”. Step 8 offers a big old do over on each and every issue, relationship, and problem. What a deal this AA program is. Embrace the change. Recovery is for all who want it.

Step #8: a 2 Part Plan

 

Made a list of all people we had harmed and became willing to

make amends to them all. ~ AA 12 X 12

The first part of step #8 is to make the list. The easiest way is to write down everyone that was on the 4th and 5th step list. I strongly suggest that everyone works with a sponsor in this process. One quick story: a sibling of mine, who came right out of a treatment program, and being so anxious to stay sober, ran around telling tales on everyone she had been involved with. It caused a great deal of pain, and she went back to the drinking as a result. Your sponsor will also be helpful in removing those names on the list who victimized you, not vice versa. Heed this advice. We are not doing this to alleviate or assuage the guilt of others. We are doing this to recover our own sanity and stay sober.

The second part of step #8 is to become willing. Here is that word again! The essence of the 12 step program of recovery is just that: being willing and remaining teachable. If how we were living our lives was working for us, we would not have a need to be in AA. I recommend to my sponsees that they write letters to each person on the list, but do not send them!! Write what you would want to say, if you knew you would never see the person again. Then, with the aid of the sponsor, nail it down to a simple sentence, “I was wrong about such and such, and how can I make it right.” Now, the hard part is to pray for them the things you wish for yourself. The healing thoughts and feelings will come. You will know when you are ready to move on.

 

The Poison

Anger is like taking poison and hoping the other person will die. ~ Socrates

The key word for Step #8 is unconditional love. Most folks think the opposite of anger/hate is peace/love. Actually, the opposite is apathy and lack of compassion. I have been saying lately that we seem as a society to have lost our moral compass. When I hear people complain that so and so has more than I do, that there is not enough jobs or money to go around, that the guy next door has more possessions than we do…all I hear is fear. We are so afraid that someone is going to get more than we have or have more say so than we have, that we shut off our hearts to the compassion and concern for others that make us uniquely human. The word humane comes from human. It means:

having or showing compassion or benevolence.
“regulations ensuring the humane treatment of animals and other human beings.”
synonyms: compassionatekindconsiderateunderstandingsympathetictolerant;

lenientforbearingforgivingmercifulmildgentletenderclementbenignhumanitarianbenevolentcharitable;
caringsolicitous;
warmheartedtenderheartedsofthearted.

We have lost our humanity along the path to materialism and self-seeking.  A spiritual awakening is needed to overcome this soul sickness and social dis – ease. I was watching World TV last night about unsafe boats bringing refuges to the safe shores in Europe. For every human trying to be a humane being, there were numerous ones trying to oust the refuges for fear that “they” would take much needed jobs, resources, and space from the citizens. Thank G.O.D., in AA we are taught that everyone is welcome, all beings are precious, and compassion and unconditional love are the order of our daily lives. What a deal we have been given here in AA.