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.


2 Oars of Recovery

There are two oars of recovery:

The 12 Steps of AA and the fellowship of AA. ~ Anon

Recovery in AA can be likened to being in a life raft. Someone from the bigger ship of AA threw us a life boat. We chose to climb in and not drown. That was the first of many choices that we have in recovery. We were each equipped with two oars for safe sailing. One oar is the 12 Steps of AA. The other is the AA fellowship. Again, we are given the choices of using one or the other oar to navigate the rough waters of life, to use both of them, or to not use either one. It is a choice. We were all born of free will.

I will give you a clue: the folks who choose to not use either oar will drift around and never really ever reach a safe shore. The people who choose to just use the steps, but ignore the help and fellowship of AA will just go around in circles when they try to paddle at all. The same fate befalls those who only want to use the fellowship to keep them afloat. The acronym N.U.T.S applies to them = Not Using The Steps. Nothing looks sillier or sadder than someone who chooses to ignore the wisdom of millions recovering AA’s when it comes to staying sober. Those who succeed in sailing to safer shores and who can enjoy a lifetime of freedom and joy are those who use both oars of recovery. It is your choice. Just get in the boat and keep rowing.

Bless Them and Heal Me

Bless them and heal me. ~ anon

I have learned to say this small but powerful prayer when I get angry or hurt at what someone else decides to do. I have to remember that G.O.D. has put them in my path, so that I can learn from them. Most of the time, I do not know what the lesson is until I get further down the road, and then boom: there it is! The light goes on, and I awaken some more. I will give you an example. On the road, I may be miffed or frightened (or both) by some jerk that cuts me off and nearly runs me off the road. I may get a mile or two down the road, and low and behold, I do the same thing to the next innocent schmoe. Whereever I go there I am. Whatever problems I have in my life, I am the common denominator.

Can you relate? How can we expect unconditional love, understanding, and peace; when we do not afford it to other beings? I have to ask myself: how important is it really? Will it be as important in one year as it is now? So much pain, hate and cruelty is born out of fear. The 12 step program offers us a way out of the fear and pain and into the unconditional love and acceptance we all seek on this earth. It starts from within each of us. One by one we can build the peaceful world we all want. In Tradition #8, we are asked to embrace our fellows as equals. Look for the similarities, not the differences. You will surely find the peace you have been seeking.

We are not Professionals

Tradition #8: AA should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers. ~ AA 12 Traditions

Fellowship is the key word for this tradition. We are all equal, there is no status or seniority. The one with the most seniority in AA is the person who woke up earliest this morning. If we remember this, we are not placed on an imaginary ladder of worth. We do not end up measuring each other by our outside appearance, rank, social status, etc. I thank goodness every day that some wise people many years ago decided we need the traditions in order to keep us humble, require that we respect each other as equals, and make us work in a truly democratic way.

That is why we do not let professionals run the show. We have many highly skilled and educated people among us, but they are encouraged to leave those at the door. We must remain teachable. So, when we come in it is best that we not presume we have all the answers, know what is best, or think we are smarter than the next person. Those of us from the healing and helping professions need AA and support as much as anyone else in this program. Those of us who have been around for many years need the newcomers as much as they need us. When we embrace this fact, life gets easier. What a deal AA has given us.

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.





The Message

Those of us who live this program do not simply live this message,

we are the message. ~ Anon 

This is a program of attraction, not promotion. We cannot go into every bar in town and drag people out of there and into AA meetings. That doesn’t work so well. That is what boxers call, “leading with your chin”. I do take up the argument, that we are not the message, but rather G.O.D. is the message, we are merely the messengers. The question is: what message do we want to convey? I have to remember what attracted me in the first place: unconditional love, compassion, humor, understanding and an open door policy.

Most folks in AA will tell you that you may be the only Big Book that someone will ever see in their lives. If that is so, then it would make sense that we crack the book open every day, and learn what it says. I admit to being a Big Book thumper, but I cannot quote chapter and verse, and I never could. There are some handy dandy Big Book reference cards that one can use. That way, when a certain issue and emotion troubles us or our sponsees, we can refer them to a chapter that addresses such a thing.  The nice thing about AA is that there have been millions who have already recovered, so all we have to do is learn from their experiences. There is no need to recreate the wheel. Just jump in and enjoy the ride. As one old timer used to say, “Just shut up and get in the bus!”


More things shall be revealed if we are open to them ~ Anon

When we first get dried out, we will experience dreams where we are drinking or feeling extremely blasted beyond control. This is normal.  I used to have dreams that I was being forced to drink that which I did not want. I know! Even in my dreams, I wasn’t responsible, and I was the victim! I am sure you can relate! I consider these dreams freebies: all the memories and thrills; but none of the guilt, shame, or remorse. So, relax. It is just your subconscious in overtime.

Sometimes, we can learn from these dreams as well. They can be wake up calls to get more active in AA, to do more service work, or perhaps let up on caffeinated beverages by noon, so that we can sleep better at night. I have also been able to recall things for my 4th and 5th step inventory that in real time and when wide awake, I could not recall. That was due to black out drinking. The brain has a funny way to tease things out, that we would rather not remember having done. So, be kind and gentle with yourself. Enjoy the freebie, but try to learn from what is revealed.