A Place of Neutrality

We feel as though we have been placed in a position of neutrality

– safe and protected. ~ Pg., 85, Big Book

When we first get sober, we run around trying to save others. I call it the AA 2 Step dance: Step #1: I have a drinking problem, Step #2: and I am going to fix you! We don’t get very far with that. As we learn quickly, what others do, say, or think is none of our business. We are powerless over other people and their decisions. If they want what we have, they will do what we do. AA is a program of attraction, not promotion. The same goes with spiritual awareness and those within the program. We each have our own HP, spiritual path, ways to pray/meditate, etc. that work for us. I find it helpful to talk to others, so that I can learn new things. But, generally speaking, we each have our own gig. And, that is okay. It would be a very boring world indeed if we all thought and acted the same way all the time.

Step #10 offers us a new pair of glasses. We get to view opposing opinions, differences, and lifestyle variances as perfectly fine; and in fact, exactly as they are supposed to be. We learn to understand that we are not in charge, we do not have to have anyone’s else’s answers, and we are not the AA police. I know we have all run into people in AA who can quote chapter and verse precisely, but then cannot apply the words to everyday living. AA savants, perhaps? I like to be able to see the words in our literature as all new each time I open the books. It is as if some AA elves spent the night rephrasing and editing the text. That keep sobriety all brand new for me. It is meant to be a text book, not a novel. It has the instructions for life right there at our finger tips. All we have to do is follow the directions. So, shift your gears into neutral and enjoy the scenery.

Walking Miracles

It just comes! That is the miracle of it. We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation. ~ pg. 85 Big Book

I think anyone who is sober for any length of time in a society that is maniacally bent on destruction of the soul is a walking miracle. I look at most people’s lives and think, why wouldn’t they drink? But they don’t. AA gives us other ways of coping with life on life’s terms. It gives us reasons to not drink. We have others who depend us, service commitments, hobbies, interests, jobs, healthier bodies, healthier minds, a commitment to ourselves, and a sponsor and home group to be accountable to. There is not much time to dwell on thoughts of alcohol. There sure isn’t any time or energy to be spent on getting drunk and then dealing with the hangover. Life, it seems is too short these days. We do not want to waste one minute on the problem, as the solution keeps us busy.

What kinds of things are you doing that you would have never had the time, energy, money or inclination to do when drinking? I find it important to list my blessings now and then; and assess just how far I have come. That seems more productive than focusing on what I have to do to come. Take a moment today and focus on your assets and the things you have in life that sobriety affords you. That is the amends to self that I wish for you today.  Step #10 tells us that we never have to go back to the fear based ways of reacting to life. We have a new way of thinking and acting in life, and it is called AA. What a gift!

New Attitude

We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given to us without any thought or effort on our part. ~ pg. 85, Big Book

Our new attitude will become one of neutrality toward liquor and drinking. The booze will no longer shout our name, yell at us in the stores, or jump in our grocery carts. It will stop telling us stupid things like: “I will be nice thins time”, “you need me”, etc. It won’t be necessary to brace ourselves before parties, dates, or job interviews anymore. In fact, we will be able to reason that to do so, would mean to sabotage ourselves worse. I do believe this. When I first got sober, I chewed through a lot of straws and ice. I had a lot of “nerves”. It seemed that alcohol was everywhere, that everyone else was using, and that alcohol knew me so well, that it knew my mom’s maiden name! We, after all had this intimate relationship!

It took a long while to relax and become more neutral toward alcohol, but eventually that became the norm. I would say what most old timers would say: don’t go into bars, don’t buy it, don’t bring it home, and don’t serve it to others. If you want a life of sobriety, you need to change your playmates, your playgrounds, and your playthings. If you change the game; the game changes. You may balk at this, but the wisdom of those of us who have gone before you; might best be heeded. I have found it useful to create a few life long hobbies, get involved in social issues, and find others to work with. This has changed the game for me. Step #10 offers this chance at a whole new attitude. Embrace the change.

Normal?

We react sanely and normally, and we find that this has happened automatically. ~ pg. 84, Big Book

I have to laugh because I cannot honestly tell you what is “normal”. It is said that it not healthy to be normal in an insane society. If the events of the last year does not demonstrate some crazy mass mania going on, then you are #1: not paying attention or #2: think it is just fine. There was a time when I craved chaos and was usually the one creating it. These days, I have very little tolerance for crazy. I understand when an individual person goes off the wall. That I get. I do not get a large swath of society bent on destroying the very fabric of a once good and free nation. I know my 10th step list has grown a whole lot longer!

What has this got to do with sobriety? Step #10 offers the daily opportunity to review what happened, who was involved, how we felt about it, what our fears were, and what was our part. I call it my sanity step. No matter how crazy everyone around me gets, I can have “serenity.” I can choose how to react and act. I can get a perspective on things, get with my sponsor and talk things over, and hand it over to HP. One thing I know is that I do not have to like what is going on or who is involved. I always tell myself, “you don’t ever have to do that again!” That seems to calm me down. Remember too, that it is not about me or you. Most of it isn’t. G.O.D. can and will lift and carry this too.

Hot Flame

If tempted, we recoil from it as if from a hot flame. ~ pg. 84 Big Book

Most of us were not normal when it came to alcohol and other mood altering substances. We never will be. We are the same kids who when the hot flame burnt our fingers, we went back and tried to touch it again and again….just to see if we would get burned again. I think it is tantamount to going out into my yard first thing in the morning, picking up a cement paver, and smacking myself in the forehead with it. Then I spend the rest of the day wondering why I am bleeding, in pain and have a headache. I just had trouble connecting the dots. Then some smart-aleck old timer told me, that perhaps I did not want to connect the dots or even bother looking at them.

I hate when people point out the obvious. Don’t you? But, I love the truth teller all the same. What a gift we get from AA: people who give a dang about us, who call and ask if we are ok, who listen and respond as if we matter, etc. What a huge gift. We are never alone in this program. Never. Last night, I saw four people come back through the doors. They went out to experiment. They are a gift as well. They remind me to work this program, stay sober, and not go near the hot flame. They just reminded me that anyone of us will get burnt if we even come near that flame. Stay safe. Stay sober. We need you.

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.

The Results

Rather, I do whatever is in front of me to be done, and leave the results up to Him; however it turns out, that’s God’s will for me.

~ pg. 452, Big Book, 3rd edition

I love the Big Book. It is as if someone followed me around and wrote down all my thoughts and experiences. I always thought that I was so unique and special, that people just could not figure me out. After all, wasn’t I more clever and smarter than them? ha ha. The Big Book reminds us all that we are pretty ordinary and predictable in our collective dis-ease. How we reacted to the influence alcohol had over us is pretty much same ole same ole. In all my years, I have not heard many extraordinary stories of the chaos we created while using. I have however heard fabulous and unique stories of recovery, and how people have creatively learned to live soberly and productively. Now, that is something to talk about!

I love this story the most because the situations and relationships did not change so much as the perception, and that is exactly what AA is all about: changing our perception of things. How we act and react is all we need to know about. When sponsees seem lost and unsure of themselves, I suggest they look down at their shoes. That is exactly where they ar,e and where they are going. We are moving toward recovery, or we are moving toward that next drunk. Doing the next best thing keep us focused on the direction our shoes are pointed. Whatever is in front of us, is what we do next. It is that simple. Stop complicating things. Breathe in the freedom of sobriety. Your G.O.D. has got this.

Strange Dreams

My brain whirled. I might have done terrible things, and I wouldn’t even know it.

~ pg. 223 Big Book, 3rd Edition

Perhaps one of the most frightening aspects of drinking for me and countless others was the “black out” drinking. I would awaken to strangers, in scary places I would never go to sober, with no car, no money, and no memory of how I got there, and what had occurred. This makes making amends particularly difficult, and that is why I say amends may never be completed. Every now and then, I will recall an instance from the past. It will come in a dream, or when I am ill and feverish. I guess that is because I am more vulnerable and  susceptible to such thoughts. Some folks experience “using” dreams. That happened more frequently when I was first sober.

When I do have the clarity of mind and do remember some harm I have done to myself and others, then I can act on the amends immediately.  I find it wise to walk through the memory with a sponsor, write about it, and pray for the right words and actions to take. I need to forgive my younger self for putting me in harm’s way and doing things that I would never in sobriety even consider. Step 9 is a healing component in sobriety, and not one to take lightly. Be kind and gentle with yourself, heed those dreams, and continue to live each moment doing the best you can with what you have. New things will be revealed. This I promise.

Daily Work

Amazingly, God did for me what I could not do for myself. I was to ask,

using steps 9, 10, 11 and 12 on a daily basis. ~ Anon

If AA were a treatment center, steps 1, 2, and 3 would be the emergency room. Where a lot of detox, testing and surveying goes on to assess the problem and decide on a treatment plan. Steps 4-9 could be considered inpatient treatment. Where there is direct supervision to work the steps, a protected environment, and an ongoing treatment program, the ground is being laid for a lifetime of recovery. Steps 10-12 then could be considered outpatient treatment. The alcoholic is out in the community with the freedom to choose when to go to meetings, do daily work toward a better way of living, and hopefully becomes involved in the AA community in his/her own right.

I never went to treatment, but I need to add the word “yet” to that sentence. I do not plan to go back to drinking. I suspect that I do have few a few more drunks in me; but I don’t think I have another recovery left in me. That keeps me sober. AA is a lot like the Mafia. You know too much to leave! I thank goodness and the universe that 2 drunks got together and decided it would be smart to help each other get/stay sober. It is a simple program, but some of us are too smart to enjoy it. Be teachable. Invite HP in and enjoy the ride. You will love it some day.