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.

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.

Amends to Self

     We have learned that complete willingness to make amends to ourselves and to forgive ourselves or past mistakes has been essential to our recovery. ~ Anon

I know this goes against the grain for most people who perceive self-love to be selfish and self-centered, but believe me when I say, that unless we love ourselves unconditionally and accept ourselves with no ifs or buts, we will struggle with ego based problems such as judgmentalism, fear, social insecurity, etc.  How do we go about this thing called “living amends.” There are certain things we say to ourselves in our heads and out loud, that if said to another person, would be grounds for a law suit for defamation of character or outright abuse.

So, how does one overcome this self-abuse? The first thing is to catch ourselves in the act. In other words, jot down each time a negative thing falls out of your mouth or pops into your head, as an example: “I’m stupid”, or “there I go screwing up again.” Once you have a few on paper, identify a positive affirmation to counter what was said or thought. And put the word “absolutely” in front of it. For instance, “I am absolutely smart enough.” I find it helpful to write these each day, until the falsehood is removed. Another tactic that works, is to catch yourself in the act, and then correct it on the spot. I did this once in the middle of a sentence. The person I was speaking to chuckled at my affirmation and said, “I agree!” Be kind and gentle especially to yourself. As one friend says, “I have to be on my own team.”

 

 

 

It is that Simple

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius, and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. ~ Albert Einstein

Alcohol has a special capacity to make ordinary people into extraordinary monsters and over confident fools. As a youngster, I was painfully shy and an introvert. People could make me cry just by looking at me sternly. I grew up on a large farm here in the Midwest where we were pretty insulated from the community at large. I really thought all families had abuse, heavy drinking and smoking going on. I had a huge revelation at my first sleep over (age 8) for a friend’s birthday party. What occurred was so foreign to me (a dad who came home for dinner by 6 PM, no booze at the table, no smoking, and a dad who prayed and played with his kids. Then at night, he read us a story.

That was the last time I spent an overnight in anyone else’s home that wasn’t family. It frightened me to know that ours was not a “normal” family after all. It haunted me until at last I took up the bottle on my own behalf. The booze made me feel “normal” again. It made me feel powerful, glib, sociable, friendly, outspoken, and empowered. It worked! No wonder my dad loved it so. But, as they say: we invite the booze into our homes as a guest, but it soon makes demands and takes over. Then it becomes the lord and master of our universe. The good news is that we have this simple program of recovery to teach us to live, breathe and exist freely without the crutch of of alcohol. Have the courage and wisdom to live freely.

Recovery is For Everyone

Can we help others in relapse? Love and prayer VS confrontation. Can I help you with food/steps to recovery? Can everybody recover? You don’t have to die this way. Attraction is not passive. ~ Anon

Recovery is for everyone, but not everyone is for recovery. I had to learn that the hard way. When I first got sober, it was like a new lease on life. I felt great. I had an appetite again! I loved all the new energy I discovered. My mind for the first time in years was clear and clean. I could actually wake up refreshed and ready for work each day. I knew where I was, who I was with, what I had done/said, and what I had consumed the night before. What a huge relief that there was no more walk of shame or guilt over anything. There were no surprises in the mail box or at my bank.

I started doing the AA 2 Step….you know: I got a problem, and I am going to fix yours! I wanted those around me (that I loved dearly) to find this program too! I wanted them to experience the joy, relief, and spiritual drive that I was going through. Wouldn’t everyone feel the same? Guess what: It fell flat. People started to shun me and find other people to go to bars and enjoy parties with. I was dazed and confused at first, then I got judgmental and angry.  At long last, I got real and learned that this AA program is for everybody that wants it, but not everybody will or does want it. This is a We program, but it is for self. Take what you like, and remember the rest. Eventually, it may be of help. If they like what they see in you and really want change, they will ask. Focus on those who did ask for help. Attraction is an action verb.

Core Beliefs

Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is very uncomfortable that is called cognitive dissonance. And, because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore, and even deny anything that does not fit in with that core belief. ~ Frantz Fanon

The fears and feelings that we hold onto are the ties that bind us to our past. Unless we are willing to let go of the past, we cannot live in the moment. Our history is not our destiny. Those fears and feelings are core beliefs that we have about life, ourselves, and how the universe is revolving around us. They are based on false assumptions many of us made in the small, insulated social bubbles like family, our schools, and our small home towns. They were formed mostly in our youth by immature minds who were just trying to survive. In order to recover and to grow into our genuine autonomous selves, we need to challenge these beliefs.

What is true for us as youths, is not true for us as adults. We are adults who can choose to see these differently. We can also choose how we act and react to what is presented. We are no victims, but rather we are active participants. I understand that life is challenging, things do get scary, and those in charge of our world can be pretty darn nasty and hard to like. If you list all that you are powerless over today, I assure you that you will run out of paper. The only things we are in charge of us are our feelings and our fears. We get to decide how we will respond each and every time. Choose wisely and keep plugging along. You are not alone.

Just Another Day

Reach for the stars, even if you have to stand on a cactus. ~ Susan Longacre

People sometimes ask me how I stayed sober after all these years. I tell them the same thing I was always told when I asked old timers the same thing: Don’t drink and stay alive! No kidding. It is that simple. It is a simple program of recovery, but it is a hard one. The hard part is remaining teachable, recognizing you do not know everything, and having the willingness to accept and follow advice on how to do it differently.

Do you know how you can tell you are in recovery? You don’t. The people around you will notice that your behaviors are not so reactionary. Those who love you will be puzzled by the way you respond more lovingly. The banker and creditors will be shocked that they do not have to keep calling you and charging your accounts for late/missed payments. You bosses will enjoy more productivity, fewer “sick” days and more profits. Your kids and pets won’t be afraid when you walk through the door anymore. You may not notice, but they will. At first, you will feel uncomfortable, but soon this new lifestyle will feel more natural. Just look down at your shoes if you are not sure where you are or what direction you are going. Stay sober and stay alive. Pretty soon, you will be asked how you got where you are going.  Day after day, year after year….that is how you become an old timer.