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.
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.
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.
The key word for tradition #7 is responsibility. With responsibility comes freedom. We give back freely that which we were given freely. In my experience, the alcoholics who stay in AA are those who get involved in service on day #1. Service can be as simple as making coffee, putting out literature, greeting others, or speaking at the meetings. Service keeps our minds, hands, and mouths busy; so we cannot find time to self-destruct or to be destructive toward others. Doesn’t that sound like a good idea? Through the steps and traditions, we are promise a life of sane and useful purposefulness.
I will take that any day in exchange for feeling depressed, anxious, undeserving, useless, and self-pitying. Most alcoholics come in with a whole lifetime of not belonging; and feeling useless and not trusted. We learn quickly this stuff that includes being apart of, unconditional love and acceptance, and trust. Heck, people offer us their phone numbers when most of our closest relatives won’t take our calls. Isn’t that something? Recovering people in AA offer us solace, love, and compassion when most of us have been disowned or kicked out of society. What a gift this program offers. What a deal. And, all we have to do is stay sober and give back freely what we were given freely. Such a deal!
It’s not easy to find happiness in ourselves,
and it is not possible to find it elsewhere. ~ Agnes Repple
In using tradition #7 we can be more autonomous, each voice counts equally, and no one person or outside group can control how the meeting or service group functions. We are truly free. When one person or an outside entity seeks to control by running the purse strings, we all suffer. It is very much like booze. We bring booze into our lives as the answer to all of our problems and as a house guest. Pretty soon the guest becomes the not welcomed, demanding occupant. It soon becomes the head of household, followed quickly as the lord and master. Pretty soon, we are out of hearth and home with nothing left to call our own.
We lose our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness by allowing any person, thing, entity, or outside institution/group to run our lives and our meetings and control our proverbial pocketbook. In order to be autonomous in thought and act, we need to have an equal stake in what is decided, be an equal in what we contribute, and give as much service as the next person. Without this autonomy, it is impossible to be completely free. We are now adults, so the victim game is no longer needed. This program is a program of freedom and choice. Choose autonomy and thereby choose freedom.
The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God.
~ Anne Frank
As we celebrate our collective freedom, it only makes sense to sit down and make note of just how free it is to be sober and completely at ease with oneself and the universe at last. I am still pretty much a loner. I do love people, but I prize solitude more. As others clamor for more food, more fun, and more of whatever; I retreat into the quiet and peace that I craved for so many years.
What a relief to be able to wake up post holidays to know where I went, who I was with, what I said, and what I did; and not be ashamed of any of it. That to me, is true freedom. I did not have to impress, dress, or stress for anyone or anything. What a joy of freedom I feel to know that all days are of equal value. There are no special days, holidays or vacations from this disease. No amount of alcohol or anything will bring me greater joy than to be alive, to be connected to the universe, and to be truly free. I will toast my lemonade to that!
Our purpose is not to judge others,
but to practice attitudes of mercy and forgiveness.
In developing our healthier selves through the process of working the steps, we are encouraged to MYOB, focus on our work and not that of others, and to be mindful that not everyone has a 12 step program to teach them loving ways. I had to learn to mind only that which is from the tip of my own nose and inward. That business beyond the tip of my nose was not of my concern. It is none of our business what others think of us; and conversely, it is none of their business what we think of them. If we can keep our own side of the street clean, then the rest will work itself out.
A few months back it came to me in either my sleep or meditation (quite frankly, I get those confused) that G.O.D.’s intention for me was to “just love everyone; I will sort it our later.” What a huge relief that I do not have to be or act like G.O.D. That is not my job. I am not being paid well enough to take it on. And therefore, I am relieved of the burden. How fantastic is that? I spent much of my earlier years saddled with the notion I had to be all, do all and know all for everyone. It left me exhausted and full of resentment. How free we truly are to just be our selves and nothing more. Seek freedom through working the steps.