Immediate Amends

It is easier to eat crow when it is fresh and tender as opposed to stiff and stale. ~ Anon

No one will ever tell you that making amends is their favorite part of AA membership, but at the same time, they will tell you how liberating and refreshing it is. We no longer have to hang our heads down, do the walk of shame, or fear retribution as we may have in the past. We can look people in the eyes and feel equal to our fellow people here on earth. We know we owe no one, we are doing our fair share, and we have no hidden guilt, shame, or remorse. Step #10 affords us these luxuries that have seem to allude us in the past. As soon as we notice we are wrong, we can admit it and move on.

To say: I am wrong. I was in the wrong. I have made a mistake. That was my fault. How liberating is that? Not to say I am the mistake. Not to have to carry around that guilt or shame for more the a minute that it takes me to make amends. No lost sleep. No disturbing thoughts of regret. No mulling over who said what to whom and why. Not to have to spend one frantic minute that I might be found out. Wow, this is a whole new way of living for most of us. The Big Book offers us happy, joyous and free lives so long as we work the steps and use the traditions in all of our affairs and do the best we can along the way. Big ticket items for so cheap a cost. What a deal we get in AA.

 

Right Wrongs

There are some wrongs that we can never fully right.

We don’t worry about them if we can honestly say to ourselves that we would

right them if we could. ~ Big Book, pg. 83

I think we can all say that we have some wrongs that can never be righted. We cannot think our way into right actions, but we can act our ways into right thinking.  I call that living amends. I have a few people who after saying they forgave me, went on to grow whole new resentments toward me that then blew up into irreparable situations. I am powerless over other people’s opinions of me and on how they respond to amends. There comes a time when enough is enough. I won’t know until I get further down the road, but letting go of other people’s side of the street feels a whole lot more liberating then being knocked around for what I already amended.

There is no point, in my opinion, to beat a dead horse. What is done is done. I had a person from my distant past try to make amends to me this weekend. I had not seen or heard from her in over 22 years. After she apologized 5 times, during the 6th revisit, I told her that I needed for her to let go of it and stop apologizing. I was in such a bad way back then, that I had not even noticed the slight. I was just trying to survive, and had absolutely no energy for anyone else’s slight. We got to the other end of that conversation where both of us felt okay. I must say, I held not grudges then or now. Life is too short. So, there are some wrongs we cannot right, try as we may. Let’s just do today well. Live well, be well, and move on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cultivating a Free Mind

The pain that is involved in accessing and cultivating a free mind leads to insights, enlightenment, and wisdom. Do not fear. ~ Anon

The key to freedom lies in our willingness to learn, grow, and stay open to knew ideas. Just like most of you, I was watching people in Hurricane Irma on the news all weekend. When I would get sick and tired of it, I would randomly color, get on Facebook, garden, or do puzzles. There is just so much insanity I can tolerate. Back in my drinking days, I had no boundaries. Chaos was my nectar. Pain and crisis were my everyday conditions. In sobriety, I can get pretty tired of it pretty darn fast. Here were these news people and locals out on the beaches gawking at the destruction Mother Nature was wreaking. Every now and then, the news people would say that there was a curfew in order, but there they were; out in the storm and past curfew!

Sounds crazy huh!? It is. It was just as crazy as we were once. I would drive in blinding blizzards and go out a make donuts with my car in abandoned parking lots in the middle of an snow storm. I had no fear. I had almighty alcohol tell me that I was safe. I was immortal. That I could do and say anything I wanted to, and to hell with anyone that objected. They were “cold blankets” and “party poopers”. So, I understand the minds of those who laughed at a deadly storm and mocked the warnings of authorities. In AA, we get the chance to be free. But, that freedom comes with responsibility, accountability, and consequences. We can no longer blame alcohol for our choices in life. It is all on us. Choose wisely. Stay safe and enjoy your freedom.

Simply Free

A sure sign of spiritual growth is that you want more freedom and less stuff.

~  Lisa Villa Prosen

One amends that I have made to myself was to downsize, simplify, and stop buying “stuff”. I call most stuff “dustables”. If you have to clean your house, you understand the inane and repetitious chore of having to dust the same things, shelves, and stuff every few days. Several years ago, I decided my life was too valuable to be spent on repeatedly cleaning, dusting, and organizing stuff. I took a class on simplifying. And, each day after that, I slowly but surely removed things I had not touched or used in 6 months. That included: cd’s, books, clothes, chotchkies, toys, etc. I used 3 garbage bags (charity, re-gifts/trash) to be hauled out. And, here this is the trick: now when I buy one thing, two things are removed.

This keeps the clutter level under control. What happens when you simplify? Freedom. You will be free of the burden of weight of toting, storing and cleaning that stuff. You will be free to have more space and less stress in your life. You will have more free time and free space in your head, since you no longer have to take care and worry about that stuff. You will be free to be choosier about what you buy in the future. You spirit will be free to appreciate those things in your life that really matter. You will be free to fill your spirit with meaningful thoughts and not be burdened with the relics of the past. Set yourself free. Make amends to yourself, and simplify.

Agnostic as to Application

The devout active alcoholic, unable to apply their religious truths,

are agnostic by application. ~ Anon

The single greatest chapter in the Big Book to aid my recovery is We Agnostics. This helped to explain that AA is not a religious program, and that sobriety is not just for the Christians among us. What a relief! This is a spiritual recovery program open to everyone. When we use the words G.O.D. or Higher Power, etc.; how we envision this is very personal and unique to each of us. We are all inclusive and accepting of all persons no matter what they choose to believe or not believe in. To me, that is so freeing and liberating. We do not have to accept cultural norms that limit who we associate with.

We get this chance to do things all over again. Our sobriety allows for a fresh perspective on life and other humans. In sobriety we see the souls of others and regale in their beauty. We learn that so long as we were drinking, we may have been very devout in our beliefs, but in practice, we were agnostic. So long as we continued to drink, we had no trust in a HP. Our HP was booze. That was the only thing we believed in. E.G.O = Edging G.O.D. Out. Thus, alcoholism was the great equalizer. We all came in agnostic. It is sobriety that gives each of us the opportunity to find our own HP concept. Now, that is true freedom. Wouldn’t you wish that for everyone?

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

Our Responsibility

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.

http://www.ccaa.org.au/The%2012-Steps%20and%2012%20traditions.pdf

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!

 

Finding Happiness

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.