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.

Miracles of Step #9

I am simply too busy looking for a blinding revelation from the heavens or the fireworks, that I do not notice the miracles inherent in step #9.

~ Anon

I did not experience many oh wow feelings. I was not blinded by awe. Nor was I bowled over by any reactions to step #9. I did however experience great healing and peace of mind. I think that is more the typical reaction to step #9. Some of the most healing and peace filled experiences came from letters I wrote to people who had already died. Some folks might mock and overlook this tremendous opportunity to make amends to those no longer here. They dismiss this as silly and useless. I would say, unless and until you have gone through this process, you know not what you speak of.

One of these amends had to do with my dad. We had had a long and painful relationship. He was a baked in sexist, racist, bigoted and angry man. In AA, I learned to forgive and move beyond his pain. I learned that we each have good and bad in us. I learned that step #9 was for me; not him. He had to die to find recovery. His death was the catalyst for me to get sober. I did not want to die in regret and from the effects of a lifetime of abusing my body. I would not wish that on anyone. So, I wrote him a goodbye letter. The format is: I loved…I hated…I wanted…I wished for…I hoped for….and then, goodbye and then hello. Hello is for all that will be in life if I let go of my feelings and control of the outcomes. Do yourself a favor, and write a goodbye letter. It will launch you into a new realm of peace.

Just for Today

Just for today, I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once. I can do something for 12 hours that would appall me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime. ~ AA Literature

I went to plug in my cell phone to recharge last night. And, lo and behold, I had not packed a cord for my week on the farm. So, here I am with no phone for at least 6 more days. Now, the old Jo would have gone into a five alarm fire, busted up the place and blamed the cat/kids/dog, etc. But, I am learning that all the rage in the world will not fix the problem. I didn’t have to call suicide hotline either. I did look around their home for a spare charger. But, alas there were none to be had. Now, I could go into town today and try to find one. But, it is unlikely that a town of 900 would have one for sale. So, I may go totally retro 80’s and not have a cell phone in my ear!

What does this have to do with sobriety? These little things were the very things that would make my house go crashing down in my drinking days. The reason being is that I had not attended to a laundry list of amends which compounded any minor scrape 10 fold. There is a silver lining in not having a cell phone; as there is a silver lining in making amends. We get a chance to practice living saner, simpler, and harmony with others and the universe.  Doesn’t that sound nice and peaceful? You bet! So, go retro. Put your cell phone down and go have a real conversation with a real person. Make that an amend to yourself. Treat your self to a human interaction. Or better yet, go outdoors and breathe in some beauty. Just for today, just be.

Anger toward Dis-ease

Alcoholism is cunning, baffling, and powerful. ~ Big Book

I would say that all addictions are cunning, baffling and powerful and extremely patient. Today, I am full on angry at this dis-ease that kills, destroys families, maims and harms those effected, and shows no misery whatsoever. Dang it all. Yet another family member is dying as a result of this dis-ease. He is my age. Heavens, I am just getting started. He had a whole life ahead if he had chosen differently. And, I am powerless over him, his choices, his dis-ease, and his consequences/early death. I want to be more powerful. I want the whole world to know that no good will come of harming one’s body with toxic chemicals. The answers to life’s problems are not in the bottom of a brown bag or brown bottle. That there is more to life than getting high or blitzed. That their lives and those of their loved ones matter more than a brief buzz.

I am powerless over all people, places, and things. The best I can do is express my sadness for his pain and stay sober. I can be the sober family member through this death too. It is not my business how others express their sorrow and grief. Whether they choose to be drunk or get high through this pain, is not my concern. I can be as angry as I want toward this dis-ease, but I do not have to express it in front of family members. I have a sponsor who will and can listen lovingly and direct me toward literature, etc. that will give death meaning and peace. So long as we live, we will have loss. It is our choice how will deal with this loss. Choose wisely.

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.

A Pathway to Peace

The long version of the Serenity Prayer has a great phrase: “accepting hardship as a pathway to peace”. After a long life of taking care of others, single parenting, and a dealing with a large family enslaved in addictions; I am ready for some peace and quiet. Often, I am perfectly happy to be alone. I have gone as long as 4 days without speaking a word to anyone; even to myself. I like to practice quiet. Have you ever been to a silent retreat? One of my old friends in program practices silent retreats in her own home for whole weekends. I am still working on being that disciplined. The closest I have come is in not speaking. Somehow, the TV or radio keeps me company. I am a work in progress.

The AA 12 Step program attempts to teach us to be serene and at peace no matter how much crisis and confusion is going on. I will let you know when I achieve that. 😊 On most days and on most occasions, I can cope well. I am like the proverbial duck on water. I look like I am swimming along peacefully, but under the water, I am peddling like all get out. Serenity s all about radical acceptance. To radically accept everything, with no exceptions as it is in G.O.D.’s time and in harmony with the universe is the objective. Serenity is an action. Not reacting and waiting are very powerful verbs. I was told to wait 24 hours before responding to anything that threatens my peace. This allows me a chance to hand things over, and it allows enough time for the solutions to come. It is worth the wait.

Analysis is Paralysis

Analysis is Paralysis ~ anon

I spent a whole lot of money and time trying to get my head shrunk and figuring out why I was so miserable. There is no harm is getting outside help, but the real truth and answers came for me by taking my rightful spot in AA meetings, listening to others, doing that which I was told to do, and by not trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. Most of the pain I suffered was of my own doing. And, the solutions to that pain was right in the literature and meetings that AA offered for free. Such a deal I got.

In AA we discovered that humility is simply an awareness of who we really are today and a willingness to become all that we can be. Genuine humility brings an end to the feelings of inadequacy, the self-absorption, and the status seeking. Humility places us neither above of below anyone else on an imaginary ladder of worth. We can be on equal footing with the rest of humans. And, we can be just be one of 7+ billion other schmoes who occupy this earth. Recovery for me means waking up each morning sober and looking into the mirror knowing where I was, who I was with, what I said, and what I did the night before. Isn’t that what we all want? Such a deal we got!

Just Go Garden

The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go out side, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens , nature, and God.

~ Anne Frank

When I was a kid, I found my mom out in the garden just hoeing away in a great flurry. She had been out there for hours and it was time to fix dinner. When I asked her what she was doing, she said, “free therapy!”. I instinctively understood why, as I was a fellow member of a very violent household. That stuck with my all these years. She new intuitively that she was powerless in the marriage and in my dad’s disease.  She had what her parents had told her “made her bed”. But, she knew how to survive the onslaught. She knew how to thrive regardless.

One gift this program gave me (and there have been many) is that for ten years (until Alzheimers took her mind), we had become friends. She taught me all she knew of gardening and thriving regardless of circumstances. She taught me that nature provides, the universe is bigger than anything we humans can come up with, and that to be in harmony with nature and the universe, is the one way to inner peace. She has been gone 3 years now. This summer I am building a garden path of stepping stones and yellow and purple blooming ground cover with a wall of lilies, irises and hostas on either side of it in her memory. She would have appreciated the sentiment far greater than any material thing I could ever buy for her. Seek peace, pick up the tools of recovery  and dig in.

Am I Represented?

Each group is autonomous, but they cannot thrive and grow without the assistance of their intergroup, district or world service offices. It reminds me of the old phrase: no man is an island. We are social creatures who need the support and compassion of others to help us feel a part of something bigger than our own unsteady willpower. We need their guidance. We need their resources. We need their experience, strength and hope. Otherwise we are ships in the night that may run aground or bump into each other.

Today, our intergroup is meeting at 1 PM at the AA Central Office 1620 Pleasant Street http://www.aadesmoines.org/contact.htm.

The District meets at 3 PM at the White House, 1400 Penn Avenue. http://whitehouseaa.com/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1

There are many service opportunities to be fulfilled. Once you become involved, your circle of spiritual support opens up and widens. There is no reason to wrestle the tiger by yourself.  Your meeting needs to have a vote on how AA functions. If it has no representative, then I encourage you to step into those empty shoes, register as a rep today, and bring home the information imparted, so that your group can grow and blossom. Be the voice of recovery that the next newcomers need to hear. Be the peace and sanity you wish in this world. It begins with you.

What Freedom Means

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!