Step #8: a 2 Part Plan

 

Made a list of all people we had harmed and became willing to

make amends to them all. ~ AA 12 X 12

The first part of step #8 is to make the list. The easiest way is to write down everyone that was on the 4th and 5th step list. I strongly suggest that everyone works with a sponsor in this process. One quick story: a sibling of mine, who came right out of a treatment program, and being so anxious to stay sober, ran around telling tales on everyone she had been involved with. It caused a great deal of pain, and she went back to the drinking as a result. Your sponsor will also be helpful in removing those names on the list who victimized you, not vice versa. Heed this advice. We are not doing this to alleviate or assuage the guilt of others. We are doing this to recover our own sanity and stay sober.

The second part of step #8 is to become willing. Here is that word again! The essence of the 12 step program of recovery is just that: being willing and remaining teachable. If how we were living our lives was working for us, we would not have a need to be in AA. I recommend to my sponsees that they write letters to each person on the list, but do not send them!! Write what you would want to say, if you knew you would never see the person again. Then, with the aid of the sponsor, nail it down to a simple sentence, “I was wrong about such and such, and how can I make it right.” Now, the hard part is to pray for them the things you wish for yourself. The healing thoughts and feelings will come. You will know when you are ready to move on.

 

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.

Being Prepared

Being willing to achieve is not nearly as valuable as being prepared. ~ Anon

I saw this the other day, and it reminded me of getting and being sober. We spend years of hangovers and regrets swearing off then swearing on again. Our lives were consumed in pretending and promising to ourselves and others that we can act maturely when drinking, we can drink moderately in polite society, and we really mean no harm. To no avail. Many of us wanted to achieve sobriety. But, wanting and doing are totally different things as we have been humbled to learn.

Remember the acronym H.A.L.T.? Hungry, angry, lonely, and tired are the greatest bug-a-boos for any alcoholic. We cannot afford these feelings. I add S for sore (due to chronic pain). Life happens, and we will be confronted by these on a regular basis. For those who are new into recovery, I offer some tips and tricks: To avoid being hungry: eat breakfast, take healthful snacks to work, hydrate with water; not juice or pop. Drink warm lemon water before breakfast each day. To avoid anger: have some AA numbers entered on your phone and use them, take a walk, count to ten, do a step 10 inventory, and/or pray for the person. To avoid loneliness: go to a meeting, call until you get a human voice, walk around the mall, call someone who is struggling, or volunteer at an animal shelter or retirement home. And, to avoid tiredness: take daily naps, get to bed at a reasonable hour, avoid caffeine or cut back after noon, take 1/2 hour of quiet time before you sleep, move the TV/radio/stereo out of the bedroom, and consider not bringing work home with you. Preparation will reduce the exasperation and ensure continue sobriety.

Celebrate the Good

Celebrate what you’ve accomplished, but also raise the bar a little

higher for the next time you succeed. ~ Mia Hamm

Have you ever read the little yellow book called Living Sober? It is a quick read, but a real gem. I like to give it to sponsees. It is chock full of wisdom and practical advice. In the old days, long timers would give you practical advice and tips and clues on how to navigate soberly and happily in the moderate/social drinking world. Imagine that!

When I first got sober, it seemed like everyone was drinking, everyone was having  more fun, and booze was everywhere…even in my dreams. It used to scream at me in the stores and at parties, and it would try to jump into my grocery cart. Booze and I had such an intimate relationship, that it knew my mom’s maiden name! The smells made me dizzy and nauseous. So, I needed practical how-tos on what else to do instead of drinking. Avail yourself of the wisdom of the multitude of sober, healthy and happy AA people who have come and since gone. You don’t have to do this alone ever again. Welcome home!

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.

Soaring to New Heights

No bird soars high enough, if he soars with his own wings. ~ William Blake

It is often said that one cannot soar with the eagles if you are trotting around with the turkeys. I like both birds, so trotting is as good for me as soaring. Some days, I do well to just live and breathe, wake up sober (eventually) and get a few things accomplished. I was what is commonly called a “functional alcoholic.” I never lost a job or got put in the clink, although I should have a few times. I am still amazed I lived to tell about much of what I did. Back in the day, in small town Iowa, no one (including cops) would haul you in for public intox or DUI, etc. It was simply “normal” to be half looped most of the time. In fact, I remember clearly a few conversations had around me and at me that found fault in me getting in trouble, but the words drunk, alcoholic, etc. never were used.

To this day most of my family and friends of the past (still drinking; mind you) deny that I was “that bad”. They are bewildered that I thought I might need help. And, interestingly enough, I am sure they would not be phased one bit if I showed up half snockered at the local bar. Correct perception is the key to sane thinking. How we see the world as all drunks or all sane, healthy, functioning, and “normal” people is a matter of perception. Sobriety affords me the opportunity to appreciate soaring and trotting as all good and neither bad.

 

Boxing or Surfing?

Life before sobriety is like a boxing match.

Life after surrender is like surfing. ~ Anon

Are you boxing through life or surfing? One old timer used to say, those is recovery are like ducks on a pond: we look like we are just peacefully sailing along, but under the water, we are paddling like all get out! I know my best days drunk could never equal how good my worse days sober have ever been. For one reason, I do not have to pile on regret, self-loathing and resentment upon the load I am already toting. In sobriety, we learn to take care of matters as soon as possible.

That is a far cry from our drinking days, when we would let things get so messy, that one small confrontation seemed to be the final straw on top of a number of unresolved messes. We were victims of our own making. In sobriety, we can go about society without shame or blame. We can be equals and just members, not above or below others. We can be productive and useful to our fellow humans. Thank HP/AA for the sobriety we have been given. It is a small gift that gives very large rewards. Start surfing and enjoy your sober life.

One Day at a Time

Once time I was telling someone that I just was taking life “one day at a time”. The retort was less than supportive. The guy shot back, “That is how life was designed: one day at a time!” I used to think all those corny sayings we use around the tables (ie, one day at a time, keep it simple, etc) were boring and trite. I hate the idea of hearing How it Works or the traditions read every single time we met. My selfish little kid inside would mumble, “do they think we are stupid? Why do we have to keep hearing this stuff?”

As I grew into the recovery process, I recognized how lucky we are that those saying and readings have kept millions of people all over the globe sober. They have melded us together as cohesive extensions of each other, they have buoyed us up in tough times and have made us stronger as a result. I thank HP for making me stay put,, so that I would eventually come to love that which is keeping me sane and sober…. one day at a time for over 30 years. What keeps you sober?