Perserverance

LEST WE BECOME COMPLACENT. It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do, for alcohol is a subtle foe.

~ AA BigBook

The key word for Step #10 is Perserverance which is the steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement. Step #10 is a daily 4th step. Daily being the key word in that phrase. I like to do mine first thing in the morning. That is when I have more energy, I have had a chance to sleep on it, and I have given things a few hours to allow for a better perspective. I call this my G.O.D. time. Others do theirs at night. Still others do this mentally and throughout the day. I have to write it down. It is more tangible and real for me when it is in black and white. I don’t care when it is done, but I do encourage that it be done daily. I know when I have not done this, plus the steps 11 and 12 first thing in the morning, I get to about 10 AM, and I cannot think straight, and I lash out at others for no reason.

Step #10 offers us the Freedom from complacency.  I believe that it is imperative to remain active, alert and on top of this dis-ease to maintain sobriety. Sobriety is a whole lot more than just putting the plug in the jug. It is about spiritual, mental and physical health and balance. The minute we start thinking that we have this thing licked, that we are just F.I.N.E., or we know how to do this without all that reading, writing, etc.; we are flirting with the dis-ease. I have seen my share of old timers who abuse food, gambling, spending, coffee, cigarettes, pills, relationships, etc. This dis-ease is dead serious. It will take many forms. It will wait for a weak moment and then attack. There is so much more to learn. There is so much out there to experience. Stay active. Heads up. Embrace action.

 

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.

Hot Flame

If tempted, we recoil from it as if from a hot flame. ~ pg. 84 Big Book

Most of us were not normal when it came to alcohol and other mood altering substances. We never will be. We are the same kids who when the hot flame burnt our fingers, we went back and tried to touch it again and again….just to see if we would get burned again. I think it is tantamount to going out into my yard first thing in the morning, picking up a cement paver, and smacking myself in the forehead with it. Then I spend the rest of the day wondering why I am bleeding, in pain and have a headache. I just had trouble connecting the dots. Then some smart-aleck old timer told me, that perhaps I did not want to connect the dots or even bother looking at them.

I hate when people point out the obvious. Don’t you? But, I love the truth teller all the same. What a gift we get from AA: people who give a dang about us, who call and ask if we are ok, who listen and respond as if we matter, etc. What a huge gift. We are never alone in this program. Never. Last night, I saw four people come back through the doors. They went out to experiment. They are a gift as well. They remind me to work this program, stay sober, and not go near the hot flame. They just reminded me that anyone of us will get burnt if we even come near that flame. Stay safe. Stay sober. We need you.

Cease Fire

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone – even alcohol.

~ Step 10 promises, pg. 84 Big Book

I am ready for October to begin and fall too! I love the crispier nip in the air and cooler nights to sleep. I think in a past life I might have been a bear because I sure love to hibernate! I slow down in the cooler seasons and sleep so much better. I suspect I am not the only one. One thing AA has taught me is that I am not unique. Dang. That shoots the ego all to heck. There is a list of promises and a prayer in most of the steps. I will go through these and how they apply to my life this month. They are on the bottom of page 84 if you want to read along. Feel free to comment and share your own experience, strength and hope.

The fight against alcohol was removed before I got here. I consider mine to be an “oh wow” spiritual experience. Some might consider it crazy. But, a voice said to me which sounded like my brother’s voice, “don’t you think you have had enough?” And, I heard it loud and clear. For the first time in my life, I did not drink the whole thing. I put it down. Actually it was 4 tumblers full of Peppermint Schnapps, on ice. The bar had announced  a last call for alcohol. That was always my cue to get a big supply before I had no more to get. I had no intention of walking away from alcohol that night, but I did. I don’t remember how I got back to the motel, whether or not I drove, who I was with, or what happened to my son that night, but I woke up and never looked back. I had had enough. I ceased fighting alcohol. The end was just a beginning.

There are no Mistakes

There are no mistakes; only learning opportunities. ~ Anon

I am off to get a new (to me) car. It has been nearly 20 years since I bought a car, so I am a bit rusty. I match my rusty old car! ha ha. What will make this different is I no longer just muddle through. I process and try to learn as I go. I am more interested in not having a debt load; than in fashion and style. Comfort over razzle dazzle appeals to me now. Simple things like a/c, auto windows, front wheel drive, etc. are far more important than rather or not I have the latest stereo system installed. It may be age, but I would like to think a stronger spiritual life is involved.

I thank AA and sponsorship for encouraging me to use tradition #7 in all of my personal affairs. Without that, I would not have most of the cash to pay for this newer car. I am still wondering how much to pay and rather or not to buy a warranty. That has all been handed to HP. “The answers will come, if our own house is in order.” Well, the promises in step #9 are evolving in my life. In my case, slowly, not quickly. But, they are surely coming to be. I look forward to having some secure wheels under me in the future. I may make a few mistakes in this deal, but I will learn from them. Perhaps in 20 years, I will be back at the dealership to practice these steps in all of my affairs. Don’t be afraid of mistakes. They will teach you.

Wake Up

When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside of you as fear.

~ Carl Jung

“It is time to wake up and smell the coffee.” At least, that was what I was told umpteen times. I wanted to scream obscenities. How dare they say that to me? Don’t they know how smart I am? Who the heck do they think they are? It’s my life and my body! I can laugh at the little girl within me. She was very angry and scared. It took several weeks for me to calm down and stop fighting everyone in AA that was trying to help me. I had a bee in my bonnet, and nothing set quite right for me. So, I would stomp my feet, slam doors shut, slam my book shut, and sigh heavily when they talk too long and read too much.

And, those in AA would say, “keep coming back.” Or, “we love you”. Or,”we are glad you are here.” This thing called unconditional love and acceptance was scary and foreign to me. I only knew rage, incrimination, and me and the kids against the world. Who would have thought this scared little girl would stay long enough to be one of those pesky old timers who would be saying all those loving things to new people? Who would have thought I would stay long enough to learn anything? I had never stayed anywhere for any length of time be it a job, a house, a relationship, or a town. Thank goodness I listened and learned. I thank AA for that.

 

Forgive First

As long as we have not forgiven people for the harms they have done us, we will find it impossible to make sincere amends to them for our side of the conflicts.

~ AA wisdom

I wish I could tell you that I have done this recovery thing perfectly, but I have not. I wish I could tell you that all my amends went smoothly and without pain. But, I cannot. I also wish I could tell you that your experience will be mistake and pain free. But alas, I cannot say that either. Step #9 is about clearing up the wreckage of the past. Anyone that has lived on this earth long enough knows cleaning up wreckage of any kind is a huge and hard task to handle. In recovery, we have a coach or sponsor. Someone is on our team. They cannot do the work for us, but they can encourage, mentor, and support us through the process. I guess that is why they call it a “we” program.

So, forgiveness of others. What would that look like? I would prefer to use acceptance VS tolerance. The latter sounds like putting up with whatever the other person dishes out. That in my opinion and experience is a whole lot like playing judge, jury and executioner. I don’t want o go through my life judging and trying to abide by whatever nasty stuff is presented. I want to learn this thing called radical acceptance. The Buddhist teaching says that ‘what is, is. And, what isn’t, isn’t’. No matter how we shake it out, it will land on it’s head or it’s tail. Ours is to not understand how or why, but to accept the result and act accordingly. I am a work under progress. I will never graduate. Thank goodness for that.

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.

What are we Afraid of?

Fear is a 4 letter word for procrastination ~ Anon

What is the worst possible thing that could possibly happen if you make amends? That is the question for the ages. And, it is the exact same question I pose to you when that amends list has gone unchecked for years while waiting for your action. What is going on? Why has there been no action to remedy things? What are you afraid of? When we follow the “worst possible thing that could happen” scenario out, we discover that the reality is probably something that we would still be able to live through and tell about. Most amends will not result in a scorched earth result. It may be uncomfortable, but remember: if it is uncomfortable = spiritual growth; if comfortable = no growth.

It may help to put the list in order: 1st column for immediate and in person amends. 2nd column for those at a distance or no longer in your life. 3rd columns for “when hell freezes over”. (hint: do the easy ones first). If you have written your (not to be sent) letters, and reduced the amends to that simple sentence of “I was wrong about such and such, and how can I make it right” then you can proceed. I have found it helpful to rehearse with a sponsor first. Let the sponsor act out your worst case scenario. Pray for the right words and timing. It will happen the way it is suppose to. Believe me, the fear in your head has created a great big old mountain out of a mole hill. Most folks have already forgiven and forgotten. The universe is waiting. What are you waiting for?

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?