Few words can comfort someone better than, “I know, I’ve been there.” I don’t have to look for these kinds of people anymore. I find them when I walk into a 12 step group meeting. People, just like me, who had warped their minds and bodies in such a state that only an act of God can change us. This simple empathetic understanding between people has the power to transform, and I hear it when I listen. It’s the basic fundamental reason why Chapter 7 called ‘Working with Others’ is so profoundly simple; one sober drunk helping another. If I want to be more empathetic, I have to practice empathy. If I want to be more courageous, then I have to practice courage. Mary Daly, a theologian, writes, “Courage is like—it’s a habitus, a habit, a virtue: You get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging.” Empathy is the same way. Suppose you’ve never been homeless but you want to work with them, help those who want help, and show them a better life. How can you relate? How can you put yourself in their shoes? Addiction is the same way. Maybe you don’t struggle with powerlessness over chemicals, but most all of us struggle with something. Hear the man with all the answers; he can teach us a lesson in humility. He may not relate well to the confines of my condition, but he may be a survivor of war, PTSD, a broken or dysfunctional family, or maybe he has been thru the trauma of having a child die. Surely he can help me understand these events of which only I can sympathize. Each of us, when called upon, have experiences to share to help others. A man three days clean can help a man who has used drugs today. Empathy helps build bonds and show others that the God idea works for us. I’ve seen atheists get sober and then come to believe all because one man reached out, shared his experience, and told another, ” nothing stings like death, or betrayal, or having to watch a child suffer from a disease with no known cure, but I’m right with you because I’ve been thru it.” These are powerful testimonies to God’s work of grace thru others. It’s the 12th step in action…we carry the message of hope to those who are still suffering and show them how we walk in freedom by opening up and revealing our true selves….blessings…b
Very little of nothing do I have power over I have learned. When I think I do have some control, I pull out the paper where I wrote on the left side the circumstances I have power over, and on the right side, the ones I am utterly powerless over. Believe me when I tell you that the left side is the short list. I can control what brand of coffee I drink, whether I choose to shave for the day, or whether or not I choose to turn the right side list over to a God who I talk with now. I converse, and I believe; that is it. Embracing the parts of my life that were out of control before produces confusing, chaotic thoughts. So I’ve learned the hard way what doesn’t work, irregardless of the circumstances. I can’t blame others for my misfortunes anymore than I can blame God. I simply found out that each of us are doing the best we know how at the moment, and that is where the lessons are learned. It takes willingness and courage to stay sober; it also takes honesty and openness. I’ve accepted that I have a disease of perception so powerful that no one can fix, no one but God. God is and will forever be the Sovreign Diety that gives me the strength to stay sober. Willpower doesn’t work; Surrender does! I found Him inside of me and in others when I worked thru the 12 steps. Circumstances change, people come and go thru our lives like woven tapestry, but each can teach me a lesson if I’m willing to learn. The external factors of my existence matter little, but the heart change does. The book speaks of psychic change and spiritual experiences, and countless millions have bought into the work it takes for those forces to take affect. When I see others lives change, irregardless of their curcumstances, I feel the courage to want to change too. I’m powerless over that first drink, drug, person, or circumstance, and none of those rule me today like they once did. I surrender everyday to that idea, and subsequently find the way to strength.. good day!…b
What plan you ask? The bigger one that I cannot see when I’m going thru a rough patch in life. I’ve experienced those moments of annihilation and desperation, and finally I surrendered to the simple plan to turn my will over. Trust is something I struggle with at times; trust in God, trust in myself, and trust in others. Many of us who’ve lived thru tragedies like addiction, death of significant family members, divorce and separation, and mental illness often come out on the other side with trust concerns, but faith answers the question of “why?” It’s a reminder that life will work out exactly how it is supposed to work out…… I’m watching my father’s mind slowly, but now more quickly, slip into an eternal forgetfulness of thought and time. He tells me that he sees little Mexican girls dancing and rolls it into another story about an old lady he sees out of the corner of his eye. So, I roll with Alzheimer’s like I do life. I’ve learned to accept and trust that God has a bigger plan in it all. Maybe it is to fine tune my skills at patience, tolerance, and love. I sure hope my body goes before my mind actually does. I know today the plans God has for me never changed. It was to find Him deep inside of me, tap into that spiritual resource, and grab a hold of a new found purpose and freedom. I work the 12 Steps, and it transforms my thinking, and my thinking transforms my actions. I’m not the same man today. I trust the process that is being worked out and through me. I had to go thru some struggles to appreciate the gifts. The struggle is where the blessings are because if I hadn’t experienced them, I would not be who I am today. I’m glad I don’t give up on days when I don’t trust. I surrender to it, accept it, and remember the spiritual axiom that I must be trustworthy in order for others to trust me. I must trust the plan even on days my heart gets stricken with sadness and grief. I want to trust, I want to believe, and I must accept the plan that has been designed for me all along…good day!..b
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”~ Brene Brown
I guess I suffered from arrested development in this area. I see it often in recovery circles. I see it more closely in me these days. It’s hard to get real, open, and honest about who I really am. I guess I fear I’ll let folks down. Coming back to my home in the country brings back those memories, and how they flood my soul. Vulnerabilities that I’ve learned to embrace while going back in time. I was frightened, alone, and disconnected from a world I didn’t understand as a boy, so I blamed others and I blamed God. Taking ownership of who and what I am today took me thru looking at parts of my past that created the need to control, manage, and be powerful. I had the image and the idea all wrong. Today, I see where I came apart, and feelings are where it all began. Steve Jobs said it best, ” don’t live your life thru the experiences of others. “Today I try my best to talk and write thru these feelings and vulnerabilities so I won’t run from them. Escapism was my tool, but I maxed that out. Now, looking over my shoulder, I recognize all the good that comes from my past experiences. It’s like farm work, it ain’t easy but it’s rewarding. Life in recovery is the same. The only way for me to live freely is to stay connected with people who understand and accept themselves. Alcoholism is a subtle foe the book reminds me. It lurks under the shadows of my past and tries to disconnect me from the moment. It doesn’t care about feelings, vulnerabilities, or coming home. It just reminds me that life is fleeting, and with each new day, I can start over and thank God for all He does for me….good day!…b
We come into the rooms remorseful and bitter, thinking somehow people and circumstances have done us wrong. But am I not the creator of my own confusion, trapped in a world, darkly, with no thought of anything but my struggles, my pain, and my sufferings?… I love art, music, and good prose. I love artsy people, too, because in some way they express themselves thru the medium that they use. We are all painting a canvas, singing our song, and writing the next chapter on the stories of our lives. Masterpieces that are made with the blood, sweat, and tears of our own travelings. Addiction is a cruel fate for those who are never able to grasp the concepts of what makes a magnificent stroke, chord, or string of words. Then, I begin to believe the lies and secrets that my disease tells me when tragedy or pain strikes that somehow, in some way, I will beat the game this time…and it kills my spirit to use again. Alcoholism is “cunning, baffling, and powerful.” If you are one of us, or perhaps know one of us, you may be perplexed at our actions and reasoning. We could give you a hundred reasons why we matched those colors, played the wrong note, or scripted the wrong lines, and it still wouldn’t make any sense. We dig our heels in deeper and try harder but still can’t create the masterpiece we try to get others to see and feel. So we alienate, but still want others to love us nonetheless. I have been to art museums and still never seen what happens thru surrender. God, taking pieces of broken lives, and putting them back together again. It’s a miracle to observe, and a miracle to experience. I want to be a ‘ part of’ rather than a ‘part from’. Even the greatest artists can’t paint on canvas what God does by transforming lives. I had to give Him a shot, and I’m grateful He is still putting the finishing touches on a once hardened piece of clay…..good day!… b
I’ve wanted to be able to tell my story, have it close on a happy note, and write what I did in third grade:THE END. What I’ve learned in recovery is that time stands still for no man, and so I move forward with hope and purpose. I’ve been to juke joints with chicken wire covered stages, and I’ve ridden on a yacht so massive that it took 5 men to run it; and none of it made me happy. I found happiness is not related to my external experiences. It’s an inside job, just like hope. I looked everywhere for God, too, and realized the Spirit was inside of me all along. Hopeless beyond hope trying to kick a habit that was killing me, one toke at a time. I never had a desire to quit actually, but the body and mind do some crazy stuff that helped me realize that I wouldn’t make it out alive if I kept using and drinking. Today, I strive for authentic vulnerability and let you be the jury. It’s who and why I am. Terror and bewilderment had me by the throat and were choking the life blood out of me. I avoided people in the end, and isolated to a point of pure insanity. I had enough wherewithal to not want others to see me in a hopeless state. The good news is that I remained persistent and kept attending meetings and watching others’ lives transform before my very eyes. The ones I saw making it were doing for others, working for others, and making time for others in order to get out of themselves. And they were staying SOBER; folks making time for others to show them hope and sharing their experiences openly without shame, guilt, or remorse. Those of us who’ve been there understand in a judgement free zone. Relapse is always an arm’s length away. After all, others loved me, hugged me, and cried and laughed with me just to help a struggling, hopeless addict and see for themselves why they didn’t want to turn back to that life. Addiction is not funny but our stories can be tragically comic, and I’m grateful that God put others in my life who make the time to show me how to live a life of freedom one day at a time….good day!…b
Me as well, my friend, me as well. The big book tells us that “we tried to find an easier, softer way” but we could not. I had to get ” fearless and thorough” from the start. I was scared to do that, I must admit, because I knew it involved change. But isn’t that the goal, accepting the good with the bad, the ups and downs? I never believed, but then again, I never listened to sound advice either. Even when I’m thirsty, I’ll take the longest route for the shortest drink. I’ve got to have the brakes beaten off of me for me to surrender to what life is teaching me. Looking back, I’ve always thought I was tough, and although I’ve been thru some tough circumstances, I craved the ease and comfort of that first libation as far back as my first drinking experience as a teen. There was something magical and mystical when my face would get numb, but then my brain would too. It doesn’t happen in the average, temperate drinker so by no means am I bashing those who can drink hops and crushed grapes responsibly. There is a sophistication in a cigar with scotch that gave me an elitism mentality. Swirling wine and looking for the tannins seemed so suave. But my reality is that I can’t quit when I want too, so throw all that hoddie toddie business out of the convertible, I might as well be hogtied and drug behind a VW somewhere in the desert because it all ends the same for me. I just wanted the softer way, and that way can appear right to a man, but in the end is destruction. What I thought was easier and softer turned out to be nothing more than a good lesson in a bad case of life rash….good day!…b
For the ‘newcomer’ to recovery, the idea of staying sober for a lifetime can be overwhelming. That’s why we hear that it is a day at a time deal.Ask anyone with any clean time and they will tell you that we all felt the same early in recovery. We forecast the future like we want it to play out. Some days it does and other days it feels like a train wreck waiting to happen. We get new smart phones and post on social media items that we don’t even believe yet. We go to treatment, possibly a recovery house, and we think we are ready to show everyone how great and wonderful we’ve become, almost overnight. And we haven’t even worked the first step. Somehow, we see our addiction as being powerful, but we are paying some bills, the kids are in sports, and the car has gas in it, and we think we are managing well. But all of that has to do with getting sober. God removes the obsession with time, patience, and step work. Staying sober is where it can get tough. We have loved ones die, the house burns, we blow an engine in the car, and we think in our minds that taking a drink will somehow make it better. We may forget it for a bit, but the core of it is that we have no idea why we took that first one than a man on Mars. So we blame life, situations, and others. Life can change, and we can stay sober. I know, I see others doing it and I imitate what they do. It works, it really does…..good day!…b
I’ve been to countless meetings; AA, Al-anon, CA, NA, and Celebrate Recovery. I’ve tried 12 steps and church, church alone, therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and exercise. I’ve tried combinations of all the above. My home group is CA, I attend closed meetings of AA regularly, but what it takes for me to stay sober may not work for another. This I know from reading the book that the “bedevilments” can come and go in sobriety. The 9th step promises can, too. I heard the comparison drawn at a recent meeting, so I researched it and broke it down for me to see. I am a human searching for meaning and purpose. I used drugs and drank, and I’d become a monster with no real purpose or value. Lonely, afraid, angry, and indignant can even describe me sober if I become unwilling to maintain conscious contact with God thru others, the Spirit that resides within me, praying, and finding ways to stay close with my Creator like exercise and nature. Only 31 pages separate the bedevilments and the 9th step promises. Here is a breakdown of the two:
Bedevilments: We were having trouble with personal relationships.
9th Step Promises: We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away.
Bedevilments: We couldn’t control our emotional natures.
9th Step Promises: We will comprehend the word serenity and we know peace.
Bedevilments: We were a prey to misery and depression.
9th Step Promises: Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.
Bedevilments: We couldn’t make a living.
9th Step Promises: Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.
Bedevilments: We had a feeling of uselessness.
9th Step Promises: That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.
Bedevilments: We were full of fear.
9th Step Promises: We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.
Bedevilments: We were unhappy.
9th Step Promises: We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
Bedevilments: We couldn’t seem to be of real help to other people.
9th Step Promises: No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.
And, most of all,
9th Step Promises: We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
God’s speed as we all ” trudge the road of Happy Destiny.” …….b
A few days ago I was ambushed by my two teenagers with anxieties, fears, and worries they had over a concern regarding our move. Up until a few days ago, we hadn’t secured a place that would allow us to keep the little dog. I was in the basement sorting what was trash and what I would keep, feeling a little sorry for myself because no one was volunteering to help. Their concern over “Pookie”, the 4 lb. 8th wonder of the world, was important to them, but she grinds on me. After all, I thought, I am the one who made the biggest sacrifice for giving my big dog, Maggie, away. In my first world, the little dog and the kids, deal me fits over typical stuff like feeding, watering, and letting her out for bodily function relief. You see where I going with this? Silly little nonsense over a maltipoo. So, I told them in the lowest tone and best way I knew how that if they didn’t believe, then believe that I believe all of it will work out; the dog, the house, the move, the change. Change creates fear, fear creates worry, and worry creates problems. I have to remind myself of how far I’ve come with these interactions. It’s progress, not perfection I am seeking. Worry is a lack of faith, and without them ever knowing that I’ve walked streets alone, it’s important for them to know that all of these brief moments of anxiety work themselves out when we learn to trust, pray for God’s will to be done, and believe. I didn’t understand that concept until I had experienced enough to see that it was God all along who had and will save me thru consequences brought about by my own choices. The better news is that our situation is working out just fine. The little dog can go, the home is being secured, and the job is up for grabs. When I stop worrying over circumstances outside my control, then I can truly live in freedom…..good day!..b