Archive for category Stories; Quotes

Owning My Story

“Embracing ourodinr vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable.”

- Brene Brown

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 I’ve learned powerful lessons from both my mistakes and successes.  With God’s help and the guidance I’ve received from Alcoholics Anonymous and its members I am a different man today than I was when I began my recovery. Alcoholics Anonymous promises that “No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our  experience can benefit others.” I have realized this promise. I have used my experience to help others. Yet there are  parts of my story that  can still cause me great shame. If I am to love fully, truly belong and experience the joy God intended for all of us I can’t allow my shame to block me from connecting with others. Brave action takes  courage because there is the risk of failure. I must have the courage to face the possibility of failure and rejection. It is only with vulnerability that I  connect deeply with others. I will not allow my shame to block me from love and belonging and joy. These are the ultimate promises of a spiritual life. 

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The Race Is Over

Healing_Shame_Medium-845x565Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it.

- Brene Brown

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I didn’t always like who I was or how I acted. I wanted to stop my drinking and drug use. It was not who I wanted to be but despite my best intentions I continued harming myself and those I loved. I tried to ignore the obsessive thoughts that drove my destructive behaviors but they were a persistent and overpowering siren song. I inevitably dashed myself on the rocks of another drunk. I justified my actions as being caused by circumstances. I made solemn oaths to change. I rationalized the harm I caused as doing the best I could in a difficult situation. I told myself that I had learned my lesson. With a firm resolve and an increased self knowledge from previous mistakes I was certain it wouldn’t happen again. It always did. Each failure to control my behaviors reinforced the core belief that I was somehow faulty, simply not as good as those around me. I ran from my story. I was a powerless and tragic character actor in my own story heading towards a predictable end everyone could see but myself.

For many the story ends there. For me, however, I was given a solution. It was a gift from a man who couldn’t keep it to himself for fear of losing it. He asked no more of me than to be honest, open minded and willing to help others as he had helped me. He showed me what he had done and how his life had changed. I made a decision. I wrote my story down and shared it with him and a Power much greater than both of us. I learned to trust in this Power and to ask for its help. I did my best to make right the harm I had done. Somewhere along this new path I opened the door of my shame and faced the darkness within. I owned my story and it lost its power. I have finally stopped running.

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Spiritual Pride

Don P. was member of Alcoholics Anonymous from Aurora, CO. He died on March 20, 2005 with over 37 years sobriety. You can listen to Don by going to the Speaker tab.

  “This isn’t about me demonstrating for God what I can do;

its about God demonstrating through me what He can do.”

- Don P.

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I was raised to believe that if I wanted something it was up to me alone to get it. Naturally, I accepted the credit for my accomplishments. All too often, however, when things went wrong I could always point somewhere else as the reason for my failure. This two-sided coin of credit and blame was an example of my self-centered pride; the arrogance of my ego. When I began my recovery I committed myself to learning how to live a spiritual life. I did a 4th & 5th Step to identify my character defects. I did Steps 6 & 7, asking God to remove the things that block from from His love. What I failed to see was that some of my character defects hid themselves in a cloak of spirituality. The arrogant pride of my ego followed me into recovery. My “spiritual pride”  began to take credit for “earning” God’s grace. Look what I have done! When my self-centeredness showed itself and I returned to my old behaviors, it wasn’t me it was my “addict” as if someone else was responsible. It was the same two-sided coin of credit and blame. With the help of my friends in recovery and plenty of prayer I am learning to see these spiritual defects. I am finding that the acceptance of my imperfection isn’t a coin flip. Practicing honesty, humility and gratitude isn’t a gamble. It’s a sure thing.

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It’s a Promise

Eleanor Roosevelt Head and Shoulders“Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.”

- Eleanor Roosevelt

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I remember early in my sobriety I tried to force the 9th Step Promises to come true. No matter how much I willed them into my life they always eluded me. Then I stopped focusing on them and started focusing on the spiritual principals I learned by working the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Similar to Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote, the Promises are not the goal. They are the by-product of working the Steps and living a spiritual life. They don’t need to be willed into your life. They find you when you stop looking for them and start living AA’s spiritual program of recovery.

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Uncertainty is Certain

“He explained to me, with great emphasis, that every question possessed a power that was lost in the answer… Man comes closer to God through the questions he asks Him, he liked to say.”

- Excerpt from ‘Night” by Elie Wiesel

“Computers are useless. They only give you answers.”

- Pablo Picaso

I’ve always felt the necessity to know. I believed that if I had enough answers I could then ensure that my needs would be met. The fear that I wouldn’t get what I needed to be happy drove me to become controlling and manipulative. If I just controlled everything around me I would finally feel safe. But then the unexpected would happen and the fragile sense of security would disappear to be replaced again with fear. I would try even harder to control the uncontrollable. I believed the power I sought was in the answers. This was a damaging and hurtful cycle which left my spirit parched. It isolated me from those I tried to love.

 A large part of my spiritual growth has been letting go of the need to know. I don’t and can’t know God’s will but I can seek it with willingness and an open mind. I don’t and can’t know what the day will bring but I can greet it with curiosity, interest and acceptance. I can allow pain into my life like an old friend who’m I’ve known too long but still visits me anyway, always leaving behind an unexpected gift if I look for it. I can trust that an opened mind and heart will receive the grace of gratitude and acceptance even when I don’t see them on the horizon. The ocean often seems large and dangerous, my boat small. Fear recedes when I have faith that all I need are questions. The faith that only in questions lies the power I seek.

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An Old Man’s Mistakes

“Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young…”

- Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

As they say, we don’t get to recovery on a winning streak. In the first step I admitted my problem: I was powerless over alcohol; my life had become unmanageable. The solution to my problem was a power greater than myself. I cleared away the defects of character which blocked me from accessing this power. Today my life has meaning and purpose. I have faith that I don’t face my troubles alone.

While I’ve found myself quite accepting of the fact that my life is unmanageable, as a parent of teenage children I haven’t been so willing to accept that I can’t control my children’s lives. I can ensure they have food, shelter and video games ( aren’t those Maslov’s most fundamental needs?) but I can’t direct their decisions or mold their attitudes to match mine. From the heart of a parent’s love I want to protect them from all the mistakes I made. I try to loan them my experience but they want their own and this brings me to Dumbledore’s quote.

I must remember that my experiences have meaning to me only because they are mine. I can’t forget that I also rejected my parent’s advice. Only knew what was best for me. Only I could see the truth that others couldn’t. I’m learning that I can’t make my children know how age thinks or feels. They must learn in their own way and that is often painful for me and for them. I would do anything to save them the pain and anguish of adolescence but I can’t.

All I can give my children is unconditional love. As painful as it is to watch them mature what they need most from me isn’t my experience or lectures. It is my acceptance of them as individuals of value. It is the love that only a parent feels; the love that can soothe their mistakes without judgement and encourages them to keep growing.

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Did you see that?

We see things not as they are, but as we are.

- Anais Nin

 When I am spiritually sick and self-centered it is no surprise that I feel life doesn’t treat me well. Even if I stop drinking I still see life through alcoholic eyes unless I treat the spiritual malady at the heart of my alcoholism. Only then, with the humility and gratitude that comes from the reduction of my self-centeredness. am I able to find freedom and serenity. When I accept myself as I am, I am able to accept life as it is.

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Get a life…

Thomas Merton, Trappist Monk 1915 - 1968The spiritual life is first of all a life. It is not merely something to be known and studied, it is to be lived.

- Thomas Merton

Sure, I had heard about spirituality and living a spiritual life but I paid little attention to it. What could it possibly have to do with me? What could it do for me that I couldn’t do for myself? As the consequences of my addictive behaviors grew and swept away everything I thought I had accomplished I felt a deep hopelessness and despair. I truly understood the phrase ‘incomprehensible demoralization’, used in the book, Alcoholics Anonymous. The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous provided me with the tools to begin living this spiritual life which is the solution to my problem.

The 12 Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous is a spiritual program of action, not a program of study or discussion. Going to meetings and talking about recovery is not sufficient. The spiritual principles I experience when working Steps 1 – 9 must continue to be put into action in Steps 10 – 12. This is a daily process of being present in each moment in a spiritual way. My humility, gratitude, tolerance and love exist only in this moment, not yesterday and not tomorrow but right here, right now. Contrary to a sometimes misunderstood term used in AA these are not spiritual tools laid at my feet to be used when times are tough. They become part of me, of who I am, to be used in every and all aspects of my life. They are my life; my spiritual life.

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That’s What I Thought…

All that we are is the result of what we have thought.

- Buddha

On page 23 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous it states, “Therefore, the main problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind, rather than in his body.”  Later on page 64 it states, ” When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically.” Our faulty, self-centered thinking, the unmanageable emotions that drive our hurtful behaviors and the damning self-talk that keeps us in shame and despair are spiritual problems needing a spiritual solution. The program of Alcoholics Anonymous is a spiritual plan of action that will result in an awakened, growing spirit and a design for living that really works. 

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Life

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

 - John Lennon

I  have always been driven to take charge and take action by situations that didn’t satisfy me or weren’t part of my ‘other plans’. What drove me were the hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking and self-pity mentioned in the book, Alcoholics Anonymous. My plans invariably used self-delusion and self-seeking to protect me from the fear and self-pity caused by my demands that life meet my terms. All they accomplished instead was an isolation from the moment, an insulation from reality.

What I’ve learned by working the steps with my sponsor and practicing the principles is that I’m not in charge and every uncomfortable feeling doesn’t need to be fixed because it isn’t broken. I can make my plans and isolate myself from the world around me or I can open my eyes, see life before it passes me by and accept my feelings as part of my humanness. Once I start relying on a Power greater than myself, trusting that I’m safe and protected, I can experience the fullness of a life lived awake.

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