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


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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Rigorous Honesty?

An interesting post from another blog. How many of these reasons can you relate to?

7 Honest Reasons Why Addicts Lie | Addiction Recovery.

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Thinking Differently

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

- Albert Einstein

How can I start thinking differently? The book, Alcoholics Anonymous, has much to say about this issue: “Therefore, the main problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind, rather than his body.” (page 23) If the problem is my mind, what is the solution?  In the Doctor’s Opinion, Dr. Silkworth says that the alcoholic must experience “…an entire psychic change…”. Dr. Carl Jung, an early supporter of Alcoholics Anonymous and one of the world’s most famous psychiatrists, said that this type of psychic change most often occurs with a spiritual awakening, or spiritual experience. So, the main problem is my mind. The solution is an entire psychic change through a spiritual experience. How then do I bring about this spiritual experience? Again, from the book, Alcoholics Anonymous: “Well, that’s exactly what this book is about.” (page 45) and: “12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps…” (page 60). The purpose of working the steps outlined in the book Alcoholics Anonymous is to create a spiritual awakening, cause an entire psychic change and allow us to beginning thinking differently. This is exactly what has worked for me. It was essential to my recovery and continues to be the foundation of my continued sobriety.

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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 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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“I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my God, but my God eluded me. I sought my brother and I found all three …”

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

The results of a scientific, 10 year study recently published in a special issue of the journal ‘Substance Abuse’ finds that recovering alcoholics who help others in 12-Step programs furthers their own time sober, consideration for others, step-work and long term meeting attendance. Wow! No sh*t? More than 10 years ago an AA speaker named Don P., from Denver, CO said that if you wanted to get closer to God, get closer to his children. This idea is well known to any newcomer with a sponsor. It is the foundation for the AA program of recovery. Throughout the book it is suggested that the reason we work the steps is to have a spiritual experience which allows for an entire psychic change. Being spiritually fit we are able to help others. By helping others we enlarge our spiritual life. This is a design for living that works.

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