The pool, arrogantly calm,
Judging the sea for its waves,
Until someone jumps in,
Turbulent and humbled again.
I’d been enmeshed in a co-dependent mess,
It was like I didn’t even exist,
We were a dysfunctional whole,
Wherever I went, there you were,
Until a small insignificant moment made me see the toxicity of our relationship,
It wasn’t the mental or emotional abuse I’d enured for years,
Nor the isolation, insecurity, fear, or anxiety you instigated,
All of that had become my normal,
It was the short taste of freedom,
The brief moment of me without you,
For that minute I could breath.
It was then I knew that I wanted you to leave.
Trying to force you to go or change only made the abuse worse,
Things were different though,
I was now aware of the abuse,
Awareness was everything,
Perhaps I couldn’t change you,
But I could change my reaction to you.
I no longer have to engage in your rants,
I have a choice today,
I can separate myself from you whenever I want,
And someday, perhaps I can divorce you for good.
My greatest addiction,
The cause of all my afflictions,
Including my drinking,
My stinking thinking.
The voice that talks that is not me,
The one who lies constantly,
Driving down my self-esteem,
Saying things that are just plain mean.
If I don’t keep a conscious eye,
And be the watcher as the thoughts pass by,
If I self identify with the thought, calling it my own,
I allow it to become full blown.
Then I believe the lie,
Feeding it, allowing it to magnify,
“Why do you act so vexed?
Can’t you read the subtext?
Clearly the fact that you are ignoring,
Is that you are boring,
You have resting bitch face,
They never liked you in the first place.”
Pushing away for protection,
At the slightest detection of perceived rejection.
The here and now is my life preserver,
When I’m able to be the silent observer,
I’m able to stay and not get carried away.
I’m able to stay and not get carried away.
It is in this quiet space that I come to know me,
And the things the voice would not let me see,
Like how we are all connected,
And that it’s impossible to be rejected,
That the pain is self inflicted,
That I’m addicted.
But there is a solution.
It’s found through dissolution,
A complete divorce from my thoughts,
No more ifs or aughts,
Time to unmake,
Time to awake.
Each tortured twisted human,
Judged and on the outskirts of salvation,
Before the world can understand,
A trail of inspiration,
In each one God had a hand,
Their plight is an illusion,
Looking back we see Gods plan,
Evolving consciousness, their contribution.
Inside their passion glows,
They speak without a plea,
Plagued by their earthly woes,
Their troubles set them free,
It is the broken and the lonely,
Who impact our history.
They sing because their unstable,
They paint to push out pain,
They’re not hippies for the label,
They dance despite the rain,
They write when they’re distressed,
They are full of grief and shame,
Seeking yet still perplexed,
For their purpose in which they came,
Through sharing of their arts,
Their suffering not in vain,
Awakening peoples hearts,
Gods ultimate campaign.
April 10th was the 80th anniversary of the textbook Alcoholics Anonymous. Since its inception it has helped carry the message into over 180 nations worldwide. It has been translated into over 67 different languages. The Big Book is amazing spiritual literature and it has changed my life. To celebrate its 80th Anniversary I’ve created a list of 80 lessons I’ve learned either in the book, the rooms of recovery or from the people in those rooms. You will find that many of the lessons are redundant. It is because they are important to me and because sometimes I’ve needed to hear things in several different ways for it to sink in. I’ve interpreted each lesson based on my current understanding of them from where I am at spiritually. Depending on where you are on your spiritual journey you may have a different understanding of them. I would love to hear your lessons or your interpretations of the lessons I’ve shared. Happy Birthday Big Book!!
- This too shall pass
Good or bad, all things pass, nothing remains constant. This too shall pass though is never what I want to hear when I am struggling with extreme emotions. Even if it is not what I want to hear there are times when I simply need to wait and let things pass.
- What other people think of me is none of my business
In the end it only matters what I think of myself. Everyone else is going to view you from their own perception/reality. Validation must come from within. Knowing all of that, this still can be a tough one to swallow. One of my deep rooted fears, is fear of rejection. I often put too much weight into what others think of me. It does not make this lesson any less true. It simply is one that I am still learning and re-learning.
- Resentments block you from the sunlight of the spirit
Resentments are the quickest way to get spiritually sick. The word resentment comes from the latin word resentir. Sentir means, “to feel”, therefore the meaning of the word is to re-feel. If you are stuck re-feeling a negative emotion, you can see how that could make someone sick. Resolving resentments is a priority for spiritual well-being.
- Underlying almost all negative emotions is fear. Generally fear of losing something I have or not getting something I want.
Once I am able to identify the fear, I can inventory it, self soothe if necessary, and choose more positive thoughts. Most of my fears typically stem from a fear of rejection.
- Anger is a secondary emotion
It is easy in an angry state to point fingers at an outside source as the cause of your disturbance. If I am disturbed or angry, I need to look at what part of me was affected and why. I need to figure out what is the underlying emotion. In most cases the underlying emotion is fear.
- Show up early and stay late
Unity makes up one part of recovery. Showing up early and staying late to fellowship with those in recovery is beneficial to my recovery and for those around me. We all need that sense of connection and belonging. It is one way I can give back, by being a part of.
- Make the new person feel welcome
You ever show up some place new and there was that one person who went out of their way to talk to you and make you feel welcome? If so, then you understand the significance of this lesson. I am guilty of not doing this sometimes. It is very easy to get comfortable in the groups of people I’ve gotten to know, and not pay attention to those around me who may be new or not well connected.
- You can choose your own conception of God/Higher Power
My beliefs had always stemmed from my upbringing and the beliefs passed down to me from my parents, the church, and local community. I did not know until I came into recovery that I could seek out my own beliefs in a God/Higher Power. It was liberating. However, even when I did learn this, I was very lazy for the longest time in this seeking process. The lack of seeking showed in my spiritual growth and recovery.
- I have a role in all of my resentments
Recovery provides an inventory process used to deal with resentments which helps me identify my roll/part in a situation. Owning my part allows me to release the other person of theirs.
- Stick with the winners
“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn. Who I associate with on a regular basis is going to dictate my own personal growth. If I want to aspire to grow, I need to surround myself with others who are on that same path. We feed off of those around us.
- Do not judge others. Everyone moves at their own pace on their own journey
This is one of the lessons I have to learn and re-learn. I judge myself very harshly which causes me to judge those around me similarly. It is helpful to remember where I was and who I was at different times in my life. Everyones path is different.
- Suit up and show up
Simply summarized as be accountable in all aspects of my life but particularly in recovery. In order for the program to be available to new people, then I need to show up and do my part.
- I can’t get someone sober and I can’t make them drink/use
This is an important lesson to remember when I work with others. I sometimes fall into that trap of stressing over every little thing I say to a sponsee. My sponsor reminds me that nothing I say is going to cause someone to drink, or stay sober for that matter. I am not that powerful. This teaches me to stay rightsized. Every person has their own HP who they must rely on for their sobriety.
- My experience can always help others
There is nothing more therapeutic than talking with someone who has gone through a similar situation. This is why the fellowship in recovery is so beneficial. These experiences allows us to connect to others in ways that would not otherwise be possible. “I will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” – Alcoholics Anonymous. No matter what I had done or experienced, that can be used at some point in the future to help someone else struggling with a similar situation.
- Clean house, trust God, help others
The big trio in recovery. Clean house means to do a thorough personal and moral inventory and get your side of the street clean. I cannot help others if my own house is not in order. I need to build that relationship with my God/HP, without which trust is not possible. Then I need to be of service. We are here on this planet to connect and to be of service. Being of service gives my life purpose and it helps me to be present and close to my God/HP.
- Water seeks its own level
I tend to surround myself with those who are at the same place I am emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Sick people often associate with sick people. People with quality sobriety tend to group together. Looking at who I am around the most can help me identify where I am at spiritually.
- Amends does not mean saying you are sorry
Amends is about fixing. It is defined on Google as, “to compensate or make up for a wrongdoing.” Wrongdoing can not be made up for by an “I’m sorry.” When I make amends to someone, a part of that process is asking, “how can I make it right?”
- I am only as sick as my secrets
There were times in my sobriety where I truly believe the only thing that kept me sober despite doing everything else wrong, was that I was completely honest with at least one person in my life. If I don’t share something out of fear or shame, that will grow and fester inside of me. What I resist, persists. I have to be willing to share and release it.
- When in doubt, agitation, or emotional disturbance pause and ask for direction
I am very impulsive and tend to be reactive by nature. I’m slowly learning though if I am disturbed that I need to get centered before I react or respond. I need to ask for direction from my higher power and potentially from my sponsor or another person in the program. The more I practice being mindful the less I am agitated or emotionally disturbed, decreasing the number of situations this occurs.
- When having negative thoughts ask for your thinking to be redirected
Praying to have thoughts redirected is a simple process that helps bring me back to the present. When I am present I am not having negative thoughts about future or past events, about myself, or about others.
- Take things one day at a time (be present)
The essence of this slogan is to be present. Do not fret about the future or worry about the past. Practicing mindfulness and doing meditation is a great way to learn how to be present.
- Clean conscience equals a soft pillow
One of the many tools that recovery teaches is how to do a nightly inventory. In this inventory I survey my day to see where I had been resentful, selfish, dishonest, or afraid. I determine if I owe anyone an amends. I review whether or not I was kind toward everyone. Is there something I need to discuss with someone right away? Doing this every day keeps my conscience clean which allows me to sleep better.
- Play the tape through
When I have a thought of doing something I know I should not do, for example, drink. The program teaches me that I should think through the drink. In other words, follow it through to all the associated consequences that will generally result from such behavior. Consider how I will feel afterwards. How will my loved ones feel? This can be applied to any type of behavior I am wanting to avoid for example shop or smoke.
- Acceptance is the answer to all of my problems today
Perhaps one of the best lessons learned in recovery and in therapy. Acceptance and relying on a higher power go hand in hand. If I am “turning” my will over to a higher power but unable to accept a person, place or thing exactly as it is, then I am basically saying that I know better than my higher power. Only through acceptance of people, places, and things am I able to find peace. Usually if I am having a hard time with acceptance it is because it has triggered some story to play in my head. For example, my boss chose Tom, John and Harry on our team to go to this offsite for a project with him. Sally, Fred, and I had to stay in the office. This gives me great unrest because in my head I am playing a story. A story that says that the reason he did not ask me to go was something personal against me. That he did not think I was a good employee and inevitably in some shape or form I am being rejected. However, this is not reality. The reality is that this decision was done because he knew he could count on Sally, Fred and I to do XYZ tasks while he was out of the office. Acceptance for me is acknowledging what I am feeling, self-soothing if needed, making clean observations, and choosing to have new, more positive thoughts. By doing this, I am then able to accept that situation, person, place, or thing.
- Attitude of gratitude helps shift your perception
One of the most dreaded assignments given to me over the years was to make a gratitude list. If I ever went to my sponsor with feelings of self-pity, without fail my assignment would be to make a gratitude list. This is a very strategic maneuver. By writing a gratitude list it does two things. One, it helps bring me to the present moment which takes me out of those negative feelings. Two, by getting me to write things I am grateful for, it is causing my brain to have to shift its perception out of that negative state into a more positive one.
- Gratitude is an action word
If I have gratitude over something I should show it. If I am grateful for my family, I should be showing them that by my actions. If I am grateful for my sobriety I should be finding ways to give back to recovery through acts of service.
- God does not provide to hard of terms for anyone who honestly seeks
My higher power does not need me to be a monk in order for a connection to be ascertained. In fact, when I just started in sobriety it only required me to believe that there was a higher power and that I was not it. That was sufficient enough to make a start. To grow that connection, I had to start my own spiritual seeking. I believe that this seeking looks different for everyone. For me, I can connect with my higher power through talking with other people and by being present.
- Stay in the middle of the boat
If I want something I have to dive all the way in and stay in. I can’t do things half assed, or I will fail (“fall out of the boat”). In recovery speak, I will relapse. This is true though for anything I am trying to achieve in life.
- Whatever I spend the most part of my day thinking about is what I am currently worshipping in my life
Another way this was put to me once, was in a story. Someone said if you love your father and want to maintain a good relationship with him, how do you do that? You do that by spending time with him, right? Then they asked, “how much time do you spend with your father?” The “father” in this analogy is your higher power of course. My well-being is strictly based on my spiritual condition. My spiritual condition is the based on how much time/effort I put into connecting with my higher power on a daily basis.
- Admitting you are powerless gives you power
There are many paradoxes in recovery, this being one of them. Admitting I am powerless gives me spiritual independence. To me this is another way of looking at acceptance. Once I have acceptance, I regain power of choice of doing something about it. As was with my alcoholism, when I accepted I was an alcoholic, I then had the power of choice to seek help or not.
- Helping others will help take you out of yourself
Many of the tools I learn in recovery help bring me back to the present moment. The reason why it is so critical for me to remain in the present moment is that is the only time I am capable of having a connection with my higher power. Being present also shuts off the incessant chatter in my head that is the cause of all my dis-ease. Working with others brings both individuals into the present moment, enabling both to get connected. “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” – Mathew 18:20. This is why there is so much power in helping others. Both individuals walk away more connected as a result. “The possibilities for spiritual growth speed up immensely when we become vulnerable and engaged with someone.” – Charlotte Kasl.
- The best apology is changed behavior
There is no point in making amends if I intend to continue to do the behavior I am making amends for. In fact many of the amends I make in recovery are “living amends” which is just another way to say changed behavior. Other amends may require financial restitution among other things, but should also include changed behavior.
- Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results
This is actually a famous quote from Albert Einstein. In fact many of the lessons, slogans, and wisdom contained in the Big Book and inside the rooms of recovery have been taken from various religions, scientists, theologians, and philosophists. This quote ties in very nicely with another famous Albert Einstein quote which is, “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Albert was a very wise man. In recovery this applies to the insane idea that some day I may be able to drink like a normal person, and the attempts I tried over and over again, but to no avail.
- Anonymity is a spiritual foundation
Anonymity as a spiritual foundation, is the removal of self. My self-centeredness stands in the way of my spiritual growth. Therefore, a part of the spiritual journey is detaching from all those components of self or ego. It is through attachments that I have any type of pain, and one form of attachment is my ego. The main way I am learning how to detach from my ego is through continued practice of mindfulness. This helps me see the ego. To recognize that I am not the ego. I am the observer.
- First things first
When I got sober I wanted to get my life back in order really quickly. This one line slogan taught me I have to focus on one thing at a time. That first thing was to get a sponsor. Next was to work the steps with that sponsor. In most cases, by slowing down and just doing the next right thing, much of my life just fell in order all by itself. Those huge problems I had looming over me, somehow seemed not so scary after I just started focusing on the solution.
- Easy does it
My brain was like one of those hamsters on the wheel when I first got into recovery. This slogan taught me to just breathe. This also can be in reference to how hard I am on myself. Learning how to be more compassionate with myself and others has taken a long time. It was not until I learned how to be mindful that I could start being more compassionate.
- Time takes time
When I first got sober, I wanted to feel better right away. I wanted my life circumstance to completely turn around and to start living a happy life immediately. Growth takes time. Change takes time. Someone once gave the analogy that, if it takes you a year to walk into the woods, it’ll take you a year to walk back out.
- I am not always right
Say, what?! I’m not? LOL. First of all there is no right. Everyone has their own truth based on their own perception. The actual context for what is right and wrong is determined by society and every society views things differently. What is right and wrong is very subjective. Regardless of all of that, having an attachment to being right is just as bad as any other kind of attachment. It is a part of my ego, and it will be a source of disturbance if I am attached to it. Having this type of attachment also prevents my growth. If I am not open to other points of view, that would be contempt prior to investigation, which is the worse kind of ignorance.
- When I am wrong I should promptly admit it
The unwillingness to admit my wrongs is the equivalent to keeping secrets. It will make me spiritually sick. I have to make right any mistake as I go along, without delay.
- I have the right to be wrong in my own opinions
I may not always be right. As long as I am open to that fact, it is completely okay for me to share my opinion with the understanding that it could be wrong. An opinion might be my truth but it may not be others and vice versa.
- Those who suffer from common afflictions will always be best suited to help each other
Recovery meetings help the success of those who attend because of the community and connection with those who can relate. I would not be of much use in a Cancer survivor group because I have no experience, strength or hope to share on that.
- Humility is not thinking less of your self, it is thinking less of your self
Humility is not thinking less of your self (thinking bad of yourself), it is thinking less of your self (as in quantity, so not as much).
- Know God, Know Peace. No God, No Peace.
When I seek out and connect with my higher power, that is when I know peace. If I have no spiritual connection, I will have no peace.
- Praying for those I have a resentment against will remove that resentment
I hated when my sponsor told me to do this. The thought of praying for someone I resented seemed appalling. I also hated being told to pray. I did not believe prayer would change anything and I certainly didn’t believe it would provide any kind of immediate relief to how I was feeling. I believe in the power of prayer today. As far as prayer removing resentments, I believe that praying for someone shifts the thought patterns in your brain. It associates new more positive thoughts to that individual. Therefore, over a period of time, that person is no longer associated to those negative thoughts or feelings.
- My thinking is my problem
I would want to further refine the statement as “My egoistic thinking is my problem.” I believe that God resides in all of us, and through connecting with that higher power, I develop a God consciousness (intuition) that I should listen to. The trick is learning how to differentiate between the egoistic thinking vs your intuition. In most instances it is pretty clear. My intuition is only able to be heard when I am fully present. Therefore, if I think I had an “intuitive” thought while ruminating on the past, that was not my God consciousness. My God consciousness is always going to be coming from a place of compassion and love. When in doubt, I ask my sponsor.
- Amends are for me and not for the other person
When I make amends with someone, there is no guarantee as to how that will be received by the other person. If the amends was for the other person, and they told me so kindly to f*&k off, then I would never be free. The purpose of making amends is to get my side of the street clean. As long as I am willing and completely open to doing what I can to make it right, then I can walk away with a clean conscience.
- I was not a bad person trying to get good. I was a sick person trying to get well.
This teaches me the difference between shame and guilt. Brene Brown talks a lot about Shame, and she explains that Shame is when I think I am a bad person. Guilt is when I think I did a bad thing. Two very different thoughts. I am bad vs I did a bad thing. Prior to me becoming spiritually well I may have done some bad things, but that does not make me a bad person.
- I am agnostic in any area of my life that I do not have faith that God can help
I know that I am struggling with this when I worry about a specific aspect of my life such as financial security or my health. When I am worrying about such things, I am not accepting them as they are and trusting that things will be ok. I am not trusting that my higher power will take care of me.
- Ego deflation is necessary for true spiritual growth
When I am full of self, I am not capable of any sort of spiritual connection. To have a spiritual connection I must be present. I cannot be present and be thinking about myself at the same time. The moment I start to think about myself, I am no longer present.
- You can restart your day at any moment
I used to hate this saying. I did not understand how this was accomplished. Did you all have time machines that I didn’t know about?? Today, if something happens that is not particularly pleasant, I have a choice on how I react to that event. If I allowed myself to get caught up in my egoistic thinking, and got held hostage on an emotional rollercoaster for a bit, I can get off the ride at any moment. I can get re-centered and become present again by focusing on my breathing and on my senses. There are many ways to become present again, such as acts of service. Once I can become mindful, the disturbance in most instances will slip away. If not, which does sometimes happen, then I can fall back on good ol’ this too shall pass (lesson #1). The main goal here is getting re-centered so that I don’t have an emotional hangover that I carry around with me impacting the rest of my day.
- In order to be happy, joyous and free we must do the footwork
For the longest time, I thought one day I would wake up and just be happy, joyous, and free. After having gone through the steps, I thought that it would come to me just as the desire to drink left me. This however has not been my experience. I’ve had to work hard to bring about this freedom. For me this consisted of working the steps of recovery, spiritually seeking, getting on mood stabilization medicine, practicing meditation regularly, going to a therapist, saying daily affirmations, and practicing mindfulness. For me to become happy, joyous, and free, I found I had to do all of this. I do not know specifically if there was a certain combination or if I removed one element if I’d be in the same place I am today. I would not change my journey one bit.
- You never know when a seed might be planted
Planting the seed is actually something that comes from the Bible. Jesus in Mark 4, talked about a farmer who went around planting seeds. Some fell on rocky ground with little dirt and did not grow. Some seeds got eaten up by birds. Some fell among weeds, choked, and died. Some seeds however fell on good ground and began to grow. The concept is I always need to try to carry the message. Even if I feel like it falls on deaf ears, I never know at what point a seed might be planted.
- Pain and fear are great motivators
For me to be willing to accept help with my drinking I had to be in enough emotional pain. I usually have to hit some kind of emotional bottom before I am willing to try something different in all aspects of my life. At some point though the pain and fear will dissipate, and when that occurs I need to have found a solution better than my old one or I will return to old behaviors.
- Attraction not promotion
One of the strengths of recovery is that it isn’t trying to sell anything. It is up to the individual to make a decision based on how they see the program working in other peoples life. The same should be true for living a spiritual life. I have an opportunity to live my life in such a way that it might attract someone to think, “I want what you have! And then become willing to pick up the spiritual toolkit that provides it.
- Remain right-sized
This is just another way of saying, “stay humble.” Once I think I’ve achieved balance is right before I’m going to fall. Once I feel like, “oh, I’ve got this,” then I am no longer open to learning or growing. That is the beginning of the end of my spiritual growth. In order to attain spiritual growth, I have to be rid of self. I have to get rid of my ego.
- Those who will gossip to you, will gossip about you
Gossip perhaps is one of the most objectionable character defects to me. It is also one that is highly contagious. If I surround myself with people who gossip, it is very easy to feel inclined to join in. Talking about others is an easy way for me to feel better about myself. It is the cruelest form of judgement. I love the way Bill describes gossip in the 12 and 12, which states, “gossip barbed with our anger, a polite form of murder by character assassination.” You can be guaranteed if someone is gossiping to you, they will most definitely gossip about you.
- Worrying is like rocking in a rocking chair. It’ll keep you busy but it won’t get you anywhere
Worry is absolutely pointless. Worry is an indication of a lack of faith, acceptance, and mindfulness. I am guilty of it often. The more I practice mindfulness and grow my spiritual connect the faster I can recognize that I am ruminating and work towards finding acceptance.
- Nothing changes, if nothing changes
I have to change something in my thinking and my behavior in order to change the outcome. If I make no changes, I will not see new results. Weight loss is a great example. If I do not change my eating habits and exercise regularly, I am not going to lose any weight. In regard to recovery, if I do not change people, places, and things, there is a good chance that I will not stay sober.
- Faith without works is dead
This is another saying taken from the Bible. James 2:14 – 26. “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead…You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” A friend of mine said when someone is going through a hard time, saying, “my thoughts and prayers are with you” is not empathetic. What I should be saying is, “what can I do to help you?” How this relates to recovery is that having faith is great but without taking the steps in the program, I will not recover. Faith alone cannot save me. It must be followed up with action, I have to do the footwork.
- If you have one foot in yesterday and one in tomorrow than you are pissing on today
Just another graphic way of saying to be mindful/present. All we ever have is this moment right now. If I am living in the past or constantly waiting for the next moment to be happy, I never will be. It also goes back to acceptance. If I am living for the next moment, I am basically saying that there is something wrong with the moment I am in right now. For me it is another way to numb. By becoming intertwined with my egoistic mind and time traveling to the future, it takes me out of myself. I can use these moments of not being mindful as an opportunity to learn. I can bring myself back to the present and listen to see, what is it I am trying to avoid. What story is my mind playing? Do I need to be comforted in some way? Sometimes, my mind is just set on projecting to some foreseeable time in the future, perhaps when I’ll be thinner or more financially secure. When I have those moments of not being able to regain my presence, I tell my mind, ok, you’ve got 5 minutes to live in the future and tell your stories, then we are moving on.
- Telling the truth is easier to remember
No longer needing to live a double life and remember the lies I had told to cover up my drinking was such a relief. The same is true when I came out of the closet. I used to have to lie to my family about who I was with, what I was doing, or where I was going. It was exhausting trying to remember all the lies. Telling the truth is much easier.
- To get self esteem you must do esteemable things
It took me a long time to appreciate this saying. I’ve suffered from low self-esteem for as long as I can remember. When I asked how to achieve it, this was the saying that was always given. I cannot have self-esteem if I am behaving in a way that is against my morals or values. For me, that alone was not sufficient. It has taken me a very long time to get to a point where I actually like myself. It took much more than just doing esteemable things. It took working the steps of recovery, spiritually seeking, getting on mood stabilization medicine, practicing meditation regularly, going to a therapist, saying daily affirmations, and practicing mindfulness.
- Choose character over comfort
I love this saying. Which is funny because it is saying the same thing as lesson #62, which I don’t particularly like. Perhaps it is just the semantics of the words used. Perhaps it is just the period of time in my sobriety in which I heard one over the other. Basically, I need to exhibit quality behaviors to have good character versus doing what is easy or comfortable. I will provide an example from my dating life. Over the past year, I’ve been dating a bit here, a bit there. A part of working the steps in recovery is making a relationship ideal. Which is a list of things I would like in my partner/relationship. Once the list is made I need to pray that I am able to exhibit those things within myself. When I date, I can review that relationship against that ideal. If it does not meet that ideal, I have the responsibility to myself and that other person to end things amicably. Doing this, is choosing character over comfort. It is much more comfortable for myself to use that person for my personal needs. To get the attention and physical affection that I crave.
- You have to give it away to keep it
If I am running around snatching up what I need but not giving back, then I am continuing to be self-centered and selfish. This means I have not successfully gotten rid of self. Without getting rid of self (ego), I will not be able to achieve spiritual growth. Without spiritual growth I will not be able to be happy, joyous, and free. Without having a solution that enables me to be happy, joyous, and free, I will go back to the old behaviors that albeit short-lived will provide some relief.
- A problem shared, is a problem halved
Holding onto my problems and being engrossed in them, will cause them to fester and grow. By sharing them with someone, such as a sponsor, it allows me to release them. This is actually why many therapists recommend journaling. My therapist recommended journaling and it has been extremely therapeutic. By writing out my thoughts, I am able let them go.
- Move a muscle, change a thought
This ties back to being mindful/present. Using your senses is the quickest way to become mindful. I laid over 200 bags of mulch when I first got sober because when I was outside with my hands in the dirt, my brain finally shut off. Once my brain stopped I was able to find peace. This is the reason that some people enjoy extreme athleticism, such as climbing mountains or snowboarding down them. It allows their mind to shut off and for them to be able to become present. The saying, “idle hands is a devils playpen” I think stems from this logic. The devil in this case being our egoistic mind which is a large source of our hell on earth.
- Bring the body and the mind will follow
My environment can influence my thoughts. This is why court systems order those with DUIs or substance abuse related charges, to attend recovery meetings. The hope is that through exposure it may influence their way of thinking. This is the same as another common saying in recovery “if you hang around the barber shop long enough, you’ll eventually get a hair cut.” If I hang out at a bar frequently without a good reason to be there, eventually I am going to drink. If I go to meetings regularly, it will increase my odds of better recovery.
- Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one
I place little credence into the opinions of others. Unless that opinion, is backed by experience, strength, and hope from working the 12 steps of recovery. I’ve expressed many of opinions throughout this blog. I am certain that you and other readers have their own understanding and opinions of many of these lessons. Everyone is allowed to have their own opinion, it does not mean that is my truth. I also have the right to be wrong in my own opinion.
- My problems are of my own making
A problem only exists if my mind decides that it is a problem. In most cases, a problem results from my egoistic mind telling me some story, or from a lack of acceptance. “Eventually you will see that the real case of problems is not life itself. It’s the commotion the mind makes about life that really causes problems” – Michael A. Singer. It is actually a relief that my problems are of my own making, if they were of others making, I could never be set free. When they are of my own making and if I have the willingness, I have a shot at them being resolved.
- It works, if you work it
In order to see results, I have to take the necessary actions.
- If you sober up a drunken horse thief you still have a horse thief
I like this one because it emphasizes that drinking was not my problem. Drinking was my solution to numb my emotions and turn off the internal chatter. My problem was the lack of a spiritual connection, a soul sickness, which resulted in not so good behaviors. This became very apparent when after 5 years of sobriety, I began to exhibit worse behaviors sober than I had back when I was drinking. I had no drink to blame my behaviors on. I have to work the steps and spiritually seek to change who I used to be and to be capable of new behaviors. Simply putting down the drink does not fix the core issues of why I drank.
- Asking for help gives others the opportunity to be of service
One of the jokes between my sponsor and I, is I tell her that, “I am glad my life is a mess so that I can help you stay sober.” By reaching out to my sponsor for help, I am giving her the opportunity to be of service which in return helps her grow and strengthens her relationship with her higher power. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but one of strength.
- Having a resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die
When I have a resentment against someone else, many times that person is unaware that I even have the resentment. Even if they are aware, it is not them that suffers. Resentments merely brings about my own suffering and spiritual sickness. Another saying that means the same thing, “having a resentment is allowing someone to live in your head rent free.”
- Self knowledge is not the answer
Understanding or having knowledge of my problems does not resolve them. Really what self-knowledge causes is a bolstered ego. A bolstered ego means a greater manifestation of self. Self prevents spiritual growth which is what is needed to bring about effective and long lasting change. Another more blunt way of saying this is, “it is possible to be too smart for the program of recovery but not possible to be too stupid.” I have to become humble and surrender in order to commence on a journey of spiritual growth.
- Take what you need and discard the rest
There are going to be opinions that do not work for me and my truth. The point is to take from the meeting (as far as comments, the reading, discussion) what I need and discard the rest. When I am spiritually connected, whatever I am supposed to take from the meeting is apparent and pops out at me.
- God is everything or he is nothing
For the longest time I never fully understood this. My agnosticism in the various areas of my life could not imagine God being everything. “When we saw others solve their problems by a simple reliance upon the Spirit of the Universe, we had to stop doubting the power of God.” – Alcoholics Anonymous. This required me to acquire a deeper faith. When I am not connected to my higher power any decisions I make is coming from my will. Any actions I take based on my will, is littered with my character defects.
- Always check your motives
When I began to learn how to pause and reflect upon my motives I found that they were often selfish or self-seeking motives. Underneath my actions, I was seeking something, even if that something was just recognition. I can check my motives by asking if the action is selfish, dishonest, or self-seeking. Acting on something with bad motives potentially leads to myself and/or others getting hurt. Checking my motives has saved me from a lot of trouble. Here is another dating example: In the past, when starting to date someone new, I would ask them questions about their ex. When I reflected on this, I asked myself what was my motive behind asking those questions. I discovered that I was asking them because I felt insecure and was hoping to feel more secure. This will not work because fixing insecurity is an inside job. My egoistic mind sold me some story on why I should feel insecure. Perhaps it was saying I am not worthy of love or that I would be rejected. Identifying the story allows me to tell a more positive one.
- The spiritual life is not a theory. We have to live it.
I have to live my life upon spiritual means, and not just lip service. For years, I would tell you that I prayed and meditated regularly. I may have told half truths such as, “it wasn’t as frequent as it could/should be.” That was believable right? The truth was I didn’t do it at all. I did absolutely no spiritual seeking whatsoever. I did not meditate, read spiritual books, practice mindfulness or pray. It is no wonder that when something painful hit me in my life (my divorce), I had no connection to deal with that situation and the feelings associated to it. It was clear to others that I wasn’t living a spiritual life. My lack of growth was apparent. Today if I tell you I am practicing mindfulness, or walking meditations, or yoga, or prayer, or whatever it might be, look at my growth. That is where you will see the truth.
- Love and tolerance of others is our code
I was taught that I didn’t have to like everyone but I had to love them. The Big Book tells me that it is principles over personalities. Regardless of how much someone may annoy me, I want the hand of recovery to always be there. I cannot help someone if I hate them. I am not the best at this. There are groups of people I typically avoid and when I look at why, I think it boils down to some perceptions issues and insecurities. If they reached out for help, I would help them. I am hopeful as I continue to grow this will become easier.
- Think about what you can bring to a situation instead of what you can take out of it
My sponsor told me I should do this whenever I go to any meeting. It easy to go to a meeting, sit in a seat, take in a meeting, and not contribute. If everyone did that, then there would be no meeting. Even newly sober people, can find ways to give back, whether that is by greeting people or making coffee. My first stint in sobriety I gave back but I only did it in ways that kept me inside my comfort zone. I rarely worked with new people because I was terrified and I did not think I had anything to offer. It is important for me to give back in all aspects of my recovery. This helps my sobriety and ensures that recovery is available to anyone who walks in the doors.