July 14, 2008

"IF YOU'RE LOOKING FOR AN EASIER, SOFTER WAY, THERE ARE NO DIRECTIONS."

Before recovery there was only one way to do things - my way. I was convinced I had the answers, knew the way, and thought that life would be easy, and that I would be happy, if I just got my way. After years of bullying my way through my affairs and manipulating others to get what I wanted, I was finally brought to my knees and admitted defeat.

When I began working my program, I was told it was the easier, softer way, but it sure didn't feel like it at first. There were steps, and commitments, and honest inventories, and lots of feelings, and new ways of acting and interacting with others. In the beginning I rebelled mightily against this new way of life and often longed to - and sometimes did - revert back to old ways of thinking and acting. And each time I did, my life became unmanageable once again.



As I persevered and worked my steps, something miraculous happened - I changed. And as I changed, this new way of life actually began working for me, and after a while the steps and the principles of the program became the life manual I had always wanted and had been unsuccessfully trying to write for myself. 


One day I realized that I had found the easier, softer way, and now I had the directions I always had longed for.

July 7, 2008

"THE ONLY THING AN ALCOHOLIC DOES IN MODERATION IS WORK THE STEPS."

Whenever I hear this quote in a meeting, it brings the house down with a chorus of identifying laughter. We certainly know how to go to any lengths when it comes to relationships, a new hobby or project, going to the gym, avoiding the gym, even work or our careers sometimes, but when it comes to something that may restore us to sanity - we wouldn't want to rush into anything... 



And boy can this get us into trouble. Just this week I worked myself into a frenzy with my business, and then I put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to complete all the parts of the second volume of these quotes until I reached a breaking point, making myself and all those around me crazy. Completely spun out, I went to my Friday night meeting, and a friend suggested I might be into self-will. And that's when I surrendered.



I'm so grateful to have other people in my life who understand the obsessiveness of this disease and can remind me to let go and let God. While I may not obsessively pursue recovery (and I'm not sure that would be such a good idea anyway), whenever I do work my program, it works on me by restoring balance, perspective and sanity to my life. 



Working my steps may be the only thing I do in moderation, but thank God I do it consistently enough to keep me sober and to keep me coming back.


June 30, 2008

"LIFE IS TOUGH BECAUSE YOU GET THE TEST FIRST AND THEN THE LESSON."

Note: I want to thank my new friends, Jeff and Bill in Big Bear Lake for inviting me to their meeting and for this quote!



When I was in school we would spend weeks and sometimes even whole semesters preparing to take tests. We'd study lesson plans, read books, watch videos, all in preparation for midterms and finals. And how I did on the tests all depended on how well I studied the lessons. 



In life it's quite a different story. In life, we get the test first and then it's up to us to learn the lesson. And while this may be tough, what's worse is that if we don't learn the lesson, we get another test - then another and another until we learn the lesson.



One of the things I love about recovery is that I've been taught to look for and learn the lesson. When I get a test, I immediately look for my part, examine my motives and look for how I can either make amends, and or act better the next time. This is called a daily 10th Step inventory, and it insures that I learn the lesson quickly.



Life may be tough, and the test may still come first, but now I know how to learn the lesson and avoid taking the test again!

June 23, 2008

"GOD CANNOT DO FOR YOU WHAT HE CANNOT DO THROUGH YOU."

Before recovery, I had the God thing all mixed up. My conception of God was that if I was good and behaved myself, then good things would happen for me. When I prayed, I prayed for the things I wanted, and then I waited for God to deliver. Towards the end of my using, I was usually praying to get out of one mess or another, and then promising to be better the next time. It rarely worked. 

When I first heard this saying, I was several years in the program and I already understood the power of action. I knew from years of sober experience that I couldn't just pray to have my life get better, but rather I had to add action and right thought to my prayers. The old saying, "When you pray, move your feet" took on a whole new meaning for me, and I became much more efficient and my life starting getting better. 

As the years go by and I live even more in the 11th step, I have discovered the deeper wisdom in this quote. Today I now understand and embrace God's will for me which is to be of maximum service to others. In this way, God can do for me what I could never do alone - and that is to heal and enrich both my life and yours. 



Today I truly know that God cannot do for you what he cannot do through you.

June 16, 2008

"THE ANSWER IS NOT IN THE PROBLEM, THE ANSWER IS IN THE SOLUTION."

Before recovery, I lived in the problem. If things weren't going right, or if something went wrong, that's all I thought about. I'd dwell on it, talk to my friends about it, and think about all the ways it could get worse. It was as if I was addicted to the dark outcomes of my problems, and soon I couldn't see - and didn't even want - a way out.
 Once I began working my steps, though, I became aware of my negative thinking and I learned the way out. My therapist taught me that I couldn't solve my problems using the same mind that created them. She told me that I had to source deeper and turn to my Higher Power. And sure enough, as soon as I stopped thinking about the problem and started thinking about God, the solutions began to appear. 
Today I live in the solution much more than in the problem. Even though I can occasionally still go to the dark side, my program, my sponsor, and my friends in the fellowship are all focused on finding solutions and are quick to help me find the answers I need. I'm also quick to rely on my Higher Power, asking many times each day for inspiration and new perspectives.



Today I know the answer is not in the problem, the answer is in the solution.

June 9, 2008

"ONCE YOU CHANGE THE WAY YOU LOOK AT THINGS, THE THINGS YOU LOOK AT CHANGE."

I've always heard that alcoholism is a disease of perception. For example, when I first got sober I kept hearing that it was a disease, but I never really saw it that way. Once I started to work my program and learned more about it though, I began to look at it differently, and sure enough it changed! I now see it as the disease it is. 

As I continued to work my steps and recovery, I began changing the way I looked at a lot of things and they, too, began to change. For example, my past used to be a source of shame and regret, but when I looked at it as a source of experience, strength and hope that I could use to help another, my feelings about it changed as well. Looking at it this way, I gained a new appreciation for it and my very past seemed to change as well.

 Today I know that every situation in life is open to interpretation depending on how I choose to look at it. To help me gain perspective, I sometimes pretend I'm part of a debating club and have been assigned the task of building a case for the opposite point of view. Forcing myself to look at something differently changes my opinion and, seemingly, the thing itself.



It always comes back to how I look at things. Once I change that, everything else changes as well.

June 2, 2008

"AM I INTERFERING IN THE EXPERIENCE GOD WANTS THEM TO HAVE?"

Before recovery in Al-Anon, I always thought I knew what was best for everyone. I spent a lot of time working behind the scenes trying to control and manipulate situations and people, sure that if only I could get you to do what was right, then I could help you avoid getting hurt and both your life and mine would be better.

After years of this exhausting strategy, I dragged myself into the program and admitted defeat. Not only were you not taking my advice, but I was growing even more miserable than I was making you. When I asked my sponsor what was wrong with trying to protect those I loved, he told me that denying people the dignity of learning and growing from their own experience never helped anyone, and that all I was really doing was interfering in the experience God wanted them to have. 

It took me many years to understand the truth and wisdom in these words. Today though, I know that we each have our own path and our own Higher Power, and I realize that my job is to try to improve my own life, to set a healthy example, and to love you unconditionally.


Today I've learned that all experiences are teachers and that it's up to each of us to learn our own lessons.