Archive for April, 2009

What We Focus On

lotus-flower

Early in the program, part of my spiritual quest included guided meditations on Wednesday evenings at a church.  One of the things the pastor shared was that …what we focus on grows and multiplies. 

The concept of our focus magnifying whatever it is on is also stated in the 4th edition of the Big Book on pages 416 through 421.  Learning about this law of consciousness creates a responsibility and an opportunity for me to be thoughtful about where my mind is dwelling. 

When I catch myself in a negative space about any person, place, thing or situation it takes only an instant to recognize the error – awareness – and shift my thoughts to focus on the solution.  The solution can be seeing white light around the issue or people, or praying for those involved or working Step 1,2 and 3, giving it to God.  I feel so much better when I shift my thinking – I only have to make the decision, do it and life does get better.

     – If you find this helpful, pass it on to others.

Affirmation for the Day – ” I am thinking more positive thoughts.”

Remember to say the affirmation at least 3 times whenever you remember it, preferably in front of a mirror.

Course In Miracles Lesson – I rest in God.  I am as God created me.

Practice – I rest in God. – on the hour.  I am as God created me. – on the half hour.

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The Purpose of Sponsorship

In a recent conversation with a gentleman who’s very active in program leadership locally, I was reminded that sponsors are not initially meant to be our “buddies.”  We usually become friends, however, the primary purpose of a sponsor is to guide and direct us through the 12 Steps and demonstrate how to practice these principles in all our affairs by sharing their experience, strength and hope. 

What that means for me is that in the sponsor-sponsee relationship I must be prepared to both hear the honest truth about me from my sponsor, and also share the truth with sponsees about themselves.   I want a sponsor who will be honest with me.  Otherwise, how can I grow?  Hopefully, the information can be delivered kindly.  The goal, would be to receive it kindly as well, even if we don’t like what we hear.  My own sponsor reminded me recently when I needed guidance with sponsees that this is a program of rigorous honesty.  That is our goal – to be honest.  As it says on page 58 of the Big Book, we do recover if we have the capacity to be honest.

Recovery happens as we become more honest in both Alanon and AA.  It’s a process.  We make progress every time we are willing to hear what our sponsors share with us even when we don’t like it.  We make progress every time we are willing to share about ourselves with our sponsor, even when we are afraid of being judged.  It can feel very uncomfortable to do both, however the rewards of “a new freedom and a new happiness” in the Promises are well worth the short-lived discomfort.  And it gets easier the more we do it – which is why we are told to keep coming back -it works.  It does.

     – If you find this helpful, pass it on to others.

Affirmation for the Day – ” I am completely lovable.”

Remember to say the affirmation at least 3 times whenever you remember it, preferably in front of a mirror.

Affirmation for the Day – Truth will correct all errors in my mind.  To give and to receive are one in truth.

Practice – Truth will correct all errors in my mind. – on the hour.  To give and to receive are one in truth. – on the half hour.

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Working Step 4 – First Things First

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Several women I know are doing their 4th Step.  They’re all approaching it in a different way.  Some think about working on their list, but keep putting it off each day.  One is taking a workshop on the 4th Step and wants to wait until she finishes it before she starts making her list.  Others are scheduling time into their calendars for their 4th Steps. 

What I’m noticing is that the women making the most progress are intentionally scheduling the 4th Step into their week.  They may not finish during the time allotted, however, they just scedule more time later in their week with the goal to finish as much as possible.  Making time to do what is a priority seems to be working for them.

I remember seeing the slogan ” First Things First,” frequently at meetings.  Perhaps this is an area where we can apply that simple refrain.  While the willingness to do a 4th Step is evident in all of these women, I’m grateful to be learning from them what seems to be the most successful approach with this task.  It’s a good life lesson to see the greater success with those who actually schedule or “make time” for what matters – priorities – into our days.

     – If you find this helpful, pass it on to others.

Affirmation for the Day – ” I am making good progress.”

Remember to say the affirmation at least 3 times whenever you remember it, preferably in front of a mirror.

Course In Miracles Lesson – God’s peace and joy are mine.  Let me be still and listen to the truth.

Practice – God’s peace and joy are mine. – on the hour.  Let me be still and listen to the truth. – on the half hour.

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What’s Good For You, Is Good For Me

ireland-dock

When many loved ones come to Alanon, they think the only problem is the alcoholic and the drinking.  We often have no idea how we may have exacerbated situations or contributed in any way to the problem.  As the opening says, “we have tried to force solutions becoming irritable and unreasonable without knowing it.”  Some of my service work involves speaking to families of alcoholics at a family session with a local treatment center.  One day while explaining how my focus needs to be on me, rather than the alcoholic, a realization occurred. 

After our loved ones go through treatment we hope and pray that they’ll get a sponsor, work the 12 Steps, go to AA meetings and stay sober.  We think that will take care of the problem.   I’ve seen that this is truly a family disease, which has confirmed for me that I need to do exactly those same things in Alanon.  To expect my loved ones to work the program, and not be willing to do the same myself seems hypocritical.

While we may initially go to Alanon for the alcoholic, we find love, understanding, fellowship and helpful tools for living as we learn about alcohlism and how it has affected us – changed us.  We can and do heal by getting a sponsor, working the 12 Steps and going to Alanon and open AA meetings, among other things.  As we focus on solutions our lives improve, and we can be of service to God and our fellows.  And my loved ones can confirm that I’m a happier, more serene and more sane person as a result of working the Alanon program.

     – If you find this helpful, pass it on to others.

Affirmation for the Day – ” I am willing to change.”

Remember to say the affirmation at least 3 times whenever you remember it, preferably in front of a mirror.

Course In Miracles Lesson – God, being love, is also happiness.  I seek but what belongs to me in truth.

Practice – God, being love, is also happiness – on the hour.  I seek but what belongs to me in truth – on the half hour.

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Sponsorship – Terms

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Sponsorship has been a great gift to me, this year in particular.  My current sponsor has taught me the importance of seeking clarity from my Higher Power and the power of service work.  She is a consistent source of support and reflection for me as I navigate through the rigors of honesty in relationships with alcoholic loved ones and my unexpected experiences as a sponsor.

When new to the 12 Step programs, I asked my first sponsor if she would sponsor me and she said, ” Let me tell you what that would involve, then you let me know if you still want me to sponsor you.”  Then she shared the following items she would ask me to agree to do in order to work with me in the sponsoring relationship – work the steps, read the Big Book to learn more about alcoholism (when I came into Alanon and AA this was all we had to work from and it still works), attend one meeting a week that she attended, do a gratitude list of 25 things I’m grateful for every morning, call her to check in each day until I’ve worked through all 12 steps (even if it’s just to say all’s well).  I eagerly and gratefully agreed.

In my own sponsorship relationship with sponsees I have added one thing to that statement when they first ask me to sponsor them – do service work.  My current sponsor and her husband are great examples of doing service work as described in the 12th Step.  My sponsees have all agreed to these terms, and these items have been a helpful foundation to work from in sponsorship.  Sponsees know what is expected of them so that they can make progress in the programs, and I have an outline from which to assist them in that progress.  This format helps minimize confusion for newcomers as they get their feet wet in the healing process.  The programs can be mystifying enough in the beginning.  I’ve also found this true when sponsoring those who’ve been coming to meetings for years but, either haven’t thoroughly done the work before and/or are humbly willing to renew their commitment to “this simple program,” as stated on page 58 of the Big Book.

Sponsorship is a special relationship, and a great blessing to those who are willing to participate in this miraculous tool of the program.

     – If you find this helpful, pass it on to others.

Affirmation for the Day – ” I am grateful for the teachers in my life.”

Remember to say the affirmation at least 3 times whenever you remember it, preferably in front of a mirror.

Course In Miracles Lesson – God’s will for me is perfect happiness.  I share God’s Will for happiness for me.

Practice – God’s will for me is perfect happiness – on the hour.  I share God’s Will for happiness for me – on the half hour.

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Gardening – Step 4 or Step 10

My gardening friends and I sometimes let the weeds go toward the end of the Fall.  What that means is the weeds grow underground all Winter and cover 10 times the space by Spring when it’s time to dig them out and make room for the vegetables.  The effort expended to remove the weeds by then is vastly increased, exhausting even for the most enthusiastic gardeners as a friend recently confirmed.  The amount of waste generated covers yards instead of inches.

Unhelpful behaviors are like weeds which can be inconvenient to address in the moment.  But, just like keeping up with the weeds in a timely fashion during the growing season requires less effort and helps avoid injury, doing Step 10, “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it,” prevents us from repeating the mistakes of our past, and keeps us from developing new bad habits and behaviors that are unhelpful as we grow in Recovery.

When we don’t do Step 10, we find ourselves needing to do another 4th Step to clean up the wreckage from our more recent past.  Personally, I prefer to avoid doing any more 4th Steps than are absolutely necessary.  I’d much rather do the 10th Step daily, and keep up with the weedy behavior that might otherwise choke out my ability to be of service to God and my fellows.   Regular weeding with a daily 10th Step is so well worth that smaller/prompt effort, leaving my life uncluttered with plenty of space for my Higher Power to fill it up with miracles.

     – If you find this helpful, pass it on to others.

Affirmation for the Day – ” I am doing better every day.”

Remember to say the affirmation at least 3 times whenever you remember it, preferably in front of a mirror.

Course In Miracles Lesson – .Salvation is my only function here.  My part is essential to God’s plan for salvation.

Practice – Salvation is my only function here – on the hour.  My part is essential to God’s plan for salvation – on the half hour.

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The Program vs. My Program

guilin-longsheng

Lately in meetings, some people have been using the term “my program” vs. “The Program”.   Years ago I learned that using the term “my program,”  can be a dangerous habit to get into for those of us in 12 Step programs.  It may seem like a small distinction, but the ramifications of failing to work  ” The Program ”  can be life or death for some of us.  Not something to mess around with.  Language is important.  It provides clarity to our sometimes foggy thinking.  When we come to the 12 Step programs we begin to learn a new language which is helpful as we learn a new style of living. 

If it’s “my program” it probably isn’t “The Program”.  If I remember correctly, “my program”  didn’t work.  That’s how I came to AA and Alanon.  There is the 12 Step program and it’s up to me, with guidance from my sponsor to either work it – or not.  Calling it “my program” could be my ego’s conniving way of justifying old behaviors that I haven’t yet let go of absolutely, as it says on page 58 of the Big Book.  We like to control things.  Distorting “The Program” into “my program”  is just another way of controlling.  And any time we get into control we can set ourselves up for more self will run riot.

Remembering to use the term “The Program” helps me keep perspective and remember that I’m choosing not to be in control anymore, that I’m willing to work the program as it is described in the Big Book and rely on a Higher Power.  I believe the Big Book was Divinely inspired, and it gives us specific directions/instructions about how to work the steps and practice the principles in all our affairs.  

You know the adage ” If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”  Well, ” The Program”  works when we work it.  We see the evidence at every meeting, with every presentation of a chip, in every phone call from our members and in the miracles that happen in all our lives.

     – If you find this helpful, pass it on to others.

Affirmation for the Day – ” I am divinely guided and inspired.”

Remember to say the affirmation at least 3 times whenever you remember it, preferably in front of a mirror.

Course In Miracles Lesson – I am spirit.  I will accept my part in God’s plan for salvation.

Practice – I am spirit. – on the hour.  I will accept my part in God’s plan for salvation. – on the half hour.

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