Archive for January, 2010

Graduation Day!

 

A dear friend of mine is graduating from college today!  She’s a member of 12 Step programs and has been a model for me of courage and generosity in action for decades now.

She was actually the first miracle that God presented in my life only a few weeks into the 12 Step programs.  After telling a few people I needed to find a new place to live right after finishing a family program, I was led to her.  This was a scarey time for me – detaching from an alcoholic fiancee was my main focus and I was far from my hometown.  It was a non-program person who just told me her friend’s sister was looking for a new roommate.  Lucky for me, I later discovered that she just happened to be a member of three different 12 Step programs.  Two days later I moved in.  My Higher Power works fast.

Her drinking and recovery interrupted her college career, but now after following a healthy life path including marriage, raising  children, work, single motherhood and empty nesting she has just finished earning the bachelor’s degree that she had so wished she’d finished earlier in life.  Perseverence and patience have paid off.  She did it, and today she can savor that well deserved accomplishment.  And thanks to the miracles of technology, we can all celebrate with her from hundreds of miles away with a live feed of the ceremony!  She just walked by in the procession and took her seat.  This is soooooo great!  She is an example after more than 25 years of showing up at meetings, taking risks and trusting that her Higher Power will provide for her.  She shows that working the 12 Step programs does make our lives improve.  We can achieve and make welcome contributions to our communities.  She’s provided a fine example for me to recently return to school.  I’m grateful for her stable, humble presence in my life after all these years, and wish her continued success on the journey.  What a blessing!

Affirmation for the Day – ” I am accomplishing my goals.”

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

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Hat’s Off To You

I’ve noticed lately that when some people, particularly those who’ve been so hard on themselves and others, work Steps 4 through 9 they can often have the appearance of a lighter more energized presence.  How they show up in life is markedly different.  Truly, it can be remarkable.

My hat is off to them for their diligence in facing the fears that have veiled who they really are from both themselves, and others.  When they start to recognized the patterns, the modus operandi from which they’ve acted all those years – that is half the solution.  That’s what the 12 Step programs tell us.  Once we know more about ourselves, we can begin, with the help of our sponsors and others in the program to determine other options of being in the world.  And we do have other options – usually, a myriad of options.  Speaking for myself, when starting out in 12 Step work it became clear to me that I’d just never been taught the critical thinking process, or had the helpful modeling from others that could best support me with solutions.

So, as we reach out in the spirit of “fellowship” for solutions, asking for help, we receive suggestions.  We start to learn how to find our own options and also learn from other’s mistakes so that we don’t have to make them too.  What does this mean?  It means we make progress.  Situation by situation, as we try new options we experience more success, our comfort level with these new behaviors grows.  It’s important for us to be patient with ourselves, and very gentle.  We are relearning new ways of living and being that are much more helpful than those we formerly practiced.  After years of disappointing results from old behavior, these new ways of being need to be seen for what they are in the beginning – baby steps.  As we become more comfortable, and more confident, our self esteem grows and we start to see who we really are.  We start to remember that we are children of a Higher Power, and we become available to do God’s work.

Affirmation for the Day – ” I am learning what works.”

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

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White Knuckling Witnesses

Watching a newcomer struggle through the challenges of new sobriety without the helpful foundations available in the 12 Step programs can be very painful, as well as uncomfortable.  Some in the 12 Step programs call newcomers sliding by without the support available “white knuckling it.”  Those of us with some extended years of sobriety based on the 12 Steps or some other program that we use regularly (at least 2 times or more per week) see how using tools that work makes a difference.  When people only dance on the edges of what can preserve sobrietyand sanity and still continue the unhelpful, unhealthy behaviors that went along with the drinking, they are not in the solution.

There is a learning curve, and we DO what works to learn about it.  The 12 Steps give us a lesson plan so to speak, of what works.  And, a tool kit of solutions.  There are some other programs that do this too.  I don’t know as much about the other programs, but when people actively apply what all of these programs suggest on a regular basis, and actively seek out and use, through sponsorship, the support of others who’ve had success, it works.  They stay sober.  More importantly, they can show up as people they can be proud of, and make contributions to other’s lives as well.

Right now, a newcomer close to us seems angry most of the time.  It doesn’t seem to matter what the rest of us do or don’t do.  This person in their first year of sobriety wants to do it their way, and they don’t seem to be very happy.  Little blips of healthy results happen for them, but they don’t seem to be able to maintain themselves in a calm, serene and sane place.  They get angry and bully when people share honest feelings with them.  They over react and get defensive without cause.  A meeting a week doesn’t seem to be enough.  Not reaching out for support to others doesn’t seem to be working for them either.  We can see that they are suffering.  And there’s nothing any of the rest of us can do except take care of ourselves, and pray for them.  It’s not easy.  Their learning curve can’t be at the expense of others.  We care about them, and we can’t fix it for them.  We all hope that keeping our eyes on ourselves and staying in gratitude for our blessings will give our newcomer the space to start making choices that work.  We are giving the newcomer to our Higher Power.  Detaching with love, attending Alanon meetings and working the Steps with our sponsors are what works for us.  Thank you God!

Affirmation for the Day – ” I am taking care of me today.”

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

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Courage Pays

It takes great courage to face our darker side, the wreckage of our past.  When we honestly review the hurtful things we’ve done to others, and to ourselves it can be very painful.  We experience the actual feeling of emotions that we’ve avoided for years, or in some cases decades.

And we are not alone in this.  Most everything that I’ve heard when listening to someone’s 5th Step I’ve heard someone else talk about before.  These verbal revelations do not make me think any less of the people who share them.  On the contrary, I think more of them for having the courage to be so rigorously honest and allow themselves to be vulnerable with these disclosures.  It is a great honor to be entrusted with this information as a confidential partner in their recovery journey.  The fear involved can be paralyzing, even causing some people to stop breathing until I gently remind them to take some deep breaths.

And, they are not alone.  The stories they’ve carried around with them all these years that have caused shame and guilt and self-loathing are finally released and so are they from the darkness and isolation each story imposed.  The pain maintained by these secrets has less to feast on as people continue working through the Steps.  From Step 4 through Step 9 and 10, we are purging the obstacles to a happy, joyous and free life.  Free of restrictions from experiencing a new paradigm of how life can be for us.  We begin to see what is working, we can live in fellowship with others and things do get better.  The people in 12 Step programs will be there for us as we approach, and take the leap of faith over each hurdle on the journey.

Affirmation for the Day – ” I am walking through the fear.”

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

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Resistance

Recently, a sponsee approaching the 8th Step called to talk about not going through with it.  After listening to her use a myriad of excuses to justify not going forward, the truth came out.  She was afraid.  She didn’t want to see her world change.  She likes everything black and white and moving forward with the Steps, in her eyes, means being forced to look at the gray areas.  She had felt safe in the realm of denial and was resisting the clarity that is inevitable when we work the 12 Step program.

That fear of the unknown I well remember.  From time to time it still appears.  My path through the 12 Steps also included resistance at what I might learn about me, and about life.  It was scarey.  I didn’t want to do it much of the time.  Fortunately, my wise sponsor gently reminded me, “You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.”  She disclosed that she hadn’t wanted to do the work either, but doing it got her to where she was – a place of calm and serenity that I truly wanted for me.  Even if we don’t feel safe, we are.  My sponsee didn’t think she was ready to learn more.  It occurred to me that when we’re in school, we’re rarely feeling comfortable with all that new information and may not see ourselves as ready to learn more, but we do.  We listen to the teachings, do our homework, pass the test and to varying degrees we find we now have more information with which to understand the world and how it works.

I admire this sponsee for hanging in there with our conversation long enough to allow herself to get honest, share about her fears and make the decision to go forward as planned.  She apologized for the earlier excuses, and for not being honest from the beginning.  For my part, passing on that she is in good company, that many of us have experienced the same resistance and trepidation about proceeding into unfamiliar territory was a gift.  A good reminder about the progress I’ve made, and also, how much alike we are on the path to recovery.  It was important for me to let her know how much care and fellowship I feel for her.  My approach to walking through the Steps with sponsees is that it’s a sacred responsibility, an honor and a privelege to share this part of their journey and pass on the many gifts shared by oldtimers with me over the years.  No one gave up on me.  I won’t give up on anyone – but, they have to do the work.  I can’t do it for them – and I will be there for them through the trials as all of us will be there for each other.  We are never alone.

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

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

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Step 3 Continued

Okay, so after the Higher Power started showing itself in my life, the miracles continued and so did my learning.  It was suggested to me that there were no victims, only volunteers.  I was responsible for me, for taking care of me only.  I needed to learn to say “No thank you,” and set healthy boundaries.  Also, I learned that I an accountable for both my successes and my failures.  But, any failures are simply mistakes that I can learn from by following the principles of the 12 Steps and working through them with my sponsor.  This helped me start to be gentle with me.

What I started to learn about I now call safe vulnerablility.  Even though I had some fear about trusting, gradually it became clear that things could actually work out without my meddling, controlling, demanding, stipulating and expecting certain results.  I could hope for the best, then it was necessary to let go of the outcomes and just take care of what was in front of me to do.  An inner compass started to direct my days…gratitude list, prayer, make my bed, go to work, do my work, feed me, go to meetings, call my sponsor, read the Big Book.  And as I did these actions, things got better in my life.  How they got better and worked out was often a mystery.  And I learned to stop trying to figure it out and just accept that the 12 Step Program works – if I work it.

Life has much gray area.  Prior to 12 Step Programs I lived in a safe world of black and white, right and wrong, good and bad, moral and immoral.  Now it’s clear that most of life is shades of gray – and there are no books about the gray because there are no set rules for it.  We just do the best we can with the help of others and the principles we learn in the Programs.  Safe vulnerability helps me navigate through all of the gray.  We know we are never alone and we start to trust that our Higher Power will provide for us – even if we don’t understand how.  It doesn’t matter how.  We learn to accept –  the answer to all our problems as the Big Book tells us.  And before we know it, “…before we are halfway through.  We are going to know a new freedom, a new happiness.  We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.  We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.  No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we see how our experience can benefit others. – The AA Big Book.

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.

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Step 3

Step 3 requires a leap of faith, a blind trust in a Higher Power that we may not even be certain exists.  Just the idea of Step 3 can make most of us very, very uncomfortable.

When we take a closer look at what we’re being asked to do, while it might not be easy, it is very simple.  We are asked to let go of our pride, our clinging to control (for some of us that means controlling everyone and everything), and our will.  What I’ve learned is that the reason I was sooooooo clinging to these in the first place was to feel safety.  Growing up in homes with dysfunctional systems operating creates uncertainty and instability for most of us as children.  We each choose different coping mechanisms to sooth the fear that uncertainty creates.  Usually, these coping choices are what we see our parents or siblings doing – and let’s face it, they aren’t the best examples of solutions available.  But in retroflect, I can see that my parents were just doing the best they could with what they’d been given, which wasn’t so great either.

So, if relinquishing control, will, and pride is about being courageous and trusting that something outside of us will provide for our well being it still feels terrifying.  I felt helpless and confused.  If I don’t manage things, how will anything work out – the way I want it to?  Well, thanks to all of you in 12 Step programs I experienced something new.  You taught me that I was not alone – you were there with me – at every meeting, on the other end of the phone when I started making calls with the phone list, through my sponsor when I asked for help, and in the miracles that started happening daily.  I had to let go of the outcomes.  My sponsor had me do a Gratitude list daily of what I was grateful for.  The first display of a Higher Power was that within two weeks I was moved in with new roomates – who totally without help from anyone else in the Program were in 12 Step programs.  We’d never seen each other at meetings.  Higher Power orchestrated the whole thing.  I love how it works.  And that was just the beginning.  To be continued…

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.

If you find this helpful, pass it on to others.  For daily updates, press the orange RSS feed to the right for directions.

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