How To Survive The Holidays – Part 1

How To Survive The Holidays – Part 1Toilet Paper Trap

Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance of others is our code.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

The holidays are a time of celebration, of receiving and giving, of family gatherings and when friends get together to celebrate.  For those of us in recovery there are any number of challenges that arise from all of this.  Some of us associate all of these things with using and get a strong urge to use.  Some of us get so angry or hurt by what we get as gifts or don’t get as gifts that we cannot function well.  Some of us do not have the heart or mind for the giving part, while others of us give for the wrong reasons and end up frustrated.  Some of us have a strong urge to relapse at the mere thought of family gatherings for all sorts of different reasons.  For some of us gathering with friends is a recipe for relapse and others of us are depressed by the idea because we do not perceive ourselves to have any friends to gather with.  Some of us just simply hate the “holiday season” altogether or find ourselves depressed for no apparent reason during this time of year.   A few will find ourselves enjoying the holidays only to find that all of a sudden we cannot handle the feeling of enjoying ourselves and will have the urge to self-destruct our own enjoyment.   The way we tend to see things seems to be amplified this time of year and may seem like an inevitable train wreck waiting to happen.

The temptation is to focus on the negatives and sink into some kind of pity-party or try to act like the thoughts and feelings don’t exist.  As far as focusing on the negatives, we know that many of us that have been alcoholics or addicts can’t seem to be able to stop ourselves from seeing the glass as half empty instead of half full.  The truth is that realizing that the half empty glass is also half full is a good start, but is not enough.  For us there needs to be action to fill the glass the rest of the way also. Changing how we see things is good, but changing the parts of the situations that we control (ourselves) is better.

One of the simplest ways to begin to work through the holiday season before it overtakes you is to focus on Step 10 all day every day starting right now.

  1. Carefully watch yourself for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear.
  2. When you notice any of these stop yourself; take a moment and ask God to remove whatever it is.
  3. Have mentors, sponsors, or wise persons of some kind that you can talk to regularly ready for your call, email or visit.  Whenever you feel one of these come up talk to one or more of them about it as soon as possible.
  4. If you did something that was wrong to someone else in that situation (even if that person did a whole lot more to you before you did anything and you feel he or she deserves what you did) you must make amends quickly.  Don’t let their crazy become your relapse because you are determined to prove some point (that would in reality be your crazy)
  5. Have somebody or a couple of people you are helping through recovery (sponsoring) during the holiday season.  You need to be the mentor, sponsor, or wise person of some kind that someone else can talk to regularly ready for your call, email or visit as well as working that person through the steps through the holiday season.
  6. When you perceive that someone else or some group of “someone elses” is throwing crazy into your world remember that love and tolerance is our code.  That means to respond lovingly and be as tolerant as is humanly possible of whatever it is that is going on.  Remember that other people’s crazy does not have to be contagious.  If they are in fact acting crazy, that is their sickness, if you get sucked in and start acting crazy also their sickness has spread like some plague to you with the potential of wreaking havoc in your world and possibly even causing your death.

A huge point to take away from all of this is that you have to start responding to the problem before it starts to build up.  Plan these things and make sure the people described are in place now.  Intentionally start living this way daily for the whole day so as the holiday season kicks into full gear you will already have the habit of living this way. 

…we continue to take personal inventory and continue to set right any new mistakes as we go along. We vigorously commenced this way of living as we cleaned up the past. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

Change your mindset about all of the things listed from some things you do or from a Step you have to do or finish and begin to think of these things as a “way of living”.  You have to be so in the habit of thinking and acting in these ways that they simply become who you are and what you do.  These not only become how you think, but these things become the reasons behind why you think what you think.  You have to progress from:

  1. Have to – You do these things because you are told to in recovery and you realize you have no other good choice
  2. Want to – You do these things because you have done them for a while and you have started to feel good when you do them and to be able to handle hard to handle situations.  Doing them begins to be associated with feeling good.
  3. Is you – There is no longer any thought that goes into doing these things.  You have done these things so consistently and for so long that they are as natural as breathing.  These things kinda just happen (even if you don’t feel like it)

Also, take a second to ponder the word “vigorously” used in the previous passage.  In that “have to” phase (when you first start trying to develop these habits) these things seem time consuming, like a lot of work and possibly silly to some of us.  It will seem like really hard work to many of us at first to do these things.  You are going to have to “vigorously” push yourself to do these things in spite of how you feel.  Keep in mind that our feelings are important, but are often not the best guides for our lives.  Just because you suddenly feel like using or like punching someone in the face, that does not mean you should.  Just because you don’t feel like doing some of the proven recovery stuff doesn’t mean you shouldn’t either.

In the words of some excellent tennis shoe marketers:  “Just do it!”

—————————————————————————-

Grow this way of living.  Why?  Here is one person’s answer:

I have since been brought into a way of living infinitely more satisfying and, I hope, more useful than the life I lived before. My old manner of life was by no means a bad one, but I would not exchange its best moments for the worst I have now. I would not go back to it even if I could.”  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 4243)

Pink Clouds & Pink Sevens? (Part 2)

 And the first thing you know I was lifted right out of the A.A. group, and I floated higher, and higher, and even higher, until I was way up on a pink cloud which is known as Pink Seven, and I felt miserable again. So I thought to myself, I might just as well be drunk as feel like this.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 304 – “Physician Heal Thyself)

“Why, there’s nothing wrong with you. You’ve been sober for three months, been working hard. You’ve been doing all right.” But then he said, “Let me say something to you. We have here
in this community an organization which helps people, and this organization is known as Alcoholics Anonymous. Why don’t you join it?” I said, “What do you think I’ve been doing?” “Well,” he said, “you’ve been sober, but you’ve been floating way up on a cloud somewhere. Why don’t you go home and get the Big Book and open it at page seventy and see what it says?” So I did. I got the Big Book and I read it, and this is what it said: “Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path.” The word “thoroughly” rang a bell. And then it went on to say: “Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point.” And the last sentence was “We asked His protection and care with complete abandon.”
“Complete abandon”; “Half measures availed us nothing”; “Thoroughly follow our path”; “Completely give oneself to this simple program”—rang in my swelled head.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 304-305  – “Physician Heal Thyself)

So, what is the solution to this “pink cloud” and the worst cases of this “pink cloud” called “the Pink Seven?” 

Let’s break down the page he was referred and see how it relates to solving this issue:

At some of these we balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely.  Remember that we deal with alcohol-cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power-that One is God. May you find Him now!
Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked His protection and care with complete abandon.
Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery:  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs 58-59)

The first point seems to be that it is “too much for us.”  We cannot recover on our own.  But, why was that so important to getting past the “pink cloud” experience?  If you
glance at the rest of page 59, the rest of the page lists Steps One through Eleven this idea seems to revisit Step 1.

1.  We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 59)

The “old-timer” that had gotten a hold of him led him to a place where he could see that first and foremost, no matter what Steps or recovery stuff he thought he was doing, he had drifted to a place where he thought he had found the power to stay sober on his own power.  He may have been working Step 4 or 5 maybe 8 or nine, but the “old-timer” felt the breakdown in his recovery that led to his “Pink Seven” was a breakdown in Step 1.

People who have been around me in recovery settings have probably heard me say this “Many of the times that people experience breakdowns of some kind in their recoveries are really experiencing a breakdown in Step 1.”  I am not saying that this is the magic fix all, but whenever I start to struggle, I start by looking at Step 1.  In other words I refocus on the idea that I cannot overcome this on my own power.   All the recovery “stuff” I do or am doing does not give me the power, all of it gives me access to the power or more specifically better access the one who has the power.

Here is the real question to the person riding the “Pink Seven” is:  “What are you so excited about?”  Being sober for a bit is a huge accomplishment for many of us, but any excitement should be about the long journey I am about to take not as much about the journey I have already taken.

Think of it this way, I am about to fly overseas on a trip I really want to take.  Starting recovery and remaining sober for a period of time is like buying the ticket.  It is an exciting moment, because the journey is finally real.  Now, imagine being so excited that you bought the ticket that you go out and celebrate having the ticked so hard that you never actually make the journey.  You would be so busy celebrating the journey and the progress you had made towards making the journey, that you lose focus on the rest of the journey.  The excitement itself is not a problem until it becomes so much of a focus that it becomes a distraction from taking the rest of the journey.

The point is that this distraction is another part of our addiction or what keeps us in our addictions.  Simply put distractions that keep us from working on our recovery are a part of the problem and a normal part of our recovery that must be overcome.

Then this short paragraph moves on to Step 2:

Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power-that One is God.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 59)

Part of looking at the rest of the journey and a big part of refocusing on being powerless is to realize that there is power available so you can refocus on deepening your connection to that power instead of celebrating out on “the Pink Seven.”

The Second thing that “old-timer” was trying to show this man through this short read was Step 2:

2.  Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 59)

If there is no escape from something terrible, and suddenly you find out there is a possible escape, should you celebrate the fact there is a possible escape so much that you never actually escape.  That is what “pink cloud” riders are doing.  The truth is that if you are stuck in something terrible where there is no escape and suddenly you hear that there is a possible escape, celebration should be brief if there is any celebration at all.  You have to get on with the business of actually escaping.

Then the passage this man was referred to goes on to say:

…there is One who has all power-that One is God. May you find Him now!
Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked His protection and care with complete abandon. 
(Alcoholics Anonymous pg 59)

This man was at the “turning point.”  He either had to do something different or keep doing what he had been doing and expecting different results.  Two key points here seem to be:  “asked His protection and care with complete abandon. And “Half measures availed us nothing

All of this brings us to Step 3:

3.  Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 59)

The one who has “all power” is God and we each need to focus on deepening our relationship with Him.  Some of us know nothing about God, some of us know a little about God (or at least think we do) some of us know a lot about God (or at least think we do), but whatever level of access to this power that we each have, we need more.  You do not have to have a super-deep and super-clear understanding of every detail about God to be able to work all of this out, but you do need to focus your efforts on deepening your relationship with Him.  As it is stated on Pages 99 and 100 of the Alcoholics Anonymous book:

Remind the prospect that his recovery is not dependent upon people. It is dependent upon his relationship with God.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs 99-100)

This relationship is stated as what your whole recovery depends upon.  You may not have it, understand it, and in some cases may be opposed to it, but that does not change the fact that this relationship is the point: 
May you find Him now.

Those were three of the points that the “old-timer” seemed to be making to this man, but there is one more point that is much more overarching. 

We have here in this community an organization which helps people, and this organization is known as Alcoholics Anonymous. Why don’t you join it?” I said, “What do you think I’ve been doing?”  “Well,” he said, “you’ve been sober, but you’ve been floating way up on a cloud somewhere.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 304-305 – “Physician Heal Thyself”)

The funny thing about this part of the conversation is that if you read through page 304 the man on the “Pink Seven” is already a member of Alcoholics Anonymous and has all the literature etc. that is a part of it.  As a matter of fact he was one of the people most excited about Alcoholics Anonymous.  That explains his response:  “What do you think I’ve been doing?” 

So, why did this guy describe Alcoholics Anonymous to him as if he had never heard of it?  He was being sarcastic as a way to make a huge point.  He had all the Alcoholics Anonymous stuff that the others used and went to meetings and talked the lingo, but he was not actually even close to doing what the others were doing.  He was just acting like he thought a person in recovery through Alcoholics Anonymous should and “talking a good game.”  He had all the emotion and little of the correct action.  Even with the right things he was doing, he was not ding those things correctly or with the right mindset.  That is why the page he referred him to not only covered some very important points about why he was struggling but also was the page that included the steps.

Working recovery is not about acting like your sober, or like your in recovery, it’s not about acting like you are an expert in recovery, it’s not about acting like you are an expert in recovery; it is about
really working on the recovery.  I understand the concept of “faking it til you make it,” as a starting point, but faking it will not give you recovery.  It will only work if you work it. 

I suppose the big underlying point to take away from this is that feeling sober and better is not the same as being sober and better.  Sometimes the “crazy” of our addictions or alcoholism can give us a false feeling of great success that is actually intended to keep us using.  This is the “pink cloud” and in the worse cases the “Pink Seven.”

If you are there are you are wondering if you are there, go to pages 304-305 and 58-59 and take some time to ponder them.  Get with your sponsor or a sponsor and begin working/reworking the Steps beginning with focused work on the first three Steps.

If you are a friend of loved one of someone that may be on a “pink cloud” where he or she is feeling great, talking recovery, and even looking better, but is not doing anything to grow his or her recovery, you may be right to be concerned.  Conversations about the first three Steps are good place to start.  Think of your friend or loved one’s recover like a person walking the wrong way up a down escalator.  To make progress the person has to do a lot of work.  For that person to stay where he or she is requires continued work also. 
The moment the person decides he or she can stop working, that person will immediately begin going backwards (Happy or not.  If happy, the person will just be going backwards with a smile).

If your friend or loved one starts recovery and after a few days or weeks says something like; “I don’t need that stuff any more, I have this under control” or “I feel better now that the problem is gone” there is a good chance that person is off on a “pink cloud” and possible on “the Pink Seven.”  It may take a sudden depression or a relapse (or two) for the person to realize that there is far more to be done.  My advice to you is to talk to this person about these things (although it is highly unlikely they will get it yet) and for you to keep your hope in that person’s recovery but always keep a
watchful eye for things like this so you can be helpful as well as hopeful.  The hope without the help will lead to terrible disappointment for you.

Pink Clouds & Pink Sevens? (Part 1)

And the first thing you know I was lifted right out of the A.A. group, and I floated higher, and higher, and even higher, until I was way up on a pink cloud which is known as Pink Seven, and I felt miserable again. So I thought to myself, I might just as well be drunk as feel like this.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 304 – “Physician Heal Thyself)

A “pink cloud” that is called the “Pink Seven,” what does that mean?  If you have never really experienced these terms in the recovery sense, they may be a little strange and alien to you.  But, many of us know or may even be experiencing the emotion that these terms describe.

I have stumbled across these terms periodically in older 12 Step literature and in my travels inn recovery circles (mostly used by “Old Timers”).  The usage suggests that the term describes a feeling of being better since starting recovery that comes soon after starting recovery.  It isn’t just a normal feeling good that is a result of being sober, the usage describes a euphoric feeling that convinces a person that he or she is better than cured.  It is often described as an “emotionally high” that often convinces a person new to recovery that he or she is so strong n his or her recovery that relapse seems impossible and that he or she is now some kind of expert in recovery.

Part of the idea conveyed in this term is the idea that this “pink cloud” is just the build up to a big letdown.  The point is that it is an overly emotional feeling that makes a person think he or she already has what he or she desperately needs and thus that person will not work his or her recovery. 

I have periodically (mostly with younger 12 Steppers trying to use the term) heard this term used for anyone that is felling better at all in early recovery.  I don’t know that I would use a term like this for everyone that feels a little better due to sobriety, but it is something that all of us should watch for in early recovery.

The author above is describing the worst cases of “pink clouds” as the “Pink Seven” (like the term “Seventh Heaven” = extreme happiness or bliss) and gives us a brief description of the feeling.  A feeling like he was lifted out of the group and such joy that it could only be described as floating.  Then suddenly, he felt miserable and some of know that crazy idea that comes next:  “If I’m gonna be miserable anyway, why not be high or drunk?” 

Then someone who had more “clean time” and had seen all of this a few times helped him understand:

“Why, there’s nothing wrong with you.  You’ve been sober for three months, been working hard. You’ve been doing all right.” But then he said, “Let me say something to you. We have here
in this community an organization which helps people, and this organization is known as Alcoholics Anonymous. Why don’t you join it?” I said, “What do you think I’ve been doing?” “Well,” he said, “you’ve been sober, but you’ve been floating way up on a cloud somewhere. Why don’t you go home and get the Big Book and open it at page seventy and see what it says?”
So I did. I got the Big Book and I read it, and this is what it said:
“Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path.” The word “thoroughly” rang a bell. And then it went on to say: “Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point.” And the last sentence was “We asked His protection and care with complete abandon.”
“Complete abandon”; “Half measures availed us nothing”; “Thoroughly follow our path”; “Completely give oneself to this simple program”—rang in my swelled head.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 304-305  – “Physician Heal Thyself)

This person was giving him a hard time, but he definitely made his point.  The guy in the story had been working on recovery and started feeling great until he “felt miserable.”  He was feeling kinda better but he was having a “Pink Seven” experience and the whole feeling was more of a fake experience that can only lead to bigger problem.  The guy who pulled him to the side lets him know that he had been doing good stuff and had a few months of sobriety but, that he was not yet down to earth

The man in the story had been working through recovery stuff but had gotten so excited in recovery he had separated himself from what the program actually was.  He had been feeling so good that in his feeling good he had missed the point. 

The guy who redirected him in his recovery referred him to page 70 in the Alcoholics Anonymous book.  If you go to page 70 in the Alcoholics Anonymous book you will not find any of these terms there.  That is because in the first printings of the Alcoholics Anonymous book “The Doctor’s Opinion” which is currently not on normally numbered pages was the beginning of the book at page 1.  In the current editions of the Alcoholics Anonymous book, the page that is referred to is page 59:

At some of these we balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely. 

Remember that we deal with alcohol-cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power-that One is God. May you find Him now!
Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked His protection and care with complete abandon.
Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery:
(Alcoholics Anonymous pgs 58-59)

So, what is the solution to this “pink cloud” and the worst cases of this “pink cloud” called “the Pink Seven?”  So far this is just food for thought, In my next post, we will look at this a bit deeper to get a better understanding.

Having Depression vs. Managing Depression???

A body badly burned by alcohol does not often recover overnight nor do twisted thinking and depression vanish in a twinkling.

A body badly burned by alcohol does not often recover overnight nor do twisted thinking and depression vanish in a twinkling. We are convinced that a spiritual mode of living is a most powerful health restorative. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 133) 

I was listening to a conversation today where somebody made a good point.  For this person, he always enjoyed the holidays and was fine emotionally throughout the holidays, but the period in January directly after the holidays is always a depressing time for him.  After all the excitement, hype, and gathering together of the holidays the abrupt stop that comes somewhere around January second always leaves him struggling.

Every year I try to address those struggling with the holidays, yet I have entirely missed this group.  The reality is that many of us in recovery suffer with bouts of depression at many different times.  The first thing to keep in mind is that this is normal and will not go away overnight.  Second, having ridiculous thoughts and responses to these bouts of depression (i.e. “twisted thinking”) will not disappear overnight either. 

In light of these two ideas, a great starting point for dealing with this kind of depression is to remember that they are a normal part of recovery and connect with others in recovery groups, church/spiritual groups, etc. who have similar struggles and share with them.

Another thing to remember when you are struggling with depression is found on page 89 of the Alcoholics Anonymous book:

Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 89)

When you are struggling intensively working with others is always something to think about.  The truth is this is a huge part of recovery that many miss out on.  This should really be a normal activity that is part of your recovery and not just an emergency measure, but a bout of depression can serve as a reminder to those of us who have lost that focus.

Be careful to notice that the passage on page 89 is describing “intensive work” and not just “service” as what will ensure immunity.  Service of any kind is good, but is in reality not what is described here as being the focus of Step Twelve or what will “ensure immunity.”

Something else you can do:

As we go through the day we pause, when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or action. We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running the show, humbly saying to ourselves many times each day “Thy will be done.” We are then in much less danger of excitement, fear, anger, worry, self-pity, or foolish decisions.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs 87-88)

For me personally, I can honestly say that a lot of the circumstances that trigger my bouts of depression are based on the fact that something is not going the way I think it should be going or in a way that makes me comfortable.  These moments of meditation and prayer on the fact that; “It’s not all about me” are key to my sanity.  This is a big part of what Step 11 is about when you look at that Step practically.

These things often work for what may seem like insurmountable bouts of depression, but sometimes there is depression that is not as manageable with just these measures.  For whatever strange reason (some of which may be bad experiences) many of us in recovery are resistant to getting help from mental health professionals and sometimes even from recovery professionals.

But this does not mean that we disregard human health measures. God has abundantly supplied this world with fine doctors, psychologists, and practitioners of various kinds. Do not hesitate to take your health problems to such persons. Most of them give freely of themselves, that their fellows may enjoy sound minds and bodies. Try to remember that though God has wrought miracles among us, we should never belittle a good doctor or psychiatrist. Their services are often indispensable in treating a newcomer and in following his case afterward. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 133)

The passage describes “fine doctors, psychologists, and practitioners” and I understand that all of them are not “fine doctors, psychologists, and practitioners” but they do exist and you should “not hesitate to take your health problems to such persons.”  Ask around, do research and find one.  This could save you a lot of unnecessary struggle and pain and in some cases may save your life.

The bottom line is that experiencing depression is a normal part of recovery; it happens to most if not all of us.  It is going to happen to you and I at some point (if not regularly) the question is how you manage the depression.

Making it through the Tough Times

From – Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

As we go through the day we pause, when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or action. We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running the show, humbly saying to ourselves many times each day “Thy will be done.” We are then in much less danger of excitement, fear, anger, worry, self-pity, or foolish decisions.   (Alcoholics Anonymous® pgs 87-88)

To set the stage for today’s entry, I will simply say that I am going through a bad time in my life with a few deaths in my family and friends, some seriously ill family members, my wife and child are both sick, and I have a feeling of just too much going on and I began to sink into a depression. 

Then I thought about what I would tell others in such situations. 

First, all people suffer from periods of  “excitement, fear, anger, worry, self-pity, or foolish decisions” at times, but for us who have in the past alleviated such feelings through some form of artificial “escape from reality” these things can often be exaggerated.  Our emotions can be at times an overreaction.  What I am trying to say is that if a stress in our life would normally get 2 units of anger or worry, we experience 10 units of anger or worry and then respond at that level of desperation. 

That all sounds great, but what should one do?  One of the greatest gifts the founding members of Alcoholics Anonymous® gave us, is FELLOWSHIP.  The popular term to describe such fellowships is “support groups”  There are people within the groups we attend and the circle of those in recovery that are strong and wise that can be of great assistance in the hard times.  The key is that we need to have a deeper more personal relationship with them than simply the sharing we do at meetings and an occasional discussion at the coffee pot.  Simple talks with some friends (preferably those who are wiser and working good programs) in recovery can sometimes be a great help in the hard times.

Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail.  (Alcoholics Anonymous® pg 89)

Intensive work with others in recovery does many things which are of great assistance to each of us in recovery.  One of the keys is the idea of going back to the basics of our own steps and our own program.  The old saying spoken by “old-timers” throughout the world  states:  “You gotta give it away to keep it!”  This is so true.

 As we go through the day we pause, when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or action. We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running the show, humbly saying to ourselves many times each day “Thy will be done.” We are then in much less danger of excitement, fear, anger, worry, self-pity, or foolish decisions.   (Alcoholics Anonymous® pgs 87-88)

This is one of the most important things we can do and in reality the first thing to do:  Stop, talk to God, and look and listen for some kind of answer.  The “Big Book” states on page 62 that selfishness and selfishness are the roots of all of our problems.   The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions book tells us on page 70 that the goal of every step in the program is to gain humility.  It goes on to say, that not only is the gaining of this humility a must for sobriety, but:  “Nearly all A.A.’s have found, too, that unless they develop much more of this precious quality than may be required just for sobriety, they still haven’t much chance of becoming truly happy.”    Key word is happy.

A simple look at this from the bible (the book early A.A.’s used before there was a “Big Book”):

“…GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”  (James 4:6b NASB)

In other words the same pride described in the “Big Book” as “selfishness, Self-centeredness!” is the key to finding yourself in direct opposition to God.  This passage also states that humility is the key to closeness to God.  “I am no longer running the show, God let your will be done” is our mantra.  With this closeness to God our joy and peace are gifts from Him along with the self-control that will keep us sober.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…  (Galatians 5:22-23 NASB)

This praying, seeking others that can listen and mentor me in these tough times, and continued work with others are what keep me standing and sober in these periods where emotions threaten to overtake me.  I am far enough in my recovery where the idea of craving seems a thing of the distant past and I do not have any urge to use at all, but the reality is that much stronger people than me have relapsed.  I need to focus on these things when any troubles or discomforts arise.  If I were to wait until I felt a deep craving or realize that I have been having cravings it may be way too late.

Burn the idea into the consciousness of every man that he can get well regardless of anyone. The only condition is that he trust in God and clean house.   (Alcoholics Anonymous® pgs 87-88) 

This has been carrying me through the day and I hope this will be of assistance to all who read this….

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God will constantly disclose more to you and to us.  (Alcoholics Anonymous® pgs 164)

Continue to Watch (The New You)

Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear.  When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them.  We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone.  Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 84)

This passage appears as part of Step Ten and contains many of the everyday keys to remaining sober and gaining and maintaining happiness. 

Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear.

Pg 62 of the Alcoholics Anonymous book states that Selfishness and Self-centeredness are the roots of our troubles.  If this is the case then watching for them and preventing them are the roots of our recovery.  If at any point something makes you uncomfortable and you think that means you have to rearrange everyone around you (either by force or manipulation) until you are comfortable you are being selfish. 

Dishonesty is a selfish act and is an attempt to hide reality.  We have lied to others and to ourselves to a point where some of the lies seem true to us.  Lying must go!  It is a habit from a lifestyle that we no linger wish to lead and a poison that will slowly kill our joy and our recoveries.

Pg 64 calls resentment; “…the ‘number one’ offender.”  Pg 66 states plainly that:  “It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness.”  If resentment is this much of a problem, it is another area that you want to see in your life while it is still small enough to deal with easily.  To many people want to wait until it overtakes them to even recognize it is a problem.  Being watchful for even a slight touch of resentment is a must if one wishes to have recovery or to find any happiness in life.

Pg 67 describes fear as:  “…an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with it.”  This includes the fear of looking bad, fear I’m too nice, fear I’m not nice enough, fear of being alone, and on and on.  We have to watch for it and deal with it immediately.

WHAT DO WE DO WHEN THESE THINGS COME UP IN OUR LIVES?

1.  When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them

If we are powerless and the problems that we are powerless over show up it is only reasonable to seek out One who does have power to help in the fight.  In the words of the authors of the Alcoholics Anonymous book from pg 59:  “Without help it is too much for us.  But there is One who has all power-that One is God.”  A person who does not recognize this yet is not a failure, that person is just stuck at steps 1 and 2.  It does not matter what step that person or their sponsor says that person is on, that person is only working the first 2 steps (“Two-Stepping”).  We must start by enlisting the power of the One who is not powerless.

2.  We discuss them with someone immediately

Each of us must have a few people of good sense who are not afraid to confront us directly that we can discuss our struggles or confusions with.  Some, most or all of them should be people who have gone through a thorough recovery and are reaching back to get you up to where they are.  When you see yourself stumbling, these people should be contacted to talk you through it.  Trying to go it alone is foolish.  How much can you trust a mind that has lied to you in the past without outside guidance?

3.  make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone 

Step 10 is “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.  Notice the word “promptly.”  This is half of what is stated here.  If you are in the wrong it must be fixed immediately.  It does not matter if the person is more at fault, if you are still mad, if you don’t like that person, if it’s too embarrassing, etc. 

All of what we have just discussed is a spot check inventory.  Once the inventory is done and you realize that you were wrong you cannot be overly concerned about what the other person needs to fix in his or her life.  Pg 67 states:  “Where had we been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking, and frightened?  Though a situation had not been entirely our fault, we tried to disregard the other person involved entirely.  Where were we to blame?  The inventory was ours, not the other man’s.”

THE STEPS ARE ABOUT FIXING YOU NOT ABOUT FIXING OTHER PEOPLE.  The only fixing you do involving other people is fixing the wrongs you have done also known as making amends.

4.  Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help.   

Pg 89 states plainly that:  “Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics.  It works when other activities fail.”  Working with others is one of the strongest tools we each have to fight against the things which will lead us backwards in our recoveries. 

Notice however that the passage from pg 89 is not just talking about service (as so many say) it is far more specific:  “intensive work.”  In other words, leading another human being through the process of recovery is absolutely key to keeping your own recovery on track. 

Serving coffee and chairing meetings are good services and help, but are not what is described here.

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If you look carefully, you can actually see Steps 10, 11 and 12 all here in what has been just described.  This is a big part of what the new you is supposed to look like.  This may not be the way you are used to living life, but the way you had been living life has been a part (or the root) of your trouble.  If you are not different, you are the same and can expect the same results.

If there is not a new you, you are still the old you.  Step 10 is explained on pg. 84 as “…we continue to take personal inventory and continue to set right any new mistakes as we go along.  We vigorously commenced this way of living as we cleaned up the past.” 

As you clean up the past starting at Step 8 and by making amends quickly whenever you have harmed anyone you are building the foundations of the new “way of living” mentioned here.