The Christmas Promises

The Christmas Promises

Christmas gifts.
Christmas gifts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

Those who have been to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or have a Twelve Step Background will know this passage to be a passage from what are called the Promises.  Those things that are the awesome goals that are described as what life looks like when you have worked your recovery properly (through the Ninth Step into Steps Ten, Eleven and Twelve).

This passage is very important to consider during this time of year.  For much of the world, including the United States, we have begun counting down the days until Christmas.  By that I mean that many of us are counting down the minutes until that special moment when your friends and loved ones get together and give you free stuff.  There are other wonderful aspects to th holiday season and especially Christmas, but for many of us the gift receiving is most enjoyable part.

I know that, a bunch of people who are absolutely thinking like I just described are telling themselves right now that this dos not describe them.  Telling themselves “Thank God I’m not one of those people.”

Before you get yourself too far down that road, ask yourself this and ponder it honestly:  If for no apparent reason, nobody got me anything this Christmas or even really paid me much attention, how would I feel.

Would you not notice at all?

Would you notice and be thankful for the opportunity to focus on others without the distraction of them noticing you?

Would you think of how great it is that everyone is focusing on more important things finally?

or would you:

Be angry and bitter?

Be frustrated that here comes another Christmas and nobody is thinking of you again?

Think that the reason you are not getting gifts is because you didn’t get them nice enough gifts and plan how to get them better gifts?

Feel a tremendous amount of self pity, because you messed up so bad that they don’t even give you gifts?

If you would notice and feel anything like the second group of responses you might have an area that needs to be looked at.  Losing interest in selfish things and gaining interest in others.  Having your self-seeking slip away is a new attitude that is the mark of progress in your recovery.

The self seeking is at the rood of alcoholism/drug addiction:

Whatever our protestations, are not most of us concerned with ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity?

Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 62)

On Christmas, birthdays or other times where many people expect gifts and people to honor them are you concerned with yourself, your resentments or your self-pity.

This is a big jump for a lot of people, but what would it be like for you on Christmas to truly not want anything from others and to be only concerned with how you can help or bring joy to all that you encounter.

Many of us have an incredibly hard time imagining that to be freedom and imagine that kind of thinking to be the thinking of someone who is all messed up.  While mentally measuring the people around you by what they give you on a specific day or days of the year makes perfectly good sense to you.

I know there are those out there who try to manipulate others to show emotion towards them by giving people big gifts etc. and that is not what I am talking about.  If a person does that then the gift they are looking for is the emotional response and that is a whole other sickness in and of itself.  That sickness is disguised by calling the expected gift “appreciation.”

I am talking about truly not expecting anything in return.

On the news, I have been hearing stories of people who anonymously pay off thousands of dollars of layaway items for others in stores.  There are people who could not afford to buy something, so they put it on a payment plan at the store.  Then some unnamed person goes in and pays for what they owe and they get the item for free and don’t even know who to thank.  The person who paid off the item truly expected nothing in return.  I know that because none of the people that had their items paid for can even give anything to this person du to th fact that they do not know who the person is.

This is a person who has a true interest in their fellows and has lost interest in selfish things.

There are these sorts of individuals on the planet and if you are in recovery, becoming one of these individuals is a art of what you should look like in the end.  I am not saying to run out and fake it right now or to get all emotionally excited because you just read this and run out to some store and buy people stuff.

I’m asking each of us to take an honest look at where we are at relative to this goal and to diligently work towards honestly being that kind of person.

If faking it for now is the best you can do on the way to becoming that person,  then by all means, get to it.  If working Steps harder throughout the holiday season is the path for you, get to that.  If reflective thought with your sponsor, counselor or group is the best you can do this year, then let get to that.

The key is not that you have to be perfectly unselfish by tomorrow morning.  The key is that this is the goal and you always measure your progress by your distance from the goal not by how good you feel or how good other people think you are.

If you really are not even beginning to get over selfishness, A GOOD PLACE TO START, is to find someone else in recovery to invest your time in over the holiday instead of what you usually do.  It may be just you and that person, there may be other sponsors/people in recovery or whatever, but focus on helping another person instead of what you can get.  Forget what stuff you can get or how much attention you can get and focus on what you can do for someone who probably won’t give you anything in return.

This concept is not only good for shooting towards those promises that say you will feel better than you ever have felt before.  This concept is a key one to staying sober:

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

To be helpful is our only aim.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 89)

If you are still looking for something you can take from the holidays, then I have the most awesome gift for you:  Growth in your recovery!  We can drink, smoke, snort or inject away all of the other gifts we get, but growth in each of our own recoveries is priceless.

Be useful this holiday season and the feeling of uselessness will truly disappear.  The more you do things for others without expecting anything in return, the more self-seeking will slip away.  The more you find joy in what you give and less in what you get the less you will have to feel self pity about.  This is the change of our whole attitude and outlook on life that we are shooting for.

Focus on this passage as the promises for future holidays including Christmas:

That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

Happiest of holidays in ne freedom and stay sober my friends…

Wade H.

Advertisements

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)

The “Decision” to Take Step 3

The “Decision” to Take 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)

We thought well before taking this step making sure we were ready; that we could at last abandon ourselves utterly to Him.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 63)

These quotes from the Alcoholics Anonymous tell us quite a bit about Step 3 and what the real mindset must be for a person to truly work Step 3.

The first quote is actually Step 3 as outlined in the Alcoholics Anonymous book.  The Third Step starts out with the words “Made a decision.”   The idea of “making a decision” can translate differently for different people.  For some it is when you want to do something, for some it is when you “sincerely” want something, and for some it is even more.

The simple way to describe the “even more” kind of “wanting something” is to begin with the question:  “Have you ever lied to yourself?  If you answer yes, then you understand a huge problem that most of us looking for recovery suffer from:  The inability to fully trust our own thoughts and ideas.  Let’s look at this example:

We will say that I am about sixty pounds overweight.  I go to the doctor and the doctor tells me I am terribly obese and need to look at losing weight.  So I say that I will lose weight and I leave the doctor’s office and have salad for dinner that night and eat a little better for a day or two, but then go back to what I was doing before.  That describes the problem with translating the meaning of decision as just the point that you decided to do something.  I decided to eat healthier, but it was not a strong enough decision to bring about change in my life.

Now think about all of the resolutions that people make for a New Year.   Let’s say that I commit to losing forty pounds this year as my New Year’s resolution.  I do not like the way I look and get emotional about needing to lose weight and determine to lose the weight.  I go jogging on New Year’s Day, have diet drinks for breakfast and dinner then eat a salad for dinner.  I do this for a couple of days and then find that there are other more important things that I need that time for and that my life is too busy to have good meals so I go back to fast food.  That is the “sincerely” wanting kind of decision, but the challenge is that the decision does not have enough force or importance to follow through.

Bothe of those are technically correct in defining the word “decision” but, what kind of decision are they talking about here.

If you add to the above descriptions; “a determination that is strong enough to follow through with any actions that must accompany the decision” and you are most of the way there.   The fact we are capable of lying to ourselves means that just because we think or feel we have that level of commitment, it still may not be true.  Our feelings or what we think has to be tested.  The only way to test the decision to lose weight is that actions I take and other tools such as finding and allowing people to hold me accountable to not cheating, quitting, cutting corners, etc.  In other words the actions that follow are part of measuring how true a decision really is.

That is why you have to think well before taking this step because you have to consider what it is you are deciding to do.  In a general sense, what we are each committing to in Step Three is described on page 63:

…abandon ourselves utterly to Him.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 63)

The “Him” (which is capitalized) is God!  So step three is a commitment to abandon yourself completely to God, “without reservation.”  That means what God says you can do you do and what He says for you not to do you do not do.  That means that you must be willing to do anything to be closer to Him and you are repelled by anything that pushes you away from Him in any way.

Now look at this:

The wording was, of course, quite optional so long as we expressed the idea, voicing it without reservation. This was only a beginning, though if honestly and humbly made, an effect, sometimes a very great one, was felt at once.
Next we launched out on a course of vigorous action, the first step of which is a personal housecleaning…  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 63)

Now how did I say you tested to see if a decision you make is real or if you are lying to yourself?  I’ll put it in the simple way it was explained to me:  “A decision is not a decision until you do what you decided to do.”  The action is not only what follows the decision, it is a part of the decision making process.  The fact we test our decisions through the actions that follow means that the actions are actually part of the making of the decisions.  In other words Step Four and in reality all of the steps that follow Step Three are measuring sticks that help each of us see how sincere our commitment to Step Three really is.

To truly understand what I just stated, let’s look at the actual wording of the example we have in the Alcoholics Anonymous book of the Third Step prayer:

“God, I offer myself to Thee-to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!”  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 63)

I know that some have some challenges with the wording used here, so let me try to say the same thing in English that is more plain:

God, I am giving myself completely to you.  Do whatever you want with me and direct me however you want.  Set me free from the bondage of focusing on myself or selfishness of any kind, but not just so that I can be free.  Set me free of the selfishness and the resulting addictions so that the miracle of freedom may be a message to others opening the door to my helping them using your power, your love, and showing them your way of life.  Give me the strength to always do Your will no matter what.

This is a huge commitment.  That is why the very next words on page 63 are:

We thought well before taking this step making sure we were ready; that we could at last abandon ourselves utterly to Him.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 63)

This is the logic of Step Three.  I can communicate the logic, but only you can make the decision and take the action.  If you have already moved on to other steps and have not worked Step 3 in this manner or with that kind of commitment, stop whatever you think you are doing and go back through Steps One thorough Three.  If you never truly made that kind of decision before the action, you run the risk of having made one of those other kinds of decisions that will simply fail to have enough force to drive you to fully follow through.

Wade H.