daily reflection: bringing the message home

Can we bring the same spirit of love and tolerance into our sometimes deranged family lives that we bring to our A.A. group?

— TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS, pp.111-12

My family members suffer from the effects of my disease. Loving and accepting them as they are just as I love and accept A.A. members—fosters a return of love, tolerance and harmony to my life. Using common courtesy and respecting others’ personal boundaries are necessary practices for all areas of my life.

daily devotion: seeking emotional stability

When we developed still more, we discovered the best possible source of emotional stability to be God Himself. We found that dependence upon His perfect justice, forgiveness, and love was healthy, and that it would work where nothing else would. If we really depended upon God, we couldn’t very well play God to our fellows nor would we feel the urge wholly to rely on human protection and care.

— TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS, p. 116

All my life I depended on people for my emotional needs and security, but today I cannot live that way anymore. By the grace of God, I have admitted my powerlessness over people, places and things. I had been a real “people addict”; wherever I went there had to be someone who would pay some kind of attention to me. It was the kind of attitude that could only get worse, because the more I depended on others and demanded attention, the less I received.

I have given up believing that any human power can relieve me of that empty feeling. Although I remain a fragile human being who needs to work A.A.’s Steps to keep this particular principle before my personality, it is only a loving God who can give me inner peace and emotional stability.

daily reflection: we just try

My stability came out of trying to give, not out of demanding that I receive.

— THE BEST OF BILL, pp. 46-47

As long as I try, with all my heart and soul, to pass along to others what has been passed along to me, and do not demand anything in return, life is good to me. Before entering this program of Alcoholics Anonymous I was never able to give without demanding something in return. Little did I know that, once I began to give freely of myself, I would begin to receive, without ever expecting or demanding anything at all. What I receive today is the gift of “stability,” as Bill did: stability in my A.A. program; within myself; but most of all, in my relationship with my Higher Power, whom I choose to call God.

daily reflection: toward emotional freedom

Since defective relations with other human beings have nearly always been the immediate cause of our woes, including our alcoholism, no field of investigation could yield more satisfying and valuable rewards than this one.

— TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS, p. 80

Willingness is a peculiar thing for me in that, over a period of time, it seems to come, first with awareness, but then with a feeling of discomfort, making me want to take some action. As I reflected on taking the Eighth Step, my willingness to make amends to others came as a desire for forgiveness, of others and myself. I felt forgiveness toward others after I became aware of my part in the difficulties of relationships. I wanted to feel the peace and serenity described in the Promises. From working the first seven Steps, I became aware of whom I had harmed and that I had been my own worst enemy. In order to restore my relationships with my fellow human beings, I knew I would have to change. I wanted to learn to live in harmony with myself and others so that I could also live in emotional freedom. The beginning of the end to my isolation—from my fellows and from God—came when I wrote my Eighth Step list.

daily reflection: a frame of reference

Referring to our list [inventory] again. Putting out of our minds the wrongs others had done, we resolutely looked for our own mistakes. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened?

— ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, p. 67

There is a wonderful freedom in not needing constant approval from colleagues at work or from the people I love. I wish I had known about this Step before, because once I developed a frame of reference, I felt able to do the next right thing, knowing that the action fit the situation and that it was the correct thing to do.

daily reflection: getting well

Very deep, sometimes quite forgotten, damaging emotional conflicts persist below the level of consciousness.

— TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS, pp. 79-80

Only through positive action can I remove the remains of guilt and shame brought on by alcohol. Throughout my misadventures when I drank, my friends would say, “Why are you doing this? You’re only hurting yourself.” Little did I know how true were those words. Although I harmed others, some of my behavior caused grave wounds to my soul. Step Eight provides me with a way of forgiving myself. I alleviate much of the hidden damage when I make my list of those I have hurt. In making amends, I free myself of burdens, thus contributing to my healing.

daily reflection: the harm done to others

In many instances we shall find that though the harm done others has not been great, the emotional harm we have done ourselves has.

— TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS, p. 79

Have you ever thought that the harm you did a business associate, or perhaps a family member, was so slight that it really didn’t deserve an apology because they probably wouldn’t remember it anyway? If that person, and the wrong done to him, keeps coming to mind, time and again, causing an uneasy or perhaps guilty feeling, then I put that person’s name at the top of my “amends list,” and become willing to make a sincere apology, knowing I will feel calm and relaxed about that person once this very important part of my recovery is accomplished.

daily reflection: I had “dropped out”

We might next ask ourselves what we mean when we say that we have “harmed” other people. What kinds of “harm” do people do one another, anyway? To define the word “harm” in a practical way, we might call it the result of instincts in collision, which cause physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual damage to people.

— TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS, p. 80

I had been to Eighth Step meetings, always thinking, “I really haven’t harmed many people, mostly myself.” But the time came when I wrote my list out and it was not as short as I thought it would be. I either liked you, disliked you, or needed something from you—it was that simple. People hadn’t done what I wanted them to do and intimate relationships were out of hand because of my partners’ unreasonable demands. Were these “sins of omission”? Because of my drinking, I had “dropped out”—never sending cards, returning calls, being there for other people, or taking part in their lives. What a grace it has been to look at these relationships, to make my inventories in quiet, alone with the God of my understanding, and to go forth daily, with a willingness to be honest and forthright in my relationships.

daily reflection: didn’t we hurt anybody?

Some of us, though, tripped over a very different snag. We clung to the claim that when drinking we never hurt anybody but ourselves.

— TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS, p. 79

This Step seemed so simple. I identified several people whom I had harmed, but they were no longer available. Still, I was uneasy about the Step and avoided conversations dealing with it. In time I learned to investigate those Steps and areas of my life which made me uncomfortable. My search revealed my parents, who had been deeply hurt by my isolation from them; my employer, who worried about my absences, my memory lapses, my temper; and the friends I had shunned, without explanation. As I faced the reality of the harm I had done, Step Eight took on new meaning. I am no longer uncomfortable and I feel clean and light.

daily reflection: repairing the damage

We attempt to sweep away the debris which has accumulated out of our effort to live on self-will and run the show ourselves. If we haven’t the will to do this, we ask until it comes. Remember it was agreed at the beginning we would go to any lengths for victory over alcohol.

— ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, p. 76

Making a list of people I had harmed was not a particularly difficult thing to do. They had showed up in my Fourth Step inventory: people towards whom I had resentments, real or imagined, and whom I had hurt by acts of retaliation. For my recovery to be thorough, I believed it was not important for those who had legitimately harmed me to make amends to me. What is important in my relationship with God is that I stand before Him, knowing I have done what I can to repair the damage I have done.

daily reflection: a clean sweep

. . . and third, having thus cleaned away the debris of the past, we consider how, with our newfound knowledge of ourselves, we may develop the best possible relations with every human being we know.

— TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS, p. 77

As I faced the Eighth Step, everything that was required for successful completion of the previous seven Steps came together: courage, honesty, sincerity, willingness and thoroughness, I could not muster the strength required for this task at the beginning, which is why this Step reads “Became willing. . . . ”

I needed to develop the courage to begin, the honesty to see where I was wrong, a sincere desire to set things right, thoroughness in making a list, and willingness to take the risks required for true humility. With the help of my Higher Power in developing these virtues, I completed this Step and continued to move forward in my quest for spiritual growth.

daily reflection: a look backward

First, we take a look backward and try to discover where we have been at fault; next we make a vigorous attempt to repair the damage we have done; . . .

— TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS, p. 77

As a traveler on a fresh and exciting A.A. journey of recovery, I experienced a newfound peace of mind and the horizon appeared clear and bright, rather than obscure and dim. Reviewing my life to discover where I had been at fault seemed to be such an arduous and dangerous task. It was painful to pause and look backward. I was afraid I might stumble! Couldn’t I put the past out of my mind and just live in my new golden present? I realized that those in the past whom I had harmed stood between me and my desire to continue my movement toward serenity. I had to ask for courage to face those persons from my life who still lived in my conscience, to recognize and deal with the guilt that their presence produced in me. I had to look at the damage I had done, and become willing to make amends. Only then could my journey of the spirit resume.