daily reflection: a rallying point

Therefore, Step Two is the rallying point for all of us. Whether agnostic, atheist, or former believer, we can stand together on this Step.

— TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS, p. 33

I feel that A.A. is a God-inspired program and that God is at every A.A. meeting. I see, believe, and have come to know that A.A. works, because I have stayed sober today. I am turning my life over to A.A. and to God by going to an A.A. meeting. If God is in my heart and everyone else’s, then I am a small part of a whole and I am not unique. If God is in my heart and He speaks to me through other people, then I must be a channel of God to other people. I should seek to do His will by living spiritual principles and my reward will be sanity and emotional sobriety.

daily reflection: a glorious release

“The minute I stopped arguing, I could begin to see and feel. Right there, Step Two gently and very gradually began to infiltrate my life. I can’t say upon what occasion or upon what day I came to believe in a Power greater than myself, but I certainly have that belief now. To acquire it, I had only to stop fighting and practice the rest of A.A.’s program as enthusiastically as I could.”

— TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS, p. 27

After years of indulging in a “self-will run riot,” Step Two became for me a glorious release from being all alone. Nothing is so painful or insurmountable in my journey now. Someone is always there to share life’s burdens with me. Step Two became a reinforcement with God, and I now realize that my insanity and ego were curiously linked. To rid myself of the former, I must give up the latter to one with far broader shoulders than my own.

daily reflection: when faith is missing

Sometimes A.A. comes harder to those who have lost or rejected faith than to those who never had any faith at all, for they think they have tried faith and found it wanting. They have tried the way of faith and the way of no faith.

— TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS, p. 28

I was so sure God had failed me that I became ultimately defiant, though I knew better, and plunged into a final drinking binge. My faith turned bitter and that was no coincidence. Those who once had great faith hit bottom harder. It took time to rekindle my faith, though I came to A.A. I was grateful intellectually to have survived such a great fall, but my heart felt callous. Still, I stuck with the A.A. program; the alternatives were too bleak! I kept coming back and gradually my faith was resurrected.

daily reflection: filling the void

We needed to ask ourselves but one short question. “Do I now believe, or am I even willing to believe, that there is a Power greater than myself?” As soon as a man can say that he does believe, or is willing to believe, we emphatically assure him that he is on his way.

— ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, p. 47

I was always fascinated with the study of scientific principles. I was emotionally and physically distant from people while I pursued Absolute Knowledge. God and spirituality were meaningless academic exercises. I was a modern man of science, knowledge was my Higher Power. Given the right set of equations, life was merely another problem to solve. Yet my inner self was dying from my outer man’s solution to life’s problems and the solution was alcohol. In spite of my intelligence, alcohol became my Higher Power. It was through the unconditional love which emanated from A.A. people and meetings that I was able to discard alcohol as my Higher Power. The great void was filled. I was no longer lonely and apart from life. I had found a true power greater than myself, I had found God’s love. There is only one equation which really matters to me now: God is in A.A.

daily reflection: rescued by surrendering

Characteristic of the so-called typical alcoholic is a narcissistic egocentric core, dominated by feelings of omnipotence, intent on maintaining at all costs its inner integrity. . . . Inwardly the alcoholic brooks no control from man or God. He, the alcoholic, is and must be the master of his destiny. He will fight to the end to preserve that position.

— A.A. COMES OF AGE, p. 311

The great mystery is: “Why do some of us die alcoholic deaths, fighting to preserve the ‘independence’ of our ego, while others seem to sober up effortlessly in A.A.?” Help from a Higher Power, the gift of sobriety, came to me when an otherwise unexplained desire to stop drinking coincided with my willingness to accept the suggestions of the men and women of A.A. I had to surrender, for only by reaching out to God and my fellows could I be rescued.

daily reflection: goal — sanity

“. . . Step Two gently and very gradually began to infiltrate my life. I can’t say upon what occasion or upon what day I came to believe in a Power greater than myself, but I certainly have that belief now.”

— TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS, p. 27

“Came to believe!” I gave lip service to my belief when I felt like it or when I thought it would look good. I didn’t really trust God. I didn’t believe He cared for me. I kept trying to change things I couldn’t change. Gradually, in disgust, I began to turn it all over, saying: “You’re so omnipotent, you take care of it.” He did. I began to receive answers to my deepest problems, sometimes at the most unusual times: driving to work, eating lunch, or when I was sound asleep. I realized that I hadn’t thought of those solutions—a Power greater than myself had given them to me. I came to believe.

daily reflection: our common welfare comes first

The unity of Alcoholics Anonymous is the most cherished quality our Society has. . . . We stay whole, or A.A. dies.

— TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS, p. 129

Our Traditions are key elements in the ego deflation process necessary to achieve and maintain sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous. The First Tradition reminds me not to take credit, or authority, for my recovery. Placing our common welfare first reminds me not to become a healer in this program; I am still one of the patients. Self-effacing elders built the ward. Without it, I doubt I would be alive. Without the group, few alcoholics would recover.

The active role in renewed surrender of will enables me to step aside from the need to dominate, the desire for recognition, both of which played so great a part in my active alcoholism. Deferring my personal desires for the greater good of group growth contributes toward A.A. unity that is central to all recovery. It helps me to remember that the whole is greater than the sum of all its parts.

opioids and naloxone now top priority by surgeon general

To fight the current opioid epidemic, United States Surgeon General Jerome Adams has issued an advisory urging the public to carry and to be prepared to use naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of opioid overdose. Naloxone (also known by brand names Narcan or Evzio) is a safe, FDA-approved medication that has been proven to reverse opioid overdoses in minutes. It comes in the forms of a nasal spray and an injection.

As the U.S. faces an unprecedented drug overdose epidemic largely from opioids, Adams says having naloxone on-hand is a simple step toward saving lives in our communities. While some argue that its easy availability would encourage opioid abuse, he remarked Wednesday in a program at Harvard University, “As a physician, when people are dying, when you come across a trauma scene, you’ve got to put on a tourniquet. Naloxone is that tourniquet.”

In case you don’t already know, go here to learn about how naloxone works, how to spot an opioid overdose, and how to access and administer this lifesaving medication.

daily reflection: freedom from . . . freedom to

We are going to know a new freedom. . . .

— ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, p. 83

Freedom for me is both freedom from and freedom to. The first freedom I enjoy is freedom from the slavery of alcohol. What a relief! Then I begin to experience freedom from fear—fear of people, of economic insecurity, of commitment, of failure, of rejection. Then I begin to enjoy freedom to—freedom to choose sobriety for today, freedom to be myself, freedom to express my opinion, to experience peace of mind, to love and be loved, and freedom to grow spiritually. But how can I achieve these freedoms? The Big Book clearly says that before I am halfway through making amends, I will begin to know a “new” freedom; not the old freedom of doing what I pleased, without regard to others, but the new freedom that allows fulfillment of the promises in my life. What a joy to be free!

from the miracle of the mundane: woke — 7 spiritual awakenings

You can thank me for this later. Simply stop what you’re doing at this moment and go read Woke, a marvelous post from Mark Goodson over at the Miracle of the Mundane, which celebrated its third birthday this month. I love the way Mark did the math on things and provided some perspective on it all:

That’s 189 posts, roughly 130,000 words dedicated to extracting the extra from the extraordinary. While that is a lot of words, it hasn’t felt like all that much work. One reason is that I love writing. Another is I love recovery, which is like saying I love the person recovery has allowed me to become. I love my wife and children who provide the bulk of this website’s inspiration. I would be remiss in this gratitude list if I didn’t mention the readers. You keep me going, which is why this post in particular is for you.

Then he gets to the heart of things, which is a listing of a few of his spiritual awakenings. I’ll run a quick list just to prime the pump, but Mark notes that he’s “virtually incapable of processing things without some room between the lines to sit and rest awhile.” So . . . check the list and then head on over to read the really good stuff.

1.  Go to any length for your sobriety.

2.  The first drink gets you drunk.

3.  It’s not about me.

4.  One day at a time.

5.  Unconditional love.

6.  Home is where the heart is.

7.  I am a writer.

Now scat. You need to read the whole thing.

from the fix: is aa too religious for gen x?

This is a valid question if one doesn’t kill too many brain cells pondering the issue searching for a resolution. It’s also the typical dumb-ass, pro-The Fix, anti-AA title to an article that finds yet another source of flaws within this organization. I guess I should go on record with my concern being that people who genuinely struggle with drug/alcohol abuse ultimately just get help. 

On the mental health counseling blog Practically Sane, family therapist Jeffrey Munn states: “I like to take a practical approach … I’m not a fan of the ‘fluff’ and flowery language that is often associated with the world of psychology and self-help.” He can say that now.

So… Jeffrey came into the rooms at 20, stayed sober for a whopping 2 ½ years, relapsed, came back and is now 13 years clean and sober vis-à-vis psychotherapy. I’m actually okay with that. I mean, I’m not okay with him going back out; that was actually pretty lame. Unfortunately, those who go back out are the ones who refuse to take their recovery seriously to begin with. It doesn’t matter if someone has gone 2.5 or 12.5 years; there’s a reason they walked into the rooms to begin with.

The saga continues. “I was mandated to three 12-step meetings per week to stay in the program I was in,” according to Jeffery. And here I just want to throw in my two cents about all the folks the courts send our way. I’m sure this is a good thing to some degree. We don’t have room in the jails downtown. So, send them to us for 30 to 60 meetings to be initialed each time they’re here. In a perfect world, they’d stay with us after their sentence had been duly served. Reality check: These people who are mandated to be here do not want to be here. We are a huge freaking inconvenience.  

There’s a lot more to follow up on so take a few minutes over that next cup of coffee and head over here to check it out. 

from new hope for dry bones: the good tree

Joy and I have an oak tree in our backyard her father planted back in the early 90’s. It’s really nice and leafy now in all the right times, but there were a few years when we really wondered if we were actually going to lose the tree. Every spring when the leaves came on, they were dark in color and somewhat curled, and remained that way through the season.

It took a few years, but the tree finally seems to have healed itself. Looks great now. I’m still a bit concerned. I think it drops more branches than it should, but the only other trees we have are oaks, so I’ve nothing to accurately compare it to. Still, my overall impression it has moved on with its life.

So… this ongoing was the first thing that crossed my coffee-challenged mind when I read Mike Ridenour’s grace-filled, deeply personal, way to close to home post from New Hope for Dry Bones this morning. I pretty much compare my own life to the oak in our backyard. Yup, looks great on the outside, but if one looks just a little bit closer…

The trees around my house all look pretty much the same right now.  They stand naked and sway back and forth in the icy wind that is blowing through a great deal of the country.

Hopefully, when springtime arrives, buds will appear that grow into clusters of green leaves that whisper when the wind weaves its way through them.

Sadly, one of those trees will look just like it does now, minus being frozen to the core.

One of those trees didn’t last past the first few weeks after we planted it.  It was a beauty, too.  I dug that hole in the ground, placed that tree in it, watered it faithfully and the fruit of my labor was a dead tree. Continue reading

daily reflection: the joy of sharing

Life will take on new meaning. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends—this is an experience you must not miss. We know you will not want to miss it. Frequent contact with newcomers and with each other is the bright spot of our lives.

— ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, p. 89

To know that each newcomer with whom I share has the opportunity to experience the relief that I have found in this Fellowship fills me with joy and gratitude. I feel that all the things described in A.A. will come to pass for them, as they have for me, if they seize the opportunity and embrace the program fully.

from storm in a wine glass: a tiny bit of hope

Excellent and quite lengthy post from one of my favorite raves in England. Having just the other day celebrated her first year of sobriety, Anna at storm in a wine glass got to spend some time in healthy retrospect with her husband.

What is that one thing? The thing, if you could sum it up, that meant you could stop?” Hubby asked.

We were sitting as we often do, at opposite ends of the sofa, talking about life and, well, this time my sobriety. My one-year anniversary happened when he was away, so I guess it was especially topical.

It wasn’t just one thing,” I said as my mind went into overdrive, “it was a whole bunch of things that came together at the right moment.

But you keep saying how it was a stormy sea and how the waves parted at exactly the right moment and you saw your life line,” Hubby insisted and threw back at me the analogy I always use to describe the moment I saw my chance to ask for help, my way out. “What was it? And what could I have done that might have got you there sooner?

OK, so just so I’m clear on what you’re asking – you’re wanting me to articulate what made me stop drinking, what you did and what you could have done sooner to help bring it about?

Yes. What did it take for you to stop?

You do realise that if we find the answer to that question, we’ll cure the world of all addictions, don’t you?” I replied and smiled in a slightly smart-arsey kind of way, after all I’m the drunkard here. “Quids in if we crack that old chestnut and are able to provide a sure-fire answer. We’ll have high schools and streets named after us.

But, summarise it,” Hubby went on, “not the waves, not the life line, spell out exactly what it was.

It’s a good question though, isn’t it? I mean, when I was still trapped it would have been the one thing I would have wanted the answer to. In AA they often say that the alcoholic has to hit rock bottom before they can get sober. It sounds severe, doesn’t it, ‘rock bottom’? Makes you think of social services, homelessness and the park bench stereotype. It doesn’t have to be all those hugely devastating things though. I prefer to think of it as my turning point because it wasn’t a big or dramatic event, it was simply a combination of mainly two things: I’d fucking had it with drinking and at the right moment I saw my life line. Yes, like the huge waves in a stormy sea parted just as I glanced in the right direction and caught a glimpse of a life line, then swam furiously towards it. OK, less fucking poetic – Hubby asked me the right thing in the right moment and I saw my chance to finally speak the words: “help, I’m scared“. Is that somewhat clear? I was desperate to stop and just when I needed it there was a chance for me to ask for help so I did. Oh, and a third ingredient: a tiny bit of hope. Continue reading

daily reflection: the treasure of the past

Showing others who suffer how we were given help is the very thing which makes life seem so worth while to us now. Cling to the thought that, in God’s hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have—the key to life and happiness for others. With it you can avert death and misery for them.

— ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, p. 124

What a gift it is for me to realize that all those seemingly useless years were not wasted. The most degrading and humiliating experiences turn out to be the most powerful tools in helping others to recover. In knowing the depths of shame and despair, I can reach out with a loving and compassionate hand, and know that the grace of God is available to me.