daily reflection: “the root of our troubles”

Selfishness — self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles.

— ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, p. 62

How amazing the revelation that the world, and everyone in it, can get along just fine with or without me. What a relief to know that people, places and things will be perfectly okay without my control and direction. And how wordlessly wonderful to come to believe that a power greater than me exists separate and apart from myself. I believe that the feeling of separation I experience between me and God will one day vanish. In the meantime, faith must serve as the pathway to the center of my life.

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post from what…me sober? on grieving brings back some fond memories

Since stepping through the doors here March 28, 2010, at the tender age of 60, I’ve been to more funerals than previously in my entire life. Years in the music industry showed me a lot of stuff; I saw some folks make unbelievable stupid, breathtakingly dangerous decisions with their brains and bodies… and sometimes they paid the full tab with both.

My take on death has been a little different for me, to my way of thinking. I left an alcoholic home when I was young because I couldn’t stand being around an angry, drinking father. It made a lot more sense — and my odds seemed a lot better — to be out on my own. It didn’t make life better; it simply got me away from the house.

I didn’t get any deep healing to speak of with my father until he was on his deathbed in 2007 and I had been called home to care for him. Long story very, very short: No, there were no scores evened. Instead, I bathed him, made sure he took his meds properly, wiped him when necessary, fed him, and helped the nurse change sheets on the hospice bed.

Dad was 90 and suffering from testicular cancer. He was in and out a lot, but when he was in, he was really in, and he knew I was there. And he knew I was there to care for him. And to this day, I hope he knew I’d rather be there next to him doing all that I could for him than be anywhere else. I need to keep telling myself that because on Sept. 25th at 1:30 a.m. when I was drinking yet another Blue Moon and watching Don Henley being interviewed on Charlie Rose (with the sound down), Dad slipped away very peacefully.

I sat there very still and just watched him for about 10 minutes and then quietly said, “That is so like you to beat closing time. Some things just don’t change.”

On the flight back to Indy, my now-Higher Power made a point of nudging me and letting me know my going back to care for him had been The Plan all along. Everything I had in mind prior to that — and apart from that — was just jibberish. I was so deeply comforted by that nudge. Just sayin’.

Bill at the wonderfully readable What…Me Sober? has an excellent post on the mechanics of grieving. Here’s just a sample:

Grief is a strange thing – totally normal, but much feared and even more misunderstood. It comes in stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally Acceptance. They are not negotiable. We go through them or we suppress them. If we suppress them they’ll haunt us for the rest of our lives, keeping us from developing a healthy emotional balance, and we may never know the reasons.

Children may grieve the loss of a parent, loss of parenting, loss of a normal childhood. Adults may suffer the same things, as well as loss of a loved one in later life, loss of a relationship, even such seemingly mundane things as loss of a job. In each case, we need to work through the stages in order, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but the choice is not ours. It happens as it happens.

Those stages go something like, “Oh, no, it can’t be! It’s something else!” “Dammit, if those doctors had only___, or “If she’d just caught the later plane!” “God, if you’ll save him, I’ll___ (fill in the blanks), or “Don’t take them, take me!” Then come the feelings that things will never be right again: I’ll never, we’ll never, this unhappiness will never go away. And, finally (if we allow ourselves to grieve fully), “It is what it is.”

This is good stuff. Seriously. Go read the whole thing. What’s important to keep in mind is to know how we’re grieving, what we’re grieving, who we’re grieving, and why we’re grieving. That’s all part of the healing process.

new hope for dry bones: the work ethic of partying

From Mike at New Hope for Dry Bones comes an outstanding comparison/contrast… and there really is one. A pretty strong one, actually.

So, when I was a connoisseur of the party life, I worked hard to get a paycheck, I worked hard to stay out late, I worked hard to find party allies, I worked hard to make it home, I worked hard for everything.

When it came to a party, my ambitions were high (as well as my body) and my efforts were never less than my best.

In fact, I think I can honestly say that there is nothing in my whole entire life for a very long time that I did not pour my heart and soul into like I poured every effort, desire and moment into the void of partying.

Familiar turf, right? It sure is for me. Makes for great reading. So go read it.

via The Work Ethic of Partying

daily reflection: the limits of self-reliance

We asked ourselves why we had them [fears]. Wasn’t it because self-reliance failed us?

— ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, p. 68

All of my character defects separate me from God’s will. When I ignore my association with Him I face the world and my alcoholism alone and must depend on self-reliance. I have never found security and happiness through self-will and the only result is a life of fear and discontent. God provides the path back to Him and to His gift of serenity and comfort. First, however, I must be willing to acknowledge my fears and understand their source and power over me. I frequently ask God to help me understand how I separate myself from Him.

from merry b. sober – an alcohol “evaporation” story

When I started in AA almost 9 years ago, I was initially pretty overwhelmed by the stories — the “drunkalogues” — of the men and women who really reached bottom before beginning their long road of recovery. And I’m ready to admit, I never got arrested, got in a bar fight, slept under a bridge, lost a home or a marriage… never did any of people present in gritty, awesome detail at meetings or in the smoke room.

So anyway, one thing I have realized over the years is that even though not everyone has that sort of “drunkalogue” that so many folks thrive on, it’s important to note that everyone in need of recovery does, in fact, go through their own hell. I think that’s where the word “perspective” gained so much traction within AA.

All that to give you this: I read an amazing lead today from a lady who is living through some things of which I simply have precious little perspective at all.

Then we decided to start a family.  I got pregnant quickly, but soon after I shared the happy news, things went wonky…and sadly miscarried.   I got drunk because there was no reason to be sober for 9+ months.  That pattern continued.  I transitioned from being a “social alcoholic” to an “infertility alcoholic”.  I was willing to do anything to get and stay pregnant.  I met a homeopathic doctor that suggested I was “sensitive” to alcohol and that if I wanted to carry a child, I would need to give up booze, (and wheat, milk, corn, sugar, tomatoes…. )  I was sober for many months (didn’t really count), lost weight, felt better, but my mission was to become a mother. I wasn’t focused on how fabulous I was alcohol-free. A feeling I do remember is being slightly annoyed that my husband just kept on drinking when we were together alone… even when I was not.

Yes, I know. These are the kind of things that don’t show up in the AA materials on the rack in the large meeting room. Best you read this right here than on the wall of the ladies’ room, though. Or the men’s room. Because this actually works both ways.

This entire amazing post by merry b. sober really deserves to be read in its entirety. Not because it’s a cool sobriety tale. It’s not. What it is, is the blunt reality that sobriety comes too often at a major cost. We just rarely know that before we step onto the recovery path.

daily reflection: i don’t run the show

When we became alcoholics, crushed by a self-imposed crisis we could not postpone or evade, we had to fearlessly face the proposition that either God is everything or else He is nothing. God either is, or He isn’t. What was our choice to be?

— ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, p. 53

Today my choice is God. He is everything. For this, I am truly grateful. When I think I am running the show I am blocking God from my life. I pray I can remember this when I allow myself to get caught up into self. The most important thing is that today I am willing to grow along spiritual lines and that God is everything. When I was trying to quit drinking on my own, it never worked; with God and A.A., it is working. This seems to be a simple thought for a complicated alcoholic.

daily reflection: getting “the spiritual angle”

How often do we sit in AA meetings and hear the speaker declare, “But I haven’t yet got the spiritual angle.” Prior to this statement, he had described a miracle of transformation which had occurred in him—not only his release from alcohol, but a complete change in his whole attitude toward life and the living of it. It is apparent to nearly everyone else present that he has received a great gift; “. . . except that he doesn’t seem to know it yet!” We well know that this questioning individual will tell us six months or a year hence that he has found faith in God.

— THE LANGUAGE OF THE HEART, p. 275

A spiritual experience can be the realization that a life which once seemed empty and devoid of meaning is now joyous and full. In my life today, daily prayer and meditation, coupled with living the Twelve Steps, has brought about an inner peace and feeling of belonging which was missing when I was drinking.

daily reflection: convincing “mr. hyde”

Even then, as we hew away, peace and joy may still elude us. That’s the place so many of us A.A. oldsters have come to. And it’s a hell of a spot, literally. How shall our unconscious—from which so many of our fears, compulsions, and phony aspirations still stream—be brought into line with what we actually believe, know, and want! How to convince our dumb, raging, and hidden “Mr. Hyde” becomes our main task.

— THE LANGUAGE OF THE HEART, p. 237

Regular attendance at meetings, serving and helping others is the recipe that many have tried and found to be successful. Whenever I stray from these basic principles, my old habits resurface and my old self also comes back with all its fears and defects. The ultimate goal of each A.A. member is permanent sobriety, achieved One Day at a Time.

daily reflection: a path to faith

True humility and an open mind can lead us to faith, and every A.A. meeting is an assurance that God will restore us to sanity if we rightly relate ourselves to Him.

— TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS, p. 33

My last drunk had landed me in the hospital, totally broken. It was then that I was able to see my past float in front of me. I realized that, through drinking, I had lived every nightmare I had ever had. My own self-will and obsession to drink had driven me into a dark pit of hallucinations, blackouts and despair. Finally beaten, I asked for God’s help. His presence told me to believe. My obsession for alcohol was taken away and my paranoia has since been lifted. I am no longer afraid. I know my life is healthy and sane.

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.