Sobering Thoughts

Archive for the month “May, 2012”

Wild Peace

Going through difficult times is part of life.  It is easy to claim a wonderful program of recovery when things are going your way.  However, I seem to forget that I am provided for in good and bad times.  How else did I survive those years of alcoholic misery?   If I truly turn my will and my life over to my higher power then I have come to believe “god could and would if he were sought.”  This decisions demonstrates that I have faith in my higher powers ability to take care of me in all things and reminds me of the potential I have to live without my defects which get triggered when I am facing challenges.  This means that I make my third step decision daily, practice my 11th step daily, and most importantly,  my 7th step.  If I truly give my higher power “all of me good and bad” there is a wild and strange peace that comes over me; this surrendering is serenity.  I saw a quote the other day that said: “Peace is something that we can bring about if we can actually learn to wake up a bit more as individuals and a lot more as a species; if we can learn to be fully what we actually already are; to reside in the inherent potential of what is possible for us, being human.”  My recovery has helped me discover and accept who I am.  As my first sponsor noted many times, “When we accept we can achieve.”  When I look into a body of water I can see the dark and light co-existing.  The elements are at peace, they sparkle.  What will you do today to find this wild peace?

Lost and Found

We often talk in recovery about “adherence” to certain key concepts and principles.  It can be a scary word to us because it sounds a bit like the word “compliance.”  While it is true that we refer to the steps as suggestions, most of us eventually after beginning to trust our sponsors, make a beginning on them. I love that we do not have to “do” the work of the program perfectly.  Many of us have learned that,  after years of striving for perfection to compensate for what was wrong with us, we are imperfectly whole.  In fact, it is this imperfection, not perfection (a deadly character defect), that makes up who we are. So “perfect adherence” is not the goal of my recovery program; adherence as the authors of our “Big Book” defined it “is to stick to and have a faithfulness in your program.”  For me this means making a commitment to deepen my faith in my higher power and by proxy the program itself.  The 11th step is where I formally practice this principle.  “Seeking through prayer and meditation” is how I have come to know that the principles (basic truths or laws) work in my life as a result of a “spiritual awakening”  which basically means consciousness or awareness.  Today I try to find these truths as they relate to my life and what they mean as I align my will with God’s will for me.  The hard part is accepting that in order to be found, even in recovery, I must at times be lost.  As a friend once said, “you cannot know the sun has risen if it had not first set.”  Recently I found a poem, “Lost,”  that perfectly describes the problem and solution to being lost and how consciousness is actually separate from my limited human thought:


Stand Still.

The trees ahead and bushes beside you

Are not lost.  Wherever you are is called Here,

And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,

Must ask permission to know it and be known.

The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,

I have made this place around you,

If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.

No two trees are the same to Raven.

No two trees branches are the same to Wren.

If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you, You are surely lost.

Stand still.The forest knows

Where you are. You must let it find you.

A brilliant translation by David Wagoner of this Native American poem, reminds us that sometimes we must simply stop and be still. and we recognize all that is around us and are found.

Service Is My Responsibility

When I was young, my dad used to quote Winston Churchill: “The price of greatness is responsibility.”  As you can imagine, it drove me crazy because it was usually used as a way to get me to do something I didn’t want to do.  As an adult, however, it is exactly what I have learned; I feel great when I am responsible.  By doing the thing I least want to do, I feel good because I become responsible to someone beyond myself.  In recovery we call this 12th step work or “carrying the message to those still suffering.”  In politics it might translate to Kennedy’s maxim that we should not ask not what our country can do for us but what we can do for your country.  It is this union and identification with another recovering person that cements the recovery relationships we need.  Recently I was asked to speak about the 12th step;  the first thought that came to my mind is how we read “the responsibility statement” proclaiming responsibility to the person who still suffers.  I am always struck by how simple it  is to join someone on their recovery journey and be a witness to their personal transformation.  But while it may be simple, it is often difficult to stay with them through this process.  It is essential that I do it though, because one person reached out to me.  I have learned, too, that I cannot keep what I have if I do not give it away.  By giving it away I acknowledge that I am not the source of this healing and I am not attached to it like a false idol.  So much of my recovery is about faith and I have learned that “faith without works is dead.”  I have learned that my “able example not my vain display’s of glory” are what matters most.  How lucky I am to be “uniquely qualified” to help someone because my sponsor and higher power helped me turn some of my deficits into valuable assets.  So today, I will pay the price for a great day; I will make my calls, I will meet the newcomer for coffee, I will attend a meeting, and I will enjoy the world around me.  What will you do today to be responsible and feel great?


Life is written in the everyday.  We learn to celebrate the small miracles around us sprouting like new leaves on a tree or the sound of  glee in a childs voice while playing with a pinwheel.  Sometimes I find it hard to celebrate, so today I will do for others because so many have gone before and done for me.  Whether it is a military friend or family member or deceased grandparent or cousin, I will turn my thoughts to them and do something good in their name;  it will be a day in memorium.  What will you do to celebrate?


A Sermon You Hear or a Sermon You See?

“Would you rather be a sermon you hear or a sermon you see?” is from a poem often collected under the title “One Hundred and One Famous Poems,” a staple of Grandmothers around the world.  My Grandma Z. had it on her coffee table when I was young. I think of the line often as I grow in my sobriety, because I know my words are not nearly as important as my actions.  In fact, changing my actions is the only way I know to change my thinking; as we say, I need to “act my way into right thinking.”  In the program, action is often a synonym for service in the twelfth step, but it can also be part of the seventh step.  In fact, I often list my defects and next to them what it would be if I converted it to an asset…consider the defect of lust, I like to put love next to it, so I know that my goal is to chose love.   I have learned through my sponsors that this step suggests I ask God to take “all of me good and bad.”  It is never promised that the defect will be removed, but by bringing the choice into consciousness, I believe I increase the likelihood that I will chose love.  Yesterday, I was driving as the storm moved in so I pulled over to take a picture of the light illuminating the steeple of  a church; I was struck by the beautly of the light surrounded by darkness and reminded of the Tao when it says “religion is for those who have lost their sense of awe.”  I am not anti-religion by any means, but I am aware that God-consciousness is an inside job that will never bring peace if it is dictated by an external mandate.  It seems to me that anyone can act appropriately in church, but few can carry these values into the streets; how lucky I am that my program requires me to keep trying to do  this very thing.  I am certain this is why Bill W.’s life changed when he was told that his problem was he had relyed on “other people’s conception of God.”  Today, I can achieve peace and happiness when I accept  that “the spiritual life is not a theory,”  and try to live differently.  No, it is not “perfect adherence to these principles” by any means.  But today, I strive to have my actions be a model of goodness and hope.  What is your conception of God?  Are you working to align your words and actions?  Live out the awe of the world around you and celebrate it’s changing nature.

Unfolding Spirituality

Unfolding Spirituality

Spirituality or Religion?

There is a saying I hear every once and awhile: “Religion is for those who don’t want to go to hell and spirituality is for those who have been to hell and don’t want to go back.”  Most people I know who are searching for a spiritual connection are doing so because their life depends on this connection.  After years of living in the realm of utter isolation, without belonging,  this relationship with a “power greater than ourselves” a “higher power,” or as some call it “God,” is critical.  This relationship is the glue that holds together the powerful transformation that occurs from our working the steps.   It is a deeply personal relationship that is often facilitated by a sponsor who directs us to prayer and meditation.  Ironically, the most important aspect of  a recovery program is often the most difficult because of the bad rap spirituality gets as a result of its association with formal religion.  However, as I used to tell students in one of my philosophy courses, religion is a man-made concept and therefore prone to excessive fighting and vying for power, but spirituality is available to all who seek it and it does not require the filter of organized religion.  Next time you are at a meeting, notice those people who are trying to control and organize the meeting to align with their own ideologies about how recovery could and should work, instead of how it does work.  They are usually living out an old idea and trying to organize the program into a religion instead of a deeply, spiritual place where we have “no rules” or agendas other than bringing the message of sobriety to those still suffering.  Luckily, the traditions are in place to help protect the group conscious against people who think they are in charge.  If I have learned anything in 21 years, it is that I am not God.

We Do This Together

Many of us in a recovery program know the first new word we learn is “We.”  This was a strange concept for someone like me who liked to rush home at the end of the day, close the door, and stay in my isolated madness until morning.  But over time this has changed; Today, I know that what saves me from the insanity of negative thinking is working with others.  On many ocassions my day has been turned around because I have committed to meeting someone for coffee who is in a worse place than I am.  Looking back, I can see how working with a sponsor, and getting involved with people (fellowship), has helped me escape “the bondage of self.”  Of course this is not a one time proposition.  This cycle of service in the name of “we” is a “design for living” that I will remain vigilant to for the rest of my life.

It reminds me of the quote: “When two people walk one sees before the other.”  Are you walking alone? You don’t need to.  Pick up the phone.  Make a call.  Join the “we” of recovery.

Never Alone

Never Alone

Post Navigation