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Archive for the month “January, 2014”

Everyday Birthday

I suspect that when you have faced a challenge head on you understand; you understand that agents of change are individual people who know that change is necessary and work to achieve it. Today we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King (MLK) who knew that what he held to be true for himself was also true for his people.  I am sure there were long periods of doubt and despair, but with faith this amazing man held true to his beliefs and convictions until his death; highly imperfect, this man helped us see people differently and set out to change our relationships with all people regardless of our differences.  In many ways, Alcoholics Anonymous has helped me find who I am so that I can face life’s joys and sorrows with the same conviction.  I honor this new insight each day when I say “I am powerless over Alcohol and that my life has become unmanageable.”  The admission of my flaws and my willingness to accept God’s grace, is tantamount to what every great leader accepts as the price of greatness:  responsiblity. We cannot all have the courage of an MLK, willing to accept responsiblity for the injustice and work to change it, but we can all take responsibility for our wrongs and work to correct them.  When having done this, I  truly experience a “new freedom and a new happiness.”  The n to do this work seems closely linked to waking up and seeing every day as a birthday, a chance to live anew in faith and hope.  Happy Birthday!

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Death and Discovery

Many people say to me things like, “so are you all better now?”  Of course I can only say, “today I am great or today I am doing okay.”  When we enter Recovery we learn to live “one day at a time” and we learn that the “same man and woman will drink again.”  Many of us go, “great I thought all I had to do was stop drinking!”  Far from it; Recovery is a life long process of discovery.  It is so important that we work the Steps so that this discovery can take its course.  In the discovery process I have learned who I was and I have learned who I am becoming.  I knew fairly quickly that drinking was just a “symptom” of the larger problem of how I had come to view the world. I recently read these words by Mark Nepo:

“What this means is that I have to be conscientious about being truthful and resist the urge to accomodate my truth away.  It means that being who I really ami is not forbidden or muted just because others are uncomfortable, or don’t want to hear it.”IMG_9029

He really is right.  When you accomdate everyone else in an effort to people please and hide or run away from the truth, a part of you is slowly dying. It is clear to me today that I was giving everyone but me what they needed.  Ironically, alcohol was the only way I could continue to do it in the end.  Then when I gave up drinking I had no idea who I was.  I was like dried flowers holding their shape on the outside but dead on the inside.  Then it all began to change.

Ways of Seeing

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The alcoholic mind is anything but clear when we we first get sober.  In the 1950’s if you had a drinking problem it was quite ikely that we would end up in a rubber room in a hopsital’s psychiatric ward.  Part of the great legacy of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous is that it did so much to change the widely held beliefs about those of us who suffered.  Today’s view of Alcohilism as a disease is due in no small part to the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous and the many people, including doctors, who went out on a limb for us.  In many ways there is a parallel to the awakening we Alcoholics have as we sober and adopt our “design for living.”  Over time we experience radical changes in our beliefs and attitudes – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly as we hear over and over again in meetings.  Each time someone new tries to get sober, a memeber of alocholics anonymous goes out on a limb ljust ike our founders to bring a solution to those who still suffer.  Each time we do this we carry the message by re-creating a scenario of possibility and promise just like those offered by our founders.  This is how we pass it on to keep it and perhaps it is why Margaret Mead said that AA was the greatest human invention of the 20th century.  Now I want to be clear, this clarity of vision and this new way of seeing is contingent on our spiritual condition.  If I have gone without meetings, gone without contact with another alcoholic for a long period of time, and do not work the steps I become a jumble of thoughts and discontent. In fact, I lose my way of seeing and I visit the dark recess of the past with regret and fear.  Take it a step further, I resort to old ways of behaving and thinking that first became habitual when Alcohol was my solution to everything.  Today, I try to work a program that changes my attitudes and outlooks on life so that I may see the treasures in the mundane and everyday.  

Promises, Promises

“It is by going down into the abyss that we discover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.”

Joseph Campbell’s words are true for anyone.  However, for the alcoholic I think he offers even more insights.  When we come into Recovery we hear for the first time that others have thought and felt like we did; this shared camaraderie allows us – the great “we” – to admit we are in the abyss and together we begin the slow climb out.  These “treasures of life” we call the promises.  Not only are these little gems hidden ( We can look the world in the eye is a promise made in the 5th step) throughout the first 169 pages of the Big Book which is our basic text for Recovery, there are specific, more well known 9th step promises on page 83:

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development,
1. We will be amazed before we are half way through.
2. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
3. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.
4. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.
5. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.
6. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.
7. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.
8. Self-seeking will slip away.
9. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.
10. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.
11. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.
12. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves (spiritual awakening).

When you face the abyss and see it for what it really is, you can begin to look the world in the eye. I have slowly found that the light at the peak of the mountain is made more manifest by the darkness at the bottom; the person I am today is a tapestry of dark and light.  I try not to judge either and find that the treasures of the abyss are aluded until I accept help from my fellow travelers and consult with a power greater than myself. We call these promises, but for me they are guarantees, when I work for them.

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Light and Shadows

“I will not dwell on the past or the future, only on the present. I will bury every fear of the future, all thoughts of unkindness and bitterness, all my dislikes, my resentments, my sense of failure, my disappointments in others and in myself, my gloom and my despondency. I will leave all these things buried and go forward, in this new year, into a new life.”

It really is this simple if the pledge I make is based on rigorous honesty.  These words are from a meditation book I have read now for 22 years (January 1 – Twenty-Four Hour A Day Book) and these words still resonate – while “we do not regret the past” we cannot be governed by it either.  We must do the work so that it, the awful its – resentment, fear, anxiety, and self-loathing do not become the life we live.  To identify the patterns behind these states and do nothing with what we find is to re-create and perpetuate the self-made prison of alcoholism.  We must uncover the its, the shadows of our old lives, so that they are merely frames on an new way of living.  Because I am a recovering alcoholic, I have found a way out and for that I am grateful.  I have been despondent drunk and sober.  But despondency is a choice.  All around me are people who know me and know how I feel and when I look at them and try to help them my own light shines too; they are a mirror.  It is because I am broken, and took action, that I have been repaired.  It was in my brokeness that I found the “sunlight of the spirit”  – in the rooms, in the fellowship, in the steps, and a higher power.

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