Oh my, it’s been a minute! 2020 has been both good and bad to me. How about you? On the good side, my entire family has been able to remain COVID free. On the bad side, I have been unemployed for over a year at this point. I am working for a big box retailer doing online order fulfillment making like 20% of what I did make. Ouch! I don’t really have enough to spread around, but I am trying. Another plus that is also a minus is my holiday 6 days a week and can you always stay much later than scheduled schedule. I like what I am doing in that the hours fly by because I am so busy, but my body is taking a beating. Being on my feet and walking and stooping and lifting and all for 8+ hours a day is absolutely brutal. I had just started a workout and eating program to try and loose the weight I have gained too! I can only try to eat right at this point because my body can’t do much beyond stretching and resting. And so this extra weight isn’t going anywhere just like my debt. I’m trying not to let my circumstances get to me, but it is difficult. I am beyond scared for myself and my future and my ability to take care of future me, which is non-existent right now. I have always joked about not having a funeral and just plunging off a cliff into the sea to become fish food… Perhaps I should not have joked about this… it might be my future. In the same way I should have never joked about my tanning bed being my bright, sunny coffin - that’s how melanoma came into my life.
Anywho, I don’t want to be too down because there are some good things coming out of what I am going through. And I am learning how to make the most of what is right now. Like something simple I could have done months ago was flip my schedule. I have always been a yoga in the morning and a workout at night kinda girl. But I have flipped my schedule and am trying to do pilates or simple weight training in the morning and stretching out my body at night with recovery yoga. IDK. Sometimes intellectuals have the biggest problems with the most simplest things.
I have also finally relented and am taking something to help with my EXTREME temper. One day I came home from this job I have ready to kill everyone. I was crying every morning and crying at work and crying when I drove home. The stress was palpable. I’ve been told many times in my life that I care too much in the wrong way. I’ve never really been able to understand, but one night driving home it clicked. I know that many people in recovery take prescription or herbal medications to help take the edge off or help with that part of them that cannot deal with reality. Anyone who has read my blog all the way back knows that I have major PTSD type symptoms from a prescription drug that gave me a psychotic break and so I don’t like prescription drugs or medicine in general. I just kept thinking that at some point I would get enough healing or growth and be “okay” like other people. Eight years into sobriety I was pushed past my edge and relented. I obviously don’t have insurance right now (another issue because I have something I need to see a doctor for and I can’t so prayers - PLEASE) and so I went to Sprouts and looked in the emotional well being isle and just prayed that I would pick the right one. I ended up with a Stress Response bottle from Gaia Herbs and it has changed my life. I have no idea how it works or what it is doing other than the fact that I am me - only better. Stuff doesn’t bother me anymore. Heck, I can even go to the grocery store and run ten errands after work if I need to and I am not bothered by it at all. (I have previously mentioned my sincere hatred for grocery stores and pharmacies). I am me, but calm. Apparently I have an over-reactive stress response to basically anything that is required of me. IDK. Perhaps that’s why I’m an addict. I don’t know. But I am hopeful that this herbal supplement will continue to work for me because it is doing what I cannot do for myself. It also lets me know that it wasn’t me and no amount of will power would have ever changed me - it’s a chemical and/or biological response that I cannot control on my own. If it weren’t for this whole crazy 2020 situation I am in - I don’t know that I would have figured this out. And that is priceless!
I am also working on being really grateful right now in all things. One night at work, I helped a disabled man out of the store. I found out he also works in retail for a different big box retailer. He actually does some of the same things I do just a at a much slower pace. He is so grateful to this retailer (Kohls) for giving him this job and allowing him to do it in his best way. It made me think that I should be grateful for my job too. After all, as much trouble as I am having physically and financially he is doing a similar job with a physical handicap that probably makes it even harder on him and he is grateful and I am not. God really slapped me in the face with that one. God gets you like that sometimes.
A rabbi recently spoke on Jacob and how he always tried to put conditions on his good deeds. Like if he was trying to barter with God to get what he wanted by saying if You do blank ,then I will do blank for the rest of my life or the rest of this year, etc. The rabbi mentioned how disgraceful this was and how Jacob should not really be a hero at all other than the fact that we slowly see him change and grow through all of his mistakes and wrong choices. You can’t please God my bartering with him and you can’t please God doing good deeds because you are trying to get a certain outcome. The only way to please God is to do what is right because it is the right thing to do. End of story. No questions.
And so I am trying to be grateful in all things and I am trying to do what is right in my encounters with my fellow humans for the sake of doing what is right and nothing more. Especially, now that I am not a raging lunatic ;-) Besides, doing good deeds to try and get a certain outcome only makes you bitter and resentful. It’s a trap I have found myself in too many times. And so I guess that is another vicious cycle I am being freed from in crazy 2020. My hope is that I can keep these lessons with me as I continue to adjust to my circumstances whatever they may be in the future.
How about you? How as 2020 kicked you butt? How has it blessed you beyond measure?
And if the house just keeps on winning
I got a wildcard up my sleeve
And if love keeps giving me lemons
I'll just mix 'em in my drink (tea for me)
And if the whole wide world stops singing
And all the stars go dark
I turn the light on in my soul
And keep a bluebird in my heart
— Bluebird by Miranda Lambert
This song is my anthem these days. After a string of layoffs I find myself living with my mom at the tender age of 40. I am working, thankfully, so that I can pay my car note and credit cards but this job has also taken away my favorite past time - hiking. I am on my feet all day, walking all day, lifting the majority of the day so I am just spent whenever I do get a day at home. And oh, how I love my days off. I get to sleep in a little bit, make my favorite breakfast and chill with a cup of tea by the back bay window. I spend some time in thought and that’s where you catch me today. Aside from turning 40 this year, I am also turning 8 in sober years. August 26, 2012, Los Angeles, CA - that day changed my life forever.
I never understood how some people claim to not need meetings. Robert Downey Jr for instance says all you need is a decision. You just have to decide not to…. Other people feel that repeating the words “I am an alcoholic or an addict”, brings negative energy to you, making it belong to you, making it personal when it’s really just an allergy. People with a gluten allergy don’t eat gluten so people with mind altering allergies don’t do mind altering substances. Period and Donzo. I think I am somewhere in-between.
During COVID I read Eckhart Tolle’s famous book, The Power of Now and subsequently participated in his Conscious Manifestation class. I gained a lot of insight into how my mind is mostly out for itself unless I direct it towards a specific goal for a specific amount of time. I also learned that I am not my mind, I like everyone else, just happen to have one at my disposal.
Miranda Lambert’s Bluebird has become my anthem lately. I am in a letting go of a lot of wants and desires. What good has wanting them ever done anyhow? It just keeps me in a state of stress and unhappiness. As Eckhart says I am doing my best to not judge the now, but instead to live with the actuality of it. The actuality is always light, simple and black and white. Judgement is always heavy and grey. For example, my right now could be deemed unlivable by some who think being 40, broke, not married and forced to live at home in a dead end retail job is the absolute worst that could happen to them. My reality is I have a means to pay bills and keep my car, I have a roof over my head and a comfy bed to sleep in at night and I get to spend some time with family while we are in the same city. Two tales, same scenario, one full of judgement and one full of actuality.
Today I had an ego moment. I thought the actor who introduced me to Eckhart Tolle liked one of my tweets. I spent the morning with a bit of an ego boost you might say. Later in the day, much more awake, I looked at it again and discovered it was a mirror account and not the actor’s account. Oh hell… I thought to myself and then I thought why did it even matter to me? It never should have. Why should some celebrity have any bearing on my inner state of happiness? He shouldn’t. Nor should anyone for that matter. A social media like shouldn’t mean so much. It can be icing, but it should never be cake.
And this is how I want to live my life going forward. Less concerned about the likes and more concerned with growing my own inner peace and happiness from within. Less concerned with how my life looks to others and more concerned with how my life is currently serving me. I’d rather keep an eye out for how God and the Universe have my back in every moment and circumstance rather than anything else. And I’d like to share what works for me along the way… I guess that’s where meetings do come in for me. I want to share what can happen when you let go and let God do what only He can do in you. It’s also nice to hear what He does in others too!
If you are out there struggling just remember that everything is temporary including the feelings and cravings that have you at your knees. Also remember that you are so much more than any mental or emotional addiction and if it helps treat it like you would treat any other allergy and just don’t partake. Do that in every moment of every day and you’ll string together a sober life.
These are the questions I get asked the most by drinkers and non-drinkers so I thought I'd pen down some answers and share with you!
Q1. Do you ever miss alcohol?
A1. Simple answer is yes and no. Why? Well, because there are times that I miss being able to grab a drink and “relax”. However, I don’t necessarily want what alcohol really did to me. Alcohol promises to relax you and that’s how it gets most people. They think they are just relaxing, but what is really happening is a slow Alcohol take over of your mind and your emotions. The saying you are not always you when you drink is correct. I was a couple of years sober before I realized just how much alcohol had changed me without my ever knowing it. From opinions I held to what I thought I liked in terms of music and movies to what I even liked doing all changed once I had some sobriety under my belt. What’s interesting is that the person I was before alcohol began to re-emerge. I hadn’t evolved into someone else. I hadn’t grown up either. I had been drowned out by a liquid substance. Who and what I thought was me wasn’t me at all. It seemed like alcohol’s mission was to keep me stuck no matter how much it looked like I was moving forward on the outside. I now feel like it wanted to keep me unconscious of my true essence so that no matter what I did I could never really move forward. I don’t miss that and I don’t ever want that again. I guess you could say that I miss the habitual bad habit or coping mechanism because it was easier than facing my truth and my anxiety - but if you don’t face your truth and you don’t face your anxiety how do you ever rise about them? You don’t. And that is what Alcohol or any other drug desperately wants for you.
Q2. How do you cope with your anxiety in a sober state?
A2. Easy - I deal with it! I know not the answer you wanted to hear, but it is true. I have learned that just because something scares me or produces great anxiety, it does not mean that I should not do it. I have enough body awareness to tell the difference between a warning and just general anxiety and fear and for me it centers around a specific body part. If you’ve read my blog then you would know that I have crippling social anxiety and classify myself as an extroverted introvert. In sobriety I have learned to just push through my anxiety when it pops up in my life. Most of the time I do just that.. and there are some times where my fear gets the best of me and I don’t do something or go somewhere, but for the most part I enjoy my life while pushing through the discomfort. One thing I can say is that once you push through a few times, it becomes easier and easier to work through the anxiety. For me, it was like I was teaching myself that everything always works out and I always survive and do just fine - it just feels uncomfortable for a bit. I liken it to giving a speech. Most people get some level of anxiety before giving a speech, but they still give the speech. Most people do just fine and I don’t think anyone has ever died from it. And you know what? If you forced yourself to give a speech every week you would eventually be moving through the anxiety like the nothingness that it actually is. You would know that it is just nerves, that your mind is “worried” for you and that you don’t have to follow suit. You would know that once you step on stage you will be fine and so the perpetual nerves that show up would just become a dance you do with yourself on the day of the speech. It is the same for any other occurrence in life. I often get anxiety when in social settings, especially around people I don’t know or people my mind perceives as not liking me, but I don’t let it stop me from trying to have a good time. If I am somewhere new alone, I try to start conversations in hopes I can find someone I click with pretty quickly or at least someone with good energy and good conversation. Once I find my person or three I am usually fine for the night. If I don’t find my person, I hang in there especially if an activity is involved because activities usually par down the anxiety once my focus is on something outside of myself. Besides, I’ve done way more in sobriety than I ever did in addiction anxiety and all.
Q3. Do you regret your past?
A3. That’s a tricky question. On the one hand I do because I feel as though alcohol took so much from me, but on the other hand, sobriety gave me so much more. I don’t know that I have a definitive answer. I started drinking very young. As a result, I never really learned who I was or what I liked. I never planned for a future, never tried to find a career and never tried to find a man. I had only one plan - Alcohol - how to get it for every moment of every day and not get caught. So, I do regret that I never really tried to figure out a plan for my life, but who is to say I would be anywhere different right now? One of my favorite movies is a movie called Sliding Doors. The movie parallels two paths of the main character’s life. One in which she makes a train and one in which she does not. This small incident becomes the difference between important things being revealed, differing job opportunities, and even meeting someone new…. Until the end that is when the lives merge into one and you find that the great and fabulous life didn’t end up all that great because the timing was off and the one that sucked for a while became really awesome because the timing was right.
Q4. What did you gain from sobriety?
A4. Everything. When drinking was the focal point of my life, everything I did revolved around being able to be loaded or on the way to being loaded. As you can imagine, I went to a lot of bars and night clubs, I hung out on patios and attended parties where all I ever did was drink. Outside of dancing while getting drunk - I didn’t really do anything except sit somewhere and drink. In sobriety I do so much more. Who knew I loved hiking and rock climbing and kayaking and camping and backpacking and white water rafting and golfing and painting and doing crafts and going to museums and taking pictures and traveling and exploring new cities and learning about different cultures and reading and writing and learning and trying new things, going new places… I mean my world completely opened up once I put the bottle down. I also gained peace, reconciliation with my higher power, much needed healing from some really bad things that happened and a true sense of who I am. I know I like being more than doing and I am now embarking on a journey to try to learn to enjoy being while doing. Sobriety also gave me true friendships. It’s a funny thing that drinkers who stop drinking often find that they don’t have any friends because drinking buddies tend to only want other drinking buddies. It is a harsh reality for a lot of people who put down the bottle. The people I have met in sobriety are true friends who appreciate me for who I really am and that is pretty priceless.
Q5. Do you think all drinking is bad?
A5. For me - yes. For you? Well, I don’t know you. I will tell you this - I do have boundaries around other people’s drinking in my life. I can’t be around people who drink to get drunk or where drinking is the only activity. Those people won’t last long in my life. I do have friends that drink, but none of them are hard core drinkers. For me, it really becomes an issue when I can see a difference in your thinking, speaking or behavior - to me that signals that you are becoming another version of yourself, - a made up version that you probably think is still you - but it is not - it is alcohol. Once you reach that point - I am typically out. Sorry, but I’m only interested in the real real, ya know? It also depends on how I am feeling. Sometimes that “drinking energy” gets very claustrophobic for me, other times not so much. So no, not all drinking is bad, but I do think it can be a slippery slope since Alcohol aims to take over your operating system one sip at a time.
Oh the quarantine life…. Do you find yourself loving it or hating it? Are you enjoying your alone time or are you anxiously awaiting the inevitable release parties? Or are you in the trenches and working harder than ever?
I, for one, have to say that I am absolutely loving life in quarantine. I mean I could do without the grocery stores always being ransacked and the having to gear up to go anywhere bit, but other than that I am really happy in quarantine! I particularly love being on my own time table. Even though I am definitely the lazy wandering bull, I do tend to keep myself on a schedule - the difference being that in quarantine it is my schedule and not anyone else’s. I am finding that this might be the real reason behind a lot of my stress and no - I don’t know what to do about it yet. I just know I love not being on anyone else’s schedule. I mean I definitely lived the hamster wheel life. Every morning was a delicate balance of trying to make time for my musts and still getting out the door on time. At work it was more of the same. After work I always made the mad dash to the gym, then home to shower and by the time I was ready to eat I was beyond starving and just threw whatever was available into my mouth. At the end of the day I would fall onto the couch for some night time tea and a few minutes of mindless entertainment via the television then I was off to the mattress for a few hours of shut eye only to repeat the hellish cycle the next day.
My life in quarantine is so much better. I wake up around 8 AM, wash my face, do my sinus wash, get 20 - 30 minutes of yoga time, have my morning meditation and prayer, make a nice breakfast on the stove, have my morning tea while reading (currently doing a New Testament Study and The Power of Now) then I slowly move into whatever I have placed on the agenda for the day. Right now the rest of my day involves adult color books, painting, writing, job hunting, spring cleaning, hiking, dancing and anything else I feel like doing. Of course, I am aware that this cannot continue since I am not a trust fund baby. I don’t see not working in my future unless I somehow fall in love with someone who falls in love with me who happens to make enough money for me to not work and let me tell you I just don’t see that in my cards. So I am going to have to figure out how to keep some of what I have whenever I return to the hamster wheel of life.
Needless to say, I haven’t even thought about drinking. I’m too happy enjoying life. And in a way this is kind of funny since my cravings don’t usually come when I am in a pinch - my cravings always come when there is no pinch. I guess you could call me a survivalist at heart because when I need to I can always bear down, stay alert and survive whatever I need to… It’s when the pressure is off that I have an issue. All of a sudden my mind decides it deserves a cocktail or a moment of stillness or “the edge” taken off… and the craving commences. I haven’t had to deal with any of that lately, of course, I have also been learning some other tricks to quiet my stupid mind as of late. Maybe that’s why too. Maybe I know there are other ways that don’t cost money or involve going anywhere. I can sit in stillness and ask my mind, I wonder what my next thought is going to be and watch it crumble. The mind doesn't like being watched - who knew!
So I am keeping a balance in terms of doing things I want to do and doing things I need to do and allowing myself time to breathe and enjoy life and I’ve never been happier. I guess my next step is to figure out how to take some of this back to the hamster wheel of life that is inevitably coming back with a vengeance once the lockdowns start lifting.
What about you? Have you learned anything about how your former life was affecting you before quarantine? How it might have been affecting your sobriety? Do you have any plans or desires to take some of your quarantine life with you into your future?
How do you stay sober when you don’t feel like it? I’m in one of those moods right now. Perhaps you are too! The motivation of January has come and gone or maybe the hopes you have for a different life are starting to give way to the reality in front of you. Or maybe you just aren’t feeling it. I am in a combination of all three at the moment. I am in yet another career transition that was not entirely my choosing. I was all for the transition, just not the timing. The thing is I have been through this multiple times with the last two years being the last two times. I feel like I have my optimal career choice narrowed down to a few fields and cannot seem to make any of those doors open. Actually, it seems that I cannot make any doors open right now - well, except for the ones I want to stay closed. I had a lot of hope riding on a new job and a new city, but that doesn’t seem to be panning out. The fact that I have been through this multiple times makes me wonder if the universe is trying to send me a message - a message that I am clearly not understanding. I don’t want to keep fighting if I am going to be continually knocked to the ground and continue to loose whatever gains I previously made. I am loosing the will to fight. So what then? How do you stay sober when you don’t feel like trying?
Meetings. I am making my meetings a priority. I am going. I am sharing. I am connecting. I am offering advice to newbies or just being in the room for the newbies. I am doing my part in the community of recovery.
Gratitude. I am doing my daily gratitude lists whether on paper or in my mind. I am reminding myself of the things I am thankful for and reminding myself that it can always be worse. I am also utilizing a daily check list from DailySoulCare.com. It is kind of similar to a daily inventory only it focuses on the things you need to do for your soul each day like doing one thing you enjoy and writing down your victories, no matter how small.
God/Higher Power. I am making a point to really let God know how I feel right now. My concerns, my disappointments, and my yearnings. And I am asking for guidance and clarity on thought and movement. And I am making space for answers via quiet time and meditation and church attendance.
I guess the way you stay sober is very similar to the way you got sober. You just do it. You work the program and while doing so you let the program work for you. I know enough to know that I can’t always trust my emotions or trust what I see in front of me. What I can trust is the 12 steps of AA and the pathway it lays out to right living. What I can trust is my Higher Power to hear me, understand me and provide for me even when I don’t necessarily understand its movement’s in my life. And I can trust and know this one thing for sure: If I drink - I lose. If I drink, I loose the option of anything ever getting better and that is what keeps me sober when I just don’t feel like it.
Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Principle 8 (CR): Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and by my words.
One of the greatest gifts I have received as a result of being a part of the AA community is this new way of living that is found in the steps. I am no longer held captive by my fleeting feelings, desires or the actions of others. I now have a recipe for right living and by right living I mean conducting life in a way that leads to more peace and limits things like stress, anxiety and unnecessary drama.
Once you finish the steps, you realize that the steps become a part of you. Many of us in the rooms will continue to work through the steps at different points in our lives. A quick 4th -9th steps here, a quick 2nd and 3rd step here and maybe an 11th and 12 step from time to time. Instead of being this giant encumbering process, the steps become second nature and can be done in a matter of minutes more often than not. Living and breathing the steps is the new way of life I have come to know and I am grateful for having the 12 steps and the AA community for whatever life throws at me.
Okay, enough with the gratitude… what does it mean to practice these principles in all our affairs? In simplest terms it means keeping our side of the street clean or to put it another way keeping your karma clean. Aiming to do right in every situation and praying for guidance to know the right action. Being kind, being willing to hear another person out and being willing to help out when needed. In short, instead of doing the steps, you start living the steps. Please note that this does not mean that you allow people to walk all over you! Sobriety comes first. If someone or something causes you to stumble, you can choose to not partake - you don’t have to make yourself available to everyone and everything. What it does mean is that as you are able - you make yourself available to help others along this path. Whether it is welcoming people to a meeting, answering the phone or returning a 12 step call or offering to take someone out for coffee and a chat after a meeting… Living the steps is nothing more than making ourselves available to be of service should another human being need it and actively pursuing quality friendships and relationships with those we encounter along our path. Notice I said quality relationships - not unhealthy, unstable or one-sided. While it is important to be kind and friendly to everyone - we don’t have to subject ourselves to dangerous situations, mental and emotional abuse or to people who seem to drag us down.
Another way to look at living the steps is to see the steps as everyday components of our lives. We wake up each day acknowledging that we need help, ask for guidance from our Higher Power and thank Him in advance for loving us and guiding us along our path. We ask our Higher Power to reveal any shortcomings and ask Him to help us do better today than we did yesterday. (Some of us will write these down in a Daily Inventory journal). If and when we wrong someone, we will ask our Higher Power for forgiveness and seek the best way to make amends with that person. We will continue to go to meetings and share our experiences (victories and failures) so that others can grow strong in their journey. We will continue to pray daily and continue to take personal inventory of our interactions with others and with ourselves. When resentment, anger, loneliness, grief, sadness, or any other unhappy feeling comes over us - we will reach out to others in the program and enact our own plan for getting through these times (often starting with a 4th step like analysis). We will continue this life of prayer, acting in service to others and doing our best to see the good in others (or at least where they are coming from and why) as we go through life on life’s terms. This is living the steps. This is love in action. This is a new way to do life… And I can tell you with seven years of experience within this community - IT WORKS!
Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Principle 7 (CR): Reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will.
Ohhh this can be such a hard one for us self-centered alcoholics and addicts. To not pray for what we want, but to only pray for what God wants! That takes trust. That takes will-power. That takes persistence. That takes Self-Awareness. That takes us out of our own muck where problems lie and into focused action where solutions and new life are found. This step is hard, but it is a necessary one if we are going to be able to fulfill the mission found in step 12. It is also necessary if we are going to live a joyous and free sober life!
And the thing is - we’ve all done it! In moments of dire need we have called out saying something like “Help me know what to say”, or “Whatever happens, help it be what’s supposed to happen”, or “whatever the outcome - just lead me through this cuz I just can’t”, or some that I’ve been saying a lot lately, “please don’t let me make a mistake!”, and “I have my preferences, but if its not mine - don’t bring it back to me” …. And the list goes on, right?
Hopefully, you saw yourself in those calls for help because reminding ourselves of when we’ve called out for help and how our God has answered us gives us the confidence to start turning our will over to the care of our Higher Power all the more. We came into the rooms because we lost ourselves somewhere along the way and as a consequence developed character defects that we need to try to correct. The answer is the continual turning over of our lives to our Higher Power as we understand Him. The more we pray for God’s will, the more we pray to accept that will and carry it out - the less our character defects become and the more free we become and the more happy we become and the more willing we become for the mission in Step 12.
I call it a mission, but it is more of a way of life… But you can’t live that way of life on your own - you need your Higher Power directing your steps and you need your recovery community walking with you. Are you ready to truly start stepping away from your own muck? Are you ready to start seeing people and situations differently? Are you ready to replace anxiety with peace? It starts with being willing to pray for God’s will for you and the power to carry it out.
One of the biggest problems people have with step work is the thought of taking the blame for all of their misdeeds. No one likes to admit that they were wrong and when it comes to those with addiction that desire is quadrupled. There is also the fact that for many of us, our addiction came on the heels of outside circumstances or events that we had no control over. Whether it was mental, emotional, physical or sexual abuse or unhealthy family dynamics or a predisposition to extra anxiety, melancholy thoughts or an inability to appreciate ourselves…. For most of us something preceded our addiction.
So let me be clear: When we do the steps - we are not taking the blame for our actions. What we are doing is taking responsibility for them. We didn’t choose the circumstances around our addictions and we did not choose the actions of our addictions. What we chose was unhealthy coping mechanisms. We thought these choices would help us - alleviate some of our racing thoughts, our anxiety, our feeling of not belonging…. The list just keeps going. We made a choice we thought would help us, but instead it hurt us more than we could have ever imagined. It took us down roads we thought we’d never travel and turned us into people we thought we would never become.
Taking responsibility means that we understand that we did the best we could given the knowledge and life experience that we had at the time. Taking responsibility means knowing that we are not bad… Our choices were, but we are not. So when we do the steps we are not taking the blame for anything - we are merely taking responsibility for the unintended consequences of our attempts to help ourselves.
The good news is we now know better. We are saying goodbye to our old selves, our old habits and for many of us - some of our old friendships. We are closing the door on the actions that got us here and starting down a new spiritual path with a complete road map (the 12 steps) of how to do life on earth with the most peace and the least drama. As we trudge down this path we will find that the promises of AA do come true… for some of us quicker… for some of us slower… but the promises do come true… All you have to do is keep coming back - to meetings, the Big Book, to your sponsor and/or accountability partners - whatever your program looks like… stick with it. If it’s not working - change it - try new meetings or adding meetings or adding service work or making a commitment to get to know one person every month or every week. Make the program work for you because those promises… they do come true.
" It takes a high degree of emotional awareness to see responsibility and self-blame as opposing states because both states recognize the self in a position of causation. For this reason, self-blame can disguise itself as responsibility like a wolf wearing sheep's clothing. But one is self-hating, the other self-loving. One condemns the self and the other saves the self. If you are taking responsibility, you are feeling empowered. If you are self blaming, you are feeling bad about yourself and disempowered.
Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Principle 7 (CR): Reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will.
I have to admit I don’t do this like I should. The daily inventory is a great tool to help you see your own patterns whether they be good and healthy patterns or sabotaging patterns bringing chaos to ourselves and to those around us. If you need help with the daily inventory, there are many options available. I happen to have a couple of daily inventory workbooks that have questions to jog my memory and help me to focus on what really mattered and what did not. You can find these on sites like Barnes & Noble and Amazon. I like these workbooks because they help me stay focused and help to pinpoint possible issues when I go back through my entries.
The main purpose of the daily inventory or the periodic inventory is growth. As we learn our patterns, we are able to get ourselves out of those patterns and eventually stop the patterns before they start to weave a trail of destruction in our lives. The daily and periodic inventories are also a great way to help us keep our side of the street clean (and make sure we aren’t on other people’s streets too). The bulk of the steps is learning to be a good person who stays out of unnecessary drama thereby limiting our addiction’s ability to rear its ugly head and try to take control. The steps as a whole are the necessary instructions for life on earth and the lessons they impart make life much easier and allow for joy to invade our lives.
I, like many of you, tend to take the daily or periodic inventories when I am unhappy, pissed off, frustrated or stressed out. And while this is good to do… I have to wonder if I would get to these points if I were doing the inventories on the regular like it is suggested in the literature. I mean if the inventories are good at helping me pinpoint what it is that I need to let go of or change to get me out of my funks - could they not also prevent said funks if I did them like I am supposed to??? What are your thoughts? Do you do the inventories like you are supposed to?
Challenge: Since the ever hectic and sometimes highly emotional holidays are upon us… I am going to challenge myself to do the daily inventory from November through February. I want to see if things at this time of year bother as much as they usually do or if I seem to be more level headed mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Want to join me? Be sure and let me know if you do and feel free to share any insights! You can leave comments here, email me or DM me on social media. :-)
PS: the daily inventory is also good for non-substance abuse readers who deal with depression, anxiety or fear to name a few… we all have patterns and choices that move us towards or away from recovery and happiness and the inventory can help!
Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Ahhh, the actual making of the amends. The giant elephant that has been looming in front of anyone trying to trudge their way through the twelve steps. It really doesn’t live up to the hype. As with most things, all of the fear and anxiety usually goes unfounded.
Before you ever make an amends you should work with your sponsor on who exactly gets which type of amends. As has been noted before, there are some amends that would cause further damage if made outright and there are other amends that cannot be made directly due to death or the inability to track the person down. Your sponsor is key in this decision making process and he or she can discuss the amends options available (letters, burning missive, life amends, etc.). Your sponsor is also key in helping you decide what to say, write or do during the amends. Another way your sponsor can assist you is by preparing you for the responses you might get from your direct amends.
When it comes to direct amends, there are really only a few options on the table: Appreciation, Disgust and Anger, or Bewilderment. It is important to remind yourself that the amends is really for your own well-being and that how they respond is on their side of the street. Of course, it is also good to remember that we might not fully understand how we have hurt people in our lives and therefore might not understand how they can be so sad or mad or indifferent to us now that we are trying to get the help we need. And since many alcoholics/addicts run with other alcoholics/addicts - some of the people we owe amends to might not think we need to quit! (or we did such a great job at hiding our addiction they really don’t understand why we suddenly have one!) Our job is only to make the amends. It is NOT our job to try to convince people that we have changed, that they should accept us back into their lives, that we are finally done with our addiction or that we have an addiction to begin with. The amends itself, is all we are responsible for so be careful about getting into any kind of argument or debate while making an amends.
After the amends are made we need to guard our hearts and minds and understand that just because we are ready to move on - other people might not be so ready. I had a friend who had gotten sober, made her amends, completed the steps and reached 3 years of sobriety, but the fact that her daughter still didn’t trust her or let her into her life really hurt her and ultimately became her demise. And no it is not fair that some people’s family seem ready to forgive and forget while others keep everything at a distance. To be honest, I know some people that have over ten years of sobriety that are still not invited to family and holiday events. And I know some people with less than one year of sobriety who have family and friends clamoring around them at every turn. Acceptance plays a major role in our ability to move forward in sobriety with or without some of the important people in our lives. If we cannot accept that some people may not ever be ready to welcome us back in - then we will not be able to maintain sobriety long term.
Instead of focusing on who isn’t responding the way we would like, we should focus on who we do have in our lives. The family and friends that are willing to try again, the new friends from rehab, the meeting rooms and the new people flooding into our lives as we venture out into the world as sober people. While I did have to let a lot of people go in the beginning, I can tell you that I have received so much more love and acceptance in sobriety than I ever received in my addiction.
If you have an amends story that you think might benefit someone who is going through the process for the first time or the tenth time…. Feel free to leave in the comments below.