12 steppers often suffer from the “less than” syndrome. Years and sometimes decades were spent walking around and comparing ourselves to others. For those of us who suffered from grandiosity, it was everyone else who came up short in our eyes. Far more common was our making comparisons with others and finding ourselves wanting. We would observe someone and say, “They’re so smart”, or “rich”, or “handsome”, or “beautiful”, or “talented”, or “lucky” or “so together”. I’m sure each of us could add to this list. Most of the time we were mixing apples and oranges. The assessment of ourselves was based on deep feelings from within us. The assessment of everyone else was based on the external persona presented by people we met. Although we didn’t know what was really going on in a person’s life, we presumed to know and draw conclusions about them.
One of the gifts of the program is that we really get to know people through attending meetings. People share openly and honestly about their lives. We begin to discover that people’s outsides often don’t reflect what is truly going on within. That “together” person is probably facing the same challenges we are.
Personal Reflection: How can I avoid the “less than” syndrome?
A newcomer was feeling very disheartened after a few weeks in the program. He was finding it very difficult to make meetings after a hard day at work. Because he had burned some of his economic bridges, he couldn’t afford a car. He was therefore reduced to dealing with trains and buses, which were often late or overcrowded. He called his sponsor to gripe about his current situation. He asked, “Just how long am I going to have to go to these meetings”? His sponsor told him “you only have to go to meetings, until you want to go to meetings”.
Somewhere along the line for those of us who stick with the program, a psychic change takes place. We shift from seeing meetings as an obligation to seeing them as a privilege. Part of that psychic change includes us looking forward to going to meetings. At meetings we see friends, get to share our feelings and often pick up some bit of knowledge that we can apply to our life. We invariably feel better when we walk out the door as compared to when we walked in.
Personal Reflection: Do you “want” to go to a meeting today?
At a meeting recently, the topic was “self-esteem”. The speaker at the meeting spoke about self-esteem being connected to esteem-able acts. When people think of esteem-able acts, they often have an image of significant or exceptional gestures. There are also countless smaller acts which are meritorious as well. In this case, the speaker had embarked on a program she described as “make way for everybody”. There are a thousand ways you can practice this program. When you are driving, and someone attempts to merge into your exit lane, you make room for them. As you wheel your shopping cart down the aisle in the supermarket, and stop to make your selection, you park your cart on the side so others can get through. Speaking of supermarkets; instead of rushing to the register to beat out that other person going in the same direction, you let them go first. On a deeper level, we can also “make way for everybody” by letting people complete their sentence or thought before we jump in with our opinion. By practicing this technique of making way, we can acknowledge all that we do for others and feel good about ourselves as a result.
Personal Reflection: Did you make way for others today?
Active in our addictions we did a lot of insane things. We often endangered the lives of ourselves and others through our actions. We might have thought that we were being free-spirited or creative by some of our actions. The reality was that we were individuals who were in a lot of pain. When we thought about giving up our drug of choice, we exclaimed, “How could I live life without my little helper? Life will be dull and unexciting”.
In sobriety, we realized that when we gave up the drugs and alcohol, we didn’t need to give up the things that defined us. Being sober didn’t mean being boring. We could still sit in the first seat of the roller coaster, dance in the middle of the street when our favorite song came on, take exotic vacations or join the Polar Bear Club. We could let our imaginations fly, without the use of external substances. We found that in sobriety there were many more opportunities to tap into our imagination because our minds had become clear and sharp once again. Our brand of sanity allowed us to engage life in ways we had never even dreamed possible.
Personal Reflection: How do I creatively play?
There is a story told where a Rabbi asked one of his congregants to lead the prayer service on the High Holy Days. When the congregant had finished, the Rabbi came up to him and said, “welcome back”. The congregant said to to him, ” but Rabbi, you just asked me to pray, and I didn’t go anywhere”. To which the Rabbi replied, “while you were praying you were thinking about problems at work, problems with your wife and kids and problems with your friends. You certainly weren’t focusing on the prayers, so when you finished I welcomed you back”.
Many of us in program can really relate to this story. We may be present physically, but our minds our often racing at a million miles a minute. Being perfectionists, we are constantly reviewing events that have taken place in both the recent and distant past. Part of our growth is to begin to let go of the past. While not denying our past choices, we realize that usually we are not able to reverse our decisions or their results. Spending time on the past uses up precious time that could far be better spent in the present.
Personal Reflection: How much of your yesterday seeps into your today?
Sometimes it is a struggle to get to a meeting. It’s raining or cold outside, we’re too tired or just not in the mood. Regardless, we push ourselves and get to the meeting. Usually we hear something or speak about something that resonates with us and we’re glad we came. Then there are times that although we’re glad we came to the meeting, nothing of note was said or heard that particularly moved us. Or so we thought. A few days, or a week or even a month passes and then we have an incredible insight. Perhaps the answer to a problem that we have been grappling with; or just the right words to conclude a letter to an old friend. Sometimes an unexpected shift takes place in our life after a long period of inactivity. When we examine all of these more closely, we often find that the germination for the solution or the life shift was seeded in that “relatively unproductive” meeting. If nothing else, the meeting primed us to recognize our new opportunity for growth. Now all we have to do is seize it.
Personal Reflection: What did I here at a meeting recently that I needed to hear?
Being a child of the 1960’s I had a particular view of living a spiritual life. Truly spiritual people were only eating healthy organic foods. It went without saying that they were vegetarian. Daily meditation was of course part of their regimen. A strict yoga practice along with tai chi provided added benefit. Many of them were adherents to Buddhism or esoteric systems.
There are people in the program who do fit the above description. It is also possible for the rest of us to practice a spiritual life. Having full schedules, we make a yoga class whenever we can. We attempt to eat as well as possible given our budget and time constraints. When we fall short of our idealized goal, we are kind and accepting with ourselves. Our definition of spirituality has broadened as well. It has come to include being honest in all of our dealings. Being of service to others is also a very high spiritual act. Making time for self care feeds and replenishes our soul. Perhaps most importantly we focus on maintaining a connection to our Higher Power. Without that, everything else is just window dressing.
Personal Reflection: How do I walk the spiritual path?