There was a time that we had many dreams. As we imbibed on our drug of choice, we waxed poetic on all of the things we were going to do, all of the places we were going visit, and all of the things were were going to acquire. Our hopes and dreams were never dashed, because we never even made the effort to take the first step towards their actualization. In a perverse sort of way, this behavior insured that our dreams would forever remain just that, dreams. Everything stayed in a state of potentiality.
In sobriety, we also have dreams. The difference is that we take actions to begin in their fulfillment. Sometimes we have the pleasure of having a dream come true. We save up for that special vacation or finally ask out that co-worker. It feels wonderful knowing that we made the effort to turn our dream into reality. Sometimes though, we take the steps to fulfill a dream, and it evaporates right before our eyes. Had that happened while we were drinking or drugging, we probably would have gone into a tailspin. Now, we know better. If a dream falls through, just create another one.
Personal Reflection: How do I cope with broken dreams?
Every decade scientists have made progress in finding cures and treatments for various diseases. A generation ago, the epidemics of polio were eliminated with the Salk vaccine. More recently, great strides have been made in the areas of cancer and cardiovascular research. With all that, one of the most prevalent diseases of the millennia has remained largely untreated. In fact, one could argue that there has been an epidemic of the disease. Almost everyone you meet is suffering it to some degree. We are of course referring to the condition of “negativity”. The symptoms are easy enough to identify. They include irritability, feelings of resentment, self belittlement and personal doubt. This disease is found in the workplace as well as in people’s homes, and especially on highways and other modes of public transportation. Unfortunately, the researchers have not come up with a vaccine to prevent this malady. What has been discovered is that individuals actually do have some tools to help alleviate some of the symptoms of negativity. One that has been shown to be remarkably effective is the expression of gratitude throughout of day. The latest research seems to indicate that when we not only have thoughts of gratitude, but actually verbally express it, their is an immediate relief of the symptoms of negativity. Sharing our feelings with others and and doing service also seem to have promise in treating the negativity disease.
Personal Reflection: What home remedies do I use for negativity?
While we were using we had all kinds of preconceptions about what the program was like. When we finally walked down those steps into a meeting, we were a bit startled. Many of us were expecting to see a group of old and bitter men who were bemoaning the fact that they couldn’t drink or drug. Instead, we encountered men and women of all ages. More to the point, there was often a lot of laughter and good feelings in the rooms. In particular we sensed that there was a strong bond and sense of camaraderie amount the members. We also noticed that unlike when we were active, people paid attention to their health. In the past many of us had been afraid to go to the doctor because we had great fear about what he would say. We feared being we would be to stop using or that we had already done serious physical damage to ourselves. What really gained our attention was that we were exposed to a group of people in recovery who could live a happy productive life without drugs and alcohol. As we listened to their voices we also came to understand what emotional sobriety meant as well.
Personal Reflection: What do I find attractive about the program?
Many philosophers say that we are born with a blank slate. By this they mean that our lives are not pre-determined. This gives us the opportunity to craft the life that we want. What a fantastic notion. We can live a life that allows us to fulfill a destiny unlike any other. There is also a down side to being born with that blank slate. Our lives do not come with an instruction manual. Those pages were left out of the birth and growth process. Without that manual, some of us turned to alcohol, drugs or food to solve the daily challenges of life. When we final gave up on that solution, we turned to the fellowship. Luckily for us, we now do have an instruction manual. It is called “The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous”. Within its pages are guidelines for living a sober, productive and happy life. As many of us have discovered, reading the book is not enough. It’s critical that we put into practice all of it’s instructions and principles. When we find that our life is not working for us, we need to go back to that manual for direction. A good starting point is to find a step or a slogan that we can utilize to deal with our current problem.
Personal Reflection: what step or slogan do I turn to most often?
It’s pretty easy to spot the newcomer. They are often the ones who are sitting in the back of the room trying to melt into the furniture. The ones who when the person leading the meeting looks around to call on someone will immediately avert their eyes. The ones who run out as soon as the meeting is over. Perhaps they will talk to their sponsor about their discomfort at being at meetings. “What shall I talk about? I have nothing to speak about”, they will say. The reality is that each of us really has a lot to say. While we were active, we had so tamped down our feelings with our drug of choice that we hadn’t the foggiest idea of what we felt. As we began to accept life on life’s terms, we discovered that we had a lot of fear, resentment, anger, jealousy, et al arising every day. As an addict, it was critically important for us to be able to unload those feelings either with our sponsor or at a meeting. When we kept those negative thoughts bottled up they continued to build up in us. Unfortunately, when we did so, the chances of us pursuing our drug of choice to soothe ourselves greatly increased. Sharing at meetings was a much healthier, more intelligent and far safer alternative.
Personal Reflection: What do I need to share today?
Impulsivity has been a common defect of character for many of us. Sometimes it involved a trivial decision like subscribing to a newspaper or a magazine that we really didn’t want. At other times our impulsive nature resulted in us making important life decisions that weren’t in our best interests. Some of us ended up in places that were unsafe, or engaging in dangerous behavior or even marrying a person that we had just met and hardly knew. We then learned that although decisions could be made quickly and impulsively, reversing them wasn’t always easy. When we finally entered the program, our tendency to make impulsive decisions did not just melt away. We really needed to begin a program of retraining. Although we intellectually now understood the dangers of making snap decisions, new neural pathways needed to replace those impulsive ones. We learned that if we took a breath and paused before we committed to something, it rarely caused the loss of the opportunity. In fact, in most situations people were perfectly willing to give us time to ponder a decision before giving them an answer. For those decisions that had to be made on the spot; better that we lose out than commit to something that would cause us pain down the road.
Personal Reflection: Do I need to work on being impulsive?
Early on in sobriety we began to work the steps. Often our sponsors had us read from The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. It didn’t matter if another substance was our drug of choice. The wisdom of the Twelve and Twelve was universal. Most of us went through the steps in the first year or two. Sometimes however a person would spend years on a particular step and be unable to move forward. When questioned, they would often claim that they were stuck because “it wasn’t good enough” or “not complete”. Part of the problem was that their perfectionism and fear of failure had carried over from their days when they were active in their addiction. In the past, they had exhibited the same type of behavior. They had often avoided challenges because of their fear of failure. If they did finally push themselves to take a risk, and they failed, they would fall into depression or turn to their drug of choice. In sobriety, we have learned that we can drop our perfectionism. That when we do take a risk and fail, there are many other options open to us. And as far as the steps are concerned; they need not be perfect. We will make the necessary changes the next time around when we do them again.
Personal Reflection: How do I react to failure?