Life can be so disappointing for some people. In particular their disappointment revolves around on what other people “did to to them” or how other people “disappointed” them. Many from the program also fell into the trap of being a victim. Unfortunately, the way we dealt with our hurt or disappointment was to often turn to our drug of choice.
By working our program we learned that it was ok to set boundaries with others. At first, we weren’t really even certain about what our boundaries were. For so long we had just gone along with others. Now, we tapped into the fellowship to help us clarify healthy boundaries. Some of our circle were initially surprised when we spoke up about our needs. Before long people came to accept the boundaries we set for ourselves.
In the past we had often sabotaged ourselves by having unrealistic expectations. When people disappointed us this was a prescription for anger, hurt and resentments. These high expectations also fueled our self righteousness and grandiosity. With these feelings in tow, we invariably turned to drugs and alcohol to soothe our jangled feelings. Today we practice a saner approach. By honestly lowering our expectations, we also see a dramatic increase in our happiness.
Personal Reflection: Are my boundaries and expectations of others appropriate?
Countless people have entered AA because they had a desire to not drink. People in other fellowships entered because they wanted to stop using drugs or eating compulsively. An early suggestion to these newcomers was to get a copy of the Big Book and read two pages a day. Invariably the newcomer complained about this. “Why do I have to read a book with hundreds of pages? All I want to do is stop using my drug of choice. You could tell me how to do that in less than one page”. They are actually correct on this point. If the program were only about not drinking or drugging, a magazine article at most would have sufficed. But, the Big Book and the program are much more. They are literally about a new way of living where we undergo a psychic change. It is about developing a connection with a G-d of our understanding. Through the program we learn about emotional sobriety and all that it entails. Part of that sobriety is a daily review of our actions and making amends where necessary. We also learn about the necessity of doing service. In reality, given all it contains, it’s pretty amazing that the Big Book is as short as it is.
Personal Reflection: What did I learn from the Big Book today?
There is a common expression which says that some people carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. The reality is that all of us have responsibilities. As we grow in emotional sobriety our responsibilities often increase. Work, family and service fill a void that existed while we were active. These aspects of life are normal, unavoidable and appropriate for a person to carry.
There are a number of other items that many people carry which are unnecessary weights on their shoulders. Many of these are rooted in guilt. People have such strong guilt about the past that they cannot let go of it. Carrying this guilt has absolutely no purpose. It in no way helps the person recover from their feelings. It also doesn’t improve the lives of the ones they think they’ve hurt.
People also sometimes carry feelings of undo responsibility around with them. Our codependency leads us to carry the burden of constantly seeking the approval of others. In the vast majority of cases we will never receive the love or approval from others which they think they deserve. The best course of action is to release ourselves from guilt and codependence.
Personal Reflection: What burdens do I need to let go of?
Perhaps you’ve been on the fence about attending your first AA, NA or OA meeting. There really is no requirement to join other than a desire to stop using your drug of choice. Or perhaps you’re one of those who were once active in the program but have somehow stopped going to meetings. To you we say, “come on back and we will welcome you with open arms”. Of course some of you will think to yourselves that you no longer need to attend meetings because you know longer drink or drug. To this we can respond with a simple test. If you’ve gone through the day without at least one resentment than maybe you can do without a meeting today. For the rest of you who after an honest self inventory discover those resentments we suggest you make it back to a meeting today or tonight. We can almost guarantee you will feel better after sharing what is on your mind. You might also discover that others are going through the same issues as you and can be a source of both support and help. Of one thing we can guarantee. The coffee will be plentiful, hot and strong.
Personal Reflection: is there something on my mind I need to share at a meeting today?
For a long time many of us walked around in a constant state of self judgement. Perhaps we grew up in a household where we were constantly criticized, demeaned or punished. Whatever its origins, those feelings of self deprecation were our constant companion. It was often those very feelings which drove us to drink or drug or binge on food. Rather than accept our perceived realty of who we were, we chose to self medicate.
Being in the program has changed our thinking on this matter. We have come to understand that admitting our character defects is actually the first step in our healing. Once we identified where personal transformational work was required, we could then go about the task of change. We used to think that admitting we were less than perfect was a sign of weakness. Our perfectionism blocked our taking an honest view of ourselves. As we began to drop that veneer of needing to be perfect, we began to experience the power of humility. For the first time instead of berating ourselves, we learned about self love and self care. We could love ourselves even with our shortcomings. As part of this process we also learned that we had often been far too critical of our actual shortcomings. As we worked the program we gained a more realistic view of ourselves.
Personal Reflection: Have I truly accepted myself for who I am?