Alcoholics and addicts are not a happy lot. Perhaps while they were using they had the appearance of happiness. Beneath the smiles and frivolity many of them were using to escape their dissatisfaction with their portion. As their disease progressed there were fewer and fewer instances of merriment. At some point, they used just to fill up that empty hole which had been gnawing away at their insides for the longest time.
They also complained that their unhappiness was circumstantial. If they had a different boss they would have felt more relaxed at work. If they lived in a different apartment or home they would have been more comfortable. If their spouses and children had acted more nicely towards them they would finally have felt some joy in their life. And on and on it went.
In sobriety we learned that our happiness was not dependent on people, places or things. It truly was an inside job. All of the speed bumps life had thrown us in the past continued to be on our daily path; and usually were unavoidable. How we chose to respond to them was very much in our power. We learned about “pausing” when agitated so we would not have a knee jerk reaction to challenges. As we strengthened our connection to a Higher Power we began to accept life from a deeper state of equanimity
Personal Reflection: Do I feel happy, joyous and free today?
Many of the joys of living in modern society are simple in nature. For example, in most cites, suburbs and even rural areas there are wonderful libraries. Even the smallest towns often have fairly extensive book collections. Beyond that there are DVD’s, digital books and periodicals. Sometimes, it’s fun to just visit the library and just browse. Given that there are thousands of books, how can we randomly choose a “good” book off the shelves? One trick is to select a book that is worn and dog eared. This indicates that many people have borrowed the book and it is probably a good one.
For those of us in the program, the same principal holds true for one book in particular in our homes. If our copy of the Big Book looks well worn, that’s a good sign. It indicates that we reference it frequently and have made it a part of our lives. Many of us have even committed to reading two pages of the Big Book every day.
On the other hand, if our copy of the Big Book looks untouched, that’s probably a bad sign. Chances are we are not working our program to the extent we should. There is good news however. We can take our copy of the Big Book off our shelves any time we want. When we do so we have a blueprint for living a sober life.
Personal Reflection: Has my Big Book been gathering dust?
Not everyone is the 12 step world is an immediate success. Some people do get the program on the first go around. Unfortunately, many other do not. Some have short term sobriety and then go out. Others can have years of immersion in the program and then slip as well.
Almost all of them have some familiarity with the program. Many of them can quote the Big Book chapter and verse. Yet, they failed to remain sober. They often “sound” like they are the picture postcard for an AA, NA or OA member. When we dig a little bit deeper we discover that talking about the program is not the same as practicing the program. AA and it’s sister fellowships are not theoretical organizations. They are based on action. When people give mere lip service to their recovery, regardless of how good it sounds, they are not in recovery.
Those who have slipped and return to the program are the first to admit this. Over and over again you will hear them say how they finally realized that in the past they were not committed to their recovery. Only through daily practice will recovery be achieved and maintained.
Personal Reflection: Do I practice the answers to my recovery on a daily basis?
Life was very hard for us. We were often flooded with a myriad of feelings. Anger, fear, jealousy, resentment and pride often overwhelmed us. We frequently felt that there was no pathway of relief from all of these emotions. Everything became bottled up inside. Then, at some point in our lives we discovered a safety valve. We began to use drugs, alcohol, food and other substances to dampen those feelings. Initially we experienced some degree of relief. Over time we discovered that using a substance was not a solution and just added a new layer of problems to our lives.
In sobriety we still feel all of those feelings. Sometimes we need to go to meetings and just “dump” out all of those feelings we are going through. Often once is not enough. That is why you who hear people sharing on the same issue over and over again in meetings. Each time they share, the issue or feeling loses a little bit more of its power.
Meetings however are not just about us sharing. When we deeply listen to others share we can find a solution to something which has been bothering us. The collective wisdom of members of our fellowship is a power which can heal.
Personal Reflection: How do I handle my feelings in sobriety?
Some people regularly buy lottery tickets. Every week they check their ticket against the winning numbers. A person could do this for years and never even get close to winning. The fact of the matter is that the odds of winning the lottery are infinitesimally small. That’s why weeks can go by with millions of players and no winners.
No need to be discouraged. You actually having a winning lottery ticket in your pocket. Well, not exactly a ticket that will give you millions in winnings. But, a winning ticket nonetheless. When we enter the program we have a new shot at life. We can come back from financial ruin. Relationships that we thought were over can be revived. We can regain the trust of friends and family. Even our health can dramatically improve. These and many other gifts are within our reach if we maintain our sobriety and work our program. Sometimes we tend to forget what an incredible gift sobriety has been. You really can’t even put a price on it. One thing we know for certain. It is not even necessary to buy a lottery ticket to win big time in this life.
Personal Reflection: Have I checked my pockets for my lottery ticket lately?
When we came into the program many of us thought our life was over. How were we going to interact with people without our social lubricant? How would we be able to reward ourselves without a drink or a drug? Where else could we find solace when no one else could understand how tough a life we had?
So we were pretty glum when we walked into our first meeting. Then it hit us. Nobody else in the room seemed to share our despair. Sure, some people were sharing about some serious problems but they seemed to relax a little bit after they had finished.
After the meeting there was no shortage of social interchange taking place and it was not fueled by alcohol and drugs. In fact there was a lot of laughter, smiles and good fellowship taking place.
As we immersed ourselves in the program we realized that in a way we had been right. Our old life was no more. In a manner of speaking, part of us had died and we had indeed been reborn. The new life we had entered held so much more possibility than the one we had left behind.
Personal Reflection: In what ways have I been given another life?
There are many practices in the program which initially seem to be counter intuitive. Recently at a meeting a fellow was complaining about his life. He was having trouble with his wife and kids, had issues at work and was struggling financially. At the meeting after the meeting an old timer approached this fellow. Sure enough he was still complaining about his lot in life. The old timer joined the conversation and asked him, “do you have any sponsees?”
Some might find this question to be a surprising one. Rather than follow up on this fellow’s complaints, the old timer shifted the conversation. The truth is that a sponsee is a wonderful gift of recovery. It forces us to work our program more diligently. How can we give advice to a sponsee if we ourselves are not engaged in that practice? Perhaps as importantly, a sponsee helps us get out of ourselves. When we are busy helping others, we tend to think less about ourselves. Some of that internal chatter dies down as we focus on another. In some small measure we are giving back for the recovery which we have so freely received.
Personal Reflection: Do you have a sponsee?