When we first entered the program many of us felt like our eyes had opened for the first time in a long time. We began to see how so many of our past behaviors had been wrong or harmful. We also began to be honest about our own character defects. These facts were very helpful in our recovery. As our minds cleared we began to see some glaring defects of character in people both within and outside the program. This one was too prideful, that one was in denial and a third was totally lost in being a victim. These facts were so obvious to us that we immediately wanted to share our insights with these and other people.
Experience has shown us that to do so would be a mistake. One of the major tenets of 12 step program is one of personal reflection and self discovery. Most people will not be open to those insights that we wanted to share. There is a good chance that they will immediately become defensive and even angry about our so called insights. If we have to the ability to think back to when we were in denial about our drug and alcohol usage or about our character defects; we will immediately comprehend why we should remain quiet. What we can do now is pray for them.
Personal Reflection: Do I give people the space to recover at their own pace?
Members in the program often call themselves walking miracles. They have every right to do so. Prior to entering the program you probably would not have recognized them,,They were frequently in both poor physical and emotional health. Spiritually they were often just an empty shell. So yes, they are walking miracles. And they can continue to experience that miracle every day they are free of alcohol, drugs and compulsive use of food.
We in the fellowship believe that there is much more than the abstention from our drug of choice. The greater work involves our beginning the process of addressing all of our character defects and initiating change. The success of those changes can be seen in our interactions with others. In the same situation do we now behave differently? Our path also involves making amends to people we have harmed in the past. Part of our daily work is to take personal inventory of our actions and make amends there as well. Along the way there is often the development of a deeper personal relationship with a G-d of our understanding. When all the pieces come together and we are a changed man or woman; that my friends is magic.
Personal Reflection: What has been magical in my recovery?
A number of years ago at a meeting a women was qualifying. She concluded her share by saying, “I’m either counting my blessin’s or counting my lessons”. This simple statement profoundly taps into how to live in this world. When we are “counting our blessin’s”, we are opening ourselves up to gratitude. People often walk around with a scowl on their face. They will point to problems with spouses, children, work and finances and say, “when I find a blessing I will let you know”. Were they to pause a moment, they could enumerate countless blessings including sight, hearing, mobility, freedom of choice and all the good they have in their lives.
Of course, there will be times of difficulty where things don’t go our way. At this point we need to see these roadblocks as “lessons”‘. Part of our life purpose is to figure out what insights we can gain from life’s challenges. When we do so, perhaps we won’t fall into old patterns and instead will respond in more appropriate ways. We also find that as we recognize and seek out blessings within life’s challenges, more of them become discoverable. Go figure!
Personal Refection: How have some of your lessons turned out to be blessin’s?
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?
For a long time we sold ourselves short. Part of this was of course connected to our alcohol and drug usage. We were often physically incapable of doing many things because we continually poisoned our bodies and our minds. Positions were accepted far below our abilities because of our inability to perform more challenging work. Our needs were often neglected because we felt we were not worthy enough to warrant having them taken care of.
In sobriety, we now know that “just getting by” is no longer enough. It feels good to be working at a job which challenges us and forces us to give our best. When the possibilities of promotion arise, we pursue them. Out of the blue, we begin to hear ourselves asking for things which are important to us. Phrases like, “I’m fine” or “don’t worry about me” get replaced with an assertion of our needs. Perhaps most importantly, a belief system has developed where we feel the presence of a Higher Power. Part of that new system is a sense that there are infinite possibilities ahead. The more we are open to them, the more they manifest.
Personal Reflection: Where in my life do I need to raise my standards?
We have found that sometimes it’s not easy giving up old behavior and patterns. On some level we know that we have to give up some of those old pathways; yet we desperately attempt to hold on to them. We so want to maintain our status quo, that in the face of all evidence to the contrary, we maintain that we are not following our old ways.
If it walks like a duck….Even when people point out to us that we are engaged in behavior that strongly resembles the path we used to “walk”, we vehemently deny that we are doing it. We’re walking like a duck and don’t know it.
If it talks like a duck….. In the past we had said things that were inappropriate and were offensive to others and non-productive to ourselves. We have the mistaken belief that we had somehow graduated from talking like a duck. Yet, there we were once again saying things that indicated we were still set in our old patterns.
When we went beyond our denial and finally got honest, we saw that we could finally step out of the duck suit.
Personal Reflection: Have you stepped out of your duck suit?