Minding my Business

Minding my Business

“… when my thoughts begin with “He should” or “She shouldn’t” I am probably in trouble.” – Courage to Change

The compulsion to focus on other people is at least as powerful of an obsession as an alcoholic’s desire to drink, an addict’s need to use, or a smoker’s urge to light up another cigarette. But while the alcoholic, addict and smoker are often aware of their addiction, the destruction caused by one’s inability to mind their own business is often not so apparent.

And, in this regard, the suggestion my program offers, to be of maximum useful service to my fellows, can potentially both encourage and justify my intervention. So why is this behavior so harmful?

Because nobody likes being controlled, told what to do or having unsolicited opinions given to them. I can tell you that’s especially true for me. So, why then do some of us continue to try to manage, direct and control the opinions, actions and words of others, knowing we ourselves don’t like it?

One reason for me is that I’m also addicted to being the hero. As a child I got reprimanded for doing something wrong and rewarded for helping out. Those accolades and pats on my back continued into my adult life, reinforcing my desire to help, fix or save someone from themselves or others. So what should I do? Help or not help?

I’ve learned that the best practice is to help others when asked, provided they are unable to help themselves, and that I’m truly able to positively contribute to the situation.

The easiest way to do this is to simply ask “Would you like my opinion (help, advice, etc)?” before giving or doing it. An example is when I’m a passenger in a car. If I know the driver is going the wrong way, I can ask “Would you like some help on how to get there?” If they say no, I say “Ok”, and let the process unfold. Simple, but not so easy.

However, by allowing others to make their own mistakes and find their way gives them both the respect and dignity to overcome their own obstacles and achieve success for themselves, without my intervention. They get to be their own hero,

You’d think that knowing and understanding all of this would keep me from offering unsolicited advice, right? Wrong. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think “He should” or “She shouldn’t.” And I still occasionally find myself going beyond thinking and actually opening my mouth.

The good news is I’m doing it less often these days. Doing the Daily Deal makes me aware of how I want to behave in my interactions with others and encourages me to be the best man I can be. When I practice these principles in all my affairs, I play much better with others and… ILML!

— JamieQ

Sharing Experience, Strength & Hope

“Whatever your problems, there are those among us who have had them too.” – Typical Closing in Al-Anon Meetings

I cannot imagine a life without the people in the programs of AA and Al-Anon – they are the lifeblood of my recovery. By listening to them, particularly with my heart rather than my mind, I hear solutions that I can apply to my everyday life situations.

But everything said in meetings doesn’t point to a solution. That’s why we have the sayings, “Principles above Personalities” and “Some are sicker than others”.

When I sponsor men, I explain the importance of always sharing our experience, strength and hope. For me, when I’m spiritually centered, it’s become almost automatic. First, I share a situation which presented a problem in my life – this is the experience. Then, I share the tools of the program that I used as a solution – this is the strength.  Then I share the positive results that occurred – this is the hope.

Sharing recovery affects others in a positive way, encouraging them that, by applying the program to their problems, they can experience amazing results. It also reminds me of the success I’ve had by using the tools,encouraging me to continue applying them to all the problems and challenges that occur in my everyday life. 

By studying, sharing and applying the tools of the program, I can find place my problems in their true perspective and find solutions that lead to serenity. And when I do that… ILML!  

– JamieQ

Experience, Strenght & Hope

From the Heart

The Great Man Move

“…practice these principles in all our affairs.” – Alcoholics Anonymous aka The Big Book, Step 12

We can remain sober and/or in recovery, have a sponsor, sponsor others, go to meetings, pray, meditate, and hold service commitments while not practicing the principles in all our affairs. Will we be loving life? Likely not. In fact, I’ve known many who did all this and were absolutely miserable.

So let’s get into solution and put this another way. If we are sober and/or in recovery, have a sponsor, sponsoring others, going to meetings, praying, meditating, and/or holding service commitments but still not loving life, chances are that the solution is to start actively practicing these principles in all our affairs.

So what exactly are these principles? Well, Bill W. actually considered each step to be a spiritual principle in and of itself. But to simplify them, we can quote the following list posted by others on the web:

Honesty, hope, faith, courage, integrity, willingness, humility, love, discipline, perseverance, spirituality and service.

Not a bad bunch of traits to have associated with you, when you think about it.

Imagine a person asking what kind of person you’re like, and the other person say that your honest, have great integrity, are very loving, hard working, always willing to lend a hand, courageous, have tremendous faith and optimism that things will always work out for the best, very disciplined in your commitments, always hope for the best, have a deep spiritual connection in life, and seem to always persevere and come out on top.

Personally, I’d love it if people described me that way. In fact, it’s one of my goals.

To the men I sponsor I say that practicing the principles in all your affairs can also be called “making the great man move” or being a “great man”. By living in this way, we become wonderful, dependable, kind, contributing humans who utilize the abundance of tools the program gives us to positively alter our thinking, words and actions. And it’s not only others who benefit from this new way of living, which seems to always require that I pause before reacting, it’s me too.

Can we do it every time without fail? Of course not, we’re human. But we can continually up our game, become more aware of when we’re not doing it (hint:we feel bad afterward), and then make amends, learn from the experience, and continue to improve.

As an example, I’m don’t always make the “great man” move, but I do it more than I ever have at any time in my life. And I think that’s a great goal to shoot for.

Today, one thing is for sure. When I do actively practice, in all my affairs, the principles that I’ve described above… ILML!

— JamieQ

At The Top of my Lungs

“… help me accept my powerlessness and remove my need to control in order to feel valued and loved.” — Reaching for Personal Freedom

Each and every step in our program will have a profound, life-changing effect upon us when we actively practice the suggested actions of that particular step.

In the case of steps 6 & 7, my character defects have begun to be removed only by being self-aware enough of that, when those defects rear up their ugly head, I can see them for exactly what they are —behaviors I no longer wish to engage in.

Once I have that and awareness, I reach out to the source of energy which provides all of my abundance, asking for help to prevent (or if I’ve already behaved badly, amend) that unloving behavior. It’s only been by practicing this proactive solution that have begun to abstain from engaging in thoughts, actions and words that don’t reflect the person I want to be.

By consistently spotting, abstaining and amending these defects of character that corrode my life and my relationships, I continue to commit to this wonderful, never-ending process of evolving into a better, more loving, and happier person, that guy who goes around town yelling out, at the top of my lungs and with enthusiasm … ILML!

— JamieQ

A Spiritual Time-Out

“It is not what I have gained that is important but rather what I have diminished, namely, greed, hatred, and delusion.” — World Buddhism

The 11th Step suggests we seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God. But what about those of us who really struggle at being still? Or those of us who have tried meditation and we really don’t enjoy it?

I am one of those who is so busy that I can’t seem to justify the idea of spending 15 or 30 minutes each day meditating, yet over and over again, I hear of it’s benefits from our members. So what did I do?

I ended up getting an app called Simply Being. I choose the voice and music I like, and then it takes me on a guided meditation for as little as 5 minutes or as long as 30. Essentially, I take a spiritual time-out from life for just a few moments, getting a break from my head and the world around me.

I usually choose 5 minutes because I have a very full life (30 would likely make my life easier though). One day I may get there.

But in the meantime, by incorporating meditation, prayer, reading inspirational books, journaling, writing gratitude lists, being of service to others, and attending meetings, greed, hatred and delusion no longer play a prominent role in my days, but instead, ILML!

— JamieQ

An Unreligious God

“What the Catapillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly.” —Richard Bach

At first I knew nothing about God except that my babysitter took me to a church where Jesus was nailed to a cross, blood dripping from his wounds. I came home and asked my dad “What’s God daddy?” and he said “God is love honey, the way it feels when mommy holds you in her arms.”

Later I took a class at USC called Seminar in Religious Studies and learned about different religious gods. I even spent the night with the Hare Krishnas to write a paper on that religion. My verdict: I didn’t like religion.

And then I came into the 12 step rooms and saw that word again: God. I tried to ignore it as I went to meetings, worked the steps, and fellowshipped with others. I did what I needed around this Higher power concept, the minimum, but didn’t believe in any God. To me, God meant religion.

Eventually I wanted more. I wanted the spiritual connection, love, faith, and all the stuff people talked about, but without god. Because, again, to me, God = Religion. On a radio show the host, an atheist, said “God is just a make believe friend for grownups.”

Sometimes, even though we hear something over and over, we don’t get it until it’s said differently. That day I wrote down what, if I had one, this make believe friend called God would be like. Funny, kind, helpful, smart, creative, loving, playful, trustworthy, and someone who really wants the best for me. I’ve believed in that make believe friend ever since. In fact, he’s a constant companion of mine.

When my mom died I thought it was the end of her life. Like the caterpillar, I can’t see into the future. Who really knows if it’s the end, or if it’s a transition into something more wonderful. And if I can’t know for sure, and feel like I need to believe something, why not believe she, and my baby brother, and my grandma, and my kitty have transitioned into the next, amazing level of existence. Oh, and guess who was by my side during each of those deaths? You got it. My make believe buddy. How do I know? I don’t. I simply choose to use my imagination to believe.

When I have blind, unprovable faith that everything is not only exactly the way it’s supposed to be, but that everything that’s happening is actually fantastic, ILML!

— JamieQ

Spiritual Sunlight

“… true wealth… is the radiant joy of Being and the deep, unshakable peace that comes with it…” — The Power of Now

The radiant joy of being. I liken that concept to rays of spiritual sunlight shining from within my inner core outward, brightening the world around me and bringing spiritual sunlight into the lives of everyone near me. And that’s exactly how I feel when I’m plugged into source, connected with my higher purpose, languishing in love and gratitude. Sound corny? Well maybe it is.

But when I’m not feeling that way, it sucks. Sometimes it feels as though I’ll never get feel good again. And then I remember: I have a spiritual toolkit that’s been laid at my feet. All I have to do is pick it up, use the tools I’ve been given, and I can feel the sunlight of the spirit shine on me once again.

It’s true that life can be hard sometimes. Life can through me curveballs. Even the most reasonable expectations frequently don’t materialize. People often let me down. I frequently fail to live up to my own standards. I’ve been sick and in terrible pain many times. I’ve watched friends and family suffer, and some of them (very close to me) even die. Like I said, life can be hard sometimes.

But today I have a choice. I can focus on the struggle, the pain and the difficulties, or I can celebrate what’s great in my life. Today I’m healthy, sober, in recovery, have people I love, have people who love me, I can see and hear and smell and taste, I can sing and dance and celebrate life—but only if I choose to. Ultimately, it’s my choice.

So today I invite you to join me in a celebration of life. By putting our focus on gratitude we’ll invite many more great things into our lives which we will also be grateful for. After all these years in recovery, I know that it’s only when I actively choose to stay out of (or step out of) the dark thoughts of my mind, and shift my awareness onto the really wonderful things all around me, that ILML!

— JamieQ