The Magic of the Program

“We must be entirely honest with somebody if we expect to live long or happily in this world.” — Big Book p.73-74

I’ve never once lied to my sponsor Dan. For that I am grateful. I chose someone I can trust implicitly, with both the deepest, darkest secrets of my life, as well as with my fears, insecurities and misbehaviors. And his direction comes from three sources: (1) his experience, strength and hope, (2) our program literature, and (3) a universal Higher Power that we both share.

My sponsor, like me, is a double winner, utilizing the tools of both AA and AlAnon, which allows us to navigate the issues surrounding me, my addictions and my challenges, but also those relating to my interpersonal relationships with others, which often are my greatest challenges.

Dan has not always been my sponsor. In fact, the first 7 years of sobriety was sponsor-less, as I stayed abstinent without AA. With no one to confide in, I stayed as sick as my secrets. And though I didn’t drink or use, my dis-ease steadily increased. Those were my hardest years in abstinence from alcohol and drugs. Each of the three sponsors preceding Dan imparted their own gifts along the way.

I must confess that I often wait too long to reach out to my sponsor when I’m struggling. I think it’s primarily because I know he’ll ask me if I have talked to God about it, done some writing on it, and in the process discovered anything. So I try that before I call him and 90% of the time, I find my part, extricate myself from the problem and get into solution. The other 10% of the time, when I pick up the phone, he is always there for me.

That’s the magic of this program. We show up for others. And the reward we receive is so far greater than any amount of money we could be paid. We are filled with a sense of purpose, humility, gratitude, self-esteem and love. I have lived a long life already and experience a level of happiness that very few ever come to know. When I’m truly honest with my sponsor, and go to him when I cannot find my way out of my dis-ease… ILML!

JamieQ

Love & Selflessness

“Well, I believe he’s worth saving and working on.“ They said to me, “Do you want to quit drinking?… Now, if you don’t want it, we’ll not take up your time, and we’ll be going and looking for someone else.“ — Bill & Bob talking to Alcoholic #3, Big Book p.186

According to the history I found online, a few days before speaking with AA#3 (Bill Dotson) on June 26, 1935, Dr. Bob had said to Bill W., “If you and I are going to stay sober, we had better get busy.” 9 days later, Dotson left the hospital a free man, never to drink again until his death, 19 years later.

What I find particularly interesting is that Dotson’s wife, Henrietta, just a few days earlier, had prayed with a pastor that someone her husband could understand would visit him in the hospital.

And to make it all even more improbable is that, at about the same time she was praying with the pastor, Dr. Bob reported saying to Bill: “If you and I are going to stay sober, we had better get busy.” Dr. Bob called Akron’s City Hospital and told the nurse, a “Mrs. Hall,” that he and a man from New York had a cure for alcoholism. Did she have an alcoholic customer on whom they could try it out?

Sounds to me like divine intervention. The spirit of all that is good and kind, the energy that wants the very best for us, the power that is cheering for us to practice compassion, love and selflessness can and will break the bonds of suffering. I believe that was what brought these three alcoholics together in order to carry the message to the millions of us who want to heal and lead productive, happy lives, along with the millions of those that love us and were suffering right along side of us.

When I read about this encounter, tears of gratitude spilled from my eyes. I think of what my life would have looked like without the program—It would have been a truly tragic life. Instead, those three got together and kept it going, and eventually the program reached me, healed my soul, and changed me from a man who hated life to one who runs around yelling “ILML!”

— JamieQ

A New Wonderful Me

“We, through our deeds and words, our silence and speech, are constantly writing in the Book of Life. Light has come into the world, and every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?” — Martin Luther King from his “Strength to Love”

It’s words like these, that speak the universal truth of love and spirituality. Whether we have faith in a own, personal understanding of higher power, or a God associated with a religion, there is no denying that our thoughts, words and actions are what make us who we are today.

King speaks of destructive selfishness, of which I used to partake in most days of my life, and the result was a profound dislike of the state of the world, those around me, and myself. In the Program I learned that altruism, selflessly helping others, was the path to peace, love, abundance, and a new life. By making the practices of the program, a priority, I’ve turned my life around.

Today I celebrate the 36th year of sobriety; that’s truly a miracle and a joy. I owe the program, and everyone in it, this new, wonderful me. I love so many others, I love myself, and… ILML!

— JamieQ

A Program of Action

“Then they outlined the spiritual answer and program of action which a hundred of them had followed successfully.” — Big Book p.47

They outlined a spiritual answer. I believe that the founders were speaking of providing answers to help others, like me, who, through the effects of alcohol, had warped our sense of identity, lost our emotional stability and abandoned some or all of our moral convictions in the face of the disease.

And they outlined a program of action. In early sobriety a sponsor holds our hand and shows us that program of action. But at 20 years I found myself sober, in AA, with a sponsor, with sponsees, and without a solid program consisting of daily actions that kept me evolving into a better man. I needed something more and different than what I did in my first year. So I searched and searched, until I found one.

Today my program includes the following actions: In the mornings I roll out of bed and pray and at night I stop to pray again before getting into bed, I take time to hit the pause button on life—even for just a few minutes—to meditate, I say positive affirmations out loud, I keep a spiritual backpack at my side, filled with C.A.L. and other books that enlighten me as a read, highlight and share the passages along with my experience, strength and hope, I write and share gratitude lists with others, I write a daily 10th step in my journal, I make immediate amends, whenever my disease isn’t getting the best of me, except if it hurts another, I actively work the steps and traditions over and over each year, I share what I learn in recovery, I attend both AA and AlAnon meetings regularly, I engage in fellowship with others in recovery, I sponsor others and seek my sponsor’s help and direction as needed, I am involved in service work, I work to be self-supporting financially, I spend time with my family, I exercise and stretch, I eat healthy (and give myself the gift of some cheats too), I keep my body and my surroundings clean and tidy, I practice self-care, I set healthy boundaries, I am a man of my word, I detach from toxic people and situations, I love others but not at the expense of being loving toward myself, I have and engage in hobbies and recreation, and I get 8 hours of sleep.

Holy mackerel! And that’s not even my entire list! But here’s the deal, and you already know this: we get out what we put in. The more action we take in our program, the more gifts of recovery we receive, the happier we are, the easier life is, the more successful our lives become, and the more we love our lives.

As a result of seeking a spiritual solution and taking actions in recovery, I have a life beyond my wildest dreams, and… ILML!

— JamieQ

Breaking The Cycle

“When I sense that a situation is dangerous to my physical, mental, or spiritual well-being, I can put extra distance between myself and the situation.” — Courage to Change

The worst thing I can do, when I’m feeling uncomfortable or upset in a situation, particularly when it involves someone else, is to open my mouth, or send a text or email in anger. Taking action when I’m not spiritual centered and feeling good is not only dangerous for me, it often causes harm to others, filling me with self-loathing. The problem is that when I’m uncomfortable to begin with, I’m often not spiritually fit enough to pause when agitated.

The only solution I’ve found to breaking the cycle of anger, hurt and self-pity is to be rigorously consistent in practicing those rituals which keep me centered at all times. For me those are prayer, meditation, cleaning house, affirmations, journaling, amends, forgiveness, reading inspirational books, writing my gratitude list and reading those sent by others, sending out inspirational texts, getting to meetings, sharing experience, strength and hope with others, reaching out to my sponsor and sponsoring others.

When I make staying spiritually centered, and doing those things necessary to accomplish that goal, my priority… ILML!

— JamieQ

My Own Private Purgatory

“I suspect that if I reclaimed all the minutes, hours, and days I’ve sacrificed to worry and fear, I’d add years to my life.” — Courage To Change

As you can see by the attached image, this is my favorite page in the book. I particularly love the line “break the cycle of worry and fear.” That’s one of the gifts the program has given me: a way to break that vortex of insanity. Me and my life are wasted away in those moments when I mindlessly recycle thoughts self-pity, resentment, frustration, inadequacy, fear, debasement, and indolence.

And in that process, I’m not the only one that loses out. All those that love, care and depend upon me lose out as well, while I check out of life and into my own private purgatory. Luckily, AA and AlAnon provide the lifeline back to sanity, love and life.

The more I dig into the program, the stronger and more accessible that lifeline becomes. For I believe that, no matter how spiritually and emotionally fit I become, there will undoubtably come a time when I will need help to get back. And when I do, I’ll reach out for that lifeline, discover it’s there, and allow myself to be pulled back into safety by the Program and all of you, where I am returned to sanity, and once again… ILML!

– JamieQ

Spectacular Love

“… let the peace of God’s care envelope us like a soft blanket.” — In God’s Care

The only thing I have to do in order to feel the presence of God in my life this very moment, is to think of God. When I consciously, and with clear intent, reach out and ask The God of my Understanding to come into my heart, I instantly feel the presence of God’s comfort; the guidance, help, and the love that I so yearn for is suddenly upon me.

Perhaps this is true for me because I have a friendship with God, one that I nurture daily. I have conversations with God, frequently out loud, when I’m at home alone and in my car. I frequently write to my Higher Power in my journal. When I’m worried about a meeting or conversation with another person, I imagine my Higher Power sitting in a chair near me while that event is transpiring, guiding my words, thoughts and actions, and keeping my motives aligned with his will for me, that of being happy, joyous, free, kind, loving, compassionate and true to myself.

This relationship didn’t happen overnight. I finally got the courage to seek a higher power 10 years after I got sober. Over the last 25 years, my understanding, relationship and friendship has grown to the point that I rely on God’s guidance in all my affairs.

When I’m enveloped by my Higher Power’s love, I feel safe and protected, regardless of what’s transpiring in my life. It’s only by connecting and depending upon this source of spectacular love that ILML!

— JamieQ