Loving Life when I’m not Loving What’s Happening

Loving Life when I’m not Loving What’s Happening

If you’ve read any of my other blogs or information on this site, you know I’m a life lover. But did you know I get a bunch of slack for it? Did you know some people roll their eyes when I say I love my life? Others say they’re not as interested in loving life as they are in just having peace of mind.

And that’s the beauty of the program. We take what we like, and leave the rest. Just because I enjoy loving life and I’m all about it, doesn’t mean that others have to agree with me. But I should explain that loving life doesn’t mean I love everything that happens in my life.

I think each of us can make a pretty long list of shitty things that have happened to us. Situations that didn’t turn out as we had hoped, people that didn’t live up to our expectations, pain we’ve experienced. Trust me when I say that my list is long.

But somehow I’ve figured out how to separate life loving from having everything go my way. First, I’ve accepted, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that life will NOT always go the way I think it should. Nor will people ALWAYS behave the way I would like them to. Recognizing I’m powerless over that (step one), and it’s crazy to think that I can change an outcome that’s beyond my control (step two), I just surrender that expectation as soon as I’m aware that I’m having one (step three), and replace it with the knowledge that my will (what I want to have happen) may, quite likely, not occur.

How do I know I’m having an expectation? When I feel excited about something, a sense of happy anticipation, getting ready for a good thing to happen, I’m in expectation. It’s at that point that I remember I’m living in the future, and possibly setting myself up to feel hurt, which is a feeling I definitely don’t enjoy.

So what do I do? I immediately recalibrate my expectations. I think to myself “Hey James, remember that this shit may go sideways, and if it does, you’ll be just fine.” I remind myself that, no matter how this turns out, there’s always a plan B, C and D.

When I practice this exercise, I instantly feel anxiety, anticipation, and excitement lose their grip on my mind. And as they do, any potential future resentment begins to melt away.

But doesn’t it suck to live like this? Never being excited? Never being stoked about something great that’s about to happen? No. It’s quite the opposite. I’m stoked knowing I’m going to feel good no matter what happens. My happiness is no longer dependent upon the outcome of a situation or the way someone treats me. I’m at peace and comfortable regardless. I can feel good if it happens or not. Because I’ve told myself, “Don’t get excited James, you know this might turn out exactly the opposite of how you hope it will.”

By applying this attitude in all my affairs, I give myself a much better chance of feeling good no matter how life turns out. Which means that, even when things don’t go my way, and I don’t particularly love the outcome… ILML!

— JamieQ

The Green Zone

The Green Zone

The mind is an unusual thing. Unlike our hands, lips or eyes, our minds aren’t quite as easily controlled. At times they take off on their own, regardless of what we may, or may not, want our minds to do. Thinking, “Grab that cup of coffee,” always works for me. But thinking, “I want to feel better right now,” rarely works in the same way.

So what can we do? How can we tame our feelings when they are out of control? How do we stop destructive thoughts that recycle over and over, like a merry-go-round in our brain?

Here’s my solution: once I’m aware of what’s happening, and I’ve decided I want it to stop, I pick up my bag of recovery tools and inject a strong dose of the solution from each tool into my mind.

Like an engine revving too high, way into the red zone (where everything is NOT okay), I need to bring it back down into the green zone (where everything runs smoothly), before it blows up my life.

Each of the tools I employ are designed to get me out of anger, hopelessness, worry and a feeling of victimization and return me to a place of gratitude, hopefulness, peace and a feeling of abundance.

The actions I’m speaking of are outlined here in this website and in many of my blog posts. Each one is an actual concrete, physical action that requires me to stop what I’m doing and invest time into using the tool, which then results in a positive shift in my perception.

I no longer need to sit around when my mind is thinking about upsetting things, or when I’m feeling down. I’m not interested in being unhappy for even one extra second than I have to. The program offers me a huge array of options to get out of misery and into happiness. And I can do it as quickly as I want, whenever I’m ready.

My feelings and thoughts are not the result of what others are doing to me, or what’s happening in my life—that’s a lie I used to tell myself to play the victim. I now recognize that I have 100% control over my thoughts and feelings. Not 99%, 100%.

The faster I recognize my discomfort, shut my mouth, grab my tools and get back in the green zone, the less destruction I create for myself and others, the more fun I get to have, and the faster I get back into the place where… ILML!

—JamieQ

Getting in the GZ

“God, please help me to want what you want.” – Hope for Today

This reading talks about perceiving the idea of turning our will and life over to God, as our 3rd step suggests, in a way that doesn’t mean giving up our will. Instead, it says that “Developing a healthy relationship with my Higher Power is about teamwork,” and also encourages us to align our will with God’s.

That’s why the prayer above is such a great one for me. You see, I honestly believe that God’s will for me is to be happy, joyous and free. I think my HP wants me to experience unlimited abundance and love, and then share it with everyone I can. If that’s the case, of course I want exactly what God wants for me. Wouldn’t you?

When I’m in the God Zone (something Chris, one of my sponsees, put on his gratitude list today, I’m really wanting exactly what God wants for me, and… ILML!

— JamieQ

A Concrete Set of Actions

A Concrete Set of Actions

“Beginning with childhood, we all receive messages that… we must have… possessions, and prestige to be happy… giving what we have to help someone else makes us a lot happier…” – In God’s World

I often share this exact sentiment with others, something I’ve experienced first hand. After graduating college, I found myself working at a big company, wearing a 3 piece suite, driving a Mercedes 230SL, in what I considered a healthy romantic relationship and living in my newly owned co-op that I had recently renovated. Guess how I felt? You got it… unhappy, unfulfilled, and confused as to why I wasn’t happy. By the way, I was sober too, and had been for a few years.

What was missing? Oh, just about everything the program offers. Fellowship, a working knowledge of the steps, using the program’s principles in all my affairs, comfort in finding my part when upset and making amends quickly, an understanding of, and great relationship with, a higher power of my understanding, and perhaps most importantly, the desire, ability, and commitment to share what I learned in recovery with others (which at that time was nothing), helping to positively contribute to their lives. When I started putting all the other pieces together, that last part gave me the added gifts of both friendship and intimacy.

So what about money, property and prestige? Isn’t that important? Why can’t I have those too?

Well, of course I love those things–I’d be a liar if I said otherwise. Having money gives me a perception of financial security I long for and often feel I don’t have. Owning a house does the same thing, along with eliminating the fear of being evicted by a landlord or having my rent increase. Owning a nice car makes me feel good, is comfortable, and takes away the fear of not being able to get somewhere easily or dependably. And prestige? Well, I’ve discovered that I do care what others think about me–in spite of that often heard saying “What others think about me is none of my business.” But rather than wanting them to think I’m financially successful, it makes me feel much better to have them think I’m a kind, loving, helpful, emotionally stable, happy life lover. And that they know I’m aspiring to be a great husband, father, brother, son, sponsee–in truth, a great man. The money and things are great, but I believe they come (in the perfect amount and at the perfect time) when I work my program.

And speaking of working my program, I just wanted to say that for me, the program is more than meetings and calling my sponsor. I did that for years and it wasn’t enough – honestly I felt lost. I also sponsored others during that time, doing the two-step dance, and I wasn’t loving my life.

Today I’ve developed a concrete set of recovery actions that help me become the best man I can be, and experience the most emotional comfort I can have. That list includes:

• Attending at least 3, but preferably at least 4, meetings a week – one being an AlAnon meeting, and (if possible) one being a Double Winners meeting.

•  Staying in communication with my sponsor, particularly when I’ve tried all other program solutions and still feel lost and/or confused.

• Reading recovery literature, and being sure to highlight in, and write at the top of, the pages I read each day.

• Writing recovery posts and texts like this, sharing them both on my blog and in texts to my core recovery group.

• Writing and sharing gratitude lists with others

• Making my bed daily

• Entering and exiting my bed from my knees where I connect with source

• Journaling with a pen and paper to take my inventory and examine the areas of my life I love and those I’d like to work on or surrender to my higher power.

• Making time to listen to affirmation-oriented loving meditations.

• Being productive toward making, and maintaining, myself as a financially self-supporting individual.

• Keeping my thoughts, efforts and physical surroundings organized to maximize my efficiency and sense of comfort.

• Engaging in hobbies that feed my creativity.

• Eating sensibly and healthily, but giving myself permission for occasional indulgences as a reward for being fit.

• Making time to get close to, and appreciate, the awesome nature that surrounds me.

• Being of service to others without monetary compensation, both in group settings, and one-on-one.

• Exercising my body by stretching and getting pushing my body to places that make me breath hard and both exercise my heart and keep my muscles strong.

I’m not perfect. I don’t get all  of them done every day. I fall short of perfection. However, the more discipled I am about practicing these actions on a daily basis, the less uncomfortable I am when my expectations are unmet by others, or when situations don’t turn out as I hope, and the more… ILML!!

– JamieQ

The Gift of Giving

The Gift of Giving

“Those I sponsor have helped me feel loved and needed. It’s been a privilege and a joy to give back a small part of the immense treasure I have received…” – Hope for Today

I couldn’t have said it better. Sponsorship has been one of the most intimate and greatest joys in my life. And the immense treasures the program gave me only got bigger once I was prepared, and began, to sponsor others.

So what exactly is a sponsor and how do we become ready to be one? Opinions would differ widely if you asked this to a room of people in the program. But I’ll answer what being a sponsor means to me.

It means I will always be there for my sponsees whenever they reach out to me. That I will help them navigate life’s ups and downs with grace, showing them how to apply the principles of the program in all areas of their life. That I will allow them to freely express their feelings and thoughts to me, while consistently guiding them towards 12 step solutions. And that I will be patient, tolerant, understanding, kind, loving and respectful. But most of all, loving.

That being said, there are things I won’t do as a sponsor. I won’t support my sponsees financially, and any money I do give them will be deemed charity, not to be paid back, but rather to be paid forward. It also means I won’t enter into business or romantic relationships with them, which is why I won’t sponsor anyone who could become sexually attracted to me. Sponsorship creates intimacy, and I those things could impact my ability to be an effective sponsor.

Finally, I have healthy boundaries. If sponsees are disrespectful, overly demanding or consistently unwilling to take my suggestions and get into solution, I’ll let them know I’m not able to be of service and suggest they find another sponsor to work with. The program tells me to help others who are willing to help themselves.

Another thing about the way I sponsor others is that I’m not the kind of sponsor that demands that my sponsees call me regularly (this might be selfish of me, since I have 35 sponsees and think I’d go crazy if all of them called me every day). But if I haven’t heard from them in awhile, I’ll call them. If after two calls and no response, I’ll call once more and say “I’ve left you two messages. I love you but won’t call or bother you again unless I hear back from you. I hope you’re alright.”

And what do I believe I need to be doing in order to sponsor others? Regularly read and study 12 step and recovery oriented literature, journal, work the steps, pray, meditate, make and share gratitude lists, attend, and be of service at, meetings, sponsor others, and be consistent in those efforts. I don’t do any of those things perfectly, but I do them to the best of my ability.

And finally, I aspire to be a great man, and I only sponsor those that want the same. Working with others helps me in that effort, enriching my life, beyond my wildest dreams. By sharing recovery with others, and trying to be the best sponsor I can be… ILML!

—JamieQ

Finding Our Life’s Purpose

Finding Our Life’s Purpose

“One day, the lightbulb is going to go off in your head. You will become aware of what you are destined to do in life.” — Until Today

When I was a child I remember hearing people ask me the question, “What are you going to do when you grow up?” I heard that same question when I was in college, in my junior year. I was forced to pick a major, and for me that meant figuring out what I was going to do with my life. Of course, at 20 years old, I still had no idea.

I’ve worked a ton of jobs. I got married. I had kids. But none of those things (work, being a husband, or being a daddy) answered the question Iyanla Vanzant poses in her book: “What am I destined to do in life?”

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says, “Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us.” I was shown that line and told that if I could stay sober and help a few other people out each day, that by the time I lay my head on the pillow at the end of the evening, I’ve fulfilled my purpose and I am a huge success in life.

Wait, what? You mean I don’t have to make a ton of money to be successful? I don’t have to get out from all my debt? I don’t have to make my parents proud? I don’t have to give my wife and kids everything they desire every time they want it? I don’t have to have a new car or own a home to be a success? Correct.

All of those things come and go. Days pass and sometimes we achieve the material goals, sometimes we don’t. Some days we make everyone happy with us, some days we don’t. It’s time that we separate achieving those goals from our definition of success and happiness.

One of the reasons I love my life so much and I’m so happy is that I truly bought into that idea in the big book. All I need to do is stay sober (physically and emotionally), and be of maximum useful service to others, and I’m a huge success.

Sure, having nice things and making people happy always makes me feel good. The problem is when I become too attached to those results, then unhappiness follows when I don’t achieve them.

So today I’ll live in the moment, take extra good care of myself, and be there to help others when possible. When I keep things simple like this… ILML!

— JamieQ

How to Live a Great Life

How to Live a Great Life

“Al-Anon is like physical therapy for my soul, aligning my principles and behavior so that I can move joyfully through life!” — The Forum, March 1988, Hope for Today

What a wonderful analogy. This morning I did my mediation, prayers, and affirmations, leaving myself feeling spiritually centered.

Then I got up, made my bed, straightened my house, leaving myself feeling clean and organized.

Then I did my yoga, ran some wind sprints, lifted some weight and ran through some body core exercises, leaving myself feeling strong and healthy.

Then I showered, shaved, dressed nicely, groomed myself and drank a bunch of water, leaving myself feeling refreshed, handsome and hydrated.

Now I’m at Starbucks, doing my journaling, sending out my gratitude list, writing this blog post, reading from my spiritual backpack and infusing my mind with AlAnon ideas and principles, leaving myself feeling joyful and open to the abundance of the day.

In a little while I’ll be at a job I love to do, which also provides a great service to others, leaving myself feeling productive and self-supporting.

Later today I’ll stop working for a bit, play guitar and drink tea with my friends and brother, who are all in the program, sharing hobbies and fellowship, leaving myself feeling a sense of community, belonging and love.

After writing this all down, it’s evident to me why I love making the program a central and integral part of my life. It’s also easy to see why… ILML!

– JamieQ