From Problems to Promises

From Problems to Promises

“… ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.” — Deepak

Every one of the 12 step programs contains promises. Although each set is a bit different, they are all predicated on the promise that, provided we embrace the principles, ideas and steps of the program, and consistently practice them in our lives, we will become happy, joyous and free.

I’ve had the great fortune to work with many people coming into the program. I’ve seen how broken many were. Many come in with issues like homelessness, jail, divorce, poverty, devastated families, and grave illness. When I came in, I was hurting so badly yet keeping all my tears on the inside. Each of these issues individually can seem very difficult to overcome. Combine several of them and it seem impossible. Could the program really heal their lives? Did it heal mine? Yes it did!

I was tired of being a prisoner of the past and the only way I could have a great future was to try something different, regardless of how much I doubted it would work, or even how much I didn’t want to do it (that was my case in the beginning). But, as they say in many meetings on closing, I kept coming back.

Very slowly, I began dipping my toes into this new way of life. But like a giant redwood tree, that grows strong because it grows slowly, it took me time to fully understand and commit to this new way of life.

As it says in one of the AlAnon readings “There is no situation too difficult to be bettered, and no unhappiness too great to be lessened.” But experience also tells me that “It works only if I work it.” What’s cool is that there’s no limit on how great my life can be or how much happiness I can experience provided I really give 110% to the program, and make it the first, and most important, priority in my life. And every time, without exception, that I do that, the rewards are amazing and… ILML!

— JamieQ

The Lucky Ones

“Recently I reacted to a situation. I started to get angry – really angry. I felt like a victim.” — Hope for Today

One of the greatest things I’ve learned about in recovery is the intrinsic relationship between anger and victimhood. This was reinforced by the enlightening book “You Can’t Make Me Angry”, written by one of our members.

Basically, I’ve discovered that it’s impossible for me to be angry without being a victim. Even in situations where nobody did something hurtful to me directly, the fact that they’ve stolen away my serenity, even temporarily, makes me their victim, empowering the person or institution that I resented in the first place!

When I’m in a state of expansive awareness, and I recognize this, I can apply that wonderful AlAnon slogan “I am responsible for my own serenity.” Remember that, I then start applying tools for serenity to my life. Deep breathing. Gratitude lists. Funny videos. Petting my dog or cat. Yoga. Meditation. Reading from my spiritual backpack. Journaling out my feelings and solutions.

I’m so lucky to have been touched by alcoholism. Without this disease, along with the affects it’s had on my life, I wouldn’t qualify to be a member in AA and AlAnon. How odd is it that? In order to be invited into the greatest program in the world, I had to be caught in the crossfire? Hopefully, one day, everyone can gain membership into a 12 step program, and benefit from our collective experiences, without necessarily having been devastated by this disease.

But until then, I’ll count myself as one of the lucky ones. Because of AA, AlAnon, the people in the programs, and having found a higher power… ILML!

JamieQ

Two Types of Acceptance

Two Types of Acceptance

Knowing what’s acceptable and what’s not, when we should practice it and when we shouldn’t, isn’t always easy.

We’ve all heard of Dr. Paul’s “Acceptance is the Answer” in the book Alcoholics Anonymous (aka The Big Book). In fact, it’s one of my very favorites, and something I’ve arrived to live by in my life. But does it always apply? Even when someone’s behavior, or some thing, is unacceptable?

In my attempt to gain useful understanding around the idea of acceptance, I sought out, and found, a couple of explanations that provided clarity to my question:

Acceptance in human psychology is a person’s assent to the reality of a situation.

Acceptance, as defined in a dictionary, is the willingness to tolerate a difficult or unpleasant situation.

Based upon those two disparate meanings, I came to the conclusion that there are two forms of acceptance, one that’s helpful to practice in every situation, and one that may not be helpful to practice, depending upon the situation.

I apply the first type of acceptance to everything, provided I’m spiritually fit enough to do so. And when I’m not, I usually pay the price by fighting reality. After all, let’s face it: what is, is, regardless of whether I accept it or not. Being angry or hurt or frustrated by it does no good at all. In fact, it usually prevents us from moving past it, meaning we stay in it, even when it’s unhealthy to do so.

But by accepting the situation for what it is, we are now able to ask ourselves “Am I ok with this, as is, on a continuing basis?” If, the answer is no, then we can now move out of the problem, and into the solution. And here’s how I do it…

1. INVENTORY I write about the situation, identifying what’s happening, honestly looking at my part, how I’ve contributed to the problem, as well as theirs, or how the situation is affecting me if it’s not a person.

2. GUIDANCE I ask for some time with my my trusted advisor (sponsor).

3. RESPONSIBILITY I read to them what I’ve written and discuss it, asking for help to dig deeper in finding my part, adding any new awareness to what I’ve already written. I then lightly cross out everything I’ve written except my part, in order to get to step 4 below.

4. DETERMINATION With my advisor, we determine if I should stay in, or detach from, the person and/or situation. We do this by asking the following questions:

(A) If I continue accepting this situation is there a good chance it may be dangerous to me or others? If so, then it’s time to detach.

(B) Have I discovered that I really have no part in this (for example, a young child being physically abused by a parent). If we honestly have no part, again, it’s time to detach. If neither of these apply, we move to (C).

(C) Is there a possibility that my actions, or inactions, have contributed to this unacceptable situation. If the answer is yes, then with the help of my advisor I create and write out a plan of action that includes changes I can make in my behavior, that may effect a change for the better in my relationship or situation.

5. ACTION I then practice my plan of action for a period of one month, keeping a daily checklist in my journal to see if I’m actually practicing my plan of action. For example (A) Send a loving text to my parter each day – Yes [X] No [ ].

6. FOLLOWUP After the month is over, with my advisor, I review my checklist to see how well I’ve followed through with my plan of action, if things are now acceptable, (or moving towards acceptable), and what, if any, changes in my plan of action should be taken.

In the past when I struggled with acceptance, I would blame myself or someone else, and either fight my way through it, causing more destruction, or run the other way out of fear, even when there was no danger.

Today, instead of struggling to accept situations that are uncomfortable, I embrace them, applying concrete actions aimed at solution. In this way I invite awareness, growth, love and abundance into my problems, turning them into opportunities for growth. And when I do that, not only do I build more respect and love for myself, but as an added bonus… ILML!

— JamieQ

Acceptance & Rejection

“… every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being re-directed to something better.” — From an Image found Online

I recently applied for a loan. The purpose was to make some improvements at my home and consolidate some credit card debt. My credit is good, something that hasn’t always been the case, but my income didn’t justify to the bank that they could make the loan. So I was rejected.

Gratefully, I’ve been diligently working my program, living in the solution, doing the daily deal, connected to source, and in a place where (as Deepak says) “I move through the day lighthearted and carefree knowing all is well.”

Because I’m already living in the attitude of gratitude, I took the rejection as a sign that I don’t need the loan, that everything is fine just as it is, and my life will actually be better without it.

This was not so in the past. When I was rejected I would immediately feel indignant, which means angry at what I perceived to be unfair treatment. That’s also known as a resentment, something that always leaves me feeling bad. And for what? Maybe I really am being re-directed to a something better, and if so, shouldn’t I feel joyful? You bet I should!

By incorporating daily rituals which allow me to live in a place of love, compassion, joy and equanimity, I get to see rejection in a new light, both acceptance and rejection are gifts, and my life feels as though it’s going exactly as it should. And when all of that is happening at once… ILML!

— JamieQ

Change = Abundance

Change = Abundance

“Change is the one constant in our life and yet it causes us the most unrest.” – In God’s Care

Why is change so scary and uncomfortable sometimes? Even when we’re firmly walking on this spiritual path of recovery, knowing abundance is shining upon us?

I can only speak for myself, but I’m a man of creature comforts. I order the same drink everyday at Starbucks – Venti Chai Latte, 6 pumps, extra hot, no water, no foam, with cinnamon and whipped cream. Always a Belgium waffle at Izzy’s deli. Always a James salad at Penne Pasta Cafe (yeah, they make it special for me :-).

So when things change, I’m naturally throw off. No chai today? Out of syrup? No tomatoes for the salad? The sky is falling!!!

Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but you get what I’m talking about. So when there’s bigger changes and challenges, like illness, death, loss of income, and relationship changes, it can get dicey for a guy like me.

Luckily, at 56 years of age I’ve had a ton of experience with change. I’ve seen how handling change with an openness in my heart is so much more peaceful and comfortable than reacting to it. So I’ve come up with a way to limit my reactions to unexpected, typically alarming changes and respond to them with open arms, welcoming in a different, perhaps even more wonderful, experience.

I’ve used this exercise to great success, but I’ll warn you in advance that many people , in hearing about it, have told me they feel it’s pessimistic, negative, catastrophizing and unnecessarily creates fear. Regardless, that’s not the case for me, so here it is.

I envision the worst case scenarios in my life. The changes that might occur, which I have no power over, that I think would feel devastating, paralyzing and may throw me into a deep depression. The worst things I could imagine happening. Death of loved ones, loss of my job or home, blindness, divorce, etc.

Then I look at how I might react in fear, pain and hurt. This reaction would most often be considered “normal” by others. Then I ask myself to imagine responding completely differently, from a place of acceptance, love and belief that everything will be just fine. I walk through the experience and feelings of loss, letting go of the fear and sadness and choosing to handle it with grace and optimism.

This isn’t an easy exercise, but it’s been a great one for me. It’s empowered me to live life feeling that I can handle any change that happens, knowing my life won’t fall apart.

I still get thrown off my guard. I had never imagined one of my children might be paralyzed for life, and recently that almost happened. My son came down with Guillain-Barre Syndrome and was paralyzed. Gratefully he recovered in only 3 weeks. But even in that situation I was able to respond in love, faith and the knowledge that somehow things would be ok. The doctors were awesome and he’s running 5 miles a day and found his calling through the process – he’s now in school to be a doctor.

When I live in faith and am open to change, I invite even more abundance and love into myself and others, things end up working out great, and… ILML!

— JamieQ

A Heightened State of Awareness

A Heightened State of Awareness

“I am space, I am the sun, I am the directions, above and below, I am all things, I am the earth, I am the ocean, the world exists in me, I am the fragrance in flowers, I am the very essence in all things in the universe.” – Excerpts from a Deepak Chopra Meditation

I love the idea that we are totally connected with everything, not only on the planet, but throughout the multiverses. That we are inseparable from all that exists. When I tap into this feeling, allowing myself to feel connected to everything and everyone, a peace settles over me, bringing a gentle smile to my face.

When I hurt someone or something, I’m hurting myself. Whether it’s another person or a small spider. And when I’m aware that I am everything and everything is me, I can’t avoid feeling what I am doing to them or the world around me. It’s a law. The law of reciprocity.

When I love, I feel love. When I’m mean, I feel hurt. When I’m compassionate, I feel understood. When I am punishing, I feel shut off from the sunlight of the spirit. What I give, I receive. That’s why the gift of being of service in the program has been such a wonderful experience – as I connect and love others, I instantly feel connected and loved in return.

Today I’ll remember that everything came from, and ultimately goes back to, source. I am, at my very essence, source, as is the sun, moon, rain, trees, animals, and every person on this planet.

Through being loving, compassionate and helpful to others, I end up feeling loved, understood and valued in return. And when I live in that heightened state of awareness and understanding, whereby I am connected to all things, my ego mind slips away, I am liberated, and… ILML!

– JamieQ

Struggled with Meditation

Struggled with Meditation

“… in meditation… Our mind will gradually quiet down… take time today to be still…” — In God’s Care

Why is is so darn hard for some of us to meditate? It takes no real special talents. No experience is necessary. It only requires a few minutes, at the very least, out of our day. Then why so much resistance?

I believe I’m sort of an expert when it comes to avoiding meditation. I managed to not do that particular part of step 11 for the first 33 years in the program. For whatever reason I just couldn’t make time for, or get into, meditation. Maybe it’s my ADD. Maybe it’s my ADHD. Whatever the reason, I just couldn’t get into consistently meditating on a daily basis.

My first real attempt to meditate was by using an app called Simply Being in 2016. I set it up for 5 minutes, picked the voice and background music I liked, got quiet and listened. I usually did this while sitting at Starbucks, just before doing my rituals, and once I had my Chai Latte in my hands.

If I were to guess, I probably meditated with this app about 50 days out of the year. Still, not bad for a newbie with only 34 years in program.

But several months back, while on a trip to Florida, a sponsee told me about a 21 day free Oprah/Deepak meditation challenge. I love challenges, so I downloaded the app and did it.

That experience ushered meditation into my life in a completely new way. Closing my eyes, breathing, and listening to ways in which I can invite peace, abundance, acceptance, love, kindness, and optimistic abundance into my life is having a profound affect on my life. In those 21 days, the words spoken, both by Oprah and Deepak, were inspirational and, when listened to first thing each morning, helped me start my day off feeling open to all the joyous possibilities life can offer me.

So I began searching YouTube for other inspirational morning meditations (usually 10 minutes or less, lol). These days I have a few favorites that I’m listening to every morning in bed. Sometimes I even play them after I get out of bed, on my Bluetooth speaker when I’m in the shower and getting ready for the day. Hearing messages about how amazing life is and how much love is coming my direction is an awesome way to get going each day.

So I guess you could say that I’ve gone from a guy that never meditated, who had a real difficult time inviting meditation into my life, to a guy that loves starting his day off in meditation. It’s probably because that this trope of inspirational meditation fills me up with a sense of gratitude and the belief that today will be a wonderful day. And when I feel like that… ILML!

— JamieQ