1,646 Gallons of Jack

“All ten have now passed away of natural causes, having maintain complete sobriety.” — Big Book, Part I: Pioneers of AA

Because of the program, I’ve been sober a little over 36 years — 13,173 days to be exact. Although I drank every kind of booze, did blow for a couple years, spent a year doing acid every other day, took speed occasionally, spent a year obsessed with Quaaludes, and did my fair share of hash, mushrooms, peyote, and other drugs, on a typical day when I wasn’t partying with others, I was smoking about 3 grams of pot (at $5/gram because I dealt it), a $12 pint of Jack Daniels, and a $9 six-pack of beer (Heineken, hey don’t judge).

Let’s calculate that out…

13,173 x 3 = 39,519 grams of pot $197,595

13,173 x 1 = 13,173 pints of JD $158,076

13,173 x 6 = 79,038 bottled of beer $118,557

About half a million bucks saved. Not bad.

And aside from the physical toll I would have put on my body by smoking 87 pounds of pot, drinking 1,646 gallons of Jack, and drinking 7,410 gallons of beer over the last 36 years of my life, the emotional damage and hurt I would have inflicted on others, particularly those who loved me, would have been devastating.

For sure I would have never helped others get sober, become great men, and live happy, productive lives. Additionally, I likely would have never married, had kids, started a successful business, or bought a home, or discovered a relationship with a God of my understanding.

When I pause to think of the misery I’ve been spared, and the misery I’ve spared others from, not to mention all the amazing gifts I’ve received, as a result of staying sober and working this program, it’s easy to understand why ILML!

— JamieQ

It’s Truly Wonderful

Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” – Zig Ziglar

Imagine living your life expressing gratitude, out loud, every moment of the day. You wake up and the first words you utter are thank you. You’re saying it for waking up. “Thanks for me waking up today.

Then, if you’re sleeping with a wife or husband, you say thank you. Thanks for someone loving me enough to say yes, and stay by my side, through thick and thin.

Then you roll out of bed onto your knees and say thank you. “Thanks for these knees, they’re really great.” And as the day goes on you keep saying thank you. For your feet, your hair, the toilet, shower, soap, food in the fridge, the air you’re breathing, your home, your car, your family, the trees, a flower, the sky, a job, a few bucks in the bank, the ability to smile, a song, etc.

Imagine that every single thing you see, hear, feel, taste, touch or think of that you like, you say out loud “Thank You!” I’ll bet it would be hard to go through a day without saying thank you at least 1,000 times.

With so much to be great-full for, and so little in comparison to complain about, it’s suprising we ever get upset at all. These gratitude lists provide me with the reminder that what Zig says is so true, the more I focus on gratitude, and appreciate how truly wonderful everything is, the more ILML!

— JamieQ

The Best Words To Use

If I repeatedly make similar suggestions… I am probably trying to control… Trying to control other people only gets me in trouble.”

— Courage to Change

The problem for me is that I really would like them to change their behavior because, at least in my opinion, it’s unacceptable. But I’ve found the word “unacceptable” is, well, unacceptable, since I believe that acceptance is the first part of the answer to all my problems. The second part is either to take reasonable action or let it go.

A better solution for me is as follows: First I identify what behaviors from others make me uncomfortable. (Hint: writing these down helps.) Next I let others know—in a kind way—when it occurs (they don’t have ESP), and how I will handle it. Finally, I practice consistency in identifying the uncomfortable behavior and detaching, allowing others to learn what is, and is not, ok with me (in other words, they usually get tired of me detaching and stop behaving in ways that make me uncomfortable and cause me to detach).

In detaching I’ve found the best words to use with others are something like:

I’m uncomfortable and need a little space to work my Program. We can talk later.

Then I must quickly separate myself physically from that person before I react. In this way I take myself out of the problem and into the solution. I let the other person clearly know that I’m uncomfortable without blaming, and simultaneously keep my side of the street clean (no amends required).

Each time I do this, I celebrate a little victory, because whenever I apply the principles of the program… ILML!

— JamieQ

What an Idiot

If you keep saying things are going to be bad, you have a good chance of bing a prophet.” 

– Issac B. Singer

Sounds pretty similar to what I say frequently, “Be careful of what you’re saying out loud and to yourself, because your mind is listening and it believes you.”

Of course, it’s impossible to always think and say things that are positive. But what is possible is to catch ourselves when we do think or say things that are negative, and then take contrary actions.

Here’s a very clear example of how I practice living in the solution and getting out of negativity: 

After spilling the milk at home alone, I say out loud “What an idiot!”

Awareness hits me and I think to myself, “I just called myself an idiot, that’s not kind or productive.”

Which prompts me to take action by saying the contrary thing out loud, “Actually, I’m not an idiot, I’m a really smart guy who just made a mistake because we human beings do that, we make mistakes.”

Which evokes a feeling of success and celebration, causing me to yell out, “I’m stoked I caught myself, that’s a victory, you rock James, I love my life.”

Which puts a big smile on my face. I’m smiling after spilling the milk. That’s rad!

This process, once practiced, can become an automatic way of life, regardless of who, what or where the negativity is directed.

So the next time you start thinking upsetting thoughts, or speaking things that are fearful or unkind, give it a shot. And remember, it all starts with awareness.

Whenever I use the tools of the program to change the way I think and speak, from negative to positive, ILML!

— JamieQ

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