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

Forgiveness: The Antivenom

“There is no other way but forgiveness to clean the wounds of all the poison.” – The Mastery Of Love

If you’re reading this, stop for just one moment at the end of this sentence, close your eyes, and think about any and all people that, because what they did was so bad, you just cannot possibly forgive.

Ok, if you’re like me, there were at least a couple. These people are poisoning us. Our hurt and anger over what they did will continue to live inside us until we forgive them. And by forgiving, I don’t mean to say that what they did was ok. It WASN’T! What they did was terrible. That’s why we are so upset.

Here’s the ones I have had trouble forgiving. Hal, my ex-step-father. Greg, an ex-client. Forest, my wife’s father. Myself, for hurting others when I was using.

But it’s time we let go and gave them, and their misdeeds, to God, especially if we are among those we can’t seem to forgive. Our higher power is much better equipped to handle it than us. By letting go, and letting God, we surrender our resentment, forgiving the trespasses as we would like to be forgiven ours. Of course, detach from anyone that’s toxic, but it’s time to surrender our anger and make space for more love. Because when I let go, let God, and open myself up to more love, ILML!

– JamieQ

Love is Conditional

“What we’re striving for in recovery is a loving relationship with ourselves so that we can have loving relationships with others.” Adapted from The Language of Letting Go

I believe that it’s impossible to really get along well with others, stand up for ourselves, deeply and intimately love a partner, and be truly happy to the core if we haven’t figured out how to really love ourselves.

Like all the other successes in recovery, falling in love with myself (not in the egotistical sense but in the deeply liking who I am sense) didn’t come easily. But that’s understandable. My actions, towards others and myself, were disgraceful. I did so many things that hurt me and those around me that it was hard to grasp the idea that I could actually like myself, let alone love me.

The Program showed me that I could become another type of man entirely. By changing the way I thought, spoke, and acted, I could become a good, loving man, and in the process change the way I felt about myself. It required huge shifts in my behaviors, and sincere requests each day from my Higher Power to help me overcome those defects of character that I acted on, prior to recovery.

I started speaking more kindly, and learning about my own boundaries of acceptability, both from myself and others. I began building self-esteem by taking esteem-able actions.

But I was a tough case. In order for me to overcome my dislike for all the past actions that had poisoned my life and my perception of self, I needed to work even harder than many others. I had to start watching—and changing—what I was saying to myself, because my mind was believing the words I spoke aloud.

Sentences that started with “I’m not…, I can’t…, I’ll never…, It’s no use…., I don’t deserve…,” blocked me from evolving into a new, great man, and inviting in all the abundance God had in store for me. I replaced them with “You deserve…, You will…, You can…, You are…”, and I began mandating the man, and the dreams, I had always longed for.

Today I look into the mirror, directly into my eyes, and smile. Then I say “I love you James!” Then I yell out “And I love my life!” And I mean it. But this love is conditional upon the maintenance of my (rigorous) spiritual program of action. If I slack off, it starts to go away quickly.

And so I’m diligent, consistent and determined to practice this new way of life with the conviction of a dying man. Because when I do that, everyday ILML!

— JamieQ

I Still Tell Lies

“Sooner or later, all of us realize that we have to draw our moral lines somewhere… Today I will draw the line at anything that blocks me from my Higher Power.” — In God’s Care

I grew up in the 60s and 70s, definitely a child of hippies. My dad was dropping acid, smoking pot, and bringing home iguanas and monkeys to live with us. Me and my 2 brothers rode Honda 50 minibikes around the neighborhood like banshees, and as young kids stayed out playing in the neighborhood ’til dark every day. We had a ton of freedom, everyone seemed to always be naked, but my folks tried to teach me the difference between right and wrong. I tried my best to listen and follow the golden rule, but there was a lot of “do what I say, not what I do” going on.

At 15 I myself became an alcoholic and addict, putting everything I could find to change how I felt into my body until I was 20. During that time I managed to lose any concept of morality that had existed. I was self centered to the extreme, angry, hurt, confused, rebellious, Godless, and diagnosed by a psychiatrist as a pathological liar (I couldn’t tell when I was lying).

The program was a roadmap back to morality. And that was just the beginning. Beyond the steps, sponsorship and approved literature, I sought out other means to become a better man and improve my spiritual connection on a daily basis. Practicing actual physical actions like writing this blog, doing yoga, making daily gratitude lists, doing affirmations, journaling regularly, reading approved and outside literature, and highlighting what resonated with me. These actions took my journey to the next level.

Today, the dream of being able to love the man I saw in the mirror is no longer just a dream, it’s my reality. Becoming a great father, a great husband, a great employer, a great brother, a great son, and a great man is one of the greatest joys I have experienced (and continue to experience) in my life. It brings me closer to source.

Of course, sobriety was the beginning of it all—without that, none of this would have been possible. But after my craving for drugs and booze disappeared, my craving for all the promises replaced it, and it’s pushed me far beyond sobriety and doing the Steps just once. These days, I work a strong recovery program, peeling off layers of defects, allowing my true, wonderful character qualities to shine brightly.

That said, I’m certainly not pure as snow with regard to morality. I still lie occasionally, which forces me to make amends. I still exaggerate and then need to correct myself. I still gossip, and catch myself, as it feels bad inside my gut. I get angry, yell, swear, and do things I’m not proud of. All that at 35 years sober.

Seriously? Oh yeah. And here is why. In my opinion, perfection in character and morality, in words and actions, in thoughts and opinions, is unachievable. Luckily, I’m in total acceptance about that. What I’m really after anyway is spiritual growth, the promise that, if I do the work, I’ll continually move towards becoming a better and better man each day. And by consistently working a dedicated and diligent program of spiritual action day after day, year after year, that’s exactly what’s been happening to me.

I am grateful to have found The Program and to work it to the best of my ability. It keeps me connected to source. I’m more of a contributor than a contaminator. And as long as I’m living in the solution, and doing my very best to work The Program, ILML!

— JamieQ