The Solution to Every One of my Problems

The Solution to Every One of my Problems

“My problems are like shark teeth. When one falls out, another one pops right up in it’s place.” – Chris K., A Sponsee

My mind persistently tries to take me into the problem. It says: “If I look at the problem it will help me because I can find a solution and be happy.” I don’t believe it works like that.

Instead, I’m much happier, and my life runs much better, when I apply the AlAnon slogan “Awareness, Acceptance & Action” as follows:

When a problem arises, I first recognize that I have a problem. This is my awareness. 

Next, I accept that when it comes to problems there are only two possible actions: I can solve it or let go and let God. I recognize that those are the only real solutions. This is my acceptance.

And finally, if I have the answer to the problem, and can fix it right now, all by myself, I’ll do that. But if I don’t have an immediate solution that 100% in my control, I let go of it, give it to God, and focus my attention on things I have control over, like doing things that make me happy. This is my action.

By applying this simple practice to any problem in my life, I’m actually working the principles of the program. And when I do that, instead of trying to manage, direct and control people, places and things that are definitely out of my hula hoop… ILML!

— JamieQ

No Longer a Dry Drunk

Our liquor was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions.” —Alcoholics Anonymous p.64

A symptom, as described by Miriam Webster, is “subjective evidence of disease or physical disturbance.” Therefore, our drinking and using was evidence of an underlying dis-ease. Without getting to the root of that illness, and treating it, we never really heal.

In AA we call this a dry drunk. I know all about it—I was one for many years. Some people believe that eliminating alcohol and drugs is enough. I personally don’t think it’s possible to really love our lives, or play well with others, unless we dig deeper.

Over the last three decades, I’ve begun to discover the source of my personal dis-ease—the one I used alcohol and drugs to treat. But to do so has taken hundred of hours in self-examination, reading and writing in recovery books, and working one-on-one with my sponsor. Slowly I began to see why I struggled in life, particularly in relation to others, and how my reactions to them frequently made my problems worse.

Through the program I’ve discovered how to completely reverse both my dis-ease and the effect it had on me and those around me. And making amends is at the very top of my list of solutions. By taking responsibility for my actions, and sincerely attempting to stop engaging in behaviors that hurt myself and others, I’ve learned how to become a better man. I’ve gained some self-respect, and being proud (instead of ashamed) of my behavior, definitely makes me happy.

The other tools of the program, namely prayer, meditation, affirmations, service work, meetings, fellowship, sponsorship, journaling, gratitude lists, self supporting behaviors, hobbies, and self-care all contribute to a building and maintaining a strong immunity against my dis-ease. Through self-discipline and consistency in these daily actions, I get to stay in the middle of the lifeboat, where I’m safe, protected and… ILML!

—JamieQ

Listen, Learn & Grow

Listen, Learn & Grow

“It takes a rare person to want to hear what he doesn’t want to hear.” —Dick Cavett

My mind, after childhood and before the program, was pretty much set in stone. Although I was open to learning new things, I wasn’t a big fan of being told what to do, how to act, or how to think. Neither did I care much for other people’s opinions, because I thought so highly of my own.

In fact, I was so sure that my opinions were better than everyone else’s, that I spent countless hours attempting to convince other people that I was right, and they were wrong.

This behavior not only pushed people away from me, it also prevented me from evolving into a really good man.

The first time I became aware that my behavior was a problem was when I heard the quote, “There is a principle which … cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance—that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”

Shortly thereafter, at a meeting, it dawned on me that the second part of the serenity prayer suggested that I get up “the courage to change the things I can“—meaning me and my attitudes.” After that, the evolution was on.

Today I’m open and willing to listen, learn & grow. I no longer practice contempt prior to investigation, and I try hard to catch myself if I’m acting righteous or like a know-it-all. It’s not always easy—believe me, I have plenty of slips—but I’m getting better all the time.

Today I know that as long as I’m actively trying to evolve into a better version of me… ILML!

— JamieQ

Being Proud of Myself

Being Proud of Myself

“There is a moment, just before I act, when I have a choice about my action.” — Reaching for Personal Freedom

The critical concepts intrinsic to playing well with others and having a serene, joyful life have been repeated over and over in various ways by various people through the ages.

This idea, to pause when agitated, to grace the space between the impulse and the action, to simply keep my mouth closed whenever I’m feeling uncomfortable, can make the difference between happiness and misery, marriage and divorce, friendship and isolation.

But I’ve discovered it’s virtually impossible to practice this incredibly important habit unless I’ve been practicing the other tools that allow me to love my life.

In other words, when I’m upset and about to open my mouth, send the text or email, or post the comment, my ability to refrain from doing so is directly proportion to how diligently I’ve been working my life loving program.

Sleep. Meditation. Connecting with source. Yoga. Keeping myself and my surroundings clean and organized. Doing affirmations. Helping others for fun and free. Taking time out to appreciate nature. Practicing my hobbies. Dancing. Being responsible. Smiling. Knowing when I’ve hurt others and making amends quickly. Singing. Journaling. Laughing. Listening to upbeat music. Exercising my muscles. Eating healthy and delicious food. Reading from inspirational books to evolve. Not taking myself and life so seriously. Having fellowship. Yelling out “I love my life!”

These are just some of the tools I use each day to prepare me for that inevitable moment when I’m uncomfortable with what’s going on and tempted to give someone my two cents. And even when the situation warrants a response, I’m much more likely to express my feelings in a loving way, provided I’ve been taking care of myself physically, emotionally and spiritually.

By keeping my side of the street clean, I’m free of guilt, proud of the way I handle myself with others and… ILML!

— JamieQ

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 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