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

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

The Essence of the Program

The Essence of the Program

“During the first six months of 1935, I was hospitalized eight times for intoxication. I was moved into another room, where my wife was waiting. She said, “You are going to quit. There are two drunks who have a plan to quit drinking. Part of their plan is to tell the plan to another drunk. This will help them stay sober.” I felt as if I would be a real stinker if I did not listen to a couple of fellows for a short time, if it would cure them. My wife also said I could not pay them even if I had money, which I did not.” — Adapted from the Big Book, Alcoholic #3

This is the essence of our program.

I share my story with others who have suffered like me. This is my experience.

I share what I had to do, and the dedication and commitment I made, and continue to make, to get better. This is my strength.

Then I share what happened as a result of working the program, how my life has transformed and gotten better. How I now love my life. This is my hope.

Then I offer myself, to guide them through the program, at no charge whatsoever. This is my service.

And through this process I’ve tapped into the wonderful, good and loving part of myself, my self-esteem was restored, I found a purpose, I’m actively pursuing it, and… ILML!

— JamieQ

A Recipe for Lemonade

A Recipe for Lemonade

“To truly have a zest for life, you must squeeze all the juice out of it… especially the lemons. Believe it or not, they make life even more delicious. The lessons you get out of them make you strong, resilient, and amazing.” – Jenny G. Perry

I’m not gonna lie to you, my life is incredible. I’m 56 years old, 36 years sober, and I’m a Double Winner—in both programs, Alcoholics Anonymous and AlAnon. My family life is fantastic! I have a successful business, I love to go to work every day, I get plenty of sleep, and I’m in peak health. I have more close friends than I could’ve ever dreamed of, many of whom I would lay down my life for. And I awake eaxh morning and yell out “I love my life!” Sound like I’m bragging? I’m not.

My life is great because I’ve mastered the art of making lemonade from lemons (as Jenny Perry would say—making zest from the lemons I encounter.)

In other words, I’ve learned how to find gratitude in everything. My brother Robbie, when describing the way he approaches life, kisses his fingertips, thrusts them into the sky above his head, and simply says “Thank You.” The secret, I’ve found, is to do this for everything—especially those things that I don’t particularly care for.

About 50% of the time, events in my life do NOT go the way I would like them to. In other words, I don’t get MY WAY half the time. Half the time! I believe this is the reason why I drank and took drugs. When I didn’t like something, when I felt bad, or when I didn’t know how to handle uncomfortable feelings, I self medicated.

And here’s the thing, just because I love my life and things are great, doesn’t mean things always go according to my plan. I’m still batting around 50% in terms of things going my way, versus things not going my way.

Luckily, the program and doing the daily deal has given me the tools to handle it, without reacting or needing to numb out my feelings when I’m not at ease.

But I won’t kid you, the process I use for loving my life takes a lot of consistency, a tremendous amount of dedication, and a significant amount of time invested daily. In other words, loving life doesn’t come without a sacrifice. I could be doing lots of other, really important, things while I’m spending hours getting and keeping myself in the attitude of gratitude, recalibrating my expectometer, and loving life.

The 12&12 says, “… these minutes and sometimes hours spent in self-examination are bound to make all the other hours of our day better and happier.”

I’m not the kind of person that believes everything I see, hear or read. But in this case, I’ve put it to the test and found those words to be true for me. When I invest the time to make my daily recovery rituals the #1 priority each day, my problems get resolved, my relationships get healthier, my finances improve, I physically feel better, 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

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