The 5-10-11-12 Club

The 5-10-11-12 Club

“… become, one day at a time, the people we want to be.” — Hope for Today

I often talk about how I am striving each day to become the very best version of me.

The way in which I attain this goal, to grow and evolve into the most wonderful man I can be, is to embrace the courage to recognize and acknowledge the things that are holding me back from that desire.

Here’s how I take the action.

I write out a daily inventory, recapping the last 24 hours, identifying both my successes and those thoughts and behaviors that I engaged in which could be improved upon. Doing this provides me with the insight necessary to effectuate positive change in my life.

Both my ability to face my shortcomings, along with a resolve to do better, little by little, day by day, helps to transform me into a slightly better version of me. I also identify in my writing if I’ve hurt someone, and provided I’m spiritually fit enough, I make immediate amends by picking up the phone.

As an added benefit, if I’m practicing prayer and meditation and sponsoring others or sharing at meetings, when asked what what step I’m working on, I can always honestly say, “I’m in the 5, 10, 11 & 12 Club.”

Here’s why:

5: We’re admitting our shortcomings.

10: We’re taking our inventory and making amends.

11: We’re making time for prayer and meditation.

12: We’re carrying the message.

I’ve done lots of wonderful things in my life. I’ve also done plenty of shitty things. These days I want only to plant seeds of love, and avoid planting seeds of destruction. I can do this more often than not by diligently working a spiritual program of action. And as a byproduct… ILML!

Life Gets Lifey

Life Gets Lifey

Lack of power, that was our dilemma.” AA, pg. 45

I’m part of a group of individuals that sends out gratitude lists back-and-forth, between each other, on almost a daily basis. This morning I received a gratitude list from someone who works a rigorous 12 step spiritual program of action. In it, she said, “I don’t try and control things as much as I used to.”

It made me think that, although the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous were correct in the fact that lack of power was our dilemma, particularly with regard to alcohol, I’ve found that in long-term recovery, it’s lack of control that seems to be at the root of many of my troubles.

Whether I’m willing to admit it or not, I tend to want people to do the things that I want them to do, act the way that I want them to act, and speak to me the way I would like to be spoken to.

I also tend to want situations to go the way that I want them to go, how I think they should happen, Because I believe that would be the best outcome not only for me, but for everyone else to.

And I’m very clear as to what I would like to happen with regard to the health of my body. I’d like to always be strong, healthy, slim and attractive.

Well, at 57 years old I’ve finally begun to realize that life doesn’t always turn out exactly the way I’d like it to go. As I often say, without my ability to manage, direct and control everything, life tends to get lifey.

More often than not, people have an inclination to do what they would like to do, rather than what I would like them to do.

Things that I’ve planned often turn out differently than I hoped.

And my body, well, it has this weird way of getting older and, well, heavier. LOL. I also noticed that the older I get, the more I experience strange aches and pains, some of which have actually required medical intervention.

So you see, my ability to control people, places and things is really just an illusion of control. As they say in ALAnon, I’m really only in charge of what’s happening inside my hula hoop. And even then, at least when it comes to my human body, I’m really not in complete control of that either.

What I have learned to control is the amount of energy I put into becoming the best version of me I can possibly become. That includes doing things that positively feed my mind l, body and spirit. In these situations, the only one I’m battling for control with, is my DisEase. He would certainly prefer that I spend zero time taking care of myself spiritually, emotionally and physically because the more pain I am in, the more likely I will hurt others and hurt myself.

So again, just for today, like most of the days over the last 17 years of my life, I’ll make my recovery a priority. Because when I put first things first… ILML!

Love Polluter

Love Polluter

“… love wastefully…” — 12 Step Prayer Book

While doing my morning rituals at Starbucks this morning, Chai Latte in hand, I was reading through the Eleventh Step Meeting Opening Prayer and this line stood out to me: love wastefully. So, of course, I highlighted. underlined and circled it. Then I wrote it at the top of the page.

When I think of being wasteful, my mind tends to go to conservation. Ironically, conserving my love is, in itself, a waste. I’d even go so far as to say that, for me at least, it’s a crime, punishable by the loss of greater joy and happiness.

Today I’ll make it a point to be a love polluter, and I’ll toss out love wherever I go and to whomever I meet.

ILML!

How to Overcome Problems

How to Overcome Problems

We all need to share some of our problems from time to time. However, I soon realized that dwelling on them week after week, with no movement towards recovery, was not helping me.” — Hope for Today

Reading this inspired me to write about my experience, both in dealing with recurring problems, and helping out others in dealing with them.

Below I’ve listed a few examples of the most common ones I’ve come across. When reading them, ask yourself if you’ve ever had any of these problems, or heard others complain about them.

GREEN (finances)

‘I’m not making enough money. I’m worried that I can’t keep this up financially. What if the next deal doesn’t happen. I’m homeless, with no place to sleep. I’ve no money even for food. No matter how much I make, I can’t get ahead. I got screwed on a deal. My client/boss isn’t paying me. I want more. I bought things I can’t afford. I’m losing my home because I can’t pay my mortgage. The medical bills are killing me. The creditors keep calling. I lied/was unethical/cheated to get ahead financially and now I’m in real trouble. The industry I’m in is on the decline. I’ve maxed out my credit cards. My credit score is terrible. I lost $100 from my pocket. My phone was cutoff because I’m broke. I now have to live in my car. My phone broke (again). My car got repossessed/towed. My wife makes more money than me. Everyone else seems to be making more money than me. My brother/sister/mom/dad/friend won’t loan my any money. I didn’t get the raise I was supposed to get. I didn’t get the promotion. I can’t afford an engagement ring. I can’t afford a wedding. Others at work are terrible people and affecting my financial situation. I got demoted. My work hours were cut back. Paying for rehab for my kid is bankrupting me. I was laid off. I was fired. I had to quit because I hated my boss. I declared bankruptcy. My lifestyle cost is more than I can afford. I’m scared I’ll lose everything.’ And the list goes on…

PINK (relationships)

‘I’m really unhappy in my relationship. She’s leaving me for someone else. She’s acting aloof. She never initiates sex. She cheated on me. She rejects me when I make sexual advances. She spends all of our money. She doesn’t love me the way I want her to. We don’t have sex often enough. She won’t get a job. She’s not raising/disciplining/taking care of the kids the way I want her to. She’s not keeping the house clean. She doesn’t like my friends/family. She drinks alcohol. She doesn’t let me surf. She smokes pot. She’s bipolar. She’s using sleeping pills. She’s rude to me in front of others. She tries to control me. She dresses slutty. She dresses too conservatively. Her breath is bad. Her friends suck. She doesn’t do anything to make our relationship better. She smokes cigarettes. She’s getting out of shape. She watches reality TV. She embarrasses me. She has differing political views. She’s religious. She’s not religious. She may not be right for me. I’m unhappy with her. And the list goes on…

Health (red)

I feel really sick. I have trouble sleeping. I’m depressed. I have anxiety. I’ve been ill so much this year. I’m exhausted. I have no energy. I can’t wake up in the morning. I have high blood pressure. I have high cholesterol. I’m anemic. I think I have heavy metal poisoning. Maybe there’s mold in my house. My allergies are terrible. I have hemorrhoids. I have canker sores. My knees/shoulders/arm/head/legs/stomach hurts. I’m breaking out. I’m losing my hair. I’m overweight. I can’t exercise because it hurts. My neck is killing me. I hear ringing in my ears. I have vertigo. I was diagnosed with a horrible chronic illness. I have an inoperable tumor. I was told to get my affairs in order. My mom/dad/sibling/aunt/grandparent/child/friend died. I’m devastated. I’m mentally suffering. I can’t breath. I have to go on oxygen. I’ve been prescribed heavy pain meds and have to take them. I’m heading to the hospital. I need to smoke pot to relax. And the list goes on…

By no means is this list of problems comprehensive or complete. But it should give you a pretty good idea of how much blaming we do, as humans. In fact, I would go so far as to say that these types of problems, thought about and spoken out loud, definitely contribute to the problems themselves. They may even help to manifest a problem, where one never really existed, except in our mind.

On the other hand, many times these problems are facts, grounded in concrete proof of their existence. Someone truly may be sick and diagnosed with an illness. There may in fact be infidelity in a relationship. We may have actually lost a job, and our ability to support ourselves may be in jeopardy. So what are we supposed to do in these situations?

In my life, whether fact or fantasy, how I approach the situation doesn’t change. The way I see it is as follows:

Negative thought will create or exacerbate my problem; positive thought will help resolve or eliminate my problem.

Now, finding a way to be positive in the face of adversity is never easy. Whether it’s the death of a loved one, our health, a relationship issue or our finances. Each of these things has the power to take us down.

I’ve personally been, and overcome, many challenging problems. The death of several very close loved ones, a terminal brain tumor, infidelity and the destruction of a marriage, to name just a few. And my ability to stay positive in the face of these events was always directly proportional to the amount of time I spent engaged rituals which improved my state of mind and helped me both love and appreciate my life. The key here is that I was doing these things on a regular basis PRIOR to the occupancies of the problem.

By consistently engaging in behaviors which keeps me in the attitude of gratitude, I’m better prepared to more graciously handle (and overcome) the problems that used to besiege me. In other words, equanimity will be available to me when I most need it.

Today I do the daily deal almost every day of my life, and, as a direct result of investing that time, I get to be happy, joyous, free, and… ILML!

— JamieQ

A 16 Second Pause

A 16 Second Pause

“… we usually have at least a moment to breathe deeply and restore our serenity and peace.” – The Language of Letting Go

I have a friend of mine who seems to keep a calm composure far frequently than most. Though I’ve seen him get upset, it’s rare.

One day I noticed that he seems to take these long, big breaths often times when asked a question, and before answering. Once I actually timed it in my mind. Including the word “well…,” spoken slowly after the breath and before he spoke any other words, it was a 16 second pause!

So I finally got the nerve up and asked him,”What’s that all about?”

As I suspected, he told me that was his way of giving himself enough time to appropriately respond rather than react. Basically, he’s gracing the space between the impulse to say something he may regret, and instead speak while practicing equanimity.

More and more I’ve been practicing this little trick, and each time I do, I’m improving my chances that… ILML!

— JamesQ

Sharing Gratitude

Sharing Gratitude

“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.” — Maryanne Williamson

Have you ever known someone who seems to always be complaining about someone or something in life? Have you ever found yourself doing the same thing?

The truth is, that we we tend to get really good and what we practice. If we’re practicing tennis, we become a better tennis player. If we practice painting, we become a better painter. And if we practice focusing on what’s making us unhappy, we become better at being unhappy.

So it stands to reason that if we want to be really happy, to have peace and serenity, and to really love our lives, we should practice being grateful for all that we have. Luckily, this is something that’s very easy to do.

Me and many of my life-loving friends practice being grateful each day by writing gratitude lists to each other. The simple practice of writing out a text with the good things going on in our life, and sending it out to others who share their lists with us, shifts our perception from one of lack, to one of abundance.

And for those of you who want to start this practice but don’t have someone to share your list with, share it with me and I’ll send you mine! By sharing my gratitude with others, I manifest more things to be grateful for, which is one if the principle reasons why… ILML!

— JamieQ

“It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do… What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.” — Alcoholic Anonymous p.85

Did you ever wonder where the phrase resting on our laurels came from? Well, here’s the answer. During the 6th century BC in Ancient Greece, winners competing in arts and dance in the Pythian Games received a wreath made from bay laurel leaves, sacred to Apollo.

Resting on your laurels means to be satisfied with one’s past success and to consider further effort unnecessary. This is a dangerous proposition for those of us seeking enhanced spiritual growth, an increase in the joy of living, and better relationships with others.

Frequently we see individuals come into the rooms of 12 step program seeking recovery from their situation and feelings. At first they hunger with willingness and determination, going to any length to improve the way the feel and their circumstances. But as life gets better, a good job comes along, some money starts rolling in, they get a new place to live, or fall in love and eventually these new responsibilities and enjoyable activities begin to pull them away from the program and fellowship.

Often they think, “Life is great now, I don’t need to go to as many meetings, or journal regularly, or read from those books, or meditate, or call my sponsor so often, or have service commitments, or sponsor others, or do my daily affirmations.”

We’ve all seen what happens next. It’s just a matter of time until the hammer falls, and their world cracks open, and they come hobbling back in, broken, devastated, and seeking help. Or worse, they don’t make it back. Ever.

As Eleanor Roosevelt so wisely once said, “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” With regard to spiritual action, I’m taking her advice. When I stick close to my program of action, instead of resting on my laurels… ILML!

— JamieQ