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

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