How to Live a Great Life

How to Live a Great Life

“Al-Anon is like physical therapy for my soul, aligning my principles and behavior so that I can move joyfully through life!” — The Forum, March 1988, Hope for Today

What a wonderful analogy. This morning I did my mediation, prayers, and affirmations, leaving myself feeling spiritually centered.

Then I got up, made my bed, straightened my house, leaving myself feeling clean and organized.

Then I did my yoga, ran some wind sprints, lifted some weight and ran through some body core exercises, leaving myself feeling strong and healthy.

Then I showered, shaved, dressed nicely, groomed myself and drank a bunch of water, leaving myself feeling refreshed, handsome and hydrated.

Now I’m at Starbucks, doing my journaling, sending out my gratitude list, writing this blog post, reading from my spiritual backpack and infusing my mind with AlAnon ideas and principles, leaving myself feeling joyful and open to the abundance of the day.

In a little while I’ll be at a job I love to do, which also provides a great service to others, leaving myself feeling productive and self-supporting.

Later today I’ll stop working for a bit, play guitar and drink tea with my friends and brother, who are all in the program, sharing hobbies and fellowship, leaving myself feeling a sense of community, belonging and love.

After writing this all down, it’s evident to me why I love making the program a central and integral part of my life. It’s also easy to see why… ILML!

– JamieQ

Without Getting Stuck

Without Getting Stuck

“They are living in the moment. There are not ashamed of the past; they are not worried about the future. Little children express what they feel, and they are not afraid to love.” – The Mastery of Love

Several years back, when Richie and I took the Iyanla Vanzandt challenge, writing ourselves love letters for 40 days, I decided to write them from James to my inner child. At that time I began to develop a relationship with my inner child, and I started to become more aware of how happy little children are, and how easily they transition in and out of feelings and emotions, without getting stuck.

These young ones seem always intrigued with life and truly living only in each moment. Crying when upset or hurt, then laughing when happy, just moments later, as if they had never been hurt or unhappy to begin with. How cool is that?

This is how I aspire to live today. In awe of being alive, not attached to the past, and not focused on the future. Just enjoying the gift of the present. I get to experience that feeling when I’m connected to my Higher Power, whatever that may be.

About this Higher Power thing: What I love about the 12 step program is that we all get to have our own concept of God, our own relationship with the creative source that guides us. In our program, no one person’s concept of God is better, truer, or more accurate than another’s. There’s no room for spiritual righteousness in AA or AlAnon. Each of our beliefs is perfectly designed for us, and where we are at right now. And as an added bonus, for most of us, our concept of, and relationship with, our personal higher power is always evolving.

It’s when I’m plugged in that wonderful, loving energy that I get to live like a small child does, filled with the wonderment of each and every moment. By letting go of the past and future, but unplugging from regrets and fears, my words, thoughts, actions and feelings are guided only by pure gratitude and love. And when I’m in that magical place, abundance flows in and all around me, and… ILML!

— JamieQ

(click on the image below to see what I’m talking about)

Minding my Business

Minding my Business

“… when my thoughts begin with “He should” or “She shouldn’t” I am probably in trouble.” – Courage to Change

The compulsion to focus on other people is at least as powerful of an obsession as an alcoholic’s desire to drink, an addict’s need to use, or a smoker’s urge to light up another cigarette. But while the alcoholic, addict and smoker are often aware of their addiction, the destruction caused by one’s inability to mind their own business is often not so apparent.

And, in this regard, the suggestion my program offers, to be of maximum useful service to my fellows, can potentially both encourage and justify my intervention. So why is this behavior so harmful?

Because nobody likes being controlled, told what to do or having unsolicited opinions given to them. I can tell you that’s especially true for me. So, why then do some of us continue to try to manage, direct and control the opinions, actions and words of others, knowing we ourselves don’t like it?

One reason for me is that I’m also addicted to being the hero. As a child I got reprimanded for doing something wrong and rewarded for helping out. Those accolades and pats on my back continued into my adult life, reinforcing my desire to help, fix or save someone from themselves or others. So what should I do? Help or not help?

I’ve learned that the best practice is to help others when asked, provided they are unable to help themselves, and that I’m truly able to positively contribute to the situation.

The easiest way to do this is to simply ask “Would you like my opinion (help, advice, etc)?” before giving or doing it. An example is when I’m a passenger in a car. If I know the driver is going the wrong way, I can ask “Would you like some help on how to get there?” If they say no, I say “Ok”, and let the process unfold. Simple, but not so easy.

However, by allowing others to make their own mistakes and find their way gives them both the respect and dignity to overcome their own obstacles and achieve success for themselves, without my intervention. They get to be their own hero,

You’d think that knowing and understanding all of this would keep me from offering unsolicited advice, right? Wrong. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think “He should” or “She shouldn’t.” And I still occasionally find myself going beyond thinking and actually opening my mouth.

The good news is I’m doing it less often these days. Doing the Daily Deal makes me aware of how I want to behave in my interactions with others and encourages me to be the best man I can be. When I practice these principles in all my affairs, I play much better with others and… ILML!

— JamieQ

The Great Man Move

“…practice these principles in all our affairs.” – Alcoholics Anonymous aka The Big Book, Step 12

We can remain sober and/or in recovery, have a sponsor, sponsor others, go to meetings, pray, meditate, and hold service commitments while not practicing the principles in all our affairs. Will we be loving life? Likely not. In fact, I’ve known many who did all this and were absolutely miserable.

So let’s get into solution and put this another way. If we are sober and/or in recovery, have a sponsor, sponsoring others, going to meetings, praying, meditating, and/or holding service commitments but still not loving life, chances are that the solution is to start actively practicing these principles in all our affairs.

So what exactly are these principles? Well, Bill W. actually considered each step to be a spiritual principle in and of itself. But to simplify them, we can quote the following list posted by others on the web:

Honesty, hope, faith, courage, integrity, willingness, humility, love, discipline, perseverance, spirituality and service.

Not a bad bunch of traits to have associated with you, when you think about it.

Imagine a person asking what kind of person you’re like, and the other person say that your honest, have great integrity, are very loving, hard working, always willing to lend a hand, courageous, have tremendous faith and optimism that things will always work out for the best, very disciplined in your commitments, always hope for the best, have a deep spiritual connection in life, and seem to always persevere and come out on top.

Personally, I’d love it if people described me that way. In fact, it’s one of my goals.

To the men I sponsor I say that practicing the principles in all your affairs can also be called “making the great man move” or being a “great man”. By living in this way, we become wonderful, dependable, kind, contributing humans who utilize the abundance of tools the program gives us to positively alter our thinking, words and actions. And it’s not only others who benefit from this new way of living, which seems to always require that I pause before reacting, it’s me too.

Can we do it every time without fail? Of course not, we’re human. But we can continually up our game, become more aware of when we’re not doing it (hint:we feel bad afterward), and then make amends, learn from the experience, and continue to improve.

As an example, I’m don’t always make the “great man” move, but I do it more than I ever have at any time in my life. And I think that’s a great goal to shoot for.

Today, one thing is for sure. When I do actively practice, in all my affairs, the principles that I’ve described above… ILML!

— JamieQ

An Unreligious God

“What the Catapillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly.” —Richard Bach

At first I knew nothing about God except that my babysitter took me to a church where Jesus was nailed to a cross, blood dripping from his wounds. I came home and asked my dad “What’s God daddy?” and he said “God is love honey, the way it feels when mommy holds you in her arms.”

Later I took a class at USC called Seminar in Religious Studies and learned about different religious gods. I even spent the night with the Hare Krishnas to write a paper on that religion. My verdict: I didn’t like religion.

And then I came into the 12 step rooms and saw that word again: God. I tried to ignore it as I went to meetings, worked the steps, and fellowshipped with others. I did what I needed around this Higher power concept, the minimum, but didn’t believe in any God. To me, God meant religion.

Eventually I wanted more. I wanted the spiritual connection, love, faith, and all the stuff people talked about, but without god. Because, again, to me, God = Religion. On a radio show the host, an atheist, said “God is just a make believe friend for grownups.”

Sometimes, even though we hear something over and over, we don’t get it until it’s said differently. That day I wrote down what, if I had one, this make believe friend called God would be like. Funny, kind, helpful, smart, creative, loving, playful, trustworthy, and someone who really wants the best for me. I’ve believed in that make believe friend ever since. In fact, he’s a constant companion of mine.

When my mom died I thought it was the end of her life. Like the caterpillar, I can’t see into the future. Who really knows if it’s the end, or if it’s a transition into something more wonderful. And if I can’t know for sure, and feel like I need to believe something, why not believe she, and my baby brother, and my grandma, and my kitty have transitioned into the next, amazing level of existence. Oh, and guess who was by my side during each of those deaths? You got it. My make believe buddy. How do I know? I don’t. I simply choose to use my imagination to believe.

When I have blind, unprovable faith that everything is not only exactly the way it’s supposed to be, but that everything that’s happening is actually fantastic, ILML!

— JamieQ

The Best Words To Use

If I repeatedly make similar suggestions… I am probably trying to control… Trying to control other people only gets me in trouble.”

— Courage to Change

The problem for me is that I really would like them to change their behavior because, at least in my opinion, it’s unacceptable. But I’ve found the word “unacceptable” is, well, unacceptable, since I believe that acceptance is the first part of the answer to all my problems. The second part is either to take reasonable action or let it go.

A better solution for me is as follows: First I identify what behaviors from others make me uncomfortable. (Hint: writing these down helps.) Next I let others know—in a kind way—when it occurs (they don’t have ESP), and how I will handle it. Finally, I practice consistency in identifying the uncomfortable behavior and detaching, allowing others to learn what is, and is not, ok with me (in other words, they usually get tired of me detaching and stop behaving in ways that make me uncomfortable and cause me to detach).

In detaching I’ve found the best words to use with others are something like:

I’m uncomfortable and need a little space to work my Program. We can talk later.

Then I must quickly separate myself physically from that person before I react. In this way I take myself out of the problem and into the solution. I let the other person clearly know that I’m uncomfortable without blaming, and simultaneously keep my side of the street clean (no amends required).

Each time I do this, I celebrate a little victory, because whenever I apply the principles of the program… ILML!

— JamieQ

What an Idiot

If you keep saying things are going to be bad, you have a good chance of bing a prophet.” 

– Issac B. Singer

Sounds pretty similar to what I say frequently, “Be careful of what you’re saying out loud and to yourself, because your mind is listening and it believes you.”

Of course, it’s impossible to always think and say things that are positive. But what is possible is to catch ourselves when we do think or say things that are negative, and then take contrary actions.

Here’s a very clear example of how I practice living in the solution and getting out of negativity: 

After spilling the milk at home alone, I say out loud “What an idiot!”

Awareness hits me and I think to myself, “I just called myself an idiot, that’s not kind or productive.”

Which prompts me to take action by saying the contrary thing out loud, “Actually, I’m not an idiot, I’m a really smart guy who just made a mistake because we human beings do that, we make mistakes.”

Which evokes a feeling of success and celebration, causing me to yell out, “I’m stoked I caught myself, that’s a victory, you rock James, I love my life.”

Which puts a big smile on my face. I’m smiling after spilling the milk. That’s rad!

This process, once practiced, can become an automatic way of life, regardless of who, what or where the negativity is directed.

So the next time you start thinking upsetting thoughts, or speaking things that are fearful or unkind, give it a shot. And remember, it all starts with awareness.

Whenever I use the tools of the program to change the way I think and speak, from negative to positive, ILML!

— JamieQ