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

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