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

Love & Selflessness

“Well, I believe he’s worth saving and working on.“ They said to me, “Do you want to quit drinking?… Now, if you don’t want it, we’ll not take up your time, and we’ll be going and looking for someone else.“ — Bill & Bob talking to Alcoholic #3, Big Book p.186

According to the history I found online, a few days before speaking with AA#3 (Bill Dotson) on June 26, 1935, Dr. Bob had said to Bill W., “If you and I are going to stay sober, we had better get busy.” 9 days later, Dotson left the hospital a free man, never to drink again until his death, 19 years later.

What I find particularly interesting is that Dotson’s wife, Henrietta, just a few days earlier, had prayed with a pastor that someone her husband could understand would visit him in the hospital.

And to make it all even more improbable is that, at about the same time she was praying with the pastor, Dr. Bob reported saying to Bill: “If you and I are going to stay sober, we had better get busy.” Dr. Bob called Akron’s City Hospital and told the nurse, a “Mrs. Hall,” that he and a man from New York had a cure for alcoholism. Did she have an alcoholic customer on whom they could try it out?

Sounds to me like divine intervention. The spirit of all that is good and kind, the energy that wants the very best for us, the power that is cheering for us to practice compassion, love and selflessness can and will break the bonds of suffering. I believe that was what brought these three alcoholics together in order to carry the message to the millions of us who want to heal and lead productive, happy lives, along with the millions of those that love us and were suffering right along side of us.

When I read about this encounter, tears of gratitude spilled from my eyes. I think of what my life would have looked like without the program—It would have been a truly tragic life. Instead, those three got together and kept it going, and eventually the program reached me, healed my soul, and changed me from a man who hated life to one who runs around yelling “ILML!”

— JamieQ

A Program of Action

“Then they outlined the spiritual answer and program of action which a hundred of them had followed successfully.” — Big Book p.47

They outlined a spiritual answer. I believe that the founders were speaking of providing answers to help others, like me, who, through the effects of alcohol, had warped our sense of identity, lost our emotional stability and abandoned some or all of our moral convictions in the face of the disease.

And they outlined a program of action. In early sobriety a sponsor holds our hand and shows us that program of action. But at 20 years I found myself sober, in AA, with a sponsor, with sponsees, and without a solid program consisting of daily actions that kept me evolving into a better man. I needed something more and different than what I did in my first year. So I searched and searched, until I found one.

Today my program includes the following actions: In the mornings I roll out of bed and pray and at night I stop to pray again before getting into bed, I take time to hit the pause button on life—even for just a few minutes—to meditate, I say positive affirmations out loud, I keep a spiritual backpack at my side, filled with C.A.L. and other books that enlighten me as a read, highlight and share the passages along with my experience, strength and hope, I write and share gratitude lists with others, I write a daily 10th step in my journal, I make immediate amends, whenever my disease isn’t getting the best of me, except if it hurts another, I actively work the steps and traditions over and over each year, I share what I learn in recovery, I attend both AA and AlAnon meetings regularly, I engage in fellowship with others in recovery, I sponsor others and seek my sponsor’s help and direction as needed, I am involved in service work, I work to be self-supporting financially, I spend time with my family, I exercise and stretch, I eat healthy (and give myself the gift of some cheats too), I keep my body and my surroundings clean and tidy, I practice self-care, I set healthy boundaries, I am a man of my word, I detach from toxic people and situations, I love others but not at the expense of being loving toward myself, I have and engage in hobbies and recreation, and I get 8 hours of sleep.

Holy mackerel! And that’s not even my entire list! But here’s the deal, and you already know this: we get out what we put in. The more action we take in our program, the more gifts of recovery we receive, the happier we are, the easier life is, the more successful our lives become, and the more we love our lives.

As a result of seeking a spiritual solution and taking actions in recovery, I have a life beyond my wildest dreams, and… ILML!

— JamieQ