Emotional Hangovers

Emotional Hangovers

When we habitually try to manipulate others to our own willful desires, they revolt, and resist us heavily. Then we develop hurt feelings, a sense of persecution, and a desire to retaliate… This self-centered behavior blocked a partnership relation with any one of those about us.” – Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p.53

This reminds me of the following quote on page 60 of Alcoholics Anonymous “Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery, and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased.

This is how I ALWAYS lived before getting sober and learning a new, better way to live in AA, AlAnon and NarAnon. Whereas AA gave me my physical sobriety, fellowship, an opportunity to be of service, a Higher Power, and the chance to clean up the wreckage of my past and begin being a better man, AlAnon & NarAnon gives me my emotional sobriety – allowing me to practice equanimity and have serenity, even in the face of difficulties.

For me, personal relations, getting along with others, the desire to be liked, loved and appreciated, were all areas of life that I needed help with. Having lived most of my life by sheer self-propulsion, running my own show, trying to run others’ shows as well, and constantly thinking about me and mine, letting go of those behaviors wasn’t easy. But the emotional hangovers I was experiencing were simply too much.

Over the years I’ve discovered that when I practice the AlAnon/NarAnon way of living, the better I get along with others, the happier I am with me, the less needy I become, the more I rely on myself for the love I desperately want to feel, and the more abundant my life becomes. While the love others give me is a wonderful added bonus, it’s no longer necessary for me to love my life. And these days, thanks to the 12 step programs, and working a rigorous program of daily action… 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

Solution Consciousness

Solution Consciousness

“Inspiration comes from solution consciousness.” — Ananda Sangha

Here’s what happens when I’m thinking about the problem for more than 5 seconds:

  1. I get upset about the problem.
  2. I blame myself or someone else.
  3. I feel frustrated.
  4. I play the victim.
  5. I feel self-pity.
  6. I want to escape from my situation.
  7. I attempt to control, dominate and manipulate people to get them to change.
  8. I whine and complain to others.
  9. Feeling upset, I may take action that inevitable hurts me or others.
  10. I never find the solution because I’m focused on the problem.
  11. Lacking faith, I feel hopeless & angry.

Here’s what happens when I’m thinking about the solution:

  1. I get hopeful that this can be solve.
  2. I get creative about how to solve it.
  3. I open my mind to new ideas.
  4. I ask for help from others.
  5. I get excited that I can solve this.
  6. I turn it over to God if I can’t figure it out, which is a great solution, until such time as I’m inspired with another solution.
  7. Naturally, I invite abundance in.

So the question is, “How do we live in the solution, so that whenever an obstacle arises, we perceive it as an opportunity, never getting upset or frustrated?

My solution is simple, and works every time when I’m consistent in practicing the following actions:

  1. Sleep 8 hours.
  2. Get to bed before 10pm.
  3. Awake before 6am.
  4. Listen to inspiration words on arising.
  5. Meditate.
  6. Stretch/do some yoga first thing.
  7. Connect with source.
  8. Affirm ILML and am excited for the day.
  9. Make my bed.
  10. Do some light exercises.
  11. Turn on some fun music – dance and sing while getting ready for the day.
  12. Shower, brush my teeth, hang up my towel nicely on the rack, use mouthwash, shave, get my hair looking good.
  13. Have a conversation with myself, talking to both “Big Me” and “Little Me” telling them I love them and they are awesome.
  14. Straighten up the bathroom.
  15. Straighten up the bedroom.
  16. Straighten up the house.
  17. Smile and laugh. A lot.
  18. Compliment others. Often.
  19. Keep my mouth shut, unless I have something nice to say.
  20. Dress nicely in unwrinkled, clean clothes that match and reflect the very best me I can be as I go out in the day.
  21. Engage in hobby at least once a day (play guitar, surf, do some art, write some poetry, knit, garden, play with kitty, etc).
  22. Reach out to others to see how they are and let them know I love them.
  23. Bring my spiritual backpack to the coffee shop. Read out of the books, highlighting things that resonate. Journal about how things are going and what’s happening in life. This infuses my mind with great ideas and let’s me take an inventory of the great stuff in life and the areas I can improve in.
  24. Engage in my responsibilities to the best of my abilities to reflect the fact that I’m self-supporting through my own contributions.
  25. Eat healthy throughout the day, but not late at night.
  26. Encourage others to be their best.
  27. Don’t offer unsolicited advice.
  28. Don’t help others if they can do it themselves, unless they ask and it seems like you’re not enabling them.
  29. Eliminate caffeine after 3pm.
  30. Yell out ILML! throughout my day.
  31. Drink plenty of water.
  32. Get to, and participate in, a 12 step meeting where I can hang out with my tribe and share intimacy (into me you see), and gain life wisdom.
  33. At home, take a bath before bed, letting the day wash away and soaking in the hot water to calm my mind.
  34. Be thankful for another great day of life.
  35. Read in bed until I fall asleep, remembering that today well lived creates a life of wonderful yesterdays.

That list may seem long, but the truth is, we already have a long list of things we do each day. The more that list is comprised of items which invite solution into my life, the more ILML! — JamieQ

Doing the 4th in 1 Day

Doing the 4th in 1 Day

“We want to look our past in the face, see it for what it really was, and release it so we can live freely.” — NA, Page 28

I love the concept in program that tells us to be careful of what we are focusing on, as it grows bigger. I’ve heard that we ought to focus our magic magnifying glass on the good stuff. To stay out of the past and future, to live in the moment. I love that stuff. In fact, I live by it.

That said, there’s a lot to be gained by working a thorough 4th step. To dig deeply into the past, with the help of a loving sponsor, in an attempt to uncover, discover and discard our past clouds of darkness that prevent us from being the best person we can be, and fully loving life.

If you’re a newcomer, I’m a big fan of tackling this enormously productive endeavor in 1-2 days max. Did I suggest doing your 4th and 5th step in one or two days? Yep. I sure did. That’s because I’ve seen so many people struggle with this process, dragging it on for weeks or months, stewing in the pain of their shame and guilt of what they’ve done in the past, and the resentment towards those that hurt them long ago. Many of these actually went out before completing their 4th.

It may not seem easy to find someone willing to spend 4-6 hours with you, perhaps for two days in a row, but trust me, there are plenty of people in the program willing to do it. Most of us love to help others. That’s because being of service helps us stay sober. This person need not even be your sponsor, provided it’s a loving member in recovery who’s working the type of program that you admire.

For those of us who have done many 4th steps, it’s a bit different. I, myself, always have some type of 4th step workbook going on. This year I’m working out of AlAnon’s Reaching for Personal Freedom, and I love it. But if you’re approaching the 4th for the first time, my suggestion is to do it the best you can, but don’t let it drag on. Keep in mind that the goal is to finish them all, and then be able to help others work their steps. And it’s after step 9 that the promises begin to materialize in a powerful way.

By carefully examining my past I can finally discover the truth about it. I can see it for what it was. For once and all I can forgive those who hurt me, even if what they did was unacceptable. For once and all I can forgive myself for what I’ve done, even if what I did was unacceptable. I can finally let go of all the hurt, pain, sorrow, and fear, and start fresh today. I can finally be free to experience a life beyond my wildest dreams, one in which I can wake up each morning, and with all the earnest at my command, yell out “I LOVE MY LIFE!!!, and mean it, from the tips of my ties to the top of my head.

— JamieQ

From Problems to Promises

From Problems to Promises

“… ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.” — Deepak

Every one of the 12 step programs contains promises. Although each set is a bit different, they are all predicated on the promise that, provided we embrace the principles, ideas and steps of the program, and consistently practice them in our lives, we will become happy, joyous and free.

I’ve had the great fortune to work with many people coming into the program. I’ve seen how broken many were. Many come in with issues like homelessness, jail, divorce, poverty, devastated families, and grave illness. When I came in, I was hurting so badly yet keeping all my tears on the inside. Each of these issues individually can seem very difficult to overcome. Combine several of them and it seem impossible. Could the program really heal their lives? Did it heal mine? Yes it did!

I was tired of being a prisoner of the past and the only way I could have a great future was to try something different, regardless of how much I doubted it would work, or even how much I didn’t want to do it (that was my case in the beginning). But, as they say in many meetings on closing, I kept coming back.

Very slowly, I began dipping my toes into this new way of life. But like a giant redwood tree, that grows strong because it grows slowly, it took me time to fully understand and commit to this new way of life.

As it says in one of the AlAnon readings “There is no situation too difficult to be bettered, and no unhappiness too great to be lessened.” But experience also tells me that “It works only if I work it.” What’s cool is that there’s no limit on how great my life can be or how much happiness I can experience provided I really give 110% to the program, and make it the first, and most important, priority in my life. And every time, without exception, that I do that, the rewards are amazing and… ILML!

— JamieQ

The Lucky Ones

“Recently I reacted to a situation. I started to get angry – really angry. I felt like a victim.” — Hope for Today

One of the greatest things I’ve learned about in recovery is the intrinsic relationship between anger and victimhood. This was reinforced by the enlightening book “You Can’t Make Me Angry”, written by one of our members.

Basically, I’ve discovered that it’s impossible for me to be angry without being a victim. Even in situations where nobody did something hurtful to me directly, the fact that they’ve stolen away my serenity, even temporarily, makes me their victim, empowering the person or institution that I resented in the first place!

When I’m in a state of expansive awareness, and I recognize this, I can apply that wonderful AlAnon slogan “I am responsible for my own serenity.” Remember that, I then start applying tools for serenity to my life. Deep breathing. Gratitude lists. Funny videos. Petting my dog or cat. Yoga. Meditation. Reading from my spiritual backpack. Journaling out my feelings and solutions.

I’m so lucky to have been touched by alcoholism. Without this disease, along with the affects it’s had on my life, I wouldn’t qualify to be a member in AA and AlAnon. How odd is it that? In order to be invited into the greatest program in the world, I had to be caught in the crossfire? Hopefully, one day, everyone can gain membership into a 12 step program, and benefit from our collective experiences, without necessarily having been devastated by this disease.

But until then, I’ll count myself as one of the lucky ones. Because of AA, AlAnon, the people in the programs, and having found a higher power… ILML!

JamieQ

Two Types of Acceptance

Two Types of Acceptance

Knowing what’s acceptable and what’s not, when we should practice it and when we shouldn’t, isn’t always easy.

We’ve all heard of Dr. Paul’s “Acceptance is the Answer” in the book Alcoholics Anonymous (aka The Big Book). In fact, it’s one of my very favorites, and something I’ve arrived to live by in my life. But does it always apply? Even when someone’s behavior, or some thing, is unacceptable?

In my attempt to gain useful understanding around the idea of acceptance, I sought out, and found, a couple of explanations that provided clarity to my question:

Acceptance in human psychology is a person’s assent to the reality of a situation.

Acceptance, as defined in a dictionary, is the willingness to tolerate a difficult or unpleasant situation.

Based upon those two disparate meanings, I came to the conclusion that there are two forms of acceptance, one that’s helpful to practice in every situation, and one that may not be helpful to practice, depending upon the situation.

I apply the first type of acceptance to everything, provided I’m spiritually fit enough to do so. And when I’m not, I usually pay the price by fighting reality. After all, let’s face it: what is, is, regardless of whether I accept it or not. Being angry or hurt or frustrated by it does no good at all. In fact, it usually prevents us from moving past it, meaning we stay in it, even when it’s unhealthy to do so.

But by accepting the situation for what it is, we are now able to ask ourselves “Am I ok with this, as is, on a continuing basis?” If, the answer is no, then we can now move out of the problem, and into the solution. And here’s how I do it…

1. INVENTORY I write about the situation, identifying what’s happening, honestly looking at my part, how I’ve contributed to the problem, as well as theirs, or how the situation is affecting me if it’s not a person.

2. GUIDANCE I ask for some time with my my trusted advisor (sponsor).

3. RESPONSIBILITY I read to them what I’ve written and discuss it, asking for help to dig deeper in finding my part, adding any new awareness to what I’ve already written. I then lightly cross out everything I’ve written except my part, in order to get to step 4 below.

4. DETERMINATION With my advisor, we determine if I should stay in, or detach from, the person and/or situation. We do this by asking the following questions:

(A) If I continue accepting this situation is there a good chance it may be dangerous to me or others? If so, then it’s time to detach.

(B) Have I discovered that I really have no part in this (for example, a young child being physically abused by a parent). If we honestly have no part, again, it’s time to detach. If neither of these apply, we move to (C).

(C) Is there a possibility that my actions, or inactions, have contributed to this unacceptable situation. If the answer is yes, then with the help of my advisor I create and write out a plan of action that includes changes I can make in my behavior, that may effect a change for the better in my relationship or situation.

5. ACTION I then practice my plan of action for a period of one month, keeping a daily checklist in my journal to see if I’m actually practicing my plan of action. For example (A) Send a loving text to my parter each day – Yes [X] No [ ].

6. FOLLOWUP After the month is over, with my advisor, I review my checklist to see how well I’ve followed through with my plan of action, if things are now acceptable, (or moving towards acceptable), and what, if any, changes in my plan of action should be taken.

In the past when I struggled with acceptance, I would blame myself or someone else, and either fight my way through it, causing more destruction, or run the other way out of fear, even when there was no danger.

Today, instead of struggling to accept situations that are uncomfortable, I embrace them, applying concrete actions aimed at solution. In this way I invite awareness, growth, love and abundance into my problems, turning them into opportunities for growth. And when I do that, not only do I build more respect and love for myself, but as an added bonus… ILML!

— JamieQ