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

My Own Private Purgatory

“I suspect that if I reclaimed all the minutes, hours, and days I’ve sacrificed to worry and fear, I’d add years to my life.” — Courage To Change

As you can see by the attached image, this is my favorite page in the book. I particularly love the line “break the cycle of worry and fear.” That’s one of the gifts the program has given me: a way to break that vortex of insanity. Me and my life are wasted away in those moments when I mindlessly recycle thoughts self-pity, resentment, frustration, inadequacy, fear, debasement, and indolence.

And in that process, I’m not the only one that loses out. All those that love, care and depend upon me lose out as well, while I check out of life and into my own private purgatory. Luckily, AA and AlAnon provide the lifeline back to sanity, love and life.

The more I dig into the program, the stronger and more accessible that lifeline becomes. For I believe that, no matter how spiritually and emotionally fit I become, there will undoubtably come a time when I will need help to get back. And when I do, I’ll reach out for that lifeline, discover it’s there, and allow myself to be pulled back into safety by the Program and all of you, where I am returned to sanity, and once again… ILML!

– JamieQ

Forgiveness: The Antivenom

“There is no other way but forgiveness to clean the wounds of all the poison.” – The Mastery Of Love

If you’re reading this, stop for just one moment at the end of this sentence, close your eyes, and think about any and all people that, because what they did was so bad, you just cannot possibly forgive.

Ok, if you’re like me, there were at least a couple. These people are poisoning us. Our hurt and anger over what they did will continue to live inside us until we forgive them. And by forgiving, I don’t mean to say that what they did was ok. It WASN’T! What they did was terrible. That’s why we are so upset.

Here’s the ones I have had trouble forgiving. Hal, my ex-step-father. Greg, an ex-client. Forest, my wife’s father. Myself, for hurting others when I was using.

But it’s time we let go and gave them, and their misdeeds, to God, especially if we are among those we can’t seem to forgive. Our higher power is much better equipped to handle it than us. By letting go, and letting God, we surrender our resentment, forgiving the trespasses as we would like to be forgiven ours. Of course, detach from anyone that’s toxic, but it’s time to surrender our anger and make space for more love. Because when I let go, let God, and open myself up to more love, ILML!

– JamieQ

Love is Conditional

“What we’re striving for in recovery is a loving relationship with ourselves so that we can have loving relationships with others.” Adapted from The Language of Letting Go

I believe that it’s impossible to really get along well with others, stand up for ourselves, deeply and intimately love a partner, and be truly happy to the core if we haven’t figured out how to really love ourselves.

Like all the other successes in recovery, falling in love with myself (not in the egotistical sense but in the deeply liking who I am sense) didn’t come easily. But that’s understandable. My actions, towards others and myself, were disgraceful. I did so many things that hurt me and those around me that it was hard to grasp the idea that I could actually like myself, let alone love me.

The Program showed me that I could become another type of man entirely. By changing the way I thought, spoke, and acted, I could become a good, loving man, and in the process change the way I felt about myself. It required huge shifts in my behaviors, and sincere requests each day from my Higher Power to help me overcome those defects of character that I acted on, prior to recovery.

I started speaking more kindly, and learning about my own boundaries of acceptability, both from myself and others. I began building self-esteem by taking esteem-able actions.

But I was a tough case. In order for me to overcome my dislike for all the past actions that had poisoned my life and my perception of self, I needed to work even harder than many others. I had to start watching—and changing—what I was saying to myself, because my mind was believing the words I spoke aloud.

Sentences that started with “I’m not…, I can’t…, I’ll never…, It’s no use…., I don’t deserve…,” blocked me from evolving into a new, great man, and inviting in all the abundance God had in store for me. I replaced them with “You deserve…, You will…, You can…, You are…”, and I began mandating the man, and the dreams, I had always longed for.

Today I look into the mirror, directly into my eyes, and smile. Then I say “I love you James!” Then I yell out “And I love my life!” And I mean it. But this love is conditional upon the maintenance of my (rigorous) spiritual program of action. If I slack off, it starts to go away quickly.

And so I’m diligent, consistent and determined to practice this new way of life with the conviction of a dying man. Because when I do that, everyday ILML!

— JamieQ