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

Struggled with Meditation

Struggled with Meditation

“… in meditation… Our mind will gradually quiet down… take time today to be still…” — In God’s Care

Why is is so darn hard for some of us to meditate? It takes no real special talents. No experience is necessary. It only requires a few minutes, at the very least, out of our day. Then why so much resistance?

I believe I’m sort of an expert when it comes to avoiding meditation. I managed to not do that particular part of step 11 for the first 33 years in the program. For whatever reason I just couldn’t make time for, or get into, meditation. Maybe it’s my ADD. Maybe it’s my ADHD. Whatever the reason, I just couldn’t get into consistently meditating on a daily basis.

My first real attempt to meditate was by using an app called Simply Being in 2016. I set it up for 5 minutes, picked the voice and background music I liked, got quiet and listened. I usually did this while sitting at Starbucks, just before doing my rituals, and once I had my Chai Latte in my hands.

If I were to guess, I probably meditated with this app about 50 days out of the year. Still, not bad for a newbie with only 34 years in program.

But several months back, while on a trip to Florida, a sponsee told me about a 21 day free Oprah/Deepak meditation challenge. I love challenges, so I downloaded the app and did it.

That experience ushered meditation into my life in a completely new way. Closing my eyes, breathing, and listening to ways in which I can invite peace, abundance, acceptance, love, kindness, and optimistic abundance into my life is having a profound affect on my life. In those 21 days, the words spoken, both by Oprah and Deepak, were inspirational and, when listened to first thing each morning, helped me start my day off feeling open to all the joyous possibilities life can offer me.

So I began searching YouTube for other inspirational morning meditations (usually 10 minutes or less, lol). These days I have a few favorites that I’m listening to every morning in bed. Sometimes I even play them after I get out of bed, on my Bluetooth speaker when I’m in the shower and getting ready for the day. Hearing messages about how amazing life is and how much love is coming my direction is an awesome way to get going each day.

So I guess you could say that I’ve gone from a guy that never meditated, who had a real difficult time inviting meditation into my life, to a guy that loves starting his day off in meditation. It’s probably because that this trope of inspirational meditation fills me up with a sense of gratitude and the belief that today will be a wonderful day. And when I feel like that… ILML!

— JamieQ

The Solution to Every One of my Problems

The Solution to Every One of my Problems

“My problems are like shark teeth. When one falls out, another one pops right up in it’s place.” – Chris K., A Sponsee

My mind persistently tries to take me into the problem. It says: “If I look at the problem it will help me because I can find a solution and be happy.” I don’t believe it works like that.

Instead, I’m much happier, and my life runs much better, when I apply the AlAnon slogan “Awareness, Acceptance & Action” as follows:

When a problem arises, I first recognize that I have a problem. This is my awareness. 

Next, I accept that when it comes to problems there are only two possible actions: I can solve it or let go and let God. I recognize that those are the only real solutions. This is my acceptance.

And finally, if I have the answer to the problem, and can fix it right now, all by myself, I’ll do that. But if I don’t have an immediate solution that 100% in my control, I let go of it, give it to God, and focus my attention on things I have control over, like doing things that make me happy. This is my action.

By applying this simple practice to any problem in my life, I’m actually working the principles of the program. And when I do that, instead of trying to manage, direct and control people, places and things that are definitely out of my hula hoop… ILML!

— JamieQ

No Longer a Dry Drunk

Our liquor was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions.” —Alcoholics Anonymous p.64

A symptom, as described by Miriam Webster, is “subjective evidence of disease or physical disturbance.” Therefore, our drinking and using was evidence of an underlying dis-ease. Without getting to the root of that illness, and treating it, we never really heal.

In AA we call this a dry drunk. I know all about it—I was one for many years. Some people believe that eliminating alcohol and drugs is enough. I personally don’t think it’s possible to really love our lives, or play well with others, unless we dig deeper.

Over the last three decades, I’ve begun to discover the source of my personal dis-ease—the one I used alcohol and drugs to treat. But to do so has taken hundred of hours in self-examination, reading and writing in recovery books, and working one-on-one with my sponsor. Slowly I began to see why I struggled in life, particularly in relation to others, and how my reactions to them frequently made my problems worse.

Through the program I’ve discovered how to completely reverse both my dis-ease and the effect it had on me and those around me. And making amends is at the very top of my list of solutions. By taking responsibility for my actions, and sincerely attempting to stop engaging in behaviors that hurt myself and others, I’ve learned how to become a better man. I’ve gained some self-respect, and being proud (instead of ashamed) of my behavior, definitely makes me happy.

The other tools of the program, namely prayer, meditation, affirmations, service work, meetings, fellowship, sponsorship, journaling, gratitude lists, self supporting behaviors, hobbies, and self-care all contribute to a building and maintaining a strong immunity against my dis-ease. Through self-discipline and consistency in these daily actions, I get to stay in the middle of the lifeboat, where I’m safe, protected and… ILML!

—JamieQ

Listen, Learn & Grow

Listen, Learn & Grow

“It takes a rare person to want to hear what he doesn’t want to hear.” —Dick Cavett

My mind, after childhood and before the program, was pretty much set in stone. Although I was open to learning new things, I wasn’t a big fan of being told what to do, how to act, or how to think. Neither did I care much for other people’s opinions, because I thought so highly of my own.

In fact, I was so sure that my opinions were better than everyone else’s, that I spent countless hours attempting to convince other people that I was right, and they were wrong.

This behavior not only pushed people away from me, it also prevented me from evolving into a really good man.

The first time I became aware that my behavior was a problem was when I heard the quote, “There is a principle which … cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance—that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”

Shortly thereafter, at a meeting, it dawned on me that the second part of the serenity prayer suggested that I get up “the courage to change the things I can“—meaning me and my attitudes.” After that, the evolution was on.

Today I’m open and willing to listen, learn & grow. I no longer practice contempt prior to investigation, and I try hard to catch myself if I’m acting righteous or like a know-it-all. It’s not always easy—believe me, I have plenty of slips—but I’m getting better all the time.

Today I know that as long as I’m actively trying to evolve into a better version of me… ILML!

— JamieQ

Being Proud of Myself

Being Proud of Myself

“There is a moment, just before I act, when I have a choice about my action.” — Reaching for Personal Freedom

The critical concepts intrinsic to playing well with others and having a serene, joyful life have been repeated over and over in various ways by various people through the ages.

This idea, to pause when agitated, to grace the space between the impulse and the action, to simply keep my mouth closed whenever I’m feeling uncomfortable, can make the difference between happiness and misery, marriage and divorce, friendship and isolation.

But I’ve discovered it’s virtually impossible to practice this incredibly important habit unless I’ve been practicing the other tools that allow me to love my life.

In other words, when I’m upset and about to open my mouth, send the text or email, or post the comment, my ability to refrain from doing so is directly proportion to how diligently I’ve been working my life loving program.

Sleep. Meditation. Connecting with source. Yoga. Keeping myself and my surroundings clean and organized. Doing affirmations. Helping others for fun and free. Taking time out to appreciate nature. Practicing my hobbies. Dancing. Being responsible. Smiling. Knowing when I’ve hurt others and making amends quickly. Singing. Journaling. Laughing. Listening to upbeat music. Exercising my muscles. Eating healthy and delicious food. Reading from inspirational books to evolve. Not taking myself and life so seriously. Having fellowship. Yelling out “I love my life!”

These are just some of the tools I use each day to prepare me for that inevitable moment when I’m uncomfortable with what’s going on and tempted to give someone my two cents. And even when the situation warrants a response, I’m much more likely to express my feelings in a loving way, provided I’ve been taking care of myself physically, emotionally and spiritually.

By keeping my side of the street clean, I’m free of guilt, proud of the way I handle myself with others and… ILML!

— JamieQ

The Essence of the Program

The Essence of the Program

“During the first six months of 1935, I was hospitalized eight times for intoxication. I was moved into another room, where my wife was waiting. She said, “You are going to quit. There are two drunks who have a plan to quit drinking. Part of their plan is to tell the plan to another drunk. This will help them stay sober.” I felt as if I would be a real stinker if I did not listen to a couple of fellows for a short time, if it would cure them. My wife also said I could not pay them even if I had money, which I did not.” — Adapted from the Big Book, Alcoholic #3

This is the essence of our program.

I share my story with others who have suffered like me. This is my experience.

I share what I had to do, and the dedication and commitment I made, and continue to make, to get better. This is my strength.

Then I share what happened as a result of working the program, how my life has transformed and gotten better. How I now love my life. This is my hope.

Then I offer myself, to guide them through the program, at no charge whatsoever. This is my service.

And through this process I’ve tapped into the wonderful, good and loving part of myself, my self-esteem was restored, I found a purpose, I’m actively pursuing it, and… ILML!

— JamieQ