The Precious Gift

The Precious Gift

Some of us enter recovery with a working understanding of a Higher Power. For a lot of us, however, “God” is a troublesome word. We may doubt the existence of any sort of Power greater than ourselves. Or we may remember uncomfortable experiences with religion and shy away from “the God stuff.” — Just for Today

That was me, to a T.

The word God evoked ideas of paganism, ironically a word used by many religious folks who felt that their ideology, and their God, were superior to that of others’. When I heard them say things like “My God is better than yours,”or even “My God is the only true God,” or worse yet “If you don’t believe in my God you’ll surely go to hell,” I was pushed further and further away from the idea of believing in any God, repelled by their righteousness and spiritual arrogance.

Even after having been in recovery for a long time, I could not get the “God” thing, even though I really wanted what I saw in those who had a friendship with God. I just couldn’t believe in something that was not real. Sorry.

So it took a long while until I could embrace the idea that it was okay for me to imagine, and even create, a personal vision of God that worked in my life. Ironically, what got me into believing in God was an atheist on the radio who said “God is a make believe friend for grownups.”

Shortly after, while sitting at Penne Pasta, eating a Pizza Margherita and a James Salad, I began writing on a sheet of 8.5″ x 11″ paper. I answered the following questions:

If I were to have, understand and believe in a God, what would that God be like?

Would this God be male? Female? Genderless?

Would this God have a personality? Thoughts? Feelings?

Would this God have an attitude? Or the ability to care about me, others or anything?

Punishing or playful?

Serious or sense of humor?

My cheerleader or critical of me?

Understanding or demanding?

By answering these questions, along with some others, an idea of a higher power I would like to have in my life began to form.

It’s interesting that I could engage in an exercise like this during a time in my life when I still yet didn’t believe in God. In order to do so I was forced, momentarily, to suspend my disbelief long enough to have an open mind. I was reminded of a portions of that quote misattributed in Alcoholics Anonymous to Herbert Spencer, which mentions “…“contempt prior to investigation.”  I was finally practicing the opposite of that, in my quest to know a personal God of my understanding.

And after I was done writing, I’ll be damned if I didn’t feel differently. In fact, in that moment after I put down the pen, I would say that my feeling wasn’t too far off from that of Bill W.’s – although there was no “White Light.”  Though, it could be said my spiritual experience was of the “educational variety,” since in fact I had been in recovery for quite some time. Regardless, after putting pen to paper, I felt transformed in a weird kind of way. I actually felt lighter in spirit.

As corny as it sounds, just like the words in Alcoholics Anonymous, it appeared that, finally, “I walked far over the Bridge of reason to the desired shore the faith.”

That was a personal paradigm shift for me, and the moment I identified a concept of my Higher Power, which was in my 10th year of recovery, I began what has become a very satisfying life long friendship with the God of my understanding.

I’m so grateful that the program is patient, and left the door open for me as long as I needed, and until I was ready and willing to welcome the precious gift of spirituality into my life! ILML!

— JamieQ

The Elixir of Recovery

The Elixir of Recovery

“We knew how to love in crisis, in a state of constant mental chatter, grabbing onto old fears to stay mentally busy, which somehow made us feel safe. Weirdly, when we were worried, we felt in control.” – Adapted from Courage to Change

My DisEase is cunning, baffling and powerful. It loves to be in control. The idea of letting go and letting God, surrendering, and admitting I’m powerless over anything, (including others and my relationships with them) is something my DisEase absolutely abhors. Why? Because doing so literally KILLS my dis-ease.

Instead, it wants it’s daily dose of fertilizer. The ingredients of my DisEase’s Miracle Grow are neediness, control, fear, resentment, it’s-not-fairism, self-righteousness, lying, manipulation, condescension, justification, blame, arguing, defensiveness, fighting, self-pity, loneliness, isolation, laziness, procrastination, focusing on the problem, frustration, unsolicited advice giving, hopelessness, purposelessness, exhaustion, eating poorly, going outside my hula hoop, closed-mindedness, body shaming myself, not making recovery my priority, and giving with secret expectation for a return.

That’s a long list right? The truth is that I could probably add 100 more ingredients to that concoction. But here’s the good news: For every ingredient in my DisEase’s Miracle Grow, there an antidote.

So here’s my challenge to you today. Take a moment to write, or type, out a list of the exact opposite of each of the ingredients on the list above. Now print it out and tape it onto your fridge.

This is the secret to happiness. The more often that I practice working with the ingredients necessary to create the elixir of recovery, the more ILML!

— JamieQ

PS if you’re so inclined, share your list with me!

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That means that everything we want out of the relationship we get, simply by loving them madly.

Pretty cool concept. Not easy, but very cool.

A Small Price to Pay

A Small Price to Pay

By working this step, we keep the cobwebs out of (our life).” – Reaching for Personal Freedom

This morning, working on the 10th step in my work book, I came across that sentence. Cobwebs are fine when they’re catching pleasant memories. But when they catch ahold of fears, problems, self-pity, anger, frustration and hopelessness, those cobwebs have to be swept away or they will destroy me.

The only way I’ve discovered how to eliminate such cobwebs from my life is to approach them like a final exam in college that I really need to get an A in.

Having had a difficult time keeping my attention focused throughout my life, I had to work super hard in college to get good grades. While others, like my younger brother, could get A’s by just glancing at text books and attended some classes, I had to approach college differently.

I would read the text book. Then read it a second time with a highlighter in my hand, highlighting what I thought might be on a test. Then I’d write out, in a notebook, everything that I highlighted. Then I’d read it into a tape recorder. Then I’d listen to what I read over and over. Plus, I made sure to attended every class and took copious notes. I even sold my notes to others, they were so good. Ever the entrepreneur. I ended up scoring very high in college, but it was really, really hard work and very, very long hours.

I approach my program the same way. The prize isn’t A’s —it’s something even better: when I make working my program, growing spiritually, and carrying the message to others the priority in my life, and I commit at least a couple hours each day doing it, I get to be rocketed into the forth dimension and have a life beyond my wildest dreams. I also get to have great relationships with others and love the man I’m becoming. It’s so cool.

So each day, when I awaken, I resolve for that day to allocate the first couple of hours to working my program, which I call the Daily Deal. I think it’s a small price to pay in order to get an attitude of gratitude and be happy, joyous and free.

Because… I’ve learned that when I make recovery my priority… ILML!

— Jamie Q

The 5-10-11-12 Club

The 5-10-11-12 Club

“… become, one day at a time, the people we want to be.” — Hope for Today

I often talk about how I am striving each day to become the very best version of me.

The way in which I attain this goal, to grow and evolve into the most wonderful man I can be, is to embrace the courage to recognize and acknowledge the things that are holding me back from that desire.

Here’s how I take the action.

I write out a daily inventory, recapping the last 24 hours, identifying both my successes and those thoughts and behaviors that I engaged in which could be improved upon. Doing this provides me with the insight necessary to effectuate positive change in my life.

Both my ability to face my shortcomings, along with a resolve to do better, little by little, day by day, helps to transform me into a slightly better version of me. I also identify in my writing if I’ve hurt someone, and provided I’m spiritually fit enough, I make immediate amends by picking up the phone.

As an added benefit, if I’m practicing prayer and meditation and sponsoring others or sharing at meetings, when asked what what step I’m working on, I can always honestly say, “I’m in the 5, 10, 11 & 12 Club.”

Here’s why:

5: We’re admitting our shortcomings.

10: We’re taking our inventory and making amends.

11: We’re making time for prayer and meditation.

12: We’re carrying the message.

I’ve done lots of wonderful things in my life. I’ve also done plenty of shitty things. These days I want only to plant seeds of love, and avoid planting seeds of destruction. I can do this more often than not by diligently working a spiritual program of action. And as a byproduct… ILML!

Healthier Relationships

Healthier Relationships

“Each of us has a right to voice our opinions and ideas reasonably, without criticism or ridicule.” – Reaching for Personal Freedom

Sounds simple enough, right? But how well does it work when others want to express their ideas about me and my behavior? When they’re not particularly happy with me?

I recently did something without running it by someone close to me and they felt hurt. Whether I should have run it by them or not isn’t the point. Inadvertently, as a result of my behavior, regardless of whether I think I hurt them, they felt hurt. That’s the point. And our program teaches us what to do when we hurt others. We work step 9.

But the real growth comes from living amends. Learning what to do the next time. Or, perhaps more importantly, how to put myself in the best position possible to take the right action the next time.

In this situation I’d been traveling and not making my program, my daily deal, and my meetings, my number one priority. On top of that, I hadn’t been sleeping enough, and was really out of my element. Even my connection with my higher power wasn’t where it usually is. This will always put me in a very vulnerable state, usually resulting in me reacting from a place of fear rather than responding from a place of love.

So what happened when I was confronted? You can probably guess.

I became defensive, justifying my behavior, unable to respond to their their feelings I proceeded to attack them, listing off several of their shortcomings in an attempt to shift responsibility and ended the conversation with some random threat to our relationship. And you know what I told myself the whole time? I was doing this in the name of setting healthy boundaries, standing up for myself and letting them know I’m not to be judged, blamed, controlled or called out. Pretty healthy response right? I think not.

Now let’s consider how how I’d handle the situation if I were spiritually centered. This is what I aspire towards, and how I would reasonably respond to a situation like this if my own house is in order.

Coming out of faith (rather than fear), connected to my highest power, I would be able to respectfully listen to their concerns, without reacting in defensiveness, criticism, or judgement.

Next, when they were done speaking and asked me why I did what I did, I’d simply answer them as follows:

“Thanks for sharing your feelings with me. I need some time to think about it and reflect upon what you’ve said. I plan to do some writing and reason it out with my sponsor. Let’s chat tomorrow about this. Again, I appreciate you bringing it to my attention.”

This is called gracing the space, giving me some time to consider their feelings, so I can find my part and evolve into an even better version of myself.

How I respond or react is entirely dependent upon how spiritually connected I am at that moment. When I consistently and diligently put my program first, stay in the center of the lifeboat, write and send out my gratitude list, dance, sing, play guitar, smile, laugh, play, work, sleep, clean house, carry the message, meet my responsibilities, plug into my higher power, and get to my meetings, my relationships stay healthy, I respect both the person I’m becoming and the one I’m relating to and… ILML!

Life Gets Lifey

Life Gets Lifey

Lack of power, that was our dilemma.” AA, pg. 45

I’m part of a group of individuals that sends out gratitude lists back-and-forth, between each other, on almost a daily basis. This morning I received a gratitude list from someone who works a rigorous 12 step spiritual program of action. In it, she said, “I don’t try and control things as much as I used to.”

It made me think that, although the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous were correct in the fact that lack of power was our dilemma, particularly with regard to alcohol, I’ve found that in long-term recovery, it’s lack of control that seems to be at the root of many of my troubles.

Whether I’m willing to admit it or not, I tend to want people to do the things that I want them to do, act the way that I want them to act, and speak to me the way I would like to be spoken to.

I also tend to want situations to go the way that I want them to go, how I think they should happen, Because I believe that would be the best outcome not only for me, but for everyone else to.

And I’m very clear as to what I would like to happen with regard to the health of my body. I’d like to always be strong, healthy, slim and attractive.

Well, at 57 years old I’ve finally begun to realize that life doesn’t always turn out exactly the way I’d like it to go. As I often say, without my ability to manage, direct and control everything, life tends to get lifey.

More often than not, people have an inclination to do what they would like to do, rather than what I would like them to do.

Things that I’ve planned often turn out differently than I hoped.

And my body, well, it has this weird way of getting older and, well, heavier. LOL. I also noticed that the older I get, the more I experience strange aches and pains, some of which have actually required medical intervention.

So you see, my ability to control people, places and things is really just an illusion of control. As they say in ALAnon, I’m really only in charge of what’s happening inside my hula hoop. And even then, at least when it comes to my human body, I’m really not in complete control of that either.

What I have learned to control is the amount of energy I put into becoming the best version of me I can possibly become. That includes doing things that positively feed my mind l, body and spirit. In these situations, the only one I’m battling for control with, is my DisEase. He would certainly prefer that I spend zero time taking care of myself spiritually, emotionally and physically because the more pain I am in, the more likely I will hurt others and hurt myself.

So again, just for today, like most of the days over the last 17 years of my life, I’ll make my recovery a priority. Because when I put first things first… ILML!

Loving Life is a Miracle

Loving Life is a Miracle

It’s impossible to feel like life is full of miracles while addicted to drugs and alcohol. But getting, and staying, sober wasn’t all I wanted—I wanted to love my life so much that I’d feel like shouting it out every day!

Today I do, and it’s amazing. Here are the three steps it took (and continue to take) to become someone who spends most of my time loving life, being happy, joyous and free.

The first step was for me to decide that, since I was now sober, becoming a life lover was my next top priority. More important than making money. More important than accomplishing other tasks. More important than putting others’ needs above mine. I became willing to take any and all positive actions I could to love my life. Not just like it, love it!

Once that commitment was out of the way, the second step was to have a consistent morning routine which included meditation, connecting with source, mirror talk, singing, dancing, showering and straightening up, exercising, reading and listening to things that are uplifting, writing out what your grateful for, and taking a written inventory of my last 24 hours and writing down how I felt at that moment. Sounds like a lot? It is. Nothing great happens without commitment and work. I spend a lot of time and do a lot of work each day to love my life, and it’s 100% worth the investment.

The third, and perhaps most important, way to assure that I would love my life, and continue to do so, was to share my passion for loving life with others and help them discover how to be a life lover. I do this in meetings (AA, AlAnon, NarAnon and Life Lovers) and with everyone I meet. There’s a sign on the front door to my office “If this door is locked we’re out loving life!”, and notes all over my home about gratitude and loving life. As we’ve heard many times, “We have to give it away to keep it”.

Today I choose to believe that EVERYTHING is a miracle, because when I live in that frame of mind… ILML!