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

Awaken with Abundance

Awaken with Abundance

“There are some who live day to day concerned about not having enough for happiness and security. This causes anxiety, worry and stress. But this doesn’t have to be. Instead, if we trust the intelligence of the universe, and practice living carefree, we can live fearlessly, without worry or focusing on lack.” — Living Carefree, A Meditation with Deepak Chopra

Wow. Can you imagine never having to fear lacking anything? I felt like that way as a child, but since having my own children, the overwhelming sense of responsibility has put (and kept) me in financial fear.

The voices of fear and faith can have an overwhelming effect in my life. Faith says “Everything’s going to be great!” When I believe this, I feel so good. But Fear says “This is going to be terrible. Your in big trouble.” And when I’m listening and believing it, I feel scared, exhausted and upset.

Deepak’s meditation suggests that we encourage the kinder, more loving message to dominate our thoughts by repeating this: “I move through my day lighthearted and carefree, knowing all is well.”

I’ve been listening to this meditation on YouTube everyday lately, along with his meditations on Overcoming Obstacles and Gratitude, and I must tell you that its awesome! I’ve been more optimistic, efficient and have had more energy since I began doing this. I start off listening in bed, and eventually take it into the bathroom while getting ready for my day. I awaken and fill my mind up with good thoughts, before the bad ones can even start up.

When take the time, first thing in the morning, to intentionally focus on positive messages that reaffirm the boundless abundance and love in, and all around me, I awaken with the belief that it’s going to be a great day, and 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

Loving Life when I’m not Loving What’s Happening

Loving Life when I’m not Loving What’s Happening

If you’ve read any of my other blogs or information on this site, you know I’m a life lover. But did you know I get a bunch of slack for it? Did you know some people roll their eyes when I say I love my life? Others say they’re not as interested in loving life as they are in just having peace of mind.

And that’s the beauty of the program. We take what we like, and leave the rest. Just because I enjoy loving life and I’m all about it, doesn’t mean that others have to agree with me. But I should explain that loving life doesn’t mean I love everything that happens in my life.

I think each of us can make a pretty long list of shitty things that have happened to us. Situations that didn’t turn out as we had hoped, people that didn’t live up to our expectations, pain we’ve experienced. Trust me when I say that my list is long.

But somehow I’ve figured out how to separate life loving from having everything go my way. First, I’ve accepted, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that life will NOT always go the way I think it should. Nor will people ALWAYS behave the way I would like them to. Recognizing I’m powerless over that (step one), and it’s crazy to think that I can change an outcome that’s beyond my control (step two), I just surrender that expectation as soon as I’m aware that I’m having one (step three), and replace it with the knowledge that my will (what I want to have happen) may, quite likely, not occur.

How do I know I’m having an expectation? When I feel excited about something, a sense of happy anticipation, getting ready for a good thing to happen, I’m in expectation. It’s at that point that I remember I’m living in the future, and possibly setting myself up to feel hurt, which is a feeling I definitely don’t enjoy.

So what do I do? I immediately recalibrate my expectations. I think to myself “Hey James, remember that this shit may go sideways, and if it does, you’ll be just fine.” I remind myself that, no matter how this turns out, there’s always a plan B, C and D.

When I practice this exercise, I instantly feel anxiety, anticipation, and excitement lose their grip on my mind. And as they do, any potential future resentment begins to melt away.

But doesn’t it suck to live like this? Never being excited? Never being stoked about something great that’s about to happen? No. It’s quite the opposite. I’m stoked knowing I’m going to feel good no matter what happens. My happiness is no longer dependent upon the outcome of a situation or the way someone treats me. I’m at peace and comfortable regardless. I can feel good if it happens or not. Because I’ve told myself, “Don’t get excited James, you know this might turn out exactly the opposite of how you hope it will.”

By applying this attitude in all my affairs, I give myself a much better chance of feeling good no matter how life turns out. Which means that, even when things don’t go my way, and I don’t particularly love the outcome… ILML!

— JamieQ

Getting in the GZ

“God, please help me to want what you want.” – Hope for Today

This reading talks about perceiving the idea of turning our will and life over to God, as our 3rd step suggests, in a way that doesn’t mean giving up our will. Instead, it says that “Developing a healthy relationship with my Higher Power is about teamwork,” and also encourages us to align our will with God’s.

That’s why the prayer above is such a great one for me. You see, I honestly believe that God’s will for me is to be happy, joyous and free. I think my HP wants me to experience unlimited abundance and love, and then share it with everyone I can. If that’s the case, of course I want exactly what God wants for me. Wouldn’t you?

When I’m in the God Zone (something Chris, one of my sponsees, put on his gratitude list today, I’m really wanting exactly what God wants for me, and… ILML!

— JamieQ

A Concrete Set of Actions

A Concrete Set of Actions

“Beginning with childhood, we all receive messages that… we must have… possessions, and prestige to be happy… giving what we have to help someone else makes us a lot happier…” – In God’s World

I often share this exact sentiment with others, something I’ve experienced first hand. After graduating college, I found myself working at a big company, wearing a 3 piece suite, driving a Mercedes 230SL, in what I considered a healthy romantic relationship and living in my newly owned co-op that I had recently renovated. Guess how I felt? You got it… unhappy, unfulfilled, and confused as to why I wasn’t happy. By the way, I was sober too, and had been for a few years.

What was missing? Oh, just about everything the program offers. Fellowship, a working knowledge of the steps, using the program’s principles in all my affairs, comfort in finding my part when upset and making amends quickly, an understanding of, and great relationship with, a higher power of my understanding, and perhaps most importantly, the desire, ability, and commitment to share what I learned in recovery with others (which at that time was nothing), helping to positively contribute to their lives. When I started putting all the other pieces together, that last part gave me the added gifts of both friendship and intimacy.

So what about money, property and prestige? Isn’t that important? Why can’t I have those too?

Well, of course I love those things–I’d be a liar if I said otherwise. Having money gives me a perception of financial security I long for and often feel I don’t have. Owning a house does the same thing, along with eliminating the fear of being evicted by a landlord or having my rent increase. Owning a nice car makes me feel good, is comfortable, and takes away the fear of not being able to get somewhere easily or dependably. And prestige? Well, I’ve discovered that I do care what others think about me–in spite of that often heard saying “What others think about me is none of my business.” But rather than wanting them to think I’m financially successful, it makes me feel much better to have them think I’m a kind, loving, helpful, emotionally stable, happy life lover. And that they know I’m aspiring to be a great husband, father, brother, son, sponsee–in truth, a great man. The money and things are great, but I believe they come (in the perfect amount and at the perfect time) when I work my program.

And speaking of working my program, I just wanted to say that for me, the program is more than meetings and calling my sponsor. I did that for years and it wasn’t enough – honestly I felt lost. I also sponsored others during that time, doing the two-step dance, and I wasn’t loving my life.

Today I’ve developed a concrete set of recovery actions that help me become the best man I can be, and experience the most emotional comfort I can have. That list includes:

• Attending at least 3, but preferably at least 4, meetings a week – one being an AlAnon meeting, and (if possible) one being a Double Winners meeting.

•  Staying in communication with my sponsor, particularly when I’ve tried all other program solutions and still feel lost and/or confused.

• Reading recovery literature, and being sure to highlight in, and write at the top of, the pages I read each day.

• Writing recovery posts and texts like this, sharing them both on my blog and in texts to my core recovery group.

• Writing and sharing gratitude lists with others

• Making my bed daily

• Entering and exiting my bed from my knees where I connect with source

• Journaling with a pen and paper to take my inventory and examine the areas of my life I love and those I’d like to work on or surrender to my higher power.

• Making time to listen to affirmation-oriented loving meditations.

• Being productive toward making, and maintaining, myself as a financially self-supporting individual.

• Keeping my thoughts, efforts and physical surroundings organized to maximize my efficiency and sense of comfort.

• Engaging in hobbies that feed my creativity.

• Eating sensibly and healthily, but giving myself permission for occasional indulgences as a reward for being fit.

• Making time to get close to, and appreciate, the awesome nature that surrounds me.

• Being of service to others without monetary compensation, both in group settings, and one-on-one.

• Exercising my body by stretching and getting pushing my body to places that make me breath hard and both exercise my heart and keep my muscles strong.

I’m not perfect. I don’t get all  of them done every day. I fall short of perfection. However, the more discipled I am about practicing these actions on a daily basis, the less uncomfortable I am when my expectations are unmet by others, or when situations don’t turn out as I hope, and the more… ILML!!

– JamieQ