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

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

Have No Regrets

“What I do today is important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it.” – 12 Step Prayer Book 
At the end of each day, I have a great opportunity to reflect on the hours I’ve spent in that day. Was I of service to others out of kindness? Did I take actions that nurtured me physically, emotionally and spiritually. When options presented themselves was I able to make healthy choices? Did I smile and laugh – at least a few times? If agitated, was I able to pause and respond in kindness? Did I take care of responsibilities as well as possible? Did I carve out some time to engage in hobbies that I enjoy? I can honestly say that the time I spent living today was worthwhile, that I have no regrets, and that ILML!  

– JamieQ

Simple as That

“… letting go of our need to control… not setting ourselves up to be victims… setting healthy boundaries… (these are the tools) that help us improve the quality of all our relationships.” – The Language of Letting Go 

I think we all want to get along better with others. The problem for me was that, in order to do so, I wanted everyone else to change. If only they changed, we’d be happy. It’s true that, to some extent, both parties need to adapt and change in order to keep a relationship healthy. But I’m successful in my relationships today because I stopped expecting, hoping and trying to make them change. Instead, I learned that I can create the initial change by practicing program principles in my relationships. Once I am exhibiting healthy behaviors, they have the option to reciprocate… or not. If they do, I’ll stay in the relationship. In not, I’ll leave. Simple as that. When I work my program and set healthy boundaries, my relationships are awesome and ILML! 

– JamieQ

Plan of Detachment

“To continue giving without receiving doesn’t prove anything except that you know how to be taken advantage of.” – Until Today

Who likes a one-sided relationship? Not me. Yet I’ve had many of them in the past. These days I practice having healthy boundaries to the best of my ability by (1) determining what is unacceptable behavior from others, (2) creating a plan of detachment if others repeatedly behave in an unacceptable manner, (3) letting others know what is unacceptable and how I will handle it if it becomes a pattern, and (4) follow through by acting on my plan of detachment if necessary. When I choose to honor and respect myself by setting healthy boundaries and following through on my plan of detachment when necessary, others begin to respect me, my relationships improve and ILML! 

– JamieQ