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

Change = Abundance

Change = Abundance

“Change is the one constant in our life and yet it causes us the most unrest.” – In God’s Care

Why is change so scary and uncomfortable sometimes? Even when we’re firmly walking on this spiritual path of recovery, knowing abundance is shining upon us?

I can only speak for myself, but I’m a man of creature comforts. I order the same drink everyday at Starbucks – Venti Chai Latte, 6 pumps, extra hot, no water, no foam, with cinnamon and whipped cream. Always a Belgium waffle at Izzy’s deli. Always a James salad at Penne Pasta Cafe (yeah, they make it special for me :-).

So when things change, I’m naturally throw off. No chai today? Out of syrup? No tomatoes for the salad? The sky is falling!!!

Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but you get what I’m talking about. So when there’s bigger changes and challenges, like illness, death, loss of income, and relationship changes, it can get dicey for a guy like me.

Luckily, at 56 years of age I’ve had a ton of experience with change. I’ve seen how handling change with an openness in my heart is so much more peaceful and comfortable than reacting to it. So I’ve come up with a way to limit my reactions to unexpected, typically alarming changes and respond to them with open arms, welcoming in a different, perhaps even more wonderful, experience.

I’ve used this exercise to great success, but I’ll warn you in advance that many people , in hearing about it, have told me they feel it’s pessimistic, negative, catastrophizing and unnecessarily creates fear. Regardless, that’s not the case for me, so here it is.

I envision the worst case scenarios in my life. The changes that might occur, which I have no power over, that I think would feel devastating, paralyzing and may throw me into a deep depression. The worst things I could imagine happening. Death of loved ones, loss of my job or home, blindness, divorce, etc.

Then I look at how I might react in fear, pain and hurt. This reaction would most often be considered “normal” by others. Then I ask myself to imagine responding completely differently, from a place of acceptance, love and belief that everything will be just fine. I walk through the experience and feelings of loss, letting go of the fear and sadness and choosing to handle it with grace and optimism.

This isn’t an easy exercise, but it’s been a great one for me. It’s empowered me to live life feeling that I can handle any change that happens, knowing my life won’t fall apart.

I still get thrown off my guard. I had never imagined one of my children might be paralyzed for life, and recently that almost happened. My son came down with Guillain-Barre Syndrome and was paralyzed. Gratefully he recovered in only 3 weeks. But even in that situation I was able to respond in love, faith and the knowledge that somehow things would be ok. The doctors were awesome and he’s running 5 miles a day and found his calling through the process – he’s now in school to be a doctor.

When I live in faith and am open to change, I invite even more abundance and love into myself and others, things end up working out great, and… ILML!

— JamieQ

A Heightened State of Awareness

A Heightened State of Awareness

“I am space, I am the sun, I am the directions, above and below, I am all things, I am the earth, I am the ocean, the world exists in me, I am the fragrance in flowers, I am the very essence in all things in the universe.” – Excerpts from a Deepak Chopra Meditation

I love the idea that we are totally connected with everything, not only on the planet, but throughout the multiverses. That we are inseparable from all that exists. When I tap into this feeling, allowing myself to feel connected to everything and everyone, a peace settles over me, bringing a gentle smile to my face.

When I hurt someone or something, I’m hurting myself. Whether it’s another person or a small spider. And when I’m aware that I am everything and everything is me, I can’t avoid feeling what I am doing to them or the world around me. It’s a law. The law of reciprocity.

When I love, I feel love. When I’m mean, I feel hurt. When I’m compassionate, I feel understood. When I am punishing, I feel shut off from the sunlight of the spirit. What I give, I receive. That’s why the gift of being of service in the program has been such a wonderful experience – as I connect and love others, I instantly feel connected and loved in return.

Today I’ll remember that everything came from, and ultimately goes back to, source. I am, at my very essence, source, as is the sun, moon, rain, trees, animals, and every person on this planet.

Through being loving, compassionate and helpful to others, I end up feeling loved, understood and valued in return. And when I live in that heightened state of awareness and understanding, whereby I am connected to all things, my ego mind slips away, I am liberated, 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

It’s Hard not to be Happy

It’s Hard not to be Happy

“Prayer is nothing more than being joyfully attentive to life.” – Matthew Fox, In God’s Care

This is a beautiful way to invite the word, idea and practice of prayer into our lives, particularly if we’re not allied or comfortable with specific religions.

In a way, this is what I do when I shout out “I love my life” each day, and insist on loving life, regardless of my circumstance.

I simply am so grateful to have been born. To have gotten to live 56 years of glorious life. On top of that, to have had the use of my legs, arms, feet, hands, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and brain is, well, over the top.

You have to admit, it’s hard not to be happy when you think about all the blessings you’ve been given. And walking around in awareness of gratitude for our incredible lives, could, at least according to Fox’s definition, be construed as living in a state of prayer.

Today I’ll make an effort to be more joyfully attentive to the little things in my day, because when I’m living in the attitude of gratitude… 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