A Recipe for Lemonade

A Recipe for Lemonade

“To truly have a zest for life, you must squeeze all the juice out of it… especially the lemons. Believe it or not, they make life even more delicious. The lessons you get out of them make you strong, resilient, and amazing.” – Jenny G. Perry

I’m not gonna lie to you, my life is incredible. I’m 56 years old, 36 years sober, and I’m a Double Winner—in both programs, Alcoholics Anonymous and AlAnon. My family life is fantastic! I have a successful business, I love to go to work every day, I get plenty of sleep, and I’m in peak health. I have more close friends than I could’ve ever dreamed of, many of whom I would lay down my life for. And I awake eaxh morning and yell out “I love my life!” Sound like I’m bragging? I’m not.

My life is great because I’ve mastered the art of making lemonade from lemons (as Jenny Perry would say—making zest from the lemons I encounter.)

In other words, I’ve learned how to find gratitude in everything. My brother Robbie, when describing the way he approaches life, kisses his fingertips, thrusts them into the sky above his head, and simply says “Thank You.” The secret, I’ve found, is to do this for everything—especially those things that I don’t particularly care for.

About 50% of the time, events in my life do NOT go the way I would like them to. In other words, I don’t get MY WAY half the time. Half the time! I believe this is the reason why I drank and took drugs. When I didn’t like something, when I felt bad, or when I didn’t know how to handle uncomfortable feelings, I self medicated.

And here’s the thing, just because I love my life and things are great, doesn’t mean things always go according to my plan. I’m still batting around 50% in terms of things going my way, versus things not going my way.

Luckily, the program and doing the daily deal has given me the tools to handle it, without reacting or needing to numb out my feelings when I’m not at ease.

But I won’t kid you, the process I use for loving my life takes a lot of consistency, a tremendous amount of dedication, and a significant amount of time invested daily. In other words, loving life doesn’t come without a sacrifice. I could be doing lots of other, really important, things while I’m spending hours getting and keeping myself in the attitude of gratitude, recalibrating my expectometer, and loving life.

The 12&12 says, “… these minutes and sometimes hours spent in self-examination are bound to make all the other hours of our day better and happier.”

I’m not the kind of person that believes everything I see, hear or read. But in this case, I’ve put it to the test and found those words to be true for me. When I invest the time to make my daily recovery rituals the #1 priority each day, my problems get resolved, my relationships get healthier, my finances improve, I physically feel better, and… 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

Finding Our Life’s Purpose

Finding Our Life’s Purpose

“One day, the lightbulb is going to go off in your head. You will become aware of what you are destined to do in life.” — Until Today

When I was a child I remember hearing people ask me the question, “What are you going to do when you grow up?” I heard that same question when I was in college, in my junior year. I was forced to pick a major, and for me that meant figuring out what I was going to do with my life. Of course, at 20 years old, I still had no idea.

I’ve worked a ton of jobs. I got married. I had kids. But none of those things (work, being a husband, or being a daddy) answered the question Iyanla Vanzant poses in her book: “What am I destined to do in life?”

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says, “Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us.” I was shown that line and told that if I could stay sober and help a few other people out each day, that by the time I lay my head on the pillow at the end of the evening, I’ve fulfilled my purpose and I am a huge success in life.

Wait, what? You mean I don’t have to make a ton of money to be successful? I don’t have to get out from all my debt? I don’t have to make my parents proud? I don’t have to give my wife and kids everything they desire every time they want it? I don’t have to have a new car or own a home to be a success? Correct.

All of those things come and go. Days pass and sometimes we achieve the material goals, sometimes we don’t. Some days we make everyone happy with us, some days we don’t. It’s time that we separate achieving those goals from our definition of success and happiness.

One of the reasons I love my life so much and I’m so happy is that I truly bought into that idea in the big book. All I need to do is stay sober (physically and emotionally), and be of maximum useful service to others, and I’m a huge success.

Sure, having nice things and making people happy always makes me feel good. The problem is when I become too attached to those results, then unhappiness follows when I don’t achieve them.

So today I’ll live in the moment, take extra good care of myself, and be there to help others when possible. When I keep things simple like this… ILML!

— JamieQ

How to Live a Great Life

How to Live a Great Life

“Al-Anon is like physical therapy for my soul, aligning my principles and behavior so that I can move joyfully through life!” — The Forum, March 1988, Hope for Today

What a wonderful analogy. This morning I did my mediation, prayers, and affirmations, leaving myself feeling spiritually centered.

Then I got up, made my bed, straightened my house, leaving myself feeling clean and organized.

Then I did my yoga, ran some wind sprints, lifted some weight and ran through some body core exercises, leaving myself feeling strong and healthy.

Then I showered, shaved, dressed nicely, groomed myself and drank a bunch of water, leaving myself feeling refreshed, handsome and hydrated.

Now I’m at Starbucks, doing my journaling, sending out my gratitude list, writing this blog post, reading from my spiritual backpack and infusing my mind with AlAnon ideas and principles, leaving myself feeling joyful and open to the abundance of the day.

In a little while I’ll be at a job I love to do, which also provides a great service to others, leaving myself feeling productive and self-supporting.

Later today I’ll stop working for a bit, play guitar and drink tea with my friends and brother, who are all in the program, sharing hobbies and fellowship, leaving myself feeling a sense of community, belonging and love.

After writing this all down, it’s evident to me why I love making the program a central and integral part of my life. It’s also easy to see why… ILML!

– JamieQ

Without Getting Stuck

Without Getting Stuck

“They are living in the moment. There are not ashamed of the past; they are not worried about the future. Little children express what they feel, and they are not afraid to love.” – The Mastery of Love

Several years back, when Richie and I took the Iyanla Vanzandt challenge, writing ourselves love letters for 40 days, I decided to write them from James to my inner child. At that time I began to develop a relationship with my inner child, and I started to become more aware of how happy little children are, and how easily they transition in and out of feelings and emotions, without getting stuck.

These young ones seem always intrigued with life and truly living only in each moment. Crying when upset or hurt, then laughing when happy, just moments later, as if they had never been hurt or unhappy to begin with. How cool is that?

This is how I aspire to live today. In awe of being alive, not attached to the past, and not focused on the future. Just enjoying the gift of the present. I get to experience that feeling when I’m connected to my Higher Power, whatever that may be.

About this Higher Power thing: What I love about the 12 step program is that we all get to have our own concept of God, our own relationship with the creative source that guides us. In our program, no one person’s concept of God is better, truer, or more accurate than another’s. There’s no room for spiritual righteousness in AA or AlAnon. Each of our beliefs is perfectly designed for us, and where we are at right now. And as an added bonus, for most of us, our concept of, and relationship with, our personal higher power is always evolving.

It’s when I’m plugged in that wonderful, loving energy that I get to live like a small child does, filled with the wonderment of each and every moment. By letting go of the past and future, but unplugging from regrets and fears, my words, thoughts, actions and feelings are guided only by pure gratitude and love. And when I’m in that magical place, abundance flows in and all around me, and… ILML!

— JamieQ

(click on the image below to see what I’m talking about)

Accepted, Surrendered & Grateful

Accepted, Surrendered & Grateful

“Thank you, Higher Power, for this beautiful day… Place in my path some way to serve others… May I feel your presence today…” – 12 Step Prayer Book

Lately, I’ve been in the groove. The spiritual, recovery, life loving groove, that is. And it’s odd because my General Manager quit on Tuesday, March 27th, and we are on deadline at work – usually a time when we are severely overworked and need everyone’s help. In this situation it would be completely understandable to be panicked or upset. Interested enough, I’ve being feeling happy, excited and optimistic. So what’s up?

Here’s what I think it is. On March 19th, just 8 days before she quit, one of my sponsees (Chris H) let me know he was starting the 21 Day Oprah Deepak Meditation Challenge, and I decided to join him. Prior to doing the daily morning meditation, both Oprah and Deepak talk about how to change our attitudes in order to perceive both life and ourselves in a very positive, uplifting way. Inspirational and optimistic, each morning these meditations have the affect of opening me up for abundance.

While those who love me are calling to express their deep concern about losing my manager while on deadline, I repeatedly tell them that I’m feeling better than ever about work and being able to handle it all easily myself, without any help at all. Of course, if the opportunity to find someone who’s a good fit comes along, great. If not, that’s great too. I’ve fully accepted, surrendered and am grateful for all of it.

This attitude that everything is perfectly fine and under control is not an illusion. The company really is doing great and I’m accomplishing twice as much with half the effort (I even snuck out to see the new Spielberg move).

Is it all because if the meditation? Who knows. But I’ll tell you one thing, since starting it I’m more connected to my higher power than my lower power, and when I’m in that place… ILML!

— JamieQ