Doing the 4th in 1 Day

Doing the 4th in 1 Day

“We want to look our past in the face, see it for what it really was, and release it so we can live freely.” — NA, Page 28

I love the concept in program that tells us to be careful of what we are focusing on, as it grows bigger. I’ve heard that we ought to focus our magic magnifying glass on the good stuff. To stay out of the past and future, to live in the moment. I love that stuff. In fact, I live by it.

That said, there’s a lot to be gained by working a thorough 4th step. To dig deeply into the past, with the help of a loving sponsor, in an attempt to uncover, discover and discard our past clouds of darkness that prevent us from being the best person we can be, and fully loving life.

If you’re a newcomer, I’m a big fan of tackling this enormously productive endeavor in 1-2 days max. Did I suggest doing your 4th and 5th step in one or two days? Yep. I sure did. That’s because I’ve seen so many people struggle with this process, dragging it on for weeks or months, stewing in the pain of their shame and guilt of what they’ve done in the past, and the resentment towards those that hurt them long ago. Many of these actually went out before completing their 4th.

It may not seem easy to find someone willing to spend 4-6 hours with you, perhaps for two days in a row, but trust me, there are plenty of people in the program willing to do it. Most of us love to help others. That’s because being of service helps us stay sober. This person need not even be your sponsor, provided it’s a loving member in recovery who’s working the type of program that you admire.

For those of us who have done many 4th steps, it’s a bit different. I, myself, always have some type of 4th step workbook going on. This year I’m working out of AlAnon’s Reaching for Personal Freedom, and I love it. But if you’re approaching the 4th for the first time, my suggestion is to do it the best you can, but don’t let it drag on. Keep in mind that the goal is to finish them all, and then be able to help others work their steps. And it’s after step 9 that the promises begin to materialize in a powerful way.

By carefully examining my past I can finally discover the truth about it. I can see it for what it was. For once and all I can forgive those who hurt me, even if what they did was unacceptable. For once and all I can forgive myself for what I’ve done, even if what I did was unacceptable. I can finally let go of all the hurt, pain, sorrow, and fear, and start fresh today. I can finally be free to experience a life beyond my wildest dreams, one in which I can wake up each morning, and with all the earnest at my command, yell out “I LOVE MY LIFE!!!, and mean it, from the tips of my ties to the top of my head.

— JamieQ

Return on Investment

Return on Investment

Love is something if you give it away, you end up having more.” — Malvina Reynolds from the book In God’s Care

The program has shown me that the best gifts in life are the ones we give away. Why? Because the act of giving has the absolutely highest return on investment of any kind.

When I give of myself, what I get in return is vastly greater than what I have given.

If I give my time to listen to someone struggling—without judging them, I feel compassion and empathy, which opens up my heart. And this is what intimacy is all about.

The same thing happens when I love or express kindness without expecting it in return. Once I get out of the “me” and “mine” mentality and into the “how can I help those who need my help and have asked for it” frame of mind, I evolve into a better person. Those actions allow me to be proud of the man I’m becoming, allowing me to look in the mirror and begin believing it when I say “I love you James.”

And when I love who I am through the action of loving others… ILML!

— JamieQ

Two Types of Acceptance

Two Types of Acceptance

Knowing what’s acceptable and what’s not, when we should practice it and when we shouldn’t, isn’t always easy.

We’ve all heard of Dr. Paul’s “Acceptance is the Answer” in the book Alcoholics Anonymous (aka The Big Book). In fact, it’s one of my very favorites, and something I’ve arrived to live by in my life. But does it always apply? Even when someone’s behavior, or some thing, is unacceptable?

In my attempt to gain useful understanding around the idea of acceptance, I sought out, and found, a couple of explanations that provided clarity to my question:

Acceptance in human psychology is a person’s assent to the reality of a situation.

Acceptance, as defined in a dictionary, is the willingness to tolerate a difficult or unpleasant situation.

Based upon those two disparate meanings, I came to the conclusion that there are two forms of acceptance, one that’s helpful to practice in every situation, and one that may not be helpful to practice, depending upon the situation.

I apply the first type of acceptance to everything, provided I’m spiritually fit enough to do so. And when I’m not, I usually pay the price by fighting reality. After all, let’s face it: what is, is, regardless of whether I accept it or not. Being angry or hurt or frustrated by it does no good at all. In fact, it usually prevents us from moving past it, meaning we stay in it, even when it’s unhealthy to do so.

But by accepting the situation for what it is, we are now able to ask ourselves “Am I ok with this, as is, on a continuing basis?” If, the answer is no, then we can now move out of the problem, and into the solution. And here’s how I do it…

1. INVENTORY I write about the situation, identifying what’s happening, honestly looking at my part, how I’ve contributed to the problem, as well as theirs, or how the situation is affecting me if it’s not a person.

2. GUIDANCE I ask for some time with my my trusted advisor (sponsor).

3. RESPONSIBILITY I read to them what I’ve written and discuss it, asking for help to dig deeper in finding my part, adding any new awareness to what I’ve already written. I then lightly cross out everything I’ve written except my part, in order to get to step 4 below.

4. DETERMINATION With my advisor, we determine if I should stay in, or detach from, the person and/or situation. We do this by asking the following questions:

(A) If I continue accepting this situation is there a good chance it may be dangerous to me or others? If so, then it’s time to detach.

(B) Have I discovered that I really have no part in this (for example, a young child being physically abused by a parent). If we honestly have no part, again, it’s time to detach. If neither of these apply, we move to (C).

(C) Is there a possibility that my actions, or inactions, have contributed to this unacceptable situation. If the answer is yes, then with the help of my advisor I create and write out a plan of action that includes changes I can make in my behavior, that may effect a change for the better in my relationship or situation.

5. ACTION I then practice my plan of action for a period of one month, keeping a daily checklist in my journal to see if I’m actually practicing my plan of action. For example (A) Send a loving text to my parter each day – Yes [X] No [ ].

6. FOLLOWUP After the month is over, with my advisor, I review my checklist to see how well I’ve followed through with my plan of action, if things are now acceptable, (or moving towards acceptable), and what, if any, changes in my plan of action should be taken.

In the past when I struggled with acceptance, I would blame myself or someone else, and either fight my way through it, causing more destruction, or run the other way out of fear, even when there was no danger.

Today, instead of struggling to accept situations that are uncomfortable, I embrace them, applying concrete actions aimed at solution. In this way I invite awareness, growth, love and abundance into my problems, turning them into opportunities for growth. And when I do that, not only do I build more respect and love for myself, but as an added bonus… 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