A Comprehensive Program of Action to Love My Life

“Spiritual awakening… as a result of working the steps… I developed a deeper relationship with a loving higher power… drinkers… are wonderful, and valuable individual who have been affected by the disease… I try to carry this message… practicing these principles in all my affairs has change my life… family relationships… interaction with others… problems are more easily resolved… less judgmental… more accepting… better equipped to accept what I cannot change, and live life as it happens.” — Reaching for Personal Freedom

I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I’ve been working a program for a long time, or that I’m more spiritually connected than my first 20 years sober, but when I read from this Reaching for Personal Freedom it’s very hard not to highlight almost every word. The ideas resonates so deeply with my core beliefs.

I’ve come to realize that getting sober was just the beginning.

Getting a sponsor was just the beginning.

Going through the steps was just the beginning.

Going to meetings was just the beginning.

Sponsoring others was just the beginning.

Learning to pray and meditate was just the beginning.

Being of service and sponsoring others was just the beginning.

Journaling on a daily basis was just the beginning.

Opening up my mind to higher consciousness through listening to podcasts, watching videos, and reading from others who inspire me was just the beginning.

The substance, value, effectiveness and rewards of my program have come from consistently putting it all together, one day at a time. By working a comprehensive program of action…

ILML!

Melt Away Hopelessness

Melt Away Hopelessness

“…I was hopeless.” AA p.10

“… I bore down hard on the hopelessness..” Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions p.152

Hopelessness. I doubt there’s even one of us that has not experienced this feeling.

Sometimes it’s about work, money, bills, housing, a car, or even being able to buy Christmas gifts for family.

More often, for me at least, it’s about my inability to make relationships work the way I want. Not being able to get those I love and care about to love, care about, and treat me the way I want them to.

So ultimately it’s a control issue. When I can’t control people, situations and outcomes, when I can’t get them to align with my expectations (which I often feel are quite reasonable), I fall into the pit of despair. Woe is me. Have pity on me for I am a victim of circumstances. I’m stuck in the abyss of hopelessness with no way out.

But there is a way out. It’s through AWARENESS and ACTION.

At 58 years old I’ve become highly attuned to how I feel physically. If I’m hungry or tired, sore or sick, I’ve learned to take immediate action to resolve it. I don’t like being physically uncomfortable. I’ll take some vitamins, drink more water, take a nap, see the doctor, etc. I’ll do whatever is required to physically feel better. I’m good at taking care of myself in these ways, again, because I don’t like feeling bad.

The same applies to my mental health. I’ve become incredibly attuned to my emotional state of mind. I’m very aware when I feel happy, safe, grateful, comfortable, and at peace. Likewise I know when I’m feeling sad, uncomfortable, depressed, irritable, angry, scared, frustrated or confused.

This is AWARENESS – and it’s fundamental to get me out of my funk. But in order to get all the way out of hopelessness, I need to take ACTION. Luckily, I have an endless supply of concrete, solution-oriented actions that will quickly get me out of hopelessness. Some of the tools I use are:

  • Meditation
  • Connecting with Source

  • Getting our into Nature

  • Doing some Exercise

  • Reading from Inspirational Books

  • Sharing Excerpts with Others

  • Disco Dancing

  • Singing to Music

  • Getting to a Meeting

  • Playing Guitar

  • Doing Positive Affirmations Aloud

  • Skateboarding

  • Speaking Lovingly to Myself in the Mirror

  • Surfing

  • Journaling out Thoughts & Feelings

  • Buying myself something Small

  • Making & Sharing a Gratitude List

  • Doing some Yoga

  • Listening to Spiritual Podcasts

  • Getting Productive on my Tasks

  • Taking a Nap

  • Smiling & saying hi to others

  • Giving Love to a fog, cat or pet

  • Volunteering my time

  • Staying in bed for 8 hours Max

  • Yelling our “I LOVE MY LIFE” repeatedly

  • Being kind & loving to everyone possible

  • Refusing to Complain about my problems

  • Seeing my therapist to seek solution

  • Cleaning my house, car & office

  • Working my program & steps

  • Writing a 4th step on my hopelessness

  • Eating some sweets

  • Getting myself organized

  • Going to a movie

  • Call my sponsor to get into gratitude

  • Calling newcomers to check on them

  • Actively practice forgiveness in writing

  • Picking up trash I see on the sidewalk

  • Stopping to smell a flower

  • Understanding/Surrendering Expectations

  • Immersing myself in the ocean

  • Living in the Moment Exercises

  • Snorkeling and watching the fish

  • Working out of my step-work book

Many of these are tools that I use preemptively, to prevent me from falling into a funk to begin with.

But I also use them when I’m feeling hopeless, and provided I’m willing to do whatever it takes, and use every tool available if necessary, my hopelessness always melts away, and I’m guided back to that warm and wonderful place of gratitude where.. ILML!

— JamieQ

The Precious Gift

The Precious Gift

Some of us enter recovery with a working understanding of a Higher Power. For a lot of us, however, “God” is a troublesome word. We may doubt the existence of any sort of Power greater than ourselves. Or we may remember uncomfortable experiences with religion and shy away from “the God stuff.” — Just for Today

That was me, to a T.

The word God evoked ideas of paganism, ironically a word used by many religious folks who felt that their ideology, and their God, were superior to that of others’. When I heard them say things like “My God is better than yours,”or even “My God is the only true God,” or worse yet “If you don’t believe in my God you’ll surely go to hell,” I was pushed further and further away from the idea of believing in any God, repelled by their righteousness and spiritual arrogance.

Even after having been in recovery for a long time, I could not get the “God” thing, even though I really wanted what I saw in those who had a friendship with God. I just couldn’t believe in something that was not real. Sorry.

So it took a long while until I could embrace the idea that it was okay for me to imagine, and even create, a personal vision of God that worked in my life. Ironically, what got me into believing in God was an atheist on the radio who said “God is a make believe friend for grownups.”

Shortly after, while sitting at Penne Pasta, eating a Pizza Margherita and a James Salad, I began writing on a sheet of 8.5″ x 11″ paper. I answered the following questions:

If I were to have, understand and believe in a God, what would that God be like?

Would this God be male? Female? Genderless?

Would this God have a personality? Thoughts? Feelings?

Would this God have an attitude? Or the ability to care about me, others or anything?

Punishing or playful?

Serious or sense of humor?

My cheerleader or critical of me?

Understanding or demanding?

By answering these questions, along with some others, an idea of a higher power I would like to have in my life began to form.

It’s interesting that I could engage in an exercise like this during a time in my life when I still yet didn’t believe in God. In order to do so I was forced, momentarily, to suspend my disbelief long enough to have an open mind. I was reminded of a portions of that quote misattributed in Alcoholics Anonymous to Herbert Spencer, which mentions “…“contempt prior to investigation.”  I was finally practicing the opposite of that, in my quest to know a personal God of my understanding.

And after I was done writing, I’ll be damned if I didn’t feel differently. In fact, in that moment after I put down the pen, I would say that my feeling wasn’t too far off from that of Bill W.’s – although there was no “White Light.”  Though, it could be said my spiritual experience was of the “educational variety,” since in fact I had been in recovery for quite some time. Regardless, after putting pen to paper, I felt transformed in a weird kind of way. I actually felt lighter in spirit.

As corny as it sounds, just like the words in Alcoholics Anonymous, it appeared that, finally, “I walked far over the Bridge of reason to the desired shore the faith.”

That was a personal paradigm shift for me, and the moment I identified a concept of my Higher Power, which was in my 10th year of recovery, I began what has become a very satisfying life long friendship with the God of my understanding.

I’m so grateful that the program is patient, and left the door open for me as long as I needed, and until I was ready and willing to welcome the precious gift of spirituality into my life! ILML!

— JamieQ

The Elixir of Recovery

The Elixir of Recovery

“We knew how to love in crisis, in a state of constant mental chatter, grabbing onto old fears to stay mentally busy, which somehow made us feel safe. Weirdly, when we were worried, we felt in control.” – Adapted from Courage to Change

My DisEase is cunning, baffling and powerful. It loves to be in control. The idea of letting go and letting God, surrendering, and admitting I’m powerless over anything, (including others and my relationships with them) is something my DisEase absolutely abhors. Why? Because doing so literally KILLS my dis-ease.

Instead, it wants it’s daily dose of fertilizer. The ingredients of my DisEase’s Miracle Grow are neediness, control, fear, resentment, it’s-not-fairism, self-righteousness, lying, manipulation, condescension, justification, blame, arguing, defensiveness, fighting, self-pity, loneliness, isolation, laziness, procrastination, focusing on the problem, frustration, unsolicited advice giving, hopelessness, purposelessness, exhaustion, eating poorly, going outside my hula hoop, closed-mindedness, body shaming myself, not making recovery my priority, and giving with secret expectation for a return.

That’s a long list right? The truth is that I could probably add 100 more ingredients to that concoction. But here’s the good news: For every ingredient in my DisEase’s Miracle Grow, there an antidote.

So here’s my challenge to you today. Take a moment to write, or type, out a list of the exact opposite of each of the ingredients on the list above. Now print it out and tape it onto your fridge.

This is the secret to happiness. The more often that I practice working with the ingredients necessary to create the elixir of recovery, the more ILML!

— JamieQ

PS if you’re so inclined, share your list with me!

.

That means that everything we want out of the relationship we get, simply by loving them madly.

Pretty cool concept. Not easy, but very cool.

A Small Price to Pay

A Small Price to Pay

By working this step, we keep the cobwebs out of (our life).” – Reaching for Personal Freedom

This morning, working on the 10th step in my work book, I came across that sentence. Cobwebs are fine when they’re catching pleasant memories. But when they catch ahold of fears, problems, self-pity, anger, frustration and hopelessness, those cobwebs have to be swept away or they will destroy me.

The only way I’ve discovered how to eliminate such cobwebs from my life is to approach them like a final exam in college that I really need to get an A in.

Having had a difficult time keeping my attention focused throughout my life, I had to work super hard in college to get good grades. While others, like my younger brother, could get A’s by just glancing at text books and attended some classes, I had to approach college differently.

I would read the text book. Then read it a second time with a highlighter in my hand, highlighting what I thought might be on a test. Then I’d write out, in a notebook, everything that I highlighted. Then I’d read it into a tape recorder. Then I’d listen to what I read over and over. Plus, I made sure to attended every class and took copious notes. I even sold my notes to others, they were so good. Ever the entrepreneur. I ended up scoring very high in college, but it was really, really hard work and very, very long hours.

I approach my program the same way. The prize isn’t A’s —it’s something even better: when I make working my program, growing spiritually, and carrying the message to others the priority in my life, and I commit at least a couple hours each day doing it, I get to be rocketed into the forth dimension and have a life beyond my wildest dreams. I also get to have great relationships with others and love the man I’m becoming. It’s so cool.

So each day, when I awaken, I resolve for that day to allocate the first couple of hours to working my program, which I call the Daily Deal. I think it’s a small price to pay in order to get an attitude of gratitude and be happy, joyous and free.

Because… I’ve learned that when I make recovery my priority… ILML!

— Jamie Q

Healthier Relationships

Healthier Relationships

“Each of us has a right to voice our opinions and ideas reasonably, without criticism or ridicule.” – Reaching for Personal Freedom

Sounds simple enough, right? But how well does it work when others want to express their ideas about me and my behavior? When they’re not particularly happy with me?

I recently did something without running it by someone close to me and they felt hurt. Whether I should have run it by them or not isn’t the point. Inadvertently, as a result of my behavior, regardless of whether I think I hurt them, they felt hurt. That’s the point. And our program teaches us what to do when we hurt others. We work step 9.

But the real growth comes from living amends. Learning what to do the next time. Or, perhaps more importantly, how to put myself in the best position possible to take the right action the next time.

In this situation I’d been traveling and not making my program, my daily deal, and my meetings, my number one priority. On top of that, I hadn’t been sleeping enough, and was really out of my element. Even my connection with my higher power wasn’t where it usually is. This will always put me in a very vulnerable state, usually resulting in me reacting from a place of fear rather than responding from a place of love.

So what happened when I was confronted? You can probably guess.

I became defensive, justifying my behavior, unable to respond to their their feelings I proceeded to attack them, listing off several of their shortcomings in an attempt to shift responsibility and ended the conversation with some random threat to our relationship. And you know what I told myself the whole time? I was doing this in the name of setting healthy boundaries, standing up for myself and letting them know I’m not to be judged, blamed, controlled or called out. Pretty healthy response right? I think not.

Now let’s consider how how I’d handle the situation if I were spiritually centered. This is what I aspire towards, and how I would reasonably respond to a situation like this if my own house is in order.

Coming out of faith (rather than fear), connected to my highest power, I would be able to respectfully listen to their concerns, without reacting in defensiveness, criticism, or judgement.

Next, when they were done speaking and asked me why I did what I did, I’d simply answer them as follows:

“Thanks for sharing your feelings with me. I need some time to think about it and reflect upon what you’ve said. I plan to do some writing and reason it out with my sponsor. Let’s chat tomorrow about this. Again, I appreciate you bringing it to my attention.”

This is called gracing the space, giving me some time to consider their feelings, so I can find my part and evolve into an even better version of myself.

How I respond or react is entirely dependent upon how spiritually connected I am at that moment. When I consistently and diligently put my program first, stay in the center of the lifeboat, write and send out my gratitude list, dance, sing, play guitar, smile, laugh, play, work, sleep, clean house, carry the message, meet my responsibilities, plug into my higher power, and get to my meetings, my relationships stay healthy, I respect both the person I’m becoming and the one I’m relating to and… ILML!

Love Polluter

Love Polluter

“… love wastefully…” — 12 Step Prayer Book

While doing my morning rituals at Starbucks this morning, Chai Latte in hand, I was reading through the Eleventh Step Meeting Opening Prayer and this line stood out to me: love wastefully. So, of course, I highlighted. underlined and circled it. Then I wrote it at the top of the page.

When I think of being wasteful, my mind tends to go to conservation. Ironically, conserving my love is, in itself, a waste. I’d even go so far as to say that, for me at least, it’s a crime, punishable by the loss of greater joy and happiness.

Today I’ll make it a point to be a love polluter, and I’ll toss out love wherever I go and to whomever I meet.

ILML!