New Year’s Resolution

New Year’s Resolution

”The person who has gratitude to express has in some sense been lifted from a place of lack or need to a place of well-being and abundance.” — Attitudes of Gratitude in Love

Why is negativity such a guiding force in most peoples lives? Why do we get sucked into blaming, complaining, self-pity, debating, and obsessing on things that don’t really make us happy? It’s not a question that I have a good answer for, but I do know that, in the last year alone, I’ve spent over 10,000 minutes there. That boils down to about a half hour every day.

Reflecting on that fact, I feel the majority of that time was wasted. Yes, there were certain lessons that I needed to learn, but in retrospect, I would’ve rather spent each one of those minutes focused on things that make me happy, fill me with the feeling of abundance, and create harmony in my life.

But life is all about evolving. Today is the first day of a new year, so for my resolution, I resolve to spend even less time being in a negative frame of mind, and more time focused on gratitude. This is the best way I know how to love my life.

— JamieQ

A 16 Second Pause

A 16 Second Pause

“… we usually have at least a moment to breathe deeply and restore our serenity and peace.” – The Language of Letting Go

I have a friend of mine who seems to keep a calm composure far frequently than most. Though I’ve seen him get upset, it’s rare.

One day I noticed that he seems to take these long, big breaths often times when asked a question, and before answering. Once I actually timed it in my mind. Including the word “well…,” spoken slowly after the breath and before he spoke any other words, it was a 16 second pause!

So I finally got the nerve up and asked him,”What’s that all about?”

As I suspected, he told me that was his way of giving himself enough time to appropriately respond rather than react. Basically, he’s gracing the space between the impulse to say something he may regret, and instead speak while practicing equanimity.

More and more I’ve been practicing this little trick, and each time I do, I’m improving my chances that… ILML!

— JamesQ

Emotional Hangovers

Emotional Hangovers

When we habitually try to manipulate others to our own willful desires, they revolt, and resist us heavily. Then we develop hurt feelings, a sense of persecution, and a desire to retaliate… This self-centered behavior blocked a partnership relation with any one of those about us.” – Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p.53

This reminds me of the following quote on page 60 of Alcoholics Anonymous “Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery, and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased.

This is how I ALWAYS lived before getting sober and learning a new, better way to live in AA, AlAnon and NarAnon. Whereas AA gave me my physical sobriety, fellowship, an opportunity to be of service, a Higher Power, and the chance to clean up the wreckage of my past and begin being a better man, AlAnon & NarAnon gives me my emotional sobriety – allowing me to practice equanimity and have serenity, even in the face of difficulties.

For me, personal relations, getting along with others, the desire to be liked, loved and appreciated, were all areas of life that I needed help with. Having lived most of my life by sheer self-propulsion, running my own show, trying to run others’ shows as well, and constantly thinking about me and mine, letting go of those behaviors wasn’t easy. But the emotional hangovers I was experiencing were simply too much.

Over the years I’ve discovered that when I practice the AlAnon/NarAnon way of living, the better I get along with others, the happier I am with me, the less needy I become, the more I rely on myself for the love I desperately want to feel, and the more abundant my life becomes. While the love others give me is a wonderful added bonus, it’s no longer necessary for me to love my life. And these days, thanks to the 12 step programs, and working a rigorous program of daily action… ILML!

— JamieQ

“It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do… What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.” — Alcoholic Anonymous p.85

Did you ever wonder where the phrase resting on our laurels came from? Well, here’s the answer. During the 6th century BC in Ancient Greece, winners competing in arts and dance in the Pythian Games received a wreath made from bay laurel leaves, sacred to Apollo.

Resting on your laurels means to be satisfied with one’s past success and to consider further effort unnecessary. This is a dangerous proposition for those of us seeking enhanced spiritual growth, an increase in the joy of living, and better relationships with others.

Frequently we see individuals come into the rooms of 12 step program seeking recovery from their situation and feelings. At first they hunger with willingness and determination, going to any length to improve the way the feel and their circumstances. But as life gets better, a good job comes along, some money starts rolling in, they get a new place to live, or fall in love and eventually these new responsibilities and enjoyable activities begin to pull them away from the program and fellowship.

Often they think, “Life is great now, I don’t need to go to as many meetings, or journal regularly, or read from those books, or meditate, or call my sponsor so often, or have service commitments, or sponsor others, or do my daily affirmations.”

We’ve all seen what happens next. It’s just a matter of time until the hammer falls, and their world cracks open, and they come hobbling back in, broken, devastated, and seeking help. Or worse, they don’t make it back. Ever.

As Eleanor Roosevelt so wisely once said, “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” With regard to spiritual action, I’m taking her advice. When I stick close to my program of action, instead of resting on my laurels… ILML!

— JamieQ

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

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