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

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

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

The Essence of the Program

The Essence of the Program

“During the first six months of 1935, I was hospitalized eight times for intoxication. I was moved into another room, where my wife was waiting. She said, “You are going to quit. There are two drunks who have a plan to quit drinking. Part of their plan is to tell the plan to another drunk. This will help them stay sober.” I felt as if I would be a real stinker if I did not listen to a couple of fellows for a short time, if it would cure them. My wife also said I could not pay them even if I had money, which I did not.” — Adapted from the Big Book, Alcoholic #3

This is the essence of our program.

I share my story with others who have suffered like me. This is my experience.

I share what I had to do, and the dedication and commitment I made, and continue to make, to get better. This is my strength.

Then I share what happened as a result of working the program, how my life has transformed and gotten better. How I now love my life. This is my hope.

Then I offer myself, to guide them through the program, at no charge whatsoever. This is my service.

And through this process I’ve tapped into the wonderful, good and loving part of myself, my self-esteem was restored, I found a purpose, I’m actively pursuing it, and… ILML!

— JamieQ

Amends puts out the Flames of my Resentments

Amends puts out the Flames of my Resentments

“I don’t regret the past, because I am turning my painful history into today’s blessings and strengths.” — From Survival to Recovery

I love the title of this book. It reminds me that I decide whether I want to live in survival, or recovery, mode. Recovery mode, to me, means that I am actively seeking to recover the fascination, joy and appreciation of life that I had when I was six months old. At that time, I didn’t experience self-pity, and I didn’t experience resentment, because I lived in the moment.

Because of the program, the trials and tribulations which I experienced growing up can now be put to great use. By practicing the steps, and with the guidance of my sponsor, I have learned to transform my hardships into stepping stones that others use to find their way out of the darkness. Imagine that?

But the gifts from my past don’t just benefit others. By examining the mistakes I’ve made, I’ve discovered that the sooner I find and take responsibility for my part, the sooner I get to stop feeling upset, because both self-pity and resentment disappear.

Wait! Did I just say that my resentments disappear when I make amends? Yes I did. How is that possible? By recognizing that I’m fallible, and admitting it, the door of forgiveness opens, allowing me to surrender my resentment of others for the mistake I perceive they have made (whether they can admit it or not). And it’s this forgiveness, that puts out the flames of my resentment.

So I make peace with my past, thanking it for the abundance of lessons I have learned, particularly from the mistakes I have made it. Because let’s face it, without my past, I wouldn’t be here today. And it’s exactly in this place, and in this moment, that… ILML!

— JamieQ

The Great Man Move

“…practice these principles in all our affairs.” – Alcoholics Anonymous aka The Big Book, Step 12

We can remain sober and/or in recovery, have a sponsor, sponsor others, go to meetings, pray, meditate, and hold service commitments while not practicing the principles in all our affairs. Will we be loving life? Likely not. In fact, I’ve known many who did all this and were absolutely miserable.

So let’s get into solution and put this another way. If we are sober and/or in recovery, have a sponsor, sponsoring others, going to meetings, praying, meditating, and/or holding service commitments but still not loving life, chances are that the solution is to start actively practicing these principles in all our affairs.

So what exactly are these principles? Well, Bill W. actually considered each step to be a spiritual principle in and of itself. But to simplify them, we can quote the following list posted by others on the web:

Honesty, hope, faith, courage, integrity, willingness, humility, love, discipline, perseverance, spirituality and service.

Not a bad bunch of traits to have associated with you, when you think about it.

Imagine a person asking what kind of person you’re like, and the other person say that your honest, have great integrity, are very loving, hard working, always willing to lend a hand, courageous, have tremendous faith and optimism that things will always work out for the best, very disciplined in your commitments, always hope for the best, have a deep spiritual connection in life, and seem to always persevere and come out on top.

Personally, I’d love it if people described me that way. In fact, it’s one of my goals.

To the men I sponsor I say that practicing the principles in all your affairs can also be called “making the great man move” or being a “great man”. By living in this way, we become wonderful, dependable, kind, contributing humans who utilize the abundance of tools the program gives us to positively alter our thinking, words and actions. And it’s not only others who benefit from this new way of living, which seems to always require that I pause before reacting, it’s me too.

Can we do it every time without fail? Of course not, we’re human. But we can continually up our game, become more aware of when we’re not doing it (hint:we feel bad afterward), and then make amends, learn from the experience, and continue to improve.

As an example, I’m don’t always make the “great man” move, but I do it more than I ever have at any time in my life. And I think that’s a great goal to shoot for.

Today, one thing is for sure. When I do actively practice, in all my affairs, the principles that I’ve described above… ILML!

— JamieQ

An Unreligious God

“What the Catapillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly.” —Richard Bach

At first I knew nothing about God except that my babysitter took me to a church where Jesus was nailed to a cross, blood dripping from his wounds. I came home and asked my dad “What’s God daddy?” and he said “God is love honey, the way it feels when mommy holds you in her arms.”

Later I took a class at USC called Seminar in Religious Studies and learned about different religious gods. I even spent the night with the Hare Krishnas to write a paper on that religion. My verdict: I didn’t like religion.

And then I came into the 12 step rooms and saw that word again: God. I tried to ignore it as I went to meetings, worked the steps, and fellowshipped with others. I did what I needed around this Higher power concept, the minimum, but didn’t believe in any God. To me, God meant religion.

Eventually I wanted more. I wanted the spiritual connection, love, faith, and all the stuff people talked about, but without god. Because, again, to me, God = Religion. On a radio show the host, an atheist, said “God is just a make believe friend for grownups.”

Sometimes, even though we hear something over and over, we don’t get it until it’s said differently. That day I wrote down what, if I had one, this make believe friend called God would be like. Funny, kind, helpful, smart, creative, loving, playful, trustworthy, and someone who really wants the best for me. I’ve believed in that make believe friend ever since. In fact, he’s a constant companion of mine.

When my mom died I thought it was the end of her life. Like the caterpillar, I can’t see into the future. Who really knows if it’s the end, or if it’s a transition into something more wonderful. And if I can’t know for sure, and feel like I need to believe something, why not believe she, and my baby brother, and my grandma, and my kitty have transitioned into the next, amazing level of existence. Oh, and guess who was by my side during each of those deaths? You got it. My make believe buddy. How do I know? I don’t. I simply choose to use my imagination to believe.

When I have blind, unprovable faith that everything is not only exactly the way it’s supposed to be, but that everything that’s happening is actually fantastic, ILML!

— JamieQ