The 5-10-11-12 Club

The 5-10-11-12 Club

“… become, one day at a time, the people we want to be.” — Hope for Today

I often talk about how I am striving each day to become the very best version of me.

The way in which I attain this goal, to grow and evolve into the most wonderful man I can be, is to embrace the courage to recognize and acknowledge the things that are holding me back from that desire.

Here’s how I take the action.

I write out a daily inventory, recapping the last 24 hours, identifying both my successes and those thoughts and behaviors that I engaged in which could be improved upon. Doing this provides me with the insight necessary to effectuate positive change in my life.

Both my ability to face my shortcomings, along with a resolve to do better, little by little, day by day, helps to transform me into a slightly better version of me. I also identify in my writing if I’ve hurt someone, and provided I’m spiritually fit enough, I make immediate amends by picking up the phone.

As an added benefit, if I’m practicing prayer and meditation and sponsoring others or sharing at meetings, when asked what what step I’m working on, I can always honestly say, “I’m in the 5, 10, 11 & 12 Club.”

Here’s why:

5: We’re admitting our shortcomings.

10: We’re taking our inventory and making amends.

11: We’re making time for prayer and meditation.

12: We’re carrying the message.

I’ve done lots of wonderful things in my life. I’ve also done plenty of shitty things. These days I want only to plant seeds of love, and avoid planting seeds of destruction. I can do this more often than not by diligently working a spiritual program of action. And as a byproduct… ILML!

Life Gets Lifey

Life Gets Lifey

Lack of power, that was our dilemma.” AA, pg. 45

I’m part of a group of individuals that sends out gratitude lists back-and-forth, between each other, on almost a daily basis. This morning I received a gratitude list from someone who works a rigorous 12 step spiritual program of action. In it, she said, “I don’t try and control things as much as I used to.”

It made me think that, although the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous were correct in the fact that lack of power was our dilemma, particularly with regard to alcohol, I’ve found that in long-term recovery, it’s lack of control that seems to be at the root of many of my troubles.

Whether I’m willing to admit it or not, I tend to want people to do the things that I want them to do, act the way that I want them to act, and speak to me the way I would like to be spoken to.

I also tend to want situations to go the way that I want them to go, how I think they should happen, Because I believe that would be the best outcome not only for me, but for everyone else to.

And I’m very clear as to what I would like to happen with regard to the health of my body. I’d like to always be strong, healthy, slim and attractive.

Well, at 57 years old I’ve finally begun to realize that life doesn’t always turn out exactly the way I’d like it to go. As I often say, without my ability to manage, direct and control everything, life tends to get lifey.

More often than not, people have an inclination to do what they would like to do, rather than what I would like them to do.

Things that I’ve planned often turn out differently than I hoped.

And my body, well, it has this weird way of getting older and, well, heavier. LOL. I also noticed that the older I get, the more I experience strange aches and pains, some of which have actually required medical intervention.

So you see, my ability to control people, places and things is really just an illusion of control. As they say in ALAnon, I’m really only in charge of what’s happening inside my hula hoop. And even then, at least when it comes to my human body, I’m really not in complete control of that either.

What I have learned to control is the amount of energy I put into becoming the best version of me I can possibly become. That includes doing things that positively feed my mind l, body and spirit. In these situations, the only one I’m battling for control with, is my DisEase. He would certainly prefer that I spend zero time taking care of myself spiritually, emotionally and physically because the more pain I am in, the more likely I will hurt others and hurt myself.

So again, just for today, like most of the days over the last 17 years of my life, I’ll make my recovery a priority. Because when I put first things first… ILML!

One Interpretation of God

One Interpretation of God

“From low to high, the levels of consciousness are: shame, guilt, apathy, grief, fear, desire, anger, pride, courage, neutrality, willingness, acceptance, reason, love, joy, peace, enlightenment.” — Power vs. Force by David R. Hawkins

I was texting with a friend this morning about our concepts of a higher power. I said:

I love that we get to choose who or what our higher power is. Mine is love, gratitude, compassion, happiness, etc. It’s also my higher consciousness, as opposed to my lower consciousness.

His response was:

Yeah, I notice mine changes constantly, but I really dig the idea of higher vs lower consciousness.

Having been a guy with very low self esteem, angry at myself and the world around me, I used alcohol and drugs to deal with my thoughts and feelings. As a result of how I felt, my behavior was often self-centered, unkind, and destructive. I was operating from a place of shame, guilt, apathy, grief, fear, desire and anger. In other words, I was fully connected to, and acting out of, my lower consciousness.

After doing the daily readings, journaling, gratitude lists, meditations, fellowship, and service work for many years, I began to start practicing and experiencing a healthy sense of pride, I became more courageous, started becoming more willing to evolve, opening up to the idea of acceptance, and ultimately I began to experience more love, joy, peace and enlightenment. In other words, I started moving away from my lower consciousness and began connecting to my higher consciousness.

For many of us who are not comfortable with religion, the word God is so intrinsically tied to religion that it’s difficult for us to connect to, or even believe in, the idea of God.

Though these days I’m cool with the words God and Higher Power, I still interpret those words as “My Higher Consciousness.” It just makes sense to me. Others interpret them as they choose, so I believe I have a right to my beliefs. And I’ve discovered that the more diligent I am at consistently practicing rituals which keep me connected with my higher, rather than my lower, consciousness, the more ILML!

— JamieQ

Sharing Gratitude

Sharing Gratitude

“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.” — Maryanne Williamson

Have you ever known someone who seems to always be complaining about someone or something in life? Have you ever found yourself doing the same thing?

The truth is, that we we tend to get really good and what we practice. If we’re practicing tennis, we become a better tennis player. If we practice painting, we become a better painter. And if we practice focusing on what’s making us unhappy, we become better at being unhappy.

So it stands to reason that if we want to be really happy, to have peace and serenity, and to really love our lives, we should practice being grateful for all that we have. Luckily, this is something that’s very easy to do.

Me and many of my life-loving friends practice being grateful each day by writing gratitude lists to each other. The simple practice of writing out a text with the good things going on in our life, and sending it out to others who share their lists with us, shifts our perception from one of lack, to one of abundance.

And for those of you who want to start this practice but don’t have someone to share your list with, share it with me and I’ll send you mine! By sharing my gratitude with others, I manifest more things to be grateful for, which is one if the principle reasons why… ILML!

— JamieQ

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