There is a classic scene from a Woody Allen movie. In it Woody and his date are rapidly approaching a movie marquis. Woody abruptly stops and says, “it’s too late, the movie has already started”. His date says, “we’re only 5 minutes late”, and “didn’t you tell me that that you’ve seen this movie multiple times before?” To which Allen replies, “once the movie starts, it’s ruined for me”.
Many of us followed this line of thinking. If something negative occurred during our day, the rest of the day was ruined. If someone had offended us, we would walk around in righteous indignation about what had occurred. If we had made a mistake we walked around in judgement of ourselves for the rest of the day. Either way, the rest of the day was lost to us. Then one day we called our sponsor about what a miserable day we were having; to which he or she responded, “the day ain’t over yet”. Then it hit us. We had a choice over how we would inhabit the rest of the day. We could draw out every moment from it and make it count, or be in negativity.
Personal Reflection: Did you end the day for yourself already?
Proper speech is not just about correct syntax or tense. The words we use have a lot of power. Researchers have found that when we use certain words and expressions over and over again they create neural pathways in our brains. These pathways become our new reality. Far too many of us are still walking around with a vocabulary that no longer serves our purpose. All too often you will hear someone in the rooms say, “when I was out there drinking and drugging I was a terrible person”, or “a loser”, or “a dope” etc..
When someone has a disease, we don’t call them a bad person. We say that they are sick. When they are healed we don’t say that now they are good. Rather we claim that they are well. The same standard needs to be applied to addictive behavior. The addict is not “bad”. He or she is merely “sick”. When we begin to experience recovery, we are becoming “well”. When we begin to view ourselves as having been sick, we can begin to drop the judgements we had against ourselves. This will aid in our recovery.
Personal Reflection: How careful am I in describing my past behavior?
For a long time we walked around with a lot of grievances. Wherever we went, we thought that people had it in for us. At the supermarket, the cashier took somebody on the line before us. At the restaurant the waitress messed up our order on purpose because of something we had said. Even as kids we never got a fair shake. We didn’t make the team because the coach didn’t like us.
When we finally entered the program we began to realize that maybe we weren’t such victims after all. The reality was that most people were just doing the best they could. When something happened to us, in most cases we weren’t being targeted. People sometimes just made mistakes. No intent was attributable. That cashier just didn’t realize that we were on line. The waitress made a mistake with our order because the diner was so noisy. Coach didn’t take us because we were 90 pounds soaking wet. We learned that our sense of grandiosity had caused many of our grievances. And, for those times that we had a legitimate grievance, we learned to look at our part.
Personal Reflection: Do I need to do a reality check on a recent grievance?
We came to the rooms for many reasons. Our employers had sent us because they were fed up with our behavior. Our doctors had told us that our health was in danger unless we ceased our lifestyle. Family members had given us an ultimatum that we enter the rooms or leave. Some of us had gotten in trouble with the law and were mandated to enter a 12 step program. In almost every case we initially just wanted to “control” our drinking or drugging or addictive behavior. We thought the program would teach us to limit or control our actions. After we stuck with the program for a while our obsessive patterns began to lift. Beyond that, a relationship with a Higher Power of our understanding was rekindled and nourished. A sponsor was chosen to guide us through the 12 steps. New ways of thinking and acting were developed. We began to step outside of ourselves and do service for others. At times, other members even began to turn to us for counsel.
Personal Reflection: What right answer could you give a newcomer today?
The second step declares, “came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity”. We had turned to this step when we discovered the truisms from the first step; that our lives had become unmanageable and that we were powerless. For many years we had attempted to make changes in our lives. Utilizing different strategies, we ended up with the same results. We ended up back in the same hole with the same problems. In the program we learned to surrender and to admit our powerlessness. Instead of depending on our failed strategies, we asked our Higher Power for assistance. Then something miraculous began to happen. The more we were able to let go of controlling situations, the more positive the outcome. The more willing we were to let G-d drive the car, the smoother the trip began to be. Of course, we needed to test the waters. When we attempted to take back control, our lives started to become more unmanageable once again. When we allowed our egos to reclaim control, we lost our contact with our Higher Power. It was then that we realized that ego was little more than easing G-d out.
Personal Reflection: Who’s in charge today; G-d or me?
Many of us felt we were one of the hopeless cases. We had tried countless times to stop from giving into our addictions. We had oft repeated, “tomorrow will be better. I promise that this is my last one”. Our lives had become one long string of broken promises. Along the way we had deeply hurt many friends and family members. When we finally entered the program, all of that began to change. Miraculously, our obsession to use began to lift. Days of sobriety turned into weeks and then months. For the first time in a long time we felt that when we said, “tomorrow will be better”, we really believed it. Our hope grew as we began to mend all of those broken promises to ourselves and others. We began to truly be a trustworthy member of the community. In sobriety we discovered that there were still going to be a lot of dark moments. We also knew that during those times, we could tap into our inner light of hope.
Personal Reflection : How did I make contact with hope today?
Early on in our sobriety, many of us didn’t get this G-d or Higher Power thing. We claimed that given our track records, it was impossible for us to believe in a Higher Power. If there was a G-d, we had never seen him in our lives. How could G-d have allowed us to lose our spouses, get fired from jobs, suffer from sickness and face bankruptcy. If there was a G-d he certainly wasn’t a part of our lives.
In sobriety we have come to realize that our Higher Power was with us all along. As we recount our stories we begin to see that there were countless incidents of G-d’s intervention which we had chalked up to coincidence. Today, we think differently. We no longer believe in the law of accident. In fact, our experience has shown us that the more we pay attention to the travails of life, the more we see G-d’s hand. The more closely we listen, the more frequently we hear G-d talking to us through other people. We realize how blessed our lives truly are.
Personal Reflection: How can I create the space for G-d to enter my life?
Many of us came into the rooms dazed and confused. As we began to practice the principles of the program, our minds began to clear. At that point we came to realize that we barely had a clue as to who we truly were. While we were active in our addictions, we often exhibited a persona which was fueled by drugs and alcohol and other substances. Now that we were sober, we wanted to connect with who we truly were; our original self. The person we had been before we began to act out. For many of us this was a person we had “never found to begin with”. We were beyond blaming our parents, spouses, teachers, employers or friends for our situation. Our interest now was to connect with that beautiful person who had been lost so many years before. Many of us had to dig deep to reunite with that higher self. As we began to gain glimpses of that person, it helped us to move forward and connect on a deeper level to our authentic self. We had truly been found.
Personal Reflection: What parts of you still need to be found?
I recently heard a young women tell the following story about herself at one of my meetings:
At the time I was in my early twenties and was waiting in a hospital to go into a rehab. I was flooded with a lot of emotions and feelings. There was resentment over the fact that I had reached the point where a rehab was necessary. I had anger towards my family who were insisting on my going. There was fear about whether this time I would finally be able to stop using. A kindly man in the waiting room attempted to engage me in conversation. Feeling incredibly raw, talking to some middle aged guy was the last thing I wanted. I brusquely informed him that I wanted to be left alone. When he once again attempted to speak with me, I shouted “just leave me alone”. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small flashlight. He smiled and said to me, “this is for you”. I angrily replied, “What the hell do I need that for”? In a soft voice he said, “this is for you when you have trouble seeing the light”. On that day I began my recovery journey.
Personal Reflection: What do you do to help others see the light?