It is so easy to find things that separate us from other people. Many of us became experts at this. Almost every person we met had something wrong with them. One person was too talkative, another was too quiet, a third was too nerdy and a fourth was too stuck up. We could go to a party and have a miserable time because we couldn’t find anyone there we could relate too.
These days we view life differently. We look for points of commonality and interest with other people. We find that when we practice active listening, we are able to build common ground with others. Nowadays, when we go to a party we can have a great time. We enjoy speaking with many different types of people and finding out more about them. The only thing that has changed is our attitude. It takes a degree of humility to be able to identify with others. When we express ourselves in an open and honest manner; people enjoy speaking with us as well. We have also noted that the better we feel about ourselves, the better we feel about others
Personal Reflection: Do I still slip into judging others?
For a long time we kept things to ourselves. We spent months and years sweeping everything under the carpet. By the time we were done, we metaphorically had a huge mound of “stuff” sitting in the center of the room under the rug. We might not have seen the mound, but it was obvious to everyone else. We also had to put a lot of effort into hiding our pile and it was quite painful for us to hold onto.
Today, we have other options. We can finally put our brooms away. When we encounter a problem, we can discuss it at a meeting. We can also make an outreach call to someone else in the program. Certain issues are best discussed one on one with our sponsors. Perhaps the greatest resource for us is being able to turn to our Higher Power. On a daily basis many of us pray for His assistance. The act of turning over our problems to the G-d of our understanding liberates us from worry and concern about the future. Of course we still need to do the work so to speak, but the results are now in His hands.
Personal Reflection: What do I still need to turn over?
Go into any AA or NA or OA (or any fellowship for that matter) room in the world and you will see a series of small signs hanging on the wall. Invariably, one of them will say, “first things first”. Learning how to prioritize was a skill that many of us lacked prior to entering the program. Instead, we often practiced another aphorism from the program known as “self will run riot”. With some time we have come to understand what needs to be put first in our lives. More than anything else, we need to maintain our sobriety. We cannot pickup a drink or our drug of choice and hope to hold onto all of the changes we have made since entering the program. To that end, our choices need to revolve around taking actions which deepen our commitment to our sobriety. A good yardstick is to ask ourselves the question, “does this action strengthen or weaken my program? Many of us have found that certain acts have a positive affect. These include making meetings, doing service and strengthening our bond with our Higher Power. Over time, we also realized that “first things first” applied to our emotional sobriety as well.
Personal Reflection: Did you put first things first today?
Years ago, I went with my sponsor to a meeting. He said, “Do you see those people over there”? I nodded my head in acknowledgement. “They don’t drink and they go to meetings; and you don’t want to be one of them”. At first I was confused. I knew a number of people from the group he had mentioned, and they had long-term sobriety. Over the next few weeks and months, I came to see why he had made his statement. In listening to their shares and observing their behaviors I came to realize that it was true that they didn’t drink. However, emotional sobriety had eluded them. Many of them were what we called “dry drunks” They exhibited many of the characteristics of the addict without using. They were still bundles of fear, resentment, pride and self-centeredness. They were certainly not people who I wanted to emulate. On the other hand, there were people in the rooms who really had transformed their lives. They were the ones who were honest in their dealings, humble, open and given to doing service. Many of them today are my friends. Personal Reflection: Are you one of the winners?
It is so easy to get stuck in life. We make a decision, and somehow feel that it is irreversible. That pathway is often the result of fear. More specifically it is about our excessive concern about the judgements of others. What will my mother, father, spouse, boss, children et. al. think if I change my mind or my direction. That’s where are our Higher Power comes in. G-d has provided us with a myriad number of choices in life. Not only do we have choices at the moment of a decision, we have choices afterwards.
When we make the wrong decision we can say that we made a mistake. I like the word “mistake”. A mistake is just that. Our take on things missed the mark. With further information or a greater sense of empowerment we can choose to go in a different direction. Some may criticize our new direction and that’s ok too. The only person that needs to walk in our shoes is us. As long as we take responsibility for our changes in flight plan, we have the right to make those changes. Our Higher Power is the one who created u turns in the first place.
Personal Reflection: Do I need to make a u turn in any area of my life?
Upon entering the program, we turned to a Higher Power, and something quite miraculous began to happen. For the first time in a long time were able to go though our days without using. In the past, people often would say, “why don’t you just put down the drink, or the drug, or the food?” Though they didn’t verbalize it, their conclusion was that we continued our negative behavior because of some moral failing. They would say privately, “if he or she really wanted to stop they would”. The fact of the matter is that almost every day we wanted to stop, but the next day found us repeating the behavior.
The only thing that had changed was that we brought G-d into the picture. We made prayer a part of our daily routine. There was comfort in having a divine conversation with our Higher Power whenever we needed it throughout the day. We learned that prayer was not only about our own needs. We prayed for people who needed heavenly assistance. We also began to prayer for people who had hurt or wronged us, because we came to realize that they were sick and suffering as well.
Personal Reflection: Is there something I need to pray on?
There is no doubt that life can be very hard. On an almost daily basis we have to face many challenges. Some of them we know will arise and to some extent be planned for. For many of life’s other challenges, their occurrence is largely out of our hands. Self-pity has often been our immediate response to these travails of daily life.
In the program, we are often advised to “get off the pity pot”. When things “happened to us” our default response was self-pity. Initially we might have justified this reaction with a statement like, “if you had my life, you’d feel bad for yourself too”. The problem with self-pity is that it ultimately works against us. It creates inertia to change. When we are on that pity pot, it becomes doubly hard to move out of our feelings of despair and attend to whatever the challenge is. In self-pity, we kick the can further down the road and ultimately only exacerbate the problem; still needing to deal with it at a later date. There is tremendous power in not buying into self-pity. Instead of going there, we need to take an action instead.
Personal Reflection: How does self-pity work against me in my life?
12 steppers often suffer from the “less than” syndrome. Years and sometimes decades were spent walking around and comparing ourselves to others. For those of us who suffered from grandiosity, it was everyone else who came up short in our eyes. Far more common was our making comparisons with others and finding ourselves wanting. We would observe someone and say, “They’re so smart”, or “rich”, or “handsome”, or “beautiful”, or “talented”, or “lucky” or “so together”. I’m sure each of us could add to this list. Most of the time we were mixing apples and oranges. The assessment of ourselves was based on deep feelings from within us. The assessment of everyone else was based on the external persona presented by people we met. Although we didn’t know what was really going on in a person’s life, we presumed to know and draw conclusions about them.
One of the gifts of the program is that we really get to know people through attending meetings. People share openly and honestly about their lives. We begin to discover that people’s outsides often don’t reflect what is truly going on within. That “together” person is probably facing the same challenges we are.
Personal Reflection: How can I avoid the “less than” syndrome?
A newcomer was feeling very disheartened after a few weeks in the program. He was finding it very difficult to make meetings after a hard day at work. Because he had burned some of his economic bridges, he couldn’t afford a car. He was therefore reduced to dealing with trains and buses, which were often late or overcrowded. He called his sponsor to gripe about his current situation. He asked, “Just how long am I going to have to go to these meetings”? His sponsor told him “you only have to go to meetings, until you want to go to meetings”.
Somewhere along the line for those of us who stick with the program, a psychic change takes place. We shift from seeing meetings as an obligation to seeing them as a privilege. Part of that psychic change includes us looking forward to going to meetings. At meetings we see friends, get to share our feelings and often pick up some bit of knowledge that we can apply to our life. We invariably feel better when we walk out the door as compared to when we walked in.
Personal Reflection: Do you “want” to go to a meeting today?
At a meeting recently, the topic was “self-esteem”. The speaker at the meeting spoke about self-esteem being connected to esteem-able acts. When people think of esteem-able acts, they often have an image of significant or exceptional gestures. There are also countless smaller acts which are meritorious as well. In this case, the speaker had embarked on a program she described as “make way for everybody”. There are a thousand ways you can practice this program. When you are driving, and someone attempts to merge into your exit lane, you make room for them. As you wheel your shopping cart down the aisle in the supermarket, and stop to make your selection, you park your cart on the side so others can get through. Speaking of supermarkets; instead of rushing to the register to beat out that other person going in the same direction, you let them go first. On a deeper level, we can also “make way for everybody” by letting people complete their sentence or thought before we jump in with our opinion. By practicing this technique of making way, we can acknowledge all that we do for others and feel good about ourselves as a result.
Personal Reflection: Did you make way for others today?