There are miracles and magic in 12 step rooms. It really is quite miraculous that people were able to put down their drug of choice. It didn’t make a difference if it was alcohol, food or drugs. Our stories were almost identical. For years we had attempted to stop using. Time and again we had vowed that this would be the last time, only to go back on our word the next day. Then something quite miraculous happened. We entered into AA, NA or OA and our obsession to use was lifted. For the first time in years or perhaps decades we were free. All things considered it is safe to say that a miracle had taken place.
Then the magic appeared. As we immersed ourselves in the program, and began to work the steps, life began to change. At first these changes were subtle. Perhaps we were a little less reactive on the road, at the dinner table or at work. Over time, fears and resentments began to substantially lessen. We could honestly say that we were happier than we had been in years or even the happiest we had ever been. Pretty miraculous, right?
Personal Reflection: Do I still experience life magic?
As we sit in meetings we begin to realize that we all have a lot in common.At a recent meeting a fellow told a story where his car had stalled out right in front of his house. He needed to parallel park the car without any power from the engine. He was struggling to push the car into a space and at the same time turn the wheel of the car. One of his neighbors saw what was happening. He came over and said, “would you like some help”? One would think that in a situation where you are trying to move a 3 thousand pound piece of metal by yourself that you would accept some assistance. Our program friend didn’t think so. He replied, “no thanks, I got it”, and proceeded to push.
At the end of the story, after a round of laughter, there was a lot of identification with what had occurred. Many of us have great difficulty accepting help from any source. We often feel, that by accepting help, we are in some way weak or less than. Not only won’t we accept help we will certainly not ask for it.
As we grow in sobriety we learn the beauty of both accepting and giving help. It is one of the things that defines our fellowship.
Personal Reflection: Am I open to giving and receiving help?
The eleventh step says in part, “sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with G-d”. This proved to be a challenge for many of us in the program. There was those of us who had been brought up in homes where the scientific method was king. The G word was never been mentioned in our households. Prayer was a totally alien concept for us. We asked, “what should I say, how should I say it and when should it be said”? Then there those of us that had been brought up in religous homes. Yes we had prayed, but often under duress. Many grew up with the concept of a harsh punishing G-d. Why we would want to pray to that type of deity?
In the program, we learned to focus on the second part of the eleventh step prayer which qualified our Higher Power as a G-d of our understanding. For those who had felt burnt or betrayed by their religion, they now could relate to a different kind of G-d. That would be one who is accepting, loving and kind. For those who had never even thought about prayer; we were advised to simply speak from our hearts. When we did so, we were assured that our Higher Power would be listening.
Personal Reflection: How do I integrate prayer into my life?
Whether you are in AA, NA, or OA; there is a commonality of experience. People that you barely know will go to almost any length to help you. It starts with sponsorship. Where else can you get someone who will mentor you on a daily basis for FREE. A man or a women who will share their extensive life experience with you in total honesty and provides a venue for you to do the same. Then of course there is the fellowship itself. Many of us have collected the phone numbers of other people in the program that we can call whenever we feel the need to talk. It is a comfort to know that there is always someone available at the other end of the line day or night. We have also discovered that when we need it, whatever the problem, a member of our fellowship will offer his or her assistance. Whether it’s helping us find a job, driving us to a meeting or taking us to the Department of Motor Vehicles, we know help is just around the corner. As we grow in our own sobriety, we join the ranks of those who freely give back what they have so freely received.
Personal Reflection: Am I doing enough service?
The story is told that there were once two brothers. One of them was considered very wise and people flocked to him for his counsel. The other brother almost never had anyone seek him out for advice. The second brother who was rarely visited became highly distraught. He confronted his popular brother and demanded to know why people sought his brother out and rarely consulted him. The popular brother answered him and said, “Do you want to know the difference between you and I dear brother? You can’t understand why people don’t come to you and I can’t understand why people do come to me”.
We humans are attracted to people who have begun to construct essence. We sense that there is something beneath the surface that has power and value. Usually, people who possess magnetic personalities have undergone a lot of hardship and tribulation before arriving at their present state. They are also open to the possibility of continued struggle and growth. They do not see themselves as someone has has already “arrived”. On the contrary, each day is viewed as a new opportunity for growth. They do not regard what thy possess as a protected treasure but freely distribute it to anyone who asks. It is easy to understand why people are attracted to them.
Personal Reflection: Which brother do I more resemble?
Each and every one of us has received a most precious gift; the gift of life. When we recover from a life threatening illness, or escape from a serious accident, something interesting occurs. For the following few days, weeks or even months afterwards, we develop a new found appreciation for life itself. We begin to savor some of life’s simple pleasures. A walk in the park because a symphony of bird song, a visit with our grandchildren becomes an overwhelming emotional experience. In all likelihood we have already experienced all of these life moments in our past. What has changed is our perception of the event.
In program, many of us believe that these heightened moments are our Higher Power giving us a glimpse of the reality of the grandeur and majesty of life. After undergoing a deeply traumatic or emotional experience we believe that some of the veils which limit our perceptions are lifted. We have also found that over time as we resume our routines, our perceptions return to “normal”. That being said we can tap into that heightened sense of reality once again. As we practice “one day at a time” we begin to be more present for more moments during the day. As that happens, our reality shifts and our emotions and perceptions are invigorated.
Personal Reflection: How fully do I appreciate my life?
Drugs and alcohol often played an almost daily role in our daily routine. In order for us to face another day at work, we turned to our drug of choice. This applied to almost every other aspect of our lives. If we were afraid to ask someone out on a date, we “used” to bolster our courage. When we went to a party, we needed to get ourselves in the right frame of mind and once again we turned to our drug of choice. The list of life’s activities where we showed up drunk or stoned or both was endless. We reached a point where we thought to do otherwise was abnormal.
In early sobriety we feared that showing up sober would be at best boring and at worst terrifying. Slowly, slowly we discovered that this was not the case. We could go to that party sober and still have a great time. We didn’t need to bolster ourselves with alcohol or drugs to navigate life. Along the way we discovered sober 12 step social gatherings that provided a safe alcohol and drug free environment. We even engaged in activities that we had never even dreamed of doing, or were in fear of doing. We truly began to live life on life’s terms without drugs or alcohol.
Personal Reflection: What activity do I love being sober for?
At some point in time all of us took our first drink or drug. People in AA often say I didn’t like how it tasted, but I sure did like how it made me feel. When you probe a bit deeper, most people who used did so because they were uncomfortable in their own skin. Initially the alcohol or drugs or food did the trick. On some deep level they felt soothed, perhaps for the first time in their lives. Unfortunately, the effects were illusory. As soon as we came down from our alcohol, drug or sugar high, we were exactly in the same place we had been before. Nothing had really changed. So we entered into an endless cycle of pain, drug of choice and remorse. When we finally entered the rooms of AA, NA or OA we learned that using a substance would never fill that deep hole within us. Our problem was spiritual, not physical in nature. We needed spiritual not physical medicine. Our new course of treatment included going to meetings and getting a sponsor. As we healed we upped our dosage and began to work the steps. Prayer and meditation were part of the prescription as well.
Personal Reflection: Am I still trying to use a physical solution for a spiritual problem?
As members of the fellowship, we have all experienced the following scenario. A fellow or gal will enter the program and earnestly admit to being an alcoholic or addict. They regularly attend meetings for a few days, weeks or months. Then they disappear for months on end. The next time we see them, months later, they are raising their hands and saying, “hi my name is ………., and I have one day back”. We see them at meetings for a few weeks or months and then they disappear again. This cycle can go on for years. Each time they go out, it gets harder and harder to come back. Some of these folks go out and unfortunately never make it back. For those that finally “get it”, they almost always come to the same conclusion as to why they were chronic relapsers. They failed to make their program a priority. When we view something as a life or death situation, we bring a tremendous degree of focus to it. There is no doubt that the disease of addiction can kill us.When we treat our recovery with the respect and priority it deserves, we find that we begin to accumulate sober time.
Personal Reflection: Am I around or in my program?
Many of us viewed our addictive behavior as a victimless crime. We would often make statements such as, “I’m not hurting anyone because of my drinking or drugging or compulsive overeating”. This of course was far from the truth. As our disease progressed we began to meet disapproval of our behavior from spouses, family members, friends and employers. We were threatened with everything from divorce to arrest, to loss of employment. As a result, to “satisfy” everyone and get them off of our backs, we finally entered into a 12 step program. Initially, this worked for us. At least we had crossed the threshold of a 12 step room. Perhaps our family and friends finally left us alone. We quickly realized that entering the program for another was only a stop gap measure. We learned that the program had nothing to do with satisfying the desires of our loved ones to have us stop using. The program was a plan for daily living. It was a blueprint for personal transformation. Upon personal reflection we came to see that our actions had impacted the lives of others. Looking even more deeply, we realized that we had done great harm to ourselves. The program became a vehicle for us to heal ourselves and through doing so rebuild our relationships.
Personal Reflection: How have I healed in sobriety?