Prayer and meditation are integral parts of our program. This was actually a turn-off for many of us in the beginning of sobriety. Prayer in particular was a sore point for us. Growing up, we had often had bad experiences with the religion of our youth. It was often shoved down our throats with no regard for what we wanted or needed. We also often experienced a G-d who was angry and punishing. There was enough self flagellation taking place without G-d jumping on the band wagon. The prayers that we mechanically muttered rarely resonated with us.
All that changed as we became immersed in the program. We learned that our Higher Power could be whatever we wanted It, He, or She to be. It was totally up to us. Most of us opted for a loving caring Higher Power that we could pour our hearts out to. We learned that prayer was an opportunity for us to have a personal conversation with the G-d of our understanding, whenever we needed to. Many of us also adopted a meditation practice. During those moments of silence, we found answers to questions which had dogged us or inspirational thoughts moving us in totally new directions. Not believing in coincidence we attributed this to our Higher Power as well.
Personal Reflection: How do I use prayer and meditation to maintain my sobriety?
The concept of sponsorship is actually quite amazing. He or she is a person who you can call on a daily basis. When we do so, we are free to tell them anything we want. We can be totally open and honest with them. Part of the conversation can include advice on some of our issues. Part of sponsorship is to share how we handled similar situations. Most amazingly, all this is done without paying the sponsor for any of his or her time.
Where some sponsees make a mistake is when they start thinking of their sponsor as a therapist. Sponsors are not trained mental health professionals. They don’t have advanced degrees in psychology or social work. What they do have is life experience in alcohol and drug addiction and more importantly in recovery. If you are looking for understanding how your family of origin contributed to your addiction or how your issues of self esteem can be addressed, it is more appropriate for you to talk to a therapist. They are trained to help you examine these areas. In the program, we encourage members to seek out professional help. As sponsors, we are more concerned with how you will live life in the future; as opposed to understanding your past. If your sponsor starts analyzing you, maybe you should think about getting a new sponsor.
Personal Reflection: Am I playing therapist or patient?
Perhaps the following has happened to you. You’re in the supermarket and see a beautiful bag of apples for sale. The skins are mottled with reds, greens and browns and they have a wonderful bouquet. You grab a bag of them and head for home. After lunch you cut one of the apples open and see that it is rotten to the core. What a drag. It was so beautiful on the outside and smelled so delightful, but it was essentially inedible.
Secrets are like that. Many of us look great from the outside. We might even be called a poster child for the program. We make meetings, call our sponsor and do service. But inside, all is not well. There are secrets which we have carried for years or even decades. We don’t talk about them. We are afraid that if you find out what we did in the past, you will stop being our friend, or have many judgements against us. Shame holds us back from sharing these secrets because we have some misguided idea about having to always be perfect.
When we finally take that step and begin to share those secrets, we usually experience a tremendous sense of relief. We have begun the process of separating ourselves from the secret and the person who created it. Each time we share, we help to create a new healthier persona.
Personal Reflection: Am I still carrying secrets?
Cell phones have seeped into almost every aspect of our lives. As such, it’s almost impossible not to overhear conversations taking place wherever you go. On the bus, in an elevator, at the Laundromat, we are frequently bombarded with phone conversations. Though we might not intend to, we are almost forced to overhear the conversations of others. When we do so, we recognize that many of these conversations concern complaints that one individual has against another. When the conversation starts with, “I can’t believe what he or she did to me”, you have a pretty good idea in what direction the conversation is headed.
Our approach in the program is different. A program conversation usually starts with, “so after thinking about it, I really need to take a look at my part in what happened”. We don’t believe that we are victims in life. If things keep happening to us, on some level we are setting ourselves up. When we change our behavior; people around us change theirs as well. If they don’t, we can always find healthier people. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear someone on the phone taking personal responsibility for their actions?
Personal Reflection: Do I still feel I’m a victim?
There is a pathology about arrogance. Rather than admit that we don’t know something, we will place ourselves in all kinds of situations which are to our detriment. Of course the classic example of this, is the refusal of car drivers (and without being sexist they were usually men) who refused to ask directions when lost. Multiple gas stations where the answer was at hand were passed because the driver stubbornly refused to ask directions. On some deep level asking directions was an admission of our ignorance and lack of perfection. Pride caused many a family to endure a half hour delay while dad tried to tough it out on his own. Thank G-d for the invention of the GPS.
The same pathology can occur in recovery. That’s why we have sponsors and friends in the program. Life is really not designed for us to fly solo. We are a fellowship because Bill W. and Dr. Bob understood the power of one alcoholic (or drug or food addict) helping another. The only thing is that we are not mind readers. When someone from the program needs advice, it’s their responsibility to ask for help. We encourage them to get beyond the shame of admitting their ignorance. Once they do, we are more than happy to share our experience, strength and hope. Asking directions also includes turning to our Higher Power for council as well.
Personal Reflection: Have I been holding back from asking directions about something?
So you’re at a party or some type of social gathering. You’re holding a club soda with 2 slices of lemon or 2 stirrers sticking out of your glass like you always do. You make your drink unique looking so that you won’t by mistake reach for one that has alcohol in it. This has happened to many of us and we don’t want a repeat performance. You begin a conversation with the person standing next to you. Within a few minutes you feel very comfortable talking to them. We’ve all felt that sense of connection sometimes with people we have just met. Then, they say something that peaks our interest. Perhaps they will say, “one day a time”, or “easy does it” or some other slogan from the program. Now of course these days, many of these slogans have become part of our lexicon. You know you feel connected to the person and would like to find out if they’re in the program. At the same time, you want to ensure both your anonymity and theirs. We have a great way of doing that. We say, “are you a friend of Bill W? If they say “Bill who”, you’ve received your answer. If they say yes, you probably have even more to talk about.
Personal Reflection: How do you expand your sober network?
We all the took that first step. After a long time of making excuses, we finally admitted that we were powerless over alcohol, food, drugs, sex, gambling or whatever our addiction of choice was. Some of us felt a tumble of relief like a heavy weight had been lifted from our chest. That deep dark secret finally had the light of day shown on it and was now in the open. Those were the lucky ones. Many of us began to back pedal immediately. “What was I thinking”, they exclaimed. “There is just no way that I’m an addict. You people had me under your sway and I admitted to something that just wasn’t true. How could I be an addict? I’m a successful businessman or businesswomen. I have advanced degrees from college. No one in many family ever drank or used drugs”
To you we say, “take a deep breath”. All you’ve done is admit that you have a problem. If you choose not to do anything about it, that is your choice. We are members of a program of attraction rather than promotion. If you want to go out there and test the waters again that is your prerogative. What we do know is that it took you a long time to get here and finally admit you were powerless and your life was unmanageable. Why don’t you stick around, have a cup of coffee and hear what we have to say.
Personal Reflection: Do you fully and completely accept your admission?