As we immersed ourselves in the program, we gained a lot of knowledge. We began to understand the reasons behind our drinking, drugging or food binging. A lot of tools were picked up which helped us maintain our sobriety. We might even have begun practices like journaling and meditation. All of these contributed to our sobriety. But the reality is that no matter how many meetings we made; no matter how many times we called our sponsor; no matter how much we planned out our day; unexpected challenges were still going to take place. When that happened we had an opportunity to tap into tools like meditation, reading from 12 step literature or an outreach call. What many of us have found to be most helpful when we have a startle in life is to immediately turn to our Higher Power. We can ask for an attribute of restraint like patience or one of action like courage. Perhaps the most evolved course is to ask our Higher Power what would He have us do in the next moment. When we clear our mind and make a space for an answer it often comes. Sometimes we also gain understanding us to why the “blessed event” occurred in the first place.
Personal Reflection: How do I react to unexpected challenges?
It is impossible to walk away from years of using without having impacted many people and institutions. A good part of the work of program is to be honest about our past actions and their impact on others. Much of what we’ve done can’t be undone. What we can do is to make amends to people where appropriate. Admitting to others how our behavior negatively impacted them and taking responsibility for it is a big part of recovery. Part of this process includes financial restitution where necessary. These actions in their own way can help clear away much of the wreckage of the past. Having the humility and honesty to own up to our past actions help us greatly grow in the program.
We can also apply these principles on a daily basis when our behavior is not in alignment with the program. This means taking responsibility, admitting we were wrong and making amends. This too will help us evolve in our path of sobriety.
What we shouldn’t do is attempt to clear away the wreckage of the future. We operate along the principle of one day at a time. If we are obsessing about the future, and ruminating on different scenarios, we are definitely not living in the moment. Our Higher Power will take care of the future. We just need to take the correct actions today
Personal Reflection: What wreckage am I focusing on?
Recovery is a process. Each person needs to engage in their program at their own pace. Some people will go through all the steps within their first year. Others will not get beyond the first three steps during the same time period. There is no set prescription as to how quickly you need to progress. We are all different. That being said, a qualification needs to be added. If you are stalled on a particular step, a conversation with your sponsor is in order. You need to examine why you are not progressing. If you can honestly say that your pace is appropriate for where you are emotionally and spiritually; then keep doing what you’re doing. However, if you are stuck due to procrastination, laziness, confusion, shame or fear, then that is something which needs to be examined more carefully. It might actually be the starting point for your fourth step analysis of character defects.
Our recovery can also be impacted by other choices we make. When you start missing meetings, there is often a decline in your recovery. The same holds true when you fail to call your sponsor regularly or hold back information from him or her. Each of the daily choices we make will impact our future sobriety.
Personal Reflection: Do I need to jumpstart my recovery?
It was an extremely liberating experience to put down alcohol, drugs, food or whatever was our drug of choice. For years we had come to rely on substances to get us through the day. Initially, this life plan worked well for us. Many of us had been searching for the answer to the struggles and pains of life. Over time however our drug of choice exhibited diminishing returns. Finally, we were using because we had become totally dependent on alcohol, food or drugs; and the discomforts of life were ever present.
In sobriety we no longer had to turn to substances. We were finally free of our addiction to our drug of choice. As we continued to work the program, we realized that our dependence on drugs and alcohol was only the tip of the iceberg. Many of us were entangled in extremely codependent relationships. We were also dependent on life always going according to our plan. As we grew in sobriety, that dependence on people places and things began to diminish. We came to truly understand what “acceptance” was all about. As that occurred, over time we instituted our own personal Declaration of Independence.
Personal Reflection: How independent am I really?
Sometimes people will complain during their share that people were not friendly to them at a particular meeting. Now, there are many meetings where there are greeters at the door to make you feel welcome. At other places, people new to the meeting or just visiting are given an opportunity to introduce themselves. This breaks the ice so to speak and can be a platform for conversation after the meeting. These are wonderful examples of efforts made to make us feel welcome and wanted.
The reality is however, that for many of us, part of our disease includes feelings of isolation and being a victim. We can take those feelings and have a field day with them at a meeting where people in our opinion are not friendly. We could immediately go to our default victim position and hop on top of that pity pot.
In program we learn that we are not victims. If we are isolators, we need to admit to that fact. Once we do so, the next step is to to take an action. This could be as simple as positioning ourselves by the coffee pot where people tend to congregate before and after the meeting. Just introducing ourselves as we’re sipping our coffee can open up conversations and lead to friendships. At our home group we can also reach out to someone new or visiting as well. This helps to break through our isolation on our home turf.
Personal Reflection: How do I make myself and others feel connected?
Entering sobriety, it was extremely difficult for many of us to process anything except the simplest of concepts. Luckily, the philosophy of the rooms can be distilled into a two part system. The first emphasizes the need for us to apply ourselves. Recovery is not something that is just going to come to us. There is real work involved. Whether it means calling our sponsors, or making a meeting, we need to put ourselves out and take an action. Once we adapt to this concept we take it on the road so to speak. We begin to apply it outside the rooms to our life in general. We slowly but surely begin to make commitments in life and then show up to honor them.
The second part of our system is rooted in learning how to cope when things don’t go according to “our” plan. How are we going to react to disappointment and rejection? Will we get up, dust ourselves off and get back on the treadmill of life? Or will we steep in anger, fear and frustration and just give up? True sobriety understands that once we put in the effort, the results are in the hands of our Higher Power. As we grow spiritually, we find that “our” plan and “His” plan are more and more often in alignment.
Personal Reflection: Is your action response ratio in the correct proportion?
Over the years we hear hundreds of stories from people in the program. Some of them really make a deep impression because of the breadth of recovery. We’re sitting in a meeting and a well dressed fellow is telling his story. He appears to be highly intelligent and well adjusted. In listening to his story we find out that at one point he was homeless, and sleeping on subway grates to keep warm. How could he have progressed from such a state of despair to where he is today? Or perhaps another fellow is sharing. He is happily married and holds a responsible job. As he speaks we learn that he served time for a serious crime to fuel his addiction.
While they were active in their addiction, it would have been beyond their ken to conceive that they could have turned their lives around to such an extent. If they were to list all the things they needed to do to get to where they are today, the task would have been insurmountable. That’s why we say the program operates one day at a time. Just for the next 24 hours they took the right steps. One day at a time, they got to where they are today. The same principle applies to each of us in the rooms.
Personal Reflection: What have I accomplished in sobriety that was beyond my wildest dreams?
Many families have suffered because of the drinking or drugging of a family member. After years of pleading and angry confrontations the alcoholic or addict finally enters the program. Over time, one can see that they are doing better on many levels. They relatively quickly regain their health. Their work situation also improves as well. The non addict family members breathe a sigh of relief and hopes they can now move forward; closing an unfortunate chapter in their lives.
To their dismay, there are still many problems in their relationship with the now sober spouse, parent or child. Although they put down their drug of choice, an entirely new set of problems begins to emerge. Upon investigation, the “non addict” realizes that addiction was a family disease. Certain family dynamics were established during the years of alcohol, drug or food abuse. Many of the so called “innocent” spouses, parents or children weren’t so innocent after all. Perhaps they were enablers or deniers. They realized that they needed help as well to deal with their role in the family disease of alcoholism and addiction. They needed to admit that they were powerless over their addict family member. That’s when they walked through the doors of Alanon or Naranon and began their own recovery journey.
Personal Reflection: Do I as the non addict work my own program of recovery?
We are going to have our toes stepped on in life. It is totally unavoidable. While we were active, this seemed to happen a lot to us. Very rarely would we immediately forgive someone for a perceived personal affront. Part of the reason this was the case is because we saw intent behind most actions. “You did it to me”‘ we exclaimed. We assumed that whatever had taken place was done on purpose. At a minimum, we gave people the silent treatment. We also often seethed in resentment. If we really felt the victim, we spent time planning our revenge for what you had done to us.
In sobriety these scenarios have largely changed. When things happen to us, we no longer immediately assume they were done on purpose. We accept that sometimes accidents occur. As a result we are quick to forgive others. Even when it appears that someone has truly treated us unfairly, and we find ourselves in resentment, we have tools that help us relieve those feelings. Sharing with our sponsor or at a meeting is especially helpful. We are also able to step back and examine what our role was in creating the issue. We certainly no longer waste time thinking about revenge. We have better things to do with our day.
Personal Reflection: Do thoughts of revenge eat up my day?
Many of us were comfort junkies. For much of our lives we had taken the path of least resistance. Rather than asking our boss for a raise, we avoided the anticipated confrontation. Perhaps we didn’t go to college because we thought it was going to be too much work. Maybe we remained in unhealthy relationships because the thought of breaking up was too painful for us to imagine. And so it went. To assist us in our search for comfort, we found our drug of choice. Whenever we felt distress over something, we immediately turned to alcohol, drugs or food to dampen its impact.
We had a bit of a shock when we entered the program. Other members were not the least bit concerned about their comfort or ours for that matter. We were quickly informed that if we wanted to become sober, we would have to go to any length to do so. That included doing some things that might make us extremely uncomfortable. We went to meetings even when we were dead tired. We called our sponsor even when the topic of conversation might be embarrassing for us. We took a coffee commitment even though it was far below our skill set. As time went on, life began to become a more comfortable experience for us.
Personal Reflection: Do I need to push through my discomfort?