These days when a certain level of proficiency is reached, society acknowledges that accomplishment. Given that you have “mastered” a certain body of knowledge, you are now designated a “master”. We have master chefs, master teachers, master coaches and master carpenters. Other terms like a diplomate in medicine are also used to to recognize a degree of expertise.
There are also negative attributes like a master jewel thief or master criminal that are part of our language. Twelve step program also has its collection of negative masters. One of the most common of these is the master of non acceptance. We see this especially early on in the program. People seem to have great difficulty in accepting life on life’s terms. They need to learn that even when we put in the efforts, results are in no way guaranteed. That means we may not get the promotion, the apartment we wanted, the college admission we expected or the inheritance that was anticipated. The true test of our growth in the program is accepting all of these disappointments without blaming ourselves or others. When that finally happens we move into a new category; the master of accepting the things we cannot change.
Personal Reflection: Do I still struggle with accepting the things I cannot change?
Members in the program often call themselves walking miracles. They have every right to do so. Prior to entering the program you probably would not have recognized them,,They were frequently in both poor physical and emotional health. Spiritually they were often just an empty shell. So yes, they are walking miracles. And they can continue to experience that miracle every day they are free of alcohol, drugs and compulsive use of food.
We in the fellowship believe that there is much more than the abstention from our drug of choice. The greater work involves our beginning the process of addressing all of our character defects and initiating change. The success of those changes can be seen in our interactions with others. In the same situation do we now behave differently? Our path also involves making amends to people we have harmed in the past. Part of our daily work is to take personal inventory of our actions and make amends there as well. Along the way there is often the development of a deeper personal relationship with a G-d of our understanding. When all the pieces come together and we are a changed man or woman; that my friends is magic.
Personal Reflection: What has been magical in my recovery?
There are all sorts of slips in life. We can have a slip of the tongue, or a slip in judgement. In the program, we too can have these types of slips. Of course we are also concerned with a very serious type of slip. The one where we return to our drug of choice.
In listening to people share their experience about this type of slip one thing is clear; that it didn’t just happen by accident. Perhaps an analogy is in order. Imagine two possible scenarios. In the first a man is walking down the street and he “slips” on a banana peel. In this case it was just some random act of the universe. In the second scenario a man decides he wants to miss work for a few weeks. He starts eating a bunch of bananas and drops the peels on the floor. When he goes for a walk he slips on the peel. He calls his employer and says “I slipped on a banana peel”. In the second case it is obvious the man set up the “slip”. In the program our experience has shown that when a person has a slip, it is usually not a random act of the universe. Rather, whether consciously or unconsciously the slip was planned in advance.
Personal Reflection: Am I guilty of premeditated carelessness in my life?
Over the last decade there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people interested in Buddhism. Many people from all walks of life now consider themselves Buddhists. They have discovered that one does not have to live in a mountain monastery to practice Buddhism. Many are attracted to the story of Buddha who sat under a Bodhi tree vowing that he would not move until he found enlightenment. The path to enlightenment thru meditation is now being followed by many in the West.
In the rooms of AA, NA and OA many of us also practice meditation. In fact, some of us are also practicing Buddhists. However, we believe that there are many pathways to spiritual enlightenment. Beyond meditation and mindfulness, a spiritual awakening can also come from a rude awakening. Perhaps we are doing our fourth step and we see a glaring character defect. We might have for years or even decades been in total denial about this shortcoming. We might have evolved a history of blaming others for something which was of our own making. When that awareness of personal responsibility comes rushing in to our consciousness, we have taken one step closer to being a more enlightened being.
Personal Reflection: How have my rude awakenings led to greater enlightenment?
At a meeting recently a member was sharing about his OK cup. This was an imaginary cup he carried around with him at all times. Over the years he had put different things into the cup to make himself feel better. In his case, he had put a lot of smoked cigarettes and a lot of alcohol and drugs into the cup. The problem was that the cup had no bottom. No matter how much he put into it, it never stayed filled; and he never had any type of serenity.
Each of us carries around our own OK cup. We each put our own combination of items into the cup. Besides drugs, alcohol and nicotine, many of us tried food, gambling and assorted other distractions. We all ended up with the same result, because that cup could never remained filled regardless of what we put in it. How can you expect to fill something that has no bottom?
Today, we no longer attempt to fill ourselves up with things. We realize that feeling good about ourselves involves internal work. On some level, all of the tools and fellowship of the program provide the bottom to that cup that could never be filled.
Personal Reflection: How has my self esteem improved through the program?
Recently at a meeting a member was sharing. Although he now had many years of sobriety, he still felt some anxiety about speaking at meetings. Thankfully, his level of anxiety had decreased over time. He attributed this to some advice that a fellow member had given him when he first came in. In his early days, he would just sit somewhere in the back of the room to avoid sharing. However, on a weekly basis he attended a small meeting that sat in a circle. It was impossible for him to escape speaking at that meeting. He confided his anxiety about sharing to one of the old timers in the circle. He told her he was worried what other people would think about his share. She smiled and said that the people who had already shared were going over in their mind what they had spoken about. Should they have deleted something, or added something in their share? The people who hadn’t shared yet were formulating in their minds what they were going to speak about. “So you see”, she said laughing, “you don’t need to worry about what you say at this meeting, because no one is paying attention anyway”. Although it was a bit of a joke, he realized that there was some truth to it. From that point on whenever he shared he just visualized everyone in the room being self absorbed; and his anxiety level decreased.
Personal Reflection: Am I sharing frequently enough at meetings?
Almost all of us at one time or another have been sandbagged at a meeting. Without any warning or preparation time, we are asked to qualify and share our experience, strength and hope. Our first impulse may be to say no. Many of us have a fear of public speaking. Then of course there is our old friend perfectionism who chimes in, “how can you speak without any lead time? Your qualification is going to be lacking in so many ways”. Once we push through these reservations, we arrive at the essence of our reticence. Deep down inside we don’t think that the story of our recovery will be of benefit to anyone. A lot of this is based on the fact that we have a lot of shame about our past. How can our journey to recovery be of value to anyone else; given that it is studded with self doubt, denial, and repeated failure.
The truth is that is probably exactly what someone needs to hear. So many of us believed that we were “the only one” who felt a certain way or behaved in a certain manner. When we hear someone else describing a struggle that we are currently going thru and coming out on the other side; it can be incredibly empowering. A share can literally open up a new pathway towards sobriety for another member
Personal Reflection: Do you avoid qualifying at meetings?