It’s been said that “it takes five years to get your marbles back and ten years to learn how to use them.” So, some of you are feeling pretty good right now because you’re walking around with some pretty useful marbles. And, as you look around you see that there are a lot of people out there who could really use some sagely sober advice.
Before you begin tapping into those marbles, a major ground rule is in order. People do not want to hear unsolicited advice. Even though the “answer to a problem” is incredibly clear to you; the other person may not be ready to even talk about it. If a person tells you they are not open to your “take” on an issue, that should be the end of it.
On a deeper level, we in the Program believe that when you have a deep insight about a problem, the source of this insight comes from a Higher plane. Your Higher Power has placed a person with a challenge in your path and granted you a moment of clarity. If the other person is open to your advice, that’s both of your Higher Powers at work.
So you sit down after a meeting and have an incredible conversation with someone about your solution to their issue. They are very open to what you have to say and commit to change based on your advice.
The next week at the same meeting you run into the same person who has not budged from their old way of thinking or acting. It’s not your business to repeat the conversation. The first time you spoke God was in the room. If you bring it up again, it’s your ego that’s in the room.
This doesn’t mean that your initial advice was lost. Maybe a week or a month or a year later that person might approach you and say, “remember that conversation we had?”
Personal Reflection: When you speak with others, whose will is in the room?
Have you ever gone hiking and suddenly realized that you’ve lost the trail. You try to retrace your steps and most of the time find the last trail marker on a tree that you somehow missed. No problem; you now make that left or right as required instead of walking straight ahead. Occasionally, you retrace your steps and realize that you have gotten yourself good and lost. You start to panic and then in the distance see the well worn path of the trail. Breathing a sigh of relief you head towards the path and resume your hike.
For many of us, drugs, alcohol or food was our map through the forest of life. Initially, it worked fairly well for us. It helped us buffer some of the pain, fear and loneliness that we often felt. At some point it stopped working. It was like straying from a path as we stumbled deeper and deeper into the forest.
When we had strayed very far from the path we suddenly came upon a trail marker. It had the letters AA, NA or OA on it. We began to follow that trail and a guide appeared who became our sponsor. He or she had also been lost in the forest but had found their way out. They acted as a compass for us on a daily basis.To make sure we didn’t stray far from the path they gave us a Big Book to study. It provided us with a set of directions for almost any path we choose to take. We also started to attend meetings where we met many other travelers who helped guide us as well. At some point we even began to guide others who had become lost.
Personal Reflection: Do I still stray off the path?
How we wake up in the morning is a barometer of our Program.
Are you the kind of person who as soon as you open your eyes begins to obsess about the day ahead. For example, if you have a lunch date with someone later that day do you think about all the things that can go wrong. Maybe you won’t be able to find a parking space, or you will miss the bus, or you won’t like the restaurant, or you will be late for the appointment.
On the other hand, when you wake up in the morning are you the kind of person who takes life “one day at a time.” You will plan to do everything in your power to arrive at your lunch date without a hitch. Once you’ve done that, you can let go of any obsessive thinking. In the event something occurs beyond your control which causes a delay, you won’t beat yourself up about it. You accept that you are exactly where you are supposed to be in God’s world.
Sometimes we can’t seem to shake the fears we have about the future. When that happens you can reach out to someone in the Program and talk about your concerns. As part of the conversation they might ask you what Step you are working. They will probably remind you to focus on Step Two which says, “came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” Ultimately, we need to ask our Higher Power to remove our obsessive thinking and negativity.
Personal Reflection: How did I wake up this morning?
WAt the end of many meetings you will see people exchanging phone numbers. Often, one of them has said something that the other identified with and they decided to stay in contact. Most of us have collected a large list of phone numbers over time.
That little Rolodex of numbers is a valuable tool for the alcoholic, drug or food addict. We have our “regulars” whom we call on a weekly basis just to touch base and talk about how our Program is going. We can also use the phone when we need to make a decision about something and want to get some feedback or advice. Often, we make a call when something is bothering us and need to talk about it and ventilate some of our feelings.
Almost all of us have the luxury and immediate access of a cellphone. Before the era of cellphones, program members were advised to carry around a pocket of loose change. Back then, a phone booth was our cellphone.
Sometimes of course we do make that call and it immediately goes to voicemail. We try another number and it’s busy. We finally reach someone but they can’t talk with us. We really need to dump our feelings or seek advice and no one is picking up. At that point we make a virtual phone call to the One who is always available and who always answers our call.
That conversation often relieves our upset about something. Frequently we even come up with an answer to a problem that has been dogging us.
Remember, you never need to spend money to chat with your Higher Power.
Personal Reflection: When was the last time I called my Higher Power?
When we are graced with sobriety, we can take a look back and examine our actions. Recently at a meeting a fellow with one year of sobriety was talking about clearing up some of his past actions while under the influence. He “discovered” a pile of tickets from his township for red light camera violations. He had no remembrance of either going through the red lights or of having received the summonses. Part of his amends process was to pay the fines and penalties on the tickets which ran into the thousands of dollars.
Yes, it’s true that many of us blew through red lights and stop signs on the road. We also blew through stop signs that periodically appeared during our drinking and drugging careers. Signs that had we heeded them would have saved us a lot of pain. Perhaps a doctor spoke with us about the damage we were doing to our bodies through drinking, drugging or binging on food. Maybe a family member sat us down and had a heart to heart talk about our substance abuse. Of course there were the repercussions from our actions while we were in a blackout and of which we had no remembrance. At some point we might even had had a glimmer of awareness that the way we drank, drugged or used food was not within the realms of acceptable behavior.
Unfortunately, these moments of clarity were not lasting. We might have paused for a day a week or month but we eventually returned to our destructive behavior.
The blessing is that each of us eventually came to a stop sign and slowed down long enough to admit our powerlessness and unmanageability. That day was the beginning of our recovery.
Personal Reflection: How can I serve as a stop sign for someone who is still active?
AA (NA or OA) introduces you to a sponsor……
Many a beginner has protested against the idea of getting a sponsor. They think that once they have put down their drug of choice, everything else will fall into place. What that don’t understand is that it is precisely because of their thinking while active that they ended up in unhealthy and often dangerous situations. Once they humbled themselves and committed to speaking with a sponsor they discovered just how convoluted their thinking was.
The sponsor introduces you to the Steps……
As we began to speak with our sponsor, we realized that he or she was not giving us random advice or opinion. Almost immediately they began to take us through the Steps. We began to discover more and more about ourselves as part of the process. Our sponsor also reminded us that a personal inventory needed to assess our strengths as well as our character defects.
The Steps introduce you to God……
As we worked the Steps there was a recognition that we could not successfully navigate sobriety without assistance. In the past, we had relied on drugs, alcohol, food, people, places and things to assist us. In step 2 we finally surrendered and “came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
God introduces you to yourself…..
Over time as we called our sponsor, worked the Steps and called upon our Higher Power something miraculous began to happen. We began to change. Long held resentments were dropped. Owed amends were made. We began to experience the hand of God more and more in our life. Our Higher Power began to reveal to us the possibility of the man or woman we were meant to be.
Personal Reflection: Is more work needed for me to come to know myself?
Early recovery for many of us was a bundle of confusion. We had been so full of denial and self loathing for so long that we didn’t have much of an idea of who we really were. To remedy this, we were urged by our sponsor and others to make a “searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”
Some of us wanted to avoid this process because we didn’t want to have to confront our character defects. We felt it would be too painful to face the truth about ourselves.
One member recently spoke about it this way. She described looking in a mirror that was so smudged that she could barely make out her reflection. That mirror was her life prior to entering the program. Every smudge represented a character defect.
So what do we do when our mirror is smudged? Why of course we clean it with some Windex. For her, every time she worked on a character defect, it was like a spray of Windex removing a smudge on her mirror. As she progressed in her Fourth Step work, the smudges on her mirror slowly began to disappear. For the first time in her life she began to have a clear view of who she was. For the first time in her life she began to like that reflection in the mirror.
Personal Reflection: What smudges on your mirror still need to be removed?