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?
Almost every 12 step meeting regardless of fellowship will begin or end with the serenity prayer, which says, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
At a topic meeting recently, the chairperson of the group had chosen to qualify on acceptance and serenity. After he finished sharing, he opened up the meeting for others to share. Towards the end of the meeting, one fellow rhetorically asked, “Do you want to know the difference between acceptance and serenity?”
“Acceptance is when you are standing on the 10 item express line at the supermarket where the person in front of you has 13 items and you don’t say anything to them.
And serenity…….Serenity is when you are on the same line and you don’t even count how many items he has in his basket.”
Many of us have mastered moments of acceptance,where instead of blurting out a criticism or a disagreement we exercise self-control over our speech muscles. Yet one often still senses a degree of agitation which percolates along with our self-control.
To come to a place where we no longer even “count” is a much more rarefied spiritual state.
You can determine if you are in acceptance or in serenity by examining if there is any “counting” chatter in your head the next time you are presented with a challenging situation.
Personal Reflection: Have I gone beyond acceptance and moved towards serenity in my life?
In a few days Wisdom from the Rooms will be renamed Insights from the Rooms. Once that happens you can expect to see new blog posts with more Recovery related themes.
I haven’t posted to my blog in over two years because I was tapping into my buried treasure. During that time I’ve been working on a book entitled Insights from the Rooms. It is a collection of 366 of my best posts, with revisions and new material. You can get it immediately from my publisher by pressing the link below.
You can get a free sample on Amazon if you go to the Kindle Edition of Insights from the Rooms. You can also purchase the paperback edition on Amazon; but there will be a delay because it hasn’t officially been released to Amazon. If you decide to get the book and you like it, a positive review on Amazon would be great.
I will shortly be returning to posting more “insights” on this site
Feels really good to have completed this work; and now I’m already thinking about the next one.
What buried treasure are you tapping into?
Get the book
Words and phrases like stop, slow down, exercise caution ahead, were largely disregarded by us during our days of alcohol, drug and food excess. If anything, the only word we lived by was “more”.
Entering the program provided structure and boundaries for us that were very necessary. One of the first things we needed to do was stop talking and begin listening. It turned out that we didn’t have the answer for every problem that landed on our doorstep. It was a wise move to be quiet and listen to the counsel of those with greater experience.
It was also imperative that we stop acting on our impulsive thoughts. Just because we had a thought didn’t mean we had to immediately fulfill it. When we had done so in the past we often ended up in some serious hot water. Our poor choices had frequently led to divorce, insolvency and medical issues.
Learning to put the brakes on our thoughts and behaviors did not come easily for us. Often we needed to speak things over with our sponsor or another member in the program. We also learned a lot just by listening to others share how they had sped through their own personal stop signs.
Personal Insight: Have I instituted stop signs in my life?