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?
It definitely hurts when someone wrongs us. Sometimes we don’t quite understand why it is necessary for us to forgive them. It’s not like we are going to seek them out and tell them we forgive them for their actions. If anything we are the aggrieved party. They should be the one coming to us and asking for forgiveness. What exactly is the point of our saying to ourselves that we forgive a particular person for a perceived wrong which was committed.
Forgiveness does have purpose. When we forgive someone, as long as it is sincere, we short circuit any resentments that we have. To an alcoholic or drug addict, resentments are like pouring gasoline on a fire. They are the springboard for the launch of all of our other character defects. The ultimate outcome of a resentment is a slip or a major dry drunk episode. When we are able to release those resentments, we help maintain physical, emotional and spiritual sobriety.
On those occasions when someone comes to us with an amends, in most instances we should immediately forgive them. The process of forgiveness helps us maintain our humility. It also gives us an opportunity to take a look at our part and where necessary make amends as well.
Personal Reflection: Do I need to work on being more forgiving?
We are all going to have one of those days. From the moment we get up, nothing seems to go our way. We spill the coffee, are late for the bus, and late for a big meeting at work. And, it’s not even 10am in the morning yet. Later in the day, one too many things happen to us and we lose it. All our emotional sobriety gets thrown out the window. Right after that we toss out the Big Book. Forget about “let go and let G-d. We find ourselves right back to the way we used to be before we entered the program. However, there is a difference. We do have the capacity to catch ourselves. It make take 5 to 10 minutes or even half an hour, but we can return to our sober equilibrium. Once we do, we immediately make amends to whoever we might have hurt with our outburst. We also do a quick self inventory and see which defect of character emerged earlier. It would probably be a good idea to call our sponsor and talk about what happened. Many of us find journaling, prayer and meditation beneficial as well after such an event. We take comfort in knowing that we can reclaim our emotional sobriety whenever we are ready.
Personal Reflection: How do I reclaim my emotional sobriety after one of those days?
The story is told about a man who lived in Europe at the turn of the last century. He constantly engaged in gossip. One day, feeling some remorse, he went to the town sage and asked how could he repent for all his hours of gossip. He was told to go home and bring back one of his goose feather pillows. Upon returning with the pillow, he was instructed to rip it open, and throw all of the feathers into the air. The gossiper complied with all of these instructions. As he threw the feathers into the air, the wind quickly carried them away. Once the pillow was empty, the sage advised him to go and gather up all the feathers. The poor fellow soon discovered that the feathers had blown all over the town. He spent the entire day looking for feathers and only found a few of them. In the evening he returned to the sage who said, “gossip is like the goose feathers. Once the words are released into the air, it is almost impossible to take them back”.
Once we gossip about someone, the damage has already been done. The best amends we can make for gossiping is to resolve not to listen to or speak it in the future.
Personal Reflection: Do I need to be more diligent about gossip?
Part of our step work involves making amends to those we have harmed. This process involves acknowledging things that we had done wrong even when others were unaware of it. Many of us have stolen copy paper, pencils and pens from work after everyone had gone home. We might have been doing it for years and gotten away with it. Of course we had our rationalizations. We deserved this little “perk” because we hadn’t received a raise in a long time. The company was a huge one and could survive the loss of some office supplies. Didn’t the executives spend more on one lunch than a year of our pilfering? We used the same type of rationales for cheating on our taxes, lying to our spouses and going thru red lights when we knew one was around.
In sobriety, we have accepted the maxim of being honest in all of our dealings. It doesn’t make a difference if “we can get away with something”. Part of our spiritual growth is the development of character. We strive to be consistent in our behavior whether we are surrounded by a crowd of people or we are totally alone. Quite a few of us also feel that we are really never alone; for our Higher Power is always present.
Personal Reflection: Do I need to work on my character?
I recently heard a fellow qualify at a meeting. He related that every morning when he got up he counted the birds on his bedpost. These little “birdies” were people that he had interacted with the previous day to whom he owed an amend. Many of these amends were for essentially minor offenses. Perhaps he had been a bit brusk with someone at work, or had been a few minutes late for an appointment. The important thing was that by the end of each day amends were made to each of these little “birds”.
This course of action was very different from his behavior prior to the program. In the past, when he had in some way offended a person, he would spend weeks on end dodging them. He would literally avoid going down a certain block or shopping in a particular store to not encounter one of his “victims”. A lot of energy was spent evading a chance meeting. By resolving any potential amends that needed to be made, he could get on with the business of the day free of fear and resentment. By solidifying this practice, he also discovered that over time the number of birds on his bedpost each morning had decreased.
Personal Reflection: Do I have any bedpost birds that need attending to?