There are a lot of people walking around with feelings of anger and resentment. They have a myriad number of complaints about how the rest of the world is treating them. As long as they maintain this attitude, they unfortunately will continue to carry a lot of negativity towards the world.
In the program, many of us entered with multiple feelings of anger and resentment towards others. Part of the work we engaged in was to identify our part in transactions that had ended badly. Then an amazing thing began to happen. As we began to change our behavior, some of the behavior of others that had irked us began to disappear. Because we acted differently, others responded differently as well. Sometime of course people still said and did things which upset us. Now, however we realized that we had a choice in how to respond. Our attitude greatly helped to determine the outcome of many transactions. Of course this involved a major shift in our thinking. To aid us in this many of us called upon our Higher Power on a daily basis. We needed assistance in replacing old neural pathways of behavior with new ones.
Personal Reflection: What still needs changing in me?
We used to walk around thinking that our job in the world was to fix everyone else. When we saw someone doing something that we disagreed with, we immediately attempted to have them change their behavior. People needed so much help we thought. They didn’t know how to correctly drive, eat, play basketball, complete projects at work, speak to their children etc.
We also extended our Mr. or Mrs. Fixit attitude to people’s thoughts and opinions. We loved to show others the error of their ways in topics ranging from religious beliefs to political leanings. We really couldn’t understand why people were often offended by our actions. We were only being helpful, weren’t we?
The fellowship has taught us an entirely new skill set. We now realize that it is not our job to fix anyone else. If they ask for our help or advice we certainly can give it when appropriate. We do this in a supportive and non critical way. Apart from that, our energies need to focus on examining ourselves and identifying our behaviors and attitudes which are unhealthy, destructive or inappropriate. Most of us have discovered that when we do this, we have no time left to give unsolicited advice to anyone else.
Personal Reflection: Do I still give unsolicited advice?
There is a story told of a sage who was asked by his students to explain the concept of being grateful with your portion. He told them they should go see a certain man in a nearby village for the answer. The students traveled to the village and asked the residents where the local sage was. When they went to his house however they discovered that he was not the man their teacher had been referring to. He directed them to a poor fellow who had a broken down shack in the woods. He was barely literate so at first the students were reticent about asking him their question. However since their teacher had sent them, they went and asked him about being satisfied with your portion. He replied to them, “I really don’t understand why your teacher sent you to me. I’ve never had a day in my life when I wasn’t grateful for what I had”.
We can learn a lot from that fellow in the woods. The very fact that we are here alive in this moment is a great place to start with in acknowledging our gratitude. Much of life is not situational. Rather it can be referenced by our attitudes. Of course there will be times of difficulty; and when that happens we need to make gratitude our fallback position
Personal Reflection: What am I grateful for today?
Two members of the fellowship were walking down a busy street together talking to one another. Coming from the other direction walking towards them was a blind man with a cane. He tapped his stick on the ground slowly as he weaved around people and obstacles. “Look at that poor fellow” said one of the two people. “He must have a horrible life. He was really dealt a terrible hand by G-d. He can’t drive a car or view a sunset.I’m sure not a day goes by without him being angry and depressed about his life”. The other person said, “of course I don’t know him but I have a totally different take. I see a very independent man who is totally integrated in life. He’s out there walking by himself. I sense his courage, determination and strength. I even caught a glimpse of a smile on his face”.
Of course, without talking to the blind man we have no idea what the reality of his life really is. What does matter is that how we see things often has more to do with our attitudes than with our occipital lobe. That being the case, when we cultivate a more open and expansive attitude, then what we see will also be more positive in nature; as will our experiences.
Personal Reflection: How would I have viewed this blind man?
One could say that our program has two stages. The first stage is a well known one. We reached a point where we had to give up our drug of choice. Our drinking, drug usage or eating habits were creating havoc in our lives. We admitted our powerlessness and entered the fellowship. We had entered the world of sobriety. Once we made that decision, many if not all of the problems caused by our drinking and drugging disappeared. As long as we maintained sobriety, these types of problems no longer dogged us.
However, there was a second stage to the program. We quickly encountered many other life challenges totally unconnected to our abuse of substances. This was a bit of a surprise to us. We had thought that putting down the alcohol, drugs or food would mean smooth sailing from then on. It was a rude awakening to encounter a whole new set of problems. At first we blamed everyone else about our life situation. Then gradually, we began to learn about emotional sobriety. We learned that it wasn’t so much about people places and things as much as about our attitudes. We needed to retrain our minds to begin to take personal responsibility for what happened to us in life. Even when there was enough blame to go around to include others, our task was to focus on our part.
Personal Reflection: Do I still play the blame game?
Many species in the world are social creatures. If you disturb some bees outside of their hive, you will very quickly discover just how social they are. In short order, the few bees you upset are able to communicate to their brethren that they are being bothered. Suddenly you are confronted with a swarm of bees that are just as mad as the ones you initially encountered.
We humans are very much the same way. We can easily be affected by the attitudes of others around us. That it is why, especially in early sobriety, it is so important to choose who we surround ourselves with. Do you want to be with people who have a deep connection to their Higher Power; and who are serious about their journey of personal transformation? Or, do you want to be with people who are acting out, negative and fail to take responsibility for their actions? It is very hard to not be affected by the attitudes of others; so we might as well choose to associate with positive spiritually fit people.
Part of our own growth is to carefully examine our own attitudes. Are people seeking us out because they like our energy. Or, do they run in the opposite direction when they see us coming.
Personal Reflections: Do I seek out the right kinds of people?
Do I have an attitude worth catching?
A newcomer was feeling very disheartened after a few weeks in the program. He was finding it very difficult to make meetings after a hard day at work. Because he had burned some of his economic bridges, he couldn’t afford a car. He was therefore reduced to dealing with trains and buses, which were often late or overcrowded. He called his sponsor to gripe about his current situation. He asked, “Just how long am I going to have to go to these meetings”? His sponsor told him “you only have to go to meetings, until you want to go to meetings”.
Somewhere along the line for those of us who stick with the program, a psychic change takes place. We shift from seeing meetings as an obligation to seeing them as a privilege. Part of that psychic change includes us looking forward to going to meetings. At meetings we see friends, get to share our feelings and often pick up some bit of knowledge that we can apply to our life. We invariably feel better when we walk out the door as compared to when we walked in.
Personal Reflection: Do you “want” to go to a meeting today?
There is a classic scene from a Woody Allen movie. In it Woody and his date are rapidly approaching a movie marquis. Woody abruptly stops and says, “it’s too late, the movie has already started”. His date says, “we’re only 5 minutes late”, and “didn’t you tell me that that you’ve seen this movie multiple times before?” To which Allen replies, “once the movie starts, it’s ruined for me”.
Many of us followed this line of thinking. If something negative occurred during our day, the rest of the day was ruined. If someone had offended us, we would walk around in righteous indignation about what had occurred. If we had made a mistake we walked around in judgement of ourselves for the rest of the day. Either way, the rest of the day was lost to us. Then one day we called our sponsor about what a miserable day we were having; to which he or she responded, “the day ain’t over yet”. Then it hit us. We had a choice over how we would inhabit the rest of the day. We could draw out every moment from it and make it count, or be in negativity.
Personal Reflection: Did you end the day for yourself already?
Proper speech is not just about correct syntax or tense. The words we use have a lot of power. Researchers have found that when we use certain words and expressions over and over again they create neural pathways in our brains. These pathways become our new reality. Far too many of us are still walking around with a vocabulary that no longer serves our purpose. All too often you will hear someone in the rooms say, “when I was out there drinking and drugging I was a terrible person”, or “a loser”, or “a dope” etc..
When someone has a disease, we don’t call them a bad person. We say that they are sick. When they are healed we don’t say that now they are good. Rather we claim that they are well. The same standard needs to be applied to addictive behavior. The addict is not “bad”. He or she is merely “sick”. When we begin to experience recovery, we are becoming “well”. When we begin to view ourselves as having been sick, we can begin to drop the judgements we had against ourselves. This will aid in our recovery.
Personal Reflection: How careful am I in describing my past behavior?