Isn’t it interesting that body language often transcends geographic, ethnic or religious lines. Although we may be separated by language, we can often understand one another through body language. Of course the simplest examples of this are a smile or a nod of affirmation or a nod of negation. Beyond these there are many non verbal clues which are clearly understood across cultures. You could be walking almost any where in the world and see one person emphatically pointing and wagging his finger at another person. Even if you didn’t understand the language or hear the conversation, you would probably be correct in assuming that this finger pointing was related to one person blaming another. Almost all of us are familiar with this non verbal clue. Perhaps this is the case because blaming others is such a universal trait.
As members of 12 step programs we are quite familiar with blaming others for our own shortcomings. By committing to the precepts and tools of the program our tendency to blame others when we our responsible begins to diminish. However, we advocate replacing that “blaming finger” with an outstretched hand; which is also a universal non verbal clue. When we extend our hand, we are being open and extending ourselves in fellowship.
Personal Reflection: How can I transform blame to fellowship?
Cell phones have seeped into almost every aspect of our lives. As such, it’s almost impossible not to overhear conversations taking place wherever you go. On the bus, in an elevator, at the Laundromat, we are frequently bombarded with phone conversations. Though we might not intend to, we are almost forced to overhear the conversations of others. When we do so, we recognize that many of these conversations concern complaints that one individual has against another. When the conversation starts with, “I can’t believe what he or she did to me”, you have a pretty good idea in what direction the conversation is headed.
Our approach in the program is different. A program conversation usually starts with, “so after thinking about it, I really need to take a look at my part in what happened”. We don’t believe that we are victims in life. If things keep happening to us, on some level we are setting ourselves up. When we change our behavior; people around us change theirs as well. If they don’t, we can always find healthier people. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear someone on the phone taking personal responsibility for their actions?
Personal Reflection: Do I still feel I’m a victim?
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?
There is an old Zen expression that goes something like this; “before enlightenment chop wood and carry water, after enlightenment chop wood and carry water”. When we entered the rooms of AA, NA or OA we had made a decision to put down our drug of choice. Many of us assumed that by doing so our problems would be solved. We were partially correct. When we didn’t take that first drink or drug the problems associated with alcohol and drugs no longer arose. “Great,we thought to ourselves. From now on it will be smooth sailing”. This conclusion of ours was shortly thereafter disproven. All of life’s challenges came rushing back in. Life didn’t magically change because we had put down our drug of choice. As we looked around the rooms we saw and heard others who were facing the same problems as us. Yet, many of them seemed far more happy and serene than us. Then it hit us. The adversities of life would continue until our last dying breath.. Our power lay in the decisions we made which affected how events would be played out. We realized that in the past we had on some level “set ourselves up” for problems. This we did have control over. Our power also lay in how we responded to these problems once they had materialized. We had uncovered the beginnings of emotional sobriety.
Personal Reflection: Do I still believe that life is the problem?