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?
A healthy individual needs to have a positive sense of self. We are comfortable in our own shoes and need not seek the approval of others. We get into trouble when our egos get in the way. If we attribute too great a sense of importance to ourselves, it drives a wedge between us and others. We quickly find that people don’t want to be around us because we radiate the feeling that we are better than them. This often manifests in the way we speak and act towards others. The more egotistical we become, the more people tend to avoid us. We are often confused by this. We think that given how wonderful we are, how brilliant is our advice, that people would flock to us. Yet the opposite is just the case. We discover that people are much more interested in being around someone whose interest extends beyond them self.
Excessive ego also drives a wedge between people and their Higher Power. The more ego we have, the less space we are allowing for G-d to enter our lives. As our humility increases, more space becomes available for G-d to fill. Over time our relationship and connection to G-d deepens as a result.
Personal Refection: Do I need to deepen my connection with G-d and with others?
Many of us were in love with the sounds of our own voice. We used to love to expound at length on all things great and small. Were you to ask us what the person we had been talking to had said, we probably wouldn’t have a clue. In fact, chances are we wouldn’t even be able to remember your name. This was just a manifestation of our inflated egos.
Once we entered the program, we began to explore “active listening”. This involved our focusing in a very deep way on what you had to say. Beyond just listening to your words, we would observe body language and tone. We would draw you out and ask for more detail to heighten our understanding. To verify if we had understood you correctly we restated your words and ascertained if our rephrasing was accurate.
Upon practicing active listening, we discovered an interesting phenomenon. In our previous life, people often exited from conversations with us at the earliest possible moment. We were self absorbed and the conversation was in actuality a monologue. Now a true conversation was taking place. As we practiced active listening, we found that many people now were attracted to speaking with us. As we listened to others we grew in many ways.
Personal Reflection: Am I an active listener?
Prior to program, many of us prided ourselves on our quick repartee. We had an answer for every question, and an opinion on every topic. We viewed ourselves as the expert on all things and made sure people knew it. Sometimes, we would get into arguments with people who had the audacity to question our expertise.
When we entered the program we felt as if the rug had been yanked out from underneath us. We were no longer viewed as G-d’s gift to humanity. At a meeting, when someone called themselves “a garden variety drunk” we winced. We weren’t a garden variety anything. We were special. Then some kid half our age came up to us and asked if we needed a sponsor. “Who the heck does he think he is asking me that”, we exclaimed.
Over time, we saw that part of our problem was our arrogance and ego. Maybe we were just another vegetable in the garden. Maybe that kid who approached us about sponsoring us really had something to offer us. As we opened ourselves up to learning about the program and emotional sobriety, we discovered that there was much to learn and we were teachable. That’s when we found out about humility.
Personal: Reflection: Have I remained teachable?
There is an interesting contradiction found in many alcoholics and addicts. We profess to being humble simple folk; modern-day working class heroes. When asked what we want to do we say, “oh, don’t worry about me, whatever you want to do is fine”. Then, when people don’t do what we want we become highly insulted by their lack of sensitivity to our needs. Even though we told them we would do anything; if they appreciated our needs, they would know what we really wanted. We are so self-absorbed that we expect others to somehow read our minds. We often walk around with a list of grievances against others. In our view, the wrongs of others are all the more egregious because we are such good people. This begins to change as we deepen our commitment to the program and become more self-reflective. We begin to recognize some of our shortcomings. We learn that the antidote to the disease of me, is to serve others. Whether it’s listening to someone share, or going out and doing service, stepping outside of ourselves shatters grandiosity.
Personal Reflection: How do I reduce self-absorption?
The second step declares, “came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity”. We had turned to this step when we discovered the truisms from the first step; that our lives had become unmanageable and that we were powerless. For many years we had attempted to make changes in our lives. Utilizing different strategies, we ended up with the same results. We ended up back in the same hole with the same problems. In the program we learned to surrender and to admit our powerlessness. Instead of depending on our failed strategies, we asked our Higher Power for assistance. Then something miraculous began to happen. The more we were able to let go of controlling situations, the more positive the outcome. The more willing we were to let G-d drive the car, the smoother the trip began to be. Of course, we needed to test the waters. When we attempted to take back control, our lives started to become more unmanageable once again. When we allowed our egos to reclaim control, we lost our contact with our Higher Power. It was then that we realized that ego was little more than easing G-d out.
Personal Reflection: Who’s in charge today; G-d or me?