First a word about mistakes. When we make a choice and something doesn’t work out for us, our reaction is often charged with self judgement. We might say, “I can’t believe how stupid I was”, or “like usual I’m wrong again”. It is far more advisable to have as neutral a response as possible. That is why when things go awry, we use the word mistake. For when you break the word mistake down into its component parts, we end up with a mis – take. That is, my take on things was incorrect. In the moment, I made the best decision I could, based on the information which was available to me at the time. There is no negative energy generated when we think this way.
Many of us used to avoid taking chances and trying new things because of those judgmental tapes about wrong choices. By doing so we probably ended up living lives that were very safe. The problem with this approach is that it is only by taking chances and experimenting with new course of action that growth is possible. When we played it safe, we also stayed stuck. Viewing our errors as mis – takes allows us the freedom to try new and varied things.
Personal Reflection: How do I view my mistakes?
The story is told that there were once two brothers. One of them was considered very wise and people flocked to him for his counsel. The other brother almost never had anyone seek him out for advice. The second brother who was rarely visited became highly distraught. He confronted his popular brother and demanded to know why people sought his brother out and rarely consulted him. The popular brother answered him and said, “Do you want to know the difference between you and I dear brother? You can’t understand why people don’t come to you and I can’t understand why people do come to me”.
We humans are attracted to people who have begun to construct essence. We sense that there is something beneath the surface that has power and value. Usually, people who possess magnetic personalities have undergone a lot of hardship and tribulation before arriving at their present state. They are also open to the possibility of continued struggle and growth. They do not see themselves as someone has has already “arrived”. On the contrary, each day is viewed as a new opportunity for growth. They do not regard what thy possess as a protected treasure but freely distribute it to anyone who asks. It is easy to understand why people are attracted to them.
Personal Reflection: Which brother do I more resemble?
Growing in sobriety was definitely a process. For each and every one of us, that journey began with us showing up at a meeting. It was the same initial step regardless of fellowship. AA, NA, OA, or DA; we all started in the same place; with our behinds glued to a seat at a meeting. Those first days, weeks and months were certainly challenging. Many of us had to suffer through withdrawal. A lot of what was being said was confusing because we were still in a bit of a fog.
It took some time but our minds began to clear. In some ways this was probably the most painful stage. It suddenly hit us how we had been on a path of self destruction. Along the way we had hurt many others including family and friends. Besides looking at our past, we for the first time began to look at our character defects. While active, we had utilized our drug of choice to buffer all of those fears, resentments and jealousies. Now, we began to examine ourselves more deeply and what we saw was pretty uncomfortable.
Around this time we discovered that we were not alone. Others in the program were there to help, guide and support us. We also began to turn to a power greater than ourselves; our Higher Power. For many of us this was a reunion with an old friend, for others it was a first time encounter. Regardless, hope had entered our lives.
Personal Reflection: Do I need to strengthen my belief?
A lot of excuses surround people when they come into the program. Of course the most common is that, “I will never be able to stop drinking or drugging”, along with “I’m too old to begin this program”. There is also a tremendous amount of shame around our past and fear of the future. We are constantly dogged by the inner voices which attempt to discourage us from sobriety. The flow of 12 step is in the opposite direction. Our attention is focused on the here and now. This is why during the first year of sobriety we place such emphasis on day count. At a meeting you will hear someone say, “I have 57 days”, or “4 months since I took my last drink”. Upon hearing this, people will often burst into spontaneous applause. We do so because we are celebrating where you are in this moment. It’s not about the past or future, but your recovery right here, right now. As we grow in our recovery, the same principle also applies. When a person says, “I never qualified before at a meeting”, they are still encouraged to share their experience, strength and hope. After doing so, they will often find that someone deeply identified with their story. Wherever you are along the road to recovery, you can always begin a new chapter of growth.
Personal Reflection: Where is my recovery at this moment?
A healthy person takes joy in assisting others in their personal growth. As parents we swell with pride when our children surpass us. We do everything in our power to facilitate their success. In the program we often help others to grow thru sponsorship. We guide our sponsees through the steps or celebrate their anniversaries with them. We also need to exercise caution. It is all to easy to prevent growth by attempting to exercise too much control. When you begin to have a belief that says “I know better what’s good or right for you so you had better follow my advice”, a red flag should go up. You need to examine your motives. Is your advice coming from pride and ego, or do you really have the person’s best interests in mind.
The same holds true with our own personal growth. Because growth can produce fear and anxiety, sometimes we need to examine to see, if on some level we are sabotaging ourselves. Just like with others we need to see if we have our own best interests in mind.
Personal Reflection: To what degree do I help facilitate the growth of myself and others?
Sometimes we see a person at a meeting and how they look and what they have to say just blows us away. They appear to be really living a sober life. Listening to them you can hear that they are truly happy. Their lives are immersed in the program. A higher power is turned to during the day. A 10th step review is done before they go to bed. They do service both in and outside of the rooms. You say to yourself, “I want what they have”. That is certainly an admirable sentiment. To accomplish your wish you need to take a careful look at exactly what they do. More to the point, you need to be willing to drop some of your old habits which no longer serve you. Initially you might find this to be uncomfortable or even painful. You also might experience fear about taking on new and unfamiliar behaviors. Change is often very challenging. Realize that if you want what they have, “you have to do what you never done”. To do anything less is cheating yourself from growth.
Personal Reflection: What’s one thing I’ve never done which could enrich my life?