For a long time many of us walked around in a constant state of self judgement. Perhaps we grew up in a household where we were constantly criticized, demeaned or punished. Whatever its origins, those feelings of self deprecation were our constant companion. It was often those very feelings which drove us to drink or drug or binge on food. Rather than accept our perceived realty of who we were, we chose to self medicate.
Being in the program has changed our thinking on this matter. We have come to understand that admitting our character defects is actually the first step in our healing. Once we identified where personal transformational work was required, we could then go about the task of change. We used to think that admitting we were less than perfect was a sign of weakness. Our perfectionism blocked our taking an honest view of ourselves. As we began to drop that veneer of needing to be perfect, we began to experience the power of humility. For the first time instead of berating ourselves, we learned about self love and self care. We could love ourselves even with our shortcomings. As part of this process we also learned that we had often been far too critical of our actual shortcomings. As we worked the program we gained a more realistic view of ourselves.
Personal Reflection: Have I truly accepted myself for who I am?
There are literally hundreds and probably thousands of restaurants found in major cities in every corner of the world. Every type of ethnic cooking is represented. People love to eat out and are especially open to trying new types of cuisine. There are countless food blogs, cooking shows and new cook books coming out every year. It is extremely evident that we pay a tremendous amount of energy and attention as to what goes in our mouths.
We in the program also enjoy dining in new restaurants and trying new cuisines. Like everyone else we enjoy the taste, textures and aromas of food. Beyond that, we are also concerned about what comes out of our mouths. Our words are also a type of food. They can be provide emotional, spiritual, psychological and psychic nourishment to the recipient. Just like we avoid overly bitter or excessively spicy foods, we want to avoid the same types of words. If the words we are contemplating using are full of anger and hurt, the best course of action is to close our mouth. We need to pay as much attention to the words that come out of our mouths as we do to the food that we put in.
Personal Reflection: Am I careful with the words I choose?
In the movie “Wild” the main character, Cheryl Strayed hikes over 1000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail; an extremely challenging endeavor. In the beginning of the story she can barely lift her backpack. It is stuffed with many unnecessary items. As a result she suffers much exhaustion in the early days of her hike. Along her journey she learns about eliminating items from the backpack and how to pack it correctly.
When you think about it, a backpack is a good metaphor for the challenges we face in life. It’s impossible for us not to have lots of items to fill that pack. A good life strategy is to realize that we don’t need to carry those challenges along the entire journey. When we learn how to let go of things that have happened in the past, our pack gets much lighter. It also allows us the room to properly deal with new challenges when they arise. When we are loading our backpack there is also a science as to where we place the items based on need, importance and weight. The same holds true with how we deal with life’s demands. Priorities must be put into place to help us in our decision making.
Cheryl Strayed the protagonist in “Wild” learned how to pack on the trail. We get our life packing training in the rooms of AA, NA and OA.
Personal Reflection: Am I carrying my life backpack in the most efficient way?
When we go to a meeting, we’re encouraged to speak openly and honestly about what is happening in our lives. However, that precept comes along with a proviso. Yes we want you to feel comfortable enough to speak about whatever is on your mind. That being said, we also need for you to exercise judgement about what you talk about. That doesn’t mean anything is off the table. What it does mean is that you need to differentiate between what is appropriate for discussion at a meeting and what is appropriate for discussion with your sponsor.
There are no hard and fast rules regarding this. It’s pretty much left in a member’s hands. It would certainly be inappropriate to speak publicly about issues you are having with another member. That would be something best left to a conversation with your sponsor. Sexual issues are also best left to a discussion with your sponsor.
Many people follow the practice of bringing up issues with their sponsor first. Once they gain some clarity around it, where necessary, they continue speaking about it at their next meeting.
When we’re not sure if something is appropriate for discussion at a meeting; a good rule of thumb is to call your sponsor about it.
Personal Reflection: Do I take the mess to my sponsor or to a meeting?
Before coming into the program, most of us really didn’t know how to deal with people who came to speak to us about their problems. Some of us thought they were coming to us in order for us to fix them. We often proceeded to give them an entire lecture on what they should or shouldn’t be doing with their lives. Others proceeded to just tear down the person and show them how weak, foolish or incompetent they were. Another approach was to minimize their problem and perhaps even make fun of them. And of course there was those who immediately started to talk about how their own problems far outweighed those of the person who came to seek their help.
Today, we have a different approach. We realize that most of the time people just want to be heard. It’s not our job to fix them or give unsolicited advice. There is power in just one person listening very deeply to another. As best we can, we need to drop whatever judgements we have towards the person speaking with us. We need to realize that often they haven’t had the benefit of the tools of the program in dealing with life’s challenges. Rather than viewing them as somehow defective, we need to pray that they have a spiritual awakening.
Personal Reflection: Do I give unsolicited advice?
An old timer recently asked a newcomer why his Higher Power had created him with two eyes. After entertaining a few possible answers, the old timer explained that the 2 eyes represent 2 courses of action. One eye is to be used for looking outward at the world. The other eye is to be used for looking into ourselves.
There is nothing wrong with using that one eye to view the outside world. There is incredible beauty to be enjoyed and appreciated through our sight. The problem is that sometimes we jump to judgement and resentment based on what we see. Some people spend most of their time finding fault with whatever crosses their visual path. No matter what they see, they feel impelled to put a negative spin on it.
We also need to utilize the second eye, the one used for self introspection. In some people this eye has atrophied from non use. In the program, taking an honest look at ourselves, our behavior and our defects of character is a daily ritual. We have found that as we use that one eye for looking inward, our second eye spends less time judging others; and more time seeing life’s gifts.
Personal Reflection: Do I need an eye examine?
Recently, the following observation was heard at a meeting.
I was driving in the city with another person from program. I was trying to get crosstown and was encountering a lot of traffic. There were a lot of double parked vehicles. Many of the cars and trucks at intersections suddenly stopped to make turns without signaling. My passenger, turned to me and said, “you know, driving with you is not a very pleasant experience”. “Why”?, I asked in surprise. To which my passenger replied, “you’re muttering under you breathe about the traffic, periodically complaining and making judgmental statements about other drivers”. At first I attempted to defend myself. “Well, I’m much better than I used to be”. Then I realized that they were right. Although I had “worked” on judgement and anger, they were still very much present. I felt very much humbled by my experience that day. If I can get bent out of shape by a double parked car, then perhaps I’m not as evolved as I thought. I need to remember that it’s not about people, places and things, but about my attitude.
Personal Refection: What “small” things hook my anger and judgement?
Anyone looking for perfect solutions to all of their problems is going to be disappointed by 12 steppers. None of us is perfect. To varying degrees we are working on ourselves. What we have found is that our collective wisdom is quite amazing. The only thing is that it is not deposited within one place or within one person. This is often a disappointment to both the newcomer and even to those with time. Yes, it is difficult to see old timers, sponsors and fellowship friends saying and doing things that are less than sterling.
What is of greater importance is that those same old timers, sponsors and fellowship friends can often be of great help to us. We just need to lower our expectations a bit. Almost everyone from program has something of benefit to offer. Our task is to separate the wheat from the chaff. As we sift through the words and actions of others, our own program can be greatly strengthened. Given our own perfectionism, this is sometimes a challenge. We can smile at the fact that someone else in program is probably applying the rule of “take the best and leave the rest” to us right now.
Personal Reflection: Am I able to separate the wheat from the chaff?
It is so easy to find things that separate us from other people. Many of us became experts at this. Almost every person we met had something wrong with them. One person was too talkative, another was too quiet, a third was too nerdy and a fourth was too stuck up. We could go to a party and have a miserable time because we couldn’t find anyone there we could relate too.
These days we view life differently. We look for points of commonality and interest with other people. We find that when we practice active listening, we are able to build common ground with others. Nowadays, when we go to a party we can have a great time. We enjoy speaking with many different types of people and finding out more about them. The only thing that has changed is our attitude. It takes a degree of humility to be able to identify with others. When we express ourselves in an open and honest manner; people enjoy speaking with us as well. We have also noted that the better we feel about ourselves, the better we feel about others
Personal Reflection: Do I still slip into judging others?
It is so easy to get stuck in life. We make a decision, and somehow feel that it is irreversible. That pathway is often the result of fear. More specifically it is about our excessive concern about the judgements of others. What will my mother, father, spouse, boss, children et. al. think if I change my mind or my direction. That’s where are our Higher Power comes in. G-d has provided us with a myriad number of choices in life. Not only do we have choices at the moment of a decision, we have choices afterwards.
When we make the wrong decision we can say that we made a mistake. I like the word “mistake”. A mistake is just that. Our take on things missed the mark. With further information or a greater sense of empowerment we can choose to go in a different direction. Some may criticize our new direction and that’s ok too. The only person that needs to walk in our shoes is us. As long as we take responsibility for our changes in flight plan, we have the right to make those changes. Our Higher Power is the one who created u turns in the first place.
Personal Reflection: Do I need to make a u turn in any area of my life?