Recently, a woman was qualifying at a meeting. Her drinking had caused her many problems in her life. She had received a number of DWI’s and ended up in the county jail. As a result she became estranged from her family. She lost her job and also faced foreclosure on her house.
When she finally came into the program, she often shared that she had lost almost everything due to her drinking and drugging. In fact, it almost became a mantra for her.
Early in her sobriety an old timer approached her after a meeting had concluded. He told her that he too used to say that he had lost almost everything due to his actions. Then one day, upon closer examination he realized that telling people he had lost everything transferred much of the responsibility away from himself. When we lose something, we are often describing a situation that was beyond our control. On the contrary, what had happened to this fellow was directly related to his actions. From that day forward, instead of saying that “he lost everything”‘ he began to say “that he gave everything away”. For when he took a drink, it was almost like he was giving away his life. Upon hearing the story, the woman who had shared changed her mantra as well. She took responsibility for “giving away” much of her life before she came into the program
Personal Reflection: Do I still give away aspects of my life?
12 Step program runs the entire gamut of members. You will find people who have 50 or more years of sobriety from their drug of choice. On the other end of the spectrum are people who repeatedly have difficulty putting 30 days together. They have been bouncing in and out of the rooms for years. Many of this repeat group will often blame the program itself for their failure to stay sober. “AA, NA or OA is not for me”, they say. Yet, they see people who have remained sober for decades using exactly the same program which has “failed” them.
In fact, many of these repeaters finally do get it and begin to put together some time. It’s obvious,that their success involved some type of change. Under closer examination we see that the program itself remained the same. It was the attitude and actions of the alcoholic, drug or food addict which had altered. When they began to let go of doing it “their way” and listened to the advice of “The Big Book”, their sponsor and other members; the program started to pay big dividends. Suddenly, some of the very things they rebelled against doing started to make a lot of sense.
Personal Reflection: How do I make the program work for me?
It is impossible to walk away from years of using without having impacted many people and institutions. A good part of the work of program is to be honest about our past actions and their impact on others. Much of what we’ve done can’t be undone. What we can do is to make amends to people where appropriate. Admitting to others how our behavior negatively impacted them and taking responsibility for it is a big part of recovery. Part of this process includes financial restitution where necessary. These actions in their own way can help clear away much of the wreckage of the past. Having the humility and honesty to own up to our past actions help us greatly grow in the program.
We can also apply these principles on a daily basis when our behavior is not in alignment with the program. This means taking responsibility, admitting we were wrong and making amends. This too will help us evolve in our path of sobriety.
What we shouldn’t do is attempt to clear away the wreckage of the future. We operate along the principle of one day at a time. If we are obsessing about the future, and ruminating on different scenarios, we are definitely not living in the moment. Our Higher Power will take care of the future. We just need to take the correct actions today
Personal Reflection: What wreckage am I focusing on?
During our drinking or using career, we experienced many disappointments and failures. We invariably railed against the people or organizations who had “caused” our problems. It was always because of someone or something else. During that time period, we did not have the capacity to accept any type of personal responsibility. We were the victims of all the perpetrators in the world. If we had only gotten a break we thought, we would have soared forward.
In sobriety we started to learn about personal responsibility. We began to move away from that victim mentality. In reviewing our past we acknowledged that many of our failures were of our own cause. We were also able to admit our role in failures that occurred in sobriety as well. Then we began to encounter an interesting phenomenon. We seemed to do everything right, and still didn’t get the job, the raise, the date or the loan. We racked our brains and couldn’t figure out what we had done wrong. With time we came to understood that we had done nothing wrong. It was just another life lesson of emotional sobriety. We could do everything right,and still not achieve what we wanted. The universe was just choosing not to satisfy our want in that moment; but was meeting the need of someone else. We were able to let go of our attachment because we knew that our Higher Power would provide for us in the future.
Personal Reflection: Am I still attempting to open the wrong doors?
In our society so much has been reduced to a soundbyte. On the one hand this can be problematic. When we distill a lot of information into short “bytes” a lot can be lost in the process. Part of the growth process is being able to sift through experiences and information, reflect on them and only then move forward. That being said, sound bytes do have their place. They provide an easily assimilable piece of information. The same holds true for material in the program. Although people spend years studying the Big Book; there are aphorisms which do capture a lot of the direction of the program. The following expression is a case in point.
If I’m focusing on you
I should focus on me
If I’m focusing on me
I should focus on G-d
Most of us need to focus our energies in 2 distinct areas. First, we need to move our focus away from others and place it on ourselves. It is only when we do this that we can begin to take responsibility for our actions and initiate change. Second, a major component of the program is learning to “turn it over” to our Higher Power”. This means we will do the work, but we let go of the illusion that we can control the results. That is in the power of the G-d of our understanding.
Personal Reflection: Where is my focus?
In earlier days our sense of perception was distorted. It wasn’t because we had failed to visit the eye doctor recently. Our perception problem actually ran much deeper. It was not a problem that could be solved by a new set of glasses. We just saw, heard and felt everything in a peculiarly perverted way. Wherever we went we would often end up getting into fights over perceived slights. Sometimes we felt our manhood or femininity had been insulted. Perhaps we believed that our honesty was being brought into question. Someone might have said something which we believed questioned our intelligence. Frequently our pride was hurt. At times, although we would not end up in a dispute; we would silently seethe with resentment. After one of these events, it usually ended with our finding comfort in our drug of choice.
In the program we have come to accept that most of the time the hurts we thought we heard or felt were mostly of our own making. We have learned that when our button gets pushed, it’s often a character defect that predates our drug or alcohol usage. It is no longer acceptable to blame our poor behavior solely on that usage. We have a choice on whether or not we will respond to perceived insults. We are not victims of circumstance.
Personal Reflection: Do I need a new set of glasses?