Words and phrases like stop, slow down, exercise caution ahead, were largely disregarded by us during our days of alcohol, drug and food excess. If anything, the only word we lived by was “more”.
Entering the program provided structure and boundaries for us that were very necessary. One of the first things we needed to do was stop talking and begin listening. It turned out that we didn’t have the answer for every problem that landed on our doorstep. It was a wise move to be quiet and listen to the counsel of those with greater experience.
It was also imperative that we stop acting on our impulsive thoughts. Just because we had a thought didn’t mean we had to immediately fulfill it. When we had done so in the past we often ended up in some serious hot water. Our poor choices had frequently led to divorce, insolvency and medical issues.
Learning to put the brakes on our thoughts and behaviors did not come easily for us. Often we needed to speak things over with our sponsor or another member in the program. We also learned a lot just by listening to others share how they had sped through their own personal stop signs.
Personal Insight: Have I instituted stop signs in my life?
Just because you have a pain doesn’t mean you have to be one.
One of the powers of the program is that we are not alone. If you are going through a rough patch you can certainly call your sponsor about it. Not only will you have an opportunity to vent, you can also seek out solutions. The same holds true for meetings. The more meetings you attend the more opportunities you will have to share what is happening in your life. There is also the meeting after the meeting where you can get advice as well. All of these actions are encouraged in the program.
That being said we do not endorse unacceptable behavior just because a person is feeling angry, fearful, resentful, guilty or victimized. When we are being self reflective and share at a meeting the emphasis needs to be on ourself and not others. Just because we are full of emotion doesn’t give us the right to take someone else’s inventory. It certainly doesn’t give us the right to lash out or to act in an inappropriate way. Our goal is to practice emotional sobriety. This is especially true when we’re encountering difficulties during our day.
Personal Reflection: How do I maintain emotional sobriety?
What we would do without the pause button? How would we be able to get a snack before we continued our favorite show. Or, for that matter not have to delay going to the bathroom because the murderer in the mystery we were watching was about to be revealed. So, at this point in our lives, we are quite familiar with the pause button on our television remote.
There is another type of pause which many of us neglect or don’t even know about. That is our internal pause button. Here’s how you use use it. The next time you are about to lose your temper press your internal pause button. If you are about to pass on a juicy piece of gossip; hit pause. Are you about to make a rash decision without thinking it through? Hit that button. Do you see yourself about to beat yourself up for a decision you made? Just hit it. You need to hit pause when you see yourself beginning to obsess about a future decision. Resentments can be put on pause as well. Perhaps most importantly if you see yourself wanting to drink or drug or eat hit that pause button. In the majority of cases we have nothing to lose by pausing, and often quite a lot to gain.
Personal Reflection: Do I need to hit my pause button more often?
Service is definitely a cornerstone of the 12 step program. There are so many opportunities for service. You can be a greeter at meetings or take on a coffee commitment. Many of us have served as the chairperson for our home group. Part of our responsibility is also to carry the message to others. When called upon, we take outgoing speaker commitments. Sometimes we get sandbagged at a meeting and are asked to speak. Without any preparation we agree to do so. You never know how what you say can affect another member. Service often helps us to step outside of ourselves and our problems and help others. Sometimes though, the best service you can do; is to do nothing. There are some people that just want to take and take and take. In these cases, when you say “no” you are also doing service. You are serving yourself by respecting your personal barriers that you have established. You are saying, “My time is valuable and I need to allot it carefully”. You are also helping them. You are saying, “You are smart enough and strong enough to do it yourself”.
Personal Reflection: Am I more of a doorman or a doormat?