In 2003, after 3 years of sobriety, I discovered that I had a serious case of cancer. It wasn’t until 2005 that I was cancer free. Along the way, I had multiple surgeries, various Chemotherapy sessions and a treatment which resulted in me contracting a form of tuberculosis.
Although I remained sober over that time I was seething with resentment towards God. Every day while I was sick I repeatedly heard a voice shouting in my head saying things like, “How could you do this to me? After all the work I’ve done to become sober this is my reward? I’ve worked for over 30 years and as I approach retirement I won’t even be able to enjoy it! You’re supposed to take care of me and my family, not take my life away.”
Although I had healed by 2005, a year later I was still walking around with those resentments toward God. In the spring of 2006 my wife told me about a shaman from South America who healed people from both physical illness and emotional trauma. She didn’t even charge people money and just asked for a voluntary donation.
I knew that my resentments were destroying my serenity so my wife and I decided to visit this healer. When I met the shaman she asked how could she help me? I told her that I needed help in forgiving God for what he had done to me.
She looked at me and said, “I see that you are a religious man. Do you believe in God?” I replied yes. She then asked, “Do you believe that everything that happens in the universe comes from God?” I once again replied yes.
She then said to me, “My friend you are asking for the wrong thing. You said you wanted me to help you to forgive God for what he had done to you. You need to ask God to forgive you for not having faith and trust in Him.”
When she said those words I felt like an electric current had passed through my body. I realized that I had been walking around for years totally off point. I had turned my lack of faith in a Higher Power into a resentment of major proportions. That moment with the shaman was the beginning of my truly understanding the third step which says, “made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.”
Personal Reflection: Have I truly surrendered my life and will to a Higher Power?
Mental telepathy would make our lives so much easier. If we could read other people’s minds, we could find out so much information effortlessly. We would know when someone needed our help. If a person had a resentment towards us, we could immediately make amends and repair the relationship. Of course, as of now mental telepathy doesn’t exist. Yet, some people seem to think that it does.
People walk around expecting others to be able to read their minds. When that doesn’t happen, they will say things like, “I can’t believe that she didn’t call me when she knew I was so upset”, or “I’m so annoyed that he didn’t help me clean the dishes. Didn’t he see me standing there at the sink?”
In recovery, we learned early on that we needed to ask others for help if we wanted it. Perhaps our fear of being told no or our perfectionism prevented us from asking for another’s assistance. We also learned that asking others for aid would not guarantee their assistance. However, one thing was for sure. If we didn’t ask, we would be left alone and without help.
Finally, once we began to ask others in the fellowship for assistance we discovered how many people were willing to go to any length to help us.
Personal Reflection: How can I give or receive help today?
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?
Almost all who came into the program found step one to be quite doable. In step one we simply admitted that our lives had become unmanageable and we were powerless. Given the way our life was going at that time, it wasn’t much of a stretch to accept this step. For many of us, we found step two to be a greater hurdle. How could we believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. What proof did we have that G-d existed anyway. We had never seen or spoken to a Higher Power. Even more to the point, on many occasions we had promised G-d that we would stop using if he got us out of a jam. Either he wasn’t listening or didn’t exist because we took our lumps along the way. And how about the fact that bad things happened to good people. Where was G-d when that happened?
As we gained sobriety, we began to understand that faith was not something which was proof based. Furthermore, there really was no explanation as to why certain things happened in the world. As we accepted our powerlessness our trust in a power greater than ourselves slowly evolved. Trust did not require proof, just an open mind.
Personal Reflection: How deep is my trust in a Higher Power?
Many of us had made a mess out of our lives. Problems with work, family, marriages and health. We honestly couldn’t understand why all of this had happened to us. Then we hit our first meeting. We were a bit taken aback by what we heard. In a nutshell, we heard that everything had happened to us because of us. While we were running the show, our lives resembled one long protracted traffic accident. Probably some old timer told us it was time for us to get out of the driver’s seat. In that moment we really didn’t get what he was talking about. Over time, his words began to percolate within us. On the most basic level, it meant that we needed to follow the directions of others who had come before us. These included people with time, our sponsor and some of the readings from the Big Book. Beyond that, we needed to create a connection between ourselves and a Higher Power. Twelve step program is rooted in that connection. We began to understand that our Higher Power could “do for us what we could not do for ourselves”. We just needed to get out of the way and believe we could let go.
Personal Reflection: Am I still trying to drive the bus?
Before we came into the program we were very defensive people. We had to be. If we were to internalize what you said about us, we would have had to admit to all of our character defects and failings. We had spent a lifetime running away from those defects. Our drinking, drugging or eating had been utilized to bury all of those negative feelings. We were hardly going to acknowledge them just because your assessment was largely correct. As our lives became more complicated by our drug of choice, our wall of defense grew and thickened.
By the time we entered the program, we had created quite an armor of distrust around us. At first, we thought we had to maintain that protective shield at all times. As we gained more time, we saw that your suggestions were not to knock us down or find fault with us, but to help us grow in sobriety. Yes, sometimes you were tough on us. Over time we came to understand that it came from a place of love and not of judgement. As we began to let our guard down, we began to hear the message of the program more clearly. We became hopeful that we could finally begin to break through that wall we had been carrying around for so long.
Personal Reflection: Do I still have walls that need to be broken through?
People in the program are like anyone else. We too on a daily basis must face life’s problems. Once we have established our goals; we also expend great effort to achieve them. This is usually the point where we part company with those who are not in the program. As long as we’ve done our part to our best effort; we let go of expectations.
At its core, twelve step program is spiritual in nature. We place our trust in our Higher Power to determine the results. In the past we spent a lot of time worrying and fearful about the outcome of our efforts. By doing so we burnt up a lot of emotional energy. Today, we are able to experience serenity. Since we know that our Higher Power is in charge, much of our fear has been lifted. The more we accept that G-d is running the show, the less concern we have for the ultimate outcome of events. Since we have put in effort and right work, we are confident in the outcome, no matter what it might be. The only time we end emotionally stressed is when we forget who is truly in charge.
Personal Reflection: Have I remembered to turn it over today?