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Posts Tagged ‘Steps

10th Stepping

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Who you were later in the morning, that was yourself and was who you need to be always
– You prayed
– You relaxed
– You let the resentment go

Early this morning
-Scared, Anxious, Frustrated
– Selfish
– Angry, resentful, even more anxious

Very bad, living in your sickness instead of the solution.

Remember to serve, to relax and to be yourself, but be selfless.

Written by jamesjanus

August 24, 2012 at 4:21 pm

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Problems and Prejudices with The Big Book of AA

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I want to start by saying that for me, where the Bible, all of the Sutra’s, the Tao Te Ching and every one of the library full of books I have read have failed, the Big Book of AA has succeeded.  It created for me, a path to God and today it is my Bible, there is every instruction I need to lead a spiritual, peaceful and most of all, sober life.  This is nothing short of a miracle, not only for what the program and the book have done for me, but what it had to overcome in order to do it, namely, my ego.  In recovery, being smart, analytic and defiant is a perfect recipe for failure and too often this type of personality does not make it.  Our mind is focused on finding flaws, issues, reasons to disagree and on uncovering the mechanics of everything.

When I first came to AA, I did this. I tore the Big Book apart, word by word and I started finding the psychological reasons that some of the Steps, the BB and the fellowship work. I was appalled at first, what terrible malignant genius was behind this?  I thought there must be some catch, some cultist purpose.  Then, I started learning the history and how much of the program was trial and error, how much was input from great minds like Carl Jung, whom I respected (I respected Bill more for translating his goofy existential language into concrete suggestions).  I learned too that there was nothing what-so-ever that AA was going to ask of me, beyond, not coming to meetings shitfaced.

Then, the most extra-ordinary thing happened, I took that keen analytic mind that had torn apart the texts of the great religions, great works of literature and philosophy and I simply shut it off, or rather turned the dial way down.  I don’t analyze the Big Book today, except to decipher what it is suggesting I do and how it relates to my own life and the more I come to that book with a different, less analytic and less defiant attitude, the more I seem to get out of the book and the fellowship.

I am encountering a growing number of people in recovery that express some dissatisfaction with the Big Book, or ignore it completely. Last night for example I heard a guy complaining about the book and when someone spoke to him he griped:

Even the book says this isn’t the only way, but there are people who tell me all of time that it is the only way

To clarify for anyone who shares this sentiment, what the book says is that AA is perhaps not the only way to get and stay sober, that they have no monopoly on it. However, the cold, hard reality is, that the Big Book, the program described in it and the fellowship ARE the only way to do AA. If you hear the promises and you want them, if you are looking for THIS spiritual solution, then the Big Book and the program within in it, are not negotiable.  I would suggest to anyone who disagrees and feels they know a better way than that described in the book, that they are either truly remarkable or very sick still with the problem of ego.

While it is true that the only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking, one has to wonder why people that do not believe this show up at meetings? You wouldn’t major in Psychology if you didn’t believe in it’s value as a science would you?

I know, there are things that upon first read one can find fault or objection with in the Big Book, but there is the thing. There are some books that are written down, to a sort of lowest common denominator, ones that virtually anyone can read and find wonderful, the authors of these books took painstaking care to ensure it; we call them Easy Reads, Fluff books and they are the most common of books out there.  As a life long student of literature I can then also tell you about other books, uncompromising books, books that do not come to you but rather force you to come to them.  E.E. Cummings, Emily Dickinson, James Joyce wrote such books and I can tell you from experience that E.E. Cummings did not make it easy and was never going to step toward my point of view so I could understand. These are books that in order to get the fruits and the rewards from them, you are going to have to grow, change perspective and see things different than you did before.  In fact, the better part of the reward for seeking their understanding is that growth.

The Big Book is the same way. You will come to it, you will grow and learn and let loose all prejudice and control before you get anything from it. It is a perfect exercise and metaphor for how you are going to have to live your life in recovery if you want, not only to be sober, but also be happy joyous and free. Life isn’t going to come to you either, conform to your ideas, your rules, your woulds and shoulds. Instead you will have to learn to be humbled by it, grateful for it, grow in it and embrace challenge and change. You will need to let go of prejudice, fear, control and ego.

The end result is always the same and boils down to this; If AA is your chosen path

Read it looking for what fits you today, with gratitude and appreciation for the message and the men and women that put it into that book, shut down the ego and the critic. Look for what is right, rather than wrong and you might just find the promises coming true.

Read it with that “smart” brain of yours, disregard the suggestions and at best live on in misery with half measures, perhaps finding yourself back on a bar stool one day.

I guess this was a little bit ranty, but I feel strongly about this.

 

Written by jamesjanus

May 7, 2012 at 6:18 pm

Once upon a time, there was a little boy

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who didn’t fit in, wasn’t good enough, felt abandoned, betrayed and punished by the world around him; he tried to be different, he tried to fit in, he tried to do what was asked of him and failing that he built walls around his heart, cut himself off, turning to rage, sarcasm and a false sense of superiority and to cope with the side affects of that, he turned to booze and drugs.  Over time, he lost faith in mystical things, listening as his humanity, his soul and imagination whimpered and starved, caged off behind walls of fear, shame, guilt and loathing for everything including himself.   All of those feelings of inadequacy, hurt and fear followed with him in his heart, making even accomplishment and success taste bitter.

I was that boy and though I am undergoing a process of recovery and there are very specific steps to healing that have been laid out before me, even though while I am actually doing the work and following those steps I can feel the pain, doubt and self loathing lifting from me, as faith, hope, courage, humility and gratitude take their place; I find from time to time, that I get distracted and pause in the process, and when I pause in the process I find fear and the moment that happens, that little boy hops into the Captain’s chair in my mind and suddenly everything that the day before was so beautiful, acceptable and right, turns dark and sinister and ugly.

I am in the middle of what are supposed to be the most transforming steps in my program of recovery and I paused because I allowed other things to seem more important and now I am suffering, now I am afraid. Now I am wrestling with what must seem to be a ridiculous question of faith to some and I am terrified of letting go suddenly of many of my character defects, because they have been like an armor to me, a cursed armor that has been killing me even as it protects me, but none-the-less it has been protective. To trust, really and truly trust other people, indeed to trust god and myself has a ring of horror to it. It is such a ridiculously simple thing, what it all boils down to in the end.

Come to trust and accept that all is as it should be, learn to relax and embrace myself and life itself, finding serenity on the other side of that surrender

or, reject that continue on in pain and misery.

What is the nature of my crisis of faith?  I fear people will laugh and not understand, but it is very real to me and is not some kind of melodrama.

Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must”, then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. – Rainer Rilke  Letters to a Young Poet, Volume One

Though beyond the odd poem or blog, I have written very little over the last 6 years or so, I have always considered myself a writer because I cannot stop the impulse, cannot stop thinking about it and it has been that way since I was in grade school.  It has been known to me from a very young age that this is God’s universe and that I have been given these gifts for a reason. This is the cornerstone of both my faith and my current crisis. A little over three years ago, driving to an AA meeting in North Carolina, I had a spiritual experience, my first legitimate one since childhood. It suddenly struck me that I had not only wasted my talents for writing, using them for nothing but making money; I had chosen drinking and drugs over my gifts that mission that I was given.  I was so moved that I had to pull over and weep. I made my apology to my own divine trinity, The Word, The Muses and The Divine and Beautiful.

I soon forgot, circling back from time to time, expecting some sort of order, for the Muse to tell me what to write, though I have had little conscious contact with them or The Word. I have many ideas, many impulses to write, but I left them alone, shrugging off time constraints or paralyzed by uncertainty which of things in my head are a part of the mission. Painfully, I see today that there is a possibility that all of it, any of it, could be what I was meant to put down. There will be no moment where Brigid  or Gabrielle or any other muse or angel will appear to me and announce the instructions to my mission.

And here is the final bit that I hide from everyone I know, myself included: I believe – I am a believer, a mystic, transcendental poet, capable of working words like a prophet, with the heart of a child and the trembling soul of one charged with illuminating a divinity I myself could not possibly hope to understand. This is why I cry when I watch or think too much of Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh, or Alice – because while my head my have turned from faith, from the mystical truths and power of belief, my heart, locked away in the dungeon I created for it, never did and somewhere, I knew I was betraying my heart and the God’s that created it.

I believe:

  • Anything, anything conceivable by the human mind is possible
  • That there is not a force more powerful or important in this Universe or any other more powerful that love. Which means it must be the very essence of our creator
  • I believe in the power of words, that they are more powerful that medicine or weapons; so how we speak to ourselves in thought and out loud to others is of great importance. Negative words, construct negative ideas and drive negative behavior..from the choice of words to care with which they are spoken and cadence that they march out of us, every syllable counts
  • I believe being awe struck, filled with wonder and incorrigibly optimistic are some of the best food for the soul
  • I believe that every single thing in the Universe is beautiful and divine, and a part of a system created by the The Word that is perfect, that all apparent systems within in are copies of the larger system and that if you understand one of those systems, you understand everything.
  • I believe in the muses, I believe that they not only work to inspire and illuminate for me, but actually push the message of the word through me, whenever I get out of the way
  • I believe that all acts of communion among human beings are divine and wonderful, this includes acts of mercy, consenting acts of passion and sex, kindness, community prayer and worship, rituals, family gatherings and so on
  • I believe in the message of Christ, of Buddha and other great religious figures
  • I believe that Martin Luther King and Gandhi where recent avatars of God
  • I believe requirements for faith are not God’s concern, that turning from your creator does not make his/her ego bruise, but will cause you suffering, because you must go through everything frightened and alone
  • I believe that I should be writing more

I believe that if I can let that scared and angry little boy grow up to have trust, faith and wonder again, that great things are ahead for myself and for everyone else in my life.  I believe too that since it will not leave me alone, one day, I hope sooner rather than later I will return to writing regularly and that whatever I am supposed to do will be done in time.

Written by jamesjanus

April 19, 2012 at 7:31 pm

where are we going and why am I in this handbasket?

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I am not sure where the Universe is pushing me, what it has planned for me or what myself, my loves and my destination will look like in the near future. In other words, I am so entirely lost that there is very little I know and undertand at this point. I am not sure if I don’t know who I really am, or if I just don’t know how to be, accept and embrace who I really am. A few days ago those thoughts had me terribly bothered. Monday night, something happened and I couldn’t tell you what exactly, though my intuition tells me it was a spark, an ember of the fire that will lead me to a promised spiritual experience, one that I am yearning and working for. I have, more often than not, felt quite simply, grateful and positive since Monday night. I am still lost, much is still very unclear and I know little more about my destination than I where I am presently, but for now, I think that is just fine. I don’t know. I don’t know what God, or myself, or the world at large expects of me, in a broad and general sense. I do know a few things, such as, there are things I can do each day that are positive and necessary, that are helpful to others and will aide me in getting outside of myself. I can do some chores around my house, cook my family dinner, spend quality, honest time with my wife and kids, go to work and be productive, go to the gym and put in my best effort. I can read, pray and do step work and go to a meeting, share honestly about my experience, strength and hope and offer any aide I can to other alcoholics, which for now is limited to physical services like rides, sharing at the tables and trading phone numbers and calls. I can resist the temptation to go back and edit rambling entries like these, allow the imperfect to be just that and not worry about anything more than the action of writing, as a quiet meditation and a practice. 

I would like to thank AA, my friends there, those who started the whole thing and I would like to thank my Higher Power for the grace, strength and courage I have been given to go along with my existence and the existence of all other things. I am confused, I am uncertain, I am lost, but that is alright, because I don’t have the steering wheel anyway and I believe the power that does will get me where I need to be.

 

Gratitude.

Written by jamesjanus

February 8, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Gratitude, Attitude, Affect

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I forget to pray for the angels
And then the angels forget to pray for us.

Once upon a time I sat in rooms and watched as men and women, their heads hung in shame, confessed before a crowd of peers that they had lost their recovery. Some had drank again, others just stopped doing the right things, stopped showing up and their disease and therefore their lives had once again become unmanageable.  At the time, I told myself this is important, this is truth, remember this. I sussed out the dangerous pattern that every one of them had followed. First, they stopped showing up and without the accountability, they slowly stopped doing the steps and the other rituals, they told themselves they are strong enough now to go it alone anyway. Soon, they lost sight of what was important, of whom was important, then they decided all of those things were okay and then before they knew it, they were in trouble and they started tossing out whatever good things existed in their lives, dancing all over the self destruct button.

The ones I met were the lucky ones, I knew that too, many never make it back, dead, in prison or on the way to both destinations.  I took all of this in, once upon a time. I made myself pay attention so  I would remember the stories.  I told myself, this will never happen to me, I would never be so dumb.

Then…I stopped showing up. I stopped doing the steps and staying vigilante; I decided I was strong enough to go it alone, I forgot all about those people and their stories, the same story, over and over and over again. I decided I was special, I was the one in a million alcoholic that could carry the burden by myself. For a while, I think perhaps I did alright, or I just wasn’t tested. But I too lost sight of what was important, I grew selfish and lost all gratitude for the things I was given every single day. I grew negative and greedy and over the last few weeks, I nearly drove the best of my blessings out of my life. All to learn a lesson for the millionth time since I started with AA. I am not special, I am not immune, I am not different.  It will happen to me, as it has everyone else. I am not the one that can do it when no one else can. That is apparently a very hard pill for me to swallow and keep down.

The truth is that, while I am not weak, I have a disease that is stronger than I am, it is so much stronger than I am that it takes the help of everyone around me, rituals, constant maintenance and the aide of God to relieve me of the symptoms.  I have to accept that and surrender to it. I have to believe too that maybe this was all by design, maybe I never really gave myself over entirely, my will, my commitment. A lesson hard learned and as usual not at my expense alone.

To that end and with the choice of not doing what I needed to, I hurt someone. I hurt Kim and while I am remorseful, I know that I must be more than sorry, that I must right myself and make amends for my poor judgement and the ensuing behavior.  She has forgiven me my trespass and that in itself is something to be grateful for, because my behavior could easily have cost me her and the boys.

The subject of Kim, leads me to something else, to another apology and amends that I must make.  To my Higher Power, the god I pray to. In the last two years I have been showered with blessings, almost non-stop; The love and kindness of friends and family, a job, not being drunk and experiencing hope and happiness – then the coupe de grace, this woman, this wonderful amazing woman who loves me more than I deserve, those beautiful boys of hers and the experience of connecting with them and caring for them, all of it heaped upon me as though I was deserving of it. My response, my response was greed: to ask for more and throw fits when I my requests went unanswered or a small bump appeared in my path.  I seldom asked anyone what I can do for them, what I should be doing to be worthy of the gifts I was handed, I just asked for more.  I am sorry it got to here before I saw all of this, but I know now what I have, what I nearly lost and that I should be thanking you and the universe and the people around me every day for the things I have.

So, I will learn soon what it is to stand in one of those rooms and say I lost my recovery because I thought I knew better. thought I could go it alone.  It doesn’t matter that I didn’t drink, because ultimately that isn’t the point, the point is to be rid of the defects of character that made being an addict possible. The point is to be restored to being a valuable, useful, purposeful human being that is of use and value to the people around him, rather than being a drain or a terror.  So, thank you, thank you to everyone for dealing with me.

The affect of losing sight of the blessings in your life is the elevation of things that do not deserve to be important, the turning of your own attitude to darkness and the destruction of those things in your life that are good.  Kim, the beat of my heart now, the sun in my sky, I love her and the kids and I nearly let it all go because I wasn’t doing the right things and I lost sight of what was important and stopped appreciating my blessings.

Remember to ask Mr J, everyday, Am I in Recovery? Am I doing the right things? What do I have to be grateful for? How can I serve other people today?

Written by jamesjanus

June 25, 2010 at 3:52 pm