The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 76,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
The road ahead gets foggy sometimes. Just as I start to feel on top of everything and certain about where I need to go and what I need to work on, a haze can descend around me and undermine my confidence. If I wrestle with my doubts on my own, they may or may not clear up, slowly, quickly or not at all. If I use what I have learned in AA to examine my uncertainty, I tend to get to the bottom of it fairly soon. When there is no immediate answer, I focus on the solution that is always there for me. Work my Program. Meetings, sponsors, sponsees, steps, reading, writing, turning it over, asking for help. Someone I met in AA in my first few meetings told me that the Steps are what keep you occupied while God straightens your life out. It is not realistic that I will always have signs pointing the way for me, or people in yellow jumpsuits waiving brightly lit orange flare sticks, guiding me toward my gate. What I can be sure of, though, is that faithfully practicing the principles of AA on a consistent, long-term basis will keep me from straying too far off course.
“Though he is now a most effective member of Alcoholics Anonymous, he still smokes and drinks coffee, but neither his wife nor anyone else stands in judgment.”
Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 135
We hear a lot about coffee in AA. The phrase “going to coffee afterwards” has become synonymous with Fellowship in the Program. Across the U.S. there are official AA meetings held in the back corners of coffee shops. Listening to an AA speaker C.D. recently, I heard “if you’re at Denny’s at three in the morning, you’re either a member of Alcoholics Anonymous or you are soon are going to be one.”
This post is not an essay in defense of coffee or caffeine or to advocate coffee as an aid in recovery. I like to think of Fellowship over coffee as the liquid corollary to “breaking bread.” Sitting across the table from another alcoholic and sharing about recovery over a cup of something is a lot different than fidgeting in front of one’s psychiatrist while she probes into childhood memories. There is no evaluation, assessment and diagnosis. We already know what we are. There is either truth or fiction. There is an unchanging set of principles. We are all on the same 164 pages.
There may be people sitting at the tables on either side of us. Remarkably, they neither hear us clearly nor care what we are saying. This is not the moment for a Fifth Step, which indeed should occur somewhere other than Starbucks. But many turning points and “aha moments” have taken place over cups ‘o Joe. There is something about sitting with someone who has or wants some AA wisdom and hearing the gentle clinking of a spoon against ceramic. It is a sacred moment. We are here to lift our cups and hearts and hopes together. And a little jolt can be a good thing . . .
It is too easy for me to fixate on the details of my life and my many little concerns. The more I return to thinking about them, the more important they seem. This kind of focus is necessary, of course, but not as a continual mode of being. It helps me so much to step back and gain perspective. I love to see physical reminders of how transient and small my earthly preoccupations really are. It happens when I see a redwood tree that makes me feel as tiny as a twig. Or when I look across the span of a lapis blue ocean, witnessing the curve of the planet before me. I am reminded when I see a mountain that has pressed up out of the earth for millions of years, a snow-laden granddaddy gazing down upon us. When I see a stallion, domesticated but wild, a thunderous tremor of power and pride. Forces greater than I abound. To me they are calling cards of the great source of it all. The world is wondrous and staggering, stunning and sorrowful, singing and weeping, pounding and whispering. I have been here to see it with sober eyes. For this I am filled with gratitude. I return to the lists and papers and calls and appointments. But now and then I stop and listen. I hear the river rushing. I feel the snow falling. A lone leaf cascades down between wind-blown branches. A power greater than all my thoughts and deeds and imaginings waits just outside my door. The door that opens in my quiet heart.
Sometimes when we are new we have the misconception that our thinking won’t change. We will just always be biting our tongue and ‘acting right’ all the while freaking out inside and running to a safe place to vent/gossip and will always need a sponsor to tell us how to not screw things up. I mean you can’t change what’s in your head right? Well I believe there is a solution to our thinking problem. As I heard in my early days: “We act our way into right thinking, we don’t think our way into right action” It is one of our pragmatic colloquialisms that can help us grasp the reality of spiritual awakening.
First we have to begin the work of acting differently, acting according to the principles, even though our minds want to stay in the comfort of the familiar old unhealthy pattern. So we MUST take suggestions from the program and from our sponsors.
I was judgmental, negative and just plain pissed off way too often. I had to do some work. This program is simple- but not easy. I started with a thorough 4-9th steps and a HUGE amount of change occurred, but I was finding that I had remnants of defects lingering. For example if someone would say something petty and nasty to me my face would react and my old habit of self righteous anger would pop right up.
To begin to change I would do as my sponsor suggested. Pause and pray. “Nope don’t go there” I would tell myself. As soon as I find this happening I had to make a conscious effort to smile calmly and keep my mouth shut. Now I’ve gotten past the encounter but my mind would be ready to rampage on what they just did. Instead I turn my thoughts to some AA rhetoric, words from my sponsor and pray “God let me let this go.” Deep breaths. It is hard at first, some days I was exhausted wrestling with myself but I knew I had to do things differently. It got easier and easier until letting the little petty things go became my new habit. I truly don’t have this unhealthy pattern as a dominant part of my mind or my life any longer. I joke that AA has ruined self righteous anger and self pity for me. Even on occasion when my thoughts begin to go there, it just doesn’t have the same fire to it. It’s empty and hollow and quickly cast aside for a prayer.
I don’t believe God just lifts our defects away. He lifts our eyelids to the truth and gives us the principles and people in AA.
Some days I am in perpetual motion. I resist the idea of being still because I am sure it will kill the drive that enables me to “get it all done.” I read books that tell me to “sharpen the saw” and that rest and contemplation are the key to long-term productivity. But when I feel the high of running on triple time, I forget the wisdom of pacing myself, the need to pray and meditate in my Program. Of course the wheels eventually grind to a halt, and I pay the price for the time I have stolen. Substance abuse took so much away from me. It nearly took everything. When AA gave me my life back, I wanted to make up for lost time, to fill every moment with development and achievement. But my race against the invisible clock is just another adrenaline-pumping drug.
Stillness, contemplation and meditation have some immediate benefits, but their greatest gifts unfold over time, often in surprising ways. Sitting in stillness is a way of learning humility. On the most basic level, it reaffirms that I am not the ultimate source of my creativity, wisdom and intuition. My brain can be a vessel for these things, but it is not the wellspring. If I quiet myself long enough and fully enough, I can feel the vibration of the universe all around me, feel the smallness of my physical being and my worldly concerns. If I can become completely still, I can see that any boundaries I create between the entity I call “myself” and the greater energy surrounding me, are borders of my own conception. If I can be both still and completely open, I can feel a power that is trillions of times stronger than the locomotion of my willpower. On my own I can run and run. If, instead, I join the flow of this massive current of energy, I can transcend the bounds of gravity, time and space altogether.
The month of December focuses on that Twelfth Step, helping the alcoholic who still suffers. At the end of some meetings we pause for a moment, to remember the alcoholic who still suffers. Finally, I remember the first time I heard someone chairing a meeting say, ”The newcomer is the most important person in the room.” Let me tell you how important I felt those first two months. Like the VIP of the latest club, only problem was I still wasn’t sure I truly belonged nor wanted to be part of. The simple kindness that flows from our meeting rooms is immense. I cannot even put into words the miracle that happens in there. All I know, is that lives get saved within the walls of Alcoholics Anonymous. An old timer named, Pancho shared last night about the people who don’t make it back. He shared with everyone how they don’t make it back to the chairs to say, “Oh, yes. I did die. This disease allowed me enough time to kill myself.” Pancho went on to explain how we never hear the end of “their “stories cause they are now gone forever. We don’t want to look too closely at the “what- went-wrong-people”. I took a breath and realized how powerful that truth was. My friend was really focused on those newcomers and two other members who had relapsed and returned. His eyes were literally piercing these two men when he said, “I am so grateful you made it back. Not everyone gets that luxury.” I felt the energy he was putting out there towards these two men. I caught a piece of it as it moved passed me, finally reaching them. I can only describe it as wisdom and pure love. Now that is what I call a true Twelfth Step. Wisdom and pure love.