Crossing Frozen Ground

Alcoholism and addiction destroy and distort many relationships.  Even after we achieve sobriety and try to maintain it, there can be new damage done within families and between friends and acquaintances.  It is not easy to find a bridge toward someone we have distanced.  There is very little that counts as black or white in human relations.  Nearly everything is complex and nuanced, layers of meaning wrapped around guarded fears and hidden truths.

Before I had AA, I had no way to apologize.  I never knew how.  It also never seemed to be worth the risk of being shamed, diminished, and weakened.  I also grew up with the impression that other people’s opinions of me were very important, that I had an image to uphold.  In stark contrast to this, AA taught me that what other people thought of me was “none of my business.”  As time has gone by, I have looked at this statement with more discernment.  It is not my job to get everyone to like me, or to be distraught if they don’t.  That part is none of my business.  But when I encounter hostility or criticism, I do need to look for any truth that may lay in the rubble.  I need to take what is valid and disregard the rest.

AA has taught me that great things can be achieved when I am willing to give up my self-importance and my desire to control others.  It has taught me that there is no danger in risking another’s rebuke or rejection.  I have learned the peace that comes with knowing I have tried the best I can to reach out.  I have relationships that remain a frozen, barren landscape.  I do not know if the ice will ever melt, if the ground beneath our feet will once again be a lake on which we sail our boats together.  But unless I cross the ice, I will never give it a chance.

Photo Courtesy of Soto
Photo Courtesy of Soto


Today’s Reflection is Brought to You by Nina

I believe it is possible for an individual to emerge from unhealthy behavior patterns, no matter how long ‘ingrained’ the pattern seem to be. One example I find common among us is the pattern of attempting to manipulate or alter circumstances that are outside of our control. We each craft different approaches to control and enjoy the world around us but we have found our methods, despite variation of execution, are inevitably unsuccessful. It is when I repeat (and repeat) a behavior that is not yielding the desired outcome that I developed unhealthy patterns of thought and behavior which I describe as obsession. For me obsession was driven by a genuine desire for change, coupled with unwillingness to see my part in an entirely honest way.

Every being that exists is endowed with the ability to overcome circumstance, without changing circumstance itself, but by finding possibility change within ourselves to live in harmony with the world around us and all its circumstances. This is often referred to as ‘adaptation’ and all living beings are innately capable of it. For example a plant is growing in a rainforest. There is so much water that the plant is susceptible to rot, fungus etc. Over time it will develop a glossy external sheen on its leaves which allows it to take in needed water but allows the excess water to roll off the leaf’s surface. An important aspect to note in the application of the process of adaptation is that it is extremely gradual i.e. SLOW. In addition to time, essential factors for adaptation are a genuine desire to find a solution (willingness) and an accurate assessment of the circumstance (honesty)

My existence in this world ceaselessly pushes me to grow and I find it is always possible to find homeostasis no matter what the circumstance if I am willing and honest.

Photo Courtesy of Claude S
Photo Courtesy of Claude S


The Sweet Spot

My husband once told me about the small area of the baseball bat known as “the sweet spot.”  If the batter manages to hit the baseball (which is traveling at 90 mph) with that particular part of the bat, chances are good for a home run.  I seem to have a sweet spot when it comes to my spiritual fitness.  But it is more forgiving than the baseball bat.  If I can stay in the general vicinity of my ideal spiritual condition, I do pretty well.

What is my spiritual sweet spot?  It’s the place where my my humility balances out with my confidence.  It is where my honesty intersects with my wisdom.  It is where my fear exists and follows along but does not steer the ship.  It is where I am interested in other people at least as much as I am interested in myself.  It is where I wholeheartedly pursue my future, but always remember where I came from.

Every day, the addict inside of me starts thinking extreme thoughts.  Things are perfect.  Things are awful.  I am the best.  I am in danger.  I can make people behave as I wish.  I will get what I want no matter what. Every day, the sober person inside of me, who is much younger than the addict, stands up and denounces the lies that it hears.  The rest of the day they eye one another, each one plotting the other’s demise.  The sober person seeks the sweet spot.  Stands in it, slowly spinning around.  Here it is tranquil, glorious, safe.

Photography by John B
Photography by John B

Out of Place

There have been many times in and out of sobriety that I have felt out of place.  In sobriety, when I get this feeling, I just try to be of service to the best of my ability.  Sometimes that just means being present and pleasant.   In my drinking days, alcohol was the only answer to feeling out of place.  It blurred the edges between me and rest of society.  It took away the feeling that people were looking at me disapprovingly.  It made me bold and gave me attitude.  In my own mind people respected me more that way.  Eventually, drinking or not drinking, I was always out of place.  I was partying too hard for the small get together with friends.  I was hung over and fuzzy brained in a meeting of pinstripe suits and crisp white shirts.  I was having “a” drink with colleagues or clients and dying to make my escape to have more.  These days when I feel out of place I know that I must remain teachable.  The moment is calling on me to bring out the best of my coping skills, my graciousness, my patience.  The tables may have turned and now I am the one wishing everyone were not quite so hammered.  It may not be my ideal setting anymore.  I may feel out of place, but this is where I may have been placed.  I wait, watch, and listen.

Photo Courtesy of Angi
Photo Courtesy of Angi

Deadly Sin Number Three

“Sloth (Latin, Socordia) can entail different vices. While sloth is sometimes defined as physical laziness, spiritual laziness is emphasized. . . . Sloth has also been defined as a failure to do things that one should do. By this definition, evil exists when good men fail to act. . . .  By the 17th century, the exact deadly sin referred to was believed to be the failure to utilize one’s talents and gifts.”  (Wikipedia).

The Big Book tells us to start with the Seven Deadly Sins when we seek to identify our character defects.  Most of us have not spent much time coveting other people’s donkeys, but can easily identify with the symptoms of sloth.  For me, the word “sloth” conjures up a banana slug, although slugs no doubt work very hard to get from point A to point B.  I also envision a teenage boy in his eighth hour of playing Call of Duty with soda cans, pizza boxes and many items of unwashed clothing strewn about this feet.

When I was drinking, I used to think of myself as very hard working.  I was quite put off at the statement in the 12 x 12 “And with genuine alarm at the prospect of work, we stay lazy.” (p.49).  Surely the plaques on my wall were tangible evidence that this could not be true.  Had I not been commended many times for all my “hard work”?  The truth I eventually came to learn was this:  there is a difference between “hard work” and mindful work done with respect and gratitude.  I was very good at furrowing my brow, hunching over the desk, forgetting to eat, and getting home late at night.  Work was a feverish attempt to clear away obligations so that I could quickly get to the desired state of non-work.  One of the great gifts of sobriety for me has been to learn how to work with a lot more heart and intelligence and a lot less flailing, fear and martyrdom.

No doubt sobriety and the Steps are work in every sense of the word.  Unlike mediocre work at the shop or office which might allow us to slide by and not be fired, “half measures availed us nothing” in AA.  Here is the first work that has called on me to be honest and thorough throughout.  There is a reason that a Newcomer might “balk” when looking forward to this painstaking work.  What is sloth, if not an “easier, softer way”?  Going through the motions in the Program will have us peddling our bicycle around the parking lot.  It will not gets us into the solution.  Learning how to properly work the Program of Alcoholics Anonymous, a job I will never complete, has taught me how to really work.  How to put my entire being into what I do.  Ironically, “easy does it” has been the only inspirational poster on the wall, and there is not a plaque in sight.  Just a coin in my pocket that I must take care not to drop.

Photo Courtesy of SMB
Photo Courtesy of SMB

All Power

“But there is One who has all power” (Big Book P. 58)

Alcoholism creates a gladiator pit where the will and ego do battle against the unpredictable forces of life, fate, and human interaction.  Bloodied and battered the will and the ego drag themselves up from the sand and launch more futile assaults to wrest control of the alcoholic’s existence.  The masked and shielded victors cut them down again.  To this day my will is so formidable, and takes great convincing that it needs to fall to its knees.  It always has an answer.  It always envisions victory.

So long as I remember that there is One who has all power, I do not thrash around any more than necessary.  I came here seeking power, because I had none.  The Power I found  here could do much more than relieve the insanity of my alcoholism.  If I surrender completely to this Power, then something remarkable happens:  my will is busy practicing the skills and abilities given to me in this life, while a larger, omniscient presence guides those skills and abilities to their highest good, their optimal use.  When I give myself over to the Power, I become a living expression of love.  All Power becomes mine.

Photography by Soto
Photography by Soto

For the Goose and the Gander

The longer I have been involved with AA, the more relevance I have found in the Twelve Traditions.  At first they sounded like boilerplate provisions, and I didn’t listen very much.  Then I realized that these principles were the reason AA had survived all these years.  Now I am seeing how each of the Traditions has a message for me as an individual, and not just as part of a group.  What is good for the gander also turns out to be what is good for this goose.

1.  I need AA so I need to support AA.

2.  God is in charge here.  I am not the boss of anybody.

3.  As long as I want to be sober I belong here.  So does everybody else.

4.  It’s not my job to make people do things the way I want them done.

5. My primary purpose is to stay sober and carry the message.

6.  I can’t let money, property or prestige get in the way of my sobriety.

7.  If I want meetings and literature to be available, I need to do my fair share to pay their expenses.

8.  Everyone is a volunteer at the local group level.  Don’t treat them like employees.

9.  When I refer to AA, I need to keep in mind that I am referring to the Fellowship and its service organizations, not a corporation.

10.  I don’t need to bring my religion or my politics or the intimate details of my love life or work life to AA meetings.  When it comes to controversial subjects, I need to keep my mouth shut.

11.  I am not meant to force-feed sobriety to anyone.  This is a program of attraction.  I need to set an example.  If people don’t want what I have, I am not going to be a positive influence on them and they may be turned off to AA.

12.  I need to get over the fact that I don’t like certain people in the Fellowship.  We are all here for the very same reason.

Photo Courtesy of MX
Photo Courtesy of MX