Surrendering

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Surrendering, for me, was such an opposite to what had been my experience before recovery.  I struggled with life from the time I was very young.  I struggled to be accepted, I struggled to fit in, I struggled to be liked by others, I struggled to understand life, other people, and I struggled with the concept of God – who was this power greater than anyone???  And how was I to get sober by giving up? It was giving up, or giving in to others.  “On the face of it surrendering certainly does not seem like winning.  But it is in A.A.  Only after we have come to the end of our rope, hit a stone wall in some aspect of our lives beyond which we can go no further; only when we hit “bottom” in despair and surrender, can we accomplish sobriety which we could never accomplish before.  We must, and we do, surrender in order to win.” (Taken from “The Professor and the Paradox” Alcoholics Anonymous, Second Edition, pp. 341,342)

But that is exactly what it took for me to claim any amount of sobriety.  I had to give up trying to control people, places and things.  I had to give up trying to control my drinking – King Alcohol was winning every bout I had with the bottle.  I thought for sure that I would need more “control” instead of less – but it was in the surrendering that I received the power to recover from my addiction to alcohol.  I came to the tables at the end of my “rope” A.A. was the last house on the block – there was nowhere else to go.  I came to A.A. willing to try something new, something different.  The rest of my life was before me and I wanted desperately for that time to be free of the chaos, the pain, the absolute lunacy of continuing to drink myself into the pit I was in.

I know today that I can’t but we can.  I know today that I must surrender to win.  There are many aspects of the Program which took me a while to comprehend. . . that’s why the three most important words you will hear in a meeting are “Keep Coming Back.”  Recovery is a life-long process that continues to unfold, day after day.  It is my hope and my prayer that I continue to grow, continue to change and continue to be blessed with the knowledge that without my Higher Power, without A.A. I will not survive.

Blessing Tree from Maggs

Blessing Tree from Maggs

The 3rd Tradition

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I latched onto Tradition Three right away when I first came to the Fellowship.  I was told to try and identify with the similarities, not the differences between me and the other members at the tables. When I heard others tell their stories, there were many instances that differed from my story, and it worried me.  Someone told me to focus on Tradition Three – I did and I found that I did have that desire to stop drinking.  In the beginning, I heard a lot of differences, but gradually I began to hear the similarities.  I found that alcoholism was not a matter of how much I drank, how often I drank, what I drank, where I drank, or with whom I drank – it was what happened when I drank.  Well, I could certainly relate to that – once I began to drink I lost the ability to stop drinking.  I usually drank until I either passed out or the booze ran out.  I drank as much as I could, as fast as I could. . .  and then another blank spot in my memory took over.  I would awaken the next morning, feeling bad – hung over, sick to my stomach, full of remorseful feelings and face to face with that horrible loss of memory about what I did.  Where was my car?  Did I write any checks?  I also found that there were others in the rooms of A.A. who had similar experiences as me.  I started hearing others talk about their feelings – and I found I could relate to those feelings.  I found that we each developed our own version of the Program, but there were some basics that were included in the program, regardless of how much time in the Program we had.  Abstinence, meetings, step work, sponsorship, service, and a belief in and acceptance of a Higher Power.  These seem to be the “core” of a life in recovery.

The primary purpose of the A.A. Fellowship is to stay sober and carry the message of recovery to others.  The primary purpose of my recovery is to get sober and be of service to others.  The doors to A.A. are open to all who enter – love and tolerance is our code.  I pray that I may continue on this path to acceptance of all who desire sobriety.  I pray that I never forget the acceptance and tolerance that others afforded me when I was the “newcomer.”  Today I am free to be just who I am – a sober woman living a life of recovery.  Now it is my time to give, to accept, and my turn to say “Hi, my name’s Bonnie, welcome to A.A.”

Photo Courtesy of M.K.

Photo Courtesy of M.K.

From you to me to you!!!

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The Twelfth Step does not claim that we have a full knowledge of our disease or of the Program itself.  What is does state is that “Having had a spiritual awakening. . .”  So an assumption is made about our spiritual condition as the result of being in recovery and having worked all the eleven Steps before I even get to the last Step.  It also assumes that we now have a message to carry – and it is the message of our journey in the Program of Alcoholics Anonymous.  How did we get sober?  How do we stay sober?  What is a Higher Power? These questions and others are pivotal to the newcomer.  One alcoholic talking with another is the most common form of sponsorship.  Working Step Twelve requires that I practice all twelve of the Spiritual Principles, as well.  Once I quit drinking, my mind cleared and it was then that I began to learn about how my beliefs were tied to my behaviors.  Through A.A. I found I could not only change my behaviors, but I could change my entire life.  This whole process of getting sober and staying sober is a matter of continuance – day by day, and sometimes minute by minute.

This effort to stay sober is so much more than keeping the plug in the jug.  Once abstinence is attained, then comes the real battle – the battle of the mind.  Every time I attend a meeting I learn a new way of looking at an old problem.  Every time I talk with another alcoholic I discover a positive solution to a negative behavior.  Every time I pray I feel a little closer to the God of my understanding.  Every time!  Life continues to unfold for me; my recovery continues to grow and change. Through my relationship with others, my life with has been blessed with knowledge of my disease, and the awakenings of the Spiritual Principles that I hold dear.  Today I have both purpose and direction in my life.  I have learned from my sponsors and others, and now I work to pass on what I have learned to those whom I sponsor.

Photo Courtesy of Soto

Photo Courtesy of Soto

Singleness of Purpose

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REFLECTION COURTESY OF MAGGIE

One of the best life lessons I’ve learned from recovery is singleness of purpose. Such a simple idea and one that flows over in to life in general.  In terms of my drinking, all I have to do today is not drink. That can mean going to a meeting, talking to a fellow alcoholic, reading, praying, walking, anything…..as long as I don’t drink, I can do anything!

Sometimes family events can have singleness of purpose, such as funerals, weddings, anniversaries, holidays, however, ego’s usually ruin them. For me, I have made it a point to have singleness of purpose throughout my day. I guess it comes down to really paying attention to the 11 Step Prayer/ St. Francis Prayer and living it.

Lord, make me a channel of thy peace,

That where there is hatred, I may bring love;

That where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;

That where there is discord, I may bring harmony;

That where there is error, I may bring truth;

That where there is doubt, I may bring faith;

That where there is despair, I may bring hope;

That where there are shadows, I may bring light;

That where there is sadness, I may bring joy.

Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort

Than to be comforted;

To understand, than to be understood;

To love, than to be loved.

For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.

It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.

It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life.

Photo Courtesy of Soto

Photo Courtesy of Soto

Conversion means Change

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It took discipline for me to change my way of living.  I had to force myself to attend meetings, at first.  Then I began to see meetings as a blessings, as they enabled me to fill up my time – and not drinking meant I had lots of time on my hands.  I had to remain willing to do the footwork.  But I had to do the “work” in the spiritual realm.  That meant I had to get comfortable with some type of communication with the God of my understanding, so I worked at prayer.  I kept praying that God would help me with my struggles, that I would remain willing to work at prayer, that I would be able to gain a full understanding of God’s will for me.  Mainly I just kept asking this unknown God, to help me to gain knowledge of Him, to clarify my understanding of His role in my life, and for help when it came to the power to stay sober.  But stay sober, I did.

For me, there would not be any recovery if it were not for my Higher Power.  I fully believe that it takes the Program of A.A.; my Higher Power, and just as much discipline as I can muster on a day by day basis.  If I am to be of help to another alcoholic, I need to be able to “practice what I preach.”  Today, I am capable of change, I am capable of growth, in the Program and in myself.

Photo Courtesy of Tom S

Photo Courtesy of Tom S

On Being Convinced

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The Twelve Steps do not use the word “must,” but I know that I need to be convinced of my disease, that it will lead me to jails, institutions and death.  I “must” believe that truth, I must be convinced that to drink is to die.  I must be convinced if it is my hope to help others come to that same conviction.  I must be convinced of the terrible nature of the disease of alcoholism, if I am ever to get and stay sober.  It will take a power greater than me, greater than the disease and greater than the Twelve Steps, alone.  It will take a combined effort on the part of myself, my Higher Power, and the Program of Alcoholics Anonymous.  I must be convinced of this “power” to heal, this “power” to overcome, and this “power of the spirit” to come to such a place of acceptance and understanding.  If I cannot come to a place of being convinced, I will never be in a place of convincing others.  I, first, MUST come to a thorough conviction of the fact that my whole life depends on this one truth, alcoholism kills.  Only after I have become convinced of the true nature of the disease will I then be able to pass it on to others seeking help.

Working with others is nothing short of working for yourself.  I cannot begin to tell you how those who I have worked with have helped me in my recovery efforts.  Being a sponsor puts me in a place of constantly working the Twelve Steps, of attending meetings in support, of processing messages heard – time and again.  Helping others with the challenges of not drinking – and changing life-long habits and behaviors – all relate back to being convinced myself of this deadly disease.  I cannot pass on what I do not have.  Being convinced of my own disease enables me help convince others of theirs.

I know that I serve as an example of being a sober woman alcoholic.  My life, my actions, my participation in my own program all underscore my efforts to remain sober – and true to myself.  The very best statement I can make to a newcomer is to give credit for my blessings to God and the Program.  The Twelve Steps are at work in my life and in the lives of many others I see around the tables.  We are all examples of being convinced of our disease – each of us affirms this truth when we say “My name is Bonnie, and I’m an alcoholic.”

Photo Courtesy of Tom S

Photo Courtesy of Tom S

I Confess-I DID IT

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I have found that my willingness to share the intimate details of my life with others, opens the door for others to share with me.  My secrets were the source of my shame, as I lived in the quiet assumption that I was somehow bad.  Most of the time when I felt shame it was due to the behaviors I exhibited when I drank.  King alcohol certainly changed my demeanor, my personality and my behavior in many ways – most of which could be considered negative at best, and down right immoral at the worst.

I share here, sometimes on a very personal level.  I do so in the hopes of encouraging others to face themselves and their alcohol induced behavior.  I, like many of my contemporaries, demonstrated alcoholic behavior even before I began to drink.  I had “issues” from the time of my youth, way before I took my first drink.  Alcohol took those issues and twisted them into something very ugly – and those behaviors became so abhorrent that I drank to escape them – only to find them staring me in the face the morning after.  When I was able to release all those negative memories I found a freedom unlike anything I ever anticipated.  Boy, was I in for a surprise.  Life did not get worse for my confession – it got better!  Who knew?  Not me, nor does the newcomer – talk about a miracle!  If confessing my wrongs helps another to stay sober – well, sign me up, I’m in.  I am willing to give of myself, through myself, and to others.  Confession is good for the soul, and good for my recovery – as long as I remain willing to “pass it on.”

Photo Courtesy of SMB

Photo Courtesy of SMB

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