When I first got sober I was grateful for all the “things” I could/should/would do. I needed to keep busy at that time, lest those squirrels start-up in my mind, one more time. So in this instance I was grateful for the additional “time fillers.” I have seen others coming in to the Program who wonder how they are going to do all that is needed to get and stay sober. It is important to fill those hours with Program, rather than drinking. Many are amazed at how much time they spent drinking, and now sober they have all this time on their hands. So initially keeping busy in the Program is a good thing.
Life takes work, recovery takes work, and trying to be perfect, and do everything perfectly, well I have come to understand that will never happen – not in my lifetime. So I do the best I can and leave the rest in God’s capable hands.
In learning to forgive others their misdeeds towards me, I also learned about forgiving myself. At first, the idea that I needed to be forgiven was a secondary consideration – I mean my problems were the result of the misbehavior of others, right? Wrong! In working on the Fourth Step I came to understand that I had a part in my life, that it was me and me alone who made those poor decisions and choices. I had to first give up my role as a victim, and accept the responsibility for my life choices. Through this process, I began to understand that I was not alone, anymore. I came to accept a Higher Power in my life, and to focus on the here and now of today, rather than the journey I was taking on the wrong path. With God in charge I began to find my path, a path that would lead me to peace, serenity, courage, and willingness. I did not have to continue beating myself up for my imperfections, I found that I could forgive myself for just being human. God works in my life, but I have to work and live in God’s world also. It’s “A Two-Way Street.” I found that the more I was able to forgive others, the easier it became to forgive myself. This journey we call life can be a challenge at times, while at other times it can be a wondrous thing. My job in this process is to keep going forward, step by step, and minute by minute. As to forgiveness I have heard it said in the rooms of A.A., that if God can forgive us, how can we not forgive ourselves?
This journey we call life is truly amazing! It never ceases to surprise me with new challenges, and new directions. When I look back, and compare the “old” me with the “new” me, I can see the changes that have occurred in my life. My journey is an upward path, that climbs higher and higher with each passing day, and each passing year. I am grateful from the bottom of my toes to the tip of my nose – thanks to the Program of Alcoholics Anonymous and to all of you out there from THIS24!!!
The other day I only talked about the first 6 promises….here are the rest:
#(7) We will lose interest in selfish things, and gain interest in our fellows. It’s not all about me, me, me today – I genuinely have an interest in others who are in the Program, and those just coming to the Program. I do not have a romantic interest in others, and have come to understand that my best relationship is the one I have with the God of my understanding.
#8 Self-seeking will slip away. I’m in the Program for myself, but it does not end there, I’m not in the Program for my own self-gratification – I’m in the Program so that I can be of service to others – and in order to be of service to others I must have something to give, and what I have to give is my experience, strength and hope. But I don’t give with the expectation of getting, I give of myself that I might be of use to others. I believe it is God’s will for me to stay sober and help others, period.
#9 Our whole attitude and outlook on life will change. My attitude has changed – a lot. I no longer harbor negative feelings, nor do I expect that the World owes me. It’s just the opposite – I owe the World for the blessing of the Program, and for the gift of a Higher Power. Today my attitude is one of humility and gratitude, as I have come to terms with my character defects and work to revert them on a daily basis.
#10 Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. I no longer place my life in the hands of others, and that includes King Alcohol. Through the A.A. recovery process I have reclaimed my life, on a daily basis. Fear of other people has been replaced by faith in God, faith in others, faith in the process, and faith in myself. Economic insecurity has been turned into feelings of having “enough” of whatever it is I think I need. God has been good to me in many ways, and my concerns about having enough money to live on has been restored to a point where my focus is the Program, my own recovery, and getting to know the God of my understanding.
#11 We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. I have come to an understanding that “handling” situations means more than “fixing” them, it now means adopting a Spiritual Principle to work towards, so that future problems can be met with some sense of peace and acceptance. I have learned to take a few minutes to gain some knowledge of the problem, to pray about it, and to wait for God’s response – that gut-level feeling of either ease or dis-ease. I now know that I need to take a little time with situations and try not to make those life-changing on the spot decisions that can affect not only me but others around me, as well.
#12 We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Alone, I failed – time and again. Alone I was lost, afraid, desperate for a way out, and sure that failure was just around the next corner. I tried everything I could think of to change my life – and it did not happen. I tried abstinence, I tried marrying the “right” guy, I tried religion, I tried “programs,” I tried and tried to be who I was not. Coming to A.A. enabled me to find my “trudge buddy” God – it took more than just me, it took me AND God. Together with the God of my understanding I have not only stopped drinking, I have come to terms with myself as a child of God, one who has found much work to be done – that I then might be of some help to others.
These are the Promises – “They will always materialize if we work for them.” They are visible in many Fellowship halls, and quite often they can be heard at the end of a meeting. They are something to aspire to, they are something to have hope for, and they are something to believe in – the Promises do come true, when we work towards them. I have ceased fighting anything or any one – even alcohol – these are the miracles of A.A., and they are how we keep in fit spiritual condition.
I walked into my first A.A. meeting at the age of 24. It appeared to me that the average age of the people in that room was about 3 years older than dirt. Actually it was more like 50, 14 years younger than I am now. Anyway, I did not stick around.
My second time was 4 years later in 1978 after accumulating more of the usual crap most of us accumulate. I must have been desperate enough because I followed directions and stayed sober for the next 18 years.
Fast forward to April 1996 one of my daughters rode her brand new shiny red bicycle into the path of an on coming car …and was killed. Shortly after that I started pulling away from A.A. dropped meeting attendance, service commitments, Stopped attending A.A.social functions and started to avoid A.A. members.
Shortly after my 18th A.A. anniversary on October 8th 1996 I picked up my next first drink and the next 4 years were sheer hell.
After only a few weeks I was drinking as often as I could and as much as I could, and by the end of the year I quit my job and was really off and running. I would lock my doors close my drapes and unplug the phone, and drink and drink and drink. Wild Turkey, Mad Dog, Steel Reserve, and Vanilla Extract.
After I sold my house and was living on the street. Vanilla became my beverage of choice (35-40% alcohol). The only smart thing I did back then was put two large chunks of money from the sale into non accessible trust accounts for my other girls and a retirement account for me. The rest I went through very very quickly which was strange in that living in the bushes rent was nonexistent.
After my money was gone I turned to a life of crime to support myself…shoplifting. I became the scourge of all the local grocery stores and if I say so myself, I did a good job of keeping the store shelves cleared of Vanilla Extract.
Oddly enough I believed this saved my life because I would invariably get caught and wind up in jail for 30-90 days.
This was enough time to get well again and when I got out back to the bushes I went. Through no planning on my own I managed to spend most of each winter from 1997 to 1999 in jail otherwise I am sure I would be dead. Something about drunks and fools I guess.
I would spend my summers in the local parks watching normal folks do normal folk things, and of course drink my handy-dandy Vanilla. I smelled better that the Pillsbury Dough Boy. Watching those families I was more isolated than when I was holed up alone in my house. I must have been pretty non threatening and pathetic because every so often one of these normal folk would approach me with blankets, clothes, sleeping bag, food and money.
Of course I was not doing a thing to benefit my health in spite of the fresh air and outdoor living. You can’t attempt to puke up your guts multiple times a day without doing some serious damage and as a result I now have a Barrett’s Esophagus which are precancerous pre Esophageal Varices conditions that require ongoing monitoring.
I also have Atrial Fibrillation which is now under control but all I would need to is take a drink or ten and my heart would be off to the races literally.
Finally in September 2000 I had enough and I became convinced I would not survive another winter and that my body would be found in the bushes. I did not want to do that to my brother or father so I prayed, “God help me and the rest of my life is yours.” The next morning I was arrested (rescued) and the rest as they say is history. In thirteen years nine months almost every thing I lost has been restored to me most importantly being myself.
Money, money, money! That was my driving force for many years, it just seemed like I never had enough. I envied others who had money, or at least an education that enabled them to earn lots of money. I was always trying to outsmart others when it came to money, and I was not above cheating and lying to get more money. The ability to earn a living seemed to come easier for others – at least that is the way it felt, for me. I would drive around “high-end” neighborhoods and wonder what the people inside these beautiful homes do for a living, how did they arrive at a place where they could afford such “elegance?” I resented my family for being poor, and truly thought that I was limited by them. College was not something I even hoped for, I was sure they would not let someone like me into those hallowed halls. I assumed I was too dumb to learn, and defeated myself before I even got started.
Thank goodness I no longer reside inside that “world of hurt and anger.” I now know that no one owes me anything, that it is up to me as to where I want to be in this life. I also know that I am really blessed in so many different ways, my resentments have greatly decreased, I have stopped comparing my insides with the outsides of others. I no longer feel that the world owes me anything – and to be very honest, I, for the most part, have everything I need and most of what I want – thanks to recovery and my Higher Power, God. It has taken many years to be able to say that I am content with the life that God chose for me. I count my blessings daily, I know that today I am truly one of “chosen ones.” I owe my life to God, and just as God has given me life through recovery – I am blessed to live again in God’s world of surrender, peace and acceptance..
I find it rather ironic that we have 12 Steps, 12 Traditions, 12 Concepts, and 12 Promises. These four basics of our program were developed or created at various times, and yet there came to be 12 of each of these. It is said that the Twelve Steps are the “how” of the Program, while the Twelve Traditions serve as the “why,” of the Program. The Twelve Steps were the first to be introduced in the Program, as they served as a means of coming to terms with the disease of alcoholism. Over time it became apparent that the Program needed some basic “rules” of order when it came to the actual “running” of the Program – ergo the Traditions were “born.” The Twelve Concepts relate to service at the “World” level, and were composed with that in mind. The Twelve Promises are in the original 164 pages of the Big Book, and could therefore be considered to be the very first of these four “guides.”
The Promises are wonderful reminders of the benefits of staying sober. Every once in a while I catch myself reading them during a meeting, and wondering how my recovery relates to the Promises. Many of them have come to pass in my life, much to my surprise and gratification. I have certainly found a new happiness and a new freedom – unlike anything before. My past – I have come to terms with that and work to be of service to others that my “sins” be forgiven and my “God-given” attributes have been put to good use. I have known more peace than at any other time, I have shared my life that I might help others to understand their lives. Feelings of uselessness and self-pity – well I really don’t have time for all that stuff anymore, not when I get my butt into service to others. And these are just the first six Promises. I love all the Promises and am surly blessed. Peace to all of you and to those struggling…..find a NEWCOMER!!! ♥
It is true for me that I am never completely free from fear. I trust in my Higher Power, God, but I still have those moments when fear reaches out and claims my heart with a cold hand. I have less fear today though as the result of living a life of recovery. Over time my faith has deepened and my fears have been shown to be what they truly are – unfounded, but rooted in my past which was full of doubt and insecurity. Working the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous has helped me to dispel some of those fears, and yet, I still struggle with total freedom from fear.
Fear does not leave me – ever. But it no longer controls my life and my actions. Fear tells me not to reach out and touch that stove than burned my finger yesterday. Fear tells me that I am on the wrong path – but faith tells me this is untrue – I am on the right path, a path to the God of my understanding. Fear tells me to give up, but faith tells me to never let go – there is always hope. Fear tells me I am unworthy, but faith tells me I am but a child of God, and as such, are always in His loving care. Faith tells me to believe, to trust in God, to hold on to God’s grace and blessings, ….and to Keep the Faith!