Release From Fear in Recovery

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Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. AA Promises

I have come to enjoy this AA promise quite a bit.  And yes, there are certainly some people who I prefer not to run into, but it is not fear based.  I think of when I was driving down a busy street late one night early in recovery.  I saw a police car in my rear view mirror.  My typical m.o. was to take evasive action – turn down a street, do anything to try to get away.  My reason was not wanting to get stopped was for fear of a DUI, unpaid parking tickets, expired licence or who knows what.  But on that occasion after being sober for a couple of months, I was completely within the legal limits.  I was being accountable for my actions – had paid the tickets, had a current tag for my vehicle, and was sober.  I recollect in early sobriety even wanting to get stopped at one of those sobriety checkpoints occasionally set-up along the road to prove I was sober.  Today, I still wince a bit when a police car is behind me or I pass one on the road, and I suppose that is wholly natural.  But the fear usually comes if I am driving over the speed limit, talking on a cell phone while driving where it is outlawed, or somehow being on the other side of the law.

The same holds true for money.  I am certainly not wealthy by any standard, but there is nothing I cannot do that I want to do for economic reasons.  Today, my wants are tempered by my reality.  Removing the fear in these circumstance comes from living life on life’s terms.

This promise of recovery is a blessing that keeps me grounded in the real world.

Higher Power vs. My Power in Recovery

 

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How can I be sure I’m doing my Higher Power’s will? There is, of course, no certain way to know, but what I rely on is an inner sense of lightness and rightness. I pray for guidance, I ask for answers, I listen to my inner voice, and I talk to people whose opinion I respect. I also believe if what I’m doing is not my Higher Power’s will for me, I’ll find out, since it won’t work.       – Elizabeth L. Inner Harvest

I like this concept a lot, particularly the understanding that if I am into self-will and not the Higher Power’s will, it won’t work.  For me, a gauge of what works is the level of serenity I receive from my actions.  If I let go of resentments or work toward a solution, I am generally at peace with an issue.  This approach involves coming up with an action plan, carrying out the action, then letting it go of the results.  The action plan is best derived by the process described in the above quote.

The opposite approach is thinking through a plan of action (or inaction) completely based on self-will.  These results consistently don’t work, and require me to come up with another action plan based on self-will.  In so doing, I get sucked into a spiral that produces more and more anxiety with no good results – it does not work.

The “does it work” really is the bottom line.  If I ask myself the question: Is what I am doing now based in self-will about my addiction working? If the answer is no, considering an approach that includes a power greater than myself is the next best step.

 

 

More God and Recovery

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We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves – Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 84

Statements like this are what I struggled with in early recovery, and before that, while actively practicing my addictions.  I have taken a very long time to unpack and let go of my early training in religion.  I am impressed and perhaps a bit jealous of the ease that many folks in recovery speak of their concept of a God that is void of a judgmental male with a white beard, etc. etc.  In the sense that there is some dude or dudette pulling the strings on life and creation, I have long considered myself an atheist, and still do.

But I also believe the very essence of recovery for me is to get out of myself, my own ego’s direction, and live into the Good Orderly Direction that is harmony with a higher power.  In that way, I can tap into the God within, the “this little light of mine” concept.

I accept, embrace, and appreciate this Promise of recovery like never before.  I am truly blessed that recovery has given me the opportunity to get out of myself and live as part of a luminous web of the universe.  Today, recovery allows me to live in community with that universe as opposed to being an irritant or an obstacle in that universe.  How that translates into a God or higher power, is a discussion I have pretty much stopped trying to figure out.  I do fully understand that self-sufficiency in this area has never worked for me.   Truly this promise of Recovery is manifest fully in my life today.

Perpetual Reflection in Recovery

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Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.  – AA 10th Step

I really like the 10th Step of recovery a lot.  The step allows me to be perpetually reflective and is a tool for keeping my side of the street clean.  Without the 10th step, I don’t have the regular opportunity to take stock of my role in my life.  Without the 10th step, I need to rely on 8th and 9th steps, which seem like much bigger tasks that I might do only on occasion.

I have learned something about working the 10th step that is rather surprising.  In a couple of recent instances that come to mind, I was in conflict with another person over x, y, or z.  After stewing over the issue, starting to work the issue up into a good resentment, experience taught me that no good could come of such behavior and I needed to get past it.  In both instances, I wrote very clear notes of apology/acknowledgement for any role I had in the conflict.  Intentionally, I did not include a “we are both at fault” but focused solely on my responsibility.  In both instances I expected a gracious response, noting equal fault in the conflict.  In both instances, I got an appreciative response thanking me for the apology but without any acknowledgement of shared responsibility.

Here is what I like about the 10th step process.  The step does not predict the response of the prompt admission.  The step only requires that we take appropriate action.  In both instances I note above, I am no longer consumed by a growing resentment that allows someone to live rent free in my head.  In both instances, yes, in a court of law, I am certain I would be vindicated of any wrong doing, but that is not really the point.  In the same way I have learned that if I pick up the first drink, I will get drunk, I have learned that interaction with some folks will lead to conflict.  Therefore, when I am in situations where either alcohol or problematic people, places, or things are around that will mess with my sobriety, I remain vigilant.  I choose not to drink alcohol today and I choose not to place myself in certain situations.  It really has nothing to do with the alcohol or the situation.  It has to do with what happens to me when I am a participant.

The 10th step is an automatic reflective process that allows me to live day-to-day in recovery.

The Possibility of Recovery

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One thing that a corporate CEO and a prisoner doing long-time have in common is they each have the same number of minutes in each day that they must make decisions about how they are going to spend them.

– heard in a presentation by Malcolm McMillan when he was sheriff of Hinds County, Mississippi.

I like that recovery is about possibilities.   Recovery is about hope.  Recovery is about living one day at a time.  It really does not matter how long I have been in recovery, It is 7:00 AM in my city now, and I have the same number of minutes and seconds left in this day as everyone else whether they are still living into their addiction, have decided today is the day they are going to live into recovery, or have 20 years of active recovery behind them.  Today, I will make a choice on how I use those minutes.

Everyone has the same choice.  The important decision is not about the details of how those minutes are spent.  For me, it’s not really about whether I take a holiday from work, pray/meditate, or am of service to another person.  Rather, I think the possibilities are more profound.  I can either use those minutes to live into my addiction or to move along the road of recovery.

I am grateful for knowing there are alternative possibilities and choices.

Learning from the Past

cover copySome of the obvious lessons gained from the past are very clear in recovery.  If I drink, I will get drunk.  There is really no question about that.  I have tried playing that game from every angle possible and I end up losing every time.  Actively engaging in some other activities also produce very predictable results – like resentments and anger.  If I live into them, then I am headed down a path to relapse.  Although less in the forefront of my mind than not picking up the first drink, I enjoy that I have learned the early warning signs such behaviors produce.  I know that if I choose to dwell in anger or resentment, no good will come.

But there are more subtle issues as well that are obstructions to living fully into recovery.  One such issue is procrastination.  I know full well that putting off till tomorrow what I should be doing today only causes more stress, anxiety, missed opportunities, to name but a few results.  Procrastination is like active addiction because I just become a passive agent in life.  This passivity is much like being anesthetized with alcohol, drugs, or food.  I do not take responsibility for my life but let other people and circumstances dictate the terms of how I exist.

I appreciate that these more subtle issues will always be with me.  Addressing these behaviors is truly a life-long process and not a singular event.  In recovery we speak of progress not perfection.

When I first got sober I just wanted to stop the self-loathing, blacking out – what I considered the big issues.  I am grateful that I am given the awareness and opportunity to deal with so much more in traveling the road of recovery.

Living into the Solution

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Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. – AA Promises

This promise is perhaps the most foundational in my recovery.  One day at a time, I know that recovery is contingent on my making a decision to live into the solution and not dwell in the problem.  That is where attitude and outlook are key.   I know that I can take very simple steps to resolve conflicts, obstacles or challenges in my day-to-day existence.  One of those steps is making a gratitude list.  What I am grateful for today?  The first point always on my list is life.  Had I not gotten sober nearly 30 years ago, I very seriously doubt that I would be alive.  Even if I had somehow kept on living, my body, mind, and spirit would be completely shot.  I just cannot imagine how I could have survived all that time.  Another piece of that gratitude is knowing I have a choice of what I choose to do with that life today.  From my perspective, today I choose, however imperfectly, to live into the solution and not find comfort in the problem.  The problem is something I am very familiar with.  I can tell you about the problem from all sides and in great detail.  The problem is a very passive and familiar place.  Living in the solution requires my taking action not just talking about the problem.  The solution requires going into unfamiliar lands, making the box of my existence bigger to find answers.  I find that when my box of existence becomes bigger, I can see more options, be more in community with others, and live life more fully on life’s terms.

I am grateful for the ability to make gratitude lists today.