February 14

 “Love must be learned, and learned again and again; there is no end to it.  Hate needs no instruction, but only waits to be provoked.”    Katherine Anne Porter

       Feeling the love yet?  I’m not.  At least not yet.  I should never look at the news first thing in the morning; there’s nothing but war and bloodshed, and seniors getting ripped off by con artists…  The drive in to work isn’t much better as I’m battling it out with all the morons on the road.  I was late getting to the office, but I managed to slip in unnoticed, trying to keep a low profile.

       I was feeling resentful, irritable and stressed; this is a good indication that I’ve drifted off into an illusion, a place that exists only in my head.  Once again, I came to the realization that I am not present, in the moment, here and now.  I was in a place where I feel powerless… and the only response for an addict who’s feeling powerless is to ‘act out.’ (Not a good place.)

       There is always a void when I slip into the fantasy of fear and hate.  And there is only one way to fill the void:  Love and gratitude.

       The fear and hate (resentment, irritability and stress) don’t need any instruction.  Hate is like a default setting that kicks in when I’ve failed to choose another setting.  Fear seems to be hardwired into our brains; every time we face a challenge or a change fear kicks in so effortlessly.  I don’t think I have to explain…

        But love – which is our true and authentic self – requires teaching and training, encouragement and support.  Call it what you will, fear and hate seems easier than love and gratitude.  Recognizing this reality (and accepting it, as well) frees me up so I can make a free choice to love and be grateful.

       It’s not necessary that I remain in the ‘default setting’ of fear and hate when I can freely choose to be in the moment – full of acceptance and gratitude.  These two words help to define my concept of love.  I can fill the empty void of fear with a different kind of energy:  Gratitude.

       I have enlisted in the “Gratitude Training Program” offered by my Higher Power.  It requires at least 10 minutes a day of being perfectly present and fully engaged in the practice of gratitude.  It was difficult at first, but each subsequent day gets easier.  And it is making a huge difference – especially when it comes to my addiction. 

       Gratitude is a practice that helps fill the spiritual void in my heart with the positive energy of love.  This ‘present moment’ is where I can find my authentic self and enjoy Love’s energy.

 You can learn to love by practicing gratitude in this present moment.

February 11

“How do you know when you’ve hit bottom? When you stop digging!” 

      Imagine, if you will, that you’re in the driver’s seat of a powerful BMW on a muddy, uphill slope in the rain.  Unfortunately, it has rear wheel drive and you’re having a great deal of difficulty getting your car to move forward.  You’ve been trying for over an hour to get up this slippery hill but to no avail.  The more you ‘floor’ it, the more your tires spin in the mud.  In fact, you’ve been at this for so long that you’re beginning to wear deep ruts in the muddy surface of the trail.  So, you do the only thing you know how to do:  You gun it even more! 

       As a result, you sink deeper and deeper until the frame of the car is resting on the wet surface of the hill, and one of your tires is completely buried in the muddy hole you have created.  You finally realize that you can go no further; you’re stuck.  And you need help.

       This is what is meant by “bottoming out.” 

       This is the point at which I bottomed out.  I tried for years to wrestle this addiction to the ground, but I couldn’t do it on my own.  Bottoming out is when I stopped digging myself further into a sizable hole that I had already started.  I’d lost everything and my marriage was crumbling.  It wasn’t until I’d had enough of digging in that hole that I finally gave up and asked for help.  I wanted out and I knew I couldn’t do it on my own.

       The first step begins when we realize that we are powerless over our addiction, that our lives have become chaotic and unmanageable.  At this point we decide to ask for help.  When we admit to our powerlessness it means that it’s time to put our faith in a Higher Power. 

       But God will never take away our ability to choose freely.  That is why bottoming out is so important, so pivotal.  When we decide to stop trying to get ahead on our own steam, we are then able to look up and begin climbing out of our hole. 

       Everyone has their own bottom, the point at which they decide to stop digging.  Free choice means you decide when enough is enough.  Some addict’s ‘bottom’ is death, and that is their choice.  God is there, waiting for us to stop trying so hard and ask for help.

       Are ou ready to put down the shovel you’re digging with and reach for the rope that is extended to you from up above?  Wisdom would suggest that climbing out of the hole is a good start.  When we combine God’s will with free choice the result is wisdom.  There’s only one way we can win; freely choosing to let go and let God.

 You are free to choose in this life; choose life and choose freedom.

February 10

“A mighty flame follows a tiny spark.”   Dante

       I’m feeling quite insignificant today.  Small and unimportant, like I don’t matter.  Let’s face it; what have I done in this life that has amounted to much?  Who have I influenced in my life?  I feel as though what I do doesn’t make a bit of difference.

       These thoughts never fail to depress and discourage me.  They’re the same thoughts and feelings that accompanied my addiction.  I became more isolated in my addiction as each day passed.  And since it didn’t matter to others what I did or said, then I chose to medicate.  Besides, my addiction was hurting no one.  So I thought.

           At the beginning I didn’t have a clue how my addiction would affect the people around me, especially the ones I knew and loved.  It wasn’t until I was deep into it and I ‘bottomed out’ that it occurred to me what was happening.  This addiction was indeed having a profound effect on my family and friends.

       My absenteeism and chronic lateness played a factor.  (I was quite isolated.)  Mood swings and explosive anger was another.  Turning a good marriage into a bad one was the ultimate display of how my addiction affected others.

       The ripple effect of a tiny act can have great repercussions for good and ill.  I just have to look back and remember what happened.  Even the smallest and seemingly insignificant acts of selfishness created a huge amount of chaos in my life and my family. 

       If my negative acts can have such a strong impact what might a positive decision make in my world? 

       My feeling of insignificance today is the same one that accompanied my fall into addiction.  It’s a lie I tell myself.  “I am nothing, and what I do amounts to nothing.”  What a load of crap!  Where do these thoughts come from? 

       Today’s feelings are a result of my thoughts; they let me know what I’ve been thinking about.  The truth is:  I am not insignificant and my actions do matter.  And I can have a positive effect on others when I choose to do good.  A simple act of kindness can influence another which could turn their world around and impact and entire community.

       I just have to remember the courageous act of an elderly black woman who dared to sit at the front of the bus when the local community required that she move to the back.  It not only challenged the status quo, it started an entire movement for black people in the American south.

 You are significant. What you say and do is of great importance to us all.  You have the potential for great good in the world.

February 9

“How poor are they that have not patience.”   Shakespeare 

      I feel very sluggish today.  No headache, no aches and pains; just dragging around – like a slug.  My eyes refuse to open.  I’ve tried a few times and they close as if they have a will all their own.  My brain seems to be working, but my body wants to remain in bed.  As usual, I don’t know why I feel so tired.  I just do.

       Feeling tired is human.  It happens to the best of us.  But I, for one, hate feeling this way so early in the morning.  I find it irritating and grow impatient with myself.  And that’s where I get into trouble; impatience with my own frailties.

       And isn’t impatience really my refusal to accept my own humanity?  I burn the candle at both ends, and expect to keep doing that for an extended period of time.  After a while my body says, “No.”  And I get resentful… “Why can’t I keep going?  I need to keep going –  I have things to do!”

       This all stems from my need to get problems solved immediately.  I have a tendency to work late into the night and get up early to finish something quickly.  I try to leap tall buildings in a single bound instead of taking baby steps.  As a result, frustration and fear set in and I eventually abandon the project all together.

       It was my own impatience that kept me locked in a serious addiction.  I demanded results immediately.  And I made sure I got those results.  Why would I wait when I could numb the pain now?  Addiction is a way of getting ‘needs’ met quickly.  And as my addiction grew it took on a life of its own, and demanded to be fed right now. 

       Today I have a choice:  To make my own decisions about how to fix a painful situation; or to ask God for help and patiently wait for the answer.  Wisdom is not something we can demand.  It’s a result of acceptance; and that takes patience.

       Patience does not tell us, “Grin and bear it.”  But it does promise that the answer will come in God’s time.  It offers rewards for tomorrow, and nourishes a desire for change if we give progress ample time. 

       Who are the ‘poor’ who have not patience?  Those who lack wisdom.  For it is a wise person who patiently and carefully plans what to do next.  It is the patient soul who avoids acting rashly, and knows that “Rome was not built in a day.”  I must learn to act only when my plans are well constructed.

 Your greatest teacher is time.  With patience and acceptance you will receive all that God has promised you.

February 8

“Forgiveness is another word for letting go.”

       I don’t have a favorite slogan that I repeat to myself, but if I did… it would probably be “Let go, and let God.”   I like this slogan because it points to some important steps in the program.  One of them is forgiveness.

       The actual word ‘forgiveness’ isn’t used in any of the 12 steps, but it is implied.  After we’ve taken our inventory in the fourth step, we confess it in the fifth.  Following confession, we ask for forgiveness.  This is step 6 and 7.  “We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.”

       Steps 8 and 9 require that we make amends:  We forgive others and ask for their forgiveness.  This can only follow steps 6 and 7.  Forgiving others flows naturally from our receiving forgiveness. 

       Today I feel resentful to someone at work.  They don’t know I feel this way because I haven’t taken any action.  My resentment toward them probably has more to do with me than it does them.  However, it leaves me with a choice: 

       Will I hang on to it, or let it go?

       This isn’t an intellectual decision.  I already know the right answer!  It’s a question of willingness.  I know how to let go, but will I?  And that’s an emotional decision that isn’t easy to make.  I’ve read a lot of books, talked to a lot of people, and gone to a lot of meetings… and yet I still find this kind decision difficult.

       That’s because these decisions are made at an emotional level.  There are no guarantees that I will make the right decision.  None.  This thing about correct decision making is not a slam dunk:  Sometimes the ball rolls around the hoop several times before passing through the basket – or not. 

       Forgiveness (letting go) is to recovery as oxygen is to the air we breathe.  There are no ‘ifs’ in forgiveness.  Putting conditions on our ability to forgive will bring the whole process to a screeching halt.  And we will ‘suffocate’ as a result. 

       If I am to continue in recovery, I must learn to forgive.  Today, I need to let it go; hand it over to my Higher Power.  “Let go and let God.”  With God’s help I can let go.

  You can choose to forgive if you have been forgiven. Lean on your Higher Power for the wisdom in making these important decisions.

February 7

“I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”  Thomas Merton

       Sometimes it feels more like a battle than a ceasefire.  Even though I “made a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God” I still engage in a battle with my will when this addiction is tugging at me.  It’s a pull, an impulse to act out.  Some things trigger me, and the choice to stay sober can be a real battle.

       Having free choice is a wonderful gift we humans have.  We’re not robots; we can think for ourselves.  Choice is something we are given at birth, but it takes time to develop the ability to make these choices.  But without enough encouragement and direction we will make bad choices – choices that are irresponsible.

       Today is one of those days when I feel like I have too many choices.  Shall I go to work, or “call in sick”?  Shall I practice my gratitude, or sit here and grumble?  Shall I pray, or get lost in fantasy?  I think it’s called ambivalence.

       The thing is, I know the difference between a good choice and a bad one.  On an intellectual level I understand all the ramifications of my choices.  I still remember where my addiction leads; I know the consequences of a bad choice. 

       Choices I make are usually at an emotional level.  I was taught that feelings were unimportant, that decisions need to be made rationally.  In fact, feelings need to be stuffed away where they can’t be seen or heard.  (That was more my father’s attitude, not my mother.)  Supposedly, I can make better choices intellectually.  But that’s not how it works – not in my world.

       When it comes to my addiction, I can’t win the battle of free choice intellectually.  Addiction is not something we can think our way through. I don’t know about you, but my emotions win out every time.  So it’s important that I remain conscious of my emotional state because my choice to stay sober hangs on it.

       My relationship with my Higher Power (sometimes I call my Higher Power ‘God’) is emotional.  God is the One with whom I share all my feelings and emotions.  I can make decisions quite well if I can get my feelings out.  God is more than willing to listen, and never judges me or gets angry for my state of mind.

       My Higher Power is always with me.  I tend to think of God as my Inner Power.  This is Someone from whom there is no escape, so I never have to face my decision making alone.  Inner Power (Inner Strength) is there to give me courage and wisdom when I ask.  It is only when I try to face my decision making alone that I make bad choices.

You have all the Wisdom, Strength and Courage that you need within you.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help at any hour of the day.

February 4, 2011

“Nothing in life is to be feared.  It is only to be understood.”   Marie Curie

       When I began recovery and started to work the steps, I got bogged down at step four.  What had started with enthusiasm soon became my favorite thing to avoid.  I made up all kinds of excuses why I couldn’t finish that step.  It started out with, “It’s too hard.”  Then I began to tell myself, “I don’t have the time.  That gave way to, “I don’t need to do this step.”  And finally, “I have no interest in doing step four.”

       Excuses were plentiful, and I found no difficulty coming up with them.  I had to somehow rationalize my avoidance, my procrastination.  But there was something that lurked beneath the surface:  Fear.

       Fear is not a bad thing, mind you.  It sure comes in handy when you’re crossing the street or handling a knife.  But it serves no purpose whatsoever when it prevents me from moving forward with something that is good and necessary like the 12-Step program.

       So, what am I afraid of?  I think (for me) it’s getting back to that ‘perfectionist’ thing.

 I want everything to be perfect.  But I’m afraid I’ll screw up, or that I’ll leave something out that’s really important.  Most of the time I’m afraid I’ll get started, and then lose my momentum over time.  And that has a great deal to do with my own lack of confidence.  Let’s face it:  Trying to do everything perfectly is completely intimidating.  I don’t even want to try because I know I will not succeed.  Of course I won’t succeed.  It’s impossible; perfection simply doesn’t exist.

       Is there a solution to procrastination?  Well, it depends what’s causing it.  In my case, perfectionism – an illusion or fairytale I bought into when I was a kid – was the cause.  The solution required that I simply be aware of this train of thought, and put a stop to it by taking action.  Usually the inertia that builds up is broken with the first step.  Instead of asking, “Why,” I have learned to ask “How.”  When I dumb it down to something simple and doable, I can usually get started.  If however I am unwilling to try step four, I review step three by renewing my commitment to my Higher Power.

       There seems to be four steps to moving past procrastination in recovery: 

1)      Be aware of your train of thought, and your illusions about perfectionism

2)      Simplify; stop intimidating yourself with what is complicated (dumb it down)

3)      Ask for help by maintaining conscious contact with your Higher Power.

4)      Take action by using baby steps until you have gained some momentum. 

 The program works if you work it; and you’re worth it!

February 3, 2011

There is no fear in love.  For perfect love casts out fear.”  I John 4:18

       I woke up this morning feeling a bit apprehensive; anxious, I guess.  Was it something I ate or just a bad dream?  Not sure, but it is there.  In my head. 

       There was a day when I would try to deal with my anxiety.  I’d either try to figure it out, or just shrug it off.  I know better than to do either.  Trying to figure it out would just frustrate me, and ignoring it certainly wasn’t going to make it go away.  Left alone, the anxiety would fester and grow like a cancer, expanding into anger and resentment.  Before long, I’d be downright grumpy and resigned to having a bad day.

       I felt helpless and victimized.  “Why can’t I just wake up happy and content?” I would ask myself.  This mood would hang over me like a dark cloud for days until, by some miracle, it lifted and my mood changed.  I felt completely powerless over it.

       In the early days of recovery I was getting sober.  Just a day at a time.  Not acting out brought up all kinds of anxiety for me.  Not having my ‘drug’ left me feeling raw and edgy.  Anxiety was a daily occurrence for me along with a whole host of other character defects.  I didn’t stay sober for long because I couldn’t stand the emotional pain and suffering.

       The recovery I have now allows me to examine the pain without the suffering because I’m learning the difference between the two.  In other words, pain is inevitable and necessary.  Suffering, on the other hand, is not necessary and therefore optional.

        There’s no way around the necessity of pain.  It will happen.  Our very existence would be threatened if there was no pain.  But suffering is not the same.  Suffering is a choice, and completely unnecessary.  Suffering is spiritual and occurs when we resist what is.  If we can’t accept our circumstances we suffer.  If we can’t accept what’s changing around us we suffer – because we resist.

       The anxiety I feel is my way of resisting what’s going on around me whether it’s real or imagined.  And I create it with my thoughts whether I’m conscious of it or not.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.  Anxiety can be tamed.

       The way to deal with fear is to overcome fear with love.  Love is like a light that dispels the darkness.  When you flip a light switch on, the darkness is gone.  Just as darkness is the absence of light, fear is the absence of love.            Love is an energy that not only dispels the darkness, it also displaces the cold with heat.  It fills an empty space with what is missing. 

There is no fear, only love; you can dispel the fear you feel by showing love.

February 2, 2011

 “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.”  G. K. Chesterton

       Okay, I’ll admit it.  I procrastinate.  It’s not that I want to put things off; I just do.  Like this blog, for instance.  I have had this idea for almost a year, yet I have not pursued it until now.  The desire to bring it to pass was certainly there – right from the get go.  But I put it off continually.  And for what?

       I think I have an attitude of perfectionism.  Even today I feel it lingering as I considered what to post.  It’s got to be perfect, you know… as if ‘perfection’ actually existed.  There remains this fantasy in my head that something perfect exists out there and I must keep looking until I find it.  It’s enough to give me writer’s block!  And all creativity is brought to a halt just because I spend my time looking for something ‘perfect’ to say.

       Today I am grateful to my Higher Power for the realization that there is never going to be the perfect time, or place, or the perfect idea… or the perfect blog.  It’s very liberating to realize that perfection doesn’t really exist.  Oh, I suppose it exists in my mind (along with a whole host of other illusions and fantasies.)  But as I look around I realize that there is nothing perfect.

       There will never be the perfect time to begin anything; the time to begin is now.

       When I began recovery and started to work the steps, I got bogged down at step four.  What had started with enthusiasm soon became my favorite thing to avoid.  I made up all kinds of excuses why I couldn’t finish that step  It started out with, “It’s too hard.”  Then I began to tell myself, “I don’t have the time.  That gave way to, “I don’t need to do this step”  And finally, “I have no interest in doing step four.”

       Excuses were plentiful, and I found no difficulty coming up with them.  I had to somehow rationalize my avoidance, my procrastination.  But there was something that lurked beneath the surface:  Fear.

       Fear is not a bad thing, mind you.  It sure comes in handy when you’re crossing the street or handling a sharp knife.  But it serves no purpose whatsoever when it prevents me from moving forward with something that is good and necessary like the 12-Step program. 

       If I work the Steps I will recover; I need never fear that I won’t make it.  I trust the program, and I trust my Higher Power.  I am learning to love the way God loves.  And this love gives me the courage to continue my journey.  I may not be recovering ‘perfectly’ but I am recovering!

 You are not perfect, nor will you ever be perfect.  But you will recover if you work the Steps… and you’re worth it!

February 1, 2011

 “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”   Theodore Roosevelt

      I am challenged today with the thought that I am not enough.  Not enough for what?  I’m not sure.  It is just this sinking feeling I get when I try to do something that I’ve never done before…  like start a blog! 

       Yes, I have thought this thought and felt this sinking feeling many times before.  But today there is a remarkable difference from yesterday.  Today I have an awareness: An awareness of my thoughts and feelings.  There was a day when I had absolutely no awareness of my feelings and emotions.  And I had no idea that the feelings I felt stemmed from my thoughts. 

       There was a day when I wished I was someone else.  I spent a great deal of time fantasizing and pretending I was someone of fame, and wealth and importance.  I wasn’t good enough, you see, and I needed to create a story in my head that suited me better.  I could be anyone I chose.  And often it was someone who was more powerful than how I felt in the real world.

       I realize my negative thoughts and feelings about myself are not accurate, and that I don’t need to accept them as true.  They’re just thoughts and feelings.  Where they come from I’m not sure.  But I do know one thing:  I am the creator of my own thoughts.  And these thoughts of mine are not always accurate and true.

       Today I am grateful for who I am.  My Higher Power has taught me that I am much more valuable than I once thought.  Even though old thoughts and feelings persist, I am aware of my own worth.  And I choose to accept myself for who I am – just as I am – a precious child of God. 

       I am also grateful that I don’t need to turn to my addiction when I feel this way.  I know better than to try to medicate these feelings because I always end up abusing myself.  I am worthwhile, and worthy of a life free of self loathing and addiction.  There is nothing I can do to make myself taller, stronger, younger… or more valuable. 

       Today, I accept who I am.  When it comes to my addiction, I am powerless; and I accept my powerlessness.  For there is One who is more powerful than I who can deliver me from my addiction.  This One is God. 

       I surrender myself – all my misconceptions and illusions – to my Higher Power.  I give up trying to control things by my own will power.  I am powerless in and of myself.  But there is a way, a path, that leads to power and avoids self destruction.  This is the path of surrender where I offer up who I am and what I can do, right here and now!

 You are worth a great deal – much more than you know.   Surrender yourself today, and know that your Higher Power can do more through you than you ever dreamed possible.