March 31

The Seventh Promise

 “Self-seeking will slip away.”

       The madness of our addiction knew no bounds.  It didn’t seem to matter to us if our decisions were hurting others, and we remained blind to the suffering we were creating for ourselves.  All we cared about was getting our own way; constant self-seeking was our whole existence.

       It was our sense of entitlement that blinded us to the needs of others.  Our rights were more important than the rights of others and we became ‘right fighters’ in defense of our own wants and wishes.  Our wants and needs came first because we were “numero uno.”  Being asked to give up our addiction was an invasion of our right to live as we wished. 

       “Leave me alone… it’s none of your business!” we would say defensively whenever we were challenged to quit.  Whenever the topic of addiction came up in conversation we would quickly change the subject and try to avoid yet another confrontation.  “Why should I?”  we thought to ourselves.  “I have needs, and I’m going to make sure I get them met.”

       As we began to live a positive sobriety, we awoke to the real world.  We were no longer separate – like an island – but connected to those around us.  There was a growing awareness and an increasing response to the needs of others.  No longer could we just live in isolation where we spent our days chasing our own selfish pleasures.  We had turned 180 degrees away from our own obsessions in order to face the reality of a world in need.

       Self-seeking is a path leading to nowhere, emptiness and frustration.  Once we are spiritually ‘awakened’ we can choose something better:  A life of meaning and purpose.  And once on that path of spiritual progress, our self-seeking becomes a thing of the past; it simply slips away.

March 30

The Sixth Promise 

“We shall lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.”

       Our addiction was a lesson in self-will running riot.  There are few people who can outperform an addict in the areas of narcissism and selfishness.  We had become experts in dishonesty, deceit, envy and self-pity.  And our selfishness knew no bounds as we shamelessly took advantage of other people. 

       Our victims were often those closest to us – our loved ones.  We had no idea what we were doing, or the harm that we had caused as a result of our selfishness.  We did not feel like evil people; we were just desperate to get what we thought we needed.  It wasn’t until we hit bottom that we realized the extent to which we had thrown our loved ones “under the bus.”

       Self-importance is based on a fantasy: Unreal thoughts about perfection, control and instant gratification.  The more we acted out, the more we needed to act out.  We kept the fantasy alive by isolating ourselves, steering clear of those who would challenge our believe system.  Our stinking thinking soon placed us at the center of a universe where all others orbited around us.  People and things were there to be manipulated and controlled; we came first.

       Our selfishness and self-centeredness turned our once frail ego into a powerhouse of grandiosity.  The arrogance of an ego-driven addict was safely hidden behind a wall of pride and unwillingness.  No one could reach us.  We were little islands, kingdoms of our own making, with our own set of laws to accommodate our every whim.  There was no stopping us as we spiraled down into insanity.

      It was a miracle that we were able to break free of the cycle of shame, the addiction ‘loop’ that we were so powerless over.  As we worked through each step we learned to become willing:  Willing to believe; willing to surrender; willing to make a personal inventory of ourselves and share it with someone; willing to make amends.  We eventually learned to reach out to others, giving our help by sacrificing our time and energy in order to encourage our fellows and help lead the way.

March 29

The Fifth Promise 

“The feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.”

       When we were buried in our addiction, we remember the confusion and self-loathing.  It seemed that no one understood us or loved us.  We lived in our shame feeling, mostly, fear and frustration because we were such failures.  We would tell ourselves things like, “What’s the use?  Nobody cares?”  Isolated and alone we thought we were incapable of doing anything worthwhile.

       We were full of shame and guilt which caused us to wallow in self-pity.  We were never to blame for our misfortune; it was always ‘those people, places and things’ out there that made us victims.  “I’m not to blame!” we cried.  “It’s just bad luck… the wrong place at the wrong time.” 

       Playing the victim also gave us an excuse to ‘act out.’ Even though we may have stopped our compulsive behavior for a while, we couldn’t help obsessing about others and how they were treating us.  It was our obsessions that tortured us and kept us stuck in our addiction.  Like a carousel going round and round we continued to  act out – feel relief – obsess – behave compulsively – act out again.

 In recovery we refer to self-pity as the PLOM’s (“poor little old me”).  It was always about ‘me’ and what I wanted and what I needed.  But how can we be of use to anyone else if we are full of self-pity?  Our focus on ‘self’ made us unable to reach out and make a contribution.  No wonder we felt useless! 

           The miracle of the 12 Step program promises us that we will learn to stop obsessing and behaving compulsively.  When we continue to work the program and stay sober, we can remain positive by giving back to others.  As we learn to stop blaming others we are able to see our part in all of it.  And we can then begin to accept our responsibility for our own lives and the lives of others.

March 28

The Fourth Promise

“No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.”

      A feeling of joy and gratitude wells up within us when we begin to experience the miracle of recovery.  No longer are we the problem; we are part of the solution now.  When we were deep in our addiction, we felt shameful and unworthy, doomed to a life of incompetence.  No more!

      There are many others who still suffer and cling to our words of hope and recovery.  They need to hear our stories of how we were delivered from a life of bondage to the freedom we enjoy now.  How encouraging it was for each of us when we first came to meetings to hear from other addicts of how they broke free from their miserable existence to live lives of grace and victory.

      Sharing our stories of how we escaped from the depths of despair makes us feel needed and trusted.  Even though the details may be different others hear what we were like, and they identify with where we’ve been and what we’ve done.  They cry out, “You’re telling my story… I was that way!”

      No matter how wretched and unwanted we may have felt when we were acting out we have come to know our value, our worth and our significance.  Those who still suffer need our help; no one can help an addict like another addict.  When we tell others of our degrading existence with our addiction and how we got sober, we become useful to those who listen. 

      And through it all we came to understand that we are worthwhile, and worthy of friendship, acceptance and trust.  We can help others experience miracles.  Our negative experiences become positive forces in helping others find the road to recovery.

March 25

The Third Promise

              “We will comprehend the word serenity and know peace.”             

       As addicts we did things on the outside that never matched who we were on the inside.  And this was the reason for our chaos and turmoil.  Our attempt at freedom only led us further into bondage as we gave away our freedom to others.  Our addiction gave us none of the benefits we had hoped for.

       We became individuals split down the middle – a kind of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”  In public we had a certain persona, but in private we were something altogether different.  We tried to remain sober but we could not; and the harder we tried the worse it got.  We could never know peace as long as we remained this fractured personality.

       Serenity is the result of emotional healing and the end of our duplicity.  When we finally were able to let go of our addiction and live truthfully, we began to grow spiritually.  We came to understand what ‘wholeness’ means; we had become ‘one person’ instead of two.  And it was then we admitted that we had experienced a miracle.

       Acceptance is the prerequisite to serenity.  We are not failures who admit to our powerlessness over our addiction.  Instead, we become winners in life and messengers of peace.  Acceptance is not resignation.  Resignation only leads to resentment; but true acceptance leads to peace.                  

       Serenity is understood at a deeper, emotional level.  It cannot be grasped intellectually because it must be experienced in the body.  The peace we are promised will come as a direct result of our release from bondage to self.  Serenity comes as a realization that we are now free from a life of compulsive behavior.

       Our ‘knowing’ is beyond words.  There are no words to fully describe a miracle on the inside.  Once divided in two, the addict is now made whole.  The war is over; there is peace within the body and the mind.  And serenity gives us the perfect climate in which to grow spiritually.

March 24

  The Second Promise

“We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door upon it.”   

      In the program we begin to put our lives back together by “cleaning house.”  This involves taking a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves where we review all our past mistakes and character defects.  Every shameful word and deed is listed, confessed to our Higher Power and shared with a trusted individual with whom we feel safe.

       Even though our past may be full of resentment, fear and hurts that caused a huge amount of suffering for us and others in our lives, we took the steps necessary to make amends.  This relieved us of a tremendous burden that we’d been carrying on our backs for years.

       If we’d chosen to deny the truth and hide from the past, our recovery would have remained incomplete with little possibility of ever preventing relapse.  We spent years trying to sweep our failures and wrong decisions under a carpet of lies.  But we learned to tell the truth, and it was the truth that set us free from our painful past. 

       Without the awareness of what the past did to us, we will find ourselves unable to truly carry the message of hope and the gift of a new life to those who desperately need it.  Relating our past experiences helps build a common ground of love and service with others within our fellowship.  Because of our honesty, newcomers will realize they are not alone, and be encouraged to hope for recovery as well.

       When we are freed from the grip of the past, we can truly live in the ‘now.’  There are no regrets in this present moment, only gratitude.  Today has become the “first day of the rest of our lives” where we look with hope and courage to the future.  We only visit the past in order to remind ourselves of a life from which we were delivered; the door to the past remains open for others to see how far we have come.

March 23

The First Promise

 “We will know a new freedom and a new happiness.”

    This may seem like an unbelievable promise!  Before recovery we had little choice and less freedom.  Trying as hard as possible, we could never prevent the consuming urge of our addiction from taking over.  We were powerless.  And we constantly bowed to its demands.  Our family played, at best, a close second to our addiction.  Like a train running full-steam down its track, it pulled a string of broken promises behind it.

    The demands of our addiction made our lives unmanageable.  Run-ins with the law, and our careless concern for our personal safety or the safety of our loved ones added to the chaos.  Our personal losses – financial and relational – left a strain on our health and security.  Our lives were a boiling cauldron of toxic pandemonium and turmoil.

    There was no freedom, and very little happiness at best.  We were slaves to the way we acted out with no freedom of choice.  Our addiction made all our choices for us.  But when freedom came through recovery, a new happiness was ours as well.  We had a new freedom to think, to feel, to choose and to act:

a)    Freedom to think brought clarity; we could see clearly how our addiction had brought us to the brink of disaster and could do it again if we allowed it.

b)    Freedom to experience our emotions again came as a result of our sobriety; and this ability to feel helped to restore us to sanity. 

c)    Freedom to choose gave us confidence that we could meet a new day without the fear of relapse.

d)    Freedom to act and not ‘act out’ set in motion the miracle of recovery.

       Our happiness was a result of our new found freedom.  This was not a happiness based on our up-and-down emotional states, or the temptation we experienced while in recovery.  This happiness was a result of our ability to respond to life’s demands with clarity and confidence, instead of reacting to them helplessly.  When freedom came with recovery, so came joy, gratitude and love for others and ourselves.

March 22

“To gain that which is worth having, it may be necessary to lose everything else.”  Bernadette Devlin

       It is a humbling experience to admit there is a Power greater than ourselves.  As addicts we felt powerful when we were acting out.  But that power was an illusion; we used it to hide the truth.  We truly believed that our addiction was all powerful because we relied on it and protected it.  But the truth was yet to be revealed.

       The truth came when we admitted we were powerless.  And when did this happen?  After losing everything we thought was important; after we hit bottom.  Some of us lost our jobs, our homes, our families – even our health.  Part of what we lost was regained; some of it, gone forever.  But whatever we lost was for a good reason:  We needed to find our way in the world, and freedom from a crippling addiction.

       We had settled for a substitute life – full of fantasy, smoke and mirrors.  This life wasn’t real, nor was it legitimate.  The things we valued were worthless because we used them for our own selfish ends.  People didn’t matter.  Instead of loving others we used them to get what we wanted.  We were just empty shells wanting to be filled with our drug of choice.

       In order to gain our sanity we had to surrender ourselves to a Higher Power, the God of our understanding.  Some who still refuse to hand over their will and their lives to the care of God bemoan the things they lost as a result of their addiction.  They blame God for their misfortune.  It would never occur to them that maybe they had something to do with it.  So turning their lives over to the care of God is completely out of the question.

       But for those of us who have turned over our will and our lives to the care of God understand that these losses were necessary.  Some of us went right to death’s door before we realized what we were doing to ourselves.  In desperation, we handed our woeful lives over to a Power greater than ourselves; and in return, we received a second chance at truly living.

 You are worth far more than you think; and you deserve better  than that for which you have settled.

March 21

“Accept me as I am, so that I can learn what I can become.”

       As a sponsor, I’m working through step three with someone in the program.  He is struggling with the idea of a Higher Power because he has always been an agnostic.  But there’s something wonderful about all of this:  His willingness to be open to the concept of a power greater than himself.  He is ready to explore who God is and how God relates to the 12 Step program and his recovery.

       When I started the program I began with the assumption that there indeed is a God, a Higher Power.  And as I have struggled with this notion of turning my will and my life over to the care of God I have come to the conclusion that my sponsee and I don’t differ that much.  We both, as addicts, want to remain in control of our lives – essentially, playing God.  We both struggle with perfectionism; we both want to control our universe and try to make it perfect.

       And it is this perfectionism that is killing us.  Even after several years in recovery, I still struggle with the need to control.  It shows up in ways that continue to remind me of my tug-of-war with perfectionism.  There are ways that I still ‘use’ other things that seemingly don’t relate to my own addiction; other compulsive acts that reveal a hidden need to control. 

       Ultimately, I end up in the same funk from which I am trying to avoid.  Anxiety still shows up because I’m still clinging to the idea that I can somehow control the world around me.  And acting compulsively only brings up more shame and self-loathing.  There is a saying, “There is no rest for the wicked.”  Similarly, it is also true that there is no rest for the perfectionist.  For what is a perfectionist but someone who is trying to exist without a Higher Power – without God?  The perfectionist wants to be God!

       Step Three is designed to help us let go of perfectionism and let God take care of our lives.  We’re learning to surrender our thoughts and actions.  And this brings relief from the stress which we place upon ourselves when we try to control and ‘make everything perfect.’  Never are we required to clean up our act before we surrender, for it is the very act of surrender that enables us to do so.

 “Isn’t it a relief to know that you are not God?”

March 18

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”  John Donne

       In active addiction we were lost and alone.  We couldn’t trust anything or anyone, especially ourselves.  No place was safe for us; no people were safe for us.  The loneliness was the worse of it.  There was no one to talk to, perhaps no one to talk to us.  Our self-image was so fragmented we didn’t know who to trust, so we simply avoided them.  We were separated from the love in this world, and the Love that resided within us.  Without a belief in a Higher Power, our spiritual lives were empty, bankrupt.

       Needless to say, we found it difficult to ask for help.  We’d been taught to handle things on our own, and addiction was one of the ways we coped emotionally.  In a desperate attempt to reconnect with someone or something we ended up more distant and more alone than ever before.  The wall of shame around us led us to believe that we were not worthy of love, and certainly not deserving of the help of another.

       In recovery, though, all that has changed.  Our newfound spirituality has opened a whole universe to us.  We’ve reconnected with ourselves, our Higher Power, other people, and the world itself.  Suddenly we belong here and we’re safe here.  The world is no longer a lonely and frightening place.  Now, it’s a loving place filled with people worthy of respect.  The wall of shame has been removed allowing us to connect with other addicts with whom we can offer and receive the emotional assistance.

       As we learn to love ourselves better, we love others better, too.  As we earn our own trust, we feel safer trusting the goodness of others.  Empowered and enlightened by our recovery, we can recognize people, places and things dangerous to that recovery.  We can forgive them for being as they are but choose to be different.  Now, we’re connected to the universe, and it is connected to us.

 You are a child of God, connected to the universe and worthy of love.