Patience is a sign of recovery

“God give me patience… right now!”

When I first began my own recovery program, I prayed the Serenity Prayer everyday.  “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…”  I wanted results.  And I wanted them right away!

I thought that after a couple of meetings I’d be cured and all would be well.  There were those who spoke of their hard-won victories who had been attending 12-Step meetings for over 10 years.  I secretly thought to myself there was no way it was going to take me that long…!

It is almost 10 years since my first meeting, and I still pray the Serenity Prayer.  What I realize now is this: ‘Patience’ can’t be given out whenever we ask for it; it must grow like a flower.

In other words, there’s step work that needs to be done in order for patience to blossom.  As I work the steps, I gain recovery.  As I gain recovery, I exhibit patience.

Work on your recovery – faithfully – every single day.  And when the time is right, patience will begin to appear as buds on a tree in the spring.

Patience is one of the signs of recovery.


“If you want to keep it, you’ve got to give it away.”

This is one of the slogans that I heard quoted at meetings earlier on – when I first started to attend 12 step meetings.  But it didn’t make any sense until I had completed my own 12 steps.

This week, I wanted to take a look at why we must give back.

The 12th step states: “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts who still suffer…”  It has everything to do with the spiritual awakening that we received as a result of doing these steps.

I’ve laid out the reasons why by using the acronym ‘G.I.V.E.’

Gratitude:  One of the reasons we give back is out of gratitude.  We have experienced a miracle as a result of the 12 steps!  Don’t you think that ‘giving back to the fellowship’ is an appropriate response for the grace we received?

Integrity:  Giving back is the sign of wholeness.  It also denotes honesty; but more than that – integrity carries with it the sense of completeness.  Giving back is the final step to our own healing and complete wholeness.

Voluntary:  It is important to remember that our giving back is not out of a sense of duty or obligation.  There is no “you should” or “you ought” when it comes to the 12th step.  Many a 12-stepper has been hampered by the thought that they might have to help others.  No one has to give back; it is all done on a volunteer basis.

Encouragement:  If it had not been for the encouragement and selfless giving of others in the fellowship, I wouldn’t have reached any recovery myself.  The slogan “You alone must do it, but you must not do it alone” is so true.  If not for the encouragement of others I would still be stuck in my addiction.

Don’t forget to G.I.V.E.  It’s all part of your recovery!


12-Step slogans:  Pithy little phrases of recovery wisdom.

The 12 step program teaches us to “Let go, and let God” – a very popular and well known slogan on the lips of almost every 12-Stepper.  ‘Letting go’ means something different to each person who tries to live out its philosophy.  And ‘letting God’ means something different as well.

At the very least, “letting go” means that we give up our struggle with addiction, and stop trying to recover on our own – all by ourselves.  We’re letting go of our own ideas, and our own efforts to live successful lives.  No one in the program who has successfully gained his/her sobriety would dare continue on their own.  (You alone must do it, but you must not do it alone.)

And “letting God” is a reference to Higher Power.  Simply, it is a reference to step Three:  “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over the care of God.”  It is an act of complete surrender.  We have made a decision to trust God – and to trust the program.

Somewhere hidden in the 12-Step program and the program literature – the big book and other 12-Step literature – is hidden this little phrase:   P.U.S.H. which stands for Pray Until Something Happens.” 

But what does this phrase mean, exactly?  At first glance it seems kind of counter-intuitive.  Do we pray or do we take action?  Here’s what I think:

P.U.S.H. helps to define what ‘let go and let God’ means.  In other words, we must learn to pray if we are to completely and properly surrender.

If we are to turn our lives over to the care of God, we will need to pray.  If we are going to recover successfully, we are going to do it by praying.  Prayer is the important ingredient that helps us reach our recovery goals.

Do you want to reach your goals?  Don’t forget to P.U.S.H!

“Learn to be watchful, not willful”

It’s not the big things that trip me up.  It’s the little things.

Things like suddenly finding myself all alone.  In the past, this was an opportunity to act out sexually.  And when I suddenly find myself alone in the house – my wife has gone out with her friends – that the old tapes start to play in my head.

The addict wants to come out and play at every opportunity.  My addict likes it when I am alone.  And I suddenly am faced with a decision to stay sober or act out.

My old ways of coping with the temptation would have been to ignore the urge (as if that were possible).  But I would try to park it in the back of my mind and get on with something else.

This proved to be a recipe for failure.  I couldn’t just ignore it!  It wouldn’t let me.

As a result of doing the 12 Steps, I have learned to be more present in these moments.  I have learned to keep the addiction and all the sensations associated with it clearly in front of me.  Trying to ignore it is useless.

I don’t need to panic, or tense up when it flares; I just need to remain consciously aware of its illusive presence.

I have learned to acknowledge my addiction as part of my personality.  My Higher Power accepts me as I am – warts and all.  And if God is okay with all of my imperfections, so am I.

I know I am no match for the addiction; but my Higher Power is!  It is not my job to fight the addiction.  It is my job to remain watchful, vigilant, and mindful of God’s presence.

As my self-loathing slowly disappears, it gets easier to remain watchful, not willful.