Am I supposed to be positive all the time?

In recovery circles you hear people talk of an “attitude of gratitude.” They say things like “If you’re sober today, you had a good day.”

Why so much about gratitude?

Is it because we’re not living a life of hell-on-earth anymore?  I don’t think so.  I mean, life in sobriety can be hell at times.

The reason we try to maintain an “attitude of gratitude” is very practical.

It’s like this:  While still in our addiction, we felt comfortable being negative and cynical.  It seemed normal.  And we wanted others to feel the same way.

But recovery and negativity don’t mix.  As we recover we continually let go of our old ways of thinking and acting.  We let go of our cynicism and begin practicing a newer, more positive approach to life.

“Am I supposed to be positive all the time?”

You may find it difficult (I know I do) to feel positive everyday, all day.  But we can try to remain in a positive and thankful state of mind by practicing gratitude.  Negativity seems to come naturally – almost effortlessly.  Remaining positive, on the other hand, requires effort on our part.  It takes practice.

Just as anger and resentment are nurtured in the garden of the mind, so is gratitude.  If we are practicing gratitude, then we are working to free ourselves from the negativity of our addiction.  We don’t have to remain stuck forever in negativity.  Anger, resentment, self-loathing, regret and fear will slip away as we remember to focus on gratitude.

When was the last time you expressed your gratitude to God or to another person?  You can begin right now if you so choose.

What do you mean “you’re done with meetings”?

If a month has gone by and you haven’t attended a meeting, I would have to say that you have given up on meetings.  I used to be the one who showed up to a meeting once every two months.  I didn’t understand the importance of meetings.

Some have said that “meeting makers don’t make it.”  And that’s true.  There’s a lot more to the program than going to meetings.  But that doesn’t mean you don’t go to meetings!

I have changed my mind about meetings.  Here’s why I go regularly:  It has to do with Higher Power.

Higher Power?  What has ‘going to meetings’ got to do with Higher Power?  For me? Everything!

Early on in my recovery, when “higher power” was the topic of discussion, I typically assumed that we were talking about my God… the Christian God (Father, Son and Holy Ghost).  But lately, I’m coming to understand that “higher power” has more to do with “inner power” – the power within – and not the God that is (metaphysically speaking) ‘up’ there, or ‘out’ there.

I have come to understand that everyone has an inner power – a kind of hidden wisdom.  No matter what divinity we happen to believe in, the fact remains that we all have a “higher power” within us.  This is our compass giving us direction.  It’s our source of inner wisdom that has been buried beneath a load of addiction.

When we gather together, we share in this collective wisdom known as higher power.  We stimulate one another to do better, to draw upon our own inner resources, our inner power.  It is the fellowship that helps us to access the strength to climb out of the hole we dug for ourselves, and reach for something much higher.

The program is a spiritual program.  Don’t handicap yourself by forsaking your 12 step fellowship, for it is the fellowship that increases your capacity to access your higher power!

The Gifts of Recovery: Wisdom

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Trying to decide your next course of action can be a real challenge if you are not clear on what belongs to God (the things I cannot change), and what belongs to you (the things I can).

Knowing the difference can enormously influence your decision-making.

Taking action over a situation when you have no power or control is wrong, and will only lead to anger and frustration.  You cannot act on a circumstance directly; you can only work on yourself.  Is it not apparent that the only thing you have control over is yourself?

Another rendering of the Serenity Prayer may help to clarify:  “God, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the ones I can, and the wisdom to know that it’s me.”

So, how will we know we have increased wisdom?

I call it clarity.

We have been so fuzzy in our thinking – not really knowing what we wanted.  We had blurred lines instead of clear boundaries.  We would find ourselves in certain situations without really knowing what to do.

Most of the time we just floundered.

Wisdom and clarity go hand in hand.  If wisdom is the ability to make good decisions, then clarity is the necessary prerequisite.  You can’t be fuzzy in your thinking when you make a decision.  And good decisions are not made by accident.

There’s nothing mysterious about wisdom.  Get clear on the things over which you have control and the things for which you are responsible.  Wisdom will follow naturally.

The Gifts of Recovery: Courage

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Before we can do, first we must be.  Courage will not appear until serenity shows up.  But there is something else that initiates courage:  Love.  I’m talking about the desire to make the necessary changes, changes that only we can make.

It’s like the joke:  How many therapists does it take to unscrew a light bulb?  Only one – but only if the light bulb wants to change.

“The courage to change the things I can” is possible if there is love – the desire to change.

I always enjoy watching the movie, The Wizard of Oz.  As you may recall the foursome – Dorothy, the scarecrow, tinman and the lion – were off to see the wizard, hoping to get what each of them desired.  Dorothy wanted to get home; the scarecrow wanted brains; the tinman wanted a heart; and the lion wanted some courage.

In the end, it was their love for each other that got them what they desired.  And it was the lion who showed his courage by rescuing his comrades from danger.  When you love someone enough, and want something bad enough, you do what it takes to reach your goals.

Before you can do, you must be.  In order to change, you must have courage.  Serenity is not some mellow state of being that looks like lethargy and feels something like “I really don’t care.”  Serenity is full of love and desire, the kind of desire that gives birth to courage, and is ready to act.

The Gifts of Recovery: Serenity

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

One of the first gifts a recovering addict receives is the gift of serenity.  It’s not by accident that ‘serenity’ is the first gift mentioned in the Serenity prayer.  Before courage and wisdom can be granted, serenity must appear.

Serenity is not a skill we can develop – like playing guitar, or learning to speak a foreign language; nor is it a goal we reach for – like losing 20 pounds in 4 months.

Serenity is more like fruit that grows from a tree.  The tree doesn’t have to expend any energy by trying hard to focus on the production of fruit.  The fruit just simply grows when the time and the conditions are right.

The 12 step program is designed to create the proper conditions for the peaceful fruit of serenity.  By surrendering our lives over to the care of God, we begin the process of recovery that restores us, once again, to sanity.

Sanity is the result of putting everything – how we live our lives – back in its proper order.  Insanity is the result of a life lived in chaos.  And it is a life lived in its proper order that allows the precious gift of serenity to grow.

Are you still waiting for serenity to show up in your life?  Keep working the program by putting your life back in its proper order.  And when you are not looking, serenity will show up just like grapes in a vineyard when the time is right.