Thursday, February 26, 2009

Question of Compassion????????

In December I was approached by a couple of kids (early 20’s) in recovery, he had lived in the half way house for 6 months until it was shut down and then moved in with a another person in recovery, she was a couple of weeks out of the mental health hospital for manic depression and alcoholism. I have known him since he was placed on the half way house and her for the 30 days or so while she was a patient at the hospital, both are alright kids from what I could tell. They started a relationship while she was a patient, she had no one to take responsibility for her if she was released from the hospital, she was homeless and her parents had basically disowned her, so the guy signs her out taking full responsibility for her and she moves in with him. He is on a program called drug court which has strict rules about cohabitating with someone who has substance abuse problems, the drug court supervisor found out that she was living with him and told them she had to move ASAP and he was given a stiff reprimand. They know that I have a couple of small rooms that I had let another guy rent from me when he left the half way house so they asked if she could stay with me and he would give me some money when he could, I agreed thinking it would only be for a month or 2 at the most. Now 3 months later I have yet to be paid any money and have provided her with meals, TP , smokes and plus a place to sleep, bath, watch T.V. lay around and what not. She doesn’t clean the house to compensate for the food, but I never told her she had to, my bad habit is assuming that if someone lives with you and they aren’t doing something for days on end, that they would do basic things around the house as a gesture of appreciation, my bad, it is my old farmer school way of thinking. I haven’t been really bothered by the food, the bumming smokes ticks me off a bit because I feel one needs to pay for their own bad habits or quit. Here recently the guy moved into his own apartment and has started blowing money on stuff and using the way over price rent to own place for a Xbox, so after buying a bunch of microwavable meals and pop for her, I realize that I need to confront him and tell him he needs to pay me some money to compensate for the food. I haven’t seen him at a meeting to confront him since I made the decision to do but knew I would tonight. Well this morning I went to put some spare change in a 1lb coffee can that I have using for change for a over a year, every once in a while I have pulled out some quarters so I could buy a pack of smokes if payday was a few days away. This morning when I opened the lid the can was empty! I would guess there was probably at least $20.00 in change in the can. I hate to kick a homeless person out but I will not tolerate stealing, especially after I have been very kind to someone and pretty much provided for their needs which included making sure they could get to meetings.
I honestly feel bad about having to do this but in quiet contemplation or maybe it is just justification by telling her she has to leave then she will have to start trying to help herself harder. The compassionate thing to do would be to stop enabling her and make her face up to the responsibilities of her actions. This is part of the recovery process, owning our inappropriate behavior and making amends by taking whatever corrective action we need to take. Being strong and assertive isn’t my strong suit but what I have to understand is that I am doing it for the right reason. Once again I have remember I am not responsible for someone else’s feelings as long as what I am confronting them on is for their own good. Compassion comes in many forms, I need to work on being aware of all the forms.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Parroting Catchphrases, Polly Want Sobriety

Our society loves catchphrases, those cutesy little sayings from commercials or entertainers that for a brief time a large part of the popular are repeating over and over again until they fade away and are replaced by the next brain dead phrase of the moment. Initially some of these phrases have genuinely good meanings but over time they become trivialized and meaningless, spiritual and social awareness phrases and symbols come to mind. Sometimes I feel the same thing has happened with AA slogans, Big Book quotes and AA catchphrases. We sit in meetings and hear these phrases over and over again but when they are said is the person saying them really understanding the implications of what they are saying. I have been guilt of doing just what I am concerned about until I stopped and really thought about it, also I talked with my sponsor and a couple other wise ones in recovery and realized that the phrases need to be used properly with the proper action talked about or explained for the benefit of the newcomer and some phrase really need to be removed from the AA lexicon altogether.

“Fake it till you make it” if one is faking something then they are being dishonest. Bill tells us repeatedly in the Big Book and 12 and 12 about being honest, “rigorous honesty” is mentioned every time we read “How it Works” at meetings, yet people are telling others to be dishonest and “fake it”. The intent of this may be to give those who still have some doubts about their drinking problem or AA in general an easier softer way so that at some point they will “make it” what ever “it” is, the sister saying to this is “Act as if.” When I got sober nobody told me it was going to be easy, they told me to “hang on to your butt, it’s going to be a bumpy ride” and “don’t drink, go to meetings get sponsor and work the steps, above all else don’t drink even if your butt falls off.” O.K. they may have had a fixation with the condition of my butt but at least they weren’t telling me to be dishonest! When I walked into AA I was already pretty good at being dishonest, I was dishonest with myself and everyone else I met and you told me I would have to learn to be honest which requires a bit of trust. You told me to have faith in a Power Greater than myself, that if I didn’t have my own I could use the group for this Power or borrow yours. I just needed to have faith that things would get better and you showed me this by the way you treated myself and other newcomers, by sharing how you had risen out of the depths of alcoholic despair to live a joyous and productive life in sobriety. You told me it was about progress and not perfection, to mellow out and take it one day at a time, and that in time if I took the same actions you took my craving for alcohol would disappear, you said I would truly enjoy being sober and you weren’t dishonest, in what you told me. The ride was bumpy, sometimes difficult, sometimes easy but I wasn’t faking the actions, I was taking the actions and my reward was that the compulsion to drink was removed and those elusive promises started coming true.

“Once again my troubles are of my own making.” If we are going to paraphrase this from the Big Book shouldn’t we quote the paragraph prior to this statement, “Selfishness----self-centeredness! That we think is the root of all our troubles.” Too many times someone will say their troubles are of their own making when they are in emotional turmoil or turmoil due to outside forces, they use the phrase like a cop out, “ oh well I caused my own problem.” If I am causing my own problems then I better learn to identify how selfishness and self-centeredness are creating these difficulties, what aspect of selfishness is generating my fear, fear is the underlying cause for anger, low self esteem, self-pity and a host of others. I also need to remember the how my selfishness gives raise to the seven deadly sins; lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, rage, envy and pride. I need to remember that when I share I need to identify how my own selfishness is causing the problem and what action/actions I need to take change the problem. When I work on my defects using the spiritual tool kit I become more aware of how my selfishness is effecting me, the less selfish I become the better my life is, this doesn’t mean life is always roses and dark chocolate, I still have bad hours, what I do accept is that my selfish desires want the world to revolve around me and the little Veruca Salt inside me acts up and wants everything to go my way 24/7, which is selfishness at it’s best. I create my own happiness or misery, it is all in my outlook and attitude, to be unselfish is to understand that the world and everything in it is doing what it is suppose to and I can’t always have it my own selfish way. I also need to take responsibility for my own actions or inactions, if I do something to wrong someone or an institution then they have a right to retaliate, I need to do a 10th step, learn from the experience and hopefully not repeat it. Yes I do create my own troubles but I am also responsible for my own serenity and whether or not I used the tools of recovery to maintain that serenity.

“First thought wrong” or “My biggest trouble lies between my ears.” I spent a drunken life time perfecting the art of low self-esteem, self doubt and shame, all turbo charged, so now in recovery why should I continue this practice, why should I stay co-dependent on this same self doubting behavior. On page 86 of the Big Book Bill writes about our morning prayer and mediation in which he says, “We consider our plans for the day. Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest, or self seeking motives. Under these conditions we can employ our mental faculties with assurance, for after all God gave us brains to use. Our thought-life will be on a much higher plane when our thinking is cleared of wrong motives.” He then goes on to tell us how to use prayer and mediation to improve our day and our lives in general on a daily bases. My problems do not necessarily arise from my thinking but more from acting impulsively to my thinking. When I drank I would act impulsively to a thought without thought of consequences or the effects it has on others, if I wanted to buy something I would without thought of upcoming financial needs, I was in a constant state of fulfilling my wants over my needs no matter what the cost and who I damaged along the way. The other problem with my thinking was not checking my motives. With prayer, mediation and the assistance of others I have learned and am learning to stop and look at the bigger picture of what I am thinking about. If I am planning something major like moving, changing jobs, getting into a possible intimate relationship I mediate about it for clarity and then talk it over with my sponsor or another trusted member of AA, they in turn can assist me in seeing all the pros and cons, my decision to follow my thinking may be correct, my trouble arises in putting too high of expectation on the change, I want to see the changes as being all rosy where as someone else will point out the thorns I need to be aware of thus saving me from unnecessary suffering. My experience has also been that when I practice prayer and mediation I don’t act as impulsively, I wait to buy something I want until I can afford it, my thinking is fine in wanting the newest CD by my favorite artist but if I have other monetary expense I postpone the purchase until I an afford it without causing financial stress. Asking someone out to dinner may be a good idea, but getting emotionally wrapped up in that person after the first date isn’t nor is not considering her emotional and spiritual well being, once again slowing down and rationally thinking about the situation is the un-selfish use of my thought process.

“I would rather be drunk than dry and miserable” or something to that effect. Really who hasn’t had a dry spell or 2, a period when we are caught up in the I, Self, Me of self-pity, a period when we don’t feel like praying, talking to our sponsor, going to meetings, working the step and so on. I would rather see someone be dryer then an Arizona cornfield than to see them pick up a drink again, that drink may be the one that kills them, or kills another person, there is no guarantee anyone will come back after they start drinking again. I was lucky I made it back to the rooms of AA after my relapse but it took 10 years, 10 years of damaging the life of my daughter, putting my poor parents through mental Hell, financial and legal problems, thanks to my Higher Power I never killed anyone even though I was a severe drunk driver. Please don’t throw temptation to the wind and suggest that someone or yourself go ahead and get drunk just because they are dry and miserable, encourage them to use the tools available to them get off the pity pot, the 12th step and our primary purpose aren’t just for practicing alcoholics you know.

“Stick with the winners” I know what you are talking about and understand the meaning of this statement but the newcomer in the corner or back of the room with less than a few months of sober time may not, you know the one who is too shy to ask questions. Do you remember when you first walked into the rooms, your head was swimming with all kinds of stuff, you listened in the meetings and got more confused, thankfully some people reached out to you and explained the basics, I remember those days. I also remember feeling like a loser and how it took a while before I thought I was even in the game of life again let alone thinking I was a winner. When we share about sticking with the winners, let us (myself included) share that the people who enjoy life in sobriety are the ones generally follow the suggestions of, going to meetings, working the steps, getting a sponsor, developing a network of recovery friends, doing service work, reading the literature, and being a part of the fellowship/participating in our own sobriety.

Having said all of this, there are slogans and phrase that just as important as the steps and traditions. “One day, one hour, one minute at a time” just for today/this hour/this moment I won’t pick up that first drink. “Don’t drink and go to meetings” one could add “get a sponsor and work the steps” to this but the chances are if someone just doesn’t drink and goes to meetings eventually they will follow suit and get a sponsor and start working the steps. “Keep coming back it works” this is what our experience has shown us. “Easy does it” but do it. We all have our favorites, as for me I need to make sure I am saying these things out of practice and not complacent parroting, that I am aware of how my words can effect others, words are very powerful and I need to respect them. Now comes the paradox slogan for this whole writing, “Keep It Simple” I just analyzed some phrases bring back the point that we need to watch what we say and keep it simple. Dr. Bob warned Bill and all of us not to louse this thing up by getting too complicated, maybe I am complicating things by analyzing these phrase and need to heed Dr. Bob’s words myself, so I will and close with thank you for reading my rant.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Selfish fear and confusion

I am scared and a bit confused. The fear comes from that old feeling of low self esteem. Here lately I have been assisting quite a few people in recovery and a couple who aren’t. I only sponsor a few of those who have sought me out which is fine, I don’t sponsor people to attain notches on my recovery coin. The AA responsibility statement which reads “I am responsible. . . When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help. I want the hand of AA always to be there. And for that: I am Responsible.” is something ingrained in my recovery psyche, so when someone asks to talk to me, I don’t hesitate, nor do I judge their character good or bad. The fear comes in the selfish question of “why me and do I really have something to offer them, I’m just a drunk who hasn’t had a drink today nor have I had a drink in the past few yesterdays”. I do my best to stay humble, I don’t give out any suggestions I haven’t done myself or I make sure I let people know that I am expressing my opinion/feelings, if I can’t help I give the name of a person who can. I share my experience, strength and hope to the best of my ability which is all that I can do. All this sounds rather uncomplicated in writing but then comes the fear of making sure I stay humble. I have a hard time accepting the gifts I have, not material but intellectual, and by intellectual I don’t mean the brainiac know it all form of intelligence, I mean an intelligent understanding of things spiritual and emotional. Extended suffering comes from not recognizing or changing the selfish nature on the emotion that is causing us pain; how can low self esteem be selfish? In this circumstance the selfish is not accepting who I am, that it isn’t about “me”, it is about what the Ancestors have given me and what I am suppose to pass along to those who feel I have something to offer them. It would be selfish if didn’t help another, if I didn’t write my thoughts out or send messages of support to those I care about, it would be selfish if I thought “no one wants to hear what I have to share” because obviously they do or they wouldn’t ask me or thank me for the feedback, same goes with those who have asked someone else for help and they have been pointed in my direction because the person they asked know I could help them better. When I doubt myself then I doubt the way of the universe, if I go against stream then I struggle and if I struggle I lose serenity. I took a few days off from a daily AA meeting because since it is the 2nd month the topic of discussion tends to turn to the 2nd step “ Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity”. I am the odd person out when it comes to Higher Powers, mine is still pretty much about a Divine Creator and less about God in the conventional since. My selfish ego was having a battle about the difference between going to the meeting to share about the step and the Higher Power the way I understand them and going to the meeting to be an outspoken contrast to those who speak strongly about the Judeo-Christian concept of God. After mediating about this for a few days, I came to the awareness that I am responsible for making sure the newcomers and others understand the implications of spirituality from a broader perspective and also as long as I was speaking from the heart, from my experience, strength and hope and not speaking to any individuals then I was acting humbly. I am gradually learning that I can be a teacher and stay humble at the same time it just takes being aware of my motives, when the ME or I pop up I need to stick the pin of humility in to my inflated ego. I am grateful that I can be of service to alcoholics and non-alcoholics alike, that I have been given some gifts that can be used for compassion and maybe the betterment of others. I also have to understand that I am not responsible for how others act or don’t act, I cant’ control others suffering, drinking or using, the choice is theirs just the same as it is mine.