This blog is an effort to describe how my life has evolved over the last 4 decades plus while participating in a 12 Step program. What began as a simple recovery effort has opened up in my life as something that is far greater than just 12 Steps. It is called "LIFE!".
How many times have I made a powerful personal statement only to find out I completely negated it with the word "but"? This word seems to pervade the human vocabulary at the wrong times, at least never at the right times for me. When I came to recovery I never once considered that I truly may grow up, mature and think of others. This process has really had a profound impact on my use of this word "but".
One of the best examples I can think of is when someone very close and loving to you says; "I love you, but...." But? So I thought I heard; "I love you" as in totally unconditional acceptance, tolerance, happiness, joy, love and then got stopped cold in my tracks with "but". I guess I really heard; "I almost and just maybe love you....however there are some areas which I hold in reserve....blah blah blah". so it appears that this word ?but" can be a killer in some instances.....well most.
Gosh, I wonder if I do this with that Power Greater than Myself? Would I? Probably not on purpose, well probably. I actually can think of sometimes in my life when I said things to myself like; "I really don't need God interfering right now, I have things under control". Very dangerous practice it seems. Also a mite stupid as I think about it now. I am now hearing in my head; "say what you mean and mean what you say!". Why is it those old cliches come back at the wrong times? Every time my grandmother uttered yet another prophetic saying I would cringe. I just knew that I would hear it in my ears somewhere in the future at the right but wrong time.
I have been reminded many times by my mentors in recovery and in Unity, my spiritual choice of practice these days www.unity.org that the word "but" may just mean "a human opinion to follow". Similar to; "Yes I know you are totally correct, but...." just fill in the blank with a judgement, opinion or something I really shouldn't say. It seems somewhere along the life path my ego decided it needed to be right either all or at least most of the time. There are moments when that is still true. By listening for and to that "still small voice inside me", I can become aware more quickly and take actions as necessary to defeat that process. Again a process that I never in a million years would have thought I would cultivate back when life changed for me so drastically.
Back to "but". It seems that by listening to and hearing others use the word I am becoming more and more attuned to how I do not want to be. I truly want to say to those I love; "I love you" and have that mean 100% without reservation. I truly want to say to God as I understand IT/Him/Her; "I trust in you" and again have that mean totally without hesitation or second thoughts. This takes practice, this takes awareness, this takes honesty. Those are qualities I did not come to this way of life with. Maybe I possessed them innately, I really did not consciously practice any of them in my way of life.
So, these days if I want to live a congruous life, one which is in consonance with all that I think I should be doing, I have decided like a few other words need to get lost out of my vocabulary. Words such as; "hate, never and of course but". It just seems that these absolutely negative words have no valid purpose at all in my life. I feel certain that those in my life would agree that they prefer to hear me speak in the most positive terms possible and not have to consider whether I am being completely or totally honest. I know it certainly makes life much more simpler and in fact easier for me.
It now seems that in my life today "the easier softer way" is in fact "The Way", The Way of Truth.
So in the beginning, I like most all others in a recovery program struggled with how do I get well? The program was truly the easier softer way. Stop the addictive process, clean house, find God and love myself. Fairly straight forward and easier than staying in my addiction.
My mentors in recovery explained to me that I would once again return to my addiction in the reverse fashion of getting recovered. So for years I have been watching people around me in the Fellowship and noticing what they were doing or not doing. I wanted to know what it was like to go "back out" without having to actually do it. Over the years I have in fact seen people develop certain behaviors that were indicative of "heading down the path".
Spiritual pride seems to head the list. That feeling that they were invincible and that as emissaries of God they could do no wrong and that in fact their Higher Power had sanctioned all they said and did. Seemed like that was the first noticeable trait. This behavior was closely associated with the direct opposite or spiritual bankruptcy. Many of the people who did "road work" for me, also had a complete loss of faith. They just quit believing or seemed to be able to argue that HP did not work, at least for them.
As these observable behaviors started manifesting in my friends, I also noticed a definite and pronounced lack of "program activity". For example they cut down on meetings, not calling people in home group, not communicating with mentors, not willing to give people rides to meetings. This withdrawal from the "healing source" which is the support of HP through many, appears to be the most damaging behavior. Once my friends had gotten to this point they had shut themselves off from all help both divine and human. They no longer felt "the son-light of the Spirit". The darkness of illness began to be the most prevalent feelings for them by now. It appears that as they became more and more ill with their particular illness, the more and more they moved away from the aid of HP and all those that loved them. Doomed is the word they used to describe this phase of relapse.
This process was a serious eye opening experience for me. I vividly remember the first time one of my home group members picked up her own personal "poison" after 23 years of recovery. I was flabbergasted. I could not comprehend this occurrence. Actually I think I finally got the message very deep within me for the very first time. "This is what happens when you don't stay in recovery". I was sad for her family and I was very much brought to a new awareness of the overall healing process. I also remember vividly, the FIRST time one of my mentors aka sponsor, looked at me over coffee and said something like; "you my dear friend are on the road to hell". In an instant all that I had studied in others and tried to keep in my conscious thinking flooded my mind. Yes, he was right, I was on the road to hell and actually knew it.
The final step for these beloved members of my home group was to begin to lash out and retreat when met or spoken to by their friends and peers. I remember one man I sponsored and I dearly loved actually drove to my home and told me to lose his telephone number since he was just fine and did not need my help. I was heart broken, for I knew what was going to be the next big event in his life. I just knew it. Yes, he decided 4 days later to end his life, and did. Why could I not have helped? What could I have done? My mentors reminded me that I was not in charge of the Universe and must as best as possible accept the will of the Divine. Hmmmmm, took a while for me to reconcile that one.
So, what are the lessons learned here? I think two fold. One is that I have seen over and over what the process of becoming sick once again looks like. I have watched and participated in many recoveries and many returns to illness. I have studied, cataloged and written to memory what the signs look like. Secondly, I have had to come to the awareness that as a rule, I of my own abilities am "Powerless" to stop this "road to hell" process. I can certainly interact, warn, notify and then must sit and watch the Universe do what it knows best. It is not up to me to make the person well. It is up to me to be there if the person ever decides to get well.
I am aware today that all the above thoughts and ideas certainly fit well and are appropriate for those persons suffering from some form of addictive substance or. I am also very much aware that the thoughts and ideas also seem to fit reasonably well with some persons that while not addicted to a substance, they are indeed suffering from some form of neurosis. The recovery process is nearly the same and the return to "insanity" also seems to fit well.
So I have had to listen to that old cliche founded in scripture; "physician heal thyself" many many times in my head. In the time I have been hanging around recovery circles I have had 3 very serious brushes with the "road to hell" concept. I have stood at the brink of doom and had to remind myself that I had the knowledge of how to stop my relapse. In that instant all that is holy and divine became evident to me and I did the next right thing. If you want to know what it is I did, leave me comment and ask me. :)
Love and Light,
aka ezduzit777 on twitter
also on Facebook
Recently while having lunch with a fellow recovering person, he mentioned that it doesn't matter what we think but HOW we think. That took a few minutes, hours and day to soak in. Wow! "How!"
So the process is what needs attention and not necessarily the bottom line or what. Best example would be in the BB where it urges me to have a "code" of "love and tolerance". That is a process not a conclusion. It means that I had to and now have to begin to quit judging others in life. I need to focus my attention on the only thing that I can really have any affect on, me. This at times was not and is not terribly easy to do. I certainly grew up with many prejudices that I did not know were even in place.
I found myself beginning to "think, think, think" before I allowed myself to make decisions about people, places or things. I needed to change that instantaneous process I had created of everything in life is wrong except me. As recovery allowed me to move along in life I began to feel better about me and absolutely about others. The thinking process, "how" was changing ever so slowly. There were days or even weeks that I had mental setbacks. Deep brooding or unnecessary anger towards someone. That I know now was and is all fear based. Something is wrong with me. I then have to "root out the cause and condition" that is making me fearful. Repeated annual 4th step inventories and sharing with a sponsor began to have a tremendous effect on my thinking.
The vast changes I needed to make in my thinking did not really come about until long into my recovery time. Somewhere around my 20th year in the recovery process. At that time I was so focused on me and what I thought my new primary problem was, I had driven myself to a major crossroads in life. I was trying very hard to be cognitive of "how" I was thinking but the bottom line was excruciating. I had come to the conclusion that my situation in life had to change but couldn't rationally figure out "how". After 6 months of outside professional therapy by a wonderful person, I was able to see that my thinking process was valid and for once in my life I had indeed been able to ascertain that there were things, very scary things I needed to do for me and no one else.
The individuality of recovery became so apparent to me at this time. My sponsor had kept cautioning me that the answers I was seeking and the process I was trying to instill in myself may not always be the answer for others. Good training for the future. Many sponsee's since then have had the benefit of his counsel and of my intense counseling efforts. I learned a lot about me and my thinking process of "how I think". Today I know that I was at that time www.unity.orgin a "take action or succumb to this illness" state of life.
I made a major change in my life and and at nearly the same time was led to a spiritual philosophy of living that was so dynamic and uplifting that I was truly as the second step says; "...reborn". In my new found life I was to find nearly everything I had ever wanted in life. A new way of thinking was the most profound. Every spiritual axiom that I had tried to incorporate into my life from the "program" began to appear in my life.
Now nearly 20 more years and a number of life changing moments later, I was mildly stunned by my friends remark of; "not what I think but how". It almost seems absurdly simple that if I change my thinking process I will indeed change my life. I think this is exactly what Dr Wayne Dyer wrote a book about. The spiritual philosophy of Unity, www.unity.org has enabled me to utilize my basic life process given to me by the 12 step programs and expand those basic principles far beyond anything I had known. The basic beliefs of Unity which enhance all the spiritual growth I enjoy today are:
1. God is the source and creator of all. There is no other enduring power. God is good and present everywhere.
2. We are spiritual beings, created in God’s image. The spirit of God lives within each person; therefore, all people are inherently good.
3. We create our life experiences through our way of thinking.
4. There is power in affirmative prayer, which we believe increases our connection to God.
5. Knowledge of these spiritual principles is not enough. We must live them.
When I pay attention to life, when I am truly aware of my thought process, the two philosophy's of the 12 step program and Unity appear to be an unbeatable combination. For me and of course me alone, the growing process in Unity has led me to an even more open mind and enabled me to study other philosophies in life including; Buddhism,Taoism, Hinduism, Judaism, mystical Christianity and Kabbalah. This course of study and learning has been and still is very powerful and helping me touch that Power Greater than myself at any given moment of time. Living one day at a time is now approaching living one breath at a time. When needed I make every effort possible to touch and feel the God of my understanding in any needed instant. That fits well with; "...practice these principles in all my affairs.".
Am I finished in life studying myself, my motives, my desires? I hope not. Even with all the efforts I have put in to better myself through my thinking, my ego from the subconscious still wins battles. I trust this means this is a life long process. I do know that by my adjusting "how" I think, I have every chance of changing "what" I think. That seems to be the bottom line.
I have a picture on the wall near the desk that is of a beautiful although very creative image of a large cat. The picture is by the artist "Nedobeck". His inscription for this cat reads;
"I am me,
I am just me,
I am a little like other cats,
but mostly I am just...me!".
If I can always be aware of "how" I think as opposed to "what" I think, then I think there is a chance that I can live One Day At A Time as; "...mostly just me!". Of course I am aware that "what" I think will usually always give me a clue that "how" I think has become invalid or no good. Oh oh, sounds like another process to write about later. I am beginning to understand what my old timers meant when they used to ask me to; "check my brains at the door."
In one lifetime it seems so monumental to have made the swing of the pendulum from "nothing" to "everything" then back to "center". Sounds cryptic? Not really.
As a child and on into teenage and young adult years, I was trained, enabled and encouraged to be a "self contained person". None of this training was done maliciously nor on purpose, it was just the way my "tribe" and circle of life lived. Because of physical limitations such as most childhood allergies and some typical illnesses I was isolated a lot from school and a young society. I developed a psyche that said; "I was everything unto myself". I was told; "use your brains, you are smarter than most...". I became very "self centered", how could I not? I thought this was normal. I thought everyone was like that. With absentee parents because of working or suffering from their own malady, I was pretty much left to my own thoughts, Machiavellian or angelic as they were.
At a pre-teen ager I learned to use alcohol as an escape mechanism and really began to isolate in life. I was pretty much a loner and what acquaintances I did have had as many emotional or life problems as I did. "Birds of a feather....", actually more like; "misery loves company!". This type of life activity and thinking for the first 32 years of my life created a few glorious moments of fame and fortune and many many moments of self imposed misery and pain. Unfortunately, those that loved me the most and were the closest to me, family and long term friends all 1 of them, suffered along with me whether they liked it or not. So this period of my life I see as the pendulum swinging as low as it could possible go before death and I am strapped to it. I had decided; "I am nothing!" and had been living in that manner. Only way to go is up! Onto recovery and life and hopefully the opposite of being "nothing".
So that is what happened and how I got here....next? What occurred or what did I do to get me where I am now and then what it is like now with some depth....I hope.