Preparing for Harvest

I grew up on a small family farm in Southern Ontario. Every spring, once the snow melted and the land dried up, we would get out on the fields to prepare for the harvest. Every effort, from cultivating the soil, fertilizing, seeding, weeding and patience was required to raise the crop to harvest time. Some crops require more care than others. And I was taught that a prayer or two for a good harvest wouldn’t hurt.

I left the farm when I went off to study, but its lessons stayed with me. I plan for the future but live in the present. It isn’t enough for me to plant a seed and leave it.  I need to tend to its needs of water, weeding and pruning for the future harvest to be realized and not every seed or plant has the same requirements. As well, I need to be aware of what seed I am planting: sowing wheat won’t give me watermelons.

I often say at meetings that I can’t rely on yesterday’s recovery to keep me happy, joyous and free today. I have to constantly tend to my recovery: if I’m not investing myself in it, then the chances for a good harvest are slim.

Wherever you focus, that’s where you’ll end.

My attitude, my actions and my goals determine where I will end up. What I focus upon, either positively or negatively influences where I will go.  Saying to myself over and over I not going to drink or I’m not going to use I am still focused on drinking and using. Turning the focus outward away from addiction has the effect of creating new directions. Turning the focus onto my recovery and its benefits changes me and my actions. An attitude of gratitude works because it shifts focus to the gifts of recovery. Acts of service to others work because my focus is on others not on me.

It’s not easy cultivating a change in attitude. It takes continuous work, at least I’ve found it so, to maintain the change. I can slip into a negative attitude at the drop of a hat: it’s how I used to function, it’s an old habit.  The challenge is to scratch the old record enough times so that it can never play again and put a new record on the turntable.

In focusing on recovery I am focusing on the harvest. I do those things I need to do in order to stay in recovery and keep that focus. With time comes growth. Planting a seed of change today will not provide a harvest of results tomorrow. That’s why I follow my program. It helps me cultivate, fertilize, prune and weed my recovery so that I can reap a bountiful harvest.

Unmanageability

Step One invites us to admit two things: that we were powerless over alcohol, drugs, gambling, etc., and that our lives had become unmanageable. I had a hard time with the unmanageability part. You see, when I first got sober, a lot of the things that I wasn’t able to manage in my life suddenly became manageable. The first couple of weeks were a bit tough financially and I remember wondering where I would have gotten the money to feed my habit for the rest of the month had I not quit, but in truth, I know that I would have found the funds somehow.

After a few weeks, I discovered that I now had the money to pay all of my bills without juggling the monies around credit cards and accounts so no one was on my tail about paying up. I  began to do necessary repairs and maintenance on the property and so tenants weren’t at my door complaining. My little ‘fiestas’ had stopped. I was keeping the house clean, doing laundry and even finding time to read again. Things were turning around so quickly that it was easy for me to see how my addiction had caused all of the unmanageability in my life.

But then something changed. I ran into a problem and I didn’t know how to deal with it. My first thought was to find something to take the edge off. That had been my ‘modus operandi’: using something to help me forget the problem and pretend that it wasn’t a problem after all. But hanging around the folks at meetings must have been helping because I knew that probably wasn’t a good option. I got on my motorcycle and drove. I headed out to the country and just drove and repeated over and over again the Serenity Prayer.

Gradually the emotion that had taken control of my mind began to subside. Slowly I calmed down. Like a mantra, the prayer helped rid me of distraction and to focus on what I needed to do: go to a meeting and talk to my sponsor.

I learned through this and other experiences that manageability is more than paying bills and doing what I should have been doing all along. It’s easy to have a manageable life when things are running along smoothly.  They don’t always. Manageability has to do with living life on life’s terms and accepting what comes along and dealing with it as it arises. I had to learn new ways to manage my life. I need the program not to iron out my life but to help me face it. I needed, and still do need my recovery program to guide me when things don’t go according to my plan and problems arise.

I still get overwhelmed at times. Something seem to be insurmountable and I feel I can’t deal with it. Stepping back, walking the dogs, and still driving on my motorcycle help me to clear my head and put a plan in place. While I can still spiral down into unmanageability, I now have solutions to help me make the turn around and I have my program to thank for that.

 

Truth and Courage

“Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the making of action in spite of fear, the moving out against the resistance engendered by fear into the unknown and into the future.” M. Scott Peck

Step Four asks us to make a thorough and fearless moral inventory. I took more time with this step than any other step in my recovery program. I kept telling myself I was preparing my thoughts, waiting for the right time and hoping to be inspired. What I was really doing was working on a character trait that still dogs me: procrastination. Why do today what I can put off until tomorrow? And I was afraid of what I would find. I was afraid I might find the truth of who I was. There were a lot of dark corners of my past that I had shut the door on and I was quite sure I would be opening Pandora’s Box if I looked too closely.

I had my own deadline for completing this step. I wanted to have it down and talk about it with my sponsor before I moved. As the period of time got shorter and shorter, my anxiety about the step increased. And then I started thinking that perhaps I didn’t need to do it before I moved. It could always be done later, right?

About this time I went to a meeting where the topic arose. A fellow shared that it took him two years and three days to complete his Fourth Step: two years of procrastination and three days to do the work. He talked about how his fear of what he might find froze him. When he finally sat down to write, he broke through that fear and faced himself with honesty, discovering that the task wasn’t as arduous as he thought it would be. This was the push I needed.

I got out the guide for the step that a friend suggested. I wasn’t sure what I would find but I knew that if I wanted to recover I had to trust the process. I knew it worked because I could see the results in others.  I also had examples of what happened to those who skipped this step. All it took was a couple of days of effort to work through the 59 questions  in the guide. In the end, the experience I heard at that step meeting bore true for me as well. My fear was a phantom. I knew my past. A few things I hadn’t thought about in years came up, but I realized that I never had anything to fear.

Like making that first phone call to ask for help, or walking into a meeting room for the first time, my fear diminished once I got down to doing Step Four. It wasn’t a Pandora’s Box of frightful things. Everything that was there I had placed inside. Step Four allowed me to open the box and see exactly what was in there. Now I had a better idea of who I was and what I needed to work on a better future for myself.