There is a lot written about ‘forgiveness’ in and out of recovery literature. What exactly is it? Well, I followed the lead from my sponsor and started with a dictionary. That led me to check out the roots of the word ‘forgive’.

It came into English as a direct translation of the Latin ‘perdonare’ which meant to ‘thoroughly’ (for/per) ‘give up’ (give/donare). Forgiveness then is the act of thoroughly giving up. Modern English meanings include pardoning for an offence, renouncing anger at and abandoning a claim. Okay, English lesson over.

Forgiveness is saying that my part is over. I took offence at what happened and now I step back; I will no longer look for recompense. Rather, I will act as if what happened had never happened. It is saying that I no longer have the expectation that another person ‘owes’ me anything or can ‘fix’ what happened. It is not pretending that it never happened. I think it is releasing the pain that was caused and no longer holding onto the offence and I no long expect anything from the one who offended me.

I see forgiveness as a type of surrender. I give up. As of this moment I will stop holding onto the anger for a broken promise or an infidelity. I won’t seek revenge. I won’t ‘hold it against you’. If I am truly forgiving the other person, I will ‘give over’ what happened and I will treat you as if it never happened.

That’s a tall order. Can I really give my trust to that person without them having to ‘earn’ it back again? Can I really act as is they never broke or lost what belonged to me? Will I never bring up this incident again, even if something similar happens in the future? That is what forgiveness asks of me. I surrender the offence. I surrender the anger it caused me. I surrender any claim I have against you.

Forgiveness is a release not only for the other person. It’s a great release for me as well. Once I forgive you, I no longer hold onto the emotions that had me locked in battle. I let go of the swirling thoughts of how to exact my due. The anger and resentment are ended. I let go of the hot coal in my hand, realizing it is doing harm to me alone.

Finally, I forgive myself. If it ‘take two to tango’, then the other person is not the only one involved; I am too. I ask myself what part I played in this incident. I ask myself what lessons I have learned. I stop allowing this ‘thing’ to enslave me. I forgive myself. And I move forward. By surrendering, by ‘giving over thoroughly’, I am able to find my own freedom.


Progress, not Perfection

Last week I sneezed rather forcefully and my back went out. There went the weekend plans out the window. I was forced to make changes. It was not the first time it happened and fortunately, I have a small ‘TENS’ unit which I can use to send electrical impulses across my lower back and a good ice pack. Using them alternatively helps to ease the discomfort. Regardless, I know from experience that I need to do two things. First, I need to relax and take it easy, resting horizontally for a couple of day. Second, I need to look at why this happened, asking myself what are the physical and spiritual components to this occurrence.

I have come to learn from my own disease of addiction that I am an interconnected: when the body is in pain, so is the soul, and visa versa. I admire societies where a shaman is called who works with the body and the soul to promote healing. Western society separates the role of the doctor and the priest: medicine and spirituality are kept apart. Like my addiction, I know if there is a physical component, there is also a spiritual one. When something is wrong with the body there is something wrong with the soul and the soul-sickness usually develops before the bodily one.

Looking back I can see I put myself under stress physically (more intense gym workouts) and spiritually (holiday preparation, work and not keeping up with my program of meditation-journaling). I believe both of these resulted in my back deciding to go on vacation, forcing me to change some plans, slow down and get back to basics.

I am grateful that I have a recovery program to turn to. I am grateful that I have learned to see the signs, sometimes even before the physical torture of a lower back spasm. My spine is like a river with its electrical impulses flowing up and down. I can dam the flow and when I do that, I cause problems. And like the river, it takes time to take apart the pieces of the dam that restrict the flow but gradually it returns to normal.

These few days have given me time to catch up on reading, writing and appreciating the health that I do have. They have been a reminder to me how important it is to keep up my program and the short distance between ease and dis-ease. The steps of my recovery program require that I live them. They are not a checklist that I can forget about once finished; they require a daily recommitment to keep them fresh and alive.

I know this, and yet I still let things slide once in a while. I am grateful that this is a program of progress and not perfection: one day at a time. Our goal isn’t becoming saints, rather pilgrims enjoying the journey of life with others. I am grateful that I can now recognize when that’s not happening and that I have the tools to put me back on that path. Maybe next time I will recognize it before I can’t get out of bed in the morning.


New Beginnings

In this area, like many other places, when there’s a newcomer or someone returning to the fellowship, we talk about Step One. “We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction and that our lives had become unmanageable.” We also talk about the Third Tradition. “The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using.” The last three meetings I attended have welcomed new people.  Is my Higher Power trying to tell me something?

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t want to quit when I arrived at my first meeting. I had no desire to stop using. I had a desire for the craziness to stop. I wanted the circus in my head to pull up stakes and move on. I wanted to feel better and stop feeling depressed. The feelings of despair were so overwhelming that I wanted them to stop, but I didn’t want to admit that my consumption was the problem. I thought you could perhaps teach me to control my use so that I could enjoy life. Once I got my life organized again, then I could drink and use like a normal human being.

Hmmm.  Didn’t quite work out the way I thought.

I really wasn’t sure what would happen when I walked into the room that first time. But I was welcomed, recognized a couple of people I knew and sat down. Almost immediately I heard other people sharing their story and it was my story.  I could relate to the insanity of it all. I heard them speak of the shame they felt, their despair, fear and confusion while they were still drinking and using. They told me something that I never knew.  It’s the first drink that got me drunk, not the eighth or tenth.  How many times did I tell myself that I was only going to have one or two and find myself falling off of the barstool asking myself what happened.  I thought, ‘One can’t hurt’, and came to the next morning unsure of how I ended up lying on the porch.  As one member said, ‘It’s not the caboose that kills you, it’s the engine!’ Once it was in me, I lost all my resolve and all bets were off.  I had to admit, that I never just had one of anything.

Sheepishly, slowly, I had to admit that perhaps my use was at least part of my problem. Slowly, with time, I realized that I was powerless over my addiction. I saw that I spent most of my time getting high, recovering from it, or planning my next one. I might still have had a roof over my head and food in the fridge, but it wasn’t me who was managing my life, my addiction was. Most importantly, I learned that I couldn’t solve my problems with the same thinking that caused them. Something had to change.

Something did change: I stopped thinking and starting listening. I had to admit that the folks around the table had something that I wanted.  They were happy, laughing and friendly.  It didn’t take long before I dropped the pretense that I could control my use.  One minute at a time, one hour at a time and then one day at a time. I could stop for the moment, this minute or this hour. Gradually the hours added up to a day and then the days to a week and so on.

I can’t take my sobriety for granted. I know that I am a few bad decisions away from losing it. The elevator of my disease is waiting with the door open, ready to take me down deeper. And there’s no guarantee that I will make it back. Like the diabetic taking insulin, I must follow the program on a daily basis to ensure my sobriety. I am a beginner every day.

Beginner meetings remind me how far I have come in sobriety.  They remind me of what it was like and could be again. Working with a new member helps to keep it fresh. I am grateful to those who took the time to pass the message onto me and in my gratitude, I pass that message to others. What’s my Higher Power telling me? Keep coming back. Keep working the program. I can’t know what will coming around the corner in my life, but whatever it is, I know that keeping close to the program will allow me to handle life as it comes.  I am grateful.

♥  ♥  ♥

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