Walking through the door into a recovery meeting for the first time is very daunting. Anyone who has done it though, has made the realization that something has to change or life is going to get even worse. I am grateful for the support that I found in my recovery room and that I continue to find. I realized quite quickly that I really didn’t know ‘how’ to live. Somewhere along the road of life I had mislaid my owner’s manual. Here I found one that works for me. However, it was, and still is up to me to take on the proper attitude if I am going to be successful in this endeavor: the H.O.W. of recovery.
Honesty, Open-mindedness and Willingness are what I need to cultivate if I am going to give recovery a fair test. If any one of these is missing I am severely limiting my chances of success in recovery.
Honesty for me is an integrity of person; that what I show to the world and what is inside of me is the same thing. No more lies. No more secrets. No more cover ups. It is being true to who I am, how I am and where I am. It’s a ‘what you see is what you get’ attitude. For me, honest and humility are pretty much the same thing. It’s not being more than who I am or less than I am. It stating openly ‘this is me’. I let go of ego. This is me with these strengths and these weaknesses. I am no longer sugar coating or trying to impress.
Open-mindedness is accepting that I don’t have all of the answers. It is saying that it’s not up to me to find all of the answers either. My way of life certainly isn’t the only way. And, if I am really being honest with myself, my way wasn’t working all that well, else why would I have ended up at the doors of a recovery meeting? I can listen to others. I can learn from them and their experiences. I can keep my mind open to other possibilities without automatically shutting down when I hear certain thoughts or ideas like prayer, mediation, spirituality.
Willingness. I need to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. I need to put the effort into applying new habits and principles into my life. I must work, apply and live the twelve steps of the recovery program. I have to be willing to be patient as well, knowing that everything takes time. I was told if I put half the effort into my recovery that I did to keep myself loaded, I would be well on my way to a life that is happy, joyous and free.
Honesty, open-mindedness and willingness are qualities that I continue to pursue in my recovery. It doesn’t end when I first finish the twelve steps or get my first year medallion. I continue to work and cultivate these qualities on a daily basis. It’s the moment that I think that I’ve ‘got it’ that I begin to lose it.
I still bristle when someone sends me a message on social media that tells me that God is blessing me this day, or that Jesus holds me in his arms. It brings back a past of rules, laws and feelings of guilt and shame. I am grateful for all I learned about religion and its practice but it is not my way of approaching my Higher Power now. There’s nothing wrong with the message. I hope to receive the blessings of my Higher Power and to feel the comfort of the Energy that surrounds and sustains us.
It’s the word God that bothers me, though I still say it. I use the word because it’s easier than explaining my concept of Higher Power. I use the word God and everyone understands that I am talking about something that is more than just me. At the same time, I would prefer that we had another word in English that conveys this concept. The image of an white haired, bearded man perched on a throne in a cloud is no longer my idea of what Source Consciousness is.
I am grateful that my recovery program allows me to choose my own concept of a Higher Power. It was a great relief when I came into the room that it wasn’t full of bible thumping proselytizers who were going to save me. I was able to find a ‘God of my own understanding’. This concept, though I didn’t understand it at the time, gave me an opening into developing a new and very different understanding of connecting to a power that had always been part of my life and brought me to recovery.
I have pretty much given up on trying to define exactly what my Higher Power is. I believe that defining that power will limit it. It’s enough to know it’s here with me. What does continue to change as I live my program is my understanding of that Power. By looking at the faiths of the world and different spiritual practices, I am deepening in my knowledge of how everything seems to work and I am left awed and amazed at how everything fits together. One of the gifts of my past is through it I can follow how the events that happened along the twists and valleys of my path have brought me to where and who I am today. Sometimes, even as things are happening and circumstances are changing, I take a step back and wonder how all of it is going to fit together, because it will. It always does.
The Eleventh Step invites me to improve my conscious contact with this Power by means of prayer and mediation, talking and listening, seeking and reflecting. I open my day by sitting on the terrace and watch the growing light as it illuminates the trees that surround me and enjoy the birds and other creatures passing by. It’s a wonderful way to open to gratitude first thing in the morning. It might not be traditional meditation but it’s working for me at this time. I expect that in the future, as my understanding of this Higher Power grows, how I keep in consciously contact with that Power will also grow. Today I receive the gift and feel the peace of knowing that I am not alone. I am grateful.
I look back over my time in recovery and I can see that I’ve changed. I am not the same person, thankfully, that walked into a meeting room seven years ago. If I continue to follow the program, then I will be a different person in another seven years. If I want to grow I have to change. If I am going to change I have to be willing to let go of the old me and trust my Higher Power’s plan for the new me.
“Every next level of your life will require a different you.” Leonardo Dicaprio
This, for me, is the essence of Steps Six and Seven. A willingness to let go of character traits that made me and an acceptance of who I am becoming. It is taking the next step toward life and embracing changes. Everyone in recovery can look back at their lives and be amazed at how they have changed. This change can continue if we allow it but it means a continued willingness to let go of who I am. If a ship changes course only one degree, it won’t be far off its original course the next day. But as time goes on, that course it is further and further from where if might have otherwise been.
When I arrive at a meeting room, I was on course for cell, a sanitorium or cemetery. I know that because I saw it happen to others around me. I know that I am no different than they were, except that I made the slight course correction. Seven years later I am far away from the iceberg I was heading toward. And, as a result, I am a different person from who I would otherwise be.
The changes and course corrections are still happening as a result of the program. I am enjoying my journey and I am continuing to change. As I continue to live the program of the Twelve Steps, I am continuing to grow and correct my course. I like who I am today. I like the changes that I have experienced in recovery. However, I want to continue to grow and to do that I have to let go of who I was yesterday to be a new person today. Letting go of the old me isn’t easy. It means expanding my comfort zone yet again.
The results of who I will become in the next iteration of me can be just as dramatic as the change between who I was seven years ago and today. I trust the process and so I look forward to whatever might come my way.
Step aside Tim, there’s a new you working its way down the production line!