The Spiritual Angle: Making Connections

Today’s reading from Daily Reflections of AA literature (Feb. 9) talks about the ‘spiritual angle’ of the recovery program and how many people find this to be one of the most difficult parts of the program to accept and integrate into their lives. For many the term ‘spiritual’ is synonymous with God and religion and brings with it a whole basket full of snakes.  A basket they’d rather keep well sealed. I know that the preconceived ideas I had about the program and religion kept me out of the rooms for several years because I thought that recovery would turn me into a bible thumping fool. And yet I finally came, despite my misgivings, because I couldn’t do it on my own.

And that’s really the key to the ‘spiritual angle’: I couldn’t do it on my own. In my disease I had dug my hole so deep that I had isolated myself from everyone and everything. Now here I was in a recovery meeting surrounded by others who could relate to me, and, more importantly, I found I could relate to them. I was impressed that these people seemed happy. I heard laughter. I was invited back. In a few days I knew I had found my tribe and that my preconceptions had been incorrect.

Slowly I started making connections. First to the others at the meeting. Then I started connecting to myself. I fount that I could actually get through a day without altering my personality. I didn’t know it then, but I still had a long way to go. And I learned a new trick, or so I thought of it that way: one day at a time. Every day at the meetings I was deepening my connection to others, to the program and to myself.

In that process I started to develop my spirituality, which I believe is, stated simply, making connections. I was seeing first, that I wasn’t alone. Then I started seeing that it wasn’t all about me. I started being less selfish with my time and my talents. I started listening. Not only was I learning that I couldn’t do it all by myself, I was also learning that I didn’t have to, nor was there ever a ‘rule’ that I had to do it alone.

The connections to myself and to other people then broadened my mind to realize that we are all connected in a manner much deeper than a ‘hello, how are you?’ kind of way. I had a renewed sense of being a part of something. I was breaking out of my isolation, breaking out of my ego and entering into the ‘realm of the spirit’ as it is sometimes called. For me, it is the ‘realm of connections’ where I am no longer alone.

I see myself today as connected to myself in that I take responsibility for my actions, realizing that I’m the only one I can control. I am connected to others: not just the folks in the recovery rooms but also with my family, people I work with and interact with everyday. And I believe that I have a connection to everything. There is something greater at work here. Something I still can’t put my finger on but which connects me to everything else.

That is my understanding of the ‘spiritual angle’ of the Twelve Step program of recovery. I have connections I didn’t have before. It doesn’t matter what I call it or how I understand it. I just have to recognize that it exists.

I am more than self and selfishness: I am connected.

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Don’t Leave it to Chance

“Choice, not chance, determines one’s destiny.” Author Unknown

I came across this quote in one of the recovery web pages that I follow. For many years I would have said it was chance that determines my fate in life. I would have said you’re dealt the cards your dealt and you just have to make the best of it. I didn’t really bother, let alone believe in setting goals because life is going to steer you to go through the rapids or the waterfalls whether you like it or not. Some people are winners because that’s how the universe wants it for them and others, well, you know, karma can be a real downer.

I’ve come to look at things differently now.

I see that in the short term, for example, when I am feeling depressed or down, I can sit and wallow in my self pity and sadness. Or I can do something about it. I can go for a walk, go to the gym, talk to someone. Yes, I have to accept it, but I know that I have a choice to stay in my depression or act. The exercise or a phone call are action and action is what is needed. I make a choice and act.

When I was in the bitter morass of my disease, I knew I was harming myself and that I couldn’t get out of this alone. I accepted that. Once I stopped fighting, I was able ask for help. The assistance of others, my Higher Power along with my own determination helped to raise me out of a pit of my own making. Continued work on myself with the help of my Higher Power and my friends in recovery help to ensure that I stay this way. Had I really believed in fate, I probably wouldn’t be here any more to write about it. My recovery is not the result of the flip of a coin. It is the result of my choosing to move forward and co-create this new me with the help of my Higher Power.

I continue to choose to work with my Higher Power to re-create a new me. I am not the same person as I was when I came to the program. Ask those who knew me then. They’ll tell you.  I know that I have made big changes in my life and I know that my choices and my efforts have done a great deal to ensure that I did, in fact, change. I continue to change. I am not content to let the status quo remain as it is. I believe that my destiny is to ask, learn, grow and share as I make my way down the river.

“I may not command the wind, but I can direct my sails.”

This applies to all aspects of life. Things happen. I can’t control other people, places or things. But I do have a choice: I can do nothing and things will stay the same, or I can make a change and shift where I am going in life. And yes, it is a great responsibility. I can no longer blame my family, where I live, my friends for me state. Part of becoming an adult it taking responsibility for the decisions, or failing to take them in the past. I do have control.

Grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change.

The courage the change the people I can.

And the wisdom to know it’s me.

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Paying Attention

When I was looking for my first house I ‘knew’ which house it was from the time I saw it. It was a small cottage looking over the lake and it was ‘perfect’. I was in the village to look at a house with an agent. He mentioned another place that wasn’t listed on the market but whose owner was looking to sell ‘if the price was right’. I ‘knew’ that this was the house when he drove into the driveway. There’s a spot just below the sternum where I ‘felt’ it, and I ‘knew’. Two months later I was sitting on the deck of that house looking out over Lake Erie, a view that I would relish for the next nine years.

I got the same feeling one morning about seven years ago when I woke up one morning and I ‘knew’ that something had to give. My world was crumbling before me. I was losing the battle. I could feel it in that same place, just below the sternum. My guts were telling me that the show was over. I needed to make changes or I would be heading down a path I ‘knew’ I did not wish to tread.

I have no idea if everyone has that place in their body where they ‘know’.  It’s hard to describe. It’s almost as if knowledge becomes a physical sensation in the body. I’ve had this sensation various times in my life and I know now that it is one of the ways my Higher Power speaks to me. I suppose it had to be this way for me to pay attention. I wasn’t the most intuitive and sensing person.

Learning to listen, to follow one’s intuition is not easy, especially at first. When I began my journey in recovery, my thinking wasn’t my greatest asset: a good reason for me to work with my sponsor, go to meetings and listen. Going through the process of the steps I began to fathom the depths of what it really meant to ‘turn my will and my life over to the care of my Higher Power, a ‘God of my understanding’. And, if I’ve really done this, it only makes sense that he would communicate with me, right? How else will I know what my next step is to be? Slowly my trust of those feelings began to grow. I’ve learned that the more connected I am with myself and my Higher Power, the more aware I am of my intuition. I’m learning to pay attention to what’s happening around me.

It’s not always that physical sensation; it doesn’t have to be now. Most days I start off with a prayer. Most days I write. Most days I go to a meeting. These are the things that maintain my spiritual condition that keeps me in recovery. I’m able to see the patterns in my life and the mosaic of this world and I marvel. My life continues to evolve and morph into new experiences because I am open to them, I take the time to listen. I truly am grateful for my life today.