Do It Any Way

Larry was in recovery for over 25 years before he left us for the big meeting in the sky. He died as he wanted, sober and with two close friends, who are also members of his home group, at his side.

He was the group philosopher. Though he accused himself of over thinking things, he always had something worth an ear. He was a larger than life character who towered above most everyone and who never failed to help another member. His big old bear hugs were smothering but always honest and genuine. And though he’s been gone for well over a year, his bits of wisdom which were gleaned from his own experience are still echoing in the rooms of the city.

“Do it anyway,” he’d often say at a meeting, “or do it any way.” It was Larry’s manner of encouragement. Find a way to get done what needs to be done. There might be an “I don’t want to,” or an” I don’t think I can,” but when it came to the program, friends as well as sponsees heard this wise words to push forward regardless.

Sometimes in life it isn’t about desire or want. It’s about need. Larry’s words are for those things we need to do, the things we fear doing, the things we don’t even know how to do. Do it any way.

Commitment, consistency and courage are behind these words. Sticking to one’s convictions day by day regardless of what happens. This is how we live a life in recovery. This is the example Larry set for us. It is also the challenge he left with us.

“Do it anyway, do it any way.”

Thank you Larry.

Right-Size Me, Please

Being the seventh month, we often focus on the seventh step: Humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings.  The principle of this step is humility.

Humble, as an adjective is defined as meekness, lacking pride, arrogance or assertiveness.  As a verb it is defined as the destroying the power, independence or prestige of something or someone.  I believe that in being humble we accept that we are not all powerful, not completely independent nor do we possess advantage over others. It is being in a state of acceptance of what is, and not what was or could be.  I don’t compare myself to others as being better, or worse.  I see things as they are.  Like the inventory I took in Step Four, I look at what is there, without judgement as to its quality. I don’t need to be supersized; that’s been my problem.  I need to be ‘right-sized’.

Last year, after being in the program for several years it became apparent to me that I could use a bit, no, a lot more work on Steps Six and Seven.  I worked with my sponsor, used the book: Drop the Rock, published by Hazelden along with my program literature. During my first go around with the steps  I had spent about as much time on these two steps as Bill Wilson did in writing about them in the two short paragraphs on page 76 of Alcoholics Anonymous:  ‘I am willing.  Here they are.  Please take them away.’  The second time around truly was an eye opener for me.  What does it mean to humbly ask my Higher Power to remove my shortcomings?

I have come to discover that it means taking step three to a whole new level.  Not only do I put my will and my life into the care of my higher power, I now allow that Higher Power to modify me in such a way that I must let go of what I know about who I am today.  A lot of my character defects made up who I was.  I was a perfectionist who would rather do it myself than watch someone else do it wrong. (And then I would have to do it over to do it right.)  I had an arrogance about me because I had studied hard and have two post secondary degrees and one diploma. I suffered because others didn’t understand my importance.  I had a sense of entitlement: I worked hard so I deserved my time to relax however I wished.  I could go on, but you get the picture.  These shortcomings were who I was, part of my personality.  On my second time through these two steps I found out what the verb humble meant in my life; if I was truly going to have these shortcomings removed, I had to destroy them.  The ‘me’ at the end of the experience would be very different from the ‘me’ I started as.

You see, I kind of liked who I was, what I did, where I was in life.  I don’t like a lot of change.  My character defects were defining me, telling me who I was, where I should be, how I should act and react.  Without them I feared that I might become the proverbial ‘hole in the donut’.  I had a big fight with Ego about that!

Humility in Step Seven takes courage.  It isn’t easy to say: “Okay H.P., here I am, take away who and what I always thought I was and remake me”.  I needed to trust that my Higher Power knows what he’s doing.  I had to accept what is and what will come.  Could I have handled this in early recovery the first time I did this step?  I don’t know.  It was difficult enough with five years behind me. The difference this time though, is that I had evidence that my life really is in the care of a Higher Power. I knew and could point out how I had changed for the better.  I was no longer the sorry soul that walked into a meeting for the first time.  I am light years away from that Tim.  I am now able to understand that I still have a lot to learn about life.

Fortunately, when I completed Step Seven, my H.P. didn’t remove those defects of character right away and all at once.  This is a process that takes time.  Every once in a while the perfectionist gives his opinion about how things should be done.  Periodically the arrogant S.O.B. walks past the addict sleeping on the street without compassion.  Yes, I take my shortcomings back with regularity.  I am grateful though, that slowly I am recognizing them as they are showing themselves. I am learning to listen to another’s method of doing a task. I can look on with love at someone who on a different journey than I am now.  Slowly my Higher Power is doing for me what I could not do for myself: grow and blossom into a whole new being.

♥  ♥  ♥

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Principles before Personalities

I have a buddy in the program who has stopped going to meetings.  He’s returning to his program after just under ten years in and another four years out again.  Right now he has under six months.  He says he is fine.  He’s doing his readings and studying his books at home and he’s doing daily meditation.  He told me he has stopped going to meetings because his former sponsor is there, and he feels that the former sponsor is looking at him ‘funny’.  The community is very small here.  There isn’t an option for him to go to other groups.

I heard from another friend, a recovering alcoholic with well over twenty years in the program.  He has stopped going to meetings because there is too much discussion about drugs along with the alcohol.  He’d like to go back to the old times with completely closed meetings and no mention of any drug.  “There are other groups for that.”

I have been hearing similar and other gripes since I became a 12 step member.  Both AA’s and NA’s twelfth tradition reminds us to: “…place principles before personalities.”   What does that mean?  To me, it suggests that I remember the principles of the program: recovery, unity, service, honesty, humility, forgiveness, hope, integrity, love, discipline, perseverance and spirituality.  Not everyone is going to have all of these principles down cold.  (I had to look them up, to be sure, while writing because I couldn’t have named them all.) Some days I’m more honest or forgiving than others.  This tradition tells us that these principle are far more important than the defects of character in those who impart them to us.

I must remember that what is important is the message and not the messenger.  In our case, the medium is not the message.  Recovery is much deeper than those who present it.  Were it not so, for example, AA would have died out when Bill Wilson, the founder, passed on.  Something that is true doesn’t become false simply because I don’t like the person who is telling it to me.  Trust me, many people delivered a message to me that I needed help long before I began my trek in recovery.  Of course, in my sorry state I’d get angry with them and use even more ‘just to show them!’

We will always meet people who irritate or bother us in some way, in and out of our meeting room.  We don’t like to be told what to do and how to do it.  We don’t like to have to do anything.  When someone is sharing I can focus on their speech impediment or their ugly shirt, or their hot body,  instead of listening to what they are saying and that probably isn’t what the program is about.

Early on in my program I heard someone talk about the 70-20-10 Rule.  He said that seventy percent of the time, what you hear in a meeting is good solid stuff that can be stowed in your tool box and brought out later to help you through a difficult situation. Twenty percent of the time, what you hear will have you at the edge of your seat; it’s exactly what you need to hear at this time.  It is as if your higher power is speaking directly to you.  And ten percent of the time, what you hear is an opportunity to practice your patience and tolerance.  This rule has proven to be true for me, and others have told me so as well.  However, what is my twenty percent, may be your ten percent, and visa versa.  Our higher powers just works that way.

There’s an old joke in AA:  What do you need to start a new meeting?  A resentment, a coffee pot and a friend.  If your recovery is at risk because you can’t get around the personalities in the room or how things are managed or what people are doing, then find another meeting.  Try attending on-line meetings, start your own meeting, do anything that protects you from your disease.  If sobriety is my number one priority, then I don’t have the luxury of cherry picking.  I need the program more than it needs me.

Periodically I attend Al-Anon meetings.  These folks have a lot to teach me about life.  I particularly like a part of their closing statement:  In closing, we would like to say that the opinions expressed here were strictly those of the person who gave them.  Take what you liked and leave the rest….We aren’t perfect.  The welcome we give you may not show the warmth we have in our hearts for you.  The message delivered by the personalities around the table and the principles intertwined in that message are what keep me sober, not the personalities who deliver them.  Keep coming back.