Acceptance is the Starting Point

In my addiction I would often scold myself and tell myself when I came to in the morning that I wouldn’t do that ever again. But by noon, all bets were off; my head was clearer(?) and I could tell myself with just enough conviction that it wasn’t that bad and I would do better today. Of course, during the last few months of active addiction, there was no morning regret. I had no dignity. I had little emotion. I had but one goal: the continual desire to seek and find oblivion.

I knew before I arrived at my first recovery meeting that I needed help. I just couldn’t stop on my own any more. I figured that if I could use the meeting to keep my head on straight for one day, then perhaps I could quit for longer. I thought that I just needed that push to get me up onto the ‘wagon’ and I would be able to handle it by myself.  After all I had quit on my own in the past for fairly long periods of time. I could lick this on my own.

A member of the group invited me to return to the meeting the next day and since I wasn’t doing much of anything and perhaps because no one really wanted me around any way, I took her up on the offer. And I kept going back. I started reading Twelve Step literature. I started counting my clean and sober days. Time in the program because important to me. I always chased the gold star in school; now I was chasing the 30-day chip, then two month and so on. I stayed. I began to work the steps and my life began to change.

Why did this work for me? I think that when I came into the program I was finally ready to accept that I was powerless and that I needed help. I was ready to surrender. My acceptance of the situation that I found myself in (and which I know was of my own making) became the jumping off point into recovery. The evidence of my addiction was before me. I could no longer deny it. I couldn’t pass it off as a bad night or a difficult week. There just wasn’t an end to what I was going through. Once any of us decide that we have hit our bottom, then we can start moving forward again.

I’ve learned since I’ve been in Recovery that what I resist will persist. As long as I was resisting my disease, fighting it, not acknowledging it, I was giving it the upper hand. The heroin addict, the compulsive gambler or the two liter a day alcoholic are doing the same thing: fighting against the facts, denying that they have a disease which keeps them in their addiction. Admission and acceptance are the foundation of  recovery. Once I accept, I’m saying to myself that there’s nowhere else to go. I have to deal with the situation or it is not going to change. Acceptance of the situation made me willing to do the work to move forward.

And I am learning that this applies to all situations in life. Once I accept a that I cannot control persons, places or things, then I can work on the one thing that I can control: ME.

I am grateful.

ground group growth hands

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Through Prayer and Meditation

For many of us, prayer was something we turned to when all else was failing, nothing was going right and the world was crashing in around us: ‘fox-hole’ prayers. Soldiers under fire, huddled in their dug out trenches asking to get out alive. ‘God, get me out of this and I’ll never drink again,’ or ‘I’ll go to church every Sunday,’ or some bargaining chip that is supposed to entice God to help me in this situation.  As if God can be bought off. Once out of the mess, we rationalize that it would have turned out this way regardless of the prayer bargains and continue on our merry way in life as though nothing happened.

A mentor of mine talks about being jobless, penniless and living in the spare room of a friends apartment for over a year. Over a thousand resumes with custom cover letters had been mailed out and not a single interview.  He was depressed, feeling failure and abandoned. He relates, “I remember that one night when I prayed I said, ‘God, give me something useful to do.’ I didn’t put conditions on it, no time limits, nothing. Within two weeks I had three job offers and I ended up accepting two of them in fields that I never knew I even wanted to work in and which turned out to be very rewarding.”

Some will rationalize that it would have turned out this way  regardless of his prayer. It’s a matter of perspective. What it says to me and the way he interprets this is that he was in complete acceptance and open to whatever his Higher Power would send his way: no conditions, no bargains, no pleas; no restrictions on the outcome. It was a simple prayer, “Give me something useful to do.”

In the eleventh step it is suggested that we pray for two things: “…knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry it out.” It’s pretty simple, but it takes a long time to really ‘get’ it. I don’t have to pray to my higher power for world peace, or to save that baby or to find a job. I pray to know what the next right step is for me and for the strength to take that step. I’m learning to pray without conditions, without terms. I don’t need grandiose terminology or holy words. I need openness and humility. I need willingness to face whatever is before me. I need to show up.

In the Old Testament, I think it’s one of the psalms, the writer says, “Here I am oh Lord. I come to do your will.” Its a simple prayer and pretty close to the one my friend Bob stumbled onto. “Give me something useful to do.” It follows the eleventh step of seeking and carrying out our Higher Power’s will for us. Showing up really is half the battle.  It’s letting go of preconceived results and trying to control the people, places and things around me. It’s being open to whatever happens. It’s allowing the current of the river to take me.

For me, it’s a whole lot easier way to pray and to live. It really is turning my will and my life over to the care of my Higher Power, knowing in my essence that this Power has always been there for me in the past, is there now and so, I know that it will always be there for me. Am I there yet? Hell no, but I am on my raft on the river, doing my best to enjoy the ride. And that, I believe, is the whole point of this life.

Thank-you Bob.



It’s Not the End of the World!

How bad things may look right now means nothing.  It’s how good you know they can look with God’s help that counts. Life has a habit of changing itself completely around in 24 hours. Heck, in 24 minutes sometimes. Don’t you dare give up on Tomorrow because of the way things look Today. Don’t even think about it… Neale Donald Walsch

For all of us, times will arise when life seems impossible and difficult and totally unmanageable. It doesn’t matter if we’re in recovery or not. It’s life. It’s how things go from time to time. Regardless, it’s important to keep in mind a few things to help us to get through this challenge.

Whatever is happening, it won’t last forever. Things will turn around and get better. I know that when you’re in the thick of it, time drags and it seems that this will never end. And it will. Don’t quit because you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. It will appear, it always does. I have learned that I can get through everything that life throws at me: death, ending relationships, depression, a broken leg, accidents, arguments and anything else comes along. The pain of today will transform into the joy of tomorrow.  That break-up seems to cause the whole world to crash down. But it will get better. And the idea of using or drinking again? Really? Is that what’s going through your mind? If you want to make things even worse than they are, drink or use.  That will really drag out your difficulties. Time heals

My perspective is a limited perspective. I can only see one side of anything until I stretch my mind to consider other perspectives. How is this affecting other people? I took to heart many years ago the idea to look at the best possible intentions of others. When someone does something that affects me, say, your boss gives a promotion to someone else. From my perspective, it’s the worst possible thing to happen to me right now. It could turn me into a tailspin if I let it. What’s the best possible intention of my boss? It probably wasn’t to make me angry or make me feel I should quit this lousy job. Your boss was probably looking for the best interest of the company. Were you? Perhaps there’s another, more suitable promotion for me, or perhaps work performance is lacking and I’m not really the best person for that promotion. I need to remember that it’s not all about me all of the time (though my Ego would tell you otherwise). There are other factors and other perspective that come into play.  Look for the best intention of others and even if that wasn’t their real intention, it doesn’t matter. I have a positive or at minimum, a neutral thought about it.

What I resist will persist. If I want to get through the worst of things, I need to accept it. I stop fighting it, blocking it, avoiding it. I accept it. This doesn’t mean that I like it, or that there’s nothing I can do about it. It means that I acknowledge its presence and that I will deal with it. Here, the Serenity Prayer comes into play. Acceptance allows me to discern whether it is something that I can change or not change. I can’t change people, places or things, but I can work on me. “Resistance is futile,” say the Borg in Star Trek. It is. Once I stop resisting and accept, I can do something about the situation; I stop swimming against the current.

H.O.P.E. Hear Other People’s Experience. When times are bad, it helps to talk to others and listen to their stories. Perhaps they went through a similar problem. Perhaps they have information that could be helpful. Their example will give me hope if I let it. Many times this happens in meetings. We hear something either in the literature of the program or the shares of other members. Often they aren’t even aware of what we are going through right now, but their experience, strength and hope help us along. We all have our Higher Power. Opening my ears to hear other people is also opening my ears to my Higher Power.

Pray about it. In the eleventh step we ask for two things in prayer: to know what our Higher Power’s will is for us and for the power to carry out that will. If I stop putting my expectations of the outcome of things, if I stop telling my Higher Power just how things should be resolved, I have a better chance of hearing what that ‘will’ is for me.

Difficult times come to everyone. It’s life. I love the line from the movie The Most Exotic Marigold Hotel: “It will all work out in the end. If it’s not working out, it’s not the end.” Trust yourself, trust your Higher Power and give time, time. I can live one day at a time because tomorrow is another day.  I am grateful.