Letting Go

I’ve been in my recovery program for under seven years. I don’t pretend to think I know it all. Every time I think I’m gliding smoothly down the river, like I ‘got it’, my Higher Power sends me an insight showing me that it isn’t so at all. These past couple of weeks it’s all been about surrender. Once again I was reminded that the river is still long and I am far from the end.

I don’t adapt to change easily. I would really like stuff to stay the same way it always has been. It’s working, so why fix it? Things are moving along fairly balanced. Life is good. I live my life peacefully and work my program. I’d like it to stay that way.

In reality, I have a very short memory. It hasn’t always been working and smoothly flowing. Perhaps the last month or so, but, no. There have been plenty of challenges in the last year and it’s only recently that I have been able to sit down and think about what I’ve been through. Probably the biggest life change is finding myself single again. I’ve learned that I can and will get through anything and everything in this life. I have a Higher Power and it’s still there helping me through.

So I guess I can adapt and do so in such a fashion that I don’t recall the state of upheaval I was in six months ago. I can thank the program, my sponsor, friends and family. Writing this blog has been a new way to channel the energy and feelings I have dealt with. Opening my home to visitors and widening my circle of friends and acquaintances has changed my focus off of myself and onto the world at large. I was told early in my recovery that working with others would take my mind off of my small world and my challenges. Service will keep you sober! It has.

One of the solutions for me has been surrender. I had to let go of all of the old definitions of myself, just as I did in Steps Six and Seven. I had to be reminded this year that I am not my past, nor am I my defects of character. I can surrender them, let them go. As I recently read, it’s not necessary to analyse and investigate in order to understand the rocks that weigh me down. What’s important is that I drop the bag of rocks so that I can move on.

Probably the most significant aspect of all of this, of living and working the steps of recovery is not putting conditions on the outcome of who I am becoming. If I have really put my life and my will into the care of my Higher Power, then how can I dictate to my Higher Power what the new Tim will be like at the end of the process. I must let go of any preconceived idea or condition and learn to trust. I trust the process of the twelve steps and I trust my Higher Power.

I am grateful.

Preparing for the Holidays

The upcoming holidays are often a difficult time for anyone.  Add being in recovery and it becomes more difficult.  If it’s your first time around, it can be overwhelming: parties, holidays, friends and plenty of temptations. And, of course, there’s nothing that can push our buttons more often than our own family. How can I have a  good time if I’m in recovery?

First of all, especially for someone who is new in the program, look for the book Living Sober. It is published by AA Services, but the advice is easily applicable to anyone in recovery from any addiction. The book has several chapters on how to stay clean and sober during the holidays and other events where we may find ourselves tempted.  If not this book, then there are others available that your homegroup can recommend to help you through those difficult first months.  The holidays are especially fraught with times where liquor is flowing in large quantities and when people step outside for a smoke, it may not be just tobacco that is burning.

Be prepared.  Drugs and alcohol permeate our society.  You can’t nor are you expected to hide yourself away forever from the world. If this is your first time going through a holiday season clean and sober, talk to your sponsor or a trusted friend in your program. Ask them how they made it through that first holiday season, ask them for suggestions and recommendations.  My sponsor does a lot of role playing so that his sponsees can get used to the language of sobriety as well as to the possible scenarios that may occur.

Perhaps we only go to part of a gathering and not stay until the end like we were likely to do in the past. Some fiestas we may want to miss all together because we know who will be attending and we know they may be a trigger for us. Bring along a friend you trust who knows your are in recovery. Have an escape plan to fall back upon if it is getting too difficult. It’s okay to admit there are times when we are weak. There is no shame is stepping back from the action. None of us is made of stone; in early sobriety we might not yet know our limits so we need not lead ourselves into temptation.

Like everything else in recovery, these events become easier to handle as time goes on. But everyone still has to maintain their guard. Keep an eye on your glass. Just recently I refused a soda at a party because it smelled a bit “off”. I’m sure it was fine, but I am not willing to take the chance. It was easy just to sent it down on a table and then talk with folks and casually leave it behind as I joined another circle of friends. My recovery is my number one priority. I won’t risk it to please a host. Fortunately, a good host won’t care if a guest doesn’t imbibe. You may even make new friends by becoming the designated driver.

Be careful during this season. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Peer pressure and family pressure may seem like a lot at the time, but it will alway lessen. If you don’t go to the company Christmas party, there’s always one next year when you will have more experience at living sober in party world. January will arrive and things will get back to normal again.

Enjoy the holidays clean and sober.christmas-2890410_960_720

Living in Hope

The topic of expectations has come up quite a lot in meetings of late.  What are expectations and how are they a problem? As a fellow member shared, “Expectation are resentments under construction”.  When I expect something to happen and it doesn’t, then I open myself to anger in this moment and resentment in my future.  Expectations carry with them a sense of the expected: this thing is going to happen.  I have this expectation because of past experience.  I did this in the past and that was the result.  I am doing the same thing now so the result will be the same.  There’s a sense of entitlement to what should happen. I am living in the future.

When I live with expectation, I open myself up to possible anger and resentment because I believe that this will definitely occur in the same way that day follows night.  If it doesn’t, or if it does happen, but not in the way I was ‘expecting’ it to happen, then I feel let down, confused, and perhaps, angry.  Expectation is inflexible and unvarying.  It’s the ‘my way or the highway’ position. I need to remember when dealing with people that this world is not a scientific laboratory.  Yes, when I put oxygen and hydrogen in certain amounts and under certain conditions I can expect to get water.  When I am dealing with persons, places or things, the precision of a lab experiment is lost.  I cannot account for all of the conditions and variables.

Let’s look at a concrete example.  I say to my partner, “I love you.”  If I am in expectation mode, I already have a response in mind. I expect my partner to say something like, “I love you too.”   I have said I love you to this person before, or I have said this to other people and that is the response I received. Anything less than that response could be potentially shattering to the relationship: I question myself, I question my feelings, I wonder about who my partner is loving if not me! Suddenly, instead of an intimate moment, I am questioning my whole relationship with this person.  How quickly I can change my perspective when I live with expectation.

Hope is the alternative to expectation.  If I have hope, there is a desire for an outcome, but there is no guarantee that it will happen as I would like it.  Unlike expectation, hope allows for variance of the outcome.  It doesn’t have to be perfect for me to find contentment. Hope is flexible and allows the unpredictable to happen. When I have a hope realized, I am grateful. I wasn’t anticipating that outcome to occur, so anything that comes from that is pure bonus. In hope, I am living in the moment not in the future.  I am happy.

Looking at our example above.  If I say, “I love you,” in hope, then any response is acceptable, including no response.  I know there is no guarantee that the other person will give me an ‘I love you too’ back.  If I get that, well, wow!  The response may be a deep passionate kiss. Even if it’s an, “I’m not there yet,” I can accept that too.  When I live in hope, everything is a gift.

There is a fine line between hope and expectation. Can I have both at the same time? Not really, I am either awaiting a determined response or I am not.  I must set aside expectation. Live in the moment without preconceived ideas about what should happen and simply allow it to unfold.  There are no guarantees in life so why live as though there are? I know that if my hope isn’t realized that this hope will not die, but continue on, because it is not fixed to a schedule nor to an outcome.  Approach life with the wide-eyed innocence of a child and you will be struck by its wonder and beauty.

♥  ♥  ♥

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