Buddha called ego “the little house-builder” for it’s uncanny ability to grow a simple concern into a crushing fear.  A sideways glance from my boss means a pink slip is on the way. An abnormal number on my physical report means I’d better get my affairs in order. An unexpected bill in the mail has me living on the street. The little house-builder wakes me up in the middle of the night to review all the things that will probably go wrong and, of course, how everything is my fault.

On the other hand, it is natural to have concerns. Concerns focus my attention and prompt me to take positive action - to do the next indicated thing. Certainly I’m concerned about the welfare of my friends and family, concerned about my health, concerned about my finances and concerned about the state of the world today. But I suffer when a concern morphs into worry or dread. When that happens I am cut off from spiritual guidance, I short circuit my intuition and I’m baffled by situations instead of handling them. Without my internal guidance system, I’m liable to make matters worse by seeking relief. I don’t have to drink, but there are many other unhealthy ways to distract myself from the fear.

The key for me is to realize that one more time my magic magnifying mind has catapulted me into the future. Every single thing that can possibly go wrong will go wrong tomorrow, next week or next year. The program of Alcoholics Anonymous has given me tools to get back to the present moment. Sharing about what’s going on with another alcoholic, calling a newcomer, and getting my butt to a meeting all work to get me back to NOW — the only time I can connect with my HP. Today, right now, in this moment, I’m OK. I’m safe. Sure I have concerns, but because the termites of fear are not gnawing silently away at my peace of mind, life is good. Very good

Living in Acceptance

A few months ago I purchased a small travel trailer. A program friend gave me a brass plaque engraved with the Acceptance Prayer. I mounted the plaque in my trailer and  named her "Acceptance." I take her out each month into the So Cal mountains for a week of camping and hiking. I love these get-a-ways when I can say I'm literally living in Acceptance. It may just be coincidence, but recently I've noticed a major breakthrough in my ability to maintain my serenity through some very challenging experiences.

Being brand new to towing a camper, I have had many troublesome issues small and large. On my last trip the trailer actually became disconnected from my car while I was moving! Had it happened on a freeway it might have been tragic, but luckily no one was hurt. I amazed myself at how calm I was when the accident happened and through the whole process of negotiating the major repairs to the trailer and my car. Somehow I quite easily accepted what happened and began looking for a solution instead of wasting time blaming myself or others. I seem to have a new-found ability to ask calmly for what I want instead of demanding it. This may not sound like much, but for me it is huge. It is living proof that the program works. It really does!

One of the keys to acceptance for me is becoming allergic to the word "should." (As in, "The dealer should have given me better training; the trailer manufacturer should have included a warning in the manual; I should have done a better job securing the trailer to the tow hitch.) When I catch myself saying or thinking the word "should" I know I'm not accepting life as it is. I remind myself that life is unfolding exactly as it is supposed to. If life were supposed to be different at any given moment, it would be. Whenever I think things should be different than they are, I am arguing with reality.  I've learned the hard way that judging what others should or shouldn't do leads to blame and resentment. Better I learn to accept what's happening and see if there is any lesson for me rather than to think I know better than God how life is supposed to work. Living in acceptance is definitely the easier, softer way to go.

The Gift of Faith

Today, as a result of consistently living the AA way of life, I enjoy a faith that works in all conditions. This does not mean my life is problem free, but today I have a sense I can get through whatever life has in store for me. This is not blind faith, but a faith born of my living experience in Alcoholics Anonymous. Armed with faith, I've walked through job loss, financial uncertainty and the death of my wife. Today I can hardly remember the man who spent the day drinking alone in his darkened apartment paralyzed with fear.

Kenny Rogers sings, "You got to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em." Faith for me is intuitively knowing how to handle situations which used to baffle me.  Faith is spiritual intuition.  Today I am much better at listening to the small voice within that guides, directs and protects me. I sense when it is better to speak up and when to keep my mouth shut. I have a clearer idea of when to accept what's happening and when to muster the courage to try and change. Faith is non-stop guidance that not only keeps me out of most trouble, but guides me out of every mess I get myself into. My part is simply to get quiet, listen and be willing to follow the guidance I receive. This isn't always the case. Like Frank Sinatra, my ego still wants to do life "My Way."

The biggest dividend of faith is less fear. I can't be in faith and fear at the same time. I create every problem in my life when I react in fear instead of responding in faith. When I am in fear I block spiritual intuition. Then I'm back to running on Jeff's old ideas with predictable consequences. Without fear running my life I am comfortable in my own skin. I run toward life instead of trying to run away from it.

Living in faith, I've found a new freedom and a new happiness. All I have to do to receive the gift of faith is continue to take the actions you suggested in my first week: trust God, clean house and help others. It's a hell of a deal.

The Gift of Willingness

I did not have a white light experience when I took the third step with my sponsor, but, looking back I can see it was absolutely vital to my recovery. I learned I’d been given the gift of willingness. A gift that has kept me coming back and active in Alcoholics Anonymous consistently for more than twenty years.

I was two months sober after a lifetime of self-sufficiency. I had been force-fed the idea that I must run my own life, that asking for help is a sign of weakness. But there I was down on my knees holding my sponsor’s hand, repeating the prayer.  Frankly the whole experience felt weird.

It had been forty years since I last prayed on my knees — “Now I lay me down to sleep…” Holding my sponsor’s hand felt way too intimate for me.  And, as I stumbled through the prayer, it felt like I had my fingers crossed behind my back. I didn’t believe a word of it. Yet, I really, really wanted to be a member of the AA Club and guessed that this was part of the initiation rite.

I wasn’t a joiner. Before AA, the Cub Scouts was the only group I ever wanted to belong to.  I was not a member of the Rotary, the Elks Lodge or the Save the Whales committee. I joined business organizations only because it was expected of me. Yet when I walked into my first meeting, I sensed there was something special going on. I had no idea what it was but I wanted more. You said if I wanted what you had, I should do what you do. I figured everyone took the Third Step this way.

When we finished, my sponsor gave me a hug and said he loved me. Looking back, going through the discomfort of taking step three with my sponsor was exactly what I needed to prepare me  for the rest of the steps, especially step five. Through the years  I sponsor the men in my life the same way I was sponsored. We take the third step together just like Larry and I took it all those years ago. I’m still slightly uncomfortable getting down on my knees with a new man holding his hand and saying the prayer, but I do it anyways. It’s part of the deal.