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Keeping It Green

My recovery is both a mystery and a miracle to me. It is a mystery because I have no real understanding of God or whatever you want to call God. I can't explain how, after thirty years of daily drinking, the obsession was immediately removed on day one; I've been able to walk through many painful experiences without the need to try and change the way I feel with alcohol, drugs, sex, food, spending or any other quick fix; or how, when confronted with any challenge, large or small, the solution almost immediately presents itself if I am willing to pause and listen. Even though I hear "How It Works" read at every meeting, I still have no idea how it works. Not really. It is still a mystery to me.

My recovery is a miracle because I'm a completely different person than I was when I walked through the doors to my first meeting. My whole attitude and outlook has changed. Today I see the glass half full instead of half empty. I have a full range of emotions, not just fear expressed as anger. The little red veins on the side of my nose have disappeared and the 20 extra pounds of alcoholic bloat I was carrying is gone. Today when I talk to others, I look them in the eyes instead of looking down at my shoes. Today instead of retreating into self-centered isolation, I let others know what's going on with me. I have learned to laugh at myself. My life feels useful and contented. I am happy most of the time.

I never want to forget what it was like before the miracle happened. I keep it green by sharing my drinking experiences freely. My drunk-a-log might be different than yours, but our feelings of fear, self-hate and bewilderment are exactly the same. I was taught that if I want a newcomer to identify with me, I must talk about my drinking and how I was willing to go to any length to change the way I felt, in spite of the potential consequences.

Grateful for the Pain

I heard trying to get spiritual is like standing in water up to my neck trying to get wet. I am already 100% spiritual. I just haven’t fully realized it yet because I continue to believe the old ideas in my head. It is those ideas that had me all alone in my darkened apartment getting drunk twice a day thinking a new job would fix everything.

God is an experience, not an idea. A picture of a glass of water will not quench my thirst. Only the real thing will do. Growing along spiritual lines for me is not about learning anything new. It is about unlearning everything I think is true. The best tool for experiencing more of God in my life and less of my ideas is the practice of  the 12 Steps. The Steps deflate ego, making space for God, the Great Reality, to enter my being and power my life. But I have to remember to practice.

My ego, my false sense of self, wants no part of God or spirituality and certainly no part of AA. AA to ego is like a bucket of water is to the Wicked Witch in the West in the movie "The Wizard of Oz." Ego continues to try and convince me that I’ve been practicing the principles long enough. “You went to a meeting yesterday, Jeff. You’re fine. You can skip today. You’ve got better things to do.”

I’ve been embroiled in a major remodeling project for the past six weeks. I need to move in there in ten days and the place is not ready. I’m running out of time and money. My recovery took a back seat. My spiritual practice slipped down the priority list. I skipped a few meetings. On Monday, I waited for five hours for the TV guy who never showed. I called the TV Company three times and blasted each of the ladies who had the misfortune to answer the phone when I called. My recovery went right out the window. I was so angry I felt sick to my stomach.

Driving home I realized that, one more time, self-righteous anger motivated by fear had gotten the best of me. “Thank you God for the pain.” Without the pain how could I realize I had let up on my program of action and lost my way? Once I realize I am off the beam I can't pick up some AA tools and continue to skip down the yellow brick road on my way back to Kansas.


Learning to Love More

AA is my church. The sharing of one alcoholic with another is sacred because somehow God has brought us together. Holiness is of little value in the AA church. We connect through our mutual brokenness. We share together not to save each others' souls, but to save each others' asses.

My sponsor taught me to tell the truth by sharing his truth. I learned about his fear, his abandonment issues, and the problems of his life. When it came time for my fifth I had the courage to tell him my secrets, even the icky stuff. I learned by observation that the number one and perhaps only responsibility of a sponsor is to be available, 24 and 7. My sponsor sponsored a lot of guys but he always picked up the phone when I called and made me feel like I was the most important person in the room.

Sponsorship is my favorite of all my AA activities. I've had the great good fortune to sponsor a number of men, especially in China before AA became fully established. Many weren't ready to receive the gift, but I grew every time.  When I'm sharing with another man, sometimes it feels like God is speaking through me. Seeing the light come on in a new man's eyes when he finally gets it is my greatest pleasure.

My grand sponsor told me we all need three things from our sponsors: love, discipline and direction. As my need to control continues to dissolve, I am better able to fulfill God's fondest wish for me: To love more.

Sponsorship

Tension was present in every one of my relationships for as along as I can remember. Before I began my spiritual journey in Alcoholics Anonymous, there had not been one person in my life with whom I felt comfortable enough to relax and be completely me. Some relationships were less tense than others but tension was always present to some degree or another. Since I grew up in an alcoholic home, I became tense at a very early age. The anxiety grew to feel normal to me. I drank against this dis-ease for thirty years.

The tension came from the fear that at any moment I would lose your love, approval, and acceptance. I needed these things more desperately than I needed alcohol and drugs. My character defects grew up out of this cesspool of insecurity: perfectionism, people pleasing, lying. I was so afraid of losing love and approval that I had to try and control and manipulate you. I couldn't let you get too close for fear that you would see what a loser I was and pack your bags.

I lived this way until I met my first sponsor when I crawled through the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous at age 47. We went through the steps together. He learned everything about me -- all my failings at life, all the icky stuff I did, and all the names of my inner demons. He shared his stuff with me. Through this process, I grew to trust him in a way I had never trusted anyone before, not my parents and certainly not my ex-wife. It is such a relief to know there are at least one human being that know everything there is to know about me -- all my secrets, all my fears, all my twisted thinking.

Through the years I've had many wonderful opportunities to sponsor others. During the course of our step work, I share my shortcomings with them, just like my sponsors did with me. I'm coming to believe that sharing my human failings is much more helpful to our recovery than sharing spiritual ideas and interpretations of the Big Book. This mutual sharing connects us, no longer as egos, but as fallible human beings.

As Leonard Cohen says, "Everything has a hole in it, that's how the light gets in."

Becoming Ready

My one previous attempt at sobriety happened after my first marriage broke up. I lived in the delusion that this marriage was going to fix me. It would fill up the emptiness I felt inside despite having all the goodies on the outside. We tried therapy, fire walking and expensive vacations. Nothing seemed to help. We drank a lot and argued a lot. When we split I concluded alcohol was somehow to blame.

I quit drinking as kind of an experiment. I could not admit I was an alcoholic, but I could admit my father was. So I joined Adult Children of Alcoholics. I went to one meeting a week and half-assed worked a few steps. I stayed sober for thirteen months. As the cloudiness in my head cleared my life improved. I got a new job and moved to San Diego. I picked up a drink almost as soon as I arrived.

The disease progressed and four years later I found myself in a much deeper bottom. I was forty seven years old, paralyzed by fear and right up against hopeless. All my “stuff” was gone. I was out of ideas. I still did not believe I was alcoholic, but when a therapist suggested treatment I signed up because I didn’t know what else to do. Apparently I was ready because I fell in love with Alcoholics Anonymous at my first meeting. I remember having the feeling that I had finally found my way home after a long, painful journey. Like it says in our book, my life took on new meaning. The emptiness was gone.

I consider my alcoholism a blessing. There’s no way I could have traveled from where I was twenty three years ago to where I am today without having a disease that was going to kill me unless I treated it spiritually.

A We Program

My first sponsor used to say that meetings are like sex. All meetings are good, but some are better than others. The best meetings for me are when members share from the heart about the pain in their lives. This was difficult for me. Even if my ass is falling off, my ego wants you to think I’ve got it all handled, that I’m “fine.” Allowing myself to tell you guys I was hurting was one of the most difficult challenges of recovery for me.

Life on life’s terms is not always a trip to the beach. Those who came before me taught me by sharing their experience not their opinions. I watched them walk through terminal illnesses, financial ruin, debilitating physical problems, and deaths of loved ones. I listened to the heartbreaking frustration as they describe a son or daughter actively practicing our disease and beyond human help. By watching other members stagger through their stuff, I grew the faith I could too.

I like the promise that says, “No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we can see how our experience can benefit others.” A year after my wife passed, a member in my home group lost his wife. I didn’t know this man very well, but I put my hand out to him and shared my experience. My motivation was to help him, but talking with him had a wonderful healing effect on my own grieving process and on my own recovery. If I do not go to meetings I cannot hope to know who I might help with my experience.

I love that Alcoholics Anonymous is a “We” program. I can’t stay sober, but “we” can. When I share honestly about what’s going on at a meeting or one-on-one with another alcoholic, I move from the problem to the solution and grow as a result.

Accoountability

I sat in the treatment center with four or five other newbies as the woman who ran the center, a round, ex-heroin addict from New York, went through the rules. “To graduate from this program you are required to attend at least three AA meetings a week. Except for you Jeff. Because you are unemployed, you need to attend a meeting every day.” I was pissed for being singled out, but was afraid to speak up. I was issued a little attendance card to be signed by the meeting secretary and turned in weekly. I figured if I didn’t feel like going, I would sign the card myself, but I never did. I know today that going to a meeting every day to get that little card signed may very well have saved my life.

After a few meetings I found that I was going not because I had to but because I wanted to. Ditto with the steps and the rest of the program. My sponsor never pushed me to do the work. I really wanted to be a member of the AA club so I did all that was suggested. The more I did in Alcoholics Anonymous the more willing I became to do more. In the process, self-centered fear began to dissolve and my grosser character defects began to fade into the background. Without fear, guilt, shame and resentment running my life a whole new world opened up to me.

Today I am grateful I was unemployed (unemployable really) when I began my journey in recovery. I had nothing better to do than go to meetings. I went to something like 400 meetings in my first year. I grew the habit of recovery and built a solid foundation that has carried me through some pretty tough times. I learned to think, feel and act in new ways. I am different in my reactions to my life’s experiences. I have become a whole new person. But I also realize recovery is a never-ending process. There is no finish line. If I don’t grow, I go.

I heard we alcoholics are a peculiar class of people who find something that works and then we stop doing it. Gratefully I’ve never stopped and don’t plan on stopping today either.

Detach with Love

Detach with love is perhaps the most difficult spiritual instruction I've encountered during my journey in Alcoholics Anonymous. When I was new I remember an old timer saying, "My job is to love everyone. I don't have to like everyone. I don’t have to hang out with people I don't like.” Twenty plus years later I still have trouble loving people I don’t like, but I’m getting better.

It helps me to realize it’s not them, it’s me. Today I can see that other people are put in my life to help me grow. When I'm awake, I see others are just a mirror for me. They reflect my good qualities and my so-called bad qualities. It's easy to be around people who reflect my good qualities, but it's uncomfortable when I see in others what I don't like about myself.

I had a friend in Shanghai who served as a mirror for me. We had been friends for fifteen years before I moved back to the US. We served together as founding board members of the Shanghai Alano Club. Like me, he has always been crotchety, quick to see what’s wrong, negative. But apparently I changed because a year and a half ago while visiting Shanghai I realized his negativity really bothered me. I told him about it and I haven’t heard from him since.

Yesterday I received a call from a member in Shanghai who told me this man was having a rough go of it. He has very serious health problems, was isolating and not reaching out for help. It immediately came to mind that he had talked about suicide in the past. I wondered what I could do. Then I remembered he had a daughter living in Seattle. I didn't know her first name, but I was able to track her down. My first impulse was to contact her and tell her what's going on with her dad, but my higher self instructed me to wait. I realized I loved this man and felt sad about his circumstance, but I was emotionally detached enough to allow God to work things out in his time and in his way.

Faith

I was unemployed, running out of money, all alone and taking Prozac in the months before I walked through the doors to my first meeting. Thin red veins were popping out on the sides of my nose. I drank against the constant ache of fear in my gut, yet my head told me all I needed was a new job and everything would be fine. I didn’t realize I suffered from a spiritual illness that made it impossible to live a life of peace and contentment. Gratefully a moment of clarity led me to Alcoholics Anonymous and the spiritual solution contained in the twelve steps.

I learned that the other side of fear is faith. My faith began to grow by watching other members walk though painful situations. I grew to believe I could too. Since those early days I’ve walked through job losses, financial problems, health challenges, and the death of my wife – all without picking up a drink. These walks were not always graceful. Often I was filled with doubt and paralyzed with fear. Yet I grew every time I got to the other side.

Today when I sense the termites of fear gnawing away at my peace of mind, I realize I’m living in the future. Now, in this moment, I have everything I need to live happily and usefully whole, but once my magic magnifying mind trips into tomorrow or next week or next year, I’m screwed. There everything that can possibly go wrong will go wrong.  My connection with my higher power only happens now. As long as I stay in today I am safe.

I like the verse in the Lord’s Prayer that says, “Give us this day or daily bread…” I only get today’s bread today. God doesn’t give me enough bread (money, ideas, creativity, solutions, etc.) to last me the rest of my life. God only promises enough bread for this day’s journey. Today I have faith that God will supply whatever I need to get me through any fearful experience as long as I do my part – trust him, clean house and help others.

Sense of Belonging

I heard a speaker say that she was so cold when she arrived in AA that she was frozen. That describes me. I was frozen and I've been spending all these years just thawing out. In my 30 years of drinking I had erected a huge ego wall that separated me from you, God and everything good in life.

I didn't realize it at the time, but I wanted so much to fit in to AA to belong to the group, but my insecurities kept me posturing on the outside looking in. I stiffened up like a board if you wanted to give me a hug. I acted the part of a happy camper, but I was not.

I was showing up at a lot of meetings but not really feeling connected. Then at 90 days sober the 70 men of my home group elected me the doughnut guy. Looking back this was one of the truly significant events of my life. For the first time I felt like I belonged somewhere. I felt a sense of usefulness. I was part of. Not only that, I got to scarf down 2-3 freshly made doughnuts right out of the oven on my way to the meeting. What could be better than that?

I learned through this experience to make sure the newcomers in the meetings I attend regularly have opportunities to be of service and I give them a push to volunteer.

Asking for Help

I grew up with the idea that asking for help was a sign of weakness. I believe this was the most dangerous old idea I walked through the doors with. This idea separated me from you, God and truth. Help is what I needed when I was still drinking. Help is what I need today — more than ever.

Self sufficiency was killing me from the inside out. I couldn’t let anyone know I had a problem I couldn’t handle. I wouldn’t be a “real” man if I did. So I kept to myself and suffered in silence. I acted like a know-it-all, but inside a was a shivering wreck. Finally, my inability to ask for help had me all alone in my messy, darkened apartment getting drunk twice a day. I was running out of money and awoke every morning in a pit of fear. I lived in the delusion that as soon as I found another big-pay job life would be grand. Thankfully, God had other ideas.

I believe today that help always comes every time I sincerely ask for it. It may not come in the form I expect, but it always comes. I wasn’t looking to quit drinking when I reached out to a therapist for help, but that’s exactly what happened. She said she couldn’t help me, but maybe the treatment center up the street could. A few days later I signed up for treatment because I didn’t know what else to do. The obsession to drink was removed immediately. As a newcomer, I could not pick up that 500 pound phone and ask for help. Fortunately you guys didn’t wait. You knew I was in dangerous territory. So you pulled me into the center of Alcoholics Anonymous with your phone calls, invitations to coffee and pats on the back. I’ll be forever grateful for the men in my first home group.

Like the good doctor says in his opinion, I cannot change me. The old ideas and painful memories are too deep for self-help. I do not have the power to pull the weeds out of my psychic garden so that new growth may flower. But God wants more than anything to change me. God doesn’t want to stand on the sideline of my life. He wants to get fully into the game. My job is simply to allow God in by demonstrating the willingness to be changed. Asking for help is the most powerful action I can take to show my sincerity to grow and change.

Everything I do in Alcoholics Anonymous is me asking for help. I ask for help every time I show up in a meeting, work a step, and say a prayer. I ask for help every time I put my hand out to a newcomer. I ask for help whenever I am of service both in and out of the rooms. I ask for help every time I answer the phone or dial another member. I heard in a meeting yesterday that “figuring it out is not an AA slogan.” The willingness to ask another alcoholic for help with a particular issue saves me needless struggle and suffering. It’s simply a wonderful way to live.

Pain is the touchstone

The tenth step for me is about paying attention to what’s going on inside of me. It’s a good step to take when things are going good, but it is absolutely necessary anytime I feel uncomfortable. Selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and fear are the very things that block my connection to God, the One who has all power. I’ve learned through painful experience that without God’s power flowing through me there’s no way I can really enjoy my life.

I lived in a state of chronic suffering before I was graced with a moment of clarity that led me to Alcoholics Anonymous. I had no idea the cause, so I concluded this was just the way life is. If you sat next to me at the bar and told me about your problems, I’d say, “What do you expect? Life is a shit sandwich and it’s always lunchtime.” I said this to be cute, but part of me really believed this to be true.

I drank against the pain until, finally, the alcohol stopped working. Oh, I still got drunk all right, but the booze didn’t kill the termites of fear that gnawed night and day on the foundation of my life. We walked through hell together you and I. Today I feel deep compassion for myself and all alcoholics everywhere for the psychic pain we endured to earn out seats.

Before AA I numbed myself to the pain with drugs and alcohol. I didn’t realize I was also numbing myself to happiness and joy. Back then the only feeling I felt was anger, outrage. I’ve grown in awareness through the years. Today I am much more  sensitive to pain and suffering. I refuse to go very long with any discomfort before I take a look at it. The tenth step is a perfect way to discover what’s going on.

The tenth step reminds us that pain is the touchstone for all spiritual progress. I’m grateful for the ocean of painful experiences I swam through during my life before AA and afterward. I needed every single painful experience to arrive where I am today. I could not have done with one less.

The Prodigal Son

I love the story of the prodigal son in the other big book. It is a perfect metaphor of the journey of recovery for me.

A young man believes he knows better than his father about how to live successfully so he takes his gifts and leaves his father’s house. He squanders his inheritance on the pleasures of the world. Homeless and starving, he has no choice but to sleep in a pigpen. He doesn’t eat what the pigs eat. He eats what the pigs leave behind. Now that’s hitting bottom!

I separated myself from God at a very early age. I didn’t see the need. Instead, I used my gifts to accumulate money, property and prestige. I believed as soon as I had enough I could rest, but I never seemed to have enough. I spent more than I earned. I wasn’t homeless when I hit bottom, but I was close. My apartment was a mess. I lived off cheap wine and fast food.

Finally the prodigal son has a vision. He remembers the servants in his father’s home and how good their lives are. They have plenty to eat, warm comfortable beds, and loving friendships with each other and the father. He decides to return home and ask his father to take him back. Not as a son, but as a servant.

Graced with a moment of clarity, I was allowed to see how pathetic my life had become. I reached out to a therapist for help. After telling me some very unpalatable truths about myself, she said she couldn’t help me, but maybe the treatment center up the street could. I wasn’t sure I was alcoholic, but I didn’t know what else to do.

The prodigal son leaves the pigpen and begins his journey back to the father’s home. His father sees him coming from far away and rushes to meet him. He throws his arms around the young man welcomes him back, not as a servant, but as a full-fledged son.  There is much rejoicing and a big party is thrown in his honor.

I believe my journey back home began when I spent my last $3,700 of Visa credit to enroll in an out patient treatment program.  The obsession was removed immediately and three days later I walked into my first meeting. You guys welcomed me with open arms. I felt the joy and excitement of one alcoholic helping another. I laughed, really laughed for the first time in years. It felt like I had finally found my way home after a long painful journey. It’s been a non-stop party ever since.

I know much less about God today than I did as a newcomer, but I do know God is present in every meeting. Another often used bible quote reminds me of this fact: “Where more than one is gathered in my name, I am present.”

Willingness

I was not a vision for you when I walked through the door to my first meeting. I had just spent the last eight months in extreme isolation while old delusional ideas went round and round in my head. I was emotionally frozen. I didn’t feel much of anything back then except fear. The face of my fear was anger. I think most of us are angry as hell when we finally make it to AA -- angry at others, angry at ourselves and angry at God. Take away the alcohol from an angry alcoholic and you’ve got a mighty toxic personality. That was me.

I wanted to be left alone, to remain aloof, to stand outside the circle of life where it felt safe. But you guys wouldn’t let me. You pulled me into the center of Alcoholics Anonymous with handshakes, hugs and pats on the back. You invited me to coffee. You told me to keep coming back. Something in me believed you really wanted me to come back.The icy veneer began to melt. It wasn’t long before I really wanted what you had and I was graced with the willingness to do what you did.

My recovery depends upon passing on to other alcoholics the love, understanding and support so freely given to me. Meetings and service commitments are enjoyable, but sharing my ESH with another alcoholic, one on one, is the key for my recovery. I’ve been blessed with many fine opportunities to work with other men. Many did not stay sober, but I grew with every relationship. My life feels useful and content when I’m actively working with another alcoholic.

I put my hand out when anyone, anywhere reaches out for help. I’ll go to any lengths to help an alcoholic who is willing to take the suggested actions. Through the years I’ve had a few difficult people. Then I try to remember what I was like when I first walked into the rooms. I am happy to work with unlovable people and unpleasant people, but I will not work with unwilling people. It’s simply a waste of everyone’s time.

The Fellowship of the Spirit

The Lone Ranger was my hero growing up. I wanted to be the man who saved the day and then rode off into the sunset. Instead, I became the man who drank alone in his darkened apartment with the drapes drawn. They say isolation is a dark room where alcoholics go to develop their negatives. That was me. Other people were hell. It was much more comfortable to stand, drink in hand, on the outside of life looking in. Grace lead me to Alcoholics Anonymous and the fellowship of the spirit. Without Grace I’d probably still be standing there wondering why I couldn’t find even a tiny scrap of lasting happiness no matter how hard I tried.

I felt safe in the rooms. It didn't seem to matter to you what I came from or what I did. You loved me anyways. Because I wanted what you had I did all that was suggested. A mighty power flowed into me and I began to love you back. My reliance on this power grew steadily during the last twenty plus years. Today I have a faith that works under all conditions. Since there is no need to worry about anything. I can just let life be life. My only job is to enjoy it to the fullest. My greatest highs continue to be giving back what was so freely given to me.

The Fellowship of the Spirit extends way beyond the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. The Big Book reminds me “There is One who has all power. That One is God. May you find him now.” Even though we humans may different conceptions of this power, I believe our Gods are One and the same. When I am connected to the One, I am connected to all of life — to everything there is, both visible and invisible.

The Fellowship of the Spirit allows me  to go through life with a sense of ease and comfort that is a thousand times better than any drink or drug took to escape from life. Oh, I still have challenges, problems, and concerns, but today I don't need to fight through them alone. I have all of you to rely on, to learn from, and to love.

A Miracle of Healing

“What is this but a miracle of healing? Yet its elements are simple. Circumstances made him willing to believe. He humbly offered himself to his Maker-then he knew.” (BB pg. 57)

I had an amazing experience last week that proves how much I’ve been healed during my time in Alcoholics Anonymous.

I was camping and hiking in Mount Shasta, California about 700 miles from home. I had just finished a great hike around a beautiful lake. It was late afternoon when I got back to my car to drive back to my campsite. My car started fine but wouldn't move. I sensed right away I had lost the transmission. Here I was stuck in the middle of nowhere, 60 miles away from the nearest repair place and rental car company. Yikes.

The miracle is that I did not react in fear, anger or self-pity throughout the whole experience. I calmly arranged for a tow truck, scheduled the repairs and found a ride back to my campsite. The old me would have spun out in fear, cursing the heavens for my bad luck. Instead I felt grateful I broke down in a beautiful, peaceful spot and not on the side of a noisy highway. The old me would have plunged into economic insecurity when I learned the new transmission was going to cost $5200. Instead I felt grateful I had the money. The old me would have been demanding to the point of rudeness to the people I called for help. Instead I was friendly, patient and understanding. The man who drank alone in his darkened apartment encrusted in self-centered fear twenty three years ago seems to have disappeared.

Wait. It gets better. The next morning the service guy called from the dealership and told me the transmission was covered by warranty. I had no idea. Needless to say I was thrilled. Then he told me the rental car was covered too. Wow.

My recovery is nothing I do and everything God does. More and more I feel like I'm being carried along by the river of life. I have the faith I’ll be given whatever I need to get through whatever life throws at me. I continue to have challenges but solutions appear effortlessly. I listen to my intuition, do the next indicated thing and try to stay out of outcome. Since I no longer worry, I no longer have to try and control people and events. Consequently, I go through life with a sense of ease and comfort and, like the promise says, I enjoy a new freedom and a new happiness.

A Great Way to Live

I had a 100% failure rate as a loving human being before earning my seat in Alcoholics Anonymous. Oh, I put on a good act and fooled some people (even myself) along the way, but my heart wasn’t in it. I couldn’t love you because I didn’t love myself. Yet, I expected you to love me anyways and when you didn’t, I swallowed another cupful of self-hate mixed with resentment.

I couldn’t figure out why my life had stopped working. I had no energy or enthusiasm for anything that didn’t help to change the way I felt. I went through the motions feeling completely empty inside. Because I wasn’t suffering major consequences, I had no clue I had a disease called alcoholism until a therapist pointed me toward treatment. I wasn’t convinced I was alcoholic, but I experienced what I know today was a moment of clarity.

I walked into my first AA meeting a few days later. I had never been a joiner because I didn’t want anyone to find out the ugly truth about me. If I had my way I would have hung out on the outside of the AA circle, but you guys wouldn’t let me. You pulled me right into the center of Alcoholics Anonymous against my will. There I discovered a God of my own misunderstanding and began my journey back to wholeness. I also discovered that I was not alone. Our drunk-a-logs are different, but the feelings we have about ourselves are exactly the same. I remember feeling like I had finally found my way home after a long painful journey.

I really wanted what you had and my bags were packed with willingness to do what you did. The men and women who came before me taught me by their actions, not their opinions. I learned the golden key to a beautiful life is not to be loved, but to love. I have to give it away to keep it. Fortunately AA provides me with unlimited opportunities to give back what was so freely given to me. It’s simply a great way to live.

Conscious Contact

I memorized the Third Step prayer in preparation for taking the Third Step with my sponsor. We got down on our knees together, held hands, and repeated the prayer. As I listened to the prayer come out of my mouth I realized I didn’t believe a word I was saying. It felt like I had my fingers crossed behind my back. I shared this with Larry. He suggested I say the prayer anyways because it pleases God when we pray.

My prayers for most of the next twenty years have been “thank you” prayers. Just after switching off the light next to my bed, I close my eyes and say, “Thank you God for a beautiful day.” Saying the prayer became ingrained. I recall one night ten or fifteen years ago. That day my wife underwent a major surgery. She survived the surgery, but it was a difficult day filled with tension. I got into bed exhausted, turned out the light and said my thank you prayer. A voice in my head said, “how can you say it has been a beautiful day?” Another voice responded, “I don’t know how I can say it, but I can. Now shut up and go to sleep!”

I’m coming to believe every thought is a prayer and every prayer is answered. Every thought is either a recovery thought or a relapse thought. I’m no longer baffled on the days when life goes sideways. I know I’m allowing self-centered thoughts to run my head. These fearful, angry and selfish thoughts separate me from you and God. The only solution I’ve found for thinking about me is to think about you. Fortunately, I have a whole toolbox full of tools to help me reconnect. I get to a meeting. I talk with another alcoholic about what’s going on. I pick up the phone and call a couple of newcomers. Sometimes I need to pray for the willingness to take these actions.

My primary Eleventh Step practice today is hiking alone in nature with my cell phone turned off. My senses come alive when I am out on the trails in the midst of raw beauty. I hear the sounds of the birds and the critters rustling in the underbrush. I see the hawks wafting overhead looking for dinner. I smell the heady fragrance of the native plant life. I feel my heart pounding inside my chest after a taxing uphill climb. I become aware I am connected to all there is. This, to me, is conscious contact.

Promises

I consider my alcoholism to be a blessing. It sounds funny to say that, but I don't know how I could have traveled from where I was to where I am today without having this life threatening disease that was going to kill me unless I treated it spiritually. I was too committed to my own ideas, my own grand plans and schemes. It was only because I had no other choice. God made it baby simple for me: change or die.

I do not regret the past. I had to drink every drink, tell every lie, and endure every humiliating experience to find my bottom. One less of anything and I might have missed grace, that moment when it was clear that there was a softer, easier way through life than the way I was going. Back then I wasn't thinking about the promise of a better life, I only wanted the pain to go away -- the pain of frustration and confusion, the pain of resentment, the pain of self-hate, the pain of isolation. Today I spend very little time in fear, anger, or guilt. Like our book says, I enjoy a new freedom and a new happiness.

I am no longer baffled when a painful situation arises. Today when I lose my peace I know it is because I am trying to impose my self-centered version of reality on life instead of accepting Life exactly as it is. Pain must result whenever I cannot accept a person or circumstance in my life because, in essence, I am rejecting God's plan. I am forgetting that life is unfolding exactly as it supposed to and each of us is in exactly the right place for our highest and best good. If life were supposed to be any different than it is, it would be.

Recovered or Recovering?

Yesterday our leader shared from the Dr's Opinion that alcoholics must undergo an "essential" psychic change or else we will probably drink again. I remembered the quote as an "entire" psychic change. So I grabbed a  Big Book and checked it out. To my surprise, I found that both "essential" and "entire" were used to describe psychic change. They are only words, but their meanings have more significance for me then the words "recovered" and "recovering".

I experienced an essential psychic change when my thinking shifted just enough for the obsession to drink to be removed. I usually refer to this experience as a spiritual awakening. I have not yet experienced an "entire psychic change". In my mind this means a complete emptying out of all
beliefs. Not only all of my so-called bad ideas, but all the good ones too. Eastern religions describe this state of complete emptiness as enlightenment. I believe that until I experience an entire psychic change, there's always a chance I will drink again. Perhaps this is why the long term recovery rate in our program is so low. I understand only a very few humans achieve enlightenment. I hope I never forget that recovery is a life long, never-ending process. There is no finish line.

A while back a member shared a metaphor that helps me realize the difference between recovered and recovering. He said, "you can recover from a gunshot wound, but that does not make you immune to bullets." I have recovered from a hopeless state of mind and body but I could always go back there if I let up on my program of action.

Hooked on AA

I had been standing on the outside of life looking in for as long as I could remember. I was not a joiner. Other people were just too much trouble. I’d spent the last eight months unemployed and drinking at home in almost complete isolation. Now here I was making my way up the back steps to La Jolla Presbyterian Church to attend my first AA meeting and get my little card signed from the treatment center.

I was early. Will C, the secretary, greeted me. When he found out I was new his eyes lit up. He loaded me up with pamphlets. He introduced me to the twenty or so other members as they arrived, telling them I was new. Each welcomed me warmly. During the meeting, Will circulated a meeting schedule booklet. The members put their names and phone numbers in the back. After the readings Big Al was the first to share. He was outraged that his daughter’s therapist had convinced her that Al had molested her as a child. I was forty seven years old and never before had I heard anyone speak so honestly about anything so painful. It blew me away! While driving home I remember thinking that something special just happened. I didn’t know what it was, but I was sure I was going to go back next week and find out.

My second meeting, Mt. Soledad Men’s, was a few days later. Seventy guys tanked up on caffeine and testosterone at 9:30 in the morning. I sat in the back. When I put up my hand as a newcomer, the men seated around me extended their hands in welcome. After the readings came the birthday
celebrations. Candles were lit and as each celebrant came to the front with their sponsors the men sang a raucous version of Happy Birthday. I couldn’t help but sing along. I don’t remember too much about what was said that morning, but I identified with one man who shared when he had a couple of drinks he couldn't stop. I couldn't stop either. After the meeting a number of the men came up and welcomed me with handshakes and pats on the back. Larry J, who would become my first sponsor, said, “Some of us go to Harry’s for breakfast after the meeting, why don’t you come along.” I said, “I’d really like to, but I’m very busy this morning.’ He gave me a knowing (you are full of crap) smile and said, “I’m sure you are busy, Jeff, but why don’t you come along anyways?” An unseen hand pushed me to the breakfast with five or six other members. I remember laughing, really laughing, for the first time in years. Driving home from breakfast I had the feeling I had finally found my way home after a long painful journey.

A few months later Father Bill W led our meeting. At the time Father Bill was sober for twenty fives year and a Catholic priest for thirty. He had a wonderful Irish lilt and great sense of humor and dropped the occasional F-bomb that kept us all in stitches. He wrapped up his powerful story by
saying that he learned more about spirituality in AA than he had learned in all his years in the Catholic church. Wow! Then, at 90 days sober, the men elected me “doughnut guy”. It felt like I had just won the Nobel Prize! I was hooked.

I went to over 400 meetings in my first year and put myself in the center of Alcoholics Anonymous. There I discovered the God of my own misunderstanding. I have stayed in the center ever since, through thick and thin. AA continues to be my most favorite thing to do.


Taking It to the Street

A few months ago I went out to dinner with some Chinese friends, Jeannie and James, who supported my wife spiritually during her last days. Like my wife, they are both very active Christians.

During dinner, they asked me why I didn't drink and I had the chance to explain a little bit about Alcoholics Anonymous. James choked up when he told me his brother had recently died of alcoholism at a relatively young age. They could not understand why he could not stop drinking even when he knew he was dying.

I told them their brother had no choice. He had the disease of alcoholism and it was not his fault he had it. I explained the allergy and the obsession. I told them that alcoholics cannot stop drinking on willpower alone. We learn to rely on a higher power--God as we understand God. I sensed that learning their brother had a disease gave them a huge sense of relief.

They asked me about the AA program and explained the 12 steps. They seemed quite interested so I emailed them a copy of How It Works later that evening and made myself available if there is a future need.

Carrying the message to Jeanie and James felt just as good as it does when I'm sharing inside the rooms.

HOW

I didn’t have tank fulls of honesty, open-mindedness and willingness when I walked into my first AA meeting. Fortunately, only a bare minimum of these spiritual qualities is required to make a start in recovery. I don’t really have to be honest, I just have to have the capacity to be honest. If I can say, "my name is Jeff, and I’m an alcoholic" and mean it, I probably have the capacity. Our program doesn’t require me to believe anything. I can take what feels right and leave the rest. So what is there to be close minded about? And all I have to do to demonstrate my willingness is show up at a few meetings each week, drink coffee and laugh at our alcoholic solutions to life; talk to my sponsor about my favorite subject -- me; and offer mostly parroted advice to people with less time than me. Seen in this light, I need to stop patting myself on the back for my recovery. It’s nothing I do anyways.

Our book asks whether God is everything or nothing. After years of soberly considering this question, I have settled on everything. To me this means recovery is nothing I do and everything God does. I believe whatever level of honesty, open-mindedness and willingness I demonstrate comes directly from the Source. Like it says somewhere in the other big book, “Of myself I am nothing. God does the work.” This idea causes ego to do flip flops.

Ego wants to take full credit for my recovery and all the serenity and happiness I enjoy today. Ego points out, it’s “me” who shows up at all these meetings; it’s “me” who puts a hand out to newcomers, it’s “me” who answers the phone no matter what time it rings; it’s “me” who passes on what little spiritual understanding I have in any given moment. It was  “me” who was one of the first to carry the AA message to mainland China. According to ego it isn’t God taking these actions. It’s me. Ego simply cannot accept the fact that there is no Jeff apart from God, that the “I” is an illusion—an out picturing of old fear-based ideas that we humans have been carrying around since the beginning of time.

Slowly, slowly, practicing the 12 Steps is dissolving these old ideas and opening up a clear channel to God, allowing ever greater levels of willingness, open-mindedness and honesty to flow into my life. I am learning to love more and it feels great!

Will I Drink Again?

I was in a meeting the other day and heard a member wonder out loud about whether, after two years of successful recovery, has changed enough to drink again. Frankly, I’ve never considered this question before. Some members might think it is dangerous to even consider such a thing, but I think it's a great question.

Certainly I’ve experienced huge internal changes over the past twenty plus years in the way I think and react. I’ve come a long way from the anxious, frustrated, angry person I used to be. Yet, I can still lose my spiritual balance at the drop of a hat and act like King Baby. I still carry many of the old ideas I walked through the doors with. I certainly have not experienced the “entire” psychic change the good doctor talks about in the Doctor’s Opinion. I’m much better today but not entirely restored to sanity.

Besides my stinking thinking, I cannot forget that I have an allergy to alcohol in any form. Drinking is not my problem. It’s the inability to stop drinking after a couple that always put me in a ditch. Not only do I say and do things I regret later, but I lose my spiritual compass when I'm drinking. Like the book points out, an alcoholic who drinks is going against his natural state of being. In essence he is committing suicide. Perhaps it is possible to bypass the phenomenon of craving and regain control if my genetic code is completely rewired. I haven’t heard that science has figured out how to do this yet in humans. Maybe in mice.

I have no idea whether or not I will drink again. But I am almost positive I won’t drink today. I say almost positive because I’ve been around long enough to see members come and go by the droves. I’m sure many of them had no clue they were going to drink the day they went out. I heard one man share he just woke up with a drink in his hand—like he was in a trance. Some share they went straight from the AA meeting to the bar. I try to remember that every day I am sober is a gift from God. Sure, I go to meetings and work with others, but my recovery is nothing I do and everything God does. Despite my best efforts, if I am supposed to drink again, I will.

Even if I could drink reasonably, I’m not sure I would. I enjoy being a member of AA too much. You guys are my tribe. I’ve had a taste of the spiritual mystery and I want more. I want to continue to enjoy greater and greater peace of mind, freedom and joy. I’m convinced none of this is possible if I drink again. I’d be giving up too much. It’s just not worth it.

Meetings

It was my first day of treatment. I sat in a small circle with five or six other newbies. The counselor said, “to graduate from this program you need to attend a minimum of three AA meetings a week. Except for you Jeff, because you are not working, you need to attend a meeting every day.” I was pissed off by being singled out, but I kept my mouth shut. As it turned out going to meetings every day was the best thing that could’ve happened to me. I went to over 400 meetings in my first year. It was the first time in my life I felt like I fit in anywhere. Besides I was afraid to sit at home alone with nothing better to do than watch reruns of stupid television programs. Meetings have been the centerpiece of my recovery ever since.

AA is my church. It’s the only place I can stop thinking about me. I get to experience the spiritual love then we alcoholics have for one another. I laugh at your wacky solutions because they make perfect sense to me. Meetings are where I gain the courage to walk through the dark days from those who came before me. There is no were else I would rather be then in a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous.

I find a healing power in meetings that I can’t find elsewhere. I like the line in the other big book, “where more than one are gathered in my name, I am present.” Sometimes, when my mind is not racing a mile a minute in judgment, I actually sense the healing presence of God.

I am just now finishing up a three month holiday in a little coastal town in Thailand. Warm  sea, great food and the laid-back friendly attitude of the Thai people is a wonderful combination. But I wouldn’t be here if there wasn’t an AA group and five meetings a week. I simply don’t go anywhere for any length of time where there are not meetings.

I read many spiritual books toward the end of my drinking trying to discover what was wrong with me. One of the books suggested that I live a God centered life. It sounded like a good idea, but I had no idea how to do it. I still do not know how to live a God centered life, but I do know how to live in AA centered life. When I put myself in the center of Alcoholics Anonymous by attending meetings frequently, God is there.

Conscious Contact

Conscious contact for me means the experience of God showing up in my life, not an idea of God I read in some spiritual book. When I’m awake and aware, I can see my life is everything God does and nothing I do. There is no place God isn’t. But it’s so easy for me to get distracted, fall back asleep, to take God for granted. Then I begin to believe that I am the power making my life happen. I need daily reminders to maintain my conscious contact with God. Fortunately I’m surrounded by powerful reminders every where I look.

I become aware of the presence of God in most every meeting I attend. The other big book says, “where more than one are gathered in His name, God is present.” When my mind is not wandering off, sometimes I can actually feel the presence of God in a meeting. Sometimes when I’m sharing with another drunk I hear the words come out of my mouth and I think. “Wow, I didn’t know I knew that.” I reach out to newcomers and occasionally there’s a big payoff — seeing the light come on when the person finally “gets it.”  I listen to you share what your life was like, what happened and what it’s like now. When I hear how God is working in your life, I am reminded God is working in my life too.

I had a powerful experience of God recently. A man I share with had been struggling to stay sober for years. He’d get a couple of months then take his foot off the gas with predictable results. He told me over and over again that he didn’t deserve sobriety. Then, as it says in our book, something happened. After his last reset, he became very active in the program. He attended meetings every day, took a number of services commitments and hung out with other alcoholics outside the meetings. Two weeks ago he had an accident on his motor scooter and broke his ankle in half. He spent the night in the Emergency Room. His ankle was too swollen for surgery, so they put him in a cast and discharged him the next morning on crutches. He called one of his new sobriety buddies to pick him up and together they went to his early morning meeting to make the coffee. Wow. God becomes absolutely real for me just thinking about it.

Besides staying active in the AA program, I seek to maintain conscious contact by hiking alone in nature with my cell phone turned off. This is my primary Eleventh Step practice. Solitude is so wonderful after a lifetime of isolation. I strive to keep distractions to a minimum. I watch very little TV and have no strong opinions on outside issues. Recently a friend called me unpatriotic because I wouldn’t get caught up in the recent election. It may be selfish, but my peace of mind is more important to me than who is president.

I’ve been traveling in Southeast Asia for the past few months. It seems like there are ornate temples and beautiful statues of Buddha everywhere I look.  I am surrounded by these symbols, but they don’t trigger awareness of God for me. Yet when I glimpse the beautiful, joyous faces of the little Thai, Cambodian and Vietnamese children, I’m absolutely positive God is real and alive.


Good Orderly Direction

My wife, a practicing Christian, believed there is a devil. I tried to point out that if there really is a devil, that God made it, so the devil must be in our lives for a purpose. She didn’t buy it. I feel the same way about ego. I could not be the person I am today without an ego. After years of letting go of old ideas through the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, ego is no longer the prime motivating force, but without the energy of my fearful ego pushing me a little, I would never get off the couch. Perhaps ego is simply the fearful little kid I abandoned as I grew. I’m learning to embrace ego rather than hold it in contempt.

Since I don’t feel qualified to judge what is a right thing or a wrong thing, I like to use the term, “next indicated thing” instead. I read that a monk once asked a holy man what it meant to live a spiritual life. The sage’s reply: “When you are hungry, eat; when you are tired, sleep.” I really do believe it can be this simple  — flowing in the direction life is moving, doing the next indicated thing; solving any problems that appear without frustration, confusion, or suffering. I believe this is the life that God intended for us when he put us here.

I’ve had a taste of being in the flow during the past couple of years. The promise that I’ll intuitively  know how to handle situations that used to baffle me has come true. I’ve stopped trying to figure it all out and second guessing myself. I trust spiritual intuition (Good Orderly Direction); I try to put one foot in front of the other, and accept whatever the outcome in advance. It works, it really does!

One Day at a Time

One day at a time for me is about staying present and realizing that today is all I have. This is not always easy. While I seem to have made peace with my past, my mind occasionally drags me  into the fearful future where it focuses on all that can go wrong. It reminds me death is approaching, but before death what? What if I can't get around? What if I run out of money? Who will look after me when I’m no longer able?  When I’m living in the fearful future I miss the beauty and joy of the present moment. Fortunately, I no longer trip into the future very often and when I do I don’t stay very long.

I believe the ability to live in today is due to the habit of sobriety I developed in my first 90 days. I continue to take the same actions today that I did when I was new. I go to a meeting almost every day. I call other alcoholics and answer the phone when it rings. I practice 12 step principles to the best of my ability. I try to stay fit in body, mind and spirit. I don’t do any of this perfectly but I do it consistently.  I did not develop the habit of sobriety because I was afraid of drinking. I kept coming back because for the first time in my life it felt like I fit in. I got a kick out of the meetings and connected with the other wacky alcoholics in the rooms. Slowly my life began to change. I was drawn into the spiritual mystery. I keep coming back for the same reasons today.

The habit of sobriety produced a faith in me that works in all conditions. Faith gives me the courage to walk through the dark times without picking up a drink. Faith loosens my grip on the steering wheel and I’m better able to allow my life to unfold naturally. Faith gives me the calm assurance that everything is happening exactly as it is supposed to despite what my mind tries to tell me. This gift of faith makes it possible for me to live one day at a time and let the future take care of itself.

A Grateful Heart

Before I was graced with a moment of clarity that led me to Alcoholics Anonymous, I felt entitled to everything I received. After all I battled the world day in and day out for these few scraps of comfort. Mostly I resented life for not giving me more. Over time these "old ideas" slowly dissolved by continuing to do the things that were suggested to me in my first week. A grateful attitude is flowering.

I try to remember that everything I put out into the universe returns to me in one way or another. Every thought is a prayer. When I have grateful thought, energized by grateful feelings, abundance flows in my life. Too often I overlook the many small blessings each day brings. I often wonder how good my life would get if I practiced an attitude of gratitude in all my affairs.

My sponsor taught me that gratitude is a verb. It's not just how I feel, it's what I do. If I feel grateful for my health, I take good care of my body. If I feel grateful for my job, I find a way to do it better. If I feel grateful for my recovery, I show it by being of service. Gratitude is action.

I'm grateful to be an alcoholic. I've come a long way from my dirty, darkened apartment, overflowing ashtray and bottle of red wine at 11:00 in the morning. Today most days are peaceful. I feel useful and content. I have enough. There's no possible way I could get to where I am today from where I was without having a disease that was going to kill me if I didn’t treat it spiritually.

Waking Up

The voice inside my head screamed, "You can't let that bitch talk to you this way, Jeff." Talk about a rude awakening. The therapist I visited to get some friendly direction for my life instead took my inventory. Her exact words were, "you don't have an ounce of humility in your whole body, your brain is so cloudy from your daily drinking you can't hope to get any clarity on your life and you have the emotional maturity of a 13-year-old." I was shocked. She went on to say that she couldn't help me, but maybe the treatment center up the street could. All I thought I needed was a job. Instead she basically suggested I needed to change my whole effing life. No one had ever spoken to me like that before, but as it turned out she was exactly right. Somehow truth penetrated into the core of my being. I  became willing to be changed.

I learned in Alcoholics Anonymous that God sends me uncomfortable experiences, not to punish me but to wake me up. Even after a long period of sobriety, I still want to burrow into a comfortable cocoon and stay there. I don't really want to deal with life on life's terms even though I know that I grow and change by doing so. I heard the first step to waking up is admitting that I really don’t want to wake up.

I believe control in any form is spiritually deadening--even when I'm trying to control how much I drink! My need to control comes from self-centered fear. Like it says in our book I'm afraid I won't get what I need to live comfortably or I’ll  lose something I already have that I can’t live without. This fear causes me to try and control the people and situations in my life. This need to control--to try to impose my will on reality--blocks me from my higher power and causes me all the pain there is.

Giving up control is a slow painful process for me. It sounds so simple. Just let go and let God. Get up in the morning and say the Third Step Prayer and skip on down the road to happy destiny. Talk about delusion!  My faith grows by feeling the fear of a situation, sitting in discomfort, and doing the next indicated thing anyways.  It’s amazing how quickly situations resolve themselves if I just let them be and not try to fix them by imposing my will.

My faith grows every time I walk through an uncomfortable situation without picking up a drink or otherwise trying to change the way I feel. As I grow in faith, my need to control dissolves. Oh, I still have fear, but it no longer paralyzes me. The process of growing my faith pays a lot of dividends. I’m better able  to accept life just the way it is, I’m more comfortable in my own skin, and I no longer need to depend on anyone else to tell me I'm okay. It's simply a great way to live.

We -- The Fellowship of Spirit

I completed a written first step in the treatment center. I saw ample evidence of my powerlessness to resist the first drink and the inevitable consequences of taking it. Yet, I know today that it wasn't the fear of drinking again that kept me coming back. It was the  "We" of our program, the first word of the first step. The Fellowship of the Spirit.

I sensed the magic of “We” at my very first meeting. I was shocked at the honesty and openness of the sharing. I laughed, really laughed, for the first time in years. The clenched fist in my gut began to relax. Our drunk-a-logs were different, but our underlying feelings of fear, self-hate, and anger were exactly the same. I saw I was no longer alone. It felt great and I wanted more. So I kept coming back.

We are unified by a common problem and a common solution. We hear the voice of spirit through the voices of other members. We help ourselves by helping each other. We celebrate each other’s successes and morn each other’s failures. We allow ourselves to be loved and we love in return. In the process we are released from selfishness and division and grow an ever-deepening connection with the God of our own misunderstanding.

It says in the other big book, “Where more than one are gathered in his name, God is present.” God is sometimes hard for me to find when I’m alone, but God seems to magically show up when I’m sitting in a room full of drunks. I can’t stay sober but We can.

Only God

My vision for 2017 is the same as it has been for many years -- to continue to grow along spiritual lines through the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. I desire to come into a relationship with the God of my own misunderstanding that is so intimate it might be said that God and I are One. Since this is already a fact, there is nothing further for God to do. God’s work is done. Creation is finished. If our partnership is going to flourish this year -- if I really want more harmony, peace and order in my life -- it is up to me to take the actions to align my will with God’s will. I must show up in the present moment, tune into the intuitive messages, and follow the guidance by doing the next indicated thing.

Ego stands in direct opposition to this simple and effective way to live a God-centered life. Ego wants no part of God. Ego wants me to believe that I alone caused the peace, abundance and joy in my life. After all, I’m the one who goes to all the AA meetings; puts my hand out to newcomers; and picks up the phone to share my ESH. According to ego, I’m the one who should pay for all my mistakes with a sense of guilt and self-loathing. Ego even shows up disguised as spirituality to convince me I don’t need God. God is for suckers. I’m really OK, just the way I am. Really.

Ego is not a bad thing, it’s just not a true thing. It is simply a collection of old false ideas born of self-centered fear. Like my alcoholism, it’s not my fault I am holding these fearful ideas. Some fears came through my DNA as a way to avoid being eaten by saber tooth tigers and stomped on by wooly mammoths. Others came from well-meaning but ignorant parents, teachers, priests and society. Because these ideas came from adults, I naively formed beliefs around them. It is these beliefs -- these old ideas -- that block me from a complete realization of God. So my work again this year is to continuously look within and see what's true for me. The Twelve Steps help me with this process.

I’m learning there is no God and ____. There is only God. There’s no God and me. I am just a channel for God's expression.  In the other big book it says “of myself I am nothing, God does the work.” I am closer to this realization than ever before. I’m excited about growing my relationship with God this coming year. I’m glad to be on this path with you.