Using the 12 Steps to Change Our Behavior Instead of Using Addictions to Run From Ourselves

“I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!” ~Alice In Wonderland

1.  From hummingbird (al-anon journal): “Mission Statement”:

When I walked through the door into my first Al-Anon meeting, I remember thinking that it was all going to be about alcoholism: how to fix, understand, tolerate, and live with the alcoholic in my life.  I was listening, with both ears, when the leader of the meeting read the preamble, “We believe alcoholism is a family disease.”  Shocking, I thought!  I wasn’t the one hiding in the garage with a bottle of vodka, so I was woefully unprepared to see my participation in it.

It’s no mistake that the preamble we read at my home meeting includes the fifth tradition.  It’s like a mission statement that points us in the right direction every time we come together.  We have but one purpose: to help familiesof alcoholics and the word family includes everyone, including the alcoholic.

First: “We do this by practicing the Twelve Steps of AA ourselves.”   Relationships and family always seem to go smoother when there are healthy people involved.  Even if everyone is not practicing the Twelve Steps, the ones who do can’t help but be a positive influence on the group. I saw it work in my own home.  Even though my husband was still drinking, when I began practicing the Twelve Steps, things improved immediately.  First for me (I stopped driving myself crazy), and then for him (I stopped driving him crazy).  When he started practicing the steps as well, we were suddenly on the same team.   The ripple effect of the steps on our relationship was strong and evident, regardless of its source.

2.  From Marc posting from The Rest of Our Life by Allen Reid McGuinnes. Post was found at Good Life and titled:

“Step 4 : As Long as You’re Green You’re Growing…”

As soon as you’re ripe, you rot. There’s a lot of ripe ones out there!

I was well into my rot when I was motivated enough by the stench and the pain of addiction, to seek help. I’ve still got some moldy spots, but unlike produce, I can choose to cut away the bad bits and keep on growing. That’s what the Steps have taught me.

I’ve been asked, “Why would anyone do the Steps, anyway? Why not just quit drinking (smoking, drugging, obsessing, enabling, fixing…) Well, why? I recently read the answer in a friend’s post* and fortunately for you, it’s short: people do the steps because they’re ready to change the kind of person they are. It’s really that simple.

Know how you can tell the ones that aren’t ready? They go back to their addiction or obsession or they just keep talking the talk and don’t ever get around to Step 4 and 5. That causes a fair amount of confusion for newbies. This isn’t a program of meetings, service and talk. That would be service clubs, civic organizations and church. This is a 12 Step program. Always was.

Even the newbies can tell the 12 Steps aren’t for wimps, for fakers, for those with masks. The Steps are for the rigorously honest, painfully humbled, seekers. I love the people who work the program as it was intended. I can’t get enough of what they have! They’re so transformed that old acquaintances hardly recognize them because they continue their self-searching as prescribed in Step 10. They also rely on the wisdom of regularly trimming back their rotted bits with a trusted friend.

3.  From Scott F. (Sober Nuggets): “Lent Begins”:

Today marks the beginning of my favorite season of our church year, Lent.  I love the extended period of reflection, self-evaluation, service, sacrifice and almsgiving that leads us closer to God, culminating in the Easter Miracle.  I think I am so fond of this liturgical season because it reminds me so much of our recovery program in Alcoholics Anonymous.  As Catholics we spend the next 40 days focusing on repentance and conversion to the Good News at Easter.  Today, we receive ashes (marked on our foreheads in the sign of the Cross) and hear the words “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” or “Remember you are dust and to dust you will return”.

To be marked with the ashes from the burning of last years palms given at Palm Sunday is an outward sign of our commitment to repentance and the conversion of our hearts to follow God more closely.  My faith is a choice, and this time of year affords me the opportunity to renew my faith, renew myself and “re-make” my choice to “take up my cross and follow Christ.”  Lent is a wonderful season but just like recovery, it only “works if you work it.”  So my plan is to increase time spent in prayer at home and at church in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.  My plan is to continue to be of service to others at meetings and through my various volunteer and service efforts.  I will also practice self-denial by practicing fasting and not allowing myself particular indulgences in an effort to improve my focus on my relationship with God and further reduce my self-centeredness.  I must repent: turn away from sin (separation from my HP), and turn directly to HP to better live His will.  I am using the 12 Steps as my guide to a renewing, spiritual Lent this year.

In terms of AA and recovery from alcoholism, Lent is a lot like a trip through the Steps.  In prayer, we practice Steps 1-3.  In repentance and self-evaluation we are living Steps 4-9, and in renewal, conversion and service we’re living Steps 10-12, and as a result we’re reborn in a sober, recovered state.  The idea would be then for us to go through this process each year, in an effort to continue growing “more well” and closer to our HP.  And during the rest of they year, while not in this intense process of discovery, purge and renewal, we fin ourselves focused more on the daily practice of Steps 1-3 and 10-12.

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Recovery Means Living a Life With a Purpose and Commitment

Often times helping others can be an exciting new adventure for all involved. I read yesterday about an organization that helps the homeless by having them run. It is called “Back on My Feet.” By helping the homeless become runners, the group is giving each person the chance to feel better mentally and physically. Fast facts from the site:

  • Back on My Feet started in Philadelphia in 2007
  • Back on My Feet has 11 chapters nationwide
  • 46% of Residential Members (those experiencing homelessness) move their lives forward with a job, housing or both

I learned about this group while reading another amazing site: One Day One Job. You can get jobs by email from this site with a new employer featured each day and jobs available from this employer. The site has 2000+ entry level employers. I believe the site is most valuable because it introduces readers to all types of job opportunities they may not have known about before the email. This is a list of all the employers.

1.  From Bob Miglani: “4 Lessons on How to Find the Right Direction in Life”:

1. Stop over-thinking.

So much of our stress and anxiety about the future stems from all the analysis and thinking we do as adults. We ask ourselves all sorts of questions. I recall countless nights lying awake, entertaining ideas and wrestling with my soul. I tried so hard to figure out where I would end up that I often felt defeated before I even began.

2. Try anything. Do something.

When you take action and start doing things, you begin to feel better almost immediately, because instead of thinking about some far off place in your head full of uncertainty, you will be working on something that is really certain: your actions.

3. Follow your inner voice.

I used to feel that if only I knew more, I would be able to make a better decision about the direction I wanted to take in life. But as I dug deeper trying to get more information, the hole got so deep that I found myself buried.

4. Believe in yourself.

When I first started exploring new opportunities to find the right direction in my life, I found myself overwhelmed by the competition. There were so many others just like me trying and doing what I was doing.

2. From Hummingbird (al-anon journal): “Laundry”:

I recently started a writing class that takes me a full hour to get to each week. I know that if I leave an hour and fifteen minutes before class, I can walk in calmly, present in the moment, and enjoy taking time to do something I’ve always wanted to do.  Two weeks ago, I was behind in my work and felt guilty about going to class.  I got caught up in the work and pushed my time window way too close, leaving only 55 minutes before class.  I raced all the way there, stressing, and talking on my cellphoneto clients from my car.  Like the writer of today’s passage said, I was trying “to rush to an encounter with serenity”.   As I pulled up to the parking structure, I narrowly missed an elderly pedestrian in the crosswalk and had a brisk awakening.  The man was justifiably surprised and angry, and I had to stop and do a Tenth Step, right there in the driveway.

As I mouthed an apology to the man I nearly killed, Al-Anon slogans ran through my head like a ticker tape.  “Easy Does It.”  “First Things First.”  “Keep it Simple.”  Words that I used to think were trite, bubbling to the surface of my crazy day.  I had to acknowledge the irony.  It’s no mistake that the slogans are simple because, when we need to hear them most, we are so caught up in our own heads that they haveto be simple in order to get through.

I know that recovery is not to be found on a racetrack.  I cannot multitask my way into serenity any more than Kelly Ripa can purchase an appliance to deliver it.  The only way I’m going to find serenity is if I practice the principles of Al-Anon in allmy affairs.  Old habits die hard with me and I have a stubborn resistance to change.  I know I’m getting closer, though, because at least I’m starting to notice when the laundry basket is on my head.

3. From Jonathan writing at ” How do I Find My Passion? The Missing “Recovery” Method”:

So, what are the keys to a passion that is both deeply rooted in who you are and deeply founded in service to the world?

Here are a few keys:

  • You must not only have a passion for your craft, but an earnest desire to help others. If you can’t get as thrilled about helping others with your gifts as you get about the gift itself, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to attract others to your message.
  • There must be a significant need in the world that you can relieve with your gifts, or an intense passion around your gift. Without intensity, urgency and emotion, it’s unlikely that people will care enough to pay for the solution or gift you offer.
  • It must have longevity. No craft will ever become profitable unless you can cultivate it for years or decades.
  • It must tap into a cause a tribe is fiery about, or something people can rally around. It needs to have the ability to create and foster community.

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