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Recovery Article of the week

Feeling Gratitude

Feeling Gratitude

I have been in recovery long enough to every now and then forget some of the things that were paramount to my sobriety. Yes, that does sound like I'm regressing but I think it is natural for some of us (not all of us) to become forgetful. A friend of mine always calls it "her forgetter" and my "forgetter" has been kicking in lately.

Personally, I am going through a difficult time that keeps me busy every moment of the day. I know I am not praying and meditating as I did before. I know that because of that my trust and faith in my Higher Power is not at the forefront. I also know that I am not turning things over to Him and permitting problems and issues to stay with me all day, all evening long.

The only things that have remained constant for me are I attend meetings and do not drink. But even meetings lately have come in second at times. I'm okay with that until I wonder how many meetings do I miss before I believe I don't need them. I don't think I want to experience that answer. The Promises I feel I had a good hold on, sometimes feel like they are falling outside of my grasp.

When I am on a road this uncomfortable, I also forget about gratitude. I don't know about you but when I'm in this "place", it is easy to know what I should be grateful for, but difficult to feel the gratitude. Feeling real gratitude is the result of reverent prayer and meditation as this is what helps to solidify my relationship with God.

There was a saying a heard some time ago and it went like this: "What if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you were grateful for today?" I've been thinking of this and realize that I might have nothing. I'm one of these people that sometimes has to experience something before I can refocus on what I need to do and feeling gratitude is one of those things. I know one thing and that is that I know God puts things in my path to wake me up and that is something to be grateful for!

Like most of you, I am on Facebook, not only as Grateful Recovery but as a real, true life person. A few days ago I was trying to find an old friend to invite her to a reunion. She wasn't on but her husband was. I went to his page and was bombarded with photos of their trips around the world, the yacht, the plane, the house on the water...could there be anything else? I felt life had been unfair to me because my husband and I worked as hard as they worked and I would never have anything even close to what they have. I will also add that they have never had children and I have always used that as the reason why I was "luckier" than they.

At that point, for whatever reason, I noticed another old friend on Facebook whom I hadn't seen in 40 years. Ironically, these two ladies I just found had been the closest of friends many years ago. I decided to ask this person to be a friend and she responded "Yes". When I looked at her page, I read a post that was a letter to her daughter who had a husband and two little girls, who would not be celebrating a next birthday because she had died of cancer. Reading this, I openly wept. I could not imagine losing one of my children.

God is good. This was my wakeup call! I was almost ashamed of myself for being so jealous of material belongings when I had been given the most precious gifts I could have ever been given. I look at these two women and I feel gratitude for what I have. And, so, God did for me what I could not do for myself. He gave me the opportunity, once again, to bring me back to the kind of prayer and meditation that offers me peace and serenity. Life is a journey. There are always times when we feel lost. And when we are, God has a way of guiding us back to where He knows we need to be.

Namaste'. May you continue to walk your journey in peace and harmony.

Like Grateful Recovery on Facebook. Kathy L. is the author of "The Intervention Book" in print, e-book, and audio

Step 1 - Managing The Chaos

Step 1 - Managing The Chaos


When I think about Step One, I only get as far as the first part where we admit we are powerless over our addiction. I never seem to give the second part of the Step its due because it took me longer to admit my life was unmanageable than it was to admit powerlessness. Yes, I know, but I'm a real addict. I took the hardest part of the Step and made it easy and then rather ignored the easy part because it was going to be harder than I thought. Make sense?

Admitting that I was powerless was personal; something that didn't seem to involve anyone but me. I had a disease that affected me mentally, emotionally, and physically and I was selfish enough to think it didn't affect anyone but me. So to say my life was unmanageable meant that my addiction went outside of my private little world and that in turn meant it might be obvious to others. I maintained, or thought I had maintained a rather manageable life because it looked okay. My house was always in order, I paid my bills on time, I had food in the fridge and I even "managed" to take my dogs for walks or to the dog park. Yes, by all appearances, my life was manageable.

Underneath the appearance was total and utter chaos. I realize now that I surrounded myself with drama because that's what I knew best. Drama is what made me feel alive while I was killing myself with alcohol. I could find something to argue about with anyone but it was because they were always wrong. I had a tremendous amount of self-pity when I did not feel someone treated me right. I knew my life was not what I wanted it to be but I honestly had decided it was what it was.

When I began the 12 Steps to recovery and read the first step, I still didn't feel my life was unmanageable. I labeled it confusing. In retrospect it was unmanageable and confusing and not going anywhere but downhill. It took me a while to truly understand my life in my addiction because I was fortunate (and grateful) not to have to experience so many of the "bottoms" so many of my recovering friends had to experience.

I realized when I took this Step that I never did hide the unmanageability of my life. My family saw it, heard it, and lived it. In other words, they saw my life clearly when I was so unable. Step One sets the groundwork for all of the other steps and, remember, it is the only one that must be done perfectly. If we cannot see the unmanageability of our lives we cannot achieve the level of honesty a program requires to see all of our defects.

Whether you are presently in a 12 Step program or not I invite you to take some time for this short exercise. Sit down, think and be honest. Write or type out all of the times in your life where you saw or felt chaos or unmanageability in your life and then think about the circumstances surrounding them. Put this exercise in a safe place so that you can refer to its contents later. This is the beginning of an important self-discovery as we progress through these 12 Steps.

Namaste'. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony!


Kathy L. is the Bella Online Recovery Editor and the author of "The Intervention Book: Stories and Solutions from Addicts, Professionals, and Families."

Believe!

December 11 marked another sobriety birthday for me. Some people in recovery share that they feel anxious in either a good or not-so-good way or experience a host of other feelings, thoughts, and emotions as they celebrate that special day and begin a new year of sobriety. I’ve wondered why I seldom feel any different as I approach that day. I look more toward getting my chip (token, medallion) than anything else and kudos/support from my family and friends. I have always disliked saying this because it sounds so arrogant but I never have a doubt that I will enjoy another year of sobriety. So my birthday is a big deal because I am sober but not a big deal because of the way I feel. Don’t get me wrong, though. I know that I am no different than any other alcoholic on this earth and not immune to relapse but I have to be honest.

My sister, who has always been my biggest supporter, sent me a book for my birthday. The title is “believe” (yes, in lower case by Dan Zadra & Kobi Yamada, Compendium, Inc.) and is a compilation of quotations about believing in oneself and in the human spirit. It is a beautiful publication not just on the inside but the outside as well. It is the kind of book you might want to just keep out in the open and pick it up whenever you need a lift or put a smile on your face. I want to share with you a few words that she had written to me because I would say them likewise to any of you in recovery. “I look at you not only as someone who has totally taken charge of their life by making the changes you had to make, finding that light at the end of the tunnel, and by doing this you have become “that light for someone else”. BELIEVE! We are all that light for someone else. 

I am changing the subject because on the evening I received my chip we were reading Step Twelve of “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions”. How many times have you read something in the literature over and over and then you actually see it for the first time? I’m convinced this is part of the “more will be revealed to us”. Growth gives us the opportunity to see something new about ourselves from words we have read many times.

My epiphany, so to speak, was to realize that I have had a spiritual awakening and it definitely is a result of working the steps. The newness to me was how I “fit into” the description of a spiritual awakening written on pages 106 and 107. I usually don’t fill my article with someone else’s words but I think this is important enough to rewrite so that each of you can read it as it was written in the 12 and 12. “….the most important meaning (spiritual awakening) is that he has now become able to do, feel, and believe that which he could not do before on his unaided strength and resources alone. He has been granted a gift…he has been set on a path which tells him he is really going somewhere, that life is not a dead end, not something to be endured or mastered. …he has been transformed, because he has laid hold of a source of strength which, in one way or another, he had 
hitherto denied himself. He finds himself in possession of a degree of honesty, tolerance, unselfishness, peace of mind, and love of which he had thought himself quite capable. What he has received is a free gift, and yet usually, at least in some small part, he has made himself ready to receive it.”

Perhaps the above hit me because lately I had been thinking of the worse of my days prior to attending my first meeting. Perhaps I was ready only now to read this description of a spiritual awakening as a result of the steps to realize how far I’d come; that I didn’t just think I had some sort of spiritual awakening because I have a Higher Power but believed I had because I saw myself in those sentences. It also shows us progress and doesn’t insist on perfection (“degree of honesty…”). 

As I close for this week I realize that, perhaps, this article is more cohesive than I thought. It is all about believing and giving and that seems to be suitable for this time of the year. I would like to close with one of the quotes from “Believe” “We won’t always know whose lives we touched and made better for our having cared, because actions can sometimes have unforeseen ramifications. What’s important is that you do care and you act.” (Charlotte Runsford) This is the spirit of Step Twelve. Having had a spiritual awakening, you now believe in yourself and believe in your abilities to give the gift of sobriety to someone else. 

Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.

-Kathy L.

“Like” Grateful Recovery on Facebook. Kathy L. is the author of “The Intervention Book: Stories and Solutions from Addicts, Professionals and Families”

One of the best things about meetings is not only the sharing but the sayings, acronyms, phrases, etc. that I hear for the first time. The first few pages of my Big Book have what appear to be cryptic messages. These are really a "short hand" for things I heard that I wanted to remember. Unfortunately, some are a bit too cryptic and I understand the basic meaning but am totally lost should I try to share the wonders of someone else's words.

I live in an area that except for a few, it seems that no one was born here but moved here at some point in their lives. It is one of those place that I am convinced was a destination for all of those who wanted a geographic. I include myself in this group although I did not know it at the time. In other words, our fellowship probably encompasses someone from all 50 states. The part I like about this is that even though the 12 Steps are the same, as is the literature no matter where you go, areas are different in little ways. For example, the way we work a step may be something handed down from sponsor to sponsee and on and on. The way I was taught to do Step Eight and Step Nine is not written in the literature but it was the way it was handed down in my area. And even in my own fellowship there are differences. My grandsponsor brought her method with her when she arrived from a different state, it was taught to me and I, likewise, share it with my sponsees.

What I enjoy most, though, are the things I have never heard before from someone who began recovery in another state or even another area within my state. Because we always seem to go to the same meetings, after awhile we feel we have heard everything. And then someone new begins to share and says something that you just wish you said!

So a couple of weeks ago, a woman who I have seen before and has been in our area for about a year, began sharing about her own program and how she is staying sober. One of the things she mentioned was doing the next right thing. How often have we heard that? Put one foot in front of the other; live in the moment...all of those little phrases we have heard over and over. Then she said that sometimes she didn't know what the next right thing was. I was now not just hearing her but listening intently as there are many times that I have not known exactly how to do the next right thing or to know what was the next right thing so that I might be able to do it.

Rest In God's Hands Today! RIGHT. The next RIGHT thing. Perhaps many of you have heard and used this acronym but I had not. It was one of those things that hit me hard because sometimes I try so hard, maybe too hard, to do or know the next right thing. Since I have heard this, I think of it often. How at peace I can be. How relaxed I can be. I don't have to be thinking how, what, where, why? I have a very difficult time relaxing, yet these simple words help me be in the moment and breathe!

I had posted a short version of this on Facebook on my Grateful Recovery site and since it seemed that no one had heard of this before, I wanted to share it with a much larger audience. If you believe your Higher Power loves and protects you, then resting in God's hands today is just another way to turn it all over to Him (or Her). I would love to hear your favorite acronym, phrase, saying so it might be shared with others. It may be what someone else needs to hear, maybe for the very first time!

Namaste'. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.

Kathy L. is the author of "The Intervention Book: Stories and Solutions from Addicts, Professionals and Families" (Conari Press)

Step Eleven

Step Eleven: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for the knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.” 

If we had to choose a favorite step, Step Eleven just might be the one! Now that the obsession of our addiction has been lifted, this step (as well as Steps Ten and Twelve) helps us maintain our sobriety and gives us that daily reprieve. I went to the “Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous” and also the “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions” to renew my understanding before sharing my thoughts with all of you.

Did you remember that the Big Book “suggests” prayer and meditation? I didn’t. Maybe that isn’t even relevant to some of us but if you were not a praying person prior to recovery or had any problems with prayer, this could be powerful for you. It doesn’t club us over the heads and tell us prayer and meditation is mandatory but if you have come this far in recovery, I think we all know that it is. The point is prayer and meditation is a personal decision each of us makes. Taking this one step farther, this step continues to remind us of a God of our own understanding. Step Eleven is a most personal step.

The words “conscious contact” is of great importance. In the past we might have prayed or tried to meditate without any real focus as to whom we were praying. Not to mention much of our praying was not what I would consider “pure”. Our prayers were usually to get us out of a jam. These clearly were never spiritual or about conscious contact with a Higher Power. The principle of Step Eleven is awareness of God. So, this step says that we now have a God that we understand and it would now be a very good idea to pray and meditate keeping that God in our hearts and minds. 

The hard part of this step is to pray and meditate not only with awareness of God but so that we know His will for us. This takes us back to Step Three when we made a decision to turn everything over to our Higher Power. It is letting go and accepting His will for us and for everyone else we pray for. The 12 & 12 reminds us that although it is a beautiful thing to pray for someone else, it is not up to us to think we know God’s will for them. Here is a perfect example that was given to me by my youngest brother. He was interviewing for a very important position and there were only a few candidates remaining. Knowing how he wanted this job, I told him I would pray that he got it. Doesn’t that sounds like a loving thing to do? I thought so but he said, “No. Don’t pray for me. Pray for the men who are making the decision that they make the correct choice for the good of all.” I prayed as he asked. He did not get the job. My guess is that my prayers and his were answered not to mention he clearly accepted the decision. 

This seemed (and still does) like a most unselfish way to pray so I try to take the focus off of what I want for me or what I want for others. Step Eleven tells us to pray that we know God’s will and sometimes I don’t want to know God’s will. Here is another very real example. My niece of nine months was diagnosed with cancer. When she was going into any one of the many surgeries, I just could not pray for God’s will because I was afraid of it. What if God wanted her? I couldn’t even think of it so I followed my brother’s example and prayed for the surgeons and medical staff that they would be inspired to do the best job they had ever done. Six months after the initial diagnosis, she is presently cancer free and that is God’s will for her today. Was I not trusting or showed a lack of faith in my Higher Power? Perhaps but I don’t think my God expects me to be perfect in prayer. He knows the intentions in my heart and soul and I think the most important part is accepting His will no matter what we pray for or how we pray. 

We can’t forget meditation although I am only mentioning it briefly because there is much I will say at a later time. Honestly, I think we make too much of the “how” to meditate. The 12 & 12 gives us a perfect example of simple meditation using the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. Read this prayer over and over and then just sit quietly and think about what it means. Of course that is a simple way to meditate but who said meditation had to be difficult? For most of us, that will be as much meditation as we can handle.

I will close this article paraphrasing a few lines from the Big Book that I think are important for us to remember about Step Eleven. The Big Book tells us that we alcoholics (or you could fill that with any addiction) are an undisciplined lot and by asking to know God’s will and the power to carry it out is our way of asking God to please discipline us. But the strongest and most encouraging words about prayer and meditation the Big Book gives us is this: “It works. It really does.” 

Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.

Kathy L

Author of "The Intervention Book"  which can be purchased online or in bookstores

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