Hurricane Thoughts

As we contemplate the chaos left by hurricane Harvey and look ahead at the unknown that Irma will bring, it’s good to remember that everything we think we own is on loan anyway. The only thing we can really leave behind is memories, and their content is entirely up to us.

We will all be affected by the storms in our lives. Staying in the moment is the answer, as always, but a little bit of luck can help, too. May yours be good, whether or not you recognize it at the time.

QUOTE OF THE MONTH (and comment)

JKR“The tides of populism and nationalism currently sweeping many developed countries have been accompanied by demands that unwelcome and inconvenient voices be removed from public discourse…

…Intolerance of alternative viewpoints is spreading to places that make me, a moderate and a liberal, most uncomfortable….I find almost everything that Mr Trump says objectionable. I consider him offensive and bigoted. But he has my full support to come to my country and be offensive and bigoted there. His freedom to speak protects my freedom to call him a bigot. His freedom guarantees mine….

“If you seek the removal of freedoms from an opponent simply on the grounds that they have offended you, you have crossed the line to stand alongside tyrants who imprison, torture and kill on exactly the same justification.”

~ J. K. Rowling

How does this apply to recovery?

Am I open-minded about the recovery ideas of others in the rooms, or do I preach the gospel of my fellowship and suggest that those who disagree with what I consider the True Way find recovery elsewhere?  Am I offended by the way some speak, or how they dress?  Do I raise holy hell if someone mentions drug abuse at an AA meeting?  Are my tirades tolerated; my right to my opinions honored, despite the fact that I advocate curtailing the rights of others?

Maybe I need to think about that.

Bodhicitta

Nymphaea_sppIn Buddhism there is a practice called “Bodhicitta,” that is essentially the desire and attempt to bring happiness and relieve the suffering of others as much as possible.  Although that sounds like codependency, it really isn’t.  Codependency involves the attempt to move an unwilling person in the direction we think they ought to go.  Whether we are right or wrong, it is up to individuals to change themselves; we can’t do it for them.

Bodhicitta, in comparison, is more aligned with compassion, a response to the suffering of others that motivates a desire to help.  That’s the sort of feeling that is hopefully engendered when we get into recovery. Continue reading

First Impressions Count

We say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but we do.  Sometimes we find that we were wrong in our assessment of other people, places and things, but we always use that first impression as a guide.  Often we can’t explain why we feel that way about our encounters; we just feel an affinity.  Certain feelings are triggered, and we act on the feelings.  

On occasion, these reactions are pretty strong. “I haven’t been able to stand him from the first moment I laid eyes on him.”  “I walked into that room, and I just felt at home.”  “When I looked around me, I suddenly felt at peace.”  In those situations, lasting relationships may develop.  We may continue to visit that perfect, peaceful place.  We may make new friends.  Perhaps that person we couldn’t stand is really a nice guy, but he’ll have an uphill struggle to prove it — or maybe we’ll change our minds after watching him for a while.  Nonetheless, first impressions are a powerful influence on our attitude and trust.

Sometimes we just don’t know how to deal with people.  That can be especially true of first encounters.  It is important to always remember that people respond to how we make them feel.  If we seem to feel superior to them, that will most likely trigger anger.  If our approach is parental, that’s sure to trigger old stuff.  If we fail to smile, they will sense our disapproval — even if it’s only in their heads.  If we seem indifferent, they will feel rejected.

Intentions speak louder than words.  If it is truly our intent to welcome folks, they will feel welcome.  If we think well of them until they prove otherwise, if we listen to them with compassion (wishing others well) they will feel safe.  If we meet them with a smile, they will feel accepted.  If we treat them with respect and compassion, they will believe they have value.

website-first-impressionWe all leave first impressions, individually and in our fellowships.  We’re affected by the people, the ambiance, the sharing (Is it hard-core or loving?), the attitude of the greeter at the door, and so on.  Creating a good first impression is critical, especially dealing with newcomers.

We develop the ability to put others at ease by becoming at ease with ourselves. If we learn to be mindful of the ways we think of ourselves and can begin to become aware of our own feelings, we can be more mindful of the ways in which we relate to others.  Meditation can help us with that.  It isn’t necessary to have wise words; all we need is to be ourselves — to be real.

The Need To Control

We can’t control other people.  We can force them, but we can’t control them.  Nor can we control love; to love is to let go.

How often have we pursued another person, determined to “make” them love us…and how often have we been disappointed, or had to use emotional — even physical — force to attempt hanging on to someone who didn’t want to be with us, or to escape the clutches of someone who wanted us too much?

This need to control ourselves, our feelings and other people, to live in a little world of our own making, to want to get our lives exactly right and have them welded shut, is the basis of addiction.  We believe deep down inside that we are unable to get, or unworthy of getting, what we need through our own self-esteem and feelings of wholeness, and yet we crave the love and acceptance that should have been our birthright.

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The “hole inside” can only be filled from inside.  We can’t fill it with alcohol and others drugs, with sex, with food, with busyness, or with the dozens of other ways we may try.  We can only do it by facing our deepest want and desire: to be accepted and loved for ourselves alone.  Getting past the fear of rejection, of lost trust, of compulsion and digging deeply to discover and nurture the child inside that was convinced it was unloved, unwanted, unworthy — a nothing — is the only path that will eventually lead to the sense of wholeness that we desire in our deepest heart.

We do this by developing relationships and the trust we need, seeking out people in our recovery groups who seem trustworthy, and then slowly, slowly learning to give that trust.  The big mistake that many newcomers to recovery make is to mistake style for substance.  The quiet woman in the corner who shares seldom but who always rings a bell with us when she does speak is far more likely to be “that” person than the loudmouth who spouts lines from the Big Book or Basic Text, parroting what he has heard or read. 

We have learned to be careful in bestowing our trust, and need to be careful in our fellowships (after all, we aren’t there because we’re all healthy).  But if we look, and watch, and move cautiously, there are many folks who can and will help us to learn that we, too, can be trusted and loved.

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Remembering What We Want

“Discipline is remembering what you want.”

I’m not sure where I ran across the quote above, and I don’t know who said it.  It strikes me, though, that it’s a good thing for folks in recovery to remember.

I had to want freedom from the slavery of my addictions before I became willing to do the necessary work.  I had to want it more than the temporary relief I got from acting out; more than the ephemeral and diminishing returns that I had imagined were enough for so many years, and certainly more than the pain that was the inevitable result of continual abuse of my body and mind for more than half a century. 

I was “sick and tired of being sick and tired” for years before I wanted to get sober.  First I needed to — for a long time — but only when the pain got bad enough did I find that I wanted to. Even then it wasn’t possible until I realized that I couldn’t do it alone.

Usually we encourage newcomers to discern the difference between their wants and their needs — that our wants are of lesser importance — and that’s an important distinction.  But in this one case, it’s the other way around.  As long as we can remember what we want from our program, and keep in mind what we don’t want, we’ll be okay.