Tag Archives: spirituality

The Universe Isn’t Enough

Reinhold Niebuhr is known for ideas that were highly influential in Christian theological debate during the early 20th Century, but as far as alcoholics and other addicts are concerned, his restating of a basic philosophical truth in the Serenity Prayer is a life preserver in the roiling sea of life.

Too many recovering people give only lip service to the prayer. In most of our fellowships, if we attend meetings regularly, we recite it at least a few times a week. The question is, do we listen to what we’re saying? Continue reading

Probably the last book review you’ll ever read here

First of all, I need to assure my readers that I have absolutely no connection with the author of this book or his publisher.  I received no incentives to write this.  I purchased the book myself, and have been using it daily for several months.  This review is based solely on my admiration for an exceptional recovery resource that doesn’t get enough air time around the rooms.

I begin this review with trepidation because it is normally my policy not to do book reviews or promotional posts.  I had to adopt that position after years of requests to read books, bb-image22infographics and do reviews of websites, some of which were great, some of no interest and some of which were even toxic.  Nonetheless, I’m writing this one — with full knowledge that it will probably engender another s—storm of requests (which will, let me say in advance, be refused).

A year or so ago, I started looking for recovery resources that would be suitable for people who have a problem with the “God Thing” in AA, NA and most of the other 12-step fellowships.  As we all know, this is an issue for some, newcomers in particular.  While searching, I stumbled across “Joe C” and Beyond Belief — agnostic musings for 12-step life, his book of daily readings for folks in recovery.  After using it for the past eight months, I have come to the conclusion that it is the most valuable recovery resource I’ve used in more than a quarter of a century in 12-step recovery, excluding the basic texts of the individual fellowships, of course.  I learn something from it every morning, and I would be proud to have written it myself.  Unfortunately, I’m just not. . .that. . .good.

Don’t let the title fool you.  This isn’t a trash-the-believers book.  It’s respectful and inclusive: more a secular examination of the various addictions and programs than agnostic in the sense most people think of it.  No believer of any kind need be put off, and it would be a crying shame if any were because this book is a treasure chest of down-to-earth, triple-distilled recovery of the best kind.

I opened the book at random to the July 7th reading.  Consider the following:

First time Fourth Steppers are cautioned that this list is no magic pill; it is a step in the right direction to honest self-appraisal.  Many of us do Step Four more than once just as some businesses do a complete inventory every year or two.  Each new inventory isn’t an admission of failure of the previous stocktaking.  Rather, it is a new balance sheet on a new day to quantify progress and circumstances.

Some inventories look at the good and the bad: shameful acts vs. great accomplishments, healthy expressions of fear and anger vs. unhealthy expressions of fear and anger and our histories of deception and avoidance vs. examples of bravery and honesty.  Mismanaged feelings are addiction triggers.  Step Four uncovers the emotional triggers that set off the freeze, fight and flight reflexes. [Emphasis mine]  Like a blueprint, Step Four shows us how we’re wired, opening the door to change.

Like I said, I sure wish I’d written that!

Please, suspend your prejudices about the word “agnostic” (which, after all, only means “one who doesn’t know”), and get a copy of Beyond Belief.  I promise you that it will be one of the best recovery purchases you’ve ever made.  It will be part of my daily practice from now until I move on to find the definitive answers, and I’ll bet it will be for you, too.

Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life: finally, a daily reflection book for nonbelievers, freethinkers and everyone Paperback – January 21, 2013

by Joe C.  (Author)

51 customer reviews (Amazon)

Building Self Esteem

Practically all addictions are shame-based.  In some way we have been convinced that we are “less than,” damaged goods, that we don’t measure up, that we are good only for being used, or that we’ll never amount to anything.  When we are told such lies often enough, we internalize them and they become part of our self-image.  At that point they become self-fulfilling prophecies.  If I’m convinced that I’m no good, that I’m flawed, that I’m unworthy, then it’s going to be pretty hard to get anything done in the way of growth and progress with my life.  Even if I do, it’s unlikely ever to be enough to satisfy me — especially if my emotional abusers are still around.

 In order to replace these convictions with a healthy, productive attitude toward ourselves and our lives, we need to overwrite a lot of data: all those messages that said “You’re not good enough,” “You can’t,” “Your brother was smarter,” “Your sister was the loveable one,” “You’ll never amount to anything,” and the other false information we absorbed from the words and actions of people we should have been able to trust — but who let us down. Continue reading

Getting Our Real Needs Met

When we were acting out in our addictions,  we put our real needs for social,  physical,  emotional,  intellectual and spiritual fulfillment on the back burner.   Depending on our history,  we may have denied one or more of them completely.   We may simply have treated them as annoyances that needed to be gotten out of the way, quickly and efficiently, so we could get back to the important business of burying them beneath our addictions.

When we get into recovery we begin to discover a scary truth: that these needs are really as important to human beings as water, food and air.  Continue reading

Resentment, Forgiveness and Acceptance

Monk-woman-streamTwo traveling monks came to a muddy stream, where they observed a woman who was hesitant about crossing.  The older monk approached the woman, bowed, then picked her up and carried her across the stream. He set her down, bowed again, and he and his student continued on their way.

While they were eating their rice that evening, the younger monk said, “I don’t understand. As monks, we are to have no contact with women, yet you picked that woman up and carried her!”

The older monk said, “I put the woman down at the side of the stream. You are still carrying her.”

That’s how we are. We cling to thoughts and ideas, worrying them and twisting them around inside our heads, causing all sorts of turmoil and accomplishing nothing.

Spirituality is about understanding, compassion, forgiveness, love, willingness to contribute our efforts to help others, humility and things of that sort. Compassion and forgiveness are especially important, because clinging to the resentments that prevent those qualities from shining forth causes us so much unhappiness.

Compassion is, essentially, seeing things from another’s point of view, and being willing to do what we can to alleviate their suffering. Forgiveness is compassion toward ourselves. It is not about “freeing” the other person from anything, but about freeing ourselves of the unhappiness that is caused by being unforgiving.

Like the young monk, we sometimes carry things along with us after the reality has changed, and in our very human way, often blow it up in our minds until it forms a nearly impassable barrier to true spiritual growth. Not until we realize that forgiveness does not involve condoning a wrongful act, but is simply choosing to accept, and move on with our own lives, can we expect to get beyond it. That doesn’t mean that we have to invite the person to dinner, but only that we need to learn to put down our own burden after we have crossed the stream.  We don’t need the excess baggage.