Friday, 27 September 2013

What it's all about

This programme is about getting out of self, not getting into self.

Page 63 makes it pretty clear that my focus needs to be on performing God's work well and staying close to Him.

Nothing else is my business.

My identity is irrelevant. What you think about me is irrelevant. Your faults are irrelevant. My so-called personal wants and needs are irrelevant.

The precise twists and turns of my mind when I am locked in self are irrelevant.

When I say 'irrelevant', I mean irrelevant to my daily business; my trust is that God will handle those and give me a role to play where necessary.

The AA programme is not pseudo-psychotherapy, group therapy, or pop psychology. It's about abandonment of self and rejoicing in the universe God has given us.

But the programme can easily be misused as a way of becoming involved in self in a socially acceptable form, and in the way we conduct AA meetings and in the way we respond to each other, we can be aiding and abetting this process.

I'm done. I'm interested in serving God, and I'm praying to God on a daily basis to strip all selfish motives from me.

Page 86 says it best when we start off the day asking God to eliminate all self-pity, self-seeking, and dishonest motives, and to direct our thinking.

Towards what? Towards what we can do for God.

I'm not there yet obviously, and there is obviously further growth necessary, quite a lot in my case.

But that is the direction I'm pointed in.

Today's message, briefly, is this: get out of self and make yourself useful.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

The thing about fear

Here's the thing about fear.

It is thinking about future bad scenarios. If I think about future bad scenarios, I will experience them as though they are actually happening. Consequently I will feel bad now, as though the thing in the future is already occurring now.

There is a purpose to thinking about future bad scenarios, namely, planning whether I am going to take any defensive, preventative, or evasive action.

Once I have analysed the future scenario sufficiently in order to be able to devise my defensive, preventative, or evasive action, there is no further purpose in living in the future.

If I say I have lots of fear, that means I have been deliberately living in the future. There is not a lot of point in complaining about something I'm doing to myself. My question, therefore, is why, when temptation to fear arises, I do not turn to God and deliberately think positive thoughts and consider constructive action.

I must be getting something out of it, and enjoying it in some way.

I have had to learn not to be a victim of fear and to take responsibility for my own thoughts and therefore my own emotional life.

In a bad situation, my job is to invoke the power of God, by visualising future scenarios and affirming that God will help me through them.

An example is this: sometimes I get a little worried about the future, and specifically my finances. What I can do is say this: 'I trust that, whatever happens, God will look after me. I trust that God will always find ways of making me useful and that, if I stay useful, the world will give me enough for me to survive and have a decent life. I believe this because I have seen this occur universally around me in AA. God, let me dispel these irrational fears and remember that I can always be OK holding Your hand in the moment'.

I have to make sure that no negative word passes my mouth and that I'm relentlessly cheerful and positive with everyone I meet. I don't always manage, but that is the ideal.

A question to someone who's had a bad day is this, 'have you let negative thoughts rest in your mind, and have you said anything negative or done anything that is not constructive?'

It is no good running to God saying 'help me, help me, help me', when I am running around expressing negative sentiments and doing unhelpful things.

God will do for me what I cannot do for myself, but he will not sew up my mouth or bind my hands to prevent me from saying or doing things I shouldn't say or do.

God will also not say my prayers for me. A childish prayer is one in which I ask God to save me and wait like a bird straining its neck for the worm. An adult prayer is one in which I affirm, over and over, that I have already been saved by God, and that the illusions in my head do not reflect reality.

There are surely difficult situations and there is surely pain in life. All of what I have said above is not to dismiss either of those two facts.

The question when things are difficult is how I am responding to them and whether I am using the tools that have been given to me.

Last year, a very close relative suffered a stroke. Naturally, there was some fear and trepidation. But I refused to dwell on either and focused instead on how I was going to invoke God's power to concentrate on what I could do practically about the difficult situation. I endeavoured to remain cheerful, useful, and kind whatever happened, and thereby was able to contribute to the person's recovery. God surely helped me, but I had to start by helping myself.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

The failure of self-knowledge

Often an alcoholic will say, "I don't drink, because I know I am an alcoholic and the first drink does the damage."

This is what the Big Book has to say on the subject:

"Above all, he believed he had acquired such a profound knowledge of the inner workings of his mind and its hidden springs that relapse was unthinkable. Nevertheless, he was drunk in a short time. More baffling still, he could give himself no satisfactory explanation for his fall." (Page 26)

"He had much knowledge about himself as an alcoholic. Yet all reasons for not drinking were
easily pushed aside in favor of the foolish idea that he could take whiskey if only he mixed it with milk!" (Page 36)

"But the actual or potential alcoholic, with hardly any exception, will be absolutely unable to stop drinking on the basis of self-knowledge. This is a point we wish to emphasize and re-emphasize, to smash home upon our alcoholic readers as it has been revealed to us out of bitter experience." (Page 39)

"He was positive that this humiliating experience, plus the knowledge he had acquired, would keep him sober the rest of his life. Self-knowledge would fix it. We heard no more of Fred for a while. One day we were told that he was back in the hospital. This time he was quite shaky. He soon indicated he was anxious to see us. The story he told is most instructive, for here was a chap absolutely convinced he had to stop drinking, who had no excuse for drinking, who exhibited splendid judgment and determination in all his other concerns, yet was flat on his back nevertheless." (Page 40)

"I saw that will power and self-knowledge would not help in those strange mental blank spots." (Page 42)

Friday, 13 September 2013

What we learn from Jim's story

Having favourable circumstances will not stop you from relapsing.
Having a commendable past will not stop you from relapsing.
Being good at what you do will not stop you from relapsing.
Being intelligent will not stop you from relapsing.
Knowing you're an alcoholic will not stop you from relapsing.
Knowing you're in serious trouble will not stop you from relapsing.
Knowing the solution will not stop you from relapsing.
Wanting a solution will not stop you from relapsing.
Not wanting to drink will not stop you from relapsing.
Starting the programme will not stop you from relapsing.
Everything going well will not stop you from relapsing.
Getting your life together will not stop you from relapsing.
Being in an established routine will not stop you from relapsing.
Being in circumstances in which you previously stayed sober will not stop you from relapsing.
Having valid grounds for being where you are, doing what you are doing will not stop you from relapsing.
Being in a normal emotional state will not stop you from relapsing.
Being perfectly sane right now will not stop you from relapsing.
Being perfectly sane for a period of weeks or months (or years) will not stop you from relapsing.

When you relapse, there will be no warning.
You will move from sanity to insanity without realising you are doing it.
By the time the insane thinking has started, it is too late, and nothing you or anyone else can do, say, or think can stop it.
You might relapse today. You might relapse in a few months' time. There is no knowing when.

The only thing Jim did wrong was not enlarge his spiritual life through self-sacrifice and work for others. That's the Twelfth Step.

If you do not want to relapse, you had better start working the Twelfth Step.

If you're not on the Twelfth Step, you had better get cracking on the first eleven, as that is the only way to get to the Twelfth Step.