Friday, 15 February 2019

Defence against the dark arts

A while ago, I was shocked to discover that the answer, as I have finally found it, was totally made available to me by other AA members and by serendipity in my first two years in AA, even though it was another thirteen years before, ten years ago, I finally adopted the solution lock, stock, and barrel.

I discovered this by rereading some books I first read in 1994 and 1995.

What is the solution? Apart from the obvious: do everything suggested in the Big Book without hesitation or deviation, there is a philosophical aspect:

The world you see is not there. It is in your head. Atoms are there, energy in its various forms is there, but at subatomic level there is no solidity: only space inbetween subatomic particles, plus forces giving the appearance of solidity. 'The world' is a construct in your head. In my head. How do we know the construct is not real? Because almost no one agrees on anything they think they see. Even when something is indeed largely agreed on, for instance the bridge between Sweden and Denmark, the notion 'bridge' is a construct: all that is there is atoms.

So far so good. So what? Well, to take it a step further: my upset in any situation is predicated (a) on a perception of reality and (b) on a story I am telling myself about that perception of reality. Both are constructed and projected outwards. This is not seeing: this is projection. I believe that reality is happening to me. It is not. I am creating it moment by moment by the thoughts that I (a) have and (b) believe.

Lastly: I am not the body my body's eyes tell me I inhabit. It's where my physical vision resides, but that it is.

I am spirit. Nothing bad has ever happened to me: I have never left God's side. Everything else in an illusion. I am entirely safe. The 'events of the world' appear to happen to the body and to 'circumstances' but cannot happen to me.

From that perspective my only purpose is to ask my Source: What do you want me to do? And then I trust I will be given the strength to do it.

The past is literally gone. It cannot hurt me. It never could. I can tell myself a story in the present about the significance of the story I invent about the events I believe I experienced in the past. But then it is the story that is appearing to hurt me, not the past.

Ditto the future.

The only remaining question: why did I hold out so long before accepting this?

Ego defences:

'But suffering is real. You can't deny reality. Bad things happened to me in my childhood. I was formed by them. Look around you. Trauma is hard to get over. It stays with you for ever. My upbringing, my parents, my genetic predisposition, my formative experiences, all of these have contrived to make me the way I am, and I have to accept that. Life does not stop happening just because I am sober, and you have to take the rough with the smooth. Life is supposed to be difficult and challenging. That is what makes it worthwhile. Darkness is real. Unhappiness is real. Depression is real. Anxiety is real. Bad people exist. Bad people do things. You can't deny that: history tells us. The point of recovery is to give me tools to manage my negative emotions. The point of recovery is certainly not to strip me of my humanity, because my humanity resides in the interplay between light and dark. You're telling me just to trust God and get on with serving God, but that's black-and-white thinking, and black-and-white thinking is part of my dis-ease. I've since learned to embrace all of the colours in between, and to accept my human frailty. That means accepting my suffering. This austere ideal of yours: total reliance on God, well, that just smacks of perfectionism, and that, too, is part of my dis-ease: I have learned in recovery: "do not should all over yourself" and that the shoulds and musts are counterproductive. So, thanks but no thanks: the job is to integrate all these different parts of myself, not to deny them.'

You see, it's very convincing. I was almost convinced myself.

But then I come back to this, a simple idea I have worked with for years, now, and have realised is the trump card that neutralises all counterargument, because, whatever my objections to the truth, living in accordance with it proves it is true:

'This course can therefore be summed up very simply in this way:
Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the peace of God.'

This idea cannot easily be sold, because its acceptance causes the world as we know it to vanish, and the only people who are willing to risk this are the people that are done, done, done. And at fifteen years sober, over ten years ago now, I was done, done, done. And the curtain dropped.


Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Authenticity now

Do I tell them how I feel when I'm upset? On a good day, no. Isn't that dishonest? No, for two reasons.

Firstly, any dominant negative emotional reaction of the moment is usually a result of an unresolved past experience finding a reflection in the current circumstance or at the very least a function of a pre-existing ego-demand not being met. Basically: I've seen a ghost or or turned into Rumpelstiltskin. All you did was press the button. Either way the emotion is not authentic to the person or the situation but to a past occurrence or an ego phantasm, neither of which is anyone's business but my own and that of the person I choose to help me neutralise past experiences and relinquish ego demands.

Secondly, maybe the person is doing something legitimately wrong, but what am I? The moral police? The spiritual inquisition? Squawking like a bilious raven every time someone reveals their ongoing membership of the human race through some real or fancied dereliction is neither helpful nor appropriate. If someone is consistently doing something wrong, maybe something does need to be said, but there's a time, a place, and a method for setting a boundary by making a polite request, and emotionally vomiting on someone to get them to change ain't it. If I can summon the presence of mind to address something rationally, calmly, and systematically in the moment, fine, but if not I'd better stuff it. I sometimes fail, but that's the objective.

Lastly, emotional spillage is authentic at most to the ego but not to the spirit within me, which is untainted. To be authentic to that, I need to be expressing patience, love, kindness, and tolerance in my outermost layer.

There is a venue for admitting what's wrong, fine, but the doctor's interested in the symptoms so they can be alleviated and their cause, eliminated, not because they're worthy of interest in and of themselves. There's definitely a stage of uncovering and discovering, but that needs to be followed by the discarding stage, not by presentation on a silver platter for others to chow down on.

Real authenticity is striving to live up to and living up to the divine image that is source of all. Everything else is the incoherent raving of the somnambulist and fevered ego manifestation of one's earthly self: the dust one's body has come from and will return to. I do not take the froth on the surface of the chemical soup to be who I am. That would be a massive case of mistaken identity. I'm the consciousness beyond that, not the neurotransmitters and electrical signals. Time to wake up.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Simple

Today's ODAT reading boils down to 'accept then act'. I used to say when speaking in Al-Anon that Al-Anon is more complicated than AA. I don't think it is anymore. Face reality then contribute constructively to it. That's not complicated. The angle is different but the result is the same: 100% reliance on God, which involves ceasing to fight God, which involves ceasing to fight reality, which involves realising all my 'difficulties and worry' come from my narrative about reality not from reality. The gun was pointed the wrong way. Don't shoot reality. Shoot the narrative.

The programme is simple, whichever the fellowship. I sometimes complicate it by extracting a thousand tools from the programme and relying on them in order to avoid the simplicity of actually relying on God in the moment.

An Al-Anon friend reminds me that a friend of his wrote an Al-Anon manual. She gradually whittled it down until she ended up, after many years, with just four words: 'Call before you shoot'.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

There is no problem

My problem comes from within me and is not even real in the first place. There is literally nothing wrong and there never has been. I have only ever been bothered by my narratives, and complexity in my relationships with others has only ever stemmed from my scripts, which are based on those narratives. No narratives, no scripts, no problem.

Even so-called conflict situations are actually easy in reality. Occasionally I set boundaries ('Stop it'; 'Do this'; 'Do this differently'; 'I can't'; 'I won't'), but even then there is no conflict or drama unless I create the conflict or drama like a vortex of air within me. Either you comply with my simple request or you don't. No drama. No knots. I then act in accordance with the reality that presents itself. Either the door opens or it remains shut.

All I need to do is recognise in utter simplicity that I am a child of God and so are you. My job is to be me and let you be you. I then do 'being' with others, with nothing in between.

I used to think a lot and wrap myself up in knots. There was no need. I used to consult other people who were fascinated by the knots that I tied myself up in. Some of them I even paid for the privilege!

In recovery I have shared my knotted thoughts to sponsors who simply beamed at me and told me to wake up. There was nothing wrong and there is nothing wrong. God is in charge. The universe is fine. I am spirit and nothing can touch me.

The ego is the mother of complexity. I was never a complex person. I was a deluded, sleeping person, with lots of words in my head, none of which meant anything at all.

The cat comes in and just stares at us. Then plays. Then goes to eat something. Then disappears again. That's a good model for living. She knows how to do it. I copy her now.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Step Three, Tradition Three, Concept Three

Step Three

The reason I need Step Three is that I cannot stay sober forever on my own, because, if I am obeying my own mind, I will obey its occasional randomly occurring notions that a drink is a good idea. When those arise, rare as they are after 25 years of sobriety, I had better not be in charge of my own life. I am in charge of one thing, however: whether or not to actively surrender each day, each situation, each moment to God for direction and then for strength to follow that direction. Strength has always been given. I do not wait for the strength. I act in accordance with what is indicated and trust that the strength will be given moment by moment. This is a good idea not just in relation to drink but in relation to everything, because my old selfish way of living, although superficially conforming to western society's notion of living well, did not result in power, peace, happiness, and a sense of direction. It brought grievance, worry, disappointment, and despair. I am very small and God is very, very big. As an AA friend says: also of above-average intelligence. Another friend says we have a choice: God is everything or God is nothing. And it's a choice we make, not an analysis we perform. Today I choose God.

Tradition Three

As a newcomer, I phoned Sue and said, 'I want to drink.' She replied: 'AA's for people who don't want to drink,' and hung up the phone. I phoned back and told her I didn't want to drink but feared I would. Then we were in business. No one can kick me out of AA except me, by entertaining my own thoughts about alcohol. The long form tells me AA is for people who suffer from alcoholism. I don't believe we best serve those with other problems but without an alcohol problem by trying to open up closed meetings to them. My home group holds open meetings on one day a month to help carry the message contained in the Big Book to sufferers of other problems in fellowships that use the principles contained in the Big Book. But AA got a hold of me when it did because people talked about alcohol in a way I intuitively understood. I have been to AA meetings in certain places where most of the people were drug addicts rather than alcoholics. I could identify intellectually but not viscerally. I need other alcoholics at my home group.

Concept Three

Whenever I am given a job in AA I need to have the authority to carry it out. I obtain my brief, I contemplate with God how to perform the task, I consult those who may be affected, I ask those who can guide me, I act, and then I report back. The circle is thereby closed, and the job is done. I then await my next instructions. Right of decision gives me the opportunity to rely primarily on God to guide me once I have been given a brief, recognising at all times that I have a direct responsibility to those I serve to deliver the service or product I have been asked to deliver. They dictate the 'what'. I dictate the 'how'. They have God-given delegated authority expressed by the group conscience to brief me, then I have God-given delegated authority to use my discretion to perform the task at hand with real-time guidance by God. And if I'm out of line too often, and incorrigibly so, the group conscience can remove me, and I'm now fine with that. I'm not the right person for every job in AA. To sum up, in Concept Three, I am serving God by serving others, but always under the direct guidance of God in how I do so.


Thursday, 27 December 2018

Step Three. What a relief!

I have an impressive capacity for gloom, censure, and dismissal. In fact I can muster these in respect of myself and my own life at the drop of a hat. It is as if the theatre is all lit up, players at the ready, just waiting for an audience. Pick a Greek play. Almost any will do. Except, of course, by Aristophanes. Far too cheerful.

Anyway. The error is forgetting I have taken Step Three. The problem with needing to take Step Three is that I have been in charge. Being a poor director, the results were poor. I was also my own audience, there to judge the show by how I felt. Feeling, of course, being the primary metric for success.

The relief provided by Step Three is this. Firstly, I never need to decide anything ever again. All I need to do is go to God and do what I think God wants me to do. Secondly, I'm not the primary consumer of 'my life'. It is not meant for me. Consequently, the worth or success of my life is not measured by how I personally feel about it.

That, incidentally, is almost entirely a function of forgiveness, amends, and service: if I feel bad, there is someone I have not forgiven, someone I owe amends to, or a shortfall in the practical devotion of my life to God. Joy is the natural condition. Ego throws a blanket over it.

Anyway, back to worth: you wouldn't judge the worth of Tolstoy's life by how he happened to have felt on a particular Tuesday or when he was thirty-six. It is the effect on those around us which is far more important than our own, personal, subjective experience of the lives given to us by God to do something important with.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Step Two, Tradition Two, Concept Two

Step Two

I came to believe that a Higher Power could restore me to sanity because I observed that a Higher Power had restored other people in AA to sanity. For a start, they were not drinking, and some of them had not drunk for thirty years. That was the sanity that I was to be restored to, in contrast to the insanity of returning to the first drink when the first drink would inevitably lead soon or later to unacceptable consequences. The same principle has applied to other problems as well, which all boil down to a persistent return to a destructive pattern. Those destructive patterns came in the form of unhealthy relationships with unhealthy people, unhealthy relationships with unhealthy organisations, and—more broadly—worship at the altar of my own self-aggrandising negativity and condemnation, which stemmed from fear. God has proved the solution to fear: my spirit can never be harmed, and I have always been and will always be perfectly safe, even if my reputation and my circumstances are compromised or destroyed. God is not a protection against monsters under the bed but the light that proves there were no monsters in the first place. With the dissolution of fear go the grounds for negativity and condemnation, and I am free to engage in constructive work for God in the place of my own plans and designs. Sanity is serving God not self, because God is all there really is.

Tradition Two

If I am a member of a group, I am to adopt the purpose of the group, which is to communicate to suffering alcoholics how to recover from alcoholism by establishing a relationship with God. How are we going to do that? The group, on the basis of an informed group conscience with time and space for sound contemplation, resolves by discussion, vote, and substantial unanimity (Concept Twelve) what the group should do and how. I am permitted to have my say and even voice a minority opinion (Concept Five) if I think a bad decision has been made. But then I get on with serving the group and let time and experience resolve the issue. If I am on the losing side, having said my piece if I wish, I simply wait. I do not keep calling group conscience meetings until I get my own way. If the decision was right, all will be well. If the decision was wrong, this will become evident. God’s mills grind slowly but exceedingly well. Any rift will heal if the group's decision is respected. AA is like dough: if it is cut, the cut will vanish under the kneading hands of God, leaving no trace. I trust the group conscience, because it is presided over by the same Power that has been keeping me and everyone else sober.

Concept Two

God has no hands but ours—He trusts us, His representatives on earth, to whom He has given Right of Decision, to do the work we are delegated on the material plane. So, as AA members, we trust our GSRs, who elect our Conference Delegates, to do the work delegated to them. Step Eleven and the informed group conscience in Tradition Two form the chain from God to the Conference Delegates to see God’s work performed in AA, with decisions made then implemented through further delegated authority to the General Service Board and onwards. In Step Eleven, prayer and meditation allow for two-way dialogue between God and me. In a group conscience meeting guided by Tradition Two, the group listens to its individual members and then expresses its will, as a reflection of God’s will, in the substantially unanimous decision arrived at. In Concept Two, these two aspects are complemented by a third: the consultation between GSRs and Conference Delegates, so that the Delegates, when deliberating in committee and plenary session, can best serve God’s purpose in AA. Having asked and consulted, they act and and report back, so closing the circle.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

The way out

If I'm upset it's because I think I need to get my own way to be OK.

No upset comes from outside of me: all upset comes from comparing my interpretation with my plan.

This cannot be dislodged until I recognise its insanity.

Step Two is viable only if I admit I am wholly wrong.

So everything is really a Step One issue.

To undo upset:


Recognise: if I'm unhappy I did it to myself.

I did it to myself by choosing my interpretation of the situation and comparing it to my plan.

I devised both by asking myself (the ego) questions: How do I see this? What do I want?

I must de-ask the questions. If the questions are de-asked, the false answers are dissolved.

Having de-asked the question I step back from the self (the ego) and say:

'Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists.'

Then: 


'Spirit is in a state of grace forever. My reality is only spirit. Therefore I am in a state of grace forever.'

Then:


'I must have decided wrongly, because I am not at peace. I made the decision myself, but I can also decide otherwise. I want to decide otherwise, because I want to be at peace. I do not feel guilty, because the Holy Spirit will undo all the consequences of my wrong decision if I will let Him. I choose to let Him, by allowing Him to decide for God for me.'

Then:


'What would You have me do? Where would You have me go? What would You have me say, and to whom?'

And then go about God's business.


Sunday, 25 November 2018

Release from conflict


T-2.VI.6. It is possible to reach a state in which you bring your mind under my guidance without conscious effort, but this implies a willingness that you have not developed as yet. 2 The Holy Spirit cannot ask more than you are willing to do. 3 The strength to do comes from your undivided decision. 4 There is no strain in doing God's Will as soon as you recognize that it is also your own. 5 The lesson here is quite simple, but particularly apt to be overlooked. 6 I will therefore repeat it, urging you to listen. 7 Only your mind can produce fear. 8 It does so whenever it is conflicted in what it wants, producing inevitable strain because wanting and doing are discordant. 9 This can be corrected only by accepting a unified goal.
Here, ‘my’, for our purposes, means the Higher Power.
The ideal is to be surrendered to the Higher Power. However, this is blocked by conflict between ‘what I want’ and ‘God’s will’. Conflict comes from fear. Fear comes from an error. The error has occurred in my mind. Only there can it be corrected. Once the fear is corrected, the conflict is corrected, and the handbrake is off. We’re motoring, harmoniously.
T-2.VI.7. The first corrective step in undoing the error is to know first that the conflict is an expression of fear. 2 Say to yourself that you must somehow have chosen not to love, or the fear could not have arisen. 3 Then the whole process of correction becomes nothing more than a series of pragmatic steps in the larger process of accepting the Atonement as the remedy. 4 These steps may be summarized in this way:
The error is the choice to reject: seeing a situation, person, event, or notion as bad, wrong, undesirable, out of kilter, etc.: essentially evil. This is what ‘choosing not to love’ means: separating myself from the situation, person, event, or notion. It is this that gave rise to the fear. What is really happening is I am projecting something within myself I perceive as bad, wrong, undesirable, out of kilter, etc., onto something external, then fearing it.
The solution:
Take the situation, person, event, or notion that appears to have prompted or triggered the fear, and mentally send love as a wave to envelop and neutralise all perceived evil in it; as the perceived evil in the situation is neutralised, so the perceived evil in me is neutralised, and I am once again whole.
5 Know first that this is fear. 
Whatever the problem is, is fear, even if it manifests differently.
6 Fear arises from lack of love. 
All fear comes from lack of love, so all problems come from lack of love.
7 The only remedy for lack of love is perfect love.
The answer is to decide to love, and that decision invokes the power of Heaven to flow through me to channel love from the infinite to the ‘world’.
8 Perfect love is the Atonement.
This love joins me with the object of the love and resolves the conflict within me. This is the At-one-ment.


Friday, 23 November 2018

Santa Claus's party


Big Book, page 46:

"To us, the Realm of Spirit is broad, roomy, all inclusive; never exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek. It is open, we believe, to all men."

In the following song, substitute 'God' for 'Santa Claus', and the idea works pretty well.

Come on everybody!
To Santa Claus’s party.
You may be sure both rich and poor are welcome at Santa’s door.
You don’t need a ticket to Santa Claus’s party.
A lot of toys for girls and boys, and plenty of fun in store.
A Christmas tree’s so high, it floats right through the sky!
And Santa will be there to call “Merry Christmas to you all!”
Come on everybody!
To Santa Claus’s Party.
A cheery grin will get you in, so what are you waiting for?
There’s a baseball bat for Johnny, a talking doll for Jill, and a mountain high of ice cream pie where everyone eats his fill.
There’ll be rides on Santa’s reindeer with the Christmas time patrol, if you’re good they’ll stop at Santa’s shop way up at the old North Pole.
Come on everybody!
To Santa Claus’s party.
You may be sure both rich and poor are welcome at Santa’s door.
You don’t need a ticket to Santa Claus’s party.
A lot of toys for girls and boys, and plenty of fun in store.
A Christmas tree so high, it floats right through the sky!
And Santa will be there to call “Merry Christmas to you all!
Come on everybody!
To Santa Claus’s party.
A cheery grin will get you in at Santa’s Merry Christmas party.


Step Two: unloading the camel


MYLW 123 Unload That Camel (Emmet Fox)

Jesus said that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:25, Luke 18:25).
Those who understand the spiritual idea know that Jesus did not bother with the question of how much worldly goods a man had or had not—what interested him was a man's mental attitude toward them and toward life in general.
If you are relying upon anything except a sense of the Presence of God, you are a fool in the Bible meaning of the word. If you are relying upon your own money, or your position, or your friends, or your human knowledge, or your own smartness, you are a fool, because these things will betray you sooner or later.
Knowledge, property, friends, position, are all well in their way, as long as you see to it that you possess them, and that they do not possess you; but if you want the Kingdom of God, you must be prepared to withdraw your faith from them and put it where it belongs.
The simile used by Jesus was a graphic one for his listeners. In those days every important city was surrounded by a wall for defence. There would be a large gate in the wall and this would be closed at sunset and placed under an armed guard during the night, in case of sudden attack. There was usually, however, a low wicket gate set in the big door so that approved travellers could go in and out at any time. This low gate was known as the needle's eye. When a laden camel arrived after sunset, the only way it could get in was to be unloaded of all merchandise, whereupon it would squirm on its knees through the needle's eye and enter the city.
Unload your camel if you want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. You do this of course, not by getting rid of conditions, but by getting rid of your sense of dependency on them.
Very often you will find yourself so glad to be without a lot of that merchandise that you will never put it back.
“See ye first the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 6:33)

Big Book cross-references:


“We have found much of heaven and we have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed.” (25:1)

“But the program of action, though entirely sensible, was pretty drastic. It meant I would have to throw several lifelong conceptions out the window.” (42:2)

“This sort of thinking had to be abandoned. Though some of us resisted, we found no great difficulty in casting aside such feelings. Faced with alcoholic destruction, we soon became as open minded on spiritual matters as we had tried to be on other questions.” (48:1)

“Instead of regarding ourselves as intelligent agents, spearheads of God's ever advancing Creation, we agnostics and atheists choose to believe that our human intelligence was the last word, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and end of all. Rather vain of us, wasn't it?” (49:1)

“Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely.” (58:3)

“We reviewed our fears thoroughly. We put them on paper, even though we had no resentment in connection with them. We asked ourselves why we had them. Wasn't it because self-reliance failed us? Self-reliance was good as far as it went, but it didn't go far enough.” (68:1)

“Perhaps there is a better way we think so. For we are now on a different basis; the basis of trusting and relying upon God. We trust infinite God rather than our finite selves.” (68:2)

“If we still cling to something we will not let go, we ask God to help us be willing.” (76:1)

“Job or no job wife or no wife we simply do not stop drinking so long as we place dependence upon other people ahead of dependence on God.” (98:1)

“Follow the dictates of a Higher Power and you will presently live in a new and wonderful world, no matter what your present circumstances.” (100:1)

“. . . so you must remember that your real reliance is always upon Him.” (164:1)


Had to stop ...

The Big Book uses the phrase 'had to stop' twice:





This is about exercising the choice of no choice: I had no choice but to stop drinking, so that was what I had to do. I had no choice but to stop doubting the power of God, so that was what I had to do.

No further authentication

When the Big Book was written, it was hoped that the contents of the Book would be sufficient to inspire people. They were, and now we have the AA of today.

Today, we have so much more authentication. Yet what was available in 1939 was already sufficient. I'm convinced!

Step Two

Facing disbelief:

Either Dr Bob's right, or I'm right in my disbelief.



I'm going to go with Dr Bob on this one.

Having a problem with a step

When I have a problem with a step, I usually have a problem with the one before.

If I'm supposed to be taking an action in Steps Four through Twelve, but I am not, it is because I am not following through on my Step Three decision.

If that be the case, I do not fully believe that God will solve my problems (at all, or better than me), or I would be acting accordingly.

If that be the case, I do fully believe my disbelief.

And, bingo: I have a Step One problem: I still believe in self.

Monday, 19 November 2018

The car won't start

I measure the effectiveness with which I have implemented Step Three in my life by looking at my actions in the Step Eleven review: am I maximising the use of the 16 waking hours every day in the service of God, with some time to take the necessary actions to keep the show on the road and to enjoy the ride, as well?

If the answer is yes, and I am indeed fitting myself to be of maximum service, then great!

If not, the problem always lies somewhere in Steps One or Two.

Step One problem: I believe I'm an alcoholic but do not need a full-blown, ongoing spiritual experience to stay sober, i.e. I can adulterate the above attitude and approach to life with admixtures of sloth and purely selfish pursuits; I believe I can have my cake and eat it; I don't believe that the only two options are a spiritual experience or a potentially unstoppable return to active addiction; I believe that half measures will available me just about enough, thank you very much.

Step Two problem: there's no point in throwing myself fully into a wide-eyed trust of God and deployment of my time in His service because it won't work: I have special problems that God cannot solve, because I'm different; God is not omnipotent; in fact, my emotional or practical difficulties stem from beliefs, thinking, and behaviour that God cannot change, because God is actually less powerful than me, maybe five foot two tall, and certainly not as smart as me. So if anyone presents me with an alternative way of believing, thinking, and behaving, which will solve my problem, I'm not going to trust them, because I'm smarter not just than them but than the aggregate of people in AA and people on a spiritual path, and indeed God: I'm not going to give up my beliefs, thinking, and behaviour, because I'm literally the smartest person I know and refuse to give any of these up because I'm right.

The answer in both cases is facing reality: go to AA long enough, and pay attention enough, and you'll soon discover that alcoholism is a patient, nasty disease, and that half measures do eventually avail nothing; go to AA long enough, and pay enough attention, and you'll soon discover that God is a patient, benevolent God, and that full measures do eventually avail everything.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

WAKEY WAKEY

Whenever I feel victimised by the past, the present, or the future, I'm in delusion. It is only ever my false beliefs about these that are causing the discomfort. Now is enough. It is impossible to even talk about the past or the future: I'm talking not about the past or future but about my present thoughts about the past or the future. There is only ever the present. Nothing has ever hurt me. Nothing can ever hurt me. As my sponsor once said: WAKEY WAKEY.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Step Four: speed

Step Four is like walking through a dark forest. The path is well-lit and unambiguous. Simply proceed and you'll be fine. You're perfectly safe on the path.

However: do not leave the path and wander into the woods.

Don't even stop and gaze, or eyes in the woods will start staring back at you.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

How to have a relationship

Good sources of information about how to drop the craziness and have healthy relationships:

Chapters 8 and 9 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous (plus certain other chapters)
One Day At A Time In Al-Anon
Rabbi Manis Friedman (books, audio books, Youtube)
Rabbi Harold Kushner (books, audio books)
Anna Kujawa & Early Purdy on 'special relationships' (Youtube)
Dr Paul O (AA speaker and the chapter 'Acceptance is the answer' in the book Alcoholics Anonymous)
Everyday Zen and Nothing Special by Yoko Beck
Walking on Water by Anthony de Mello

Motto: the solution lies in the solution not in the problem.

Don't be woke: be awakened

It's no good having a set of ideals but then insisting that the rest of the world adopt them now, or else ... and self-righteously policing them, under the motto 'to the man with only a hammer, everything looks like a nail'.

I prefer to aim for being awakened: have a set of ideals, and work towards them myself, using attraction rather than promotion to encourage adoption thereof.

I aim to develop the virtues of compassion, patience, tolerance, and understanding with those who hold different views, and I am to seek change in the world not through criticism, judgement, combat, derision, ostracism, exclusion, condemnation, and dismissal but through respectful dialogue and constructive action.

To me, this is the embodiment of the quotation below. I'm a junior partner in the deal with God, to be a builder not a crusader.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Concept I

In taking Step Three, I made a decision to serve God, twenty-four hours a day. When Step Three refers to my life, that's what it means: my whole life, not part of my life. The question is, how? I am delegated responsibility and authority, but I am not the originator of that responsibility and authority. God is. God speaks through my individual conscience in prayer and meditation, through the conscience of my sponsor, through the group conscience, through the conscience of intergroup and region, and through the conscience of the national conference for AA in GB. I can trust this, because AA has a mechanism for self-correction: personal inventory. The minority opinion also allows me to express objections whilst respecting the decisions made. Anything that calls itself AA must recognise that great whole that Tradition One talks about, by submitting to its ultimate responsibility and authority, from which it derives its delegated responsibility and authority. If it does not, it is serving something other than AA. In AA, I'm learning to be a servant, and in whatever I do I am accountable to God through the conscience of AA. In my outside life, my question is always: who has the ultimate responsibility and authority? My job is to serve that higher responsibility and authority, provided that no one is thereby harmed. When my attitude is one of service, I am always safe, and I am always kept useful.

Tradition One

The Steps start with 'we'; the Traditions start with 'our'. I don't have a life of my own. That was always my problem: I thought I could do what I wanted with my life because it was mine. I was wrong. It turned out that was my whole problem. I never saw myself as part of a 'we' or having an 'our'. There was my individual welfare; there was no common welfare. The purpose of the Steps was to connect me to the 'our' so that I am never alone. I had to forgive everyone for everything; I had to make amends for all harm I had done; I had to place myself unreservedly under the care and direction of God, 24 hours a day, asking only to fill the day with activities on His behalf, not on mine, and for the benefit of those around me. I don't need to worry about my welfare: my concern is our welfare, and in looking after our welfare, my welfare gets taken care of automatically because I am part of the 'our'. My personal recovery depends on my unity with AA. I cannot permit any judgement or condemnation of others. I might choose a different path within AA, but that involves discernment of God's will for me, not judgement of others as wrong. When I have to be part of a decision in AA, I don't ask, 'what do I want?'; I ask 'what is for the good of all?' A number of years ago, my sponsor suggested I ask that question at all times and in all situations: 'what is for the good of all?' As part of this, I am encouraged to think of the needs of others at a personal, individual level, too. In looking after all the individuals, we are looking after the whole. In looking after the whole, we are looking after all of the individuals. The two notions are indivisible, like the sun and its rays, and provided that I recognise the place of all people in the great whole, there is never any conflict between common and individual welfare. Today I am a small part of a great whole, and whether I cease to exist in this form today or many decades in the future, I do not care any more, because the great whole will go on. I feel permanently safe as part of this great whole, and with my firm base in God through AA I can go anywhere and do anything. The fellowship of AA always goes with me wherever I go.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Step One

I drank too much. In fact, I drank way too much for way too long. How much is too much? Enough to give rise to consequences that were unacceptable to me. It did not matter that the consequences might have been taken by others in their stride. What mattered is that they were important to me, and yet they were insufficient to bring about consistent moderation or stopping. When and how hard I tried to moderate or stop are actually irrelevant: the fact that I didn't is sufficient evidence for me. If a person keeps driving into brick walls, the question of whether they're not hitting the brakes or whether they try hitting the brakes but the brakes fail is neither here nor there: either way, they keep hitting the wall despite intending not to, and unless something changes they're going to die. That was the position I was in when I came to AA. I drank too much, I didn't moderate, and I didn't stop. Powerlessness over alcohol means powerlessness over whether I have the first drink and powerlessness over how much I then drink and for how long. If I'm powerless at these two levels, my life is not manageable by me: it is being managed by my desire for the first drink and my subsequent desire for more. Unmanageability has nothing to do with having a chaotic external life or being neurotic, emotionally immature, or incompetent. Plenty of people fit that description yet are not powerless over the first drink; plenty of people have an orderly external life and are perfectly balanced, emotionally mature, and competent yet are indeed powerless over the first drink. The problem lies deeper: self-centeredness and the sense of separation that can be overcome temporarily by alcohol or permanently by God. If I'm to stay sober, I need a power greater than the desire for the first drink, and God is the only power I've encountered that is powerful enough to trump the desire over the first drink. That's why a spiritual experience is necessary for an alcoholic of my type and has been working for me for the last quarter of a century.

Responsibility


The four errors of the codependent and the associated behaviours and mental states. A summary:

I’m responsible for you: control and guilt

I’m not responsible for me: self-neglect and self-justification

You’re not responsible for you: caretaking and exoneration

You are responsible for me: rescuer-seeking and blame

Monday, 29 October 2018

Step Four, resentment inventory, second column, tips

Tips for the second column of the resentment inventory in Step Four:
  • Keep it concrete: What did they say or do? What did they not say or not do?
  • No abstract characterisations, no poetry, no creativity.
  • No speculation, interpretation, generalisation, extrapolation, distortion, or exaggeration.
  • Maximum of five resentments per person.
  • Maximum of twenty people.
  • If you insist on putting yourself, God, the ego, the universe, Western Civilisation, etc. on the list, put them last.
If you do this, the process will be simple and clear, and you will very easily arrive at the punchline sought from the first three columns: I am resentful because I have demands in the seven areas of self: how other people behave (personal and sex relations), my image (pride and self-esteem), and my circumstances (ambitions, security, and pocketbooks).

The above system provides a maximum of 100 examples. If that doesn't teach you the lesson, more won't help. If that does teach you the lesson, more won't be needed.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Fear & self-reliance

I can rely on God or self (ego). What for? Identity, purpose, and strength.

The Big Book says that self-reliance fails. Why? The ego's notions of my identity and purpose are rooted in the material world, are therefore susceptible to change, are therefore vulnerable, and are therefore sources of fear. Also, the ego provides only limited strength.

God-reliance works. Why? My identity is in God, and that cannot be changed or harmed. My purpose is to make a good effort today to do God's will. Nothing outside of me can affect my effort (though it may affect the result). God's strength is unlimited. My reliance is therefore on a strength that is unlimited, a purpose that cannot fail, and an identity that cannot be shaken.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Narratives

I used to be very unhappy. I was unhappy because of the many stories I told myself about my life. Although they were largely true factually, they did not portray the reality. I was suffering not because of my life but because of the distorted stories.

A TV listing in 1998 described the plot of 'The Wizard of Oz' thus: 'Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets and then teams up with three strangers to kill again.'

The description is technically accurate but is a comically gross mis-portrayal of the film. My stories about my life were also technically accurate but a then tragically (and now comically) gross mis-portrayal of my life.

I was the great perpetrator of the evil in my life: other people had merely provided me with the material for me to write my horror movie script. I've learned in recovery to retell the story. My past, being the current perception of what happened, has literally changed.

To quote another resource: 'This course can therefore be summed up very simply in this way: "Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists." Herein lies the peace of God.'

Friday, 19 October 2018

Trouble with the word 'God'

God is a word that represents an idea. The idea represents the reality. What is the reality? Power.

What is power? The ability to do something or influence something. What power are we after? The power to stay sober and influence our lives for the better.

Does that power exist? Well, it obviously exists in other people's lives.

In physics, gravity and electricity are available to everyone.

In metaphysics, the same principle applies; if it's available to some people, it must be available to everyone.

How do we establish a relationship with it? The fellowship, steps, service, sponsorship.

Since a word is simply a symbol for an idea, and an idea is simply a symbol for the reality, if one is fine with the reality, the idea and the symbol should not be a problem.

If the word is a problem, it is because a repulsive idea has become accidentally attached to the word, in this case God.

The repulsive idea is one which others hold and which one disagrees with.

First of all, let's practise tolerance: the world is full of people with differing ideas. Let's let them have those ideas, and they can let us have ours.

Now, let's reclaim the word and use it as we wish. There is no statutory, eternal, objective, or immutable relationship between words and ideas, particularly words that are already used extremely flexibly, like nice, good, right, or democracy.

The word God is not like the words avocado, Eiffel Tower, or Austro-Hungarian Empire. It symbolises many notions rather than a single entity.

In mathematics, one might say, 'let x = ...'. In AA, one might say, 'let the word God = ...'

If prejudice against other people's repulsive ideas cannot be gotten over right now, fine, in which case use whatever word or phrase you want: Higher Power, Spirit of the Universe, Great Spirit, Teacher, Love, Jabberwocky, Andrew, really whatever you like. It's just a symbol of the idea, which is a symbol of the reality.

Just like with a trip, it's the destination that matters, not the colour of the ticket or the livery on the aeroplane.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Condemnation

When I believe that anyone is bad, rather than a perfect child of God (who might conceivably be ill or asleep right now), that is a poison that infiltrates every part of my being. That is why I need 100% forgiveness in my heart, which means 100% withdrawal of judgement in my heart, and the dropping of all stories, speculations, interpretations, and narratives. None are real. What is? Some people are going through a tough time. That is why they do what they do. What is required of me is pity, patience, tolerance, and love, and the recognition that they are me and I am them. Whatever I'm judging: that's me. When I see darkness in others, that itself is a dark thought. I am literally creating in me the thing that I think I see in them. Whether or not that thing is in them, it is certain that thing is in me. The condemnation of darkness in others is itself the darkness, albeit cloaked in a white robe of self-righteousness.

So, how am I supposed to respond? I am called upon only to respond to situations as an intelligent agent of God, not to judge or condemn.

Concealed contempt, hatred, condemnation, or dismissiveness of others will be broadcast loud and clear, others will react to it, and then I feel a victim of those reactions. 'But I'm so nice: all I wanted to do was the right thing!' has been my refrain on occasion. This further bolstered my self-righteousness and further distanced me from others. It becomes a self-compounding cycle. This reaction of others, I supposed, proved I was right and they were wrong.

The same applies to my own condemnation of myself. What is required is waking up, not shaking up. I'm not bad for having judged: I was just asleep, just like the people I was condemning. Wake up: there is literally nothing wrong. That’s why I say to myself. And in the moment that I say it: it becomes true.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Friday, 12 October 2018

I'm not powerless over people, places, or things

People are not 'powerless over people, places, or things'.

People are not powerless over people. People control, manipulate, coerce, affect (both positively and negatively), convince, persuade, induce, help, and harm others. These are examples of the exercise of power.

People are not powerless over places. I live in London. London did not used to be there. It used to be countryside. People exercised power and built it. It did not build itself.

People are not powerless over things. I am typing on a keyboard. That is the exercise of power. I can lift up a chair. I can throw a ball. The letters are not typing themselves. The chair is not lifting itself. The ball is not throwing itself.

Power is constrained by the operation of natural laws and others' exercise of their own power. But it is fallacious to assert there are two states: unlimited power and zero power. Self-evidently power is always a matter of degree.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Being sponsorable

If I want someone to be my sponsor, it means I would like them to provide me with instructions, which I then follow. If I do not follow those instructions, then any wish for that person to be my sponsor is entirely notional.

In a sense, it does not matter whether I resist the instructions in principle or accept them in principle but then am unwilling or unable to follow them. The net result is the same: the instructions are not being followed.

This is true even where the actions are not taken for a series of apparently unrelated, one-off, or ostensibly legitimate reasons: work, overtime, deadlines, 'a special project', financial constraints, family commitments, hot weather, cold weather, wet weather, windy weather, travelling distance, crowded trains, late buses, transportation disruptions, waves of emotion, indifference, antipathy, fear, anxiety, tiredness, feeling overwhelmed, feeling constrained, feeling controlled, wanting flexibility, wanting only to take 'baby steps', not being the sort of person who does a plan for the day, not being good at writing, 'food poisoning', 'forgetting', 'not having put it in my diary', being subject to other people's timetable constraints, other people's lateness, other people 'not getting back to me', 'not understanding the instruction' (but then not asking), forgetting to write it down, a doctor's appointment, a psychiatrist's appointment, a psychotherapist's appointment, a yoga class, a football match, a rugby match, a partner's complaint, having to juggle other appointments, leaving my coat at home, being tired, wanting to do something else, lack of baby-sitter, general disorganisation, illness striking on the day in question then mysteriously vanishing without affecting anything else in my schedule, visitors to town, social opportunities, entertainment opportunities, or a panic attack. Sometimes these reasons are deliberately contrived; in other cases they are unconscious rationalisations; and we will all occasionally be subject to forces beyond our control; but if there's a pattern, there's a pattern, and the parsnips are not being buttered, and the medicine is not being taken. The reason for the pattern is actually immaterial, and the fact that each point is potentially arguable must not distract from the bigger picture:

Someone who owns a toothbrush but does not brush his teeth is no better a position than someone who does not own a toothbrush. Why the teeth are not being brushed on any particular day, and even if the reasons vary every single day, the teeth don't care. All they know is that they're not being brushed. There are no points for intention, only for action.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Let there be light

I have learned that darkness is not an entity but an absence of light. Dark feelings too are not real but are an absence of light. Dreams seem real when I’m dreaming them but once I am awake I cannot even remember them. It is impossible to see in the dark. I can only remove the obstacles to light, which are my plans and designs that trap me in the perception of a hostile world. Dropping the plans and designs is like opening the curtains. There is literally nothing wrong.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Who do I consult with?

If someone will help me forgive, help me make amends, and/or help me serve God by helping others, I will consult with them. If they are offering anything else, I am not interested.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Four questions

All my fears have boiled down to four questions: identity, mortality, purpose, and connection

Here are answers I have found for myself:

Identity: What am I?

I am spirit. I was never born and will never die. I happen to be inhabiting a human body. I am not that body, nor the image of who I am, nor my circumstances. I am always perfectly safe, and nothing has ever affected me: it is only my body, my image, or my circumstances that have been affected. Detachment means I observe these things instead of being these things. I'm watching the film. I'm not in the film.

This also solves 'mortality'.

Purpose: Why am I here?

To do God's will.

What is that?

Help others wake up, and in the meantime contribute to happiness in the world through constructive action.

Connection: How do I connect?

I am already connected. Wake up to what is. Let the narratives (resentment, fear, guilt, shame) slide away and let the reality of oneness be apparent.

Unavoidable emotional toll

In my life, most of my negative emotion has come from my own deliberate resentfulness: the manufacture and harbouring of grievances against others in the mistaken belief that if they were different I would be OK.

There are a few things that unavoidably cause a degree of distress, and where spiritual fitness will massively help but not necessarily eliminate the emotional cost.

  • Adjustment to changed circumstances: this will invariably be unsettling; the bigger the change, the harder the adjustment, even if the change is positive. Loss falls within this category
  • Being in the presence of profound negativity: the impact can be blocked spiritually, but that effort itself takes a toll when one is acquiring the skill
  • Compassion on observation of others' suffering: this is not only inevitable but desirable: it prompts right action; the trick is not to needlessly dwell
  • Physical pain and other physical stresses: inevitably draining
  • Unavoidable conflict: sometimes defence is necessary, and this can give the spiritual shields a battering
  • Setting and maintaining boundaries: a lower form of conflict, but also wearing, particularly if guilt has not been dealt with
  • Hormonal fluctuations and other medical imbalances (e.g. having a temperature): this will inevitably mess with your emotions
The good news is that if one is spiritually fit and has eliminated most other forms of ego-based upset, one has ample resources to handle these, and practice over time hones the skills of handling these situations with poise and minimum emotional cost.

Broken thinking

The Big Book Step Four resentment inventory asks us to identify precisely what it is that others do that bothers us, and then to examine the area of self that is affected.

A close examination of the results will usually reveal that one has built up a substantial narrative about what happened that bears little resemblance to what actually happened. Also, much of how it supposedly affects the areas of self stems from overblown fiction.

Here are seven mental pests to uncover in this process, and to eliminate from one's thinking:

  • Distortion
  • Exaggeration
  • Unreasonable generalisation
  • Unreasonable interpretation
  • Unreasonable speculation
  • Unreasonable extrapolation
  • Personalisation
The related mottos or questions:
  • What actually happened: what are the facts?
  • How important is it, really? Keep it right-sized!
  • Don't take the event to represent the person
  • Don't weave stories on top of reality
  • Guessing is not fact: you do not know what they think or why they did it
  • One swallow does not make a spring
  • It's really not about you

Relationships

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions has this to say on relationships:

 

Here's a list I find helpful of useful qualities in relationships, to strive for oneself. If one cultivates these, one will attract others with those qualities.

Emotional maturity:

  • Equanimity: not being bothered by things, being placid and proportionate in responses
  • Boundaries: knowing I'm responsible for me and you're responsible for you: full stop; no interference, invasion of privacy, control, fixing, changing, bulldozing, reliance, neediness, blame, preoccupation, or argument
  • 'Yours; mine; ours' (Tradition IV): each having their own private space over which they have dominion as long as it does not affect the other, plus a common space subject to joint agreement (Tradition Two: group conscience; Concept XII: discussion, vote, and substantial unanimity)
  • Self-sufficiency: making requests not demands; not asking others to do what one could and should do oneself
  • Tolerance and patience: declassifying others' faults as faults and seeing them instead as characteristics
  • Common sense: being governed by reason, observation, knowledge, principle, and experience, with emotion informing not controlling perception and action
  • Pragmatism: using principles to achieve ends, not standing on principles when the ends are thereby confounded; not being overly organised; simplicity and practicality
Selflessness:
  • Flexibility: occasionally stands have to be taken, but essentially yielding and working round the other person
  • Industry: if it needs doing, do it now; making a valuable contribution in all areas; being a giver not a taker
  • Concern for others' welfare: being alert to the needs of others and acting accordingly
Fun, whimsy, irony: no one likes a misery

Sharing compendium







Thursday, 13 September 2018

Emergency protocol

What happens when everything appears to fall apart?

Batten down the hatches. What does that mean?

  • Admit complete defeat and decide to throw your lot in with God.
  • That means you'll be protected if you decide to trust and serve God 24 hours a day.
  • Complete defeat also means taking your focus off yourself, your resentments, your self-pity, your self-loathing, and your fear. Ego is bullshit and needs to go.
  • Have a couple of home groups where you do service. These should be the strongest AA groups in the city you live in, no exception. By 'strongest' I mean those with the densest content concerning the destruction of self and serving God and the strongest fellowship network plus social activities after the meeting.
  • Go every week unless you're dead or out of town.
  • Follow the instructions of pages 84 to 88 of the Big Book every day, in particular discussing with people who won't permit any self-indulgence any bad behaviour or negative thinking. If they make a suggestion, follow it.
  • If you've not completed the first nine steps, do so.
  • Get a job in the AA service structure.
  • Seek opportunities to carry AA's message to the outside world.
  • Find newcomers or other people in trouble to share solution with; sponsor.
  • Reclassify work and family obligations as service.
  • If you haven't got a job, get one.
  • If you can't get one, study and volunteer for 35 hours a week.
  • Find opportunities to be useful in your community and/or society.
  • Spend at least one hour a day reading and listening to spiritual materials, and actively mine these materials for principles, ideas, attitudes, and corrective measures.
  • Talk to your sponsor every day.
  • Talk to two other people every day whose lives are based on service.
  • Do everything they suggest.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

What do we pay these people for? Oh ...

An idea: rely on God, working through knowledge, experience, common sense, reasoning, principles, the Book, inspiration, intuitive thought, and decisions. Consult a sponsor once those are exhausted and prove inconclusive.

Monday, 13 August 2018

A setting-aside exercise

Whenever I’m in trouble spiritually, I have a mixture of true and false in my existing beliefs and thinking.

I ask God to set aside any/all existing notions I have about anything. Setting something aside simply means putting it up on a shelf, out of reach. Anything real and true will be returned to me by God in due course. Whenever ‘old thinking’ (i.e. current thinking!) comes into my mind, I gently and persistently imagine it floating up to a glass bowl full of clear water on a shelf. The idea drops into the water, dissolves, and disappears. In particular, anything troubling is ‘sent up to the bowl’.

Obviously, whilst I am setting aside, life needs to continue. I ask God to help me to maintain life support systems, in other words to do what I need to do today to (a) look after myself (b) fulfil practical obligations and (c) enjoy a few things. I am to do these things under God’s guidance, like someone who cannot fly being guided to land the plane under the guidance of air traffic control, without engaging intellectually in the content. Do what must be done, and no more.

This gives me space to do the internal work with God to recast my beliefs, and from there to rebuild.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Connecting

I used to have trouble connecting with people in AA. I was fine with people from my own social background but steered clear of others. I got over it.

Here's what I did.

1. Recognised the universal worth of all people.

Read this

2. Performed twelfth-step work including: prisons, detoxes, treatment centres, telephone service, and the twelfth-stepper lists.

This enabled me to see past superficial differences and connect with anyone who has a drink problem.

3. I prayed the St Francis prayer from Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions:
Lord, make me a channel of thy peace—that where there is hatred, I may bring love—that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness—that where there is discord, I may bring harmony—that where there is error, I may bring truth—that where there is doubt, I may bring faith—that where there is despair, I may bring hope—that where there are shadows, I may bring light—that where there is sadness, I may bring joy. Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted—to understand, than to be understood—to love, than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life. Amen.
4. I asked God to help me with the following defects of character (adapted from the St Augustine Prayer Book):
PRIDE is putting self in the place of God as the centre and objective of our life, or of some department thereof. It is the refusal to recognize our status as creatures, dependent on God for our existence, and placed by him in a specific relationship to the rest of his creation.
[→ HUMILITY is putting God in the place of self as the centre and objective of our life, or of some department thereof. It is the recognition of our status as creatures, dependent on God for our existence, and placed by him in a specific relationship to the rest of his creation.]
Snobbery. Pride over race, family, position, personality, education, skill, achievements, or possessions.
Contempt. Scorn of another's virtue, ability, shortcomings, or failings. Prejudice against those we consider inferior, or who consider us inferior, or who seem to threaten our security or position. Ridicule of persons, institutions or ideals.
Failure to recognize our job as a divine vocation or to offer our work to God.
Unwillingness to surrender to and abide in God, to let him act in and through us. Failure to offer to God regularly in intercession the persons or causes that have, or should enlist our interest and support.
Indifference. Unconcern over injustice to others, especially that caused by currently accepted social standards; or unmindfulness of the suffering of the world. Neglect of duties to state or community.
Ignoring of needy, lonely or unpopular persons in our own or the parish family, or in the neighbourhood; or unwillingness to minister to them. Insufficient attention to the needs of our family.

5. I went to random AA meetings and got to know whoever was there, regardless of perceived differences, and went for fellowship afterwards, determined to connect with whoever I encountered.

It worked.

Children of a Living Creator

Page 28 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous:

'If what we have learned and felt and seen
means anything at all, it means that all of us, whatever
our race, creed, or color are the children of a living
Creator with whom we may form a relationship upon
simple and understandable terms as soon as we are
willing and honest enough to try.'


  • I did not create myself: I was created.
  • If I was created, there is a Creator.
  • As a child of God, I am made of the same substance.
  • That means, since God is not a body, I am not a body.
  • If I did not create myself and I am not a body, then my identity and worth do not flow from any 'personal characteristics' of mine.
  • To the extent that I have qualities, these were bestowed on me, so I cannot take credit for them.
  • My identity consists solely in being a spirit, a child of God.
  • My body is merely a communication device; my life circumstances are merely a context.
  • My worth is infinite because I exist.
  • Any assertion that I am not of infinite worth (or that someone else is not of infinite worth) is predicated on three false assumptions: (a) people have different worths (which they do not) (b) the universe has given me the role of judging those worths (which it has not) (c) I have special knowledge, experience, skills, and experience enabling me to perform that judgement (which I do not).
  • Low self-worth is therefore an error.
  • Contempt for others is therefore an error.
  • All others are my brothers and sisters, appearances notwithstanding.
  • They are made of the same substance as me (spirit).
  • A relationship with the Creator is possible.
  • That relationship requires willingness and honesty.
  • Honesty means a recognition of all of the above.
  • Willingness manifests as a concerted effort to establish a relationship with the Creator by seeking the Creator's will at all times and in all things.

LESSON 275.
God's healing Voice protects all things today.
W-pII.275.1. Let us today attend the Voice for God, which speaks an ancient lesson, no more true today than any other day. 2 Yet has this day been chosen as the time when we will seek and hear and learn and understand. 3 Join me in hearing. 4 For the Voice for God tells us of things we cannot understand alone, nor learn apart. 5 It is in this that all things are protected. 6 And in this the healing of the Voice for God is found.
W-pII.275.2. Your healing Voice protects all things today, and so I leave all things to You. 2 I need be anxious over nothing. 3 For Your Voice will tell me what to do and where to go; to whom to speak and what to say to him, what thoughts to think, what words to give the world. 4 The safety that I bring is given me. 5 Father, Your Voice protects all things through me.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Sponsoring and relapse

Effective sponsorship in AA:

  • Identify with the prospect whether he is an alcoholic, broadly speaking
  • Ask if he wants to quit for good and for all
  • If so, ask if he is willing to go to any lengths
  • If he says 'yes':
    • Give him a rock-solid daily and weekly programme of applying the last three steps, service, and fellowship to daily living
    • Get him going on the steps
      • Whatever system you establish, ensure that, if he does the work you ask him to do, you are available very promptly to go through it and progress him to the next exercise
      • Never leave a sponsee with no step work to do
      • Suggest at least an hour or two of step work a day
      • Ensure that the combination of the daily/weekly programme (the last three steps) plus this pathway through the first nine steps, together with work, family, and other obligations, means he always knows exactly what he's supposed to be doing, when, where, and how.
Pretty much any sponsee who follows the above will not relapse.

If relapse does happen, examine whether the above was being adhered to, and if not, why not.

The individual is then given the chance to recommit, on a new and more honest basis.

Always start back at Step One to Three (reviewing thoroughly but not in a laboured way any work performed to date, because relapse always suggests a reservation somewhere in these three steps: someone who has made a decision to turn his will and life over to God has decided to do what is right, not what he wants).

Watch out for:
  • Other unaddressed addictions
  • Resentments
  • Ongoing harmful behaviour
  • Nasty little secrets
If someone appears to be 'doing everything right', one of the above four is usually the culprit.

Good luck!

I've had a feeling

If you have a feeling and you don't like it, examine your beliefs, thinking, and behaviour for defects. If defective, fix. Any remaining feelings: accept them and don't dwell on them.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Handling people who are confused about love

'If-you-loved-me-you-would-agree-with-me-obey-me-and-let-me-shout-at-you-until-you-admit-that-you-are-wrong-and-I-am-right' is a sound that can be heard up and down the country in dysfunctional families. Maybe the people are crazy because someone in the family drinks a touch more than is strictly good for them, or maybe the drinkers are drowning themselves in a 'butt of Malmsey wine' because of the crazy people. Who knows. Anyway. How do you deal with it?

Well, firstly, arguing won't work. Egoic positions aren't amenable to rational discussion. Absenting yourself entirely is totally fine, and maybe if they get a therapist who encourages them to look at their own behaviour they'll figure out why. That might take, oh, a decade or two, in which case you're the witch and they're the princess in the meantime, and that can be hard to live with at a distance anyway.

So, how do you deal with it? Here's one way I've found successful:

First of all, I can say I disagree with a view or am turning down a request (actually it's usually a screaming demand but let's call it a request for the sake of argument). Then I can offer an explanation if it's asked for. I am willing to hear their explanation for their point of view or request. But I will then draw the line at engaging in cross-examination in either direction, any attempt to convince or persuade, in short, in any argument. Then I say I love them. Repeatedly.

This has worked out pretty well and has rewired several relationships in my life.

By the way, I checked it out and it's official: agreement and obedience are not synonyms of love. So there!


Sunday, 29 July 2018

How not to be a jerk

I'm an arrogant jerk sometimes. OK, a lot. Ya got me there. Inventory and corrective measures can sometimes be really simple.

Here are my corrective measures for this week:

Don't have an opinion. Be neutral.
Don't argue. Be agreeable.
Don't control. Yield.

Basically: Thy will be done. To God. And people.

If I keep it this simple there's a chance I'll remember it.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Fear and the basic questions

Four basic questions:

Who am I?
Now I'm here, what am I supposed to do?
Who are these other people, and how am I supposed to relate to them?
I'm going to die. How do I handle that?

Identity
Purpose
Relationship
Mortality

Reliance on God provides answers:

I'm a child of God, born of spirit.
My purpose is to do God's will.
My relationship to others: love, forgive, and serve.
I'm not going to die: spirit can't die; I'm not a body.

I tried to solve these questions in other ways, placing my reliance for answers in the finite and the vulnerable: the material world. Fear was inevitable: self-reliance had failed me.

The answer is to stop trying to solve these myself and relying on God instead.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Troubleshooter

When trouble comes, we cheerfully capitalise on it, to show the Creator's omnipotence.

Here's my checklist:

I am 100% responsible for what I feel.
Everything outside me is 0% responsible for what I feel.
My negative feelings come from my negative judgements.
My negative judgements come from comparison of reality with my demands.
My demands total my blueprint for the universe.
Having a blueprint for the universe is usurping the role of Creator.

The solution:

I am a creature and agent not a Creator.
Drop the role of Creator.
Drop the blueprint.
Drop the demands.

Then:

Stay close to the Creator.
Recognise that my substance is eternal though my form is temporary.
Recognise this is true for all others.
Recognise that nothing is outside the Creator.
Recognise that all evil is but error and illusion.
Recognise my identity in the Creator.
Recognise my purpose in the Creator.
Seek only to live with integrity: to perform the Creator's will and nothing else.

That involves:
Fitting myself to be of service.
Being of service.
Observing rest-times.
Appreciating the universe.


Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Concept VI

Concept VI says that the chief initiative and active responsibility for world service matters lie with the General Service Board.

In life, whatever God delegates to me, acting through others, becomes my task under delegated authority. That means I must take chief initiative and active responsibility, but the outcome and the ultimate responsibility lie with God, acting through others.

That also means I need never be stressed about anything. My job is to take the initiative (considering the matter from all angles, spotting opportunities and threats, and using my intelligence proactively to determine the right action to take under God's guidance) and to take active responsibility, which means acting promptly, energetically, intelligently, diligently, carefully, and prudently. My contribution is reasoned and deliberate. The direction and strength to do this come from God.

I then deliver the work to God, who takes care of the outcome.

Mental states preceding ...

The Big Book, on page 35, says:

'So we shall describe some of the mental states that precede a relapse into drinking, for obviously this is the crux of the problem.'

The states are:

  • A peculiar mental twist (page 33, cf. Jim, falsely believing that milk combined with whiskey renders the whiskey safe)
  • A strange mental blank spot (page 42, cf. Fred, truthfully anticipating that two cocktails with dinner would be nice but failing to anticipate further consequences)
  • Beginning to drink deliberately not casually (page 37)
  • Little serious or effective thought (page 37)
  • Not thinking at all (page 24)
  • Two trains of thought running in parallel (page 37)
It turns out that the mental states preceding the first drink include: thinking, not thinking, thinking one thing at a time, thinking more than one thing at a time, thinking false things, and thinking true things. In other words, there is no single mental state preceding a relapse into drinking, and none of these constitutes a defence against drinking or even necessarily heralds a relapse.

The solution offered by AA is not therefore to straighten out our thinking (although that will happen) but to rely on God, which makes thinking secondary as a source of decision-making. What is primary? Direction from God as corroborated by sensible others.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Step One, whatever your problem (revised 15 July)

One way of rewording the 'powerlessness + unmanageability' combo for any problem:

Step One: I persistently return to destructive patterns.

That could be alcohol, sex-related acting out, romance-related acting out, gambling, pills, drugs, starvation, binging, purging, etc. Some of these are mine.

In Al-Anon: there are four destructive patterns (with variants) I see in my case:

(1) Taking responsibility where it's not my mine to take

  • Trying to control your addiction, recovery, or life
  • Offering you solutions you already have
  • Working those solutions for you
  • Creating a crisis
  • Martyrdom, mothering, managing, manipulation

(2) Not taking responsibility where it is mine to take

  • Neglect of my own needs, duties, and enjoyment of life

(3) Giving you responsibility where it's not yours to take

  • Blaming you for what is not your fault
  • Asking you to rescue me
  • Relying on you for energy, creativity, spontaneity, and passion

(4) Denying your responsibility where it is yours to take

  • Permitting unhealthy behaviour beyond reasonable bounds of tolerance / not setting boundaries
  • Making excuses / covering up
  • Denying the effect of your conduct on me
  • Preventing a crisis when it is in the natural course of things


That's the baseline, and that's what the Steps, Traditions, Concepts, Fellowship, and Service have solved for me.

Directions and suggestions

The programme is described as a suggested programme of recovery. There is reference also to clear-cut directions.

We suggest you use this map. That means you can use the map or not use the map. The choice is entirely yours.

The map contains directions. That means you will arrive at the destination if you follow the directions but will end up elsewhere if you don't.

The fact that the programme is suggested does not mean you can determine its content.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Service structure

Sometimes people don't like the service structure of twelve-step fellowships. It is true, sometimes they are operated inefficiently, so the formal process can become excessively cumbersome or actually prohibitively obstructive. But in general they operate reasonably smoothly.

One of the reasons people dislike service structures is that they provide clear channels of communication and decision-making and circumscribe the individual's ability to control through back-channels or usurpation of power, and it is this that is so often the root of the resistance to the structure: they stop one from playing God.

After all, the structure imposed under the Concepts has one overall purpose: to have God's will channelled into service actions for the good of all. I'm just a tiny decision-making cog with my own connection to the Higher Power, with a particular role to play, and a large society of others, so connected, to bow to.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Full measures vs half measures

When I commit to the programme, I'm saying I will go to any lengths for victory over alcohol (or over my -anonism). That means I am willing to follow any instruction given to me by my sponsor within the scope of the programme in terms of belief, attitude, and behaviour. It's therefore legitimate for my sponsor to ask me: 'have you done X, Y, and Z?' and to make further discussion contingent on doing X, Y, and Z.

All of the lessons are compulsory: my freedom of choice lies only in when I take them or whether I engage in the course at all. If my sponsor no longer has what I want, my duty is to find someone who does and follow their direction instead.