Friday, 14 June 2019

Facing reality and myself

When I got sober, part of wanting to be sober was wanting to learn to deal with life as it was without any buffer or alteration in my consciousness.

I was legitimately prescribed and took some psychoactive medication but stopped almost immediately, as I realised I would never know whether what I felt was 'real'.

I have had periods of profound depression and anxiety and, I've been told, all sorts of other symptoms that would render me eligible for psychoactive medication. I have maintained that original decision, however, and found another way through.

I might have had a rougher time emotionally than others in recovery because of that. However, my purpose in life is not to have an easy time but to live a satisfactory life, facing my obligations, and making the most of my potential to contribute constructively to the world. Whether I am happy is entirely secondary to this primary purpose, although, as a by-product of living a satisfactory life, I am indeed happy.

I am glad I went through what I have experienced, because ultimately I was forced to take life as it was and work with myself as I was.

I have never encountered a problem that was not ultimately solved by changing what I believe, how I think, and how I behave and by surrendering to reality, myself at whatever stage of development I am at, and God. God has always carried me through, through the fellowship of AA.

When I was newly sober I read a passage in the Big Book story 'Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict', now called 'Acceptance is the Answer', which was something to the effect of solving a living problem with a chemical makes me less able to solve the living problem with a living solution.

I don't advise anyone else to follow the same path as me or claim to know what is right for anyone else, but I will share what my path has been.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Concepts I, II, and III: spiritual principles

Concept I: there is a universal consciousness with which ultimate authority resides.

Concept II: that consciousness expresses itself through the group conscience, my own conscience, and the conscience of anyone to whom I give spiritual consent to channel the universal consciousness (e.g. my sponsor).

Concept III: my job is to take the initiative to act on that conscience, to ask (if I need help), to consult those affected, and to report (to the group, to God in my Step Eleven review, or to my sponsor).

’Affects my’—simple version

We asked ourselves why we were angry. In most cases it was found that our self-esteem, our pocketbooks, our ambitions, our personal relationships (including sex) were hurt or threatened. … (64:3)
On our grudge list we set opposite each name our injuries. Was it our self-esteem, our security, our ambitions, our personal, or sex relations, which had been interfered with? (65:1)
pride [in the worked example]

If I have a resentment, I haven’t got my own way. Which area is affected?

Scripts
If I don’t think others are treating me right, my personal relations are affected.
If I’m not getting my own way sexually, my sexual relations are affected.
Outcomes
If my needs are threatened, my security is affected.
If my income or property are threatened, my pocketbooks are affected.
If I have a plan that has not come off, my ambitions are affected.
Image
If I’m bothered by what others think about me, my pride is affected.
If I feel ashamed or inadequate, my self-esteem is affected.

The instruction
On each piece of paper, which has the name and the resentment(s) at the top, write down which of these ‘areas of self’ are affected (personal relations, sexual relations, security, pocketbooks, ambitions, pride, self-esteem) in that relationship.

Realise I’m not resentful because of them, I’m resentful because I have a plan, in other words I am playing God. To be happy I have to drop my plans and serve God.

A simple view of harm

Level 1: Immediate harm

Material, financial, physical, emotional harm
Taking people's time
Intrusion (nuisance, interference, overstepping boundaries)

Level 2: Relationship harm

Damage to the relationship (e.g. a single argument causes immediate emotional harm but severs the relationship for five years)

Level 3: Spiritual harm

Increasing a sense of fear, guilt, and separation
Misleading people spiritually
Blocking growth through through care-taking or enabling

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Enmeshment

In my healthy relationships, I'm responsible for me (my beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, feelings, actions, and inner life) and you're responsible for you (ditto). We interact, engage with other, spend time together, and spend time apart. There is nothing in the way.

In my unhealthy relationships, I'm not responsible for me but I am responsible for you (fill in the blanks, as above), and you're not responsible for you but you are responsible for me (ditto) ... and wham! Suddenly there's a third entity in the room. The Relationship. Picture a malevolent goblin. Or The Relationship as a game of chess we play with each other to avoid actually being close to each other.

We then proceed to talk about The Relationship, with various combinations of self-justification, lack of self-care, control, bulldozing, string-pulling, button-pushing, martyrdom, saving, inappropriate responsibility-taking ('if you feel something, it must be my fault'), nursing, Annie Wilkes-ing (remember Misery? ... hammering your ankles so you can't walk and have to stay with me), exonerating, doormat-ing, blame-throwing, and playing Damsel In Distress/Penelope Pitstop. Ugh. What a mess!

Powerlessness: I'm powerless over you. I'm also powerless over me.

Unmanageability: being driven by negative emotions, full of plotting and scheming to rearrange you to change my negative emotions. Result: external and internal chaos.

Insanity: keeping at something that does not work.

If I access God, I gain power. Then I can exercise power in my life, and my interaction with you changes automatically. Power enables detachment (as I'm relying on God, not you), and with detachment comes peace.


Tuesday, 11 June 2019

How to carry the message to newcomers

There are > 900 groups in London.

The AA programme is contained in the Big Book.

How many AA groups in London focus on the Big Book or the Steps? Sadly, few. The Intergroup I live in has 12 groups today, 2 focus on the Steps, and none on the Big Book. That means that the other ten groups believe that the solution to their problem is found elsewhere than in the Big Book or the Steps.

Unfortunately, even in Step- or Big Book-focused groups, not all the sharing (by a long chalk) will concern the Big Book or a Step. I recently visited two Step groups recently where almost no one (apart from the speaker) even mentioned the Step.

This means that the majority of attendees at AA will go through their AA experience not actually being exposed to what the solution to alcoholism is with any depth or detail.

A second problem: newcomers and visitors are very often ignored at meetings. If a person is not known, it is not uncommon for that person to be avoided entirely, whilst attendees talk to their friends.

To give alcoholics who want a solution a fair chance, I practise the following:

I look out for people I don't know and go and talk to them.
  • I find out about them and where they are in their journeys.
  • I introduce them to others.
  • I tell them about other meetings.
  • I try to convey hope.
  • I offer my number and/or to meet at other meetings.
When sharing:
  • I convey information through my experience of how I know I'm an alcoholic in such a way that someone with a different story but the same key underlying features of alcoholism can identify.
  • I convey what I did about it (some combination of Steps, fellowship, and service).
  • I convey something of the results.
I do not complain or present current unprocessed material. Too much of AA sharing follows the format of 'Here's how I'm currently dysfunctional: ha ha ha. [Room: ha ha ha]', and I don't need to add to that. There's a place for identification with others' problems, but a more important service is rendered by offering people a way out.

Most importantly, I give this away and encourage people I sponsor to do these things. If enough people do these things, the message can be conveyed more effectively to more people.

Friday, 7 June 2019

Revisiting harm

In Step Eight, I look at the different types of harm I cause.

Some are obvious:

Physical injury
Damage to or theft of property
Monetary loss
Deprivation of time
Interference and intrusion
Unnecessary emotional suffering

Others are less so:

Damage to the relationship: sometimes the incident is minor, but it causes a rupture in the relationship, and it is the rupture that is the harm. That rupture also deepens the sense of separation and perception of others' hostility, coldness, or distance.

Standing in the way of someone's development: if I remain enmeshed in an enabling situation that prevents someone from hitting a rock bottom or learning to develop their own resources, I am blocking their development. I am also doing the same if I fail to offer help that is genuinely needed to develop.

Misdirection: especially in recovery, I can either misdirect when I disturbed or mistaken or, maybe worse, when I set a bad example through my conduct.

Increasing separation: any action which divides rather than joins, including by encouraging separation, hostility, and ill-natured opposition in discussions.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

TRADITION I (SPIRITUAL IDEAS) (after Dennis F)


TRADITION I (SPIRITUAL IDEAS) (after Dennis F)

'Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity'

  • I am powerless over alcohol and have an unmanageable life, so I am dependent upon uniting myself with AA for my personal recovery.
  • The Step states the problem, and the Tradition states the solution. What do I do about my powerlessness and unmanageability? I join AA and place our common welfare first, since my personal recovery depends upon doing this.
  • My continued life depends upon my obedience to spiritual principles. Obedience is now the safety net of my sobriety. I used to pride myself on being a rebelnow I seek to be obedient. After obedience comes enthusiasm: the desire to do God’s will because of the benefits I receive. The most difficult jobs are effortless when motivated by enthusiasm. When all else fails, I am back to obedience. No matter what, I won’t take that first drink, and, no matter what, I will work Steps Ten, Eleven, and Twelve on a daily basis.
  • I cannot recover unless there is a group. I must place our common welfare first for the group to continue.
Questions:
  • Do I try to go it alone?
  • Do I seek to give or to get?
  • Do I place common or own welfare first?
Inventory format (keep to one sentence each):
a) The story:
b) What did I do wrong?
c) What would God have me do next time?

Apply to these domains:
  1. God
  2. AA
  3. Home and family
  4. Friends
  5. Work
  6. Other talents
  7. Community and society


Wednesday, 29 May 2019

CONCEPT II (SPIRITUAL IDEAS) (after Dennis F)


Short form: The General Service Conference of AA has become, for nearly every practical purpose, the active voice and the effective conscience of our whole Society in its world affairs.
  • We develop discipline in order to serve the group conscience by obeying it as a trusted servant.
  • We do what God delegates to us through the group.
  • God delegates spiritual work for me to do through A.A. in carrying the message.
  • My sobriety is delegated to me: God has ultimate authority; I have delegated authority.
  • In the first concept we dedicated ourselves to serving the group conscience; in the second concept we develop an attitude of discipline in order to implement our first concept attitude of dedication.
  • God delegates to me because he needs me. This is the continuing source of my self-esteem. God would delegate to someone else if I wasn’t important to Him.
  • I also learn that I need to delegate some jobs to others. I give up my imperious attitude that a job cannot be done well unless I do it.
  • When I begin to see myself in my true light, as a trusted servant, I also see that I cannot serve the group without becoming disciplined in my life. Good intentions without disciplined actions are meaningless. Therefore, I need to also implement the second concept of service by developing discipline in my service.
  • When I begin to see you in your true light as a fellow trusted servant and not as a threat to me, I can begin to delegate work with a sense of trust and not suspicion. I can begin to imitate God’s trusting attitude as he delegates important matters to my trusteeship.
  • Where I was once undisciplined and only did things for my own benefit, I now dedicate myself to becoming disciplined that I may serve the group in order to preserve my sobriety.
  • I believe that a sponsor is one who is delegated by God to carry to me the suggestions I need to obey in order to stay sober.
  • I in turn need to learn discipline to become a sponsor, a trusted servant. I must do the things I suggest to others to do.
  • When I declared that my life was unmanageable, I delegated to A.A. the authority and responsibility to show me the path of sobriety. I had to totally let go and trust the group because my efforts at sobriety failed.
  • The Dennis F. 'on-beam' meditation and inventory:
    • Am I working the step, tradition, or concept that I am on, on a daily basis?
    • Am I taking nightly written inventory? (This only takes five minutes each evening.)
    • Am I getting up early enough to have enough time (at least fifteen minutes) for prayer and meditation?
    • Am I available for twelve step work on a daily basis?
    • Do I try to practice the spiritual theme of my inventory and mediation throughout the day?
    • Do I take weekly inventory on the tradition or concept of service I am on in order to improve my relationship and service in AA, at home, and at work?
    • Do I read these inventories to my sponsor every several weeks?
    • Do I work the sixth and seventh steps of my new awarenesses for growth by praying to practise the opposite of my defects?
    • Do I make prompt amends to God and others for my newly discovered defects and admit it when I’m wrong?
  • I think discipline developed with me by simply saying yes to A.A. requests. Gradually the discipline requests got more demanding.
  • Discipline in my own life began with my appetites. After stopping drinking I became aware of my other undisciplined appetites in my fourth and fifth steps.
  • When it was time for me to do the sixth and seventh steps it came to me in prayer to make a list of everything that was coming between me and my Maker. I discovered all the appetites run wild I was depending upon rather than reliance on a Higher Power. They included compulsive gambling, lust, coffee, sugar, and overeating.
  • Now that I couldn’t escape to Las Vegas, run to sex, rely on a lift from caffeine and nicotine, or get high on sugar and overeating, I was forced to get closer to my God, because the only place left that I could go to was prayer.
  • God was shaping me up to become a disciplined servant so I could carry a better message. A trusted servant is a servant who is disciplined to serve when the going gets tough.
  • Unless I keep trying to plunge myself into being of more service, I don’t grow. And when I don’t feel that I’m growing or contributing a day at a time, I go backwards. I don’t stand still. And then when I stop my connection with God at all, I get into a dry drunk. I lose conscious contact with God and I’m right back into frustrations, anger, resentment, self-pity. Then comes the first drink. So I’m personally convinced that the only way I can go back to drinking is to stop being of service.
  • Discipline in my programme has moved from the outer to the inner, from my appetites to my thoughts. Today the program is disciplining me to be restrained in what I say, to practise patience, tolerance, understanding, and love (see the Big Book, page 118.)
  • The Dennis F. 'ongoing growth' meditation and inventory:
    • Whatever my talents are in AA, am I willing to be more disciplined in the service I offer?
    • Have I shirked any jobs in A.A. that God has delegated to me?
    • Am I willing to go to any length to develop an aggressive programme that will make me a disciplined trusted servant (as God cannot use me unless he can rely on me)?
  • To become disciplined, to work the second concept of service in my life, I need to be available to all who God sends to me because he has delegated sobriety to me. It is vital for me to do this in order to grow that I remain sober. It is not a matter of preference. I am an obedient trusted servant as a matter of survival. Therefore, I become disciplined in order to stay sober.
  • I need to trust God to tell me how he wants me to be of service. My job is simply to show up. If I am disciplined enough to show up, God will show me what to do.
  • God delegates to me immediate service authority to accomplish the task he has given me, while He delegates to the group the ultimate service authority over me.
  • We have discussed the first aspect of this concept: I need to be more disciplined to give service. The second aspect is this: how can I help you to give greater service? I might not be the secretary of a group, but I can be of help in any meeting by volunteering my services to help the secretary. Sometimes I am asked to give more humbly in my services by being the servant of the servants.
  • The relationship of the second step, tradition and concept of service becomes clear to me: sanity is believing in the group conscience and becoming obedient to it through the disciplined service I give as a trusted servant.
  • My second concept of service prayer is this, “Father, may I have the discipline necessary to do whatever you delegate to me.”
  • The Dennis F. 'service gift' meditation and inventory:
    • What is my special gift in AA? Where do I really feel most comfortable giving service right now? Our service gifts change as we grow. Maybe we are in a new place now with our service. So I would suggest that we think about what my gift of service is.
    • Then ask a second question about it. Do I need to become more disciplined, in being a trusted servant with this gift? Am I doing everything I can with this gift that God has given me or not? How can I do better? How can I give more service?
  • The Dennis F 'avoidance' meditation and inventory:
    • Have I been saying 'no' to giving any service in my life lately?
    • Have I been saying 'no' to anything in the steps?
    • Am I avoiding any challenges in my life?
    • How can I become more disciplined in my relationships at home and in my talents at work?
  • Above all, I want to thank God for the gift of discipline he has given me over my alcoholism. I pray for greater gifts of discipline with all of my talents that I may give better service as a way of saying thank you for the eternal gift of sobriety a day at a time.
  • Questions:
    • With God and AA:
      • Am I willing to dedicate my life a day at time to being obedient to any A.A. request no matter how inconvenient?
      • Are there any areas in my life where I am being undisciplined in carrying out the requests of the group or of my sponsor?
      • Am I now willing to accept those delegated duties?
    • With home, family, and friends:
      • Do I see myself as a trusted servant?
      • Do I have the attitude of a servant or am I demanding of others?
      • Am I disciplined in carrying out my responsibilities?
    • Work, other talents, community, and society:
      • Do I see myself as a trusted servant?
      • Do I have the attitude of a servant or am I demanding of others?
      • Am I disciplined in carrying out my responsibilities?

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

When you're going to AA but overthinking things ...

(Adapted from page 151)

For most normal folks, a home group means conviviality, companionship and colorful imagination.
It means release from care, boredom and worry. It is joyous intimacy with friends and a feeling that life is good. But not so with us in those last days of heavy thinking. The old pleasures were gone. They were but memories. Never could we recapture the great moments of the past. There was an insistent yearning to enjoy our home group as we once did and a heartbreaking obsession that some new miracle of control would enable us to do it. There was always one more attempt—and one more failure.
The less people tolerated us, the more we withdrew from our home group, from life itself. As we became subjects of King Ego, shivering denizens of his mad realm, the chilling vapor that is loneliness settled down. It thickened, ever becoming blacker. Some of us sought out sordid meetings, hoping to find understanding companionship and approval. Momentarily we did—then would come oblivion and the awful awakening to face the hideous Four Horsemen—Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration, Despair. Unhappy thinkers who read this page will understand!

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Step Eight: additional considerations


Step Eight

The basic questions to ask in Step Eight are these:

(1) What action did I take?
(2) What should I have done instead?
(3) Who suffered as a result, and how?

When looking at the right (Q2) and wrongs (Q1), it soon becomes evident that matters are not as straightforward as they first seem. There appears to be no action that is unequivocally good or bad. Cutting someone with a knife is fine if you're a surgeon and you're performing surgery. Putting the phone down is fine if the other person is shouting. Interrupting is fine if the other person is bulldozing. Hitting someone is fine if it's in self-defence. Just because someone reacts badly does not mean harm has taken place or even that a mistake has been made. Sometimes people respond badly to perfectly legitimate action. As the person with the tools, I may have to be the one to set the situation right, however, if the matter has not been forgotten, a grudge is being held, and/or the relationship has broken down.

To arrive at reasoned answers to the above questions, these further questions may help.

Re Q1:

Have I factually described what I did, or have I given it a moral slant in the way I have described it?
Is the action I took always bad?
Are there circumstances where the action I took is legitimate?
What are those circumstances?
What rule or principle have I broken?
Is that rule or principle universal or particular to particular contexts?
What is the scope of those contexts?
What is my evidence or experience that this rule or principle firstly is observed and secondly is morally or otherwise conventionally valid?
Is there some characteristic of the other person that makes this action harmful, where, with someone else, the same action would be fine?
Is the description I have given sufficient to convey to a third party exactly what happened?
If someone read my Step Eight, would they have sufficient detail to assess the situation?
If the potential harm was something I said, was it the content or the tone?
If a conversation 'went wrong', precisely which contributions of mine were inappropriate?
Was the conduct actually morally wrong or in breach of some social convention, or was it simply tactically unwise given the context plus the individual concerned?
Was the action predictably wrong, or do I think it was wrong just because of the outcome or reaction?
Did bad timing contribute to or even cause the problem?
In short, why do I think this action was wrong?

Re Q2:

What rule or principle underpins my view of what the right thing to do would have been?
Is that rule or principle universal or particular to particular contexts?
What is the scope of those contexts?
What is my evidence or experience that this rule or principle firstly is observed and secondly is morally or otherwise conventionally valid?
Have I considered all possible alternative courses of action?
Have I thought each of them through, mentally playing out the scenario in the light of my knowledge of the person?
In short, why do I think this action would have been right?

Re Q3:

Was there a genuine loss (e.g. financial or material, a change in circumstances, a change in the course of someone's life)?
Is the harm solely emotional suffering of some description (including anger)?
To what extent did that loss or suffering arise because of the other person's contribution to the situation?
In other words, did I cause a storm on a perfectly still day, or did I open the lid on an already seething cauldron?
Would anyone else have suffered or been harmed the same way, or was this person particularly sensitive, unprocessed, immature, vulnerable, or otherwise susceptible?
Was the relationship with the person damaged?

These questions are for consideration and meditation.

Once they have been considered and meditated on, review the three Step Eight questions and present a finalised Step Eight in this format, with sufficient reasoning for a third party (a sponsor or other reviewer) to be able to help you come to a final view.

Introduction: General context of the relationship and the situation
(1) What action did I take? [Answer]
(2) What should I have done instead? [Answer]
(3) Who suffered as a result, and how? [Answer]


Friday, 17 May 2019

Chairing Business and Group Conscience Meetings at Group and intergroup level


The following suggestions by an individual member arise out of principle and experience. They will not all be relevant or appropriate all the time. If a suggestion helps, use it. If it does not, do not worry about it.

Recording of the talk: talk
  • The role of the chair of a business meeting, a group conscience meeting, or an intergroup meeting is to ensure that the meeting transacts its business effectively, efficiently, and harmoniously on behalf of those it serves: the members or the groups.
  • To achieve this, follow these Traditions and Concepts
    • Tradition Five: primary purpose:
      • Content can include:
        • Standing items (officers' reports)
        • Ad hoc items notified in advance
        • Ad hoc items arising on the day in 'any other business'
        • Periodically: a free sharing session, where participants can share anything on their mind that they believe is relevant to the group or the intergroup, without raising it as a formal matter for discussion and vote
      • Ensure that there is an agenda, the agenda is sent out in advance, and all background materials supporting decision-making are distributed
      • Ensure that the meeting proceeds systematically through the agenda
      • Allow any other business to be raised if there is capacity within the allotted time
      • Allow the meeting to run over only if there are matters that cannot be deferred
      • Table any other business not covered for the next meeting
      • Within any particular discussion, gently bring contributors back to the topic if they stray
      • Be firm with anyone grandstanding off-topic
    • Tradition One: maintenance of unity
      • Watch out for and gently halt any contributions that personalise the debate or involve ill-natured or unnecessary criticism or attack of others
      • If the atmosphere generally becomes heated on a topic, defer any decision until the next meeting unless a decision cannot be deferred: decisions made when voters are exercised could be driven by negative emotion rather than dispassionate appraisal of the good of all
      • Invite contributions by raised hand only
      • Ask contributors to speak in strict order of hand-raising
      • Gently halt cross-talk (speaking out of turn)
      • But allow (managed) interjections correcting errors of fact
      • When members of the group or intergroup are commenting on the discharge of an officer's duty, it is better for comment to take the form of suggestions for the future rather than criticism of the past
      • Reserve censure for where an officer has acted well outside the scope of delegated authority or behaved very poorly indeed
      • Even then, be neutral and avoid punishing language (Concept Twelve)
      • Elections should be held anonymously with written ballots ('yes' or 'no') written on slips of paper
      • Remain neutral yourself: contribute only points of fact to substantive discussions
    • Tradition Two: operation of the informed group conscience
      • Ensure that all relevant information for decision-making is circulated in advance for quiet consideration and discussion
      • If new, significant material is introduced during a discussion, consider deferring the decision until it can be considered at leisure
      • If there is insufficient information, commission a member of the group or intergroup to obtain and circulate the relevant information
    • Tradition Nine: avoid excessive formality
      • If it can be solved simply, solve it simply
    • Concept Twelve: arrival at decisions through discussion, vote, and substantial unanimity
      • Relevant group members, officers, etc. present the basic material of a question
      • This is followed by discussion
        • Method one: go round the room systematically, allowing for instance 30 seconds or 1 minute each
        • Method two: invite contributions by raised hand, again with a time limit
        • Either way, have someone use a timer and a bell
        • Permit an individual to share a second time only once everyone who wants to has shared once
        • Discourage repetition or endorsement of other contributions: endorsement is expressed instead in voting
        • Encourage the presentation of new considerations only
      • A vote requires a motion
      • A motion requires someone to second it
      • Motions should be clearly worded and recorded
      • Ensure everyone understands the motion before it is voted on
      • Do not allow complex motions (e.g 'should group meetings be open for attendance and sharing by non-AA members?': if necessary structure a sequence of motions instead, which depend on the outcome of the preceding ones (e.g. 'should group meetings be open for attendance by non-AA members?' followed, if the first motion is passed, by 'should group meetings be open for sharing by non-AA members?')
      • Always word motions in favour of change, or a failure to achieve a majority will result in a default of change rather than a default of the status quo ante
      • 50% is suggested in the case of technical or minor decisions
      • Two-thirds or three-quarters is suggested in the case of substantial decisions
      • If a majority is not achieved, the discussion is not over as the group or intergroup has not crystallised its views sufficiently, so defer if possible
      • If a matter requires significant further work, form a sub-committee comprising the most engaged members on a topic (often with opposing views) to research the area and revert with one or more options for a way forward
      • Alternatively, suggest that members submit their views on a topic that are then collated into an anonymised document for circulation
    • Concept Twelve: democratic principle
      • Ad hoc decisions made in between meetings by executive officers (chair, vice-chair, secretary, treasurer, GSR if a group) must be presented for notification or review by the group or intergroup
      • In instances of controversy, let the group/intergroup decide
    • Concept Four: right of participation
      • This is largely covered above
      • Ensure quiet voices are heard
      • Encourage loud voices to allow room for others to be heard
    • Concept Five: right of appeal
      • Allow a minority opinion to be heard, particularly after a controversial vote
      • If, following voicing of a minority opinion, anyone wishes to change their vote, revote
      • If there is a grievance, the chair (possibly acting together with the executive committee) decides on the admissibility of the grievance and presents the grievance to the group or intergroup for deliberation
      • If the hearing of a grievance is denied (e.g. because the aggrieved party is unhappy with some standard, established policy of the group or intergroup which has been duly implemented), the aggrieved party may write a letter for distribution
      • If the group or intergroup believes that the executive committee's decision is wrong, the grievance can be heard after all
    • Concept Two: the group or the intergroup is the active voice of those it represents in matters of policy and finance
      • The group or intergroup must make its decisions for the good of those it represents
      • Its job is to make decisions on matters of policy and finance: detail is left to officers
      • Each group or intergroup may establish where policy ends and detail begins
    • Concept Three: officers have a right of decision to act, consult, ask, and report back
      • Groups and intergroups should allow practical decisions to be made by the implementing officers
      • Illegitimate interference/micro-managing should be avoided
      • Criticism of an officer's work on the basis that it happens not to match the style or preference of another member, officer, group, or intergroup should be voiced only with caution
      • Broadly: the delegating entity (group/intergroup) decides on what the officer's output should be (product or service); the officer decides how to achieve this output
    • Concept Six/Eight: officers have chief initiative and active responsibility and are the principal planners and administrators
      • Officers should be actively encouraged to take responsibility for the domain in their charge, considering new and innovative ideas and possible improvements to the function in efficacy and efficiency, and anticipating problems
    • Concept Eight: where there is a subcommittee to the group or intergroup, the chairing officer has custodial oversight of the work of the subcommittee
      • The chairs of sub-committees are accountable to the group or intergroup, not to the members of their sub-committees
      • Note that chairs of groups/intergroups are appointed by the groups/intergroups, but chairs of sub-committees are also appointed by the groups/intergroups, not by the sub-committee members (although sub-committee members may nominate one or two of their number for appointment)
      • Whilst decisions within sub-committees are best made by consensus, if there is a conflict between the sub-committee members and the chair, the chair may override the views of the sub-committee members if he or she genuinely believes that his or her view more authentically implements the policy and intention of the group or intergroup
      • Concept V procedures are available to sub-committee members who object to this
    • Concept Seven: officers have the right to exercise delegated authority, reporting back to the group or the integroup that delegated the authority in the first place; they cannot operate without the funds and trust of the intergroup but are not mere instruments, either
      • Set annual budgets for officers
      • All officers to spend up to that budget without referring each item back to the integroup
      • The officers are then accountable for spending decisions they have made
    • Concept Nine:
      • Leadership qualities:
        • Dedication
          • Perform each task to the best of your ability
        • Flexibility
          • Efficiency is as important as efficacy
          • Don't get excessively hung up on detail
          • Be prepared to change tack if the wind direction changes
        • Tolerance
          • A full range of human emotions is likely to manifest: let it
          • Curb only when behaviour becomes unproductive, disruptive, disrespectful, or alarming
        • Responsibility
          • Be a custodian of the traditions
          • Do your own job but keep a quiet eye on everything going on within the intergroup
          • Consider the good of all
          • Consider long-term as well as short-term impacts
          • Consider neighbouring groups and intergroups
          • Consider AA as a whole
        • Stability
          • Be even-tempered
          • Keep your head even if others don't
        • Vision
          • Use your imagination to generate ideas
          • Think through all possible consequences of decisions
          • Capitalise on strengths
          • Identify weaknesses
          • Identify opportunities
          • Anticipate threats
        • Special skills
          • Steer members towards roles that maximally exploit their skills for the benefit of the fellowsip
    • Concept Twelve: principles before personalities
      • Encourage people to discuss ideas not people
      • Don't get personally attached to any particular method or outcome

General notes on leadership qualities

Concept IX

Qualities:
  • Dedication
  • Flexibility
  • Tolerance
  • Responsibility
  • Stability
  • Vision
  • Special skills

Leaders:
  • Surrender personal ambitions, feuds, and controversies
  • Act on behalf of those they serve
  • Are happy to be accountable to and hear feedback from those they serve and make adjustments accordingly
  • Accept disagreement, exercise tolerance, and do not attempt to force uniformity
  • Seek advice, counsel, and support
  • Lean first on others who have the answer and then on the Higher Power who stands behind them
  • Take action in such a way that others are inspired to back and support them
  • Neither meekly take orders nor bulldoze the fellowship
  • Originate plans, policies, and ideas
  • Consult widely on new and important matters before making decisions and acting
  • Make no snap decisions but allow even apparently certain decisions to rest for a period of consultation before implementation
  • Make all decisions by asking for God’s guidance
  • Are willing to discard own plans for a better one originated by another
  • Are willing to stand up against a disturbed or uninformed majority
  • Avoid unreasoned, resentment-based opposition
  • Are able to compromise to promote unity and seek gradual improvement over revolution
  • Are able to compromise with a loving attitude rather than forced resignation
  • Avoid black-and-white thinking and solutions
  • Listen to criticism without being defensive and modify views or actions accordingly when appropriate
  • Listen to the principles behind a person’s words with an open ear and an understanding heart, praying before responding to avoid reacting
  • Listen sometimes without commenting at all, deferring a response until the response is certain
  • Separate the content from the source and do not fall out with the source
  • Sift through destructive criticism for useful information and discard any other material without personalising the content
  • Recognise that destructive feedback is sometimes the best a person can offer at his particular stage of development
  • Can disagree without being disagreeable
  • Deploy foresight in the short and long term, exercising prudence
  • Perform mental experiments (run-throughs of scenarios) and then trial a policy or plan before implementing a major change
  • Assess the impact of policies or plans within and outside AA, considering financial aspects, internal resourcing, and internal capabilities
  • Effect change through the following sequence: idea, experimental policy, firm policy, and tradition

Concept IX

The structure of AA has been established and is stable but new leaders will continually need to be found.

The key to finding leaders lies in GSRs, as these elect officers further down the structure, including ultimately/indirectly the delegates and trustees.

When selecting leaders, the most important questions concern their qualifications and suitability.

Elections should not be taken lightly.

The third-legacy procedure (two-thirds majority or failing that the hat) is effective.

Even the General Service Board is accountable to the fellowship: there is no unqualified authority.

Concept IX in brief

  1. Surrender self-will
  2. Serve others
  3. Seek counsel
  4. Practise vision and foresight
  5. Take initiative
  6. Pray for God’s decision
  7. Listen to criticism and ideas
  8. Take nothing personally
  9. Pause before responding
  10. Disagree without being disagreeable
  11. Take a stand exceptionally
  12. Routinely compromise for unity

A further, more detailed, document entitled "SERVICE CHAIRING INTERGROUP" can be found in the following online folder:

The folder contains resources produced by an individual member of AA for the purpose of their own recovery. These materials are may be freely shared, used, and passed on but are not endorsed by and do not represent any group, intergroup, region, or AA as a whole.


Leaving recovery

On a number of occasions, I have edged towards leaving the world of recovery. This (typically) does not happen in a single move, but in a sequence of moves, each of which appears entirely justified ... to me.

I haven't left the world of recovery and do not intend to, so I avoid making even the first move. Each moves facilitates the next, and the second move is easier to make than the first, etc.

Here are the four I watch out for:

Places to go, people to see


In this move, I decide that other things are more important, and that my personal ambitions outrank God's will. In truth, my highest good involves specifically the performance of God's will, and seeking God's will appears still and on an ongoing basis to involve much involvement and work in the world of recovery.

Just me and my horse


This move involves fancied self-sufficiency: the delusion that I do not need a fellowship of people around me. I am of the opinion that some fellowship or other is required for all aspects of health and for all people. I understand this has much scientific backing. If I were not in AA, I would need plenty of social and community involvement. Why not, therefore, in AA?

This move can be executed within AA without one realising: going on a reasonably regular basis to maybe three or four different groups but not really making any of them my home.

Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me


This step away from AA is predicated on collective contempt for others in AA, because I believe they are hostile towards me or otherwise unhealthy. I have not often fallen for this, but in others I have seen this precipitate an abandonment of home group and all major connections, in one fell swoop. Once executed, this move is extremely difficult to come back from.

The case that baffled doctors


This step consists in an abandonment of spiritual principles on the basis that they are not going to work for me because I am too broken or too complicated. When I look back, every time this move has tempted me, I have been failing to drop an old idea. Of course if I am holding onto an old idea I will not make progress. I have needed repeatedly to let go absolutely.

To sum up, I watch out for these insidious justifications, because I believe my interests are better served by having a wide range of close relationships with a wide range of people who want to get well and seek to do God's will.


Wednesday, 15 May 2019

You're sitting on it

When you have a problem, ask yourself:
  • Have I prayed? For how long? Did I listen to the answers that came? Did I implement the answers that came?
  • Which Step can I apply to this?
  • Which Tradition can I apply to this?
  • Which Concept can I apply to this?
  • Which passage(s) in the Big Book apply to this?
  • Which passage(s) in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions apply to this?
  • Which passage(s) from Bill W's essays on the Twelve Concepts apply to this?
  • Which passage(s) from other AA literature apply to this?
  • Which passage(s) from Al-Anon literature apply to this?
  • What have I learned from meetings that applies to this?
  • What have I learned from a current or previous sponsor that applies to this?
  • What solutions are contained in the spiritual literature I have?
  • What solutions are contained in the recovery- or spirituality-related audio and video resources I have?
  • What solutions are contained in other online resources (e.g. blogs) I have access to?
  • What can I apply from the Just for Today card?

Monday, 13 May 2019

CONCEPT I (SPIRITUAL IDEAS) (after Dennis F)


Short form: Final responsibility and ultimate authority for AA world services should always reside in the collective conscience of our whole fellowship.

  • We dedicate our sobriety to serving the group conscience.
  • We say 'yes' to a reasonable AA request.
  • We extend this attitude to requests at home, at work, and in the world.
  • Am I giving the world an enthusiastic 'yes' to any reasonable requests for service that are put to me?
  • We consecrate our lives one day at a time to serving anyone who is sent to us.
  • When we love, we want to serve. Love requires an action in order to express itself. That action is called service.
  • We give up living for our own ambitions in life in order to be of service to others. Selfishness becomes selflessness.
  • To work the first concept in my life in AA and in my relationship with God, I need to ask myself if I am willing to volunteer my time and heart whenever God lets me know that the group needs me?
  • Will I place the greater good first in my life?
  • In my marriage and intimate human relationships, I need to ask myself if I am willing to truly be a giver rather than a taker?
  • In my work am I willing to dedicate myself to serving the beneficiary through my organisation’s services rather than working for as much money or adulation as I can get?
  • To turn from being a self-seeking loner to dedicating the rest of my life to serving the group conscience a day at a time is the essence of taking the first concept of service as I understand it in my life.
  • The question is: 'Am I willing to give up being a loner in my attitude at AA meetings? Am I willing to throw myself into the meeting? Will I give up separateness for interdependence? Am I willing to help others, especially newcomers, out of their loner shells for the sake of our common recovery?'
  • If I did not make a decision to turn over my sober energy into service, I was going to die. I was going to choke because my spiritual life was going to stop.
  • The essence of my insanity is the illusion of separateness. There is only a relationship to groups: God and I make up a group, my other half and I make up a group, and I am a part of a group at work.
  • I do not separate the traditions and concepts as they apply to the AA group and my individual life. They only refer to group involvement because that is all that there is. Relating to groups constitutes sanity. Trying to exist alone is insanity.
  • There is a second aspect to each concept of service, and that is helping you be of service. I am not only concerned about my service but also about helping you be of service. So I say 'yes' to any request you make of me to help you.
  • What do I sacrifice in order to work the first concept of service in my life? The kinds of things that I had to give up were my playboy grandiose dreams of personal goals of money, property, and fame. My fantasy was that one day when I really get straightened out in AA and work the steps right, work the traditions correctly, and live the concepts in my life, the money is going to roll in. I thought that when I got straightened out spiritually, all the money is going to be there, and then I will take cruises and feast on good food endlessly. When I took the first concept I gave up that dream. I now know it is nothing more than fantasy and grandiosity. It is exactly the opposite of being of service. As long as I held on to these unspoken lifelong fantasies, I was unable to be of much service. God did not call on me for much service either. He just called on me for what I was able to do.
  • But as soon as I surrendered my self-centered dreams and let God transform me through the first concept, I became able to give a lot more service. I find myself giving more service in my life today than I ever have. God is making new and unexpected calls on me for service that makes me feel so good in a way that I never did with money, power, or fame.
  • Unless I turn myself over to God and give myself to service, I might collapse too, because I can’t continue living for myself. I’ve come too far in my spiritual progress to go back. I know that living for myself is a dead end. There isn’t anything else there. The rule in AA for me is growth. I stay sober because I continue to grow spiritually. If I stand still, I go downhill. I have a progressive disease that requires a progressively more rigorous program.
  • The dedication required by the first concept of service is like the surrender asked of a monk. As an alcoholic I am called to a higher level of spiritual existence that demands that I surrender all self-seeking before I am capable of having the freedom to give selfless service.
  • When I am of service, feelings of lack of self esteem leave me. I need to be of service to be at peace.
  • I now need to affirm that I have transferred complete responsibility for my sobriety to the entire fellowship just as Bill transferred world service responsibility to the entire fellowship in paragraph one of concept one.
  • Since I am totally dependent on the group to stay sober, I need to serve it in order to see that it stays in existence.
  • I would also ask myself: 'Do I have any wild unfulfilled dreams of giving service that I have dismissed in the past because of financial or other reasons? Will I take this service request to God in prayer and ask Him to make it possible since I am now willing to risk failure in fulfilling it?'
  • Write inventory using the following questions in the following six areas:
    • What is the story? Where have I gone wrong? What should I do next time?
      • Being of service: God and AA: Do I serve without thought of reward? Could I volunteer myself for service more?
      • Being of service: Home, family, and friends: Do I accede to the reasonable requests of others without argument or expectation? Do I participate, saying 'yes' willingly to what is offered? Do I participate only in what interests me? Do I surrender to what is in the interests of the common welfare over my own wishes? Am I in the relationship to serve or be served?
      • Being of service: Work, other talents, community, and society: Do I serve well only for money or praise? Are my motives pure? Am I a financial loner at work, trying to get as much money as I can out of the organisation, or will I contribute to the welfare of the organisation's work because it is the fulfilment of God’s plan for that organisation to be of service to others?
      • Helping others be of service: God and AA : Do I volunteer at meetings to help with thankless tasks? Do I seek to inspire confidence? Do I look for ways to assist others or do I try to avoid such situations?
      • Helping others be of service: Home, family, and friends: Do I respond appropriately to requests for support? Do I proactively watch out for where support is needed and give it?
      • Helping others be of service: Work, other talents, community, and society: Do support and train others? Do I share experience freely, both in response to requests and proactively? Do I do so expecting nothing in return?



Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Handling disturbance at external events

I am not in charge of the entire universe, so if there is a problem, I am not in sole charge of fixing it. Resentment at the way of the universe can come from guilt about the way of the universe, which is intolerable, so is shifted outwards as condemnation (‘if it’s your fault, it’s not my fault’). The correction: God does have a role for me in the universe but it is not to be the channel for resolution of everything. I can trust that others will fulfil their roles too.

I am never upset for the reason I think. The ostensible reason is the screen onto which I project the upset. The upset is always about belief in separation from God and exile on the material plane.

On transience (I):

1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
2 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
3 What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?
4 One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.
5 The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.
6 The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.
7 All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.
8 All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.
11 There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.

On transience (II):

O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark,
The vacant interstellar spaces, the vacant into the vacant,
The captains, merchant bankers, eminent men of letters,
The generous patrons of art, the statesmen and the rulers,
Distinguished civil servants, chairmen of many committees,
Industrial lords and petty contractors, all go into the dark,
And dark the Sun and Moon, and the Almanach de Gotha
And the Stock Exchange Gazette, the Directory of Directors,
And cold the sense and lost the motive of action.
And we all go with them, into the silent funeral,
Nobody's funeral, for there is no one to bury.
I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theatre,
The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed
With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of darkness on darkness,
And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama
And the bold imposing facade are all being rolled away-
Or as, when an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between stations
And the conversation rises and slowly fades into silence
And you see behind every face the mental emptiness deepen
Leaving only the growing terror of nothing to think about;
Or when, under ether, the mind is conscious but conscious of nothing-
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.

On judgement (I):

Anthony de Mello tells about an old Chinese farmer. He had but one horse as his possession. He used this animal almost exclusively in all of his work. For example, when it was time to plough, he hooked the animal up to the plough, and it broke the ground for planting. When it was time to take the harvest to the market, he would hitch the horse to a wagon. When he wanted to travel any great distance, he would put a saddle on it and ride the horse. The horse played an important role in his life.

One day a bee stung the horse and, in fright, he ran up into the mountains. The old farmer tried to follow him but he couldn’t keep up. He came home that night to tell the whole village that he had lost his beloved animal. His neighbours began to come in and say, “I’m sure sorry to hear about your bad luck, about your losing your horse.”

The old farmer shrugged and said, “Bad luck, good luck, who is to say?”

Two days later, the horse came back from the mountains and with him were six wild horses that he had met on the steppes. The old farmer was able to corral all seven of these creatures, which was quite an economic bonanza.

The word got around the village. The villagers came at night and said to him, “So glad to hear about your good luck, about all the animals that you now have.”

Again, the old farmer shrugged and said, “Good luck, bad luck, who is to say?”

His son realized what an opportunity this was to make some money. If he could tame these wild animals, then he could sell them to be farm animals. He began to try to break in these wild horses. One of them bucked him off one day, and he broke his leg very painfully in three places. Word got around the village and the neighbours came that night and said to the old farmer, “So sorry to hear about your bad luck, about your boy getting hurt.”

Again, he shrugged, “Good luck, bad luck, who is to say?”

Not long after that, a war broke out among the city-states in the province of China. The government came through and conscripted every able-bodied man under the age of sixty to go and fight. Because the son had been injured, he was not required to go, and that turned out to be something very good because every villager who was drafted into service wound up being killed in the war. Once again, “Good luck, bad luck, who is to say?”

On judgment (II):

How Is Judgment Relinquished?

Judgment, like other devices by which the world of illusions is maintained, is totally misunderstood by the world. It is actually confused with wisdom, and substitutes for truth. As the world uses the term, an individual is capable of “good” and “bad” judgment, and his education aims at strengthening the former and minimizing the latter. There is, however, considerable confusion about what these categories mean. What is “good” judgment to one is “bad” judgment to another. Further, even the same person classifies the same action as showing “good” judgment at one time and “bad” judgment at another time. Nor can any consistent criteria for determining what these categories are be really taught. At any time the student may disagree with what his would-be teacher says about them, and the teacher himself may well be inconsistent in what he believes. “Good” judgment, in these terms, does not mean anything. No more does “bad.”

It is necessary for the teacher of God to realize, not that he should not judge, but that he cannot. In giving up judgment, he is merely giving up what he did not have. He gives up an illusion; or better, he has an illusion of giving up. He has actually merely become more honest. Recognizing that judgment was always impossible for him, he no longer attempts it. This is no sacrifice. On the contrary, he puts himself in a position where judgment through him rather than by him can occur. And this judgment is neither “good” nor “bad.” It is the only judgment there is, and it is only one: “God’s Son is guiltless, and sin does not exist.”

The aim of our curriculum, unlike the goal of the world’s learning, is the recognition that judgment in the usual sense is impossible. This is not an opinion but a fact. In order to judge anything rightly, one would have to be fully aware of an inconceivably wide range of things; past, present and to come. One would have to recognize in advance all the effects of his judgments on everyone and everything involved in them in any way. And one would have to be certain there is no distortion in his perception, so that his judgment would be wholly fair to everyone on whom it rests now and in the future. Who is in a position to do this? Who except in grandiose fantasies would claim this for himself?

Remember how many times you thought you knew all the “facts” you needed for judgment, and how wrong you were! Is there anyone who has not had this experience? Would you know how many times you merely thought you were right, without ever realizing you were wrong? Why would you choose such an arbitrary basis for decision making? Wisdom is not judgment; it is the relinquishment of judgment. Make then but one more judgment. It is this: There is Someone with you Whose judgment is perfect. He does know all the facts; past, present and to come. He does know all the effects of His judgment on everyone and everything involved in any way. And He is wholly fair to everyone, for there is no distortion in His perception.

Therefore lay judgment down, not with regret but with a sigh of gratitude. Now are you free of a burden so great that you could merely stagger and fall down beneath it. And it was all illusion. Nothing more. Now can the teacher of God rise up unburdened, and walk lightly on. Yet it is not only this that is his benefit. His sense of care is gone, for he has none. He has given it away, along with judgment. He gave himself to Him Whose judgment he has chosen now to trust, instead of his own. Now he makes no mistakes. His Guide is sure. And where he came to judge, he comes to bless. Where now he laughs, he used to come to weep.

It is not difficult to relinquish judgment. But it is difficult indeed to try to keep it. The teacher of God lays it down happily the instant he recognizes its cost. All of the ugliness he sees about him is its outcome. All of the pain he looks upon is its result. All of the loneliness and sense of loss; of passing time and growing hopelessness; of sickening despair and fear of death; all these have come of it. And now he knows that these things need not be. Not one is true. For he has given up their cause, and they, which never were but the effects of his mistaken choice, have fallen from him. Teacher of God, this step will bring you peace. Can it be difficult to want but this? 

Corrective measures:

LESSON 114 

For morning and evening review:

(97) I am spirit.

I am the Son of God.

No body can contain my spirit,

nor impose on me a limitation God created not.

(98) I will accept my part in God’s plan for salvation.

What can my function be but to accept the Word of God,

Who has created me for what I am and will forever be?

On the hour:

I am spirit.

On the half hour:

I will accept my part in God’s plan for salvation.

Big Book:

We absolutely insist on enjoying life. We try not to indulge in cynicism over the state of the nations, nor do we carry the world’s troubles on our shoulders.

We are sure God wants us to be happy, joyous, and free. We cannot subscribe to the belief that this life is a vale of tears, though it once was just that for many of us. But it is clear that we made our own misery. God didn’t do it. Avoid

then, the deliberate manufacture of misery, but if trouble comes, cheerfully capitalize it as an opportunity to demonstrate His omnipotence.

The verdict of the ages is that faith means courage. All men of faith have courage. They trust their God. We never apologize for God. Instead we let Him demonstrate, through us, what He can do. We ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be. At once, we commence to outgrow fear.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Why we have to continue going to meetings

In the spiritual realm, to give is to receive, and to receive is to give. They are the same event.

To receive what I need from God I need to be giving it. If I need a particular truth, I must give that truth.

When I share a truth at a meeting, I am giving to a large number of people at once, and that magnifies what I am receiving by the number of people I am giving to.

There are other ways of giving, but this is by far the most efficient.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Qualms and poker-faced spirituality

A bad way to live: fly by the seat of your pants, speak first, reactREACTreact, shoot from the hip, say the first thing that comes into your mouth, emotionally vomit, then worryworryWORRYworryWORRYworryworry about the morality, appropriateness, expeditiousness, kindness, politeness, and judiciousness of what one has said or done.

A good way to live: consider these factors before deciding what to do.

Does it need to be said/done/thought?
Does it need to be said/done/thought by me?
Does it need to be said/done/thought by me right now?

Come to a position of peace first, then move the chess piece.

'Discretion is the better part of valour'
'MMOFB and KMBFMS' [Mind my own * business and keep my big fat mouth shut]
'Restraint of tongue and pen'
'A stitch in time saves nine'
'Don't react: respond'

Purpose, channel, and instrument

The Great Spirit has a purpose to be achieved through me in the world, which consists in universal and unconditional forgiveness.

The channel for the forgiveness is the network of relationships with all other beings in the universe (expressed through work relationships, family relationships, recovery relationships, etc.)

My material circumstances provide an infrastructure for those relationships. They are merely an instrument.

The Great Spirit transcends the instrument and the channel and is capable of achieving the purpose even if the instrument and channels are compromised or altered.

To attach myself to either channel or instrument is an expression of atheism: that the Great Spirit is not all-powerful.

If the definition of the Great Spirit is supreme, unassailable, limitless power and peace, any conception of that Great Spirit that questions or discounts its omnipotence ceases to be a conception of the Great Spirit and demotes it to an artifact of the universe. Its subservience to a greater power eliminates it from the running but demonstrates the existence of a greater power, and we are back at square one: the existence of a and therefore the Great Spirit. For the Great Spirit to exist at all, even in conception, it must by nature be supreme, unassailable, limitless power and peace. Even one fragment or glimpse of its existence thus proves this universality.

This explains first of all the adequacy of even a modicum, a scintilla, an iota, a mustard seed of faith and secondly the Step Two Proposition, which is that God is all or God is nothing (see the chapter We Agnostics in the Big Book).

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Having trouble transcending your bad day?

1940. Second World. Devastation, death, foreboding. Soviet Union. Dmitri Shostakovich, who was aware of and profoundly affected by events in Russia and beyond, wrote this:


If he can summon that level of exuberance and freedom, in those circumstances, anything is possible.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

To drink is to die

The Big Book suggests that, for us, to drink is to die.

Obviously, this does not mean that if I have a glass of whiskey I shall be dead by 8:22 (it is 8:21 now, and there is some whiskey in the cupboard, which belongs to my other half).

What it means is this: if I drink, I could trigger a process I cannot stop, and that process could kill me.

If I had a parcel on my lap, and I was 100% certain it was a bomb that could blow up and kill me at any time, I would promptly remove it to a safe distance.

If I had a parcel on my lap, and I was 1% certain it was a bomb that could blow up and kill me at any time, I would promptly remove it to a safe distance.

The likelihood is irrelevant: the possibility is sufficient.

Therefore, the urgency with which I seek to have and maintain a spiritual awakening is the same regardless of the likelihood: a 1% likelihood (as opposed to a 100% likelihood) does not command 1% urgency: it commands 100% urgency.

Think: Russian roulette, faulty aeroplanes, seat belts, undercooked chicken: a small risk is treated as gravely as a 100% risk.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Step One

Here's a simple breakdown of Step One.

  • I am powerless after the first drink (i): on any drinking occasion, if I start, I am at risk of drinking too much and taking actions I will regret.
  • I am powerless after the first drink (ii): if I start drinking, I might stop after one drink, thirty years, or never.
  • I am powerless before the first drink: left to my own devices, my mind will suggest a drink and I will obey.
The above constitutes alcoholism.

What does that mean?

  • My life is unmanageable: its course is determined by whether or not I drink (over which I am powerless) and then by how much I drink and what I do (over which I am powerless).
  • I have a condition that is fatal.
  • I have a condition that is progressive.
  • I have a condition that is incurable.
So what?
  • I must never drink again.
  • Only a spiritual awakening (= a shift to a reliance on God not self = ego) will stop me.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Power

I came to recovery powerless.

God has given me power. Power is the ability to get things done.

That means God has provided me with the following resources; these I've had to work to acquire, in part:

  • Material resources
  • Autonomy
  • Competence
  • Connections
  • And ... oomph (mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual: inner resources)
This works well. The danger is relying on those rather than on the source. Sometimes these resources fail and I have to go back to relying on the source of the resources rather than the resources themselves.

Only then is peace restored.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Stock

After years of going in and out of sobriety, I needed to have a fundamental change effected within me if I was going to stay sober. I was depressed and anxious because my life was depressing and anxiety-producing, because I had designed it that way, below the level of consciousness. Better living through chemistry, whatever the chemistry, was not the solution.

Everything had to change: beliefs, thinking, and behaviour. The lot. No turning back.

I was miserable, whining, self-pitying, blame-throwing, confused and confusing, misinformed and misled, highly analytical, temperamental, mercurial, querulous, cynical, snide, attention-seeking, and intolerably arrogant despite my manifest failure and incompetence, being largely ineffective in almost all areas of my life; I had no clue how to work, take practical care of my life, or interact in a socially acceptable and healthy way with other people, let alone ‘have a nice day’. No wonder I drank.

I guess there are other systems for effecting systematic, comprehensive change in one’s morals and literally every value, strategy, and tactic one employs in one’s life, but, for want of anything more compelling to hand, I found the most spiritually and practically successful people I could in AA and submitted to the long process of exhaustive (and exhausting) change, under their guidance.

Just going to meetings and sharing my feelings with other people at meetings was completely ineffective at bringing about sobriety, rewiring my mind, and reconstructing my life from scratch. AA’s Steps, with the best instruction available, Traditions, Concepts, Home Group, Service, Sponsorship, Al-Anon, the whole deal, front of the queue, front of the bus, with the busiest, most gung-ho, positive, go-getting, and uncompromising people in AA served me incredibly well, and still does today. As soon as I started the process with dedication and absolute surrender, the relapsing stopped. Dead. Then and there.

If nothing else works, that is worth a try. It's worked for me for > 25 years. I’m clean, competent, and calm and a very happy customer.

Pause

Do I have to respond straight away?

No, unless there is a genuine urgency (e.g. a train will leave, a filing deadline will be missed, action has to be taken).

Does other people's anger or impatience constitute urgency?

No.

I'm always allowed to think before I respond, and if there is no urgency I will take the time I want.

Those boundary types

There are different types of boundary.

Type 1: about you
a. Stop doing X.
b. Start doing X.
c. Do X, but differently.

Type 2: about me
a. I can't.
b. I won't.

Type 2 is relatively easy, as their implementation is up to me. Flexibility around the margins and dynamic adaptability to circumstances are required.

Type 1 is harder to implement as it requires cooperation.

How to implement a type-1 boundary:

(i) Make a polite request
(ii) Offer a transaction ('If I ..., will you ...?')
(iii) Covertly alert them to a consequence
(iv) Overtly alert them to a consequence
(v) Use force

99.9% of the time, (1) and (2) are suitable.

(iii), (iv), and (v) are suitable rarely, e.g.

(iii) Not responding to aggressive texts but responding to pleasant ones.
(iv) 'If you carry on shouting, I will put the phone down.'
(v) Calling the police, blocking someone in electronic forms of communication and interactions including on social media, taking necessary action without consultation or permission, etc.

It is usually best to escalate to (iii), (iv), and (v) only once (i) and (ii) are thoroughly exhausted. I bear in mind that others have the right to turn down requests or offers.

In these situations, focus entirely if possible on future action, not on criticism of past action. This ensures the conversation is constructive and non-accusatory.

Is it controlling?

Asking people to do things: is it controlling?

If the request is legitimate and the means are legitimate, then no.

Control is a defect where I am overstepping the bounds of what it is legitimate to request of others or to ask others to put up with, or where I overstep the bounds in terms of method (e.g. shouting or insinuating where a calm, plain request would suffice).

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Entry-level spirituality

The realm of spirituality has an entrance price. The price is the acceptance of this basic truth:



In case you were not around in AD 180 when this was written, you might have heard Hamlet saying this on stage in 1609:
'for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so'.
Anyway, because both Marcus Aurelius and Shakespeare bothered to write this down, you can be just as far ahead just by reading this post. Other, earlier, writers also said the same, and Marcus Aurelius was certainly the product in part of an earlier philosophical tradition originating in Greece. Anyway.

What's this the correction to?

The idea that how I feel is affected in any way by anything outside of myself. All resentment and fear is a projection of an inner state onto the outer world and is fundamentally delusional. Ditto the sense of the 'wrongs' of others.

One can perform actions from within the realm of spirituality all one wishes and for as long as one wishes, but without the acceptance of this fundamental truth such actions will at best produce temporary relief and at worst, confusion and conflict.

So: if you still believe that anything outside of you is affecting you, rewind to AD 180 (or earlier if you're a fan of Epictetus) and revise what has been known for two millennia at least. Then, and only then, will any genuine spiritual progress be possible.

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.