About Me

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I have recovered from the disease of Alcoholism. I believe there is only one person really,.. everybody. And that peace of mind is everything. -So treat your neighbor as you would treat yourself, because your neighbor IS yourself. I think most of recovery is what I would call common sense, but that learning to be ordinary is a true gift very few people acquire. My ambition is to accept everything unflinchingly, with compassion, and therefore be intrinsically comfortable in my own skin, no matter what. I am comfortable being uncomfortable and am willing to go to any lengths to improve my life. I believe the Big Book was divinely inspired, and is extraordinarily powerful. Unfortunately AA's best kept secret a lot of the time. (In my opinion). I just try to do what works, no matter what it is.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Prayers in unexpected places

Love, lift me out of these blues
Won't you tell me something true
I believe in you

This is from the U2 song Elevation. I can see the entire song as a prayer, but my favorite bit is this. I love the whole 'song as prayer' thing. Well it works for me anyhow. I love the 'hidden' prayers in things. They seem to be everywhere sometimes. Like Kenny's street sign not so long ago. (See recovery road blog to see the street sign thing)
Anyway just thought I'd share that. So many songs are full of wonderful prayers.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

'Top up' Remedies to 'smooth' the impact of Step 11

Step 11 when done in the company of senior monastics can be quite 'aggressive' meaning it can bring about quite powerfully felt upheavals. This is not always the case. It is an entirely unpredictable phenomenon. But generally, given the high level of denial in your average alcoholic, plus the lack of experience with fully-felt emotions, it is fairly predictable that (eventually) the average alcoholic will feel things in a way which (for them) may seem quite strong. Don't worry if you seem to have NO reaction. Like I say, it's totally unpredictable. It's not unusual for monastics (for instance) to spend a long time finder the 'right' community to join. What I mean is, its very personal.
Also, certain traditions are more accessible than others. For instance if you were drawn to the shamanic American Indian tradition, you would be hard pushed to find a good or inspiring teacher in England. But who knows as I haven't researched that in much detail. You don't really choose these things. They choose you. But it is safe to say that we have some VERY HIGH CALIBER teachers on our doorstep so we are very lucky. The Good Retreat Guide is FULL of GREAT places to try out.

This is why I emphasize seeking out competent and ideally senior meditation groups and monastics as they make this transition easier than if you were to try to do it on your own. The aim is to process some of the 'backlog', even though it doesn't feel very nice! And then just get better at feeling things without making the feelings into a problem (in respect to your thoughts about them.)

These supplementary Step 11 therapies are for when you are NOT in meditation groups. Ie all the rest of the time! These are soft, fluffy 'mild' therapies which will make for an easier time. Otherwise you can become a bit of a grouch! They're very good, don't get me wrong, its just I see them as a SECONDARY device, rather than the 'main event'.
This is sensible practice even if you feel FINE or blissed out after doing step 11, and if you start going on retreats you will find these therapies are pretty much 'standard issue' supports for any meditation practice, that 'normal' happy people use. Its' just sensible.

When you're 'processing' a lot of 'stuff' (usually due to doing a lot of step 11), I think you should 'up' the usage of 'energetic medicine' for want of a better word.
This stuff is what I call 'fluffy', meaning it takes the 'edge' off strong 'stuff'. Its therapeutic and feels nice. Its sort of like a portable monastery! It should change the energy of your self and (in terms of the oil burners), your home too.
This only really applies to people who are doing 'proper' retreats. Unless of course you find yourself experiencing strong re emergence of 'stuff' without the aid of retreats. In which case go ahead!
By and large this is for post step 9 only, as you don't really want to be mucking around with this stuff before then, just in case it sets the step 11 ball rolling prematurely. Which would NOT be a good idea!

That would include
Regular healing. Ie NFSH. Hey its FREE!
Physical therapies. Such as
Chi Kung, ('standing like a tree' as they call it. Can be done at home easily in front of the telly) All you need is the book 'The way of Energy'. Its really easy to do. It is a form of healing, but self generated. Also just ten minutes a day can be good.
Shiatsu Treatments (See Zen school at Old Street). They are very cheap, one Saturday morning a month. Also fri eve class is cheap.
Also, this book showing Polarity Therapy Exercises is excellent. It shows you, among other things, how to do the Taoist Arch. Very short and sweet exercises.
Look up physical therapies in the Topics listing for reference.

I would also use energetic remedies such as Australian Bush Flower Creams:/Sprays:. Or Bach flower creams if you prefer those. I prefer the Australian Bush flower range as I'm more familiar with them and I think their uses are very 'contemporary'. Meaning they address 'modern' issues.
But basically I just never really got to know the Bach flower range. I've seen the rescue remedy cream but never tried it.
You can either get them from GOOD health food shops, or the London Homeopathic Hospital Pharmacy on Great Ormond Street. Open 9 till 5pm.

Aromatherapy at home. In the form of oil burners. Buy essential oils from fragrant earth ONLY and DEEP oil burner basins from culpepper in Covent garden. Read Subtle Aromatherapy book so you know how to use them. BE CAREFUL WITH THEIR USE AS THEY CAN BE TOXIC WHEN EXPOSED TO THE SKIN DIRECTLY.
And be careful with candles!!!
Equal quantities of Lavender and Vetiver is a good home combo. It does a bit of everything.

Protective use of the Green Tara Mantra whilst 'out and about', if you are becoming sensitive to other people and it doesn't feel very pleasant!
Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha
You can buy a mala from Watkins if you like using the mantra in conjunction with that. But its not necessary. It helps if you get a nice picture of a green Tara from Watkins though.

Also if you go to the mind body spirit show they sell a greater range of sprays than you would find in the average health food shop, some which work very well. Same theory as other flower essences.

I've tried these: ones and I thought they were lovely. I think most brands work in the main. Al the ones i've bought seem to work pretty well anyway. Just try out some and see if they have any effect.

And last but not least, I strongly recommend increased use of active imagination 'conversations' with 'wise beings' as a useful tool to supplement what you are doing with your meditation practice. You are going to need additional support, and this kind of work is very personal so its not always easy to do with your normal channels. Active imagination is very portable, accessible. and free! Its basically a modified version of having a chat with your higher power. So WELL within your capability!

And it goes without saying that basic books on meditation like 'a path with heart' are 'standard issue'. Otherwise you wont have a clue what's happening!

There are a MILLION different ways, (some VERY expensive) of doing this stuff as you will find out when you attend something like the mind body spirit festival. Also some expensive charlatans! These are just some easy and effective ones you can try yourself.

Obviously it's up to you how much extra support using these things you plan on using, but the more you do things which make you feel good, the more step 11 'work' you can 'take on board'. Use a bit of common sense though! If all the step 11 is getting a bit much you can offset the effects by absorbing your attention in distracting things such as cinema, food, tv, ANY distraction will have this effect somewhat. I'm just saying you don't have to go at step 11 'full tilt' all the time. You can ease up on it, from time to time, if you find it makes you feel better. Its entirely up to you, and is already covered pretty well in the book 'spiritual emergency', so I don't need to repeat it here.
Spiritual Emergency: When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crisis Stanislav Grof

Also homeopathy is EXPENSIVE and requires word of mouth recommendation to avoid getting a 'duff' one, but they can prescribe remedies specifically designed to address energetic weaknesses in the body. But im inclined to see how you get on on your own steam as I know some very respectable practitioners who use these things. So don't think of them as the 'cheap seats'. They are as good as anything else you would pay for if you apply yourself to them.

Don't be slavish about this stuff. Just try it and see what works for you.

Oh yeah. And BOG STANDARD EXERCISE is HIGHLY recommended as a VERY EFFECTIVE REGULATORY TOOL too. The more 'heavy' the work you are doing, the more you need to be in the gym on the step machine!!
Exercise is fabulous for everything really. Its a great ally. In every sense.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Paradoxes in AA: The apparent SELFISHNESS of being UNSELFISH. And others..

The comments I got earlier about getting to grips with seeming paradoxes in AA, (The apparent SELFISHNESS of being UNSELFISH in the AA tradition for instance) reminded me of a time when I thought there was only ONE answer to things. A RIGHT answer and a WRONG answer.
It took a while to see the existence of contradictions. Seemingly contradictory 'truths'. Not just in AA, but in life generally. I cant remember when it happened exactly, but there did come a point when I stopped looking for the ONE AND ONLY right answer. Now I see many (seemingly contradictory) 'right' answers to any ONE problem.
Part of my desire to find only ONE answer to things was fuelled by a deep lying insecurity that I would not find the 'right' answer. In truth this was a reasonable fear, as I HAD spent many years trying to find a solution, and failing. Simply to become more and more agonized in the process. So it is hardly surprising that there was a lot of anxiety about finding the 'right' answer!
As I became more secure in my recovery, I just stopped being threatened or offended by other world views. My 'house' wasn't build on sand anymore. It was built on rock. So it was safe to explore other interpretations. I no longer feared extinction if I got it 'wrong'.
I find rigidity both in myself and in the other people I come into contact with seems to be rooted mainly in FEAR. A DEFINITE view just doesn't seem rational to me any more, as I simply could not subscribe to the view THAT ALL OTHER INTERPRETATIONS ARE WORTHLESS. So instead I see a degree of truth in many different viewpoints.
It takes time and work to create a 'safe place' in ones own recovery, that allows us to consider new ideas without fear of extinction. But I much prefer being free to think in many different ways. Being secure enough in myself to be flexible I suppose.

Some other contradictory AA 'truths' would be
Surrender to win
Give it away to keep it
It is in giving that we receive

Alternative Xmas Plan No1. Invite a newcomer to join you for Xmas dinner

Just an idea, if you are making a xmas dinner and have room for one more at home...

Look around now for new people to ask.
Look especially for the ones who have the GREATEST DIFFICULTY with their family. Or who are the most disturbed by being around their family.
Or the person with the least amount of family members left.

What I'm saying is don't just pick people you 'like', try to look for the person 'most in need', and start there. Prioritize!
Some are in GREATER NEED OF INCLUSION than others! Be mindful of differing circumstances and try to pitch at the best choice. The most 'worthy' case.
Or alternatively, the person who you think WOULD BENEFIT THE MOST from being included at your dinner. The more you think they would progress, the higher they are on your 'rating'.

Here's a clue
If they like you they tend to respond better. So someone that likes you is a better choice than someone who clearly doesn't like you.
If they are very cynical about other people's motives, something like this could completely change the way they view the world, or aa. So that's quite a significant change.
Someone who is CONVINCED that they are 'rejection material' would be REALLY affected by an invitation like this. The effect on them could be quite profound.
Someone whose family are all dead. This would blow them away.
Someone with a very disturbed and violent family background. This would be a VERY powerful insight for them as to what it COULD be like in a healthier environment.
A woman who has lost custody of her children since last xmas and so will be having the first xmas alone.
A woman who is having her first xmas as a widow.
A mother who is having her first xmas after losing a child.
Etc etc. I think you get the drift here. The idea is to think of how this might HELP them, and try to pick the person/people you think will have the MOST affect on. The MORE they benefit from this act, the more 'good karma points' you will earn!! (well that's how I see it anyway)

Use common sense please! Don't bite off more than you can chew!
It's just one idea. I've got loads of alternative xmas plans, but I just thought I'd start with this one. Don't think this is the ONLY thing you can do different. It isn't!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Pleasantly Surprised by others Behavior? Then you must be UNDERESTIMATING people generally

When we are 'pleasantly surprised' by others it means we have DIM view of others. we are 'pitching too low' in our estimation. We are NOT seeing reality in 20 20 vision.
I happen to have this tendency. I expect very little from other people. This is unrealistic and wrong. Its just my default way of observing things. A negative habit.

I will know when i have changed for the better when instead of being pleasantly surprised, I find I am disappointed more often instead.
I have not reached that point yet. In the meantime I remind myself that I generally underestimate people, when I find myself taking a view of them. Meaning I take the view that they are probably much nicer than I imagine them to be.

If you are of the more gullible, idealistic, trusting mindset and find yourself being almost continually disappointed. Then you too are wrong. Except you need to remind yourself that people are not always as nice as you think they are, but only really when you enter into arrangements with them. When their life could affect yours, or someone you really care about. Otherwise no. why not over estimate people? Does no harm!

Either way, the reminders help both to become more realistic.

Boundaries: How to change 'The Rules of the Game', (with example..)

Figure out what is it EXACTLY that is bugging you about something that person does.
It's usually a recurring event.
When you are at home, doing your own thing and AWAY FROM THAT PERSON OR SITUATION, decide what 'alternative arrangement' you would prefer. What 'other thing' would you like?
Make the request into a POLITE REQUEST STATEMENT. This may take a while to figure out exactly as tact and consideration are involved.
There's a great deal of skill in making polite requests in such a way THAT DOES NOT OFFEND OR BLAME.
Blaming is rubbish and just creates more problems. Besides, as AA tells us, we are usually TALKING OUT OF OUR A**E when we are angry. Well I am anyway! I don't know about you. I always think I am a demented Looney frothing at the mouth when I am experiencing anger. Even if the thing that I am objecting to is TOTALLY AWFUL BEHAVIOUR.
Why do I think that? Because you never see the Dalai Lama lose the rag with the Chinese. That's why. Now there IS a sane individual!

Ok. Plan your 'request statement' IN ADVANCE. And just 'wait in the undergrowth' for the person to do the thing THAT REALY ANNOYS YOU again. They will! They always do! You could probably set your watch by it!
Next time you chat to them, just wait for the SAME OLD SAME OLD to come up again.

No doubt they will probably seem momentarily surprised. They might go 'Oh'.
Before they get a chance to counter, debate, or argue the point, just say 'Yeah, I'd much prefer it if you could do that, I know it might seem a bit weird! Is that ok?
Cool. (Job done!)

Then the NEXT time they do it, (They ALWAYS do!) you just need to smile and give them THAT LOOK and say 'Remember that conversation we had?' they say 'oh yes'. You say , 'Well then I wont need to repeat myself then, will I? (I always try to do these things in good humor, with a friendly smile)
See? No drama!

Why do I know this, BECAUSE I FORGOT MY 'RULES OF ENGAGEMENT' recently, and did it in a 'clunky' way instead. Doh! See I don't meet ANY boundary crashers these days, and so I had forgotten my ROUTINE.

Oh well
I'll give you MY example to show you how I SHOULD have done it.

Problem. Nosey Girlfriend (not on a 'spiritual path' as such.) I used to talk to her about 'guy stuff', both hers and mine. But although I knew she meant well insofar as she tried very hard to find solutions for me, I found her feedback and ensuing questions increasingly irritating. I was not happy with her MOTIVE on both counts.
I felt her motive to FIX was coming from her INABILTY TO TOLERATE DIFFICULTY, and I suspected her motive for REPEATEDLY asking me about my state of affairs was GRATUITOUS CURIOSITY. Either way, it wasn't working.

So what I SHOULD have said was...
(Me) ' You know X, I know you really care about me, and in truth you have been a very loyal and reliable friend to me, but I'm afraid I would MUCH rather PREFER IT if you STOPPED asking about these things when we get together.
If there's something I REALLY think you NEED TO KNOW, I WILL tell you. But in the meantime, PLEASE stop questioning me about it. Ok?'

Dissent of some sort. 'Oh don't be silly, sure I'm only asking' etc

(Me) 'Really. I would really appreciate it if you would do that from now on.'

If continued dissent..

(Me) 'If its any help, I used to get upset when girlfriends didn't tell me ALL about their personal stuff. I fell out with someone a while back over it. I was pretty mad! Since then I have learned that THEY ARE UNDER NO OBLIGATION TO TELL ME ANYTHING. And I respect that. Sorry if that seems strange to you. It seemed strange to ME when I was mad at MY friend. But I can see it differently now, and I take an entirely different view.
Of COURSE we're still friends! Its just for the time being I would prefer it if you stop asking me about this.'

Even if you are feeling REALLY PISSED OFF by their objections or protestations. DO NOT SHOW IT. Be CALM AND REASONABLE. But NOT a APOLOGETIC DOORMAT. Just don't froth at the mouth or say something WITHOUT THINKING when you are 'mad'. BECAUSE YOU WILL PROBABLY SAY SOMETHING CLUMSY AND BADLY THOUGHT OUT. Ie CRAP!

Do you see?
Yet ANOTHER example of 'you snooze you lose'
Life is not for sissies or lightweights! We have to pay attention EVERY DAY. And there are NO days off!! If we don't get these things RIGHT we just CREATE MORE PROBLEMS FOR OURSELVES. Ah well..

CLUMSY, unkind speech is SO easy to do, when we are angry, because we just aren't very good at THINKING CLEARLY and OBJECTIVELY when our blood is boiling... We always end up doing a very second class job of it..

But that would have ESCALATED the problems somewhat!!!!
Hahaaaa hhaa Sorry I know that's really cheeky but I just thought that was funny. I couldn't resist putting that in... lol
Sorry if that seems terribly 'unspiritual', but I use lots of irreverent, cheeky speech (mostly to myself) to have a laugh about things when something is annoying me. Its one of my 'tricks' for changing my mood. Humor is very powerful. (Not in a way that hurts someone, only in a 'third party' way)

Also if they get nasty. I get firmer and more business-like. Otherwise I keep the mood as light as possible.
If they become antisocial, I leave them alone with a phrase along the lines of 'I think we should leave this for now and continue this conversation when you have cooled down'. Then I LEAVE. I don't tolerate any CRAZYNESS. Loonies ranting or frothing at the mouth NEED TO BE LEFT ALONE! But I very rarely have to deal with this.

Anyway, hope that helps you understand the whole boundary thing. I do it another way too, but this is my main method.

Friday, November 17, 2006

TALK IS CHEAP. Who are your REAL friends?

TALK IS CHEAP. And boy do we LOVE to talk in AA!!
Oh yes. We get very good at TALKING
Not necessarily much else unfortunately...

Think about it..
Who can you REALLY rely on?
Who can you think of, that if you asked them to do you a favor, would do it for you?
Who would agree to help without even really thinking about it?
Who would hum and ha, and say 'I MIGHT be able to, but I'm just not sure, you see I have a lot going on myself' etc etc
Who would agree and then be flaky about it. Either change their mind, let you down, or forget?

Who could you call at 3 in the morning if you HAD NO CHOICE but to call at 3 in the morning because of the particular difficulty you were having?
Who do you INSTINCTIVELY prefer not to ask, because you feel you are a sort of 'burden' if you do?

Who offers to help you WITHOUT BEING ASKED?
Who offers to lend you things if you say you like something WITHOUT BEING ASKED?
Who never whinges or complains about the things you asked them to do? Ie never runs a GUILT TRIP on you afterwards. So that you always feel you 'owe' them.
Basically, who is a GENEROUS SPIRITED, KIND HEARTED PERSON amongst your friends and acquaintances?

They are not comfortable questions are they?
Isn't it weird the answers you get?
Sometimes we have really wonderful devoted people in our lives that WE JUST DON'T NOTICE, or WE FAIL TO APPRECIATE THEIR TRUE WORTH.

This reminds me of the story GREAT EXPECTATIONS by Charles Dickens. What a great book!
Young Pip is 'seduced' by the glitz and glamour of 'high society' London life. He becomes embarrassed and a bit ashamed of his 'country bumpkin' dad. Only later when he gets very sick, (scarlet fever or something pretty serious) does he see the 'error of his ways'. As when he comes out of his delirium, he finds his dad dutifully caring for him, having been there for ages. His dad doesn't complain, or make Pip feel bad for avoiding him while he pursued his glamorous life in London. He is totally forgiving, and just takes care of him.
Its such a sweet story!

Anyway, like Pip, we too can get 'seduced' by 'clever', 'glittery' things, (or people) and LOSE SIGHT OF WHAT IS REALLY IMPORTANT.
We can all FOOL OURSELVES about WHO THE REALLY IMPORTANT PEOPLE IN OUR LIVES ARE. And how HOLLOW and meaningless some of our 'valued alliances' are.

The world is FULL of people that say stuff, but when push comes to shove, ...well they don't come through for you.
MOST PEOPLE have VERY FEW 'proper' friends. REAL people you can count on. this is NORMAL.
Coming to terms with that reality can seen very disillusioning if you are an IDEALIST. but if this is the first time you are seeing this, it could seem like an unwelcome realization. nearest and dearest come FIRST. then a very few others. and that's it! the rest are very superficial friendships and mean very little, as the true commitment does not run very deep.
You can 'test' the commitment by asking for something from them and seeing if they actually 'deliver' what you ask. Its a depressing state of affairs! People are better at saying they will help, than actually coming through with whatever help is needed. This is why family/nearest and dearest is SO important, because you CAN rely on them. well more than most ''friends' anyway.
Sorry if that makes you more miserable, but I remember feeling very deflated when i realized that many of the AA friends who I felt VERY fond of, were not really people I could rely on for simple favors in the rare event that i might need some practical assistance with something. Now I just accept it and focus on the people who I know WILL go out of their way for me. (should I need them to)

Related quotes would be..
WALK THE WALK, not talk the talk
Actions speak MUCH louder than words

Never EVER think, that just because someone 'sounds good', that that means they ARE 'good'. They might not be. They just might SOUND convincing, but be UTTERLY INDIFFERENT to your 'lot'

NOT by how you FEEL about them, or the IMPRESSION you have about them, based on an UNTESTED ASSUMPTION ABOUT WHAT SORT OF A PERSON THEY REALY ARE.

Boundaries. Surplus Expectations of Sponsorship. What a Sponsor is NOT

As you (meaning my Sponsees) are such prolific sponsors yourselves, I believe you will find this information VERY useful. You are at liberty to choose your own sponsorship style (of course!) BASED ON YOUR EXPERIENCE, but this is the general way I view sponsorship. Its important to know roughly what you are obliged to do, and what is a CHOICE. So hope this helps..

Boundaries are TERRIBLY important when it comes to being a sponsor. If you don't use them you will very quickly become railroaded into unwanted responsibilities and you will end up pretty resentful on the demands on your time.

What a Sponsor is NOT under ANY OBLIGATION to be or do.
A sponsor is not....

A dumping ground. Someone to 'dump' on
A 'bleating' opportunity
A ranting opportunity
Someone to listen to war stories for hours
Someone to feel sorry for you, or pity you

A surrogate Mother

A debating society
Someone to 'argue the toss' with
Someone to tell all your 'yes buts' to
Someone to to be honest 'IN AN UNKIND OR INCONSIDERATE WAY' to

Someone to 'fix' you
Someone to make you 'feel better'
Someone who 'owes' you
Someone to blame for not 'fixing' you.

Someone to motivate, cajole, persuade you to follow suggestion.
Someone to explain to you WHY you should follow suggestion
Someone to make you want to get well
Someone to make you willing to take direction

Someone to do your thinking for you.
Someone to read and study spiritual texts for you, so that you don't have to bother.

A mortgage adviser
A property finder
A small business adviser
A financial adviser
A life coach
Someone to give medical advice
A crisis manager
A nutritionist or exercise advisor
A dietician

A Therapist
A person to help you choose a therapist
Someone to explain 'what therapy is', to you
Someone to identify and explain your personality weaknesses to you

A relationship therapist
Someone to help you find a new boyfriend or get rid of an old one.

Someone to tell you how to find a plumber, hairdresser, etc
A problem solving brain stormer
A 'life manager'

Your 'friend'
Someone to chat to for no reason in particular
Someone to hang out with
Someone to chat to when you are bored, needy or lonely
Someone to go shopping with
Someone to invite you round for dinner
Someone to have you round to stay at their house

Your 'guru'
A person who knows the answers to all your problems
Someone to tell you what to do with your life
Someone to make your decisions for you
Someone who is responsible for making all your decisions for you

Someone to provide constant reassurance
Someone to provide regular compliments
Someone to tell you look pretty or you are not fat

A sponsor CAN (if they really want to, or feel that on certain occasions it would be beneficial) to be ANY or all of those things,

If a sponsor feels that ON CERTAIN OCCASIONS certain ADDITIONAL information would be useful, then IT IS PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE FOR THE SPONSOR TO ASSUME OTHER 'JOBS' temporarily. WHEN THEY CHOOSE TO.
So basically these jobs are an optional CHOICE decided on a case by case basis. BUT SPONSORS ARE NOT OBLIGATED TO DO THEM.

So what IS a Sponsor? I hear you ask..
Well. The PRIMARY PURPOSE of sponsoring
Is to TAKE YOU THROUGH STEPS ONE TO NINE, and teach you how to maintain your recovery using the MAINTENANCE STEPS ten to twelve.

Why do they do this?
So that you can 'have a spiritual awakening as a result of doing the steps' that will enable you STAY STOPPED. So that you need NEVER DRINK AGAIN.

That is the point of doing the steps, and that is why we sponsor people.

"OUR PRIMARY PURPOSE is to STAY sober and HELP other ALCOHOLICS to ACHIEVE sobriety." (From The AA Preamble)


OBVIOUSLY there are MANY different ways that people CHOOSE to sponsor.
This explanation is a VERY PERSONAL INTERPRETATION of how I have chosen to view sponsorship based on the experiences I have had in the last 20 years.

My priorities are to prevent people from drinking themselves to death FIRST. And EVERYTHING else comes second, and is essentially a bonus. Because most people I know who sponsor are very busy and have jobs and lives to manage, I do NOT endorse endless problem solving as an aspect of sponsorship once the Sponsee has completed the first nine steps, as it just takes up time and has gone WAY beyond the 'drinking oneself to death' phase. Once they are 'safe' from drink. They do not need a 'life manager'. I encourage people to ask advice from the VAST POOL OF WISDOM in aa, if they have a 'specialist query' after step 9.
Besides, GOD HELP you if you choose to sponsor in this fashion as a 'default style'. I promise you, you WILL grow to resent it. Either that or you will have NO CHOICE but to sponsor VERY FEW PEOPLE. I have chosen to adopt ADDITIONAL responsibilities on a case by case basis, AS A SHORT TERM MEASURE, but I do NOT assume responsibility for those other areas as a DEFAULT position.

So this is just to help you 'see' what the OBJECTIVES are (as I see it) of sponsoring people. I am NOT speaking for AA as a whole when I say these things. It is a programme of attraction not promotion. It is not for people who NEED it, it is for people who WANT it.
DO NOT FEEL that you are OBLIGED to choose this type of sponsorship. You are not. WE ALL HAVE FREE WILL IN AA SO PLEASE USE YOURS!

Be guided by results not reasoning. I chose my sponsor because she was (and still is) able to render 'prodigies of service', AND STILL HAVE A LIFE.
I have never wanted to be like people who (as a result of sponsoring), compromised the quality of their own lives, or just didn't HAVE a life.
I 'did not want what they had'. This is very personal.

If you think you DO want or expect a great deal more from your sponsor than being instructed how to achieve PERMANENT SOBRIETY, ask yourself IN ALL HONESTY, whether you are willing to offer that to ALL your Sponsees in return. We are instructed to draw FROM OUR EXPERIENCE, not our OPINIONS, based on what other people do. If ALL YOU REALLY KNOW IS ONE TYPE OF SPONSORSHIP BASED ON A MULTITUDE OF TASKS over and above the twelve steps, then you will have NO OTHER CHOICE, but to draw from THAT experience when you sponsor people yourself. Ie you are 'stuck' with ONE frame of reference (meaning experience) to draw from.


Breathing in,
I see myself as a flower,
I am the freshness
of a dewdrop.
Breathing out,
my eyes have become flowers.
Please look at me.
I am looking
with the eyes of love.

Breathing in,
I am a mountain,
Breathing out,
I feel solid.
the waves of emotion
can never carry me away.

Breathing in,
I am still water.
I reflect the sky
Look, I have a full moon
within my heart,
The refreshing moon of the bodhisattva.
Breathing out,
I offer the prefect reflection
of my mirror mind.

Breathing in,
I have become space
without boundaries.
I have no plans left.
I have no luggage.

Breathing out,
I am the moon
that is sailing through the sky of utmost emptiness.
I am freedom.

From the book: Call me by my true names, The collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh

I really don't know why, but I just love his poems.
These images can be used for meditation when you follow the breath. A much simpler version is used in his books about mediation.

Physically sick? Need Healing? Try the Medicine Buddha Mantra!

"If one meditates on the Medicine Buddha, one will eventually attain enlightenment, but in the meantime one will experience an increase in healing powers both for oneself and others and a decrease in physical and mental illness and suffering."
—Lama Tashi Namgyal

If you're sick here's a mantra which might help. It won't do any harm anyhow, that's for sure.
Obviously this is something I would expect you to do IN ADDITION TO CONVENTIONAL MEDICINE! Don't go canceling your heart surgery to do this mantra!
I use it for other people if I visit them in hospital or who are just sick and I used it once for my cat!
Like all mantra's I find it takes a few days of 'doing it' for it to 'warm up'. Just getting the word right takes a while! What I did with this one was leave my CD player on 'repeat one track' when I was home and just kind of sang along till I felt I could do it on my own. Or just stick it on your ipod on repeat, till you can do it on your own.
I do find that they really feel different if you just think them instead of saying them out loud. It 'comes alive' or something when the voice is used.
Anyway. Mantras aren't exactly an exact science. Just hold your intention (to be of benefit to all sentient beings) and do your best and see what happens! I never really try to get in to the exact translation of the mantra. I just try to hold a healing intention and sort of 'get into the groove' of the mantra.
There is LOADS of info on this if you look it up in google so theres not much point in me repeating it here.
The images have significance too. It REALLY HELPS to have the image around when you are using this mantra. It helps you 'access' this Buddha. Wisdom books is one of the best places to buy posters or postcards of Buddhist Deities, but Watkins bookshop always has postcards if you prefer. Or you can put an image on your desktop. Once you have bought the image, they ought to be treated respectfully though. You can't just fling them in the corner of the room. Leave them somewhere nice. With other 'nice' things. Not next to a book on war criminals for instance! A sunny window ledge will do, overlooking a tree perhaps. Whatever. I'm sure you get the drift!
There is no empowerment is required to use this mantra so don't worry that you are breaking a rule!
You don't need to believe in these things in order for them to work. Its the same as the aa programme. Its just 'a programme of action', only in this case the 'action' is the mantra, instead of the 12 steps.

Buy this CD it's GREAT!
It's called Rain of Blessings by Lama Gyurme
You can even buy it on iTunes!
One of the BEST tracks is the 'Medicine Buddha Mantra' track

This is the correct spelling of the Medicine Buddha Mantra

This is the way I pronounce it.
(I picked up the pronunciation and the rhythm from the CD Track)

Tay Ya Ta
Om Beck-an-ze Beck-anze
Ma-ha Beck-an-ze Ran-za
Sa-Mu-Ga-Tay So-Ha

Here's a link which explains quite a lo about the medicine buddha. Alsothis one looks pretty good too.
Disclaimer: Obviously, please ignore this if you can't handle this idea!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I'm sorry but I don't really like AA compliments (for want of a better word) because I find them a bit Ego Feeding

I hate to sound ungracious or be rude in my acceptance of compliments. I understand that they are offered out of kindness and are meant well. Or perhaps are just an amusing turn of phrase. I don't know.

All I know for CERTAIN is that I am DEFINITELY NOT a 'Spiritual Giant'. Whatever that is...
I keep forgetting that people who don't know me in person get to draw their own conclusions about these posts. Most of the time I'm really only thinking of explaining something to sponsees. Or their sponsees, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, without meaning to cause offence to anyone who has said anything complimentary to me on this blog. Because I do see compliments as a form of kindness.
I'm afraid I do not normally encourage people I know to say complimentary things to me. You could say I was not the best person at receiving compliments. But there is more to it than that.

The important thing to know about me, is that if I were to be sponsoring someone, and they were to start putting me or my ideas on a pedestal IN ANY FORM AT ALL, I would very swiftly and certainly make it VERY clear that I do not subscribe to that attitude to ANYONE in AA. And that I think its actually very unhealthy to have that idea about people.
Essentially I do not tolerate that attitude from any of my Sponsees. I think it is bad for them, bad for me, and essentially DISHONEST. The Buddhists would call it 'wrong view'.

I don't really want to labour the point. I understand that this approach may not be commonplace, but I have good reason for choosing it.
The BEST Spiritual life is the ORDINARY life. I REALLY believe that.
I have NEVER admired or looked up to ANYONE who would allow people to put them on a pedestal. I am very passionate about the people I admire and I try very hard to follow in their footsteps, so this is why I choose this approach.

I understand that people who are new-ish in recovery very often are desperately impressed by people in AA. I was when I was new.
I only feel my work with sponsees is complete, or nearing completion when they are very Unimpressed with AA. See AA as very ordinary and simple.
Yes I know it sounds strange, but it makes sense to THEM. After I've taken then through the steps anyway. Its not a common interpretation, I couldn't even begin to explain how I get them to that point. Mostly through step 11 work and mixing with 'well' non alcoholics.

Anyway, sorry if that seems ungracious or rude. I hate to make other people feel awkward when I KNOW they mean well. So thank you. But please, do not make me 'better than' you. I'm not. We REALLY are all the same. I know I describe weird stuff from time to time, but I believe utterly in the ordinariness of the human condition.
Besides, I have been fortunate enough to meet REAL 'Spiritual Giants'. WOW. What can I say? They are in a class all of their own. They are not even remotely 'normal'. I don't think I have met one in AA. I would not expect to find them there to be honest. Just one, that seemed a bit special, but its hard to say because it was a while ago now, and I don't know if my perception was correct. So basically please don't compare me to really cool people, not even in jest. It reinforces spiritual pride for me, and it means you may suffer terribly with disillusionment at a later date when you realize that everybody has terrible flaws.
Who knows. Sorry if that is patronizing. I'm better at having this conversation face to face. Its more awkward to do in this form.
In the AA 'letter of the law'..'what other people think of me is NONE OF MY BUSINESS', so it is NOT my place to comment on your interpretation of what I say. I only say this because I know idealism causes GREAT pain later on, and I hate to condone anything that might reinforce my ego. I really hate my ego! It sucks! I work HARD to make it as insignificant as possible, and its not always easy to do! So please, don't make it any harder for me to keep my STINKY ego at arms length!!!

I DO like it when people say 'I tried that thing you suggested, that I thought sounded like utter sh**e, and it worked! Thanks for that!'
Perhaps that explains the difference. The latter makes the INFORMATION the 'good thing', not me! I am just the 'messenger' passing on what was freely passed on to me. Its like the game 'pass the parcel'. Anyway, my ego is not massaged by the second option. I know I'm a bit unusual in this respect, but please humor me even if you think it all sounds like kack! Thank you!

I don't expect others to share this view. Its just something that I like and have grown used to. I'm sure there is some truth in that I am not very good with compliments, but in addition I am very mindful of anything that reinforces my pride, because it has been a serious liability for me in the past, and I want to encourage it as little as I possibly can. Its one of the reasons I dislike doing chairs, or 'leading a meeting' as you call it.

Besides there will ALWAYS be people who think I am talking utter KACK too! I don't want to encourage bitterness and criticism, but I'm just saying, no matter WHAT I do or say, there will ALWAYS be SOMEONE who PASSIONATELY objects to my worldview and strongly suspects that I may have 666 tattooed on my head someplace... Oh well....
I'm afraid it is indeed IMPOSSIBLE to satisfy everybody's preferences..

Sorry for going on far too long as usual!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

'Stage One' Information: What I TRY (!) to explain to someone in their FIRST MEETING

Or to someone who is VERY new and knows virtually nothing of the AA programme.
This is my 'Newest Newcomer' 'routine', so to speak.. I must have explained it a gazillion times! But it's VERY useful. You'd be surprised how much of a difference this simple information makes. I NEVER proceed to ANY step or sponsorship discussion UNTILL THIS INFORMATION IS ESTABLISHED AND UNDERSTOOD. First things first as they say! Got to cover the bases first!
It is POINTLESS waxing lyrical about the 'wonderful' benefits of the steps IF THEY DO NOT KNOW THIS BASIC STUFF. They do NOT need a sponsor to get this basic information. It can be covered in its entirety in 30mins, and will SIGNIFICANTLY REMOVE THE RISK OF DRINKING until they DO find themselves a sponsor. That is 'stage two!'
I will call this information 'stage one' information.
This is a STOP GAP to keep them safe from alcohol while they look around for a suitable sponsor. This is 'first meeting' material.
Ok, enough of my gasbagging, here's what I go through with them..

I look into their drinking pattern. Once a month? once a day? every hour?
Then I look into how they can avoid THEIR habitual drinking opportunities. (Such as The pub after work, the drink when you get home from work)
(I will go into more detail with this aspect in another post)

I explain that in AA, all we do, is TRY to get to bed TONIGHT, without picking up the FIRST drink. As its the FIRST drink that 'does the damage'. Not the 4th! Or 7th! That if we 'don't pick up the FIRST drink, we can't get drunk!'

I explain there are FOUR things that will make it easier for them to avoid cravings for alcohol

1. Drink plenty of fluids. More than they normally do. Obviously not alcoholic fluids! Tea. Coffee. Fruit juice with water.
Why? Because they may have a craving for alcohol if they are simply thirsty! Drinking fluids may very well remove the craving for alcohol.

2. Don't skip meals. Eat SOMETHING. Even if it's just a piece of toast. Or sips of milk if they can't keep toast down.
I tell them that low blood sugar will create cravings for alcohol, so low blood sugar IS NOT AN OPTION for the time being. I explain that when I was new I put on weight, but that it has all come off since then, so that they do not need to worry. Any weight gain will be SHORT TERM, and is just a temporary 'glitch'.

3. Carry something sweet. If you get a craving, eat something sweet as this often removes cravings.

4. Last but not least. Pick up the phone BEFORE you pick up a drink.

I explain that if it seems like a LONG time till tonight.
That 'Why don't they TRY to not pick up the FIRST drink, JUST FOR THE NEXT HOUR?
Or if that seems too long, then why not TRY not to pick up the FIRST drink, JUST for the next 30mins?
Or if that seems too long, then why not TRY not to pick up the FIRST drink, JUST for the next 10mins?

And I say that when they get to the end of the 10mins, they can simply renew it as they go along

Because, 'It’s a cinch an inch, but it’s hard by the yard'

I say that if they get restless during the 10mins, that they can do one of the four things I mentioned earlier..

1. They could make themselves a cup of tea or have something to drink. With sugar in perhaps.
2. They could Eat SOMETHING. Even if it's just a piece of toast. Or sips of milk if they can't keep toast down.
3. They could Eat something sweet.
4. And Last but not least, Pick up the phone.

I give them my number, and ask for theirs.
If they give me their number, I try to text them or call them briefly just to say hello, WITHIN 24HRS OF TAKING THEIR NUMBER. Because they more than likely will have completely forgotten who I am if I leave it longer than that. Besides, its just more practical, as everyone tends to forget numbers once they have written them down. Not just alcoholics!
When I call it will be just to say hello, and see what meeting they are going to try and get to that evening. Or which meeting they plan on going to next.

I make sure they know the local AA helpline number and what hours it is open.
I make sure they have a newcomers pack
I make sure they have a 'where to find'

I then try to establish the most INFORMED (as opposed to most WELL INTENTIONED but fairly UNinformed) local meetings that they can REASONABLY expect to attend based on their circumstances. I them show them where those meetings are listed in the 'where to find'. I will 'ask around' other 'well' aa's for meeting recommendations if I am not familiar with meetings in another part of town.

I explain 'The Six Things'. And AT A MINIMUM make SURE they understand how to ask a POWER greater than themselves' for a sober day and say thanks at night. (It can be 'the power of AA as a whole', or the power that makes the earth turn). It HAS to be a LOVING concept of a HP. (see Trad 2.) If it is even a little bit judgmental, it’s no good.
The concept of 'the power of AA as a whole', is INSTINCTVELY perceived as being a LOVING rather than a PUNISHING 'power', so it is by FAR the best concept to start with.

I suggest that they get themselves a copy of Living sober and the Big book.
I introduce them to other aa's and ask them to come for coffee after the meeting.

The Just for Today Card

Just for today I will try to live through this day only & not tackle my whole life problem at once. I can do something for twelve hours that would appall me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime.

Just for today I will be happy. Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.

Just for today I will adjust myself to what is & not try to adjust everything else to my desires. I will take my “luck” as it comes & fit myself into it.

Just for today I will try to strengthen my mind. I will study; I will learn something useful; I will not be a mental loafer; I will read something that requires effort, thought & concentration.

Just for today I will exercise my soul in three ways: I will do somebody a good turn & not get found out; if anybody knows of it, it will not count; I will do at least two things I don’t want to do–just for exercise. I will not show anyone that my feelings are hurt; they may be hurt, but today I will not show it.

Just for today I will be agreeable. I will look as good as I can, dress becomingly, talk low, act courteously, criticize not one bit, not find fault with anything & not try to improve or regulate anybody except myself.

Just for today I will have a program. I may not follow it exactly, but I will have it. I will save myself from two pests: hurry & indecision.

Just for today I will have a quiet half hour all by myself & relax. During this half hour, sometime, I will try to get a better perspective on my life.

Just for today I will be unafraid. I will enjoy that which is beautiful & will believe that as I give to the world, so the world will give to me.

The Just for today card is one of 'The Six Things' I was suggested to do every day, AS SOON AS I got to AA. I rate the 6 things very highly! But like most things in life, the more you put in the more you get out.
(The 6 things' are listed on the right hand side)

This is what it says about the just for today card in the '6 things' list...
5. TRY to do ONE of the things on the just for today card.
Think of it as a portable programme. Carry it with you throughout the day. If you become negative, try applying ANY one of the instructions on the card to your situation.

So basically it works on two levels. Firstly as a basic daily 'thing' to do. Can be anything! You can pick the 'easiest' thing to do off the list if you want to.

Secondly, it acts as a 'contingency plan' or 'plan B' when you feel bad during the day. Again its 'use' is that it provides a series of very simple ACTIONS that can be done. And 'action' is the key word, as it is the ACTION that 'saves' us. Not our thinking.
'Practicing these principles in all your affairs' can be as simple as doing stuff off this card when you get stuck. Its a very respectable list. Don't be fooled into thinking its 'junior aa' because it's on a little card.
If you manage to do the stuff on here throughout the course of the day, in MY opinion you are doing VERY well!

Friday, November 10, 2006

You CAN 'duplicate' the Recovery of the First 100 AA Members

Says who?
Says the first 100 members of AA actually!
How come?
Because, the first 100 members tell us QUITE CATEGORICALLY that..

'To DUPLICATE, with such backing, what WE have accomplished is ONLY a matter of willingness, patience and labor'. p163

Doesn't say 'except for Mary, Dave, or Pete' does it? Well then..
How cool is that!
So all those REALLY COOL 'PROMISES' such as..
'We have entered the world of the Spirit'. P84
The joy of living we REALLY have, even under pressure and difficulty. p15
There is scarcely any form of trouble and misery which has not been overcome among us. p15
When we look back, we realize that the things which came to us when we put ourselves in God’s hands were better than ANYTHING we could have planned. p100
There exists among us a fellowship, a friendliness, and an understanding which is INDESCRIBABLY WONDERFUL. p17
We have found much of heaven and we have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed. p25

Apply to YOU!!!!
(provided you 'do' 'willingness, patience and labor.') -in the service of doing EXACTLY what the first 100 members did, as explained in EXTREMELY UNCOMPROMISING STATEMENTS throughout the Big Book. Cool!!

Well that's what I've found!

By the way ''To DUPLICATE, what we have accomplished' does NOT mean I get to go back in time and live as a first 100 member in 1935.
They would have to re write that statement to read ''To DUPLICATE, our lives, EXACTLY as we lived them, including assuming our identities'
But it doesn't say that..
It says ''To DUPLICATE, what we have accomplished'
What did they 'accomplish'?
What are the benefits? I hear you ask..
The 'benefits' are what I call the PROMISES.
I will explain them in another post. But its VERY IMPORTANT that you know what they are.
That why its the FIRST 'job' I give Sponsees.

Just click on the label at the top of the post called Promises' to see the 20 other posts that contain references to them. To perhaps help you figure out what they are. The Topic of Promises is also in the sidebar. Along with all the others.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

In mind of the current political preoccupations...

Seeing as how there's a load of preoccupation on governmental issues at the moment I thought I'd quote these...

We try not to indulge in cynicism over the state of the nations,
nor do we carry the world's troubles on our shoulders. p132

If only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful. p61

He is like the retired business man who lolls in the Florida sunshine in the winter complaining of the sad state of the nation; p61

the minister who sighs over the sins of the twentieth century; p61

politicians and reformers who are sure all would be Utopia if the rest of the world would only behave; p61

Whatever our protestations, are not most of us concerned with ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity? p61

Active Imagination and reasoning with 'Component parts' of self

I don't generally have a 'busy' head these days, but if there WAS something 'rattling around' in there that was bugging me,
I either tell someone about it,
OR, do an 'active imagination' conversation. (See previous posts under label 'prayer')

Or sometimes I just dialogue with the 'rattled' part of my head that is 'bleating'. I 'hear it out' and listen to what it has to say, and then counter its arguments for being distressed with reasoned feedback from my knowledge of recovery. It's like being a good parent to myself.

They all work well in their own way.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Helping Newcomers: If you manage to get this skill right, it's like hitting the jackpot in AA terms

Being kind to difficult people isn't easy! For me it only really works if I'm willing to go to ANY LENGTHS to help them. Half measures pretty much avails me NOTHING.
I often want to give up on new Sponsees. Its a VERY demanding skill. But the best way to learn is trial and error. I've never found it easy. I do it for the benefits to myself. Not because its easy or pleasant. Like most things in life, THE MORE YOU PUT IN, THE MORE YOU GET OUT.
Its the TOP AA suggestion for wellbeing, so its well worth persevering, even though its difficult.
If you manage to get this skill right, it's like hitting the jackpot in AA terms. Why? Because the big book tells us..

Helping others is the foundation stone of your recovery. p97
When ALL other measure failed, work with another alcoholic WOULD save the day. p15
On talking to a man there, I would be AMAZINGLY lifted up and set on my feet. p15
Practical experience shows that NOTHING will so much insure immunity from drinking as INTENSIVE work with other alcoholics. p89
For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could NOT survive the CERTAIN trials and low spots ahead. p14
OUR VERY LIVES, as ex-problem drinkers, depend upon our CONSTANT thought of others and how we may help meet their needs. p20

Having said that I always tell Sponsees to pick the EASIEST newcomer to begin with. As there is a VAST range of mental and emotional deterioration in AA. The easiest are the most willing, not necessarily the least 'damaged'.

Being a doormat is pretty lousy even in GOOD conditions, but when it comes to being a sponsor, well that's just voluntary sufferance of the worst order! I think I learned assertiveness from talking to new people. i don't tolerate any rubbish at all now. but not in a Nazi way! if you know what i mean...

I was told (by old timers in my home group) to practice step 12 (in the form of phoning newcomers every day) as soon as i started my program. I didn't wait till I had done steps 1 till 9 before doing 12. its the most stabilizing thing I know..


A very important person is watching your every action, listening to your every word, and knows your every thought. That person is you.

Imagine yourself a year from now, looking back on today. Imagine your future self being exceedingly thankful for the way you lived this day. Then step forward and live today with that in mind. Think, speak and act in such a way that the person you will become inherits many positive benefits from the person you are right now. Confidence, integrity, strength and effectiveness do not simply appear out of nowhere. They are built by the way you live your life. And now is your opportunity to live in a powerful, positive way that will benefit your life for a long time to come. Now is your chance to make your future self thankful for the empowering paths you choose to take.

-- Ralph Marston

This was shamelessly copied from a post on DAAves Blog I think it's really cool so I've copied it here.

'Too good to be true'. Dealing with Success, and love from other people.

I saw this comment on tkdjunkie's blog. and LOVED it so I'm quoting it here.

tkdjunkie. said
'Blessings are often first greeted with resentment and suspicion. In my mind, anything that seems too good to be true is too good to be true. Anything that seems to exceed my expectations must be a ticking time bomb waiting to go off the moment I trust it.'

This is a NEAR PERFECT description of the (typically negative) 'alcoholic' reaction to success in life, and love from others.
Basically we HAVE A LOT TO LEARN about having a positive attitude to SUCCESS and RECEIVING LOVE from others.

I have found that the more 'success' I experience in recovery, the MORE I experience this type of thinking.

Success is tough!
Stuff like:.

I don't deserve this.
'When a person said they liked me, I knew one of two things. They were either LYING or they were STUPID.'
Fear of death
Fear of 'losing everything'
'a ticking time bomb waiting to go off the moment I trust it.' (tkdjunkie)
Paralysis because you think ANYTHING might trigger a 'collapse'

This is because we are habitually:
Negative. Cynical, fear the worst, expect 'the sky to fall in', distrust other peoples motives, think very little of ourselves and other people. Remind ourselves of our failures.

We need to learn to:
Think better of others and ourselves. Assume other peoples motives are GOOD, not bad. Assume we ARE loveable, even if we cannot see it at all. Say ENCOURAGING things to ourselves. Focus on the positive. Remind ourselves of our little victories.
Trust ourselves
Trust other people. (Well the nice ones anyway!) People are much nicer than we think they are!

Tailor-made helpfulness. Different personalities need different direction.

We’re all a bit different, but I come from the ‘doormat’ end of the personality spectrum, so a LOT of recovery has been about TAKING control. Being a ‘tough’, ‘in charge’ person. -But only with the unreasonable people in my life. It’s only because I know so many alky’s who are quite new and often quite unreasonable, that I have needed this skill. I know long timers as well, but I tend not to bump into them with nearly the same frequency.

I know other women who were loud, bossy, and opinionated from the moment they got to AA!, and they DEFINITELY need to learn how to ’submit’ to the wisdom of others. But I find that the majority of women I meet fall in to the wimp/doormat category.
Unfortunately if you scratch the surface of a doormat, you DO find a RAGING torrent of anger underneath! No doormat ever LIKES being a doormat unfortunately! So don't bee fooled by their 'mild meek' exterior.

Sometimes you get schizophrenic types who have a strong tendency to be wimpy and spineless, but at the same time ARE FAR TOO CONFIDENT FOR THEIR OWN GOOD, and get very INDIGNANT if you suggest to them that they MIGHT just have GOT IT ALL WRONG, in a certain area of their life. !!

I've met them all, and I treat them differently depending on where they are on the Bossy-Wimpy end of the scale!

Different personality types need different step 12 approaches. So bear that in mind when you are trying to help a new person, or any suffering alky really.

Arrogant versus 'Loser' mentality. Where is your 'default position' on the scale?

Think of a scale, or a long piece of string.

Where are you on the scale?
Where are you on the scale at work?
Where are you on the scale in relationships?
Where are you on the scale in AA?
Where are you on the scale with family?
Where are you on the scale with friends?

Can you play both ends of the scale?
If you HABITUALLY INHABIT ONE END OF THE SCALE, (lets say in the area of relationships) can you SWITCH to another 'place' on the scale WHEN THE SITUATION DEMANDS IT OF YOU?


There IS a time for CONCEDING YOU HAVE BEEN AN IDIOT in some respect.

SO DON'T DISMISS THEM AS USELESS. They all come in handy sometime.

The trick is to learn to be FLEXIBLE, and learn to SWITCH when needed.

Examples of 'Arrogant' personality.

Speak up. A lot! As if they are right. (regardless of how much thought or research they have done)
Tend to have confidence in their own judgment,
Tend to think they are RIGHT
Trust their FIRST conclusion.
No flies on me
I'm alright jack
Don't see their own potential for FALLIBILITY

Examples of 'Self doubt' personality.

Don't speak up
No confidence in their own judgment,
Tend to think they are WRONG
Tend to think other people probably know more than they do.
ALWAYS conclude they are SHIT
Always DOUBT their conclusion, even I it's REALLY WELL THOUGH OUT, always notice the FAULT in themselves,
Doesn't feel bad about concluding they are probably mostly wrong, because they just see it as 'normal'.

Sticking with the Winners

there are LOADS of nutcases in AA.
Horse thieves, adulterers, 13th steppers, deeply nasty business people, out and out liars, dangerously violent, wife beaters, you name it!!

I chose a home group that was very 'by the book', very 'obedient' to the programme. Some might have called it a bit repressed. But I think when you're dealing with a lot of SERIOUSLY crazy people. And a lot of them were, (including my mad new self!), that a little repression is actually quite a good thing!!
Men stuck with the men, women stuck with the women. People just talked about the programme. They were very ETHICAL. We had it drummed into us the importance of being HONEST IN ALL OUR AFFAIRS. Etc.
Basically what I am saying is STICK WITH THE WINNERS. Choose meetings based on PRINCIPLES NOT PERSONALITIES. Ie NOT because they are your 'mates', but because they HAVE THE MAXIMUM BENEFIT OF THE PROGRAMME OF RECOVERY that you have found in your locale. I had many hundreds of meetings to choose from, but only 2 meetings seemed to be really 'well'. That's 2 meetings out of 600! Its different now! Thank god. But good recovery isn't very common or widespread. In my opinion!!! (meaning I'm not speaking as though what I'm saying is a statement of fact)
Now I don't care what other AA's do because I feel good even if I never go to meetings. But when I was new and my wellbeing was dependent on attendance at AA meetings, I always went TO THE VERY BEST meetings I could find. 'best' was measured by the CORRELEATION between what they were doing and saying, and what was in the aa programme. Meaning how 'HAPPY JOYOUS and FREE' they were. How RECOVERED they were. How much they KNEW THEIR SUBJECT. How COMMITTED they were to the AA MESSAGE, as opposed to the MANY other 'messages' out there. 'Hazeltwig' and such like...
So you have two choices. Either stick with the horse thieves and bite your lip, or find a meeting WITH A MUCH MORE SUCCESFUL PRACTICE OF THE LIFE SKILL OF HONESTY. Who essentially are 'practicing the principles in all their affairs'. I find most AA's very disappointing to be honest. But if you look around, you'll find some cool people and they are worth the effort of finding.
People who do a lot of service are always a good place to start looking. Look in the local telephone office. The volunteers there might be nice.
This is what's called 'sticking with the winners'. Its VERY important in my opinion. There's NO WAY I would have the recovery I have, if I had not been RUTHLESS about practicing this throughout my recovery.
It's not easy to do! It can feel 'boring' going to 'well' meetings as they all seem so meek and mild compared to the drama queens and stories of sufferance you hear elsewhere. But there is always one total loony in even the most 'well' meeting, so you never really escape the life dramas!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Happy Quotes. From places other than the Big Book

It is a spiritual axiom that EVERY time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with US.
Step 10. 12 Steps and 12 Traditions.

Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?

If you're happy, would you please inform your face!

Sober not Somber

Service is Gratitude in action.

I complained because I had no shoes; until I met a man that had no feet

We don't see things as they are, we see them as WE are.
Anais Nin.

I know for sure that what we dwell on is who we become.

Then he did something else that was to become an A.A. classic. It all went on a little card about golf-score size. The cover read: "Middleton Group #1. Rule #62." Once the card was unfolded, a single pungent sentence leaped to the eye: "Don't take yourself too damn seriously."
Tradition 4. 12 Steps and 12 Traditions

Bludgeoned and beaten into Humility by unremitting suffering.
'We saw we needn't always be bludgeoned and beaten into humility. It could come quite as much from our voluntary reaching for it as it could from unremitting suffering.'
Step 7. 12 Steps and 12 Traditions.

Anger, that occasional luxury of more balanced people, could keep us on an emotional jag indefinitely. These emotional "dry benders" often led straight to the bottle. Other kinds of disturbances--jealousy, envy, self-pity, or hurt pride--did the same thing.
Step 10. 12 Steps and 12 Traditions.

Happiness IS an inside job

Maybe good, maybe bad, who knows?
Taoist Parable.

Neither 'good' or 'bad', 'right' or 'wrong', It just IS.

It's ALL alright.
(Revered Buddhist monk whose name I didn't write down when I heard this quote.)

EVERYTHING is teaching us.
Ajahn Chah

Yesterday’s history. Tomorrow’s a mystery, Today is a Gift, that's why they call it The Present

If the people in your life really DO treat you badly, whose responsibility is it?

If you miss the bus, it wasn't your bus

Happy Big Book Quotes

We are SURE God wants us to be happy, joyous, and free. p133

We aren't a glum lot. p132

We ABSOLUTELY INSIST on enjoying life. p132

There is, however, a VAST amount of FUN about it all. p16

The joy of living we REALLY have, even under pressure and difficulty. p15

We think cheerfulness and laughter make for usefulness. p132

If newcomers could see no joy or fun in our existence, they wouldn't want it. p132

When ALL other measure failed, work with another alcoholic WOULD save the day. p15

On talking to a man there, I would be AMAZINGLY lifted up and set on my feet. p15

We, (who have RECOVERED from serious drinking,) are MIRACLES of MENTAL HEALTH. p133

There are those, too, who suffer from GRAVE emotional and mental disorders, but MANY of them DO recover IF they have the capacity to be HONEST. p58

It is a design for living that WORKS in ROUGH going. p15

There is scarcely any form of trouble and misery which has not been overcome among us. p15

Our troubles, we think, are basically of our OWN making. p62

It is CLEAR that WE made our own misery. p133

Avoid then, the deliberate manufacture of misery. p133

We CANNOT subscribe to the belief that this life is a vale of tears,
though it once was just that for many of us. p133

We try not to indulge in cynicism over the state of the nations,
nor do we carry the world's troubles on our shoulders. p132

Outsiders are sometimes shocked when we burst into merriment
over a seemingly tragic experience out of the past. But why shouldn't we laugh? We have recovered. p132

The most satisfactory years of your existence lie ahead. p152

When we look back, we realize that the things which came to us when we put ourselves in God’s hands were better than ANYTHING we could have planned. p100

I have since been brought into a way of living infinitely more satisfying and, I hope, more useful than the life I lived before. My old manner of life was by no means a bad one, but I would not exchange its best moments for the worst I have now. I would not go back to it even if I could. p43

Follow the dictates of a Higher Power and you will presently live in a new and wonderful world, no matter what your present circumstances! p100

There exists among us a fellowship, a friendliness, and an understanding which is INDESCRIBABLY WONDERFUL. p17

We have found much of heaven and we have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed. p25

If you persist, REMARKABLE things will happen. p100

You WILL find release from care, boredom and worry. Your imagination WILL be fired. p151

Most of us feel we need look no further for Utopia. We have it with us right here and now. p16

Our joy in escape from disaster does not subside as we go our individual ways. p17

Joy at our release from a lifetime of frustration knew no bounds. p129

Everybody know that those in bad health, and those who seldom play, do not laugh much. p132

Inwardly he would give anything to take half a dozen drinks and get away with them. He will presently try the old game again, for he ISN'T HAPPY about his sobriety. p152

Heartbreaking poem by Thich Nhat Hanh

Just thought I'd post an example of his poetry because I am unable to describe them to you adequately. The only way is to post an example. I love this book.the title of the poem is I Met You in the Orphanage Yard.
By the way they are not all like this. Some are full of bliss and such like..

I Met You in the Orphanage Yard

Your sad eyes
with loneliness and pain.
You saw me.
You turned your face away.
Your hand drew circles
In the dusty ground.

I dared not ask you
Where your father or mother was.
I dared not open up your wounds.
I only wished to sit with you a moment
and say a word or two.

O you small ones
of four or five-
your life buds already cut off,
already engulfed
by cruelty, hatred and violence.

Why? Why?
my generation,
my cowardly age,
must shoulder the blame.

I'll go in a moment,
and you will remain
in the shabby yard.
Your eyes will return
to your familiar yard
and your fingers will draw again
those small circles
of pain
In the dusty ground.

Thich Nhat Hanh
From Call me by my True Names. The collected poems of Thich Nhat Hanh.

Pining and Nostalgia

Essentially, nostalgia is a very skewed perspective of reality because it is living in the PAST. Therefore it is not very 'real'. We function best when we are TOTALLY IN THE MOMENT. Or 'Present'. The past CAN be 'accessed' in the present moment, but that's a different sort of skill, and bears no resemblance to the habit of nostalgia. Something I heard at a Thich Nhat Hanh talk. I might explain how to do it in a later post.

I have come to believe that NOTHING happens by accident! If people are not in your life, that is probably EXACTLY how your higher power wants it to be! With GOOD reason more than likely...

Thich Nhat Hanh calls the habit of living in the future and the past as 'Not keeping our appointment with life'
It doesn't really matter what you call it, but I just thought I'd mention that.

Free 'Slide Therapy' at the Tate Modem till the 9th April!

Fancy some ‘Voluptuous panic upon an otherwise lucid mind’?
Well, go chuck yourself down one of these slides then!
Apparently slides make you feel less depressed. Cool!
Theres a really tall one in there as well.

Heres some blurb from the tate site...
Tickets for the slides are free, timed and available in the gallery, on the day. For information about obtaining tickets, see visiting information. Height and other restrictions apply.
Due to extremely high demand, visitors arriving after midday are unlikely to obtain tickets for the slides on Levels 3, 4 and 5.

An Instant cure for self pity and taking yourself FAR TOO SERIOUSLY

They Call Me Naughty Lola: The "London Review of Books" Personal Ads.

See I told you it was funny! They've just made it into a book! Cool.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

If you don't know something. Don't AGONIZE, ..ASK!

ASK! The people that matter don’t mind, and the people that mind, don’t matter, so there is NOTHING to lose by it!
Start by asking and see how it goes from there. STOP WORRYING ABOUT HURTING THEIR FEELINGS. HE/ She's not a child! Its very patronizing when people who are new assume that you would 'get upset' by something as mundane as a simple question. But I'm so used to that misperception in new people that I almost expect it.
I always say, IF YOU DON'T KNOW, ASK! Alkys are very good at agonizing and 'stewing' for weeks instead of just asking !!!??? Asking is so EASY and solves so many problems, but most new people prefer to agonize relentlessly instead of going 'straight to the horses mouth' and asking a simple question!! Once you've learned how to communicate fearlessly, you'll wonder why you EVER subjected yourself to so much NEEDLESS uncertainty and confusion by being too scared to ASK FOR CLARIFICATION.

A lot of recovery involves 'biting the bullet' and 'doing the next right thing,' whether we like it or not. And its only by DOING the suggested actions that we get to see how 'wrong' our neurosis was. Its never a good idea to buy into neurotic thoughts about things generally. In aa or out of it. I don't think its possible to make a good decision based on fear. They just end up being neurotic decisions. Ie poor decisions.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Mon 13th Nov. 7pm: A Tibetan Monk doing a talk called: Happiness: A Makeover for the Mind

Monday 13 November Talk at 'Alternatives' (See sidebar under Mind Body Spirit for link)
Happiness: A Makeover for the Mind
By: GESHE TASHI TSERING. (From the Jamyang Centre)

The bottom line in life is to be happy. Everything anyone does, at the deepest level, is motivated by a wish to be happy. Happiness is a state of mind - an obvious statement and yet it seems we see happiness, not as this, but as a state achieved through the acquisition and manipulation of external phenomena. The car, the job, the relationship is happiness. Buddhism asserts this is fundamentally incorrect and the reification of phenomena leads to us falsely seeing them as causes for our happiness. We are simply looking for happiness in the wrong place and only when we turn inwards and examine the mind will we be turn this around.

In this talk, Geshe Tashi will explore how ancient Buddhism wisdom can transform our minds into true happiness.

Geshe Tashi Tsering is a highly eloquent Tibetan monk who has represented HH The Dalai Lama on many occasions and who is well known for his great warmth and humour. He has been the resident teacher at Jamyang Buddhist Centre in London for the last 13 years. He is the creator of the Foundation of Buddhist Thought, a two-year correspondence course on Tibetan Buddhism, and the author of The Four Noble Truths.

Visit www.jamyang.co.uk.
£10/5 concs

ST JAMES'S CHURCH. 197 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9LL
Nearest tube Piccadilly Circus

Easy does it: Wear life like a loose garment, NOT a hair shirt!

So IF you take your recovery VERY SERIOUSLY, you will have no problem at all going to ANY LENGTHS to curb the habit of RELENTLESS SCURRYING, and WHITE KNUCKLE INTENSITY. Chill out! Please!

Some related slogans/ quotes are...
Easy does it
Easy does it, but do it!
Action not Activity.
Wear life like a loose garment, NOT a hair shirt!
Don't 'should' on yourself
You impress me when you STOP trying to impress me
Don't just DO something, sit there!
The only instant thing in AA is the coffee.
Then he did something else that was to become an A.A. classic. It all went on a little card about golf-score size. The cover read: "Middleton Group #1. Rule #62." Once the card was unfolded, a single pungent sentence leaped to the eye: "Don't take yourself too damn seriously."
Tradition 4. 12 Steps and 12 Traditions.

Trying too hard actually CREATES tension and anxiety and therefore INCREASES the distance between you and wellbeing. You can't FORCE wellbeing into existence.
Recovery needs a 'light' touch, not a STRAINED heavy handed 'wrench'!

Unskillful approaches to recovery would be:
Trying too hard
White knuckle
'Hamster in the wheel'

I started off very 'earnest' and now I'm much more relaxed about my pursuit of recovery. I work hard, but in a 'wearing life like a loose garment' kind of way. The balancing act you perfect is to go to ANY LENGTHS to move forwards, whilst at the same time TOTALLY ACCEPTING your current position. It's a very un-neurotic plan of growth.

Should' (toward oneself) is so judgmental and unkind. And guilt is utterly pointless. Both really poisonous to wellbeing.
'Spiritual Giants' don't DO guilt. The 'lightweights' are the ones making decisions based on guilt.
Guilt just isn't 'happy joyous and free', (p133) so it cant POSSIBLY be god's will..

I VAGUELY recall hearing this parable in a book somewhere, and I can't find it on the web, but it goes something like this..

A young man travels for miles to a remote mountain hermitage to find a Zen Master who can teach him how to become enlightened.
After much arduous and difficult traveling in the mountain range, after 10 years, the student finally sees the master contemplating under the trees. The young man is overjoyed.
He rushes over to the master, prostrates himself, and begs the master to take him on as a disciple, so that he can become enlightened.
The Zen Master says 'that depends'.
The student says. I will do whatever you ask! I will get up at 6am to do all your chores, and I will devote 10 hours of every day to sitting meditation! In addition to that I will study as many of the sutras as you see fit!
The Zen Master says 'Ah. Well in that case, it will take you ten years to become enlightened'
The young man's face falls. 'What? 10 years? But it took me 10 years to find you!
In that case, I will get up at 4am to do all your chores, and I will devote 13 hours of every day to sitting meditation! In addition to that I will study as many of the sutras as you see fit!
The Zen Master says 'Ah. Well in that case, it will take you 20 years to become enlightened'

You could call this 'right effort', but in technical terms, this Buddhist jargon refers to something else. But I like the term as it conjures up the idea of the degree of effort required

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Peace of mind is NOT dependent on having PLEASANT thought forms or emotions

It IS dependent on THE WAY WE RELATE to our thoughts and emotions.

Ie: do we ACCEPT them?, without forming an 'opinion' (which is essentially a JUDGEMENT) about them either being 'good' or 'bad'?

OR, do we GET ALARMED AND SCARED by them,as if they were 'bogeymen' and 'run for the (deeply unconscious) hills' straight into the nearest tub of Hagen daz, or whichever avoidant activity we happen to prefer! You might be a Ben and jerry's person for all I know! or a tv addict. Whatever. Anything to avoid 'unpleasant' feelings! Some people call these 'fixes'. I call them ways of staying NUMB, and avoiding having to FEEL. I told you recovery is not for sissies! It REALLY isn't!

The Buddhists call it 'monkey mind' with good reason. The mind (and everything else come to think of it) has A LIFE OF ITS OWN.
The problem isn't WHAT COMES INTO OUR HEADS. The problem is HOW WE DEAL WITH IT. Step 1 means you are powerless over 'people ,places and things'. And what are thoughts but 'things'? Therefore YOU ARE POWERLESS OVER THEM.
And that's why they say 'You are NOT responsible for what comes INTO your head. But you ARE responsible for how you DEAL with it.'

"Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm."
When you meet 'spiritual giants' you will learn that enlightenment isn't numbness, its a CALM, STEADY CONTAINMENT of EVERY shade of emotion. Good bad and indifferent.
If you have loads of acceptance, you have peace of mind NOMATTER WHAT THOUGHTS OR EMOTIONS you are experiencing.
Its all about acceptance in the end. Not an IDEALISZED SET OF MENTAL OR EMOTIONAL CONDITIONS. Dependence on a set of 'pleasant' thought forms or emotions in order to have peace of mind would be 'dependence on people places and things'. But like it says in the big book "Some of us have taken VERY hard knocks to learn this truth: Job or no job, wife or no wife, we simply do NOT stop drinking so long as we place dependence upon other people (places and things) ahead of dependence on God" p98

If you do a GOOD step 11 practice you will get to observe your thoughts and feelings in a cooler, more impartial way, and this BENEVOLENT relationship with ALL your emotions, good and bad, will become easier.
So what I'm saying is that this 'sinks in' when you get to step 11. Not before usually.
I've seen people who've been sober a LONG time who are still effectively 'at war' with (what they see as) 'bad' thoughts or emotions.

Personally I MUCH prefer the AA ideology of:
'we have ceased fighting anything or anyone' p84

And if we are 'to practice these principles in ALL our affairs.' p60 (ie including our EMOTIONAL AND MENTAL affairs) It follows that 'NOT fighting' would AUTOMATICALLY EXTEND TO THOUGHTS AND EMOTIONS.
So it would be AGAINST AA policy (so to speak), to have a 'warring relationship' with ANYTHING. Including our negative mind states.

So the 'enemy' is NOT the thoughts and emotions, and that is why we are no longer fighting them, along with everything else.

I LOVE the Great Spirit Prayer (on a previous post listed under the Topic of prayer) as I think it contains a HUGE amount of wisdom, but I will repeat some bits that can be used to relate to this issue..

'Help me to remain calm and strong in the face of all that comes towards me.' (including negative mind states)
'Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.' (including negative mind states, because they are FULL of VERY valuable lessons about ourselves)

'I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy
Myself.' (not my thoughts or emotions, or negative mind states)

Anyway, sorry if that's a bit rambly, as its a bit late, but hopefully you get the jist.