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.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I just never worry about relapse, or find myself thinking about drinking. (Obedient!) Sponsees are the same..

I have gone for long periods without meetings (after step 9) but I have never found myself worrying about drinking, or finding drinking attractive. I'm not an advocate of dependency on anything, including meetings, but I am aware that for a lot of people in AA, meetings are the places where they 'work their programme' in the form of fellowship. self revealing honesty, asking for help and helping others. If meetings are the ONLY places you practice those things, (!!) then you really ARE stuck without meetings! All I know is if I am practicing CONSTANT THOUGHT OF OTHERS, life is very easy. So many people still have what is called in the big book an 'alcoholic mind' despite attending meetings, and are effectively accidents waiting to happen.

I have found I can often spot the ones that will relapse ahead of time. So much so, that (if they ask me about their recovery) I tell them that I expect them to relapse at some point. Even down to the year! or month, depending. I told someone that quite recently actually. What I'm saying is that I do not find it mysterious when people relapse.

I'm VERY lucky because I stumbled across a method of doing the steps which seems to eliminate any risk of relapse. I know 100's of people who have done it the same way as I did it, and they just NEVER relapse. But that's why I chose to do it the way I did. It might sound trite and arrogant, but until I see just ONE person drink who has done it the way I was shown, I think it would be wrong to imply that there is a risk of drinking by doing it that way.

In fact that's one of the main reasons I've left bits of it online, as I think I was SO lucky to have learnt recovery the way I did. I'm sure there are MANY other GREAT ways of working the programme, but I simply haven't NEEDED to research the success of OTHER step methods as the one I've used up to now seems to work very well. I'm not alone in this, as my old home group contemporaries often express a very similar gratitude when we run into one another, as the longer we are sober, the more we realize how lucky we are.

Old post refs:
An old post called
The 'Alcoholic Mind' Do you still have one?
Listed under the label Untreated Alcoholism which explains a bit about it.
Also the
"Being around alcohol in Recovery" Topic has some stuff about how the big book describes our relationship to alcohol OUGHT to be after step 9.
There are 2 old posts called
After Step 9, How should we be feeling toward alcohol?
Does the BB say that we should avoid alcohol after Step 9?
Which explains it.

'Seeing through a glass darkly': Limits of reasoning. Unknowns and Uncertainties. Projections.

Needing to be be reassured by some kind of reasoning to make sense of reality is very limited as most of our reasoning, no matter how plausible and cogent, is really at best only a half truth. 'we see through a glass darkly' as they say.
As for being uncomfortable with unanswerable questions and uncertainties. well that would be problematic too, as life is quite simply chock-full of those!
Acceptance of the unknown and uncertain is invaluable if you are planning on being comfortable in your own skin for very long.

It's ALL just our 'projections' we see. NOT reality.
It would be a VERY different world if we could see things as they ARE, instead of how we THINK they are.
Trust me. We'd ALL get a few surprises! To say the least.

We see, not what is in front of us, but pretty much what we WANT TO SEE. Basically ALL perception is HIGHLY suspect. We end up filtering reality, so that what we see only confirms our pet theories. It takes a brave soul to question perception and maintain awareness of our biases in relation to what we WANT to see.
The pet theory is a VERY strong mindset. We all have our own cosy little ideologies of some sort or another. Sometimes they are right and sometimes they are wrong in a completely disastrous way. And most of the time we cannot tell which is which. In hindsight yes. But certainly not before.
So all I'm saying is don't be so sure that the approach you are using and the beliefs you are using as benchmarks are right, or reliable. They may not be.

Delusion is a BIG part of the mind and we NEVER outgrow it, so its no big deal. Denial and delusion is kept alive ONLY by dishonesty. Which is effectively a SELECTIVE interpretation of events, in favor of our own (usually ego feeding) pet theories.
All bias is a form of dishonesty, and denial is an extreme position of bias. We are seeing things ONLY as WE want to see them. Regardless of how glaringly obvious it is to everyone else that we are out of touch with reality!
Unfortunately denial is an 'invisible' weakness to whomever is suffering from it, so they will have NO idea they are in denial. Even if everyone else can see it. 'Its a disease that tells you you don't have it'.

I think this is why the big book tells us our greatest weapon against 'grave mental and emotional disorders' is HONESTY.
Honesty works against both delusion and denial, and enables us to see things slightly more clearly. no matter how uncomfortable that reality is. I don't think we would have the courage to see things like that without a higher power. I know I couldn't. My higher power is a rock amongst all this uncertainty and delusion. At least one of us has a clue what's what!

I only thought of this as I was explaining to a former Sponsee the other day that its actually very healthy to see how WRONG we have been about things for so long. Needless to say, she wasn't experiencing very 'pleasant' emotions at the time!, but I think she could tell, deep down, that what was happening to her was actually very healing, even though it felt uncomfortable. I call these moments 'Step one moments', when 'more is revealed'. Its very humbling!! Very ego puncturing! And often just sad. Thank god a lot of this happens only after step 9! `I just don't think people are ready to see this stuff till then, and certainly without the support of a comforting and informed step 11 practice.
This is why I say in the opening bit 'about me', that I am COMFORTABLE BEING UNCOMFORTABLE.

I promise I WILL get round to cheerier subjects at some point!! I only mention this because I have been encountering this with people at the moment!! That's all! I COMPLETELY forget about these little jigsaw pieces of my recovery to date, until some person jogs my memory about something I haven't got round to explaining on this darned blog, that's all..

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Becoming a 'Strong Vessel': Increasing your capacity for holding very powerful (good and bad) mind states in consciousness, without going mad!

Becoming a 'Strong Vessel' is like weightlifting, in that you steadily increase your capacity for ALL shades of emotional 'pressure'

Another guiding principle I use is contained in the poem by Thich Nhat Hanh called 'Call Me By My True Names', where he says,

'My joy is like Spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth. My pain is like a river of tears, so vast it fills the four oceans.'

What he is describing is not so much a 'swinging' mood, rather than a coexisting one. That's my interpretation anyway. Having seen him in person on various retreats he certainly does not appear on the surface to show any 'mood' as such other than benevolence. I think all senior monks and some lay practitioners develop a very strong 'constitution' for holding very powerful (good and bad) mind states in consciousness, which would drive the likes of you and me a bit (!!!) mad. it takes many years, sometimes many lifetimes to build up that kind of resilience and steadiness of the mind. The more they develop their practice, the more they can withstand HUGE emotional pressure. Its a bit like weightlifting, but with powerful or compelling emotions instead of weights. in that the more you practice, the bigger the weights you can lift with ease. From what I've been told anyway..!! They are VERY peculiar animals indeed, those monks.

'Steady containment' is what I call enlightenment

STEADY CONTAINMENT is (what I call) the 'ninja' way of holding (what can be VERY !!!!) unpleasant emotions in consciousness WITHOUT JUDGEMENT.
Steady containment is what I call enlightenment.

(The other way I have heard this described is as 'Becoming a strong vessel'. Its sort of similar and I might explain that more in another post.)

It is a place in the mind where there is PEACE OF MIND in the presence of ALL SHADES OF EMOTION OR BEING. It is ALL ALRIGHT. There are NO BIG DEALS. That DOESN'T mean there is no emotion. That just means that ALL emotions are OK. They are DO-able. There is NO judgment or anxiety about them. It is essentially TOTAL ACCEPTANCE of the HUMAN CONDITION. The 'normal' aspects and the 'weird' indescribable, and unfathomable aspects. There is acceptance of the UNKNOWN, and the anxiety that accompanies new growth when we embark on uncharted territory.

There is something INCREDIBLY tough about this type of mindset, but to describe it as 'tough' alone would be misleading, because it is also characterized as a terrible beauty or gentleness. It can be incredibly joyous. (See the Dalai Lama). Like when you see a great chef prepare a fabulous meal and make it look so natural and easy, monk-type-people make this joyous, balanced, non judgmental state look like a 'normal day'. No big deal. Par for the course.

That doesn't mean it is EASY for them. They are working INCREDIBLY hard, often in extremely difficult and uncharted territory. They are not pansies! They are going to ANY LENGTHS. Not a moment is wasted. They just don't make a 'big show' of all the effort they are making. That would be FAR to ego feeding. Like it says on the just for today card..

JUST FOR TODAY—I will exercise my soul in three ways: I will do somebody a good turn, and 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

But to cultivate such a mind can be the result of many lifetimes work. Some are just born that way. But we all have the capacity to try to reach for a more balanced way of relating to our (seemingly IMbalancing) inner experiences.

This is a teaching that can only really be FELT as opposed to UNDERSTOOD. Often you need to be in the presence of a teacher. But it IS possible to 'connect' with a teacher through words and books. I find myself 'connecting' with Thich Nhat Hanh through his written word. But we do not really 'choose' our teachers. The choice is made for us, by the way we respond to each one. I have listed book recommendations and retreat centers that are reliable.

The Dalia lama teaches all over the world. So does Thich Nhat Hanh, and the Lazy Lama. They are all 'top dollar' I have their teaching schedule permanently featured in my links menu.
Also there is a fabulous monastery in redwood valley, California. Free to stay! As far as I know. Also thy may be able to recommend other good retreat centers in America. If you live over there.

This site shows you where the worldwide chain of monasteries of the Theravada tradition are (Which I am lucky enough to have on my doorstep). They (meaning the senior monks and nuns) know ALL the cool meditation places to go. If I need any 'leads' this is where I go to get info. Why? Because they are WESTERN. A person who grew up in Thailand (for instance) has a completely different set of emotional programming than myself as a result of their cultural conditioning. Just look at the difference between the way the local populace responded to the Tsunami as compared to the way the locals responded to the Katrina in New Orleans. I rest my case..

Its no different than doing AA. You could never 'learn' AA without going to meetings could you? You need to SEE the people face to face to believe it. Well the same is true about this. You learn it much more powerfully if you can find a person that you can be in the same room as who has this quality. That's why I tell Sponsees to go on retreat after step 9, so they can see a whole new 'WAY OF BEING' demonstrated by these types of people. The skills they have go FAR above what can be seem in an AA room. But perhaps if enough AA's supplement their programme with a highly developed step 11 practice, then these skills might filter into AA rooms. I DO know that my (former) Sponsees appear to be learning this lesson pretty well. The ones that have gone on retreats anyway. Some retreats are utter rubbish by the way. Organized by charlatans! Not ALL retreats are good! Some are just not very good, and will only really do a half baked job, or will just be too tough, or imbalanced in the areas of development. You need all round skills really. 'Heart' practice and 'collecting/ quieting the mind' practice

Right I'm off! Too long. Gym, Library, the usual!!!
Hope you are all well and all that... Thanks for everything. You are a pretty cool bunch!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The 'North Face' NEVER goes away, so learn to enjoy the journey ANYWAY

We ALL have our mountains to climb. It is all just part of life. You get used to accepting the reality of that after a while. There will ALWAYS be some sort of (what I call) 'north face' to deal with. It's just the aspect of the north face changes from year to year. sometimes its work, sometimes its relationship, sometimes its spiritual growth, sometimes its about where we live, sometimes it's the way we relate to AA, or the programme of AA. It's always something!
Once you get used to the idea that there will ALWAYS be challenging and confronting work to do, it makes it easier to try to enjoy the journey by doing stuff to make it fun. What I mean is once you get used to the idea that we are never 'cured' of the difficulties of life, you stop resenting it, and learn to try to enjoy the bittersweet journey.
It is always possible to access joyful mind states if we have wholesome things in our lives. good people, good spiritual practice, and ANYTHING that makes us feel good to be alive. Just looking at a flower will bring up feelings of joy. The trick is incorporating these aspects into our lives, to work against the necessary challenges we have to make in order to move forwards in our lives. We cant just do 'serious' growth work all the time. We'd drive ourselves mad if we did! We have to have SOME fun. There's a lot of mucky work to do, so if we don't experience real joy in some form or other, the task will become overwhelming. So eating well, exercise, and rest, and fun stuff are vital in order to keep yourself going.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

The reason I mention this is because some people think that when things are going 'wrong' that this means that they are 'off course'. They aren't. (Well sometimes they are, but that's another story!) But usually it is just your 'next lesson' in life. No you are NOT mad, 'wrong', about to drink, etc etc. you are just human and these are LIFE LESSONS. And no amount of attendance in AA meetings will make them disappear!!!
This is what being a human being is all about! Its a LEARNING PROCESS! And the lessons can often feel very personal. That's probably because they are! There is NOTHING wrong with this.
When you are REALLY new, the lessons can sometimes be very obvious and easy to fix, but that's what sponsors are for. After step 9, they can be a little bit more perplexing to solve! But that's life! Its just the deal with being a human being. Nothing to be concerned about. What I mean is that the 'North face' is NO BIG DEAL. It is NOT necessary to have an ANXIOUS relationship towards it. You can be accepting and peaceful about the 'north face'.

(I might add, if you feel like crap but you have not done the first 9 steps, or have a sponsor, or go to meetings, then the reason you feel lousy is because you are not working the programme!!!! This post addresses those who ARE following AA suggestions, but think they are getting it wrong because they experience difficulty sometimes.)

Right I'm off to the gym then library!! I am skiving by going online!! I shouldn't really be posting! Nice to see you all and thank you for your kind and supportive comments!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Taking a break from posting, commenting, and visiting for the time being

While I sort out some study!
Inspired by Tab's excellent non-codependent prioritization, in that she is putting other things first, I am following suit, and without closing down the blog, I'll leave it on, but not post. For the time being anyway.

Tab said in her post:
I have become a full on Blogger-Betty.
Nothing wrong with that in the least,
except that I struggle to get off my blog roll
when it comes time for other things that
need to get done.
I have decided to close down this blog.
Time to let go in my blogging for awhile.
I have some personal and important goals
I plan to meet this year.

The first goal being overcoming procrastination.

Blogging has become so habitual for me I honestly
believe it is time to let it go for now so I can pay
more attention to other things in my free time.
Important goals I hope to achieve in my lifetime.

I can completely relate to Tab in this post!
Also. because I can just as easily use comments and visiting other people's blogs as an study distraction, I will be avoiding that as well..
That's the plan anyway. I need a hands off blogging approach for the time being. Perhaps things will settle down and I will find there is room for it later, but at the moment its too easy to use as a distraction to other, far more important study commitments.
I would like to go blogging 'cold turkey' for at least a month, but I know I will end up right back at square one if I get back into it again in that I will feel I need to go and visit everyone else's blogs to see how you are getting on, and before I know it, big chunks of time will be used up. Perhaps I will find another way of avoiding study. Doubtless I will find some pointless cleaning or something as a way of procrastinating. Who knows!

So I wish you lots of luck with your recovery, and thank you for all your input, support and kind comments, but I will be 'under the radar', for the time being, solving problems of a different kind.
Very best of luck with all your recoveries and various VERY REAL challenges and I will report back at some point, but I don't know exactly when at this stage. Thanks all the same everyone! It's been very nice getting to know you all. Too nice!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Hey, you MUST sign up and put your sobriety date on this site!

Because really LOVELY people send you emails with really LOVELY messages in them. What a nice bunch!! And from all over the place too! Cool! I thought they were really sweet! AA people are LOVELY. I wish they were all blogging, because they sounded like such nice AA people!
So sign yourself up ladies and gentlemen!

Yeah, so basically I HEARTILY recommend this website!
Its called Sober Anniversaries (unsurprisingly!)

So thanks for the kind wishes from the other aa's listed on the site!, and of course all the happy new year wishes from everyone!
AA fellowship is VERY cool. We are SO lucky to have this network of people that we can have this lovely connection with, regardless of age, race, or whatever. It really is like having a big extended family! I think I want to adopt them all!

Anyway I'm going to do some guess what.. STUDY!!
...No change there then! Heheh