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, November 24, 2010

Heard in a meeting

'I want to do life 'neat', not dilute it with alcohol'.

I heard this and liked it, so I just thought I would share that.
It's a brilliant autumnal day over here. Have a lovely wednesday :)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What (free) stuff I'm listening to. Amongst other things.. Adyashanti

I love this !!!!! sooo much at the moment. Can't !! stop listening to it on my ipod. :)
The free basic teaching talks are ! excellent. But yes, I have bought some mp3's as well. Can't get enough of this at the moment. Love it to bits. I wonder what thing will be next?
Anyway I thought I would just include a reference to the free basic talks, as they pretty much cover 98% of the teaching anyway. Thats it.
I'm not going to go on about it as this one involves having to part with cash. Which I don't want to encourage people to do really. i prefer to mention free stuff only. I spend money on technology and esoteric stuff, so thats my weakness. My curiosity gets the better of me. Normally I lend people my CD's so that they can listen to the mp3's, but thats harder to do when we are not meeting each other in the AA meeting down the road, (!) but if you email me I'll see what I can do.
Hope you had a nice weekend :)
Full moon tonight!! Awesome :) I LOVE the full moon..

Here are links to the free talks on the basic teachings..? if you are interested. if not. Thats fine too :)
The Basic Teachings ~ Part 1....Principles of the Teaching
The Basic Teachings ~ Part 2 ...Application of the Teaching

Friday, November 05, 2010

3 free episodes of The Big Silence on BBC iplayer till the 12th of November

This was recommended to me and I think it is really good.

Update* The episodes have since been added to youtube so if you missed them on BBC iplayer, you can see them on youtube instead. They are on http://www.worthabbey.net/bbc/links-youtubeBS.htm

It is called The Big Silence and was broadcast on BBC2.
There are 7 days remaining to watch the 2 episodes for free on BBC iplayer online. There are two episodes of one hour each. The Retreat Centre used in this programme is St Beuno's in North Wales and has some of the most breathtaking scenery I have seen in avery long time. Stunningly beautiful. Here is a link for the place they attended if you think you might be interested in doing a retreat there. I must admit i was impressed with the Jesuits who acted as guides for retreat participants. They were very, very kind and gentle in my estimation. From what I saw in this programme. Here is a link for the retreat schedule in St Beuno's. For all I know it might be expensive. I have no idea. Monasteries offer retreats that are free or very affordable so do not despair if you have limited funds and would like to go on a retreat :)

Here is the link for the TV programme. http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/vjcp5/

I found it very moving. Excellent program. I loved the skillful insight into how to access the healing power of silence, and the transformation of the volunteers over 8 days. The volunteers were courageous and honest, very imperfect, yet they all underwent a deep transformation. They were humbled by the experience of witnessing their restlessness and conflicts when left with no distractions to 'escape' from their loneliness, boredom, and restlessness.

There are some very nice Christian monastics on here. Plus some very lovely non-monastic Jesuits (ie like you and me because we do not live in monasteries) who have managed to develop a valuable meditation practice despite work and home obligations. If you have never been to a retreat before this will give you an idea of the gentle-hearted people you are lucky enough to meet if you do. It is also an indication that it is not the ? type of path chosen that is important (as ? far as I know) meaning buddhist, christian, jesuit etc, but how much you are committed to the path you have chosen. Basically all people who sincerely and earnestly seek to grow along spiritual lines, and are committed to unconditional truth and love turn into wonderful human beings as a result of their devotional practice. Well thats what I think. 'Badges' such as Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Jesuit etc are less important than the willingness to go to any lengths to realize your best self.

Heres the blurb from the BBC iplayer website..
Abbot Christopher Jamison, a Benedictine monk, believes that he can teach five ordinary people the value of silent meditation, as practised by monks in monasteries, so they can make it part of their everyday lives. He sets up a three-month experiment to test out whether the ancient Chrisitan tradition of silence can become part of modern lives.
In this episode, Christopher brings the five volunteers to his own monastery, Worth Abbey, before sending them to begin a daunting eight days in complete silence at a specialist retreat centre.

Have a lovely weekend, ..and of course I hope life is treating you well :)

Thursday, November 04, 2010

observational comedy on Spiritual Pride

AA Destroying The Social Lives Of Thousands Of Once-Fun Americans

This video does not seem to want to upload properly. Oh well You will just have to click on the link instead. It is from the Onion.
I am not endorsing the end result of this comedy sketch, but I LOVE its very accurate portrayal of taking oneself far !!! too seriously and the trap of Spiritual Pride, where you can end up feeling smug, self satisfied or slightly (!) superior to drinkers or other AA's with less recovery. Or anyone really..
When the first 100 members said 'We absolutely insist on enjoying life' they had a point. :)
Anyway, I could not resist sharing this as I thought was very funny and exposes the trap we can all fall into of thinking that we are more 'worthy' or ? something compared to other people because we have had a spiritual awakening.. Meaning we use the process of recovery as an 'ego-feeding-proposition' in itself. Reinforcing narcissism, self importance, self obsession and self centredness. My experience has taught me that much of what AA brings about is a series of very ego puncturing admissions, one after ! another. When however I feel as though I am moving toward an ego massaging proposition, I instinctively feel I am moving away from recovery. I simply do not trust that movement. I prefer ego puncturing. This allows me the freedom not to be serious all the time, or be 'earnest' like I mentioned in the previous post.
Anyway.. Have a great (sanctimonious-free, smug-free and pious-free) Thursday :)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Earnest? No. It's much ! healthier to be harmlessly mischevious

Heard in meetings: 'Sober not Somber'
'If you are happy would you please inform your face'
Big Book:
We are not a glum lot p132
Those in bad health, and those who seldom play, do not laugh much. p132
We absolutely insist on enjoying life. p132
We cannot subscribe to the belief that his life is a vale of tears, though it once was just that for many of us. p133

I like it when people in AA are having FUN, wherever ? they are, but not at other peoples expense as that would constitute 'harmful speech'. Or in a socially embarrassing or inappropriate way. Social skills are a !! huge asset, without them its so easy to rub people up the wrong way without realizing..

I saw someone who was clearly quite 'into' the AA programme recently in a very uneventful phase of their recovery, but to me they ? just looked like they were having no ! fun. Very dreary. So ! serious! Bleh. All I know is that I would find it unbearable to endure an overly serious sobriety indefinitely. It looks too much like sufferance. If I go to a meeting which is attended by fairly serious looking people, I'm almost certain that they must think I am some sort of ? lightweight because I look like I'm just having a bit of a laugh. The more serious they are the more I want to have a laugh. But if I attend a meeting full of high-pitched shrieky nervous laughter I am equally uncomfortable and would prefer a more relaxed calm response.

But I was at a meeting full of slightly more serious faces recently and it crossed my mind how important it is to have fun, because it's very hard to stay sober if recovery is terribly serious. if I meet someone who looks a little too earnest or serious, or is simply trying too hard, I try to tell them how important it is to lighten up and wear life like a loose garment. it's the only way that long-term sobriety is bearable. It gets too heavy otherwise. Besides having fun is not an opportunity to be missed. It costs nothing :)
But occasionally I attend meetings full of young people trying desperately to look “interesting” by sounding witty or clever, and those meetings also grate after a while. “You impress me when you stop trying to impress me” is something an old timer at my home group used to say.

My home group 20 years ago was full of people having a laugh, so that's what I became used to. Now when I see a room full of serious faces I cannot really relate to them very much. I understand that this is a common feature of the first 5 years of recovery, and I am sure that when I was less than 5 years I was equally unduly earnest, but I try to encourage sponsees to lighten up as soon as possible rather than wait 5 years to do so like I did. I think 5 years is a common benchmark for the time it takes a reasonably disturbed person to loosen their feverish grip on the program and start to relax a little, by doing less AA activities without fear of drinking again.

So generally speaking I would say that being a bit too serious is not at all good for long-term sobriety, and that if you are a little bit humourless, or serious and preoccupied a lot of the time, that this could quite reasonably have devastating effects on your sobriety long-term.
Trying too hard to be a “good” AA member is equally disastrous because it is not sustainable. Nobody can maintain a earnest disposition, because at some point we all ! look foolish for some reason or other, so the 'earnest' mask will crack. It gets unbearably dull and repressive. There is no fun in it.

So forget the “too good” ideology. Stop trying to convince everybody that you are serious about your program by trying desperately to look serious and earnest, or speak in a terribly serious way in meetings. You stand a much better chance staying sober indefinitely if you really learn how to wear your life like a loose garment and stop taking yourself so seriously. Get over yourself! Try to cultivate harmless mischievousness instead. And if your face looks miserable then you are not there yet :) There should be a glint in the eye. A wry smile. No sufferance. Not a sad “Oh well never mind” smile. A jolly smile. A Santa Claus smile. The best example I can give you as to what I mean when I say this is the example provided by TNH. He discusses very serious and far-reaching topics but he is not miserable looking. Here is a link to recent video so you can see what I mean. http://vimeo.com/14221955

I was saying to another AA member recently how much I appreciated learning how to have huge amounts of fun doing incredibly mundane things. We had stopped to buy something trivial after a meeting in a very ordinary supermarket and ended up having a really pleasant and funny exchange with the cashier. It was a lot of fun, and this isn't the sort of place where people normally ! expect to have much fun. So after we left I was saying to the other AA how lucky we are to be able to have fun in such mundane circumstances. Perhaps this example gives you a better idea of what I mean about developing one's capacity to have fun every day. It's very important. I can't emphasize this enough. I can honestly say that you put your sobriety at grave risk (long term) if you do not learn how to have fun and enjoy your day ? whatever you happen to be doing. Being generally humourless, earnest or taking yourself far too seriously is a recipe for disaster. Even if it doesn't drive you to drink, it will make your sobriety utterly grim, and who wants that?

Anyway, I'd better go so hope you have a lovely weekend :)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Codependency: Brainwashing myself with Byron Katie on repeat play

Im not sure what exactly ? codependency is, but if any of you see a great weakness in (what you think is) this area, which I would say is just about ! every alcoholic I meet :) .then I would strongly recommend this CD by Byron Katie. Its not the answer to everything, but its a damm fine start :)
You could do a lot worse, put it that way. Anyway I hate (!) to deflect newcomers from the meat and potatoes of the first 9 steps, so I include this as a post step 9 'side salad'. Meaning something that has the potential to enhance ones recovery once the (much !!!!! more important task of stopping oneself drinking oneself to death has been addressed. (!) So yeah, Im not holding this out as a substitute for the steps. No way :)

Basically I am learning a lot from listening to Katie Byron at the moment. It is taking a while to really sink in. But after many many ! many repeat plays, it is starting to seep into my bones. It is essentially a master-class in Acceptance with respect to our relations with others (among other things). and life in all its forms. I love learning new ways of practicing the principles in all my affairs, so this is my current focus. Will be something else in 6-12 months! I learn better by listening than by reading as it catches me off guard, so sneaks into my brain when I am not looking. You might prefer books. I LOVE hearing the voice. It brings the ? teaching home. Or ? something. Gawd knows. Works for me. Thats all I know :)

So, I thoroughly recommend brainwashing yourself by repeat play on loop on your ipod of 'I Need Your Love - Is That True?' audiobook by Byron Katie if you are struggling to accept life on lifes terms with relationship issues. Family, friends, significant others, you name it :) Its the same as AA (well thats how i see it) so ought not contradict any of the principles we are introduced to in AA. But if in doubt, ask another AA or your Sponsor as I would hate to confuse you. I usually recommend this material to people after the first 9 steps, as by then they understand the AA principles with sufficient clarity to be able to dovetail material like this seamlessly with their existing AA programme. If for some reason they are unclear as to what acceptance means in day to day practice (for instance) this might confuse them and look like something ? completely different to what AA advocates, which (in my opinion) would be counterproductive to their recovery. But then I prefer to err on the side of caution. If I were very confident that the Sponsee was able to grasp the 'similarities not the differences' between AA and Byron Katie I would make an exception, so this is not a blanket rule by any stretch. More a case by case basis. I see only similarities between the material on this CD and what AA suggests, so it presents no conflict for me. But there you go, each to their own. Just thought I would mention it in case anyone was interested.


Have a great Thursday :)

Friday, September 03, 2010

Go see the (free) Heart Shrine Relic Tour if you get the chance..

Relics are things that ? show up in the cremated remains of teachers from the Buddhist tradition. They are handed down to entrusted people who have donated some for a 500 ft bronze statue in India which is built to last 1000 years, where they will be housed to benefit others.
Its a rare sacred treat to be able to see them, (if you like that kind of thing) ..so ? if you are in London for the next three days, you can see the Heart Shrine Relic Tour at the Jamyang Buddhist Centre,The Old Courthouse, 43 Renfrew Road, London SE11 4NA tel: +44 (0) 20 7820 8787 fax: +44 (0) 20 7820 8605 email:admin@jamyang.co.uk

And f you live in the states, (or anywhere across the world really) the Heart Shrine Relic Tour will travel across the US, so check the Tour calender to see if it is passing near you :)

And regardless of all that :) Have a ! fabulous weekend :) Weather is soo nice today. Crisp and dazzlingly sunny. Gorgeous.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Nothing insures immunity from drinking as much as intensive work with other alcoholics p89

Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail. p89 Big Book. Chapter 7 Working with others.
They knew they must help other alcoholics if they would remain sober. p159 Big Book.
Particularly it was it imperative to work with others as he had worked with me. Faith without works was dead, he said. p14 Big Book.
Our very lives, as ex-problem drinkers, depend upon our constant thought of others and how we may help meet their needs. p20 Big Book.
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. p15 Big Book.
Helping others is the foundation stone of your recovery." p97 Big Book
A kindly act once in a while isn’t enough. You have to act the Good Samaritan every day, if need be." p97 Big Book.
To be vital, faith must be accompanied by self sacrifice and unselfish, constructive action. p93 Big Book
Happy in their release, and constantly thinking how they might present their discovery to some newcomer" p158 Big Book

But what does AA mean by 'intensive work' with other alcoholics? Presumably the work involved in carrying the message of how precisely to recover (pxXIII) to the alcoholic who still suffers.
Also, the conditions under which this 'intensive work' take place most effectively are defined very explicitly on page 18;
these are the conditions we have found most effective.
he obviously knows what he is talking about;
his whole deportment shouts at the new prospect that he is a man with a real answer;
no attitude of Holier Than Thou;
nothing whatever except the sincere desire to be helpful;
no fees to pay;
no axes to grind;
no people to please and;
no lectures to be endured.

So basically, the experience of the first hundred members would seem to be that nothing insures immunity from drinking as much as 'intensive work' with other alcoholics (p89 Big Book) and this 'intensive work' is performed most effectively under the 8 conditions listed on page 18. Easy!

It is very easy to complicate the process of recovery, and make very ? complicated analyses of why certain people relapse and why certain people don't relapse.
Rather than get sidetracked by the debating society line of thinking, I prefer to stick to what I have observed first hand keeps people sober in meetings. All I know, is that I have yet to meet an alcoholic who consistently (!) makes helping newcomers their priority who has relapsed. Thats what attracted me to it in the first place. Yes I know some members 'two-step' (meaning they practice only step one and 12, and skip the rest inbetween) but I mean in conjunction with completing the first 9 steps. I just haven't met them. All the people I meet who consistently focus on, and assist newcomers insofar as helping them stay sober using the programme, ..all stay sober. (as opposed to consistently using AA as a social club, or a place to find a husband, friends or a job or ? whatever..)
Its probably the most consistent thing I've done in AA. The other stuff was presented to me by old timers as a sort of 'side salad'. Optional in the sense that I didn't need to do it straight away or every day, whereas helping others was presented to me as mandatory daily fare right from the beginning. I started when I was very very new. Less than ? 3 months. Its helped me !!!!! tremendously so I always mention it to people who are concerned that they might drink, or are having thoughts about drinking. or for whom drinking still seems appealing. I almost feel guilty saying it, but I literally never think about drinking. But then I help newcomers a LOT. Always have. and I am sure that is why. I really enjoy it now, but I wouldn't say it is ever easy. Its a very demanding workout, but feels great once you get into the swing of it.
I'm not saying it's easy, all I'm saying it's extraordinarily rewarding when you throw yourself into it unconditionally. Plus you don't have to worry about drinking. Well that's what I find.

So, next time you meet somebody who has relapsed, (at ? some point) ask them how many AA newcomers they spoke to, or tried to help in the 7 days preceding their relapse. Two weeks beforehand?
Or how often they helped newcomers before they relapsed. Once a week? Once a month? Every day?

Or ask them which step they were working at the time of their relapse.
If you have no attitude of holier than thou, and have nothing whatever except a sincere desire to be helpful, (page 18) then you can ask these questions without fear of harming the other person. Well thats what I find.

Anyway just thought I would mention that, as I have always been very interested in the conditions preceding a relapse. And the conditions that make people feel very free, and unburdened. Not because I have an interest in the matter per se, but because I have a desire to be helpful, and being informed as to what leads to relapse allows me to be more effective in helping others.
Informed decisions are better than uninformed decisions in my experience. So I try to understand the conditions as best I can, knowing that I may never really understand it, but there's no harm in trying to make sense of it.

Thanks for taking the time to read this :) and I hope you have a !!! fabulous weekend :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It feels like time for a laugh :) so here's some Fascinating Aida

It feel like it's time for a laugh :) so here's some Fascinating Aida :) This song is called cheap flights. (They use the word 'fek' just so you know). For US readers, the blonde has a brilliantly accurate rendition of a Southern Irish accent. I rarely find such convincing accents on TV or radio.
They have another funny track called dogging which is ! hilarious. for some reason I only discovered fascinating aida in the last week or so, which is unusual as I used to go to a lot of comedy clubs, so I'm surprised their name never came up.
Also the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britan does a great version of 'Shaft' which I only discovered a ? year or so ago.

So yes, a little light relief is always a good idea. I also really like the Sassy Gay Friend, but NOS gets the credit for pointing that one out to me :) I LOVE the sassy gay friend :) so thank you NOS for that top tip :)
Also Snatch Wars is very funny (but has lots of swearing) based on the character 'Brick Top' in Guy Ritchie's film Snatch. Very UK humor. May not appeal to the US visitors.

But seriously. I think having a laugh is very !! important and is part of the reason I spent a few years going to comedy clubs.
Because I think we all have a tendency to take ourselves far !! too seriously, comedy clubs can be very useful in teaching us how to lighten up. And also just providing us with something to chuckle about later on. I also like being (appropriately) irreverent in conversation as a way of making people laugh, but I'm sure that came from attending comedy clubs. People say they think I'm funny, (when I'm not on life and death AA conversational territory) and I am sure this has a lot to do with having spent years watching live acts. It becomes much easier to use humor in conversation when you have observed comedy acts developing their own styles for a couple of years. I love Harry hills TV Burp, but I don't know who the new talent is on the comedy scene nowadays. Youtube has changed everything, so loads of new material is on there.
Right well. I'd better go off and do some work. (!)
Have a great Thursday :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Who is the least restless irritable and discontent?

I had this conversation recently with someone who was going through a difficult time and was finding it difficult to tolerate restless irritable and discontented people, because they were just too draining for her. Rather than say to her “stick with the winners” I said something along the lines of - “make it your business to identify and locate the people at work, family, and AA meetings who are the least restless irritable and discontent. Whoever ? those people turn out to be, those are the people that you ought to be affiliating yourself with during this difficult period. When things get back to normal and everything feels fine, then by all means strike up conversations with people you thoroughly dislike, or who have zero social skills or impulse control. But in the meantime put your recovery first. Put principles before personalities. Recovery comes first. Everything else comes 2nd. Friendships come 2nd. Family comes 2nd. Obligations come 2nd. Within reason. i.e. do not use this AA principal as an excuse to abandon basic common sense. (When in doubt, ask your sponsor or another alcoholic first.)

When I was new in recovery, I had a persistently fragile emotional condition that was easily affected by detrimental or negative influences, so I had no choice but to practice “principles before personalities” in order to have some composure and clarity. So out of necessity I had to learn this AA lesson very early on. I often met people who I thought I had something in common with, or whose sense of humour I liked better than others, but because I was so emotionally fragile I had to put those things to one side and focus instead on who seemed the most comfortable and happy in any given meeting.
Their age, social background, level of professionalism, likes and dislikes were just not important. What mattered was how comfortable they were in their own skin.
I knew at the time that what I was practicing was the notion of “sticking with the winners” but because so many people have difficulty with that expression, I’m explaining it a slightly different way here. People often misinterpret this slogan to mean that it infers that the person who is “sticking with the winners” is making a judgment about the people they are choosing not to affiliate themselves with.
That has not been my experience. What I found, and still find, is that when I choose to gravitate toward people who are the least restless irritable and discontent, this is often a very ego puncturing proposition, because it sidesteps my intellect and ideas about who I like or who I agree with, and instead focuses on the conduct of others. Actions speak much louder than words. Talk is cheap. AA is full of people who like to talk, but may not also like to do the next right thing, or simply haven't learned the importance of moral restraint. “Restraint of tongue and pen” and are therefore very heedless.
I can easily form attachments or friendships to people who are likable but at the same time have destructive or heedless behaviours, which cause rough edges one way and another when I'm in conversation with them. Their lack of moral restraint, or heedlessness, is a sort of loose cannon, which can go off at any time. Friendships with people like this are problematic if I spend much time with them or have quite a few conversations with them. I prefer to form friendships with people who understand how not to be heedless. People who have impulse control and are considerate in their speech and action. Ultimately I find that the people whose actions are the most considerate are the people who are also the least restless irritable and discontent. My experience reflects the experience in the big book insofar as the extent to which I am able to “think of other people's needs and how I can help meet them”, is the extent to which I am “freed from the bondage of self”, and are therefore able to understand the meaning of what it is to be “happy joyous and free”.
Basically I am free to the extent that I am not self obsessed.

So if you are going through a disturbed patch, and are wondering who can show your way out of the mental and emotional disturbance. Simply look around you in the meeting and attempt to identify the least restless irritable and discontent person. That is the person most qualified to teach you how to reduce your discomfort. (This rule does not apply if they are glazed over and doped up to the eyeballs with 101 prescribed mind altering drugs!). When I say the least restless irritable and discontent, I mean without the numbing effects of mind altering drugs. (!)

I look for people with a twinkle in their eye, and inner and outer steadiness.
Using this method has always worked for me. It has guided me to some of the most wonderful AA meetings, AA members and people outside AA, so I'm very grateful that AA taught me this lesson.
So I hope you find it useful if you didn't already know about this one :)
Have a lovely Monday, wherever you are :)

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Wonderful old timers and dodgy old timers

Good morning. I woke up far too early, so I thought about posting something before I go out. I can't think of anything particularly useful to say at the moment. Perhaps I haven't had enough tea and coffee.

Someone else posted this video which is a clip from the film Amongst White Clouds and I liked it so much I thought I would post the you tube link and mention it here. It's right up my street! I love that kind of stuff. Also I found the whole film is viewable online on http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5902279151658995270#

It's been a bit strange catching up a very tiny bit with some people in AA. Like returning to some dysfunctional family. I confess I am a little disappointed with a few members, but what do you expect? They are alcoholics after all, so one shouldn't be entirely surprised if they make some strange (!) life choices. I don't mean that in a bible-belt kind of way. I mean that in a quite deeply disturbing kind of way.

Well if it tells me anything, it confirms to me that step 11 is mandatory. And that (in my interpretation anyway) all hell breaks loose when members who have been sober a long time do not do step 11. I don't think I have actually met any longtime sober person who doesn't do step 11 who has 'got what I want'. Take heed, as they say. The next time I have free time to sponsor somebody, if I really want to achieve as much as I can in the shortest possible time, I will be looking to sponsor people who have what I call a predisposition towards step 11. But step 11 on its own is worthless as well. Step 11 is only really useful once you have cleaned house adequately using the first nine steps.

Perhaps I am very deluded, but I can honestly say that I'm extraordinarily grateful for the path I have been shown in recovery. There are not nearly enough AA members in my locality who have 'got what I want'. Of course I like them. I can't help liking alcoholics. But my favourite old-timer is still one of the only people that really makes sense to me. He is not around any more. But I am extraordinarily grateful for his example. You have no !!!! idea how lucky ! I was to be able to attend his home group for so many years. I have been !!! extraordinarily lucky in my recovery. I could not have asked for more spectacular AA members to learn from. And when I went on to practice step 11 in earnest by visiting very highly regarded Buddhist practitioners, I also stumbled across some spectacularly inspiring examples. The one I never met in person was Ajahn Chah. But I have been in the presence of his statue which contains some of his relics and it felt like I was in the same room as him. But then people like him are a kind of one-off. Very very unusual human beings in every respect. I tend to believe they are born that way, but who Knows. I'm in no position to tell because of my inability to understand these things.

I'd better get going otherwise I'll be late. But basically I owe my life to the kindness of people who, on the face of it knew me the least, but in reality knew me better than all the other people who I'd spent most of my lifetime with. What I mean it is not be number of conversations you have with somebody that determines how well they know you. It's got nothing to do with that. It's absolutely about their capacity to understand the human condition. If they have that in spades, then it's completely irrelevant how many conversations you have with them. Their capacity to understand is not dependent upon acquiring all the details of your history. They are amazing. I love Those people. Thank God they exist.

What I suppose I mean is that for some reason today I am very conscious of the wonderful human beings I have been lucky enough to learn from in AA and in my step 11 forays. Not only did I meet some amazing people, but I was lucky enough to be willing to learn from their example at the time, which is something I can't say the same about others who were there the time, who have gone down a different road entirely since then. I am completely baffled why some longtime sober people have chosen what I consider to be thoroughly compromised, empty and unsatisfying, and ultimately damaging lives. Who knows. I couldn't stand it myself. It would be unbearable, unless I had the ability to not care, or not feel anything.

It's none of my business, and I'll just have to leave it at that. Instead of focusing on people who haven't 'got what I want', I need to focus on creating the fellowship I crave, which means focusing on finding the people I think I can help the most and investing my mental energies in them, so that in years to come there will be nicer old-timers around than there are at present. Even the dodgiest old-timer has something good to offer if they go through the basics with a newcomer, but I'd like AA to be a better place than that. I have no idea whether or not it will make any difference but there's no harm in trying. That's all I can do.

Anyway, have a ! lovely Sunday. It's gorgeous over here :) Warm and lovely..

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Never ceases to amaze me how great meetings are

I am so accustomed to being able to choose from hundreds of meetings within easy reach, that I completely forget sometimes how lucky I am. It’s not something that really makes sense to people unless they have actually been to meetings, but basically I have an extraordinary range of scope in terms of the type of people that I get to speak to on a daily basis. I can very easily completely forget that this is not normal for most people. I’ve been living like this for over 20 years or so, so I forget all the time that this is not the norm.
Anyway, I went to a meeting that I normally can’t get to because it clashes with something else but I have enjoyed going to in the past, and I was wildly impressed at what a great meeting it was. For me, AA is ‘the pub with no beer.’ It’s like a David Lynch movie sober. Reminds me of Twin Peaks. Some amazing characters.
I LOVE that nobody knows how great AA meetings are except the people that actually go. I like that it’s a unique subculture with a genuine democracy, accessibility, and authenticity unlike any other social sphere I have encountered. And remains completely free as well. Amazing in this day and age.

Perhaps it’s really different out there in the sticks? but I have a feeling it is ? might be pretty similar. I used to drink in fairly remote places compared to where I am now, and it didn’t seem to matter where I was, because I always ended up hanging out with pretty !! colourful people, no matter how conservative or parochial the neighborhood was. I think alcoholics must have an affinity for seeking out the nonconformists. Who knows. But all I know is that I am extraordinarily fortunate to have seemingly limitless access to fascinating people who feel like long-lost friends even when I’ve never met them before, at my fingertips, any day of the week should I feel like dipping my toe into AA. It’s like this ? magic multiplying address book of connections, that never seems to stop getting bigger. Just when you think you’ve met more people than you’ll ever (!) have time to speak to, you meet some more ‘long lost friends’ who are actually strangers.
All this would be completely unsatisfying if there was not a meaningful and authentic connection with these people, but to me they feel like family. All of them. I really don’t understand ? why it works like that, but I just know it DOES, and I consider myself extremely fortunate to have this. No matter where I am in the world there will always be people within easy reach who feel !!! utterly familiar, even when I’ve never seen them before in my life. My family is huge. Well that’s what it feels like anyway.

None of this will make any sense to you if you never really got into the swing is going to meetings, like most things in AA it only makes sense once you actually DO it. Until then ..it sounds like hokey :)

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Nothing is as good or as bad as you think

Nothing is as good or as bad as you think.
I just thought I would mention this as it's been on my mind lately.

If I feel as though my mind is being drawn towards some sort of drama, some sort of resistance, some sort of inclination to get caught up in a ‘fight’, I remind myself of this motto. It is very anti-drama. It is very hard to hold onto drama when I remind myself of this motto. It gets me out of polar thinking. Black-and-white thinking. Us and them thinking.

All drama is bullshit really, but we fall for it every time. Just the ego desperately looking for a hook. Anything to create division, get us back up on the moral hilltop, and create a separate sense of self.
I think a lot of the time I kind of feel my way to the right answer. Meaning if I feel peaceful and reconciled. If I have stopped fighting, then I know I am doing something right.

And if I am still at war with something, even if it is merely some internal surge toward ‘contending’ against something, (even when I have said nothing), as far as I am concerned, I am full of crap. A little harsh you might think, but to me resentment is poison, and when I feel it internally, it feels like poison. It feels wrong. Like strange tiny green ivy tendrils encircling my veins and arteries and weaving its way through my body in ever-increasing quantities. An energetic poison. I feel embarrassed and stupid.* Like being stuck with spinach on your teeth at a party. Like farting in an elevator. I find resentment socially embarrassing, even when I’m alone in my own company.
*When I say stupid I mean that familiar Step one feeling of being caught with your pants down. Knowing you’ve been rumbled. It’s very humbling. It feels foolish but in a good way.

Resentment feels wrong even when on the surface it’s something that could be easily justified. Wanting revenge against a paedophile for instance. Wanting to punish an ‘evildoer’. It’s all the same in the end. Just another justified resentment. Baseless. A fiction to prop up the ego.

But basically, I really love this motto when I’m feeling ‘drama’. What I mean is when I am making a problem out of something, as thats when I feel like there is a drama. It seems to stop the drama in its tracks. It goes against my innate pre-programming toward drama and that’s why I like it. I believe it to be true. It’s like cool water. I want to keep it close in my mind when thing seem tough. It’s like a friend.

Hope you’re all having a lovely Tuesday. I’m still up to my eyes in papers and books. Physically and mentally tired. I still have plenty of inner rebellion against study, so am trying very hard to do the next right thing, which in this case involves looking at the next page, a paragraph at a time if necessary. Bleh. I find it interesting that the material I am studying is so universally disliked by other students, (apparently, but who knows if they are telling the truth) even the ones that gave me the impression that they were into it. It seems very difficult so I just have to plough through it. I’m very much in the just for today card ‘do something for 24hrs that would appal you if you thought you had to keep it up for a lifetime’ territory :)

Sunday, May 02, 2010

No Sympathy and lots of questions: A flawless demonstration of how we might Sponsor others by Phillip Hodson

Phillip Hodson is a famous UK psychotherapist who amongst other things, spent many years advising complex mental health issues over the course of phoneins to prime UK radio stations many years ago. As far as I know he neither does phone ins, or even practices as a therapist anymore. He may have retired apart from media and writing projects.
Anyway. Back in the day, people would call in regularly who had been sexually abused, raped, had other !! hugely embarrassing personal issues, or delicate and complex mental health issues, and without fail he managed to consistently provide excellent therapeutic advice to callers, IN AN INCREDIBLY SHORT TIMEFRAME. Hugely !! impressive. I find this style of engagement and delivery !!!! particularly impressive and effective, which is why I mention it here.

A link to his archive audio clips of advice during phone in radio shows is here.

One thing that is noticeable about the way in which he deals with callers, is that (in my interpretation anyway) his communication is devoid of even the slightest flicker of sympathy. ..What I think of as a 'poor you' response.
Unless you have heard an extremely competent person give advice very accurately, it is hard to see how you can give advice without resorting to sympathy at some point. His example illustrates perfectly how if you are very competent, and address the issue accurately, and maintain a common sense and evenhanded, upbeat, measured response, that that approach is infinitely preferable to a "poor you" attitude from the advice giver. Which in my opinion reinforces the concept of victimhood on the person to whom you are talking, so can do more harm.

As with most things, this is better understood by listening to his archive sample phonecalls on this site, than to my explanation, which I doubt does it justice.
But having listened to how effectively he addresses these issues a lot in the past when he used to host regular radio phone-in slots, I have strived to emulate his style in so far as I refuse to give in to the temptation to veer off into "poor you" territory. Having listened to people like Philip, I understood that sympathy may in fact be very detrimental to people who are vulnerable and on the brink of falling apart emotionally. So providing a consistent evenhanded response is often far more settling, and reassuring to the person disclosing their personal issues.
So basically I think Philip is a !!!!! ]fantastic example of how to sponsor people effectively over the phone. Well in my opinion anyway. It is conclusive proof that it need not take much time to get to the point of even a !! very complex issue, and also that sympathy is redundant in many cases, even the most heartbreaking abuse histories.

I just thought I would share that as a reference, as I have always held Phillip's phone skills in high regard, and I had no idea that he had these audio clips online. I only just recently found them so I thought I would mention them here.
I might add, that what I admire here is his skilfulness, and not necessarily the context of therapy per se. I admire skilfulness in all its manifestations, and he is a very atypical psychotherapist who has in my opinion, acquired a ! very high level of skill, which is why he interests me.
I'm not sure how his delivery might be interpreted by people in the US, but I know that in the UK he is an extremely respected professional, and considered generally to be a wise human being with a high level of skill regardless of his paper qualifications as a therapist.

So what I'm saying is, if you SOUND like Philip when you talk to Sponsees, (provided you are reasonably accurately providing !!!!! relevant AA feedback), then in my opinion you have acquired a !! very high level of skill in regards to sponsoring people.
I'm not saying I think you ought to be able to KNOW all the things that he knows is a psychotherapist. (!) What I mean is that putting aside the qualifications of psychotherapist, and just focusing on the WAY in which he listens and talks to people, a HUGE amount can be learned.
For instance, he will frequently interrupt to ask questions in order to clarify things. There are some people in AA that would accuse you of being disinterested or that you weren't listening, if you did that, but again this example illustrates ! perfectly that in order to be competent very often you DO have to interrupt and ask questions in order to get the point quickly. Basically he has a very interventionist style, as opposed to just 'listening'. I have always preferred a highly interventionist style, I understand that this is not normally what people do in AA, because people often feel that their job is a sponsor is to merely listen. But examples like Philip Hodson demonstrate how effective an questioning, interventionist approach is.
Basically a lot of what he does are things which could be levelled as criticisms by (in my opinion) people who don't understand the most effective means of sponsoring people. Because his advice was on a radio show, he worked under !!!!! intense time pressure, and sponsoring is a uniquely difficult task for precisely the same reason. There is a huge amount of time pressure because sponsoring is done on on TOP of full-time work commitments and social obligations. We are not therapists who have !!! hours to spare to book people in, we are people who work full-time who therefore want to get to the point very !!!! quickly, to get to the issue quickly, and so this particular model of advice giving has !!! great uses regarding how to sponsor people, in my opinion anyway. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the way he speaks to people. Pure class. Really ! impressive skillfulness.

He is a great example of the maxim 'Sober not Somber' and 'we absolutely insist on enjoying life'. He does not allow himself to get dragged down to the despairing level of the caller. His energy does not become murky or entangled in the mire of the caller. He maintains a positive, proactive, outlook, and is one of a very rare breed who is intelligent enough to have learned how to make just about everything they know sound incredibly understandable and simple. Only very clever people who know their subject can do that. He's spot on. In my opinion. My aim would be to be as impartial and engaged without getting energetically murky, as he is, so that I can be as efficient at helping others as he is able to be. Why? Because I want to at least TRY to be of Maximum helpfulness. I am very grateful for his inspiring example provided on endless !! radio phone-ins years ago.

So there you go :) Better be off and get on with Sunday. Hope yours is a good one.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Some great quotes..

Some great quotes that Ajahn Brahm makes quite often.. I loved some of these so I thought I would share them. He has the standard 'This too will pass', but I include it just to demonstrate the similarities between what he is talking about and AA I suppose. I love step 11 practitioners. Well not ALL of them, but I occasionally am very inspired by them. Some of these are gems. I love em :)
btw Ajahn Brahm has loads of talks on youtube on the BuddhistSocietyWA's Channel if you ? like that kind of thing. I find them very helpful for getting a good nights sleep during exams :)
Anyway, Hope you are having a volcanic dust-free weekend :) Meanwhile here's the quotes:

Whatever you think it's going to be..
It will always be something different.

"Never allow your knowledge to stand in the way of truth."

"The secret to life is... Everything is out of control"

"Pushing the wheelbarrow is easy, its the thinking about it that is hard"

"Suffering is asking from the world what it can never give you"

"The door of my heart will always be open to you, no matter what you did, who you are."

We should always be grateful for the faults in our partner because if they didn't have those faults from the start, they would have been able to marry someone much better than us.

How many times should you forgive someone? Always "one more time."

There is no right or wrong decision, only a decision with consequences

"What is the Law of Khamma in short? You get everything you deserve."

"This is good enough"

"A Busy person is not someone who has lots to do...Busy person is someone who does too many things at the same time"

"The purpose of life is finding the purpose of life"

Anger comes from frustrated plans..

Less expectations..Less Anger...

"When you expect less you can appreciate more"

What's the challenge in loving someone who's perfect?

Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes.
That way, if he gets angry, he's a mile away and barefoot.

"Teach your child two things - teach him to be honest and to question."

"Complaining is finding faults, wisdom is finding solutions"

Better to Light a Candle than Complain about the Darkness

"It's very compelling, very attractive to have a big daddy in the sky or a big mummy in the sky who will actually make sure that everything is okay for you and will make sure that all your problems disappear... BUT, you know, we're grown up now."

"When the stock market goes down, spiritual values go up."

Buddhist aircon: When it's cold outside, keep a warm heart. When it's warm outside, keep a cool head.

"Don't allow others to control your Happiness"

This too will pass.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Wings of desire: What it must be like to listen in to the thoughts of others

Wings of desire is a lovely film about 'Angels that walk the earth'. I am not saying it reflects reality in exactly the way I see it, but I like the insight into the private thoughts of passers-by in this film. I know that the longer I am sober and the more successfully I am able to communicate with others, that lots of things become apparent that were not apparent before. I feel I can read between the lines. I believe I can see where people are coming from much better than before. Even when they insist on chattering aimlessly about nothing in particular. I think we are very fortunate to get this ability to connect better with our fellow human beings as a by-product of recovery.
This film reminds me of how it feels to be around people who give the impression that they can see right through people. In a good way :) Another version of the same film is City of Angels. Both films have their moments. This film makes me wonder what my perception of humans would be if I could listen in to the thoughts and feelings of others. I like to think that I would feel nothing but compassion for the human condition if I could see that much. It would be a very humbling insight into our shared condition.

What's great about this film is that it is an intimate and vulnerable portrait of the inner landscape. Of the private thoughts people think nobody else knows about. In the course of various Step 11 experiences I have been lucky enough to be around people who made me feel completely transparent because they had such a high level of insight. At first I found it very embarrassing. It feels as though one has no mental or emotional privacy. These people gave me the impression that they can see right through me. So there was no point in trying to disguise anything I was thinking or feeling. (Whether they could or couldn't was by the by, the effect it had on me was what got my attention.)
This is part of the reason I recommend going on step 11 retreats so highly. Because it exposes you to people with a sufficiently high level of insight to completely see through your BS. And like I say, it first it seems uncomfortable, then very !!!! humbling. I suppose I really like it now. I prefer having no place to hide. But it's a very !! good way to get in touch with your humility. :)

I am much more aware of my petty internal responses to things than I was before. I didn't used to notice it nearly so much, but being around people who saw through my ? BS made me notice lots of slightly dodgy thoughts rumbling around in the background that I hadn't picked up on before. Plus lots of crazy rationalizations that I didn't even notice I had. Oh well. The unflattering thoughts don't go away, but I feel significantly more reconciled with my humanity. I feel very lucky to have had this experience.
It taught me a huge respect for logical questioning of what I am thinking. In the past I used to think that I needed to "understand". Now I just think I have to NOTICE things instead of letting them pass me by. I find that when I try to 'understand' things, my mind is invariably drawn towards the things I WANT to think about, (ie ego-massaging BS) as opposed to the things I SHOULD be looking at. (ie ego-puncturing observations)

The process started in AA. And continues because people always reflect something back to me that I hadn't seen before or hadn't noticed. Always some sort of new ? 'wake up call'. So I always end up coming face-to-face with something that reflected back that I wasn't expecting. It just seems to be more and more ego-puncturing experiences. Brings me face to face with the inner surges of the 'fight-to-the-death' ego. It would be so !!! lovely to have no ego. It encourages me to see some people manage to have made quite a bit of headway in that direction. Thank god it is not a lost cause :)
I find egolessness an incredibly beautiful characteristic in a person. I hope to be able to emulate some of the egoless people I have been lucky enough to meet sometime. There would be no 'self-will' left to break. Nothing between me and the ability to harmonize with others.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

14 years Sober. Relapse. Dead within a week.

Went to a meeting where a local guy shared that someone he knew from way back, (and had always spoken to fairly regularly), relapsed after 14 years and was dead within a week.
I didn't get the chance to find out if it's somebody I know, but I suspect it isn't, but you never know. It was a very sobering indictment of the importance of remaining vigilant / fit spiritual condition, and continuing to be willing to go to any lengths in order to face up to one's weaknesses and destructive habitual tendencies on a daily basis. It was very sad.
Another lady in the meeting discovered she had a serious cancer diagnosis in the previous week, which brings up to 3 the number of people who I have recently run into, who are undergoing tests of some sort for various cancer scares.
Nobody said life ever stopped happening when you get sober. It absolutely doesn't. None of us know what is round the corner.

I was very moved by the opportunity to be in the presence of people with real problems, and it felt precious having the opportunity to sit in a room with people who feel they have the permission to talk about these things freely, and share their burden.
I feel sorry for people who say they don't want to go to AA meetings anymore. I love going to them, and I love the opportunities for service that they provide. Each meeting shows me something about myself and about my attitudes to my fellow man, and allows me to stop and consider how I am responding to people places and things, and that insight is invaluable. I love being part of the tide of humanity.
It doesn't matter how long I've been around. I'm always touched and moved by being part of a group of alcoholics doing their lousy best to get well.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Online Privacy: I don't recommend Facebook to anyone. Delete as much as possible.

Having heard about some recent development in Google indexing, I decided to e-mail some people who I thought might have their online privacy compromised by their activity on Facebook. I had a look at the laughably titled "privacy policy" and the equally disturbing "statements of rights and responsibilities". I was so disturbed by the information I collected that I immediately e-mailed quite a few people who I thought might want to delete as much written or posted data from Facebook as possible.

The reason I thought I would mention this here, was because us alcoholics have the 'gift of the gab' as we like to say in Ireland. The upshot is that due to the years of talking very ! frankly in AA meetings, means we've become very verbally expressive and we are excellent communicators. This is ! fantastic when it comes to certain professions such as becoming a salesperson or becoming a competent board member who can express themselves well in group situations. But this has a down side in relation to things like Facebook. In my opinion anyway. This verbal dexterity can !! absolutely backfire on AA members if they are not careful. As while the rest of the population keeps schtum and says virtually nothing, apart from the occasional ? dodgy photo that gets posted after a drunken party, AAs are FAR more likely to say just about ? whatever they are thinking.
Also if there are any who have decided not to be anonymous AA members on facebook, the new indexing may have blown their anonymity permanently if they (even once) referred to their AA membership on a FB 'page' using their real name.

None of this would matter if the privacy rights of Facebook users were better. Unfortunately in my opinion they are ! DIRE.
A development in February 2010 exposed every written word on anything other than a persons "wall" to Google indexing. This appears to have been done without notifying Facebook users, as I can see no reference to this in the recent amendments to the privacy policy which attracted a lot of press attention due to the potential abuses of privacy rights.
The upshot is that unless you really !!! really want to leave a permanent Google trail linked to your name of everything you've ever posted on Facebook, do one of two things. Either confine what you write exclusively to people's walls, as opposed to pages.
Or else delete as much material linked to your name as possible and use Facebook in its most minimal sense.

Re PAGES. This is any group or fan page or ? anything other than a 'Wall'
If by ? any chance you have written anything on a FB page on Facebook, Delete it. As soon as possible. Why? Because all this material is being archived (as we speak) on Google next to your name and you will not be able to delete it at a later point. Meaning a Google search will reveal this material next to your name eventually. The sooner you delete this material the better. The process has been underway since February 2010 so the process is not yet complete. There is still time to delete comments before they are cached permanently.
Unless you are certain that the person's Wall you are writing on has VERY restrictive privacy settings, do not write anything on it. Email them instead. Same reason as above.
Re Writers who use Facebook
There are serious IP issues regarding anything you write as effectively you lose your intellectual property rights as soon as you say anything on Facebook. Although ownership doesn't pass to FB, Facebook acquires a licence to use the information whenever they like, which amounts to the same thing. So if you're planning on writing a novel or poetry or ?anything, be aware that you are granting a licence to Facebook any time you write that material on Facebook.
Photographs on Facebook
Precisely the same rules apply to photographs and pictures or videos. Any material you upload to Facebook, automatically grants Facebook permission in the form of an unlimited licence to use that material.
In an ideal world, the best thing would be to delete your FB account altogether.

So I hope perhaps I've given you an idea of why I don't recommend Facebook to !!! anyone, and I suggest that anybody who has a Facebook account, delete as !!! much material as they !!! possibly can. The priority regarding deletion is any written material on pages, and 'walls' without restrictive privacy settings. Because these are the pages that are now indexed by Google as of 25th February 2010. Now that I've looked at the terms and conditions, I find Facebook very sinister and unpleasant. I cannot recommend strongly enough, that the less written, picture, or any other interaction with the FB institution the better.
Perhaps privacy is a lost cause, but I really dislike infringements into privacy, so I have a ! very strong personal dislike for surreptitious invasions into personal material by institutions. The same google indexing concerns extend to twitter, myspace etc, but I thought I would mention FB first as it gets by FAR the most use. So apply the same reasoning to other online activity where your identity is revealed.

Generally speaking. I would say ALWAYS opt out of online databases OF ANY KIND, such as the heavily criticized UK healthcare database they are trying to set up for Londoners at present, and re social networking, delete as MUCH as possible. Ideally delete the social networking account altogether. Same goes for invitations to participate in DNA databases. Or any optional database really.
Oh yes, For the attention of those in the Greater London area ONLY. You have until 11th June to submit an Opt Out form to your GP in order to NOT have all your personal information including mobile phone number, address etc left on a laughably insecure UK government database called the SUMMARY CARE RECORD. If any of you are lucky enough to know anyone who works in computer security, ask them what they think. I have yet to meet one who is comfortable with this kind of online security. But each to their own. Thats just what I've discovered by asking around, and doing a little research. Whatever.

Right!! I should be !!! studying so, much as I would like to blather on about Facebook, and other dodgy databases I really should start organising my day.
I hope you managed not to eat your body weight in chocolate over Easter. Not an easy task! I am considering whether to go for a much longer than average run in order to mitigate the damage incurred by overzealous cake consumption over Easter :) I need a cup of tea first though :) I hope you have a !!!! lovely Easter Monday :)

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The hardest question is "What is the most helpful thing to do?"

"Helping others is the foundation stone of your recovery. A kindly act once in a while isn’t enough" p97 AA Big Book
"Your job now is to be at the place where you may be of maximum helpfulness to others, so never hesitate to go anywhere if you can be helpful." p102 AA Big Book
"Our very lives, as ex-problem drinkers, depend upon our CONSTANT thought of others and how we may help meet their needs." p20 AA Big Book
“How can I best serve Thee-Thy will (not mine) be done.” These are thoughts which must go with us CONSTANTLY"
'p85 AA Big Book

For a long time I have thought that the question "what is the MOST helpful thing to do?" Is THE most difficult question to answer. For me it is the most challenging question. It demands the highest levels of intelligence. It involves looking at the obvious and the intangible. And I don't think it can ever be fully understood. I just do my lousy best knowing that I will never see the whole picture. If I waited until I KNEW what was the 'right' thing to say to a newcomer, before I tried to help, I would STILL be waiting :) But having said that I paid VERY close attention to the way in which members of my home group (with a high long-term success rate of sponsee recovery) spoke to newcomers and sponsees. So I WAS doing my utmost to learn from the example of others.

MOST helpful as opposed to just 'helpful':
"sometimes the good is the enemy of the best" Tradition Two
"maximum helpfulness" p102 AA Big Book

Part of the reason I think we learn so much, and benefit so much from trying to help others via Step 12 is that we are confronted with this question every day if we are TRYing to 'give it away to keep it', or practice these principles in all our affairs. (Step 12 Big Book )
I agonise over this question. That doesn't mean I over-think the question. That means I am very concerned about how I answer that question.
Anyway I just thought I would mention that.
I believe step 12 offers us the steepest learning curve imaginable because it exposes us to this question constantly.
I also think I have benefited HUGELY from Step 12, and I believe it has healed me in all sorts of ways and provided me with great blessings. I cannot recommend it enough to anyone who is suffering.

My favourite old-timer used to quote "the greatest good for the greatest number." And I think he appeared to me to be living his life based on this principle.
The reason I drew the conclusion was because he was able to help a LOT of people because he chose to develop a way of carrying the message that was VERY efficient. The brevity and conciseness off his choice of words meant that he was able to help more people than less. And to this day I regularly meet people who might not be sober were not for his intervention, either directly, or as a result of the help offered by his sponsees or sponsees of his sponsees. So my limited understanding of what he contributed was that he was one of those members who "rendered prodigies of service." (From Step 12 in the 12x12).
Obviously that's just my perception and I could be wrong, but that's how it looked to me. And I find his example very helpful to this day when considering how to try (!) to be of maximum helpfulness to others.

I have a mini retreat to attend which involves a very early start tomorrow, so my brain will be getting both a workout and simultaneously a rest from it's perpetual restlessness which can only be a good thing :) Hope you all have a restful and peaceful Easter Sunday :)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Going beyond the 'rules': Being willing to relinquish all your fixed ideas and instead do what seems most helpful in any given situation

Your job now is to be at the place where you may be of MAXIMUM helpfulness to others. AA Big Book p102.
The good is the enemy of the best. AA 12x 12 Tradition 2.
People tend to flip-flop between extremes, and no two people are the same. The only thing that differs is the extent to which they have become unbalanced in any direction.
They might start off completely repressed and utterly unable to sit with difficult feelings without dashing off to buy something, or make themselves very busy, rush off into distracting activity, or start another project.
Then there are others who come in completely awash with overwhelming emotions that disable any attempt at regular living.

When I am trying to assess what is in others best interests I look at the circumstances they are dealing with and their capacity to patiently (as opposed to bitterly) endure suffering or lack of capacity to endure suffering
So lets say if somebody showed up ridiculously chirpy (and there's nothing inherently wrong with being ridiculously chirpy), but the way in which they were being ridiculously chirpy meant that they were unable to also be not chirpy when the situation demanded. Then I might tell them in their inflexibility could wreak havoc with their emotional well-being down the line.

Ultimately the goal is total flexibility. Or what AA calls ‘open-mindedness’. Meaning you do whatever works best in any given situation regardless of whether it ‘suits’ you or not. Regardless of whether it appeals to your current pet theories (what AA calls ‘fixed ideas’) or not.
That's why I like the statement in my introduction to my blog that says "I just try to do what works no matter what it is".
Another slogan I love is ‘more of what works and less of what doesn't’, because it bypasses any particular entrenched belief pattern and focuses instead on what is working in any given moment. Because what works this week might not work best for me next week. And if I am paying attention sufficiently to the results that I am getting from my attempts to make my life work, then I like to think I will notice when the method that worked fantastically last month, may no longer be serving my best interests this month.

The other mantra I like is "the rules are, there are no rules". It sounds like a recipe for a total anarchy but it isn't. A bad workman blames his tools. So if I were to meet somebody that used this ‘rule’ as an excuse to sabotage their life in a heedless and destructive manner, I would not find fault with the ‘rule’ but I would find great fault with the unskilful way that person decided to use it.

Another thing that I find interesting is that what looks like a purist ‘good’ rule can be ‘bad’, meaning it can be used in a way that creates massive suffering and destruction. And what looks like a ‘bad’ rule can be used in a way that's incredibly life enhancing and supportive.
I suppose what I'm saying is that it's not the rule that is ‘pure’ but instead it is the skilfulness which with which the rule is applied where the ‘purity’ exists. ..And that’s why when people stop thinking about how they are applying what they have learned to any given situation, and instead revert to default understandings they haven't really questioned in years, that problems develop.

The problem is that people aren't paying attention, or don't stop to think about why they are actually doing things the way they are doing them. It's very sad that most people are far too restless or busy to stop and think about what they are doing. So I consider myself extremely lucky to have been given the opportunity to learn from the example of those who have made it a habit to reflect upon their lives deeply, no matter how much they have learned so far. Only very arrogant people draw the mistaken assumption that because they worked hard and read a few self help/therapy/enlightenment books, that there is nothing left for them to learn. On the contrary there is an !!!! infinite amount to learn and we are all a work in progress. Don't ever make the mistake that you think you know what you're talking about, because you probably don't. If you can tolerate the insecurity of knowing that you will never really know the whole picture, then you can relax. It doesn't have to be a big deal that none of us know the answers to the intangible. We can live our lives very comfortably resolved to the fact that we see through a glass darkly, and that's as good as it will ever get. The most important things in life are the things that are hardest to see with the naked eye. Which is frustrating until you become comfortable and better able to tolerate the insecurity of that reality.
So question everything. Try not to sleepwalk into a life of unquestioned mental/emotional habits. Become comfortable with the uncertainty. Its ok :). And tell the truth nomatter how unflattering and ego puncturing it is.

And if any of what I have said makes you realise how easy it is to become unstuck using these so-called spiritual principles, well take heed. That's what sponsors are for. If you are a new person, trust me, it's ! very easy to misinterpret these guidelines and use them in ways which ruin your well-being. So please try to find a guide to help you implement the tools that AA offers. And please do your due diligence on the person you are considering asking to be your sponsor. Learn as much as you can from the examples in AA because you can learn from anyone, not just your sponsor. An old timer used to say "A wise person learns from his own mistakes, a smart person learns from other people's". So you can learn from !! everyone in AA.

oh yes, and here's a quote I heard today which I really love.
Saying 'Yes' to life is real renunciation. ~Pema Chodron~

Right: well I'm going to do some work now.. a strong cup of coffee will do the trick I think.
I hope Wednesday is treating you well :)

Monday, March 15, 2010

There is quite possibly nothing as unattractive as desperation

"He clamors for this or that, claiming he cannot master alcohol until his material needs are cared for. Nonsense. 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 ahead of dependence on God.
Burn the idea into the consciousness of every man that he can get well regardless of anyone"
. (p98, AA Big Book)

I spoke to a very new and very desperate newcomer quite recently. She is a very extreme example of a codependent. I'm not sure if codependent is the correct word, but I do know that she could not imagine life without any romantic relationship. Basically she has a chronic dependency upon the presence of a romantic relationship, without which she can see no purpose in life or any meaningful existence.
She sounded extremely troubled and extremely desperate. I have to say I don't meet very many women who are as openly desperate and openly dependent as this one. Most are afraid to admit that they are chronically dependent on even the most unsatisfactory relationships.

There are so many different types of alcoholics that come to AA. Some appear reasonably happy on the surface but have absolutely no control over how much they drink, and come to a because they've tried everything else and nothing works. Others come in emotionally and mentally frazzled, full of hate, and extremely nilhistuc. What I mean is that some are in the advanced stages of the physical progression only, yet not very far advanced in the mental and emotional progression of the illness. And then others are very advanced mentally and emotionally, yet not very far progressed in terms of their physical compulsion. The ones that are consumed with resentment are more testing to talk to for any length of time, but I remember vividly being consumed with contempt in my early days, so I suppose I don't take it personally. Having said that, it surprises me how unashamed women are in expressing their hatred so openly, as if completely guiltless about their unabashed contempt. Times have changed perhaps, or else different cultures are more accepting of admissions of contempt.

I was reflecting on our conversation after we had spoken, and I was very grateful for her example of chronic dependency. In Buddhism they refer to the 'grasping mind', or the 'hungry ghost', representing an appetite incapable of being satisfied. Although I do not suffer from anything like her extreme levels of chronic dependency, I am only free of my dependency to the extent that I am able to see my own irrational clinging to people places and things, (various conditions) in a deluded attempt to pin reality down to a controllable form.
Because I am powerless over people places and things, this attempt to control people and places and things leads only to suffering. I may not have become bitter and twisted or overtly dependent in a way that she expressed, but my own tendency toward dependency on people places and things will never leave me.

The very best I can hope for is to have sufficient self-awareness to see the deluded nature of my wish to have people places and things a 'certain (self-centred) way'. Eager to hold onto them, and make them "mine", or push them away so that they no longer have the opportunity to disturb me. Both attempts to control the uncontrollable are deluded and 'wrong'.
So her overt and theatrical display illuminated in stark relief the insanity of dependency in all its forms. Subtle and not so subtle. I could not have asked for a better lesson in the insanity of dependency. So for that I am grateful.
I hope she makes it. She's clearly very disturbed and so that reduces her chances quite considerably unless she is willing to follow suggestion. But sometimes it works the 'wrong' way round. Sometimes it is the most desperate people are the ones most likely to pick up the tools of recovery. You just never know.

On a happier note I met another very new woman whilst nipping out to the shops who gave the appearance of being the polar opposite of the chronically dependent woman. This woman appeared to be absolutely ready to forego the deluded belief that her wish to control her ex-partner was anything other than fruitless. She was ready to look for something else. I love the mosaic of personalities I meet in AA. They are endlessly varied and never dull.

On a completely different and lighter note, I had a much-needed pamper and feel much better for it. I had a day of rest despite feeling very restless which restored me physically, then caught up with skin, nails and hair treatments which may not have had much effect but make me feel slightly more human after a long spell of sleep deprivation. Ultimately the best thing for the body is not skin treatments but impeccable diet, lots of water and exercise which is a !! slightly harder remit to fulfil.
It's a gorgeous spring morning over here. Very very sunny and lots of birdsong. I hope you have a good Monday.

"If you look for certainty in that which is uncertain, you are bound to suffer" Ajahn Chah

Monday, March 08, 2010

Just a hello

Anyway, I just thought I would say hello, as I've been off the radar for a while now with study.
I haven't had any exams for seven days, and since then I've been reviewing my study methods from the last semester, and thinking how I might apply what I've learned in the second half. I will find out if I passed at easter or something. Plus I've been taking a bit of a breather. I rested, went to a few meetings, caught up with a few friends. I still love going to meetings. They are the pub with no beer. I am incapable of getting bored with them.

I watched a few movies, and am quite excited to hear that the hurt locker with a female director has managed to get so many awards. I have been thinking about the influence of women's perspectives in the last six months or so, and was very interested to hear that his Holiness the Dalia Lama is very much in favour of women obtaining positions of authority in the West, because he considers that they are biologically more capable of compassion therefore it is in everyone's interests if they fulfil positions of authority. So I like that a woman's interpretation of war is elevated to centre stage, regardless of the precise message of the film. Having said that, I think Avatar (Male Director) had a great message. So who knows.

Meetings are unchanged. They are still full of newcomers. They are still full of people who have no ! idea how to put it into immediate practice the most basic aspects of the programme, such as picking up the phone every day to tell another person how they are feeling, and get feedback, or even just to pick up the phone before they pick up a drink. You just need to !! drum these things into them. Again and again. Until they realise that these habits have to become part of their daily life. Until they have reached a position of security and stability post-steps. All I can do is give them my phone number. I cannot force them to phone me.
I always like alcoholics. So its sad when they don't all pick up the tools and make use of them. But I take refuge in fact that I do not know who will get it and who will not get it. I try to keep an open mind.

Have got to rush today as meeting family in a hour so gotta go. Its a gorgeous, bright, chilly spring morning over here :)
Hope you have a ! great Monday, and thanks for all the !! LOVELY kind comments in response to my exam post. Very kind indeed, and much appreciated. :) I am as incapable of getting bored with kindness, as I am of getting bored of people or meetings :) So thank you :)

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Scary study pressure till March and thanks for all the encouragement :)

I am under a lot of pressure due to exams on 22nd 25th of Feb and 1st March and every act of kindness, however small, can move me to tears of gratitude and every carelessness or unkindness stemming from others unconsciousness can be a blow I feel absolutely. I am so grateful for all the kind things people have done for me or said to me in the past. It is at times like these when memories of all the nice things said and done are hugely significant. People wish me well, say encouraging things and genuinely try to be helpful, and that is the best thing in life I know. Kindness is a beautiful thing.
I have to exercise every day and eat really well to keep my emotions manageable when there is a seemingly impossible pile of work to do, because I am a lot more vulnerable and my emotions are much more readily available when the going gets tough, so to speak. I am much more affected by the actions of others when I am under pressure. I have to be strict to keep things from becoming overwhelming. The Taoist Arch comes in handy when it all seems a bit much. I have to be honest; I have to not eat sugar, bread, or pasta, (it makes me REALLY tired). I have to drink plenty of water. I have to try to be helpful when I get the chance. I have to restrain myself from saying irritable things if I am at the end of my tether. Or let someone know they have been cruel when they say something unkind to me. (It’s too emotionally draining to confront them about their ‘stuff’). I have to do things that stabilize my mood such as helping others in whatever limited way I can till things settle down. I have to maintain a good intention toward others, and try to use my life to be of service. I need to wear life like a loose garment, not take myself too seriously, and try to do the work ‘lightly’, as opposed to a heavy duty power drive, ? white knuckle act of will. I need to fit meetings in, but be disciplined to get straight back to work instead of chatting to everyone after the meeting. Not easy!

I am not afraid of drinking, but it is more an emotional ‘white water’ expedition lasting till March which I am required to manage. I have to do stuff every day to keep my balance and keep myself functioning well enough to get as much study as I can do each day till then. I cannot afford to get overwhelmed to exhausted to the extent that I am unable to study or take things in.
I think of all the other people that are going through the stress of these examinations, and I feel a sense of solidarity with them. I also think of the people who managed to do well, who found it difficult just like I do, but managed to figure it out and that helps.

Being a long time sober means although I feel the stress more readily, (I am not suppressing it or denying it) I am almost too good at being ‘comfortable’, and can end up not applying myself with the same urgency I used to when I was a drinker. I can be too ‘yeh whatever’ and not be galvanised. Exams on the other hand scare me to ! death so I find urgency then, (thank God) but urgency does not arise without a terrifying looming deadline. Another ‘disadvantage’ of being long time sober, is that nothing seems terribly obvious. I see exceptions everywhere, and that makes it hard (for me) to be simple and practical, and focus on a few relevant details. Perhaps I am making excuses here and am just not very good at this, but I am unable to tell objectively at this point.

I cannot really tell at this point whether I know enough to pass these or get a decent mark, but I do know that I am sure that the prospect of passing or getting a decent mark (never mind a distinction or whatever) seems hopeless EVERY year, so I hope that I am as wrong this year as I have been in previous years. But I am not kidding. This is not an easy year. Not for me anyway. Being submerged in a new and (relatively) much more competitive culture compared to last year has been difficult to study in. Some of the tutors seem downright fierce and dismissive. Survival of the fittest seems to be the attitude. And it is much more practical than the esoteric philosophical tangents I studied before. It does not help that I am nonconformist, and although cooperative, have no desire to tow the party line to score extra points, as this comes in very handy when you need feedback from the tutors. Basically I am useless at sucking up to tutors. Oh well. Perhaps I can apply these new approaches to the 2nd 6 months of the year. I hope so. I don’t want the 2nd set of exams to be as disturbing as these ones ☺
Basically it has been a very humbling six months. I have used private tutors in the past to help with exams, but I am not sure if that’s what I need this time. The hard thing this year is simply remembering the mass of data, and bringing the dry facts to life by imagining their significance in real life scenarios. Otherwise I can forget them very !!! quickly.

I also tend to study in too much detail and so waste time on details I will not need in the exam, because I cannot see the wood for the trees till AFTER I understand the thing. Others seem to be able to pick out the salient points from the mass of data more quickly, and think in much more practical terms.
It has been a very difficult 6 months in a lot of ways and there are another 6 months to go, so I hope this works out, as it is an expensive and necessary career step. But as this is only a stepping-stone, I do not mind that it is not to my liking as it does not dictate what I decide to do afterwards.
These academic challenges are strange rites of passage. They seem to push you beyond what you think your natural limits are, and from that point of view they are like going to ‘any lengths’, which I suppose can only be a good thing, even though it doesn’t !!!! feel like it at the time ☺

Well thanks for bothering to read that. I feel much better for writing it.
So anyway, I suppose what I am saying is thank you for all your kind words or thoughts of support, because I do appreciate them, and I think of the things people say and I feel a connection with those people in a way I cannot really explain. But for me these things are very meaningful, and for me kindness is the most valuable thing in life. So thank you, and I hope you are have a lovely weekend.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

How I try not to be a control freak when I am attempting to help newcomers

Once we relinquish the deluded craving to control others, we (paradoxically) become MUCH more able to engage in a significant way with that person.
It’s hard to relinquish the delusion of control when there is a possibility of death, but because it is so beneficial to the relationship with newcomers, we have a duty to, if we care about that person, and the time they have left with us.

I cannot help a newcomer unless I know they may die if they do not get well. nor can I help them if I am being a control freak. I have to be impartial. Unattached. Without agenda, for them to be able to listen to me. Otherwise I am wasting my time, and possibly speeding up their demise.

I can ‘feel’’ when things are not right. I can ‘feel’ when I am saying something that rankles that is not helping them. Sometimes it is good that they are rankled. Other times it is not. I tell the difference between the two by how it feels being in their presence, how the conversation feels and my intention to be of service.
Even when I am doing something ‘right’ I will get a short lived ‘toxic’ response from the newcomer as they ‘thrash around’ initially when faced with some inconvenient truth that narrows their options to seeking a spiritual solution. I cannot remember how long this period used to last when I first started doing it, but for the last few years I have noticed that if I persevere, the initial ‘fight’ can last as short as 2-3hrs. Sometimes 1-2. Very occasionally 45mins. What I mean is that rebellion of some sort is to be expected and do not take it personally. There are of course some who remain argumentative and complaining no matter what. They tend to be the more strident, confident, somewhat bullying-type personalities. Perhaps they have no desire to change? Perhaps there is just an entrenched habit of the mind to argue and criticise? Who knows. All I know some remain shirty and complaining for a long time. I don’t mind that they are like this, but it is not pleasant, and requires patience. They deserve help just like everyone else, but if I think I am not helping them I will back off, unless they are at real risk of drinking or feeling suicidal, and are too angry to ask for help in AA somewhere else.

It is possible to make very concrete suggestions with NO agenda to control. I am not required to be vague. All I do is give up the internal ‘fight’ to have things ‘go my way’. I act in full knowledge that the worst may occur and I may never get what I want, and I am resolved to accept that should it arise. I know that when I genuinely feel this way, that the other person knows this is my feeling, even if I never articulate it as such. Most communication is non-verbal, and people can tell if you are ‘on their case’ or not. Most of the time I am paying attention to how I feel about what is being said, more than the words themselves. Often I will feel initially attacked, when they start feeling antagonistic or derogatory toward me, but this is 90% of the time temporary, so experience has taught me not to take it personally. The better the communication feels, after the initial ‘hump’, the more I feel I am helping/getting through to them.

Otherwise it is perfectly natural for anger or resentment to crop up from time to time from people you help. As long as they have sufficient restraint to communicate it in a non-harmful way, this need not be an issue. Until then, you just have to be a bit patient, and do some damage limitation with their outbursts when they show up. I am able to be firm and draw a line if I am not offended or defensive (ie not resentful).

I do not apply this to people who’ve been in AA longer and are not at much risk of drinking at all. If they are sour, gossipy or critical of anyone, they are not people I befriend or hang around with in AA. I am very lucky to have many meetings to choose from so it is not very difficult to find people who have been sober for a while and do not bitch and moan about other AAs. There are some extraordinarily fair minded and balanced AAs in my locale, some with extremely impressive social skills, so I am very lucky. The cantankerous, complaining judgemental ones can be avoided fairly easily. AA will always be a big mixture of people so their will always be the snide passive-aggressives and the overt attackers in amongst the membership. As long as you spot it fairly quickly and move on, it doesn’t have to be an issue.

Phew. This Sunday seems very peaceful despite my too-full agenda, and I have a short stop at a beautiful ancient church here which I always like. I hope your heart is at rest this Sunday.