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, 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 :)