Sunday, December 11, 2011

Visiting the Old Hot Spots

No, this is not a suggestion to go back to the bars and old haunts, but rather to visit, from time to time, the old "hot spots" that we discovered while working on our Fourth and Fifth Steps.  When we revisit these hot spots, we take away their power. We realize we don't need to be controlled by them anymore, rather we confront them and use the occasion to ask God for His grace to remove the resulting resentments and anger.
I have a good friend who has lots of good years in the Program, but she complains she is still plagued with bouts of anger. Most all of us share her outbursts from time to time.  It may be worthwhile to look again at the roots of that anger.  In her case, it was a terrible relationship with a stepmother. The stepmother had a razor-like tongue and foul mouth and used both as cruel, abusive weapons.  When my friend was working on her resentments, she discovered the stepmother was the cause of her anger and her own resentments. 
The word resentment, comes from the Latin root, re-sentire, or the ability to re-feel.  When we were deeply hurt as a child by someone who should have been protecting us, we can re-feel the same anger today, just as we might have felt it ten or twenty years ago. Today when someone does something which hurts us deeply, we can go back to the well of anger that still exists inside us as a result of what we experienced as a child.  When triggered, we can re-feel the same anger over and over again.
I suggest that we revisit our hot spots not to wallow in them, but rather to defuse them.  If we difuse our anger we can stop the cycle and keep from passing it on to anyone else.  We don't blame the person who caused our hurt, in fact we are better off forgiving the perpetrator of the hurt.  We can learn to believe they were doing the best they could with what they had.  In fact, they were probably passing along what they learned as a youngster. Years ago, when my father was complaining about me and my behavior, his pastor told him, "the acorn doesn't fall far from the tree". My dad didn't like that retort, but it is true. We learn a lot from our parents and caregivers, good and not so good.
Once we can identify where and from whom we learned the lessons we can understand the impact on our own behavior.  The irony is, the things we learned about ourselves were wrong then and are wrong now. We are not the dumb heads we were told we were, but we may still see ourselves that way.  We need to let go of this kind of old idea about ourselves. 
While attending a retreat this fall, I met a man who was working on this topic and experienced a strong awakening.  He is a successful businessman and very popular.  He told us as he made decisions over the years he could always envision his dad standing along side him, criticizing and telling him his ideas were wrong.  Now he realizes his dad was wrong and he can move out from under that negative influence.  The things his father taught him, in many cases, were wrong.  Now with God's help, the direction of the Steps and the encouragement of a sponsor, he can live knowing that he doesn't have to listen to that voice any more.
We all have voices that need to be tuned out if not turned off.  Once we know where the voices come from, we can identify when we imitate them. For example, my anger and frustration with the clerk in the super market, goes back to the anger and frustration I had with----- fill in the blank.  We don't need to pass our anger on to the next generation.  If we have passed our anger on, we can make it part of making our amends in Steps 8 and 9.
John Bradshaw, the well known writer and professional counselor, developed an exercise, where he teaches his clients to emotionally go back in time and confront their hot spots. He suggests they see themselves as the little child who was hurt by the parent or caregiver.  He has his clients take that little child's hand in their now adult hand, and go back. In the example of my friend who was abused by her stepmother, my friend would take her younger self by the hand, calmly see her stepmother and tell her that her abusive words and actions were inappropriate. She would then express her hurt and disappointment, and tell the stepmother to stop her abuse. Tell her she was wrong.  By completing this exericise she could, as an adult, calmly and simply confront the situation she could not cope with as a child.
If you have resentments and anger that still have power over you, try the exercise above.  Take your younger self by the hand and go back to the cause of that anger and tell the person you feel was responsible that they were wrong.  Once you have laid your anger and resentments out in the open ask God to take them all away.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Move Over Albert - New Definition of Insanity

According to Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different outcome.  For addicts and alcoholics I believe the definition of insanity is denying the reality that one, the other, or both controlled our lives.  Insanity is believing that we either do not have a problem or that we can overcome the problem on our own with our own self-will.  How many of us have said or heard, "I can quit whenever I want."  When I was drinking I quit every day - right after finishing a fifth of Jack Daniels.  That is insanity.

One story I relate in God is at the Meeting is a conversation I had with an acquaintance.  He told me he drinks to the point of blacking out and wondered if he had a drinking problem.  I suggested that he might and that he was putting himself and others at risk if he was driving while in a blackout.  He replied that he would never do that.  Of course, the irony is that if he were in a blackout he would have no consciousness of driving!  That is insanity.

Another fellow I know got on an airplane drunk (pre TSA), fell asleep, didn't wake up through a stop and ended up getting off the plane in Las Vegas, expecting to be in Denver.  He had absolutely no idea how he had travelled 700 miles past his destination.  That is insanity.

The first Step of A.A. is admitting the reality of our addiction.  We have to leave the make-believe world behind and come into the real world where we admit that we are powerless over alcohol and our lives are truly unmanageable.  Until this Step is taken, we continue to live in a world where waking up in the wrong city, driving in a blackout or believing that finishing our latest fifth is "quitting" is reality.

If you are following this blog, you have probably already moved into the real world.  If not, take the Step - admit that you are powerless and accept the help of the real Power - the Power that can only come from God.

p.s.  If you'd like to share any of your experiences of living in the insane world of alcoholism, please leave a comment below.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lust and A.A.

Addicts and alcholics usually have several common traits and one of those is lust.  What do I mean by that?  I mean that we are always lusting after or craving the better high and the longer buzz.  Like non-alcoholics we also seek money and the outward trappings of wealth - the faster car, the bigger house, the better office.  We may get caught up in seeking more attention from the opposite sex or finding gratification through pornography.  All of these are symptoms of the same thing - selfishness.  We seek those things that make us feel better, many times ignoring the costs to our co-workers, friends and family.

The Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, never talks about how to not drink.  It leads us from Step One through Step Twelve into being better human beings.  It teaches us that our happiness will not be found in drink, drugs, wealth, pornography or anything else outside of ourselves.  Happiness and peace are found when we humble ourselves, admit we need help and let God help us.  It's an inside job.

People reading this blog know me pretty well and will probably laugh at the thought of me trying to be humble and I must admit it's something I struggle with.  I can't say that humility is something I'm working on, because I know that I cannot remove my own character defects.  If I try to remove my own character defects, it remains all about me - I'M going to fix MY defects by MYSELF.  It can't happen.  What I have to do, and I believe we all have to do is found in Step Seven - ask God to remove them for us.  When we ask God to remove our defects it becomes about Him and His Power.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Circle is Wide

The other day I had the opportunity to share a meal with an old buddy of mine.  As we were catching up on each other's lives, I gave him a couple of bookmarks that feature the cover art and web address for ordering God is at the Meeting.  He laid the bookmarks down on the table.  A few minutes later we were joking with the waitress and she mistook the bookmarks for theater tickets.  She picked one up and when we told her it wasn't a ticket she read the title and walked away.  About three minutes later she came back and told us her sister is involved with A.A. in Colorado and she was going to buy her a book.  About two minutes after that, another waitress came to the table and told us she had 18 years in the program, she shook my hand and thanked me for writing the book, and said she would buy a copy as well.

Although I probably shouldn't be, I am still amazed at the size of the A.A. circle and the many ways God uses us to meet and share with others in the program and those who may need the program.  I don't believe these meetings are coincidence.  Step 12 tells us that we are to carry the A.A. message to other alcoholics - to share what we have learned and let them know that they "don't have to live like that anymore".

We never know how God is going to use us to be His messenger - it may be at an A.A. meeting, it may be in jail, or it may be something as simple as laying a bookmark on a restaurant table.

I'd love to hear some of the God coincidences in your life - if you'd like to share, please use the comment section on this page.  Thank you!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Why Write This Book?

Some folks have asked me why I decided to write a book about spirituality as it pertains to AA.  The reasons are pretty simple.  The first is based on something I hear frequently at meetings when people say something along the lines of "I know AA works - I don't know how it works, but it works."  I think people should know how it works.

The second is something that happens when I attend AA meetings at jail or prison.  I see prisoners attend a few meetings and then drop out or some who complete some steps and then either can't or won't go through the remaining steps.  I believe that if people can't see how the Steps connect to lead us from self-centered drunk to sober individual to leading a peaceful, grateful life, then they are missing the beauty of the program.  They miss out on the acceptance and unconditional support of the community of Alcoholics Anonymous.

I wrote the book with my understanding of the Steps and how they have worked for me.  Others may have had a different experience that worked for them and that's okay too.  My personal belief is that without God, AA and the Twelve Steps I would have been a dead man a long time ago.  My hope is that even one person can read my book and be encouraged to attend meetings, get a sponsor, work the Steps and find the joy of recovery.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

So, here I am starting my very first blog - not knowing three days ago what a blog was.  My purpose with the blog is to start conversations around my book God is at the Meeting:  Spirituality and the Twelve Steps.  I was told by my publisher that it was imperitive I find someone "under the age of 30" to start a blog for me.  I guess that insulted me enough to go online and figure out how to blog - seems that even us old guys can type a sentence or two.  Of course, now it's up to you to make sure I have some followers (yep, I'm even picking up the lingo).  They also told me I must have someone under the age of 30 to start a Twitter account for me.  Not so sure about that one yet.  The publisher also suggested that if I couldn't "find someone under 30" to voluntarily start the blog for me, they would help me find someone to hire.  So they believe that not only am I too old to start a blog, but I'm also too old to know anyone under the age of 30???

Today is a big day for me - my first blog AND my first copy of God is at the Meeting was delivered.  It is somewhat surreal to see my name in print as "author" and hard to believe that two years' of work were condensed into such a compact package.

I wrote this book with the hope that even one person suffering under the lash of alocholism or drug addiction will pick it up and it will lead them to the healing Power. It was difficult to write, with thoughts pouring out from things that happened two days prior, to things that happened more than 50 years ago.  It sometimes hurt to remember all the days of feeling unwanted, shameful, and "less than." I believe those are feelings shared by most, if not all, alcoholics and addicts.  The hurt, however, was tempered by the knowledge that I am no longer that shame-filled, hurting person. With the power of God and the support of my fellows in AA, I know that I am loved, accepted and can live at peace with the world.

So, welcome to my blog.  I hope you gain from it and I look forward to any discussions my posts initiate.