Promises, Promises

The 9th Step Promises of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous say:

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.

(The Big Book, pp. 83-84).

We read these promises at the end of every meeting of my home group, and I have always loved it when the chairperson asks me to be the one who reads them. Even in my earliest days of sobriety, it was the Promises that gave me hope. You see, I wanted those promises for me and my life, although much of the time I never thought I could be so fortunate. I could see the evidence of the Promises in other alcoholics’ lives, they were happy, emotionally and spiritually fit, they could pay their bills on time, and they had healthy relationships. It didn’t bother them to talk about their pasts, and they weren’t wallowing in them either. They spoke about their drinking days in the context of, “you have to feel the bad times, to appreciate the good ones.” That was new to me, and in those first couple of years of sobriety, I didn’t think that I would ever be able to feel that way about my past.

Guess what happened though? Somewhere along the way, as I worked the steps – struggling through the hard days, and grateful for the good ones – the Promises started coming true for me. I have found a new freedom and a new happiness. Neither of those things came easily though. Freedom from drinking as a way to cope is never easy for an alcoholic. In fact, I think it’s a miracle when any alcoholic can go any length of time without a drink. I really do. But I also think that every minute, hour, day, and year that I stay sober I am free of my old way of coping, and that freedom feels good. What I have learned about happiness is that you can have it if you choose to. I have been through some pretty rough times in sobriety, some times that were even worse than the hell I went through when I was actively drinking, but I notice now that often I am able to choose happiness even then, even in those moments that used to baffle me.

There are still things about my past that I regret. What I find though is that I no longer wish to shut the door on it. I am able to talk and think about my past without guilt and shame (at least on most days), and sharing my past might help someone else. That’s what it has become for me – a way to help others in the same way that I have been helped. How can I be ashamed of that?

Self-pity used to be where I hung out most of the time. The Promises say that it will disappear, and I will say that I can see now that it is true. I’m not saying that I never fall back into that way of thinking, I do. However, I spend a whole lot less time there, and I bounce back faster when I do start to feel it. That too, is a miracle.

“Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.” Wow, I never thought that I would experience that, but I have. I’m not saying that I don’t worry anymore about what people are going to think, or that I am suddenly financially secure. What I am saying is that I have learned that I don’t have to be afraid of either of those things. What other people think is none of my business, and I no longer feel the need to try to live up to whatever it is I think they want from me. And even though I haven’t won the lottery, and I’m not independently wealthy, when financial challenges come up, I don’t stress as much. I know that things will be okayAll things are possible. I just know.

Knowing that things will be okay comes from the realization that “God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.” That’s it, plain and simple. God is at work, and I am not trying to run His show. Admittedly, there are times that I still try to take over…ok, there are still a lot of times that I try to take over, but when I am able to let go and hand it over to God, amazing things happen.

To the newcomer I say, be patient with your recovery. Believe that the Promises do come true. To the old-timers I say, thank you for helping me to believe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Making Amends with no Expectations

Step 9 of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says:

step-9-meme

I am still working the steps, even though it may seem like I have stalled at step 9.  I haven’t.  But I am taking my time with it, because it is no easy task.  Step 8 has us make a list of the people who we have harmed and become willing to make amends to them all.  Step 9 asks us to use that list and to actually go to those people and make amends, unless it would be harmful.  That’s where I am…stuck somewhere between willingness and action.  This isn’t my first time through the steps, so I have done step 9 a few times.  And I continue to practice the maintenance steps (10, 11, 12) on a daily basis, so now when the necessity for an amends comes up, I do it right away…no procrastinating, and life is so much better when I do that.  So the amends list  I am working on now is short, but difficult.  They are the people who have been on my list since the beginning, but they are the ones whom I haven’t been ready to address.  I feel ready now, and my sponsor agrees that it is time, so I am doing it – cleaning up my side of the street, with no expectations of the outcome.  It’s still a scary prospect, but it will be a relief to have it done.

I think that the hardest part of making amends is not having expectations of what the other person’s response will be.  Over the last couple of years, when I have done step 9, I have had people react in different ways.  Some have hugged me, thanked me for talking to them and relationships have been made stronger, some have expressed their own amends to me for whatever their part in it was, some have completely ignored my attempts to take responsibility for my actions, some remained angry.   I have to be ok with whatever the outcome is.  I have to remember that I am not to focus on what the other person says, does, feels.  Step nine is about me taking responsibility for how I harmed someone, and trying to make it right.  Acceptance or rejection on the other person’s part should be none of my concern.  If only it were that easy.

The amends I am working on will all be done by letter, because those left on my list no longer want to speak to me.  My sponsor is going over everything I write and making suggestions and keeping me focused on exactly what it is I need to say.  My inclination is to take on the responsibility for every bad thing that has happened…I blame myself for just about everything.  So it’s extremely helpful to have someone look at what I am feeling and writing and say, “nope, this part isn’t your deal,” or “this sounds a little bit like begging, you don’t have to do that.”  It’s about recognizing my part, verbalizing to the other person that I realize how I harmed them, and doing what I can to make it right (if that is even a possibility).

9th step promisesWhile I have no idea what, if any, responses I will get to my amends letters, I do know that writing and sending them will bring me relief.  Knowing that I have done the best I can to make things better – staying sober being the biggest thing – is what will lead me to feeling the fulfillment that the 9th Step Promises guarantee.  I know that these promises do come true, I’ve seen it time and time again in the rooms of AA.  Doing a thorough 9th step changes people, it strengthens them in their life and their program.  I want what they have, so I am going to do what they did.  I will let you know how it goes.

 

 

 

 

Happiness, good things, and…anxiety?

just be happy

Holy Cow!  It’s been almost two months since I’ve posted!  I honestly had no idea it had been that long.  Don’t worry, everything is ok, I’m still sober, still working the steps, and doing my best to practice the principles of AA in all of my affairs.  I have been working on my word-of-the-year, Connect, and spending more time with friends and family.  It’s just been a busy time and I haven’t felt the urge to write for a while.  Something has come up though, that I feel like I need to post about.

Since the beginning of the year, with very few, minor exceptions, things have been going really well.  In January, my husband started teaching full-time and our income increased by quite a bit.  That alleviated so many worries and problems.  There is something to be said for not having to worry about one paycheck running out before the next one comes.  About a month ago I was able to attend a women’s retreat for forgiveness and healing.  It was a wonderful, life-changing experience, and the best part was that two of my closest friends went too.  I feel so fortunate to have gone.  Then, after months of wanting to move to a bigger, nicer place, the perfect house more or less fell right into our laps!  We’re moving in two weeks and we couldn’t be happier.  My husband celebrated 5 years of sobriety a few weeks ago, and my sponsee just made one year sober.  Life has been so great to me lately!  The icing on the cake came unexpectedly earlier this week when a number of my coworkers and I received an email from the powers-that-be saying we were all getting raises, and they were retroactive to January 1st.  The only thing that could make things better is if I were to wake up tomorrow morning weighing 25 pounds less!

Shoe dropNow I’m not telling you all of this to brag about my good fortune.  There is a real problem with all of this.  It scares me.  I’m nervous and anxious and I don’t know how to handle things when they are going so well.  Crazy, right?  At least it makes me feel crazy.  I have so many things to be happy about, and here I am waiting for the other shoe to drop!  I know how to live when I have to struggle and deal with uncomfortable feelings and difficult situations, sobriety has taught me that.  I know how to be mindful and grateful when times are tough.  This is the first stretch of time though, when I haven’t had huge (at least in my mind) things to worry about, and it’s hard to accept.

I really thought that I had learned acceptance….boy, did I think that I had learned.  When bad things happen, or I have to deal with difficult situations, the first thing I do is remember the Serenity Prayer and move into acceptance about the situation as quickly as I can.  I know, from experience, that wallowing in self-pity and worrying about things that I have no control over never improves situations that are out of my hands.  But now, when I’m finally experiencing what the 9th step promises talk about, I am having a hard time accepting that it’s for real, and I’m filled with anxiety that something bad is looming right around the corner.

My sponsor suggested that I approach this period of time in the same way that I approach all of the other times, with gratitude and acceptance and with the knowledge that God is working in my life, and that all I have to do is continue to do the next right thing, and then next right thing, and that doing so is living a life of sobriety and recovery.  So that’s what I am trying to do.  I don’t want to ruin the happiness and joy that I am feeling (yes, I am happy and joyous…just anxious too), by worrying about things that haven’t yet transpired, and that, in reality, probably never will.

Ugh.  I guess I am still a work in progress.

Has anyone out there felt like this?  I would love to hear what you think about it, and how you have dealt with it.  🙂

9th step promises