Finding My Serenity

I just saw that it has been four months since I have posted here! I can’t believe it. I don’t have any excuses, nor have I decided to stop blogging. I guess life just gets in the way sometimes. It was a busy, but good, holiday season — one of the best that I have had in a long time. It wasn’t until a few weeks after Christmas that I suffered a setback. I had a miscarriage. It was sad and awful and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

The good news is that I learned a lot from it, and throughout the whole ordeal (and it was an ordeal) I didn’t want to pick up a drink at all. Not once. What a blessing. When I think back to four years ago, I know that the situation would’ve sent me right back to the bottle, and quickly. I would have maSerenityde an emotionally messy time even messier, and who know where I would’ve ended up. Not this time though. I had lots of support from family and friends, and I am thankful for that. But I think that what helped me most were some of the things I have learned in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Here are some of the things that helped me get through a tough time:

  • Step 2 – Came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity. Believing that God (my Higher Power) could restore me to sanity during and after my miscarriage was comforting to me. It meant that I didn’t have to try to do it all by myself. The beauty of Step 2 is that we have someone — someone with far more power than we have — in our corner, to support us, and to take care of things that we can’t.
  • Step 3 – Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood him. This step is a go-to step for me every single day. It is not always easy to turn my will over to God, I am prone to take it back…repeatedly. When I do actually turn something over to God though, and I let go of it for good, it is like a weight being lifted off of my shoulders. I had to practice this with my miscarriage. I knew that God’s will isn’t always going to match mine, and that the sooner I let go of the pain, handing it over to God, I would have some peace about the situation.
  • Acceptance – “And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation — some fact of my life — unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.”  This quote from Dr. Paul’s story, Acceptance is the Answer, in the Big Book of AA, is a lifesaver for me. What it says to me is that when I’m upset about something that I cannot change, I have to change my perspective about that thing. When my perspective changes, I am able to move into acceptance…and that brings serenity. I had to accept that my expectation of having a healthy pregnancy that resulted in a healthy baby wasn’t going to happen. Changing my perspective from, “Why is this happening to me?” to “I guess this pregnancy wasn’t meant to happen right now” helped me to deal with the sadness and disappointment.
  • The Serenity Prayer – God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference. These three lines that we recite during every AA meeting really kind of say it all. We need to change what we can, accept what we can’t and be able to recognize the difference. If we do that, there is no situation that we can’t make it through — including losing a baby.
  • Step 11 – Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him. I love this step because it is always my goal to strengthen my relationship with God. I pray often, whether things are going well or I am circling the drain, and when I do, I immediately feel closer to God, no matter what outcomes come to pass. When something difficult arises, like my miscarriage, prayer and conscious contact with God comforting to me.

The AA program is so much more than just a way to quit drinking. I have been sober for over 3 years now, and the meaning and the application of the steps and suggestions of AA continue to evolve as I do. It’s a program that not only saved my life, but taught me how to live it — and how to find my serenity.

 

 

 

 

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It’s All About the Maintenance

I’ve been slowly working my steps with my sponsor, and have finally finished this go around.  I had steps 10, 11, and 12 to go, and since this is my umpteenth time through the steps, and I incorporate these 3 steps into everything I do, we worked them all together.  The last three steps are the program’s maintenance steps, how we should try to live our lives every day.  Even though I feel like I practice these steps pretty regularly, I still like to go through them with my sponsor.  She has me do some writing on them, and I always feel a sense of renewal in my program and have new insights that I hadn’t recognized before.

Step 10 of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says:

“Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”

step 10Step 10 is like a mini fourth step, that you do every day. It’s a way to hold yourself accountable, without procrastination (one of my biggest character defects), so that at night you can go to sleep knowing that you took care of your side of the street in all of your interactions that day. This was really difficult for me when I started out in the program. I had a lot of resentments, and I clung to them tightly. I had what I thought was justified anger, and most of the time, I wasn’t too keen on letting them go. I sometimes recognized my part in them, but even when I did, I was nowhere near “prompt” in my handling of them. Step 10 has helped me to stop avoiding taking responsibility. When I look back at my day, and I see a situation that I could’ve handled better, or I see someone who I owe an amends, I really do try to take care of it right away, and No matter the outcome, I always feel better for doing so.

There are different ways to do this step.  There are daily inventory worksheets you can download, and there are apps for your phone, or you can do what I did in the beginning and call your sponsor every night.  But really it comes down to asking yourself, “how did I do today? Is there anything that I need to make right?”  When you answer those questions honestly, and you take the necessary action, you’re working step 10.

Step 11 of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says:

“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”

I love, love, love step 11! Now, that is. When I started out in AA, this step was one of the most daunting for me. I didn’t have any kind of relationship with God, and I didn’t know how I would ever get one. I never pictured myself as someone who prayed; I didn’t think that I could do it.step 11 coin

What I found was that Step 11 wasn’t something that had to be done perfectly from the start. It’s a step that evolves over time, starting as one thing, and growing into another. My prayers started out as simply as, “Help me, God” and “Thank you, God.”  That was all I could muster.  But it worked.  I no longer felt alone, like I had to do it all myself, and I felt grateful. Now, some four plus years later, my prayers and my relationship with God are full and rich. I talk to God all day long, and I thank him for everything, because I know that I couldn’t do this sobriety thing without Him.

Step 12 of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says:

“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

step 12The first time I reached step 12, I realized that it assumes (guarantees, really) that by this time we will have had a spiritual awakening. I wondered, at first, had I had one? What if I hadn’t? Had I done the steps wrong? As I thought about it though, I realized how different things were for me. I wasn’t drinking anymore, I wasn’t creating more wreckage, I was taking responsibility for my past actions and bad behavior, I was improving my conscious contact with God, I was living recovery. If that’s not a spiritual awakening, I don’t know what is!

The latter part of step 12 is about helping others and living all of the steps every day.  I love to carry the message of Alcoholics Anonymous, and I love spending time with other alcoholics. I try to reach out to people who need help, and who need to hear that there is a better way to live. I feel like it’s my obligation and my privilege to share my story and spread the word of AA.

The last three steps really are all about the maintenance. I know that when I am doing my best to work all three, my life is happy, joyous, and free.  That’s the way I want to be.

it works if you work it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Healthy Habit #2 – A Month of Meditation

meditation-6

The month of February brings Healthy Habit #2 – Meditation.  It seems that I’m not the only one that has decided to give meditation a try.  Kristen over at Bye Bye Beer is also working on meditation, and Lucy at Soberistas is posting some great information about mindful meditation.  I’m keeping my eye on both, to be sure.

I hear such great things about meditation in the rooms of AA.  Step 11 is, “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”  The fact that it is right there in one of the 12 steps, tells me that meditation is both important and beneficial to the recovering alcoholic.  I have carefully and thoughtfully worked my way through the steps with my sponsor, but somehow, up until now, I have managed to leave the meditation piece out.  I feel like my conscious contact with God is continually improving through prayer, I am doing well sharing my thoughts, needs and thanks with God.  But I have heard so many times that meditation opens the door for God to speak to us, instead of the other way around.  I haven’t felt that yet.  So, I thought it was high time to give meditation a try.

Outside of the rooms of AA, meditation is practiced for a lot of reasons, stress-relief being the chief among them.  Meditation can help you to learn to be mindful and present in your everyday life; to simply be.  Some of the meditation websites that I visited also say that there can be physical and mental health benefits.  It can improve your focus, memory, self-control, academic performance, as well as improving metabolism, heart rate and blood pressure.

All of that makes it sound like meditation might just be the best thing since sliced bread!  I don’t mean to sound skeptical, but it sounds too good to be true.  All of that said, I am giving it a try (because I have been skeptical about a lot of things.  For example:  the grace of God, the power of prayer, Alcoholics Anonymous, journaling as a form of self-awareness, taking medication for psychiatric issues…and I have been proven wrong on all of those!).

The first step in my search for peace and mindfulness was to decide which type of meditation I was going to try.  There are a bunch out there, and different things work for different people.  I decided to take a look at three different types, the ones that didn’t seem too far out there, for me.  First, there is guided meditation, in which you are assisted by a teacher or guide to talk you through your meditation, helping you to refocus as your mind drifts.  Second, is mindful meditation, which is about being aware of the sounds and activities happening around you as you let your thoughts flow, without judgement and without trying to shut them down.  And lastly, there is mantra meditation, in which you choose a calming word or phrase and repeat it over and over, either to yourself, or aloud, to prevent distracting thoughts from entering your mind.

To start with, I chose guided meditation. It seems like anything that has “guided”  in front of it is a good place to start.  I found a lot  of youtube videos that offered guided meditation, and I downloaded a couple of meditation apps to my phone.  Ultimately, I chose one of the apps to start with.  My decision was based solely on the way the guide’s voice sounded.  I picked the one that was the most soothing to me.  There are different lengths that I can set the app to, ranging from 3 – 30 minutes.  I started with 5.  Each morning, for the last nine days, I have gotten out of bed, made coffee, written in my journal and then sat down in my comfy wing-back chair to meditate.  I’m the only one up at that time, so I don’t have to worry about distractions, but I use my earbuds nonetheless.

I am, for 5 minutes, able to focus on what my guide is saying.  I can concentrate on what she asks me to, whether it is my breathing or how my body feels, or pushing distracting thoughts away.  It is relaxing, and mindful, and peaceful!  And the 5 minutes goes by very quickly (I think I am ready to up it to 10 minutes).  I also have to admit that there is a feeling of calm that stays with me for a little while after I am finished.  I also feel a sense of quiet focus…not like I am having to work at it, but rather my mind feels comfortable focusing on whatever task is at hand.  My mornings have been like that for the past few days, but somewhere during the day, I lose that peaceful feeling.  I thought that perhaps that meant that I should try adding another meditation session somewhere in the middle of the day.  However, both days that I tried that, I ended up falling asleep.  Ah, progress, not perfection!

I will keep meditating and I will try the other two methods, and let you know how it goes.

Namaste   😉