Some technical issues getting started and echos with a storm hitting Jake as we started.
First Segment - Spirituality
I thought we may as well continue along the Gentle Path Through The 12 Traditions, which is a fantastic book by Patrick Carnes and I’d highly recommend it, and hit on Principle 3 which is Spirituality. Now, this is a topic that I have struggled with for a lot of my time in recovery so I am looking forward to talking about this.
So Step 3 is “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” Now, before we go any further, I also want to quote Step 3 from The Alternative 12 Steps: A Secular Guide To Recovery which is, “Make a decision to be open to spiritual energy as we take deliberate action for change in our lives.”
Back to the Gentle Path book and it says if you ask twenty people what spirituality is you’ll get twenty different answers. Yet most definitions of spirituality include (or imply) four elements:
Joining hands or forces
Making a leap
Each of these things is an act of love.
Our pain connects us to others’ pain. As the Dalai Lama observed, if we had no pain, we would have no compassion. When we suffer, we always suffer in our body. This is true even when our suffering is spiritual or emotional, because the neurons that create physical pain fire in both our brain and the rest of the body. Heartache is not a metaphor; nerve cells in our heart literally make us hurt. Suffering is always felt.
Our suffering also opens our heart to others’ pain. Our brain is literally wired for empathy, for sharing pain, for connecting each hurt to other similar hurts. Fear, grief, dread, despair—when we touch one deeply, often we touch them all. There’s evidence that when we open ourselves to others’ suffering, we grow special brain cells called mirror neurons, which, some scientists believe, enable us to literally feel—or at least empathize with—another person’s pain.
Our suffering also opens our hearts to ourselves. Our life—everyone’s life—is a tapestry woven partly from loss and pain. This is especially true in times of enormous change. During such times, when new pain touches old, it can flood our brain with emotions, especially if we’ve walled off the old pain for a long time. Suddenly all the unprocessed emotion comes flowing out. In these highly charged moments, we can turn to our inner observer. We can watch the pain as it arises without acting or reacting. We can feel it, accept it, be with it. We can have empathy and mercy for ourselves. We can observe the pain as it peaks, breaks, and begins to dissipate. Healing begins.
- What spiritual and emotional pain are you masking? When did you make your addiction more important than your life? What was your spiritual and emotional life like back then?
People who make a dramatic change in their work, spiritual, or community roles often talk of receiving a “call” as if having the decision come from a higher source. Few people (except perhaps workaholics) receive a call to relax on the couch and watch movies for a month. A call requires us to risk ourselves, to do something different and unfamiliar. That often involves serving others—our family, our employer, a friend, our Twelve Step group, our community, our country.
In Sex Addicts Anonymous groups, whenever someone relapses, that person is immediately made the group’s trusted servant. This is because relapse always results from a focus on self rather than service. Being appointed as a trusted servant becomes an immediate call to service and action. As our recovery grows, we discover that service is not a series of individual activities or roles. It is an ongoing commitment we make, day by day, and an expression of our love for others and ourselves.
- Do you focus more on self rather than service? Have you got the balance right?
Joining Hands or Forces
A call is almost always preceded (or accompanied) by a sense of things coming together. In some important way, the needs of the world line up with our internal compass and with our ability to make a positive difference. Suddenly we realize that things have changed. Or that things need to change. Or that we need to change. We also sense that, as part of our recovery, we must answer the call. And only we can answer it. No one else can answer it for us.
Yet other people can support us, guide us, teach us, and love us. When you answer your own call, you will have allies. Some will be folks who share your values, goals, and mission; some will simply care about you and want to support you. Reach out to these people and ask for their help.
You may also have some less obvious allies—people who ultimately help you in unexpected ways. A stubborn, abrasive co worker stands up for you and refuses to back down. Your judgmental aunt decides you’ve finally wised up and introduces you to influential people. Your abusive father-in-law, who has declared for years that you’re dumb and lazy, suddenly loses his job and is devastated. This gives you the opportunity to step up and show that he can depend on you for help when he’s down.
- How easy or difficult has it been to find your allies in recovery? Have you found people you thought were allies only to realise they were not and, probably more importantly, have you found people you thought were foes but turned out to be allies?
Making The Leap
You do not know where your leap will take you. You do not know what effect it will have on the world. It may not even feel like a leap. It may seem more like a push or a fall.
You do not know what the future holds. But here is what you do know: You are not alone. What you are doing matters. This is what you are called to do. You are going to be alright. You are doing your best. Things will somehow work out. In Step Three, you made a decision to turn your will and life over to the care of a Higher Power, and allowed it to restore you to sanity. Now, as you practice the Principle of spirituality and prepare to leap, you place your life in the hands of that Power once again and allow it to guide you into the unknowable future.
In recovery, we express the Principle of spirituality in just this way. With our eyes fixed on a loving Higher Power, we step forward, and then step forward again. And again. We focus not on the difficulties in our way, but on simply taking our next step. And then, one day, we hear the call. We hold out our arms and leap.
The essence of life is free fall. Irrevocable realities thrust themselves on us and suddenly our world moves into a new focus. Over the long context of our lives we see this cycle of challenge evolving into something better. Psychologist Gerald May observed that he, after time, no longer regarded that challenge as bad followed by good. Rather, a new challenge asks us to trust change and the process. Being in free fall over and over leads to a sense of greater purpose. That pain and difficulty are really part of the refining process that calls us to be better people.
Thus we move from the acceptance of irrevocable realities to a heightened awareness, which brings our Inner Observer on board to help make sense of uncertainty. As we continue this cycle we see implicitly the spirituality that comes from a leap of faith. We call these the Free Fall Moments. Our literature is full of examples of the free fall moment. Frodo in Lord of the Rings tells Gandalf “that he regretted starting this adventure,” which is the same moment as maybe you experienced when starting recovery.
- What are some of your free fall moments? How did they start? How did they end? How did you cope? What are some of the greatest risks you have taken in these moments?
Second Segment - “Step Four”
So, I actually chaired this topic at the Sheffield meeting on Thursday and it seemed to go down pretty well. I’ve several discussion points for us to talk through and again, anyone listening please get involved.
- If I am awaiting my first or tenth Step Four, do I have the task right-sized and do I have a plan, a timeline and deadline? Should I have a clear goal or just go at it with an open mind?
- Am I suffering from Procrastination on Step Four or any other crucial tasks? If so, is it possible I am making too big a deal out of it?
- Do I see how my reaction to others may be my own characteristic confronting me?
- What do things that irritate me in others tell me about my own shortcomings?
- Are Anger and other triggering feelings still a mystery to me?
- Do I still feel superior to, or victimized by, people and/or life? How can I accept them for who they are (or were) and make peace with the facts and the infinite unknowns of life?
Third Segment - “Steps and Traditions represent the approximate truths which we need for our particular purpose. The more we practice them, the more we like them. So there is little doubt that AA principles will continue to be advocated in the form they stand now. If our basics are so firmly fixed as all this, then what is there left to Change or to improve? The answer will immediately occur to us. While we need not alter our truths, we can surely improve their application to ourselves, to AA as a whole and to our relation with the world around us.” Bill W., A.A. Grapevine, February 1961
Bill Wilson touches on the risk/reward of Change. AA’s founders left the world resigned to the idea that AA had to adapt to survive. Bill’s hope was that the fellowship would have the resolve to make hard decisions without the luxury of certainty, just as he and Dr. Bob had. By the time of this 1961 writing, new anonymous programs were springing up: Al-Anon, Narcotics Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous. These new fellowships took their opportunities and recognized, “While we need not alter our truths, we can surely improve their application.”
Today, there are Twelve & Twelve fellowships for multiple substances and processes. Food, sex, drug, smoking addicts and co-addicts enjoy a multiple-choice of fellowships. This century brought Internet-gaming, Internet-anon fellowships and teen-based recovery. All of these new groups had a much easier time adapting the language, rituals and literature to present day culture. AA is slow to adapt. Why is that? Fear of Change is a greater motivator than desire for Change. If Change is resisted, membership will erode. If membership ever shrinks to a point that results in the world viewing AA as quaint, harmless and irrelevant, Fear of extinction may outgrow Fear of Change.
- Is my role as a steward to reify the message and canonize founders, or to prepare the program for the next generation? In what ways could my fellowship be more inviting to today’s newcomer? Can Changes be made without forfeiting the integrity and intention of these proven principles? The truth is in the integrity of the principles, not the language they were written in.