Not to get too "fortune cookie" on you, but sometimes the Big Change is... not to change. To stay rooted, and deepen your practice of where you are and what you're doing. "Grow where you're planted" is what my dead sponsor (he who's wise counsel I miss every single day) once told me.
Sometimes, in an AA meeting, the speaker shows up for the meeting... and sometimes, the meeting shows up for the speaker. (Again with the fortune cookie sounding stuff! Sorry! But it's true.)
Drop the rock. Lighten up. If you're sober today YOU WIN. The rest is all gravy, so stop wringing your hands and worrying about what will happen next and how to avoid screwing it all up. Sometimes you're going to screw it all up! It's okay. You learn from it (or you learn from it a couple more screw ups down the road) and you don't pick up the first drink one day at a time. After all, for me a great freedom was to realize that the Big Book states that working the 12 Steps (and the principles of AA) will "...allow us to meet calamity with serenity..." It does not say that working the Steps and practicing the principles will allow us to avoid calamity altogether. Hard times easy times hard times easy times again; and sometimes (often?) I am the author of much of my own hard times. Roll with it. We have a "design for living" which gives us the ability to find the gratitude in (almost) any scenario (if we're open and willing to see things differently), and the tools to right things when we make a mess. Drop the rock and dance around the living room for a little while. Go on. You'll feel better.
AA does not suggest I am kind to the unkind, or honest to people who lie to me, or any variation of "practicing these principles in all our affairs" so that I am a good person, or for any inherently moral reason. AA makes that suggestion because when I am not soaking my brain in consciousness numbing chemicals I cannot live comfortably in my skin when I indulge in sick or fear-based behaviors. To put it more simply, my head gets really noisy when I lie and act like an ass to people, even when they (seem to) deserve it. And then putting energy into not having a noisy head by saying to myself "I don't care" when in fact, I do (and if I didn't I wouldn't have to spend energy convincing myself that I don't) -- is stupid and exhausting and ultimately is harder to live with than just working at being kind and honest to begin with.
There is simply no substitute for the "unshakable foundation" that writing, prayer and meditation provide.
Time sober is not a tool for remaining sober. The best analogy for that is the realization that I can't build muscle today on last month's weight lifting. Working out diligently over time will change your body, yes. But if you stop working out then the results of all you did in the past will likely, eventually fade. The same is true of the spiritual transformation engendered by maintaining physical sobriety and working the 12 Steps. The quality of my recovery today is based on what I do today. Not on what I did last month or twenty years ago.
For many of us, we instantly believe whatever negative thing anyone says about us is true.
And for many of us, no one says anything half as mean or negative to us as we do to ourselves.
I cannot think or feel my way into healthy actions. It is by taking healthy actions that I change for the better how I think and feel. And so it follows, to develop self esteem one must do self esteeming things. Ironically, most alcoholics at first believe this means we need to be nicer to ourselves. The great cosmic punch line is that what it actually means is that we need to be nicer to others.
Sometimes character defects are merely assets with the dial turned up too high.
The punchline in the 7th Step Prayer is not that we are asking God to remove the character defects which make us uncomfortable --it is that we are asking God to remove the defects which stand in the way of "our usefulness" to God and to our fellows. Thus, (obviously) being uncomfortable is exactly how God wants me to be. (sometimes).
When a machine part becomes defective, it is not that it never worked; it's that it used to work right and now it no longer does. That can be true regarding aspects of myself too. It's not that a particular behavior never worked for me -- it's that it no longer works for me (also known as "the road gets narrower).
AA literature suggests that in some cases, when it comes to our defects of character, we should work to accept "patient progress." Great. Thanks for that. I'll just dip into my deep well of patience and ... uh oh.
A personal milestone this weekend: My natal birthday. One of "Those" Numbers. Having been in AA for a long time now I've seen enough people die younger than they ought to feel that it drifts into sacrilege if I bemoan getting older. But as I've written here before, milestones have an effect on us; at the very least they trigger no little bit of reflection. This year, more than others, I've been thoughtful and (to be honest) a little upside down about the whole thing -- more vulnerable to looking at the distances between where I seem to be and where I thought I might be, in all arenas. If expectations are my dreams with a deadline and a specific self-will-driven outcome, the dreams themselves are good things; part of the human experience and maybe even sometimes Divinely Inspired.
(Though it is a delicate balance between compassionate self examination and maudlin self reflection. This I know for sure.)
With all that said, I thought, wrote and prayed a lot today. This is what I came up with:
If I have any strength at all, it is because I have admitted -- and embraced -- the depth of my weakness.
If fear rarely holds me back now, it is because I have grown familiar with its clammy fist around my heart, learned to name it for the illusion that it is, and to see past it to the ongoing truth of God's gentle Hand at work in my life.
If I have any wisdom at all, it is because I have sometimes been so very (very) foolish, and then been as honest as I could be about my ham-handed egotistical clowning with the people whom I trust and can learn from.
And if I have any real joy in my life today, it is because AA has taught me how utterly, ultimately useless it is to focus overmuch on myself (my petty score keeping and my vain advertising-slogan-based self judgments), and instead to constantly look for ways I can be of service to others, and continue to seek a conscious contact with a Power -- so far beyond my limited understanding -- Greater than myself.