maybe for some people focusing on what they lack is a way to create goals or sharpen their motivation or kick them into overdrive or some other
that's not me I'm afraid.
to be fair,
can sort of
but when I am there,
when I am ungrateful,
gratitude is not a tranquilizer,
it is a stabilizer.
it doesn't lull me into accepting things I can change,
it helps me stop wishing I could change things I can't.
gratitude lifts my head and shifts my gaze
when I have lost my gratitude for the things I have and the quality of life I have today I catch myself staring out the window a lot, lost in thoughts of the past or the future, starring in a sad mental movie all about Me.
gratitude keeps my ego right-sized.
grateful people are happy people.
and happy people tend to
stay sober and
and even when I was drinking that's always been the kind of people
Ms. Oates is not referring to anything 12 Step related here, but the sentiment struck me as a beautiful expression of my own AA journey.
At first of course, the changes which come in early sobriety -- both large and small -- may not be fully visible to the newcomer. The AA literature talks about this in a number of places, and that's been my experience for both myself and others.
So yes, they are "changes" in a traditional sense. You/things are different from how you were/things were. (Very different! You're not drinking!)
But as the one-day-at-a-times have added up to weeks, months, years... decades, even... this idea rings with great truth for me: Ultimately, the changes wrought by AA and the 12 Steps have made me more Me.
In sobriety I have become more myself; my authentic self.
Still plenty of room to grow, to "change" (plenty), but ultimately it is still the revelation that sober me is really me, and being really me is a kind of freedom -- one I literally could not have imagined when I was new.
If you are at the start of your journey, let me add this to the long list of things which will manifest for you if you stay the course, and that, from where you stand now, you might not be able to imagine for yourself.
If you cannot, or cannot right now, (as unlikely as it might be that you are reading these words) let me assure you there is no expiration date on this offer. This benefit. This freedom.
It is always here and available for you if you want it.
But if you don't, remember you can always, always come back, and none of the wonderful, healing, amazing things AA has helped other people experience will be out of your reach.
Thoughtless people sometimes state that our meditations and affirmations are foolish because we state what is not so. "To claim that my body is well or being healed when it is not is only to tell a lie," said one distinguished man some years ago.
This is to misunderstand the whole principle. We affirm the harmony that we seek in order to provide the subconscious with a blueprint of the work to be done. When you decide to build a house your architect prepares drawings of a complete house. Actually, of course, there is no such house on the lot today, but you would not think to say the architect is drawing a lie. He is drawing what is to be, in order that it may be. So, we build in thought the conditions that will later come into manifestation on the physical plane.
"Around the Year with Emmet Fox"
This analogy of Mr. Fox's really helped me stop judging, and with an open mind (or mostly open), explore the practice of affirmations.
Sure, via my experience with the 12 Steps I subscribe to the belief that there is a God and that God has a Plan. And while I will never fully comprehend God's Plan, I believe it is ultimately a good and benevolent one for me -- even though great whopping chunks of it are hard or scary or painful or dull (never mind that just by being born where I was born I am wildly over-advantaged compared to 3/4 of the world on any given day, and thus this great benevolent Plan which looks so sweet for me looks pretty poor for that 3/4, and the whole "I'll never fully understand the Plan" thing gets stretched a little thin against all that)... but with that said, believing in the value of -- and diligently practicing -- affirmations does not mean I think I am the one making the Plan.
Just like my journey with prayer has evolved over the years, -- i.e. I am praying to change me, not to change the world around me, praying for God to use me rather than praying to the Santa Clause God to "gimme" -- so too my affirmations are more about enhancing my character assets while whittling away at my (many) character defects.
Ultimately for me the practice of affirmations is now rooted equally in both science and faith.
We now have a whole body of research demonstrating how the brain, much like a computer, has mental "programs" running we may not even be fully aware of, but with some mental discipline this "software" can be rewritten; that meditation or focused thought (i.e. affirmations) have real and measurable effects on our thinking and our physicality. That's the science part, and if you Google around some of it is fascinating reading. (Sure, some of it drifts into what might be more speculative than reportive, but there are hard numbers out there and a whole lot of data to back this up.)
And as for the faith... a cornerstone of my belief system is that I embrace the idea that I don't know everything. (Understatement! Titanic understatement!) That in fact I know next to nothing about much more than the most basic Spiritual Laws, and even that understanding is at an elementary level. I don't know how it all works, but I do have experience that there is something at work -- and in addition to AA's more structured and directed prayer and mediation, affirmations can be a helpful and healing spiritual tool to try and connect with that Something.
More simply put (really Mr. SponsorPants? Now you're going to put things simply?) as an alcoholic, I often have a busy busy mind, so why not make the conscious choice to dedicate some of that busy thinking to positive, helpful, constructive, character-defect-shrinking affirmations, rather than an alcoholic's more common mental loops: Fearfully catastrophizing the future or reliving old hurts or (worse yet) engaging in phantom conflicts with people that never happened (or haven't happened yet and likely won't), solely in the theater of my mind.
As with all spiritual tools, you never know until you really try.
I think about this in relation to Step 7, and how I partner with God (via footwork, I am not passive in any part of my spiritual transformation) to continue to grow and become my best me... ultimately so that I can be of maximum service to whomever I meet.
In other words, begin where you are.
Sometimes in recovery delay can have very serious consequences.
As alcoholics we want the grand gesture, the regal launch, the ceremonial countdown, the press conference, the complete preparation with the guarantee of success before we think we can start -- before we can visualize what starting even looks like.
Working through these things, waiting to make them happen, burns through precious time.
Begin where you are, but begin.
If all you can do is crawl,
One day at a time, if you stay sober you'll be up and dancing eventually.
(Though at first alcoholics tend to complain about the music a bit till they find their rhythm, but that's okay too. It's just a mask for our fear of being judged for how we dance. Stay on the dance floor and that will fall away.)