Saturday, July 23, 2005

Inserenity, etc.

A silent prayer for the alcoholic who still suffers, in and out of these rooms. Especially in my prayers tonight are my real-life fellows B and C.


Another fight with my wife this afternoon. Resulted in that (now-recognizable) feeling of "inserenity" in my gut, thoughts ran wild with self-pity and resentment, called my sponsor and vented, he gave me some advice and suggested what I might say to her. Talked to her again, followed my sponsors advice, feeling serene again. Cool. I love AA. :)


I seem to be somewhat unusual, in that I've done all 12 steps, in order, in a structured step workshop, in my first 6 months of sobriety. Far too fast to be thorough, but I was diligent enough to do them as well as I could, and the benefit was simply incredible.

So what do I do for an encore to this impressive achievement? I was thinking of commissioning a plaque in my own honor at the Alano club...

Just kidding! I think the main thing I gained from my 2-minute 12-step drill was a desire to do them again! It was like a flash of lightning, illuminating a dark, stormy, unfamiliar landscape for an instant: I have a better idea of the lay of the land, where I'm going and how to get there. It still isn't a walk in the sunshine, but it's a hell of a lot less scary than wandering around in the pitch dark without any clue at all.

I just finished another step one last week with my sponsor. We read aloud and discussed step one in the 12X12, which is now an old friend. He had me write about powerlessness and unmanageability in all areas of my life. The exercise was much easier, and actually much deeper and thorough, than my first step one. Here's part of what I wrote:

I’m powerless over everything other than my own (second) thoughts, my own actions, and my own responses to the words and actions of others and to the conditions and events of the world. I pray for the courage to change the things I can – which are my own thoughts, actions and responses. I pray for the serenity to accept the things I cannot change – which are others’ words and actions, and conditions and events in the world. I pray for wisdom to tell the difference – which seems to depend on eliminating self-will and wishful thinking, eliminating fear of outcomes that I’m powerless over, and trusting God to protect me and guide me.

Most aspects of my life still seem to be unmanageable. By the grace of God, the unmanageable urge and temptation to drink has been removed, on a daily basis, for a number of days. God has granted me a measure of motivation, strength and endurance to improve the manageability of being a father to my son, and to improve my ability to keep my side of the street clean in my relationship with my wife, and He has granted me a measure of serenity to accept my wife’s words and actions.

I pray that God will continue to increase my ability to do my part to reduce the unmanageability of my life, according to His will.

Some guys have told me 12-step recovery is like peeling back layers of an onion. Somewhere along the line, in the last few months, it seems I've been granted more ability to face my shortcomings and character defects more honestly, with less fear, and without hating myself and beating myself up so much. I've also noticed that prayer flows naturally into a lot of spaces in my life, though prayer was virtually absent from my life not too long ago.

This is pretty cool stuff, I think. I love AA! :)


At 7/23/2005 10:54:00 PM, Blogger BULLSEYE said...

Your blog rocks!!!

At 7/24/2005 03:06:00 AM, Blogger dAAve said...

Cool stuff, for sure.
Like you, I formally completed the Steps in 9 months. My sponsor and I just completed the Traditions. Now we shall begin the steps all over again, this time with 2 years under my belt.

At 7/24/2005 07:24:00 AM, Blogger Scott W said...

What a beautifully written understanding of the first step. Thanks for sharing.

At 7/24/2005 04:17:00 PM, Blogger Jane said...

you inspire me.

At 7/25/2005 09:27:00 AM, Blogger Shannon said...

Phil, right on... that is what you should do, gung ho! and more will be revealed eachtime.. there is not real time frame on which to do that steps, at least that is wht I learned. I was the same way. I got sober, and I was serious, as esescially the last time I got sober 7-6-93, I did not Bleep around, I did what was suggested, and it was like poof 7-8 months and I did them, all in order, but I continue to do them depending on where I am at... '

Keep going Phil, you are awesome... and LOL I got a kick out of your plaque idea! :)

At 7/25/2005 12:52:00 PM, Blogger Grace said...

Thanks for the email Phil, it helps to know we start thought trains in each other! I did wonder why you put [second] thoughts in brackets?

At 7/25/2005 01:32:00 PM, Blogger Phil said...

Thanks, Grace -- I like your blog's new look!

What I meant was that I'm powerless over the FIRST thing that enters my mind, but not over the SECOND thing that enters my mind. For example, let's say, hypothetically, someone says to me, "You're a selfish alcoholic jerk." Before I know I'm thinking it, my FIRST thought is likely to be, "Fuck you, you're a selfish bipolar bitch." Hypothetically. Experimentation has shown me that following through with this line of thinking is often unhelpful.

Fortunately, I've discovered I have a choice. I do, in fact, have the ability, should I choose to use it, to pause and move my thoughts in a different direction. "Yes, I am alcoholic. Am I being selfish? Am I being a jerk? Can I do or say something differently that will be less selfish or less jerk-y?"

Easier said than done, of course. And it's hard to find the path of "doing the right thing" without falling into either pushing my own agenda on one side, or appeasing and trying to ingratiate myself on the other side. Frankly, I'm not very good at it yet.

But at least TRYING to move my second and subsequent thoughts has benefits. What I SAY and DO are likely to be more constructive (even if not acknowledged or appreciated by others), so I'm less likely to create fresh damage and new wreckage, I sleep better at night, and I can look at myself in the mirror in the morning.

At 7/25/2005 08:51:00 PM, Blogger Stan Rogers said...

Disclaimer: I gave up personal anonymity a long time ago, but I still need to make it clear that I speak for myself alone, and neither for AA nor for any member thereof. My opinions are just that, and though they may be based on reality as I experience it, in the end they are merely personal opinion, and as much like the proverbial 4$$hole as any other opinion. Here endeth the disclaimer.

Don't fall into the trap of waiting until you are "well enough" to do a "good Fourth". Most of the people I've known who've found every day a struggle were people who didn't feel they were ready to do the Fourth and Fifth properly. Whatever that means. We are told to be "searching and fearless", but we still insist on being "perfect". (Hmmm, the Big Book does mention something about insanity, doesn't it?) Well, the Tenth wouldn't need to be there if any of us ever got the whole thing right at the Fourth.

Sobriety is active. We can spend our whole lives reflecting on the scope of our powerlessness, but none of that will ever have the same impact as the realisation and admission that knowledge of our condition and a truckload of willpower have about as much effect on participatory alcoholism as they have on dysentery. Similarly, one doesn't need to know the exact nature of G_d in order to believe that there's something out there stronger than we are that can help us where we've failed, even if at first that belief is in nothing more than a handful of people who can tell us our story in their own words and offer us hope for the same sobriety they've found. And when we act on that hope and let someone lead us from meeting to meeting, cram us full of coffee and have the audacity to listen to our incoherent ramblings, we've already made a decision to turn our will and our lives over. You know what? We have the rest of our lives to understand whatever we believe to be our Higher Power, and that understanding is unlikely to resemble what the shaky guy or gal believed when they made the decision at all as we grow in understanding.

That's three down without a whole lot of meditation or philosophizing. We can worry about the full meaning later. The point is that we have, at this point, realised that there is a problem too tangled for us to take on alone, we have gained a measure of real hope despite our individual helplessness and experience, and we have committed, as well as we can, to a plan of action that has helped others who have faced the same problem and agreed to try not to get in the way of that plan. We can afford to reflect on the spiritual significance after we have begun to act, when we begin to feel the real changes in ourselves.

I've always thought that it was kind of a pity that we stop reading "How It Works" once the steps have been read. The next few paragraphs, the ones that tell us that if we've gotten this far we're already at Step Three, show us the real spirit of working (as opposed to discussing) the Program.

I guess my point in all of this is that waiting to do any of the steps perfectly means we'll never gat around to actually doing them, and doing the steps to the best of our ability is the difference between being on the wagon for a while but having a place to go on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings and really working towards keeping our disease in remission.

Well, that's enough pontificating. Feel free to take some shots in return. It's not important that I feel in the right. This has been one alky's opinion, and I change opinions faster than I change socks when someone gives me a good enough reason.

At 7/25/2005 09:05:00 PM, Blogger Biotress said...

Good luck with your journey!

At 7/25/2005 10:10:00 PM, Blogger Phil said...

No argument from this quarter, Stan!

At 7/26/2005 09:37:00 PM, Blogger doughgirl said...


what a great job on the first step. I havent made it all the way through them as of yet, but what I am doing is revisiting some of them for a bit. I need to be reminded sometimes of where I am. Not where I came from but where I am. I am a recovering alocholic addict...I do not live in the insanity from where I came anymore...this is what I need to remember...go to meetings, ask for help, trust God and clean house...dont drink and Ill be ok :)

At 8/07/2005 02:57:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phil said, "I think the main thing I gained from my 2-minute 12-step drill was a desire to do them again!"

What a great prospect! I wonder if this is true of people who do them quickly but conscientiously, which is what it sounds like you did. Each of us does the steps in our own time, or rather in our HP's time, but certainly not in anyone else's. And I don't believe in saying I'm "finished" the steps; it's only time to start over (not that I've been particularly well-organized about doing so myself).

Namenlosen Trinker


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