Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Alcoholics Anonymous | July 30 | DonInLondon | Step 7 "Courage To Change"

July 30, 2013 step seven in mind: "courage to change, faith in finding the next right thing to do, and the confidence to develop a new way of life." We start to learn about our feelings as we experience them in the moment of now, rather than next week when we thought about them, the feelings that is. As we start to feel how the world really is, we begin to understand how other people have felt about us, and how we relate to them. What would it be like to spend an hour in their shoes looking at us?

When we are on our own, working things out for ourselves, we can find and understand the feelings we have. It can be a bit of a surprise to realise that we have the full repertoire of feelings available, whatever they are, good bad or ugly. Three basic questions: how am I feeling, why and what can I do about it, these basic questions work assertively on ourselves. Usually starting with: hungry, angry, lonely and tired. And we spend time with other people and they have all their feelings available to them whatever they are, good bad or ugly. To have empathy with other people and truly understand the current conditions of the day we need empathy: how are we feeling, why and what can we do together? We need both assertiveness and empathy to understand if we are indeed in the right place with the right people doing the right things.

Saying no to what is bad for you and I can be a difficult starting point. Unless of course you are used to saying no to anything you don't like. The serenity prayer can do and cannot do and learning the wisdom to know the difference is really helpful when learning to say no, if in the past you have said yes just for a quiet life. Life is often difficult enough and without the ability to say no, saying yes can make life very very difficult and feel impossible. In early sobriety, with a lot of fear still causing anguish, we can be led off course without realising the danger. An emphatic no, it is always better than a half-hearted yes which leads to resentments and more difficult living.

Step six defects, all about doing or living in a way which is unhelpful and leads to extremes of fear, pride and ego and lots of unhelpful thinking. And step seven and shortcomings, short on courage, short on faith and short on confidence. Combined, defects can play on our thinking, and step seven, when we are short of courage faith and confidence will leach and corrode recovery. There will be days where defects and shortcomings make a perfect storm for emotional imbalance. And then as time opens the door to healing and a greater understanding of how to live, the psychic change, psychological change, practical change, changing encouraged by positive experience, opens the door to a life of mistakes and wonderment as we make progress in the imperfectly perfect moment of now.

And sometimes there is good news and bad news and ugly news happening all at once. We can find ourselves in a whirlwind of decision-making and problem-solving. Sometimes our first reaction is to try and sort it out as if we have all the answers. We do have answers which are usually limited to our own experience, our own understanding and our own desired outcomes. Better to strive for empathy and understanding the point of view of other people, knowing the situation through experience and knowing the can-do cannot do to improve the outcomes. Just because we know the answer, it does not mean it is the answer for everyone else. With hope and a steady understanding of the status quo, we can find common ground by including everyone involved in decision-making if it is possible. But if you are the dictator, you are in control, and you want it all your own way, you might run into one or two problems from time to time.

People places and things! I do embrace the notion and understanding that I am powerless over people, places and things. Or rather life is a lot better if I don't try controlling anything in particular, simply understanding the current situation and what my part is in it. If I choose to take control because the situation is that I need to be in control and there is agreement, all well and good. If I'm competing for control the some reason or other, I need to be very sure of what I am up to, because you are watching me my attitudes and my behaviour today. Same applies to anyone anywhere on the planet, and hopefully we will get along nicely just for a day…

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Monday, 29 July 2013

Alcoholics Anonymous | July 29 | DonInLondon | Step 7 "Courage To Change"

July 29, 2013 step seven in mind: life starts to take on new meaning, when we are not stuck in our old ways of living. And on the emotional and spiritual level, we tend to understand our feelings in the moment of now and cope with reality. It does not matter if life is good bad or ugly, it depends on our approach to life and our ability to sustain a positive outlook. Of course that's not possible all the time, or we would be at extremes and wearing rose tinted spectacles, almost like Pollyanna. Yes there is a silver lining to every cloud, we learn the wisdom when we are under difficult conditions and when life is tormenting, how to keep going when we feel like we are in hell.

After sharing at a meeting about tradition seven, one of the big things for me is the amount of energy I put into listening to what other people say. And listening to what people say, their experience strength and hope is really important. I feel more tired by listening as best I can to everything that is shared, than being tired of speaking. Listening skills, the ability to listen to other people and make sense of what they say is a really core skill in recovery. We don't just listen to what is acceptable when we first get to the Fellowship, we still listen to the unacceptable, "this I shall never do," especially when it comes to step six.

Depending on defects of character which apply to each person individually, it is often said that addiction can come out sideways. My relationship with alcohol certainly codependent, power of alcohol over me became absolute to the point where the relationship was killing me. And there are other defects of character, extremes of desire in the romance and finance department. So we can find ourselves trying to fix our emotional and spiritual well-being by excessive behaviour, in other words over doing the romance and over doing the finance. How these measures are applied to possible extremes, is a personal journey. One person sideways addiction, depending on your puritanical standards, can be a return to normality for the other person? And saying this tongue in cheek because if we look at some of the behaviour of our fellows, they may be inspiring defects of envy and resentment as much as asking the simple question of ourselves and our behaviour.

In other words what other people are up to is ultimately none of my business. And having done the tradition seven share, how much other people put in the pot in meetings is none of my business. We all have tendencies to swing from being overly generous, to not being generous in our attitudes and behaviour. And depending on the current conditions today, so many different things will influence our general behaviour, no wonder it's a good idea to have the steps and traditions in mind as we navigate this world. If I don't know what is right for me, how on Earth can I know what is right for you? The beauty of principles is that they are timeless, that is the 12 steps and 12 traditions are timeless principles which work pretty well in any or all conditions. As long as we don't make them tablets of stone and immovable tenets of life without reference to real life situations, the steps and traditions help us understand reality, what we are living in the moment of now.

How do I feel? I still feel quite tired and discombobulated by the weather. One of our politicians in the UK has been sharing that they have recently been diagnosed with type I diabetes. Something they seem to have acquired in their more mature years, just like me. And as we are of nature, we are lucky to be alive living in a century where more is understood about all these medical and clinical conditions many of us have to live with. Manageability is often seen as something we are all able to do. And the intellectual and thinking part of any human wants to believe that they can manage themselves, and their environment. Step one: powerless over whatever it might be, alcohol, diabetes, people places and things reminds me that life will get unmanageable if I start controlling and trying to manipulate myself away from the truth. And the truth is I need to pay attention to what goes on inside me, and what goes on around me so I try to make the right choices by the minute, by the hour and just for today….

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Alcoholics Anonymous | July 28 | DonInLondon | Step 7 "Courage To Change"

July 28, 2013 step seven in mind: there are so many different types of meeting of the Fellowship of AA around me, there is bound to be something I can learn from the experience strength and hope of other people on the same road of recovery. We may be on the same road of recovery, steps and traditions and everything else, at the same time everyone is learning different things and different experiences and that is the beauty of sharing, we most often hear something from other people which will keep us on track.

It was my turn to share at the beginning of a meeting this weekend, and my contribution was about tradition seven which is about being a self-supporting Fellowship. And having read the seventh tradition in the 12 and 12, it reminded me that within each tradition, there is always something to be learned about me and my behaviour. There can be grandiose gestures on my part to give and support not only within the Fellowship itself, I can be quite grandiose in contributing to single individuals and to society as a whole. Given my own personal circumstances, I probably give more out than I ought. I do wonder sometimes if it is a grand gesture or grandiosity, or something I do because I always have, because I see a need and try to help.

It is always good to get feedback from anyone and everyone. And when it comes to the traditions and what they mean to me, I know I can be criticised for not being as orthodox or constrained as some might wish me to be in my attitudes and behaviour. At the same time I would not wish to stop anyone anywhere doing anything which might help other people in their struggle for sobriety. We can often violate sensibilities even if there are no rules, laws or regulations governing us. And there is a good reason why some constraints were put into the traditions when the Fellowship was much younger. And unfortunately, some of these constraints are simply the constraints of economy rather than sensible suggestions. Whatever happens within Fellowship, it becomes transparent and obvious what works for people and what does not work for people.

The beauty of transparency: what you see is what you get. The difficulty associated with closed doors and secrecy is the problem of power control and manipulation. And even when there is good reason for anonymity in the eyes of many, there can be many difficulties in one's own personal life and also what society knows about us generally. If there is fear at the level of press radio and film, it can be a sign of grandiosity? Anyone in Fellowship knows full well just how easy it is for people to slip and hiding this fact and the fact that people can slip who are very famous for whatever reason, does not mean the 12 steps and 12 traditions are fallible, it simply means people are fallible and the sooner we recognise that we are all fallible the better we shall be for it. Mind you that is just me and my outlook. As we are all equal in Fellowship, we are all equal in our fallibility as well as strengths which come from living a road of recovery, admitting and accepting where things go well and things do not.

And being the start of holidays in the UK for schools and colleges, I was not surprised by quite a few fellows being missing from meetings I attend. The holiday season can be a very testing time when it comes to step six and step seven. A step six attitude to travel and holidays, where we can be looking for what can go wrong and delays and poor weather and fractious people… Or step seven attitude to travel and holidays, that these are out of ordinary situations and anything can happen, so with a bit of courage to change, faith in things going okay and confidence that it is not only happening to me but to everyone, life can be okay.

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Saturday, 27 July 2013

Alcoholics Anonymous | July 27 | DonInLondon | Step 7 "Courage To Change"

July 27, 2013 step seven in mind: problem solving and decision making, on the emotional, spiritual and physical pathway of life. Sometimes, problem-solving and decision-making, only involves me on my own when problems and solutions are just about me. Then, the dangerous territory of problem-solving and decision-making on the emotional, spiritual and physical motorway, where everyone is involved and it’s not just about me. Can I keep to a positive pathway or motorway? Where courage to change, faith in doing the right thing and confidence becomes very important when life is good, bad and ugly from moment to moment.

Humility! I cannot do it on my own? Certainly not when it comes to sober, and why should I stop there as if sober gives me something extra over and above everybody else? Thankfully, humility and step two, being restored to sanity is a good reminder when the chips are down. I can return to insanity, the quick fix solutions of olden days, not necessarily drinking, just going back to old patterns which do not help me find solutions. It is not all about me, I need to listen to the experience strength and hope of many people sometimes when decisions not only affect me, and my decisions have an effect on everyone around me.

Humility! Other people have been utilising their own courage to change, faith in doing the next right thing and building their confidence for years. And as luck would have it, on the emotional spiritual and physical level, there are many good people with experience strength and hope and the wisdom of doing things that can be very helpful when I encounter problems and need to make decisions. Contempt prior to investigation, can lead to a lonely outcome if we cannot learn from what is going on and from other people who might know more and often do know a great deal more than me. Asking for help is also about learning how to accept help when we haven't had much use for the ideas and knowledge and skill and wisdom and experience of everyone around us.

Humility is absolutely essential every single day. Spiritual: the ability to cope with the reality and live in reality. Emotional: to experience my feelings in the moment of now, and not next week when my thinking may have caught up with the feelings that have been going on! And physically, trying to live in the present moment and be present even if I feel a bit under the weather, because if I'm feeling incomplete, I might be hungry, and might be angry and might be lonely and might be tired? This is really good news, knowing I am in reality, feeling reality and physically present in reality. I know from experience and from "learned people" that they call this: "mind, body and breath being experienced in the moment of now." Simply being present in the ever present, imperfectly perfect, moment of now…

Humility to me means that I don't know the answers for myself sometimes, and any answers I might suggest to you, well I need to be careful when it comes to giving advice, suggestions and anything else because what is right for me can be absolutely wrong for you. So when I share experience strength and hope, often it is not the answer which is applicable, because your experience, strength and hope lived in the good old bad and ugly world can be far better than mine. So I need to keep on listening, not just because it's polite to do so, I need to keep on listening to the beliefs and opinions, experience strength and hope as it arrives on a daily basis whether I want it or not. More often I need it, your advice that is, and accept it and thank you for it!

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Friday, 26 July 2013

Alcoholics Anonymous | July 26 | DonInLondon | Step 7 "Courage To Change"

July 26, 2013 step seven in mind: "the denial process: all about restoration to normality, or rather the new normal after events we prefer would not have happened." Many people understand that denial is a necessary part of life when we cannot cope with overwhelming shocks to our emotional outlook and our thinking outlook. Denial ultimately is about developing the courage to change and accept life on life's terms.

We get a nasty shock and we cannot believe it. What happens inside us when we have a shock? The first part is the I can't believe it moment, where our self-esteem is driven upward for a short period, and then we follow a downward trend of anger and frustration, and possibly into depression, and as we then start to absorb and understand what the nasty shock means to us in the long run hopefully we return to a place of acceptance and a new normal. Denial though, we humans run backwards and forwards between the I can't believe it, to anger, to frustration, to depression to acceptance… A rollercoaster with five forward gears and five reverse gears all equally efficient in taking us forwards and backwards, the ultimate emotional rollercoaster of nasty shocks; that is denial.

If only, yes if only we got nasty shocks, one at a time. Life is not like that. We can be in denial and still grieving over one incident, loss of life, loss of a relationship, we do not have a cut-off point some would wish to call closure. Or maybe a new normal could be closure? Depends how we cope with each shock we face. And our whole life has to change because of events beyond our control, the desire to put the clock back to a better happier time can be very strong and persist not only for days, it can be weeks and years. When people say let go move on, in some ways some people can. In my experience, I have learned that I don't forget, that I do grieve and as the process happens over and over, I become forgetful around anger and bitterness, and I become happier cherishing the good of what happened even in the most difficult circumstances nobody would wish on another person. Where I have lost people in my life, I still talk to them and I'm sure you know what I mean…

Part of my denial process was self will run riot, the obsession of controlling myself and being able to overcome my addictions on my own through willpower. I was on the path of everlasting ignorance because I thought I could pull myself together, give myself the quick and swift kick up the backside and move on without dealing with what led to addiction. That was denial on my part, that the rules of life and the emotions we have did not apply to me because I knew better and could think out a solution on my own. Addiction is the loneliest place in the world and it cannot be sorted or rectified through a single drive of self will. That is my opinion, I'm sure intellectually some of the time I might wish to deny that is true. Who wants to be a dry drunk? A thinker without feeling…

And I'm glad we have denial at our disposal, because the moment we feel our thinking can command and control our emotions, we have probably lost the plot completely. Directing ourselves intellectually into a new way of life is the very essence of self-help without support. It might be fashionable to believe we can control ourselves and our environment, and it is attractive emotionally to consider we are masters over our destiny. And yet every day, the power of people places and things will modify our direction and inform us of the next steps we can take. Choice based on reality, being able to cope with the reality in the spiritual moment of now. We do have freedoms based on the current conditions of the day, not on what we would will life to be or what we would try predict life to be.

We all find ourselves measured in some way by educators, workplaces and ourselves. We test and I'm reminded of testing in the past, psychometrics or psychological instruments of measurement which would lead to predictability and potential people might have. All people have potential, some are quick learners, some are confused and take a bit of time, some favour their thinking, and some favour their emotions and every mixture you can imagine. Psychological instruments of measurement will give you some solid information, what you prefer to do, what you might be good doing, and what you might find extraordinarily tedious doing. These tests of measurement often are flawed because on the current conditions of the day, it could be a good, bad or ugly result. To refute some of the usefulness of these tests, especially in young people, if you give a person a blueberry smoothie four hours before the test, the result is likely to be at least 10% better than a banana smoothie given four hours earlier. So much for prediction! The measures of people can be inaccurate and completely detestable! I was a late bloomer because my early life was dogged by insecurity. Or was it? Only I can say ultimately, and although I can feel the detestable times of the past, I can find serenity being exactly where I am right now and today.

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Thursday, 25 July 2013

Alcoholics Anonymous | July 25 | DonInLondon | Step 7 "Courage To Change"

July 25, 2013 step seven in mind: "contingent on the current conditions today," what about romance and finance? When we are open, honest and willing anything can happen in the next 24 hours. So if anything can happen, if we have courage to change, faith in doing the next right thing and confidence? It really does depend not only on the current conditions of us today; it also depends on the current conditions of them, whoever they may be…

What about romance and recovery? With a sober head it could happen to anyone anywhere at any time. Be careful of our expectations, we might over expect or under expect from whomever we find attractive. Or as usual we might be completely unaware of anything to do with romance because it's been a long time, or never that we understood what it is to love, be loved back and happy to engage. In my experience setting my expectations to zero every morning means that if anything happens, I am surprised, happy and prepared…

What about finance and recovery? With a sober head we might find ourselves able to cover basic needs, and we never know, we might be successful. If however, like in the UK, recession is just around the corner, or the economy in your area is fundamentally flawed, covering basic needs might be very difficult. The best we can do is to be open, honest and willing to try and endeavour as best we can. It's always in the journey, not the destination. Over expectations, or expectations of failure do not help. When I set my expectations to zero, and something good happens, I might be happy. If something bad or ugly happens, I am ready to cope with matters the best way I can without a pile of resentments under construction.

In the past, I used to earn a reasonable amount of money and be reasonably successful. And then I tried to earn more and certainly deserved more. I had great expectations, and the boss full of resentments under construction. Never satisfied, the boss drove me bonkers, was able to bully me and use my virtues of determination and tenacity to the point where it broke my spirit and I had a nervous breakdown. Foolishly at the time, I believed I could be repaired and restored back to the old me. It was impossible, not only because I was broken, no one wanted a broken person doing what I used to do professionally. After years heading for rock bottom which is unbelievably painful, understanding the journey there was a great deal to do with step six, step seven provides me with an understanding of what it is to learn what I can do and what I cannot do on a daily basis and keep on learning the wisdom as life trundles along.

Romance and finance, somewhere it says in the promises that fear of economic insecurity will disappear, and it's true, simply because I do not fear what I cannot control. The economy, people, places and things are what they are. At the same time I can adapt to what is possible and know what is impossible. As to romance, as always, serendipity. The gift of recovery is finding loving relationships and it's not like it used to be today. I say this with a great big smile and a better understanding of me and life today.

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Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Alcoholics Anonymous | July 24 | DonInLondon | Step 7 "Courage To Change"

July 24, 2013 step seven in mind: all about shortcomings which means lack of something in my understanding. So important to understand our emotions and the words which describe them. I know over the years, most of the time I had courage to change, a belief and faith in doing the next right thing and confidence to keep on going to see things through. At the end of my drinking however, I used to put on a brave face, have a lot of fear and be unable to understand what was going on, and a very brittle ego covering up. False pride, the desire to sort myself out using willpower, drove me to rock bottom in the end.

Being restored to sanity: a daily exercise when we face a difficult world. My sanity is contingent on being open honest and willing, and sharing about how I'm coping with the current conditions of the day. Sometimes I wonder when I pray and meditate, to whom I pray and meditate. Certainly whoever I am praying and meditating with is part of my higher power? These are not selfish prayers or meditations, mostly they are about all the steps and how they may help me today, to be a part of and included in what goes on all through the day. And I listen to the world, I listen to the people in the world, and I listen to my fellows in Fellowship. I hope and understand that my defects of character: fear pride and ego can flare up depending on the current conditions. I am better able to live and endeavour if I can keep on developing: courage to change, faith in doing the next right thing and the confidence to keep on going and get help and suggestions and listen to the experience strength and hope on offer in the moment of now.

One person's miracle can be another person's common experience of living. One person's understanding of spiritual can be another person's understanding of reality and coping with it. Each person on this planet is experiencing spiritual living of one sort or another, the quality of the spiritual experience is rooted in reality from moment to moment. Of course I could be wrong, and probably my understanding of spiritual is quite different to another person's understanding of spiritual. And yet both understandings are understood by each of us. From spiritual and miracles, to living reality in the moment of now, all true for each who has faith, integrity and equality in their hearts. It is never easy to find the obvious because we are curious and desire sometimes something bigger than the truth of now. And I would not wish to deny you your experience however it manifests one day at a time.

Similarities and not the differences, sharing experience strength and hope with a common purpose. To live a truthful life in an open, honest and willing way. And as with all humans, experience is our teacher, the reality of now our truth as we understand it… No wonder it can be so difficult to agree on anything. So many influences, so many truths experienced, and always better if we are sober today…

From nothing to something, from rock bottom to rock steady with a common purpose opens the door to all the wisdom available today. What happens next is an individual and unique and authentic journey of human living, from the possible to the impossible. From the practical, and for some to live beyond their wildest dreams. From denial to acceptance of the reality of now is beyond my wildest dreams, the old wildest dreams were all about want. Today I find peace and serenity when it is possible to have peace and serenity in the ever present imperfectly perfect moment of now… That is when life is good, and even when life is bad and ugly, acceptance and endeavour will always be key…

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Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Alcoholics Anonymous | July 23 | DonInLondon | Step 7 "Courage To Change"

July 23, 2013 step seven in mind: and tradition seven, all about just enough, and having enough to keep the show on the road. I will be doing a tradition seven share some time towards the end of this week. And I had an appointment at the hospital for a retinopathy check-up which gave me time to read not only tradition seven, one or two others as well. Gratitude for the love and wisdom shared through the years, freely given and received.

In the United Kingdom, we recently had gratitude week where we pass the pot around and send the extra money to headquarters to help with general service expenses. Reading tradition seven, I was in complete synchronicity with Bill, who was able to give a five dollar gratuity to an individual and on the same day, when his meeting needed some more money to make the rent, his reluctance and simply offering $.50 cents and taking a dime out, is often the same outlook I have when the pot comes round in my meetings. Funnily enough, after quite a few years, when the gratitude pot is passed, I am able to be more generous these days. I have always been generous, at least I thought so, but there is something perverse in me which considers the relative wealth of all the people in the meeting, and it can make me be more frugal with my limited resources.

Is not what you do in recovery which is important to me. It is what I do in recovery which is important to me. To be as generous as possible with time and sharing, to be as generous as possible when the pot goes round, and listen to the secretary if there are needs for more funds, at least to look and see what I have to give, without ruining my own housekeeping budget. When people are turned out well, we might assume they can afford more than we can. Judge not, because just because a person presents well it does not mean they are financially wealthy. And all we need do is seek to play our part in matters as best we can without judging or we find ourselves as tight-fisted as the next…

Last night, thunderstorms and lightning. I love thunder and lightning, to see it and to hear it and see and if possible feel the rain pounding. The power of nature is uplifting and quite frightening when we are caught in its power. I can remember sailing a small craft in the Caribbean and being caught in a storm within minutes. The boat sank, and without a life jacket, I was standing on the tip of the mast. Quite big sharks were circling me, and I was stuck in a state of watchfulness for about an hour before being rescued by the owner of the boat I had sunk. When the owner rescued me, he was very annoyed about the boat sinking and my part in it. It turned out it had sprung a leak and it was not my fault. He apologised, and said the sharks would not have bitten me because I was too full of rum at the time…

I wonder sometimes how we survive some of the escapades over the years. And I've had a few escapades which make me laugh when I look back and then I feel quite serious, many don't survive these escapades. Or the consequences for the dangerous behaviour of the past have been quite severe. In my case I have gratitude for having had the escapades, I needed them to take me to a place of rock bottom, where I could let go everything and start again. When I say let go, I mean to let go the life I was leading because it had no value in the long run for me or anyone else. So my consequences these days, are living long enough to understand what I can do, what I cannot do and the wisdom to know the difference on the happy road of destiny one day at a time.

There is a song, "my eyes are dim I cannot see," and stay this is true with the check-up for my eyesight. Which I have to say is quite good considering all things. People talk of enlightenment, spiritual connection and many other aspects which might be considered to be in the realms of religion and faith, a belief in God which they understand. My higher power is very practical, living and understanding the reality of now and what can be done, and enlightenment comes through people and experience of life. There are many books of wisdom we can find all around us, we need to remind ourselves, we are also writing our own book of wisdom as life continues. The quality of the wisdom depends on the experience of life and the more we share it, the better informed we become as we get feedback from those living this happy road of destiny. There is good in the worst situations, there is bad in the best situations and sometimes it's downright ugly. And onwards we may tread today.

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Monday, 22 July 2013

Alcoholics Anonymous | July 22 | DonInLondon | Step 7 "Courage To Change"

July 22, 2013 step seven in mind: "judge not lest ye be judged…" How on earth can I get out of judging the world and being critical, when the world has been judging me for years? Can be a problem because our brains function by perceiving our environment and then judging it. As nature intended, we are always on the lookout for safe places, dangerous places and exciting places. Our emotions play on every judgement and every element of life. Maybe that is why I need be careful with my emotional judgements, and I can be okay with the thinking judgements about people, places and things…

All day long automatically perceiving the world and judging it and it is natural. And all day long we have experience of life playing its role in the decisions we make from moment to moment. When anyone is feeling right in the moment of now it is probably because they are in a safe place doing something familiar and things are okay. And yet we need to be aware that our environment: people, places and things can appear to be good, bad and ugly and any combination of these because that is the way life is. We all have memories of good bad and ugly, where emotions can run high to the good joyful and happy, bad angry and resentful and ugly where our ugly outlooks and attitudes and behaviours can turn something good into bad and ugly very quickly. Usually a reaction to people in particular who have attitudes and behaviour which we are wary of with good reason?

I can be righteous and have justifiable anger, white hot anger when people undermine my self-esteem and treat me badly. These occasions can manifest, not very often these days because I have learned that when people are at their worst, it is the best they can be in that moment and if I can detach myself quickly enough from feeling undermined and let down, or simply made to feel foolish and stupid, I don't need to join in with the bad and horrible behaviour I have learned over the years. Belligerent people make other people belligerent. Hurt people, can hurt other people. Murderous people can make other people murderous. In recovery having experienced all manner of hell along the way, we have experiences which can come into the present moment when we feel attacked emotionally. And physically, the best thing I ever do is to walk away whenever possible.

When we are confronted with the unacceptable truth of others, especially when they are cheats and liars, our emotional temperature is raised! From feeling, to thought to action. We feel the rise of temperature, we are thinking quickly in the moment and the action could be catastrophic for us and whoever may be around us in those moments. I have seen others erupt quite alarmingly, without too much provocation into apoplectic fits of rage. When pride and ego are thin, just below the surface is fear which offers anger and violent outrage to erupt. Some of those turn the rage and anger inwards looking for what we have done to have caused it, others will lash out and look to blame and create an impact on others. Depending on our experience in the past, we can be mortifying bad and ugly in our responses.

Courage to change, faith in doing the next right thing and the confidence to meet challenges means we are able to weigh situations far better than we ever did before. We don't need to resort to pride and ego, and we don't need to fear what of the people think of us, because if we do start to think about what people think of us in a way which matters, when we are treated badly life turns out to be quite bad. I wanted to improve the services of my landlord recently, and persisted and wished to make a point. I got my apology, and understanding of how services were to be improved, and only time will tell. In the interim, all the things which went wrong in the first place are now starting to come back and nothing has been resolved with regard to repairs, mice and maintenance. The problems remain and only when I start the repair process all over again will I find if there have been any changes of any significance. I need to ask myself the question: although there are many things wrong, how much of my life do I want to spend trying to put things right for myself and improve the outlook of other people as a result? The answer is quite simple, report and request as the process offers, and under no circumstances consider trying to change other people, places and things. The repairs will be done and I will remain powerless over the inadequacy and ineptness of others. So I forgive and forget, and my life will not be impacted by the desire to control the uncontrollable, how people are and what goes on in their heads!

I felt the need to say all those things because I met with a friend on Saturday who helped me immensely when another person enraged me in my early recovery. Meeting highly controlling, highly manipulative individuals, conmen and con women, who take away self-esteem and evoke rage is very difficult when we are trying to be open honest and willing to live a new way of life. My friend years ago, was instrumental in helping me out of a murderous fantasy of revenge. And it was me judging the other person by my values and expecting them to behave like me in an open honest and willing way. And there are many people who do live an open honest and willing life. But when we encounter others don't, who are dishonest, close down and unwilling, the sooner we leave them to their own devices the better. They may have something we want or need, or simply we can’t avoid them for some reason, I have learned the hard way that some people need to be left to their own devices and they are poisonous to me and my life. Poisonous people do not change because we want them to. Poisonous people are best left to find other poisonous people who they can live with in harmony or total dysfunction, and in my own opinion what they do is none of my business.

And over the weekend another friend, had been hugely wounded by the behaviour of someone else they trusted. When trust is broken, when we are left hurt not only by the event of now, but every event which evokes the same feeling, upset, rage and revenge rise up within a person. When we feel these justifiable feelings, and the feelings a vote from times past, it is not about swallowing them down or pushing them away, it is about recognising the early-onset of a trigger to self-harm or murderous intent. All these emotions boiling and steaming up reality. The reality is when someone is so poisonous to us as individuals, walk away and accept that their poison need not seep into our lives any more than the passing moment of now. Or all hell can break loose inside us and then we can lash out and find ourselves in trouble. And equally, the pain within as these hurts manifest… It is so important to see the early signs of poisonous people, not to get the better of them, simply to walk round and keep on walking. At all costs we need not correct them; all we need to do is get out of Dodge!

How am I feeling this morning? In the UK apparently a royal baby is about to come out. And the newscasters are very excited. I just hope it comes out okay, and people feel happy about it and that mum and dad enjoy the experience and the baby's not traumatised. I had a great day yesterday, being with and in the presence of loving people. And this morning the sun feels powerful coming through the windows, dust particles float in the air, and thunderous downpours are not too far away. Reminds me of my time in the Caribbean, which can read as grandiose. I spent a long time away from family and the Caribbean; it was a geographical runaway before I understood the notion that wherever I went I would always be there. At the time the Caribbean, it was far less expensive than living in London, and afforded a hiding place on the way to rock bottom. And surviving a category five hurricane, a drinking binge of many months and still without a clue, I still love the romance of stormy weather, and look forward to the visual and the crescendo of thunderclaps today…

Courage to be me today? Yes, I will do something useful. Faith in doing the next right thing today? Yes, I can be open honest and willing, I know the limits of what I can do and what I cannot do. And can I be confident today? Yes I have the confidence to be supportive and challenging at the same time, do my best to be level-headed and if I can't get what I need, I need to be able to let go thinking I can change people places and things to my way. It's always difficult, and as M Scott Peck suggested, "life is difficult" and as long as I accept it is going to be difficult, it ceases to be a problem to try and make it my way today. There will be a way forward, just for today.

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Sunday, 21 July 2013

Alcoholics Anonymous | July 21 | DonInLondon | Step 7 "Courage To Change"

July 21, 2013 step seven in mind: "contingent on the current conditions today." Why is it always the emphasis that recovery is one day at a time? Moment to moment, minute to minute, hour to hour and all day long is where life happens and reality is changing as we change and everyone and everything changes. We are evolving in the moment of now. We develop wisdom in the moment of now, attitudes shape what we do, and our actions develop our skills and aptitudes. Recovery becomes a skilful daily enterprise and endeavour.

In a meeting yesterday it struck me just how resilient a human can be, that every human in that meeting was there with a common purpose, to continue living life to the full and learning what we can and cannot do on a daily basis. Listening to the sharing, the types of endeavours everyone seemed to take on in their lives has led to extremes, extremes of success and extremes of disaster because of a killer malady. The malady itself becoming the reason for extreme change in outlook and what we do on a daily basis. Often we are driven to try new things; that the grass is greener on the other side and we need check it out, rather than watering the grass upon which we stand. These reflections are shaped by the words of a good friend in recovery. Without them I could not contemplate or reflect in this way.

Very often we are driven to succeed. I often wondered why I kept on being successful that whatever I did. Simply, I was driven to find a place where I would feel comfortable and successful. And listening to fellows who had similar experiences, it was always the notion that when I am successful, then I will feel happy and content. In my case when I look back, it was not ambition which drove me, I just wanted to fit in somewhere, but then I didn't want to fit in because if I stayed too long in one place, you would likely find me out as lacking and not worthy of your company. Having reached the pinnacle of success in more than one career, every time I was close to being the most adept, being the most adaptive and eclectic person, staring success in the face, in the mirror, I felt no joy or contentment. Only when I stopped looking for the answer, and started to feel right within myself and content in the moment did I realise as the song goes, "I still haven't found what I'm looking for…" And the reason was, well quite simple really; I had no identity and did not know who I was back in the day. Today, living in the moment I can see my part in the world and where I fit moment to moment.

History and the way we have grown up does shape the way we think about ourselves. We can be driven to be accepted and find conventional ways to succeed and prove ourselves. And we can be driven to be outside conventions, because we don't like to be conventional. And we can be both at the same time. And we are shaped by what we can do and what we cannot do, and life for each individual is often driven by basic needs, then a whole gamut of wants. If we are wanting, rather than needing, usually our outlook has been distorted in some way. We congratulate athletes, people in business who do well; we celebrate the success of people in a singular activity, where they have put all their energy into being good at one thing. And being good at one thing, because we are human means we are not so good at everything else. Having ambition and being driven needs to be balanced with? Often there is no balance and when a person only finds self-esteem in one field of activity, when that activity is taken away, a lot of humans collapse emotionally and spiritually and are left with a void so deep that nothing can fill it and oblivion from reality may be preferred.

I know in my own case that I became a one-dimensional being who succeeded in one particular area of living, and relying on my work and professional identity to keep me going meant that everything else fell by the wayside in those final years. Success felt empty, the highest mountain seemed to have been climbed and then I felt lost and broken as life became predictable and unsatisfactory. And although that was part of my way to rock bottom, loss of identity, loss of prestige in my own eyes, a misunderstanding about life in general and desolation and despair meant life was very bleak. The reason why I'm sharing this is because the deeper and more broken we have been over the years, the sweeter reality can be as we find ourselves in recovery one day at a time. And the phrase, "life will take on new meaning," comes to mind. In early days, the statement that life can take on new meaning made me angry, and then with the passage of time, curious about what life or the meaning of life might be.

I love the Saturday morning spiritual meeting. Rarely about God doing things for us, more about and understanding that spiritual life is most often of the educational variety when we apply ourselves day by day. Part of my psyche wanted a spiritual experience of the miraculous kind in order to be a fully qualified member of Fellowship. I did have blinding flashes along the way, the first which happened I can recollect clearly. Lonely and alone, dazed by a night of drinking and desperately wanting to be either dead or sober. I had tried everything to stop on my own. I said to myself, "I cannot do this on my own." And it struck me that that was the answer, to break through the delusion that I could stop on my own and control addiction. I picked up my telephone, rang the right number and asked for help, and help came. The help that was offered was haphazard, crazy, insane and absolutely right for me, people sharing their experience strength and hope about the truth and reality of recovery. No easy path to redemption, hard work to change an outlook, and a long time to heal.

Somebody was trying to describe what had happened to them, and the story was so similar to mine I nearly fell off my chair with excitement to share back. Fortunately my friend, who was choosing people to share, was unable to include me so I could not share back. And it made me smile inside. The meeting before the meeting had been wonderful seeing people I know and love. Seeing people I don't know too well sharing wonderfully about what matters today. The material world is important, thinking and logical activities are important, work is important. And more importantly is the emotional spiritual journey we have right now. Even when we might be ill, have desperate secondary illnesses, life can be full of love and we cherish the moments we have. Living in the moment, sometimes we do get fearful, grumpy and wish for better times. And at the same time, going to a meeting dealing with the basics can put us back on track. It's never about overcoming an obstacle; it is the emotional and spiritual experience: feelings in the moment and coping with the truth of now be it good bad or ugly.

And the meeting after the meeting, where we can catch up and share with friends, and make new friends. I am smiling here as I recall a bunch of grumpy old men sitting behind me in the meeting, hundreds of years of sobriety between them, no two of them are alike, all with wisdom and experiences drawn from different endeavours, I love them as humans, I will call them granddads in recovery because of their years, but in real years we are not far apart. We are an odd community full of gifts and variety. We have a primary purpose, and we feel responsible. Finance and romance were and are always part of life. Learning what love is, unconditional and constant becomes a theme. And finance in the material world, may always be a part of what makes us tick, and for many it becomes a secondary activity in the living of a real human life, the one we can have in the moment of now. We learn daily what it is to love, be loved back and find useful endeavours which suit each of us just for a day and even a lifetime…

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Saturday, 20 July 2013

Alcoholics Anonymous | July 20 | DonInLondon | Step 7 "Courage To Change"

July 20, 2013 step seven in mind: emotional, spiritual and physical in the moment of now? The gift of going to meetings is to hear the experience strength and hope of other people. Listening to the experience strength and hope of somebody who has been in recovery for over 40 years helps me gain perspective and understanding of my own emotional, spiritual and physical state and what impacts upon it. How am I feeling? Why? And what can I do in the moment of now…

The gift of Fellowship: people from so many different backgrounds with so many beliefs and opinions to make sense of reality. We can find on a broad spectrum those who believe in God, those who do not know and those who do not believe and every shade or increment either way depending on the day and the current conditions. And of course the words like: "miracle" and many more associated with metaphysical matters and religious matters can offer an interpretation. And at the end of the spectrum, a person might call recovery a miracle and not believe in some divine intervention. Mind you in my case, the divine intervention happened as a result of listening to the many voices of recovery in meetings day in and day out for some considerable time. If God works through people, there are miracles, and if the devil works through people, there can be catastrophes. Without a drink inside me, I was able to hear the voices of experience strength and hope, which talked of love, forgiveness, tolerance and of course reasonable and practical ways to find a life one day at a time…

The impact of: fear, pride and ego which haunt when life gets tough and ugly, and also when life is good because we might feel it is all our own doing. The impact of: courage to change, faith in the next right thing and confidence growing as we take two steps forward and maybe one step back… Courage to change and faith and confidence have been supported and helped through the words and experience and sharing of many voices in recovery. Every single day and contingent on the current conditions our responses and reactions to our situations is contingent not only on what we did before, it is contingent upon the way we choose to live today. We often make and have our part in whether a day will be to the good, or bad or ugly. We can choose what we do even when we are powerless over people places and things…

Like anybody else in Fellowship, and as I saw recently anger and resentment can definitely happen when one person shares their experience strength and hope and the person listening can disagree profoundly with another person's outlook. I have yet to go to a meeting where everybody agrees with everybody else, indeed, there can be heated debate and cross sharing, very cross sharing! And then there is the passive aggressive cross share, the angry share, the loving share, the profoundly deluded share, the practical share, the share about miracles, sharing about God, showing that there is no God, and usually sharing about what we can do today to the good of living. And this is how we learn our feelings in sobriety.

Emotional and spiritual, the very essence of Fellowship? I said this yesterday and an agnostic not very far from me… I could feel the infuriated individuals bristling presence. When I share about emotional and spiritual, it is in the arena of practicalities, knowing my feelings in the moment of now as they are impacted by the reality of my situation and not by history or by some desire to influence and control my environment. It turned out the infuriated feelings when shared were about exactly the same thing, and my explanation of how practical emotional and spiritual is was taken as me believing and understanding God, and I do not understand and I could not in any shape or form describe God satisfactorily to anyone. The spiritual experience! Always in the now, always understood slightly differently by everyone can be very difficult if we try imposing our own view on another person. Imposing our own view or trying to, is called proselytising and certainly not something we do in recovery if we have any common sense and gumption.

Is funny and tragic at the same time. Last weekend I had been able to get to speakers Corner in Hyde Park London and listen to a great deal of proselytising by people who think they have the answers and they are the organ of God. Of course traditionally speakers Corner is a place where people can speak their minds, proselytise to their hearts content and be heckled by anyone with an opinion different to theirs. Some call this democracy, well… Speakers Corner has become a worldwide phenomenon when it comes to anyone anywhere sharing and proselytising as best they can. The more we can debate the better, better not tread on anybody's toes though, not too heavily, we need be respectful of beliefs and opinions even when ours are completely the opposite of those we hear. Tolerance and love, some days it's very good, other days when a person gets in your face, it really is a challenging time.

If we give love and have an expectation of receiving the love of others, it is a very haphazard human experience. We can fall in love with another person who is totally unaware and sometimes completely incapable of loving us as we might expect. Expectations are resentments under construction in the love department. Unconditional love, how we behave consistently with everyone in our attitudes and behaviour is a way of life. How relationships develop which have mutuality and inclusiveness does require very good intimate communications of feelings. If you expect a person to love you because you love them, there is a burden on both you and them which cannot be fulfilled by expectations. Whatever form of love develops is an inclusive and intimate sharing of experience. Just because you love someone, don't expect them to love you back just because, just because, just because that's what you want…

All we need is love, all together now, love, love, love… Very true, and why not?

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Friday, 19 July 2013

Alcoholics Anonymous | July 19 | DonInLondon | Step 7 "Courage To Change"

July 19, 2013 step seven in mind: in my own personal opinion, and I emphasise my own personal opinion, the 12 steps and the 12 traditions are timeless principles which work in most conditions to liberate and free an individual to make the best choices possible one day at a time. The big book, "Alcoholics Anonymous," explains the principles and then shares stories of early recovery. These stories of early recovery show the similarities and the diversity of how the principles of living work no matter what has happened, the background of people and the diversity of people. The principles are not tablets of stone, the principles work if we work them and provide freedom of choice to any individual contingent on the current conditions of the day.

Most of the time I find the greatest freedom and liberty by following the principles, listening to people in meetings of Fellowship, finding the wisdom of experience being shared helping me understand how best to approach so many different and diverse situations that life can offer. Sometimes we encounter people who have high control needs, feel the necessity to lay down rules laws and regulations, and they can be confounded by how Fellowship and groups find their autonomy through the group conscience. The group conscience is not about laying down rules laws and regulations, it is about ensuring good principles can be put into practice and that no one takes control of others in the pursuit of happiness. It is very difficult to violate suggestions, it is easy to violate other people's sensibilities, attitudes and behaviour on any given day. Forgiveness, tolerance and love for oneself hopefully leads to forgiveness tolerance and love of people generally who we encounter in the world and in Fellowship.

Anonymity at the level of press radio and film can be a very hot topic. The fear that the Fellowship can be undermined by the behaviour of people associated with the Fellowship of AA can be a ghastly prospect. At same time anyone who shares a message of experience strength and hope, and takes this on as a way of sharing rather than instruction can probably be guided most effectively by the understanding of what is attraction, and what is promotion. Over the years of sharing, attraction equals: "what you see is what you get," and that is the same as you find in meetings. And promotion equals: "an idea that I can fix you or that Fellowship can fix you in some way," which is absolutely not going to work, each person still needs to work at sober living one day at a time. And simply, "one day at a time" is the absolute measure of how we are doing. Spiritual: the ability to cope with the reality of now, by the moment, minute, hour and by the day. Recovery is and remains as good as it can be, "just for today."

There is a meeting today which is called, "just for today." And as part of the meeting somebody reads out the just for today card, which has very positive affirmations about how today can be if we have a positive attitude and can behave equally well and keep sober. And there is good news and bad news in this, I don't always agree with all the things I read on the just for today card, because sometimes I am a grumpy old sod. I am still an emotional and spiritual being subject to the conditions of the day which can be good, bad or ugly or all three happening at once. And sharing the just for today card with a newcomer can make them apoplectic and very disgruntled. Better just to start with step one and accept that in early recovery life can be horrible indeed!

My first meeting of Fellowship was on a Sunday morning, driven without knowing by my sister to a meeting locally and she told me, "go in there and sort yourself out!" It was quite a shock, I did not know I was going to an AA meeting, and surprised having got there to see some of my neighbours, people from the arts club and my mother's best friend in the front row, and my mum's best friend said, "About time you got here…" The message of experience strength and hope did not stick too well, although one of the attractive girls did give me her telephone number which I promptly lost at the pub. I met her five years later, and was able to hear her words about recovery. Fear, pride and ego kept me away for those five years. And even then it was a rocky start from rock bottom…

Some people come to a meeting of the Fellowship and are immediately plugged into the idea of recovery. Some people find they have to try one or two other ways of trying to get sober, and you never know that might work. And there are other ways to get into recovery. But most people seem to be like me, happy to have found a place where it is okay to start over and try a new way to live. However we get to a place of sobriety, however difficult it might be, I feel we can all be assured of one thing, rock bottom is the most unpleasant place in the world and anything which helps us find a path of recovery is certainly worth pursuing.

Courage to change takes time, faith in doing the next right thing does not happen overnight and our self esteem and confidence will grow as we make mistakes and learn from experience, have successes and learn from those experiences. And we keep on learning the wisdom of life. In my early days, I was able to tolerate quite a few people telling me what to do, because I thought they knew better than me. Fortunately I realised quite early on that the people telling me what to do were those who had found their own story of success and enjoyed imposing it on other people. I do like what Richard Alpert used to say at the end of his lectures and presentations of philosophy, "of course I could be wrong." Richard Alpert is also known as Ram Dass. And I do believe that he is right, "of course I could be wrong," this applies to me every single day if ever I tell you what to do, you know what you can tell me to do, and I will do my best to accommodate your reaction!

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Thursday, 18 July 2013

Alcoholics Anonymous | July 18 | DonInLondon | Step 7 "Courage To Change"

July 18, 2013 step seven in mind: how am I feeling this morning? Emotional, spiritual and physical in the moment of now. Contingent on the current conditions I feel: calm, and collected in my thinking. My mood is happy. And because I am happy right now, my spiritual moment is quite serene. Physically, the current heat wave is having quite an impact because of my type I diabetes and so I suffer the hypoglycaemic, "Hypo" where blood sugars went really low and being the middle of the night, it can be quite a lonely business finding balance. Of course it is one of those things that can be quite fearful on one's own. Half a pound of honey later, my blood sugars were very high, and then the next 24 hours of getting them back to some place of stability and in the single digits…

When I express and write my feelings about things that happened to me, it does not mean I have a perfect response to all situations. A low blood sugar event for me, topped off by an extreme reaction to put it right does lead to a few days of difficulty. I would rather be running a high blood sugar level than a low blood sugar level because I am alone at night. And the way insulin works on me seems to be affected by so many things, and now a new one, the ambient temperature around at the moment. The other part of that is the impact of neuropathy which is extremely painful. Now, oddly enough it does not get me down and make me feel depressed, it's just part of the condition of living. And it is good to be alive to have to deal with these matters most of the time because I have been alive long enough to get the condition!

Chatting with a friend this morning, I never mentioned anything to do with my overnight problem; we just had a general chat about life in helping people. It does not occur to me usually to share anything about mishaps like last night because there is nothing another person can do. We were more concerned about a mutual friend who cannot let go of something which is undermining their whole life presently. And although I need not mention the issues, I can relate to them because some things similar happened to me over the last few months. And in my case, matters have been resolved with an apology and a conversation about the present and future impact on how matters can be resolved better. I have acceptance because of Fellowship and the 12 steps which help me see my part in matters, and the part others have played. But when ego and pride are evoked, because of the fears that we used to have, then becoming fears in the extreme in the present, a person really finds it difficult to let go.

With step six we learn that fear pride and ego from past events can often haunt the present. The scenario of fear starts with, "here we go again," and then pride and ego rise up to protect our inner being. When we are hurt, fear pride and ego can be the first port of call in our thinking. And with step seven, developing our ability to have courage to change, faith in doing the right thing and letting go the wrong thing can be very difficult. When we get to recovery, we have a mountain of old pain and hurt and expectations. Depending how we have been treated in the past and how we have treated other people can rise and become uppermost in our minds. Developing a different approach, understanding our part in matters, how we behave and act can have a big impact on the behaviour of other people we encounter when we are trying to sort out our problems.

Sometimes people will be objectionable, unpleasant nasty characters because that is what life has taught them. And when we encounter objectionable unpleasant nasty characters, and behave the same as them, which makes it even worse than it could have been with a different approach. Just because we are right and justified in our outlook, it does not mean we ought judge others badly all the time, because if we do the result will tend toward the bad and ugly. If we want life on life's terms to be more to the good, we need to accept people are doing the best they can with what they have even when it seems like the worst outcome for us. I know I am not here to change you, only you can change the way you are. And we can only change if we learn from the experience of life and the experience of life in the moment impacts directly on our spiritual condition, "the ability to cope with reality as it is right now."

In our modern world, including the political and economic, there is a move towards something which is quite ethical and correct; the word used is "transparency." Transparency evokes an idea of people and organisations being truthful and ethical and not hiding from the reality of what has happened and is happening today. Courage to change, faith in being transparent and developing self-confidence that this is the way forward is contrary to many attitudes and behaviour which prevail in people and organisations currently. Part of the steps that those of us in recovery is about transparency in what we do, how we behave and learning to have attitudes which keep us trudging a happy road of destiny. As the world seems to favour transparency as an objective, the likelihood that some people are able and some organisations are able to change will cause great internal conflicts in attitudes and behaviour. In this world, "to thine own self be true," helps an individual find their personal balance and outlook. And the world is a difficult place where truth does prevail, usually at a great cost to the personal objectives of those still full of contempt, prejudice, grandiosity, pride and ego… I suspect I was driven that way until it broke me, and the rebuilding of me is still under construction.

We can all learn from the spiritual, coping with the reality of now and learn new ways, new attitudes and new ways to behave. And we can be pulled backwards when we are hurt and unloved, better not to hurt the world or the people in it, better to find love and forgiveness in our actions and our attitudes. Nothing is gained by point scoring other than righteousness, and there is no satisfaction or love in that world of pain.

It can be very difficult to accept being right and the rest of the world being wrong? Really does depend on truth love and wisdom. Truth, with love as a balance, forgiveness always and the wisdom learned from events we experience is our guide to serenity. And the serenity prayer, even though I do not know who or what God is or can be defined as, that prayer helps me immensely in the moment of now. The reminder of what I can do, cannot do and the wisdom to know the difference will always help me understand the path not only for myself the path of experience we are all having to tread one day at a time.

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Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Alcoholics Anonymous | July 17 | DonInLondon | Step 7 "Courage To Change"

July 17, 2013 step seven in mind: last night we started with the doctor's opinion which is that alcoholism is a spiritual and emotional and physical illness. I don't know how many times I have read the doctor's opinion and said yes to it and then ignored the evidence by beating myself up over and over again for not having the will power to stop drinking in the past. It reminds me that denial becomes a way of life if we are unaware of our condition. We keep on trying to think our way out of an emotional and spiritual malady. In other words, our thinking and intelligence suggest we have power over something rather than being powerless. And yet, freedom comes when we admit we are powerless and don't have to be powerful to conquer and battle against the truth. Intellect and thinking tries to override and subdue emotional and spiritual.

Emotional and spiritual: understanding our feelings in the moment of now and those feelings are equal to the actual experience of now. In my case I never learned my true emotional range and never understood feelings in the moment of now until I put down the bottle, got ready for the rollercoaster of emotions and tried to understand what they were. Without denial, my second-best friend which ran a very close second to the drink, I would have broken long before and found rock bottom much earlier and I did. When we stop trying to think what life should be, and start to experience life as it is, we have a daunting prospect some may call, "the cold light of day."

My last detox, supported by Fellowship, by going to meetings and living the cold light of day, it was truly uncomfortable. I had accepted that life was going to be very difficult without a drink inside me, because all my feelings started to erupt in a most unhelpful way. I never experienced fear quite so badly and had it not been for the meetings of the Fellowship, I would have gone mad at the prospect of no drink and no respite. I was reminded last night of just how horrible those early days are when feelings are extreme because we are in an extreme situation, facing an eruption of emotion and not knowing what these emotions are.

Over the last week it feels like a reconnection to Fellowship. I had a lot of writing and administrative work to do, all about recovery of course and yet without meetings I can lose the context of what I'm doing. I can be driven by the task and forget self-maintenance very quickly. And going to quite a few meetings was marvellous, to see people I know, to meet new people just starting the journey and some decades of recovery.

Somebody said recently, "I'm not a doctor, and the doctor's opinion in the big book reminds me that I am an alcoholic and not a professional. At the same time there are many who feel they are doctors in AA even though they don't have any qualifications and yet they will tell you what to do." Of course he is right, many find their path which is right for them, but it does not mean it is right for me or you. The emphasis always is principles and not personalities. The principles: 12 steps and 12 traditions and then the many stories which show the similarities and not the differences. That is the beauty of principles, each individual works the principles and lives them as best they can. Each individual on their personal journey, living the principles in their own personal way. Maximum diversity of outlooks and experiences with some simple principles of living.

Connecting with people I haven't seen for some time, the breadth of life they are living, the similarities of the emotional and spiritual journey. How to love, how to be loved back, still we can misinterpret and slide back into old opinions about ourselves. Are we good enough, are we in competition, what if I'm missing something and should be exploring the endless possibilities rather than putting down some roots and sticking with what is working? The grass is always greener? And of course it isn't. We can be fearful of love because we fear rejection and we can reject love from others out of hand or simply because it hurts to love. Everything takes time, and the solution is always in expression, discussion, telling each other the truth and not trying to sugar-coat or evade feelings. The more we think about the feelings we ought to have, the less likely that we can develop and experience them.

Seems like procreation has been occurring in my absence and all the stresses and strains that that develops in the humans currently making more humans. Testing times, not only do the hormones of women change, so too the hormones of men, and they don't know it usually. Is it any wonder, when feelings are up and down and relationships are developing with the arrival of new life, that it can be easy to undermine what is a beautiful experience as nature intended. Thinking! Expressing our thinking and expectations, rather than expressing feelings and coping with reality will cause many fractious moments, rather than finding serenity in the tempestuous nature of living.

I will share if I can, get back to feelings and share them in the moment of now, not because I am clever, not because I know better. It is just my experience; if we share feelings in the moment of now we can cope with them, no matter what the prospect because we really understand if we do love unconditionally. And we cannot know the feelings until the feelings are felt in the current conditions, contingent on telling the truth and accepting what is happening right now.

The 12 steps and 12 traditions, as we live them, they offer choice and freedom in the moment of now. And unfortunately one of the underlying truths of the 12 steps and 12 traditions is that we get very good at self-appraisal which can then lead into appraising and judging others by our own standards, opinions and beliefs. This is why the old adage, "Judge not…" Because as you judge another person, you can guarantee they have made a judgement about you.

Alcoholics Anonymous Videos, AA is for Alcoholics, AA12 Steps, Addiction And Recovery, DonInLondon, Don Oddy,

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Alcoholics Anonymous | July 16 | DonInLondon | Step 7 "Courage To Change"

July 16, 2013 step seven in mind: on a wing and a prayer? Survival! Early days… I went to a meeting last night, partly because I had not been there for quite a long time, partly because I was hoping to hear news from a friend about a matter of arbitration. And also to pick up a chip for my last anniversary in recovery which happened June 1. A step and tradition meeting, focusing on step five all about dishing the dirt on our conduct over the years and the benefit of letting go the secrets which kept us sick…

When I was doing my step four, it was in my early days and part of my past had always been about objective self-appraisal. And yet for some reason when I was doing the step four, because I was still in place of fear pride and ego, my confessions could be grandiose rather than quite ordinary human doings under the influence. Fortunately my mentor at the time had heard most of it all before, helped me put it in context, took the drama out of it and had a clinical interpretation of the truth. I still had remnants of feelings about not being good enough to be an alcoholic, and then exaggerating stories into very tall stories for humorous effect. Even now looking back, some of it was hilarious and the rest of it was tragic. The good news is we gain perspective by sharing the innermost Demons caused by extreme living on the edge, or rather by taking the edge off life…

There was lots of good news last night, I saw one person picked up a chip for 29 years and then all the way to one month, but no newcomers picking up one day at a time chip. Mind you, where I live, there are three newcomers meetings at the same time within a mile. I saw a friend I have not seen for some years, and they are procreating, I suggested that I could be a good godfather, another suggested they could be a good godmother, then another suggested he could be a fairy godfather, and he had ideas who could be a fairy godmother. Life is funny in our open honest and willing Fellowship.

Someone shared something close to my heart which is about prayer and meditation. When I was in rehab a long time ago and somebody was reading from the chapter how it works, when they got to step 11, they mistakenly said, "sought through prayer and medication," rather than prayer and meditation… We can work out when prayer and meditation work in the context of Fellowship, and then with a sober head find out which medications might be appropriate for particular clinical conditions of the mind. Alcohol certainly made me bipolar in the end, and when I had been sober a couple of years, it was really evident that medication was required for clinical depression because my chemistry set was not quite balanced throughout my life. Fellowship helps keep people sober, and helps them find, including me, the right clinical diagnoses if we are alive long enough to understand our predicaments.

Not only do we learn how to care for other people within the Fellowship, we often find close friends and family rely on us to provide support and love them when times are very difficult. Emerging into this new reality, where we learn how to love, how to be loved back and cherish opens the door to very deep connections emotionally. We might have thought ourselves as useless in the past, and now others find us useful because we love without conditions, support where and when we can and keep on learning how to live life today…

In recovery our fatal malady becomes the bedrock of learning how to live reality and cope with life one day at a time…

Alcoholics Anonymous Videos, AA is for Alcoholics, AA12 Steps, Addiction And Recovery, DonInLondon, Don Oddy,

Monday, 15 July 2013

Alcoholics Anonymous | July 15 | DonInLondon | Step 7 "Courage To Change"

July 15, 2013 step seven in mind: the burden of fear transforms everyday life into a nightmare. Just because we may be different in some way or other we can be picked on and we find life intolerable. The worst aspect of being singled out in some way and picked on is that we lose our way and find ourselves medicating away the feeling of not being good enough and then worse we can behave as badly as those who felt like punishing us because we were not like them. And then we became just like them.

Bringing joy and happiness into the lives of other people is something we can do on a daily basis, encouraging diversity and being the person that you are learning about, how to be yourself today. Freedom from fear, being able to have the courage to change and do something different, faith in the next step and the confidence to try a new way of living really does open up the door for yourself and provides an opportunity for other people to see not only the difference in you, the difference you can make to other people.

We all learn at different rates, sometimes we cotton on very quickly and can pick up a new skill, a new way of living and find satisfaction changing and becoming more adept. I used to teach how to juggle three balls in the air at once to people who had no idea. Within an hour most were able, and just about everyone knew how to juggle and simply needed practice. We can practice new ways of life if we are open, honest and willing. Not only being open honest and willing, it is being able to laugh at ourselves and be able to laugh along with others about the journey of life. The only people laughing at us in a condescending way, are those who live their lives judging other people for whatever reason, unable to respect diversity and fearful of how they might look to other people.

Having got to rock bottom and relating this to another person living on the streets, I realised just how difficult it is to be able to admit complete defeat. When I got to rock bottom, I accepted all the help offered without prejudice, even when it was pretty awful and the outcomes were really shocking. At rock bottom, authorities really do look down on a down and out person. And that prejudice leads to self prejudice where pride fear and ego keep a person down longer than is necessary. One day society will recognise the true nature of rock bottom? I feel it's doubtful they will, because most people are not too far from rock bottom these days and self harm through self-medication is their coping strategy one way or another.

Taking time with the man on the street who was begging, he had an attitude of entitlement built on resentments caused by the way society operates, and these resentment are real not only to him, but to the majority of people who are competing for scarce resources. And the scarce resources, for simple things, a roof over your head being the primary one, still there is no sign that even the simplest need can be met in some way so a person can get back on their feet. Indeed it's getting worse and scarcity of the most basic needs is driving differences between the poor, and those who are even poorer. There are answers to these problems and conundrums, at the same time there is no appetite to resolve them. The horror of rock bottom and the years at rock bottom are not forgotten by me.

In recovery, these days I don't judge how a person got to where they got to in their addictions to substance and behaviour, I try to share as best I can how a Fellowship can work to improve our chances of recovery one day at a time. It takes everyone in Fellowship to keep one alcoholic sober, and no single alcoholic can bear the burden of keeping another alcoholic sober. It takes a village to raise a child. And the same is true of recovery, it takes a Fellowship to keep each alcoholic sober just for today. And even then, the child in the village, the alcoholic in recovery can stumble and fall and have to start all over again…

Very often when I go out, on my way to meetings and on my way home from meetings and just generally when I am mooching about, I talk to strangers. Often sharing the moment of now with other people inside and outside Fellowship, we learn a lot about what other people do and how they look at life. And indeed how they live their lives. One aspect of living: God works through people? Depending on your understanding of God, I feel this may be true in being enlightened by other people, learning from them, the can-do can't do and the wisdom learned in the moment.

I do believe that no single human has the power to restore another to sanity, it is always the many who help in our daily restoration to a reasonable state of mind. And contingent on the current conditions of the day, we can be improving our situation with a clear head, courage, faith and confidence to be assertive and listening to the world as it is, rather than history or an uncertain future yet to be realised. Asking for help in the moment of now for direction and understanding keeps me on my toes every single day…

It's roasting in London, as my photographs for the day show. As a consequence of being roasted, enjoying the sun and generally getting about on the bicycle, which is electric fortunately, I will suffer the consequences which are quite considerable and yet worth it to me. I love people, places and things and over the years tolerance and love simply grows by accepting people are the best they can be right here and right now, some worthwhile to know and others we are better not knowing one day at a time

Alcoholics Anonymous Videos, AA is for Alcoholics, AA12 Steps, Addiction And Recovery, DonInLondon, Don Oddy,

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Alcoholics Anonymous | July 14 | DonInLondon | Step 7 "Courage To Change"

July 14, 2013 step seven in mind: two meetings yesterday, one at the hospital where they saved my life and another in the evening, the quirky one where you never know what is going to happen at the after nines. They could not have been more different. The hospital meeting: safe and predictable, people sharing their truth as they see it today. Both full of humour, courage to change, faith in doing the next right thing...

On one of the hottest days of the year, I need to be careful to be sober and be safe. Over the years in sobriety, picking up other complaints and clinical ailments and growing older and older, it makes me smile. With a meeting at the beginning of the day and the reminder from newcomers of the turmoil and then realising that turmoil is but an arm’s length away, it does not make me fearful, the obsession is gone. I never knew my emotions back in the day, I am learning my emotions in the moment of now, we have emotions in real time, real feelings about the world, people places and things…

It was so hot, after my morning pottering, a siesta, then time to watch a nature programme I would never have thought interesting before, a shower and then heading out to the late evening meeting. London is full, and celebrating 60 years of monarchy amongst other things. I pottered around Buckingham Palace, up the mall to Trafalgar Square and mooched! Took some photos, very blurry and I need to learn a few things about night-time photography. Then up Charing Cross Road to Leicester Square, it was late-night and the crowds were really buzzing. And wandering through to Eros and Piccadilly, happy people, tired and exhausted people, people ready for a night out and to dance till dawn… I went home, elated and happy to be in the throng of humanity, then home to cook pasta, chill out in the heat and then wake to the usual news of what happens in this world.

Meetings before meetings, not in the morning I was late, but in the evening I talked to somebody who I have never talked to before and listen to their story. Learning what is spiritual, it is always in the moment of now and as big as the moment of now. The depth of how we feel spiritually, in this one moment we have is contingent on our current ability to absorb the truth. Somebody said close to me in the meeting that they could not hear the words of the person speaking first because their head was full of noise and problems; it had taken them 10 minutes to calm down and open up their senses. I can understand this, in early days I heard very little at the beginning of meetings, fear pride and ego kept me busy and absent in my own thoughts. Last night I heard every word spoken in the moment, and could sift and absorb what is relevant and can be relevant on any given day. Space to grow always…

It was good to share and be able to speak. We pick up on the themes in meetings and a word: "fearless," and letting go guilt and shame. Why do we get so bothered about our own ailment? We still believe sometimes that we are not as able as we might wish when it comes to feelings, emotional and spiritual elements. I feel like we find our spiritual awakening when we let go trying to control our environment that we accept the environment in which we live as it is, and then make some choices about what we can and cannot do. Choices yes and the 12 steps and 12 traditions and Fellowship keep on opening the door to freedom one day at a time…

Alcoholics Anonymous Videos, AA is for Alcoholics, AA12 Steps, Addiction And Recovery, DonInLondon, Don Oddy,

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Alcoholics Anonymous | July 13 | DonInLondon | Step 7 "Courage To Change"

July 13, 2013 step seven in mind: improving our courage to change, faith in doing the next right thing and gaining confidence as we learn new ways to live. I was listening and watching a program about people who had become obese early in their lives. It seemed they ate when they were happy, would eat more when they were fearful, angry and resentful, and the same is true for any extreme attitude and behaviour. A substance, a place, a thing and people can be the triggers which put us in extreme situations… Everyone learns a way to deal with life, and these days I prefer courage, faith and confidence to be part of my personal skills one day at a time.

Many years ago, I had a stint in rehab. I wasn't particularly thin back then, but some people were so emaciated their bones could be seen under the skin. Quite quickly, without the addiction substance being available, many gained weight and I think I did too. It is so easy to find ourselves letting go one addiction, only to find that we can fix on other things. Lucky me in the end, I got a habit for Fellowship and the 12 steps and 12 traditions. They do dominate my life and outlook: Fellowship, 12 steps and 12 traditions has helped me put life into practice in a completely different way to the way I lived. The company of others, some principles and a deeper awareness has opened the door to absolutely wonderful times and freedom. Of course the wonderful times and freedom are offset by the downtimes and the bad and ugly we all encounter in life. The best news is knowing the difference and finding acceptance of life as it is rather than some imagined scenario certainly beyond my wildest dreams.

One of the chips that I found in circulation within the Fellowship there is the phrase or "being rocketed into the fourth dimension." The fourth dimension is "time." And being rocketed into the moment of now can be quite a challenge in early days because all we can find often is the raw, bad and ugly of life. If we are rocketed into the fourth dimension and live in the moment of now certainly everything speeds up, especially when you get to my age, where the balance of life has passed halfway. The good news is, living in the moment of now is far better than being stuck in a historical mess or dreaming of a future which is beyond human grasp. Good bad or ugly, indeed life in the moment is far better raw, vivid and transparent. Better than before: when we processed our living through the bottom of the glass; denial and the old decline into nowhere land.

Alcoholics Anonymous Videos, AA is for Alcoholics, AA12 Steps, Addiction And Recovery, DonInLondon, Don Oddy,

Friday, 12 July 2013

Alcoholics Anonymous | July 12 | DonInLondon | Step 7 "Courage To Change"

What is the point of sharing experience strength and hope? We see the similarities and differences, the similarities and what another person has done and the differences and diversity which need to be respected as right for another person and not necessarily right for us as individuals. If I had been able to get to more meetings, I do believe I would have fared better, however I was unable. And without my computer working, life can be more difficult because isolation is not good for prolonged periods for anyone.

Hungry angry lonely or tired, HALT? It is so easy as a reminder which I heard in my early days to forget this simplicity. If we are feeling off colour, likely our attitudes and behaviour become off colour as well. And there is nothing like company to resolve most of what ails an individual on a daily basis. Isolation and loneliness, for whatever reason is depressing. Anger and resentment when we are alone, it simply goes round and round in our heads if we are not able to see something positive. Anyone who is tired and has a mindful of unhelpful thoughts can suffer from insomnia. And even if we cannot put our finger on what exactly is wrong with us, getting into the company of like-minded individuals with similarities and differences will provide perspective and eventually lead back to a place of balance. Sometimes it will take more than a day to regain our senses, indeed some senses and perspective takes years. Providing we let go and ask for help, we can change, we can move on and we learn to cherish the good of our life on a daily basis. Another day above ground is all we need in some cases…

Alcoholics Anonymous | July 11 | DonInLondon | Step 7 "Courage To Change"

Life has been difficult! The last five days: rebuilding my computer from scratch. How so? Well, if we are enthusiastic about new innovations and like to be at the sharp edge, we can be bamboozled into thinking it's a good idea to upgrade to Windows 8.1. As it happens, it was a very bad idea indeed. Sending emails to different software providers who offer their deepest sympathy was not very helpful.

Always go back to the source, even when you're guarantee is up because they probably can do something to help you. All you need to do is find acceptance, that your computer does not work and you need to spend some money. There can be negotiation around the money, but the end of all this is less money in your bank account. Five days later, I have less money and now have a computer which works again. Step six the argument in my head, all about the unfairness, step seven: courage and faith in being able to rebuild my computer to a place where I can understand it again. I had to accept help, or no computer and a lot of frustration. The service agents we deal with, they do not make the systems and procedures and there is no point to being angry with them. We can be angry at big companies who take advantage of their monopoly position when it comes to service and over charging their customers.

Where would we be without the tools of life? The tools we learn, how we feel about what is going on, our attitude to endeavours in the face of not only good experiences, also the bad and ugly experiences which are going to happen whatever we do. We cannot choose good all the time, because we do not know what is going to happen from one moment to the next. Yes we can have a positive attitude and still be angry and upset, at the same time we do not need to make other people upset and angry because ultimately it probably was not their fault either for the predicament we face.

Always better to see the big picture, what we find disabling in our personal day-to-day activities is probably something to do with something we have missed along the way. And in my case being over enthusiastic about trying out new things without considering the consequences has caused a steep learning curve. I have learned how to do some new things, and I have expended a great deal of effort. And it is taken away a chunk of money out of the blue. Bugger…

Alcoholics Anonymous | July 10 | DonInLondon | Step 7 "Courage To Change"

Very often we have high expectations which become resentments under construction. And sometimes we have low expectations which are resentments against the world because? It is just plain unfair and it shouldn't be happening to me…

Our step six world often manifests with the emotion of: fear, and manifests in our own mind with pride and ego driving us to distraction. When things are unfair, it probably is unfair to a fair-minded person. At the same time we are not singled out for unfair treatment most often, life simply is unfair and that's where we start.

Our step seven world can save us from ourselves. Shortcomings, as I understand them for myself are about courage to change, faith in doing the next right thing and developing confidence to try and try again… If at first we do not succeed, maybe phone a friend, find a meeting and talk face-to-face with someone we know. Anything which helps us gain perspective on what we are trying to do today and possibly the future as well…

We humans: we don't come with an instruction book and even if we did, who really reads the instructions? We all have instruction books and manuals on how to do things, the greatest learning however is always in the doing of something, the feelings we have about it and the outcomes that happen as we go along.

I need to remind myself on a daily basis, that it is okay to keep on learning and forgetting and making mistakes. Every day is a learning day for normal human beings. At the same time if we are not keeping up with changes which are important to our lifestyle and the way we live, we can find ourselves stuck and frustrated. Anyone trying to break out of addiction to anything has probably got a long history of living with certain attitudes and behaviour which make it difficult to change. Changing anything about ourselves can cause fear to rise up and having courage is something we develop, having faith is something we develop and that brings confidence to feel okay. Before we would shut out the world and isolate. As the saying goes, "it's never too late…