Have a Little Faith

I am reading what has, so far, been a great book (Have a Little Faith: A True Story). The story is about one man’s journey exploring his ambivalence towards God and any kind of spiritual life. I came across this great passage about the secret to happiness. Paraphrasing from the book: Be satisfied and grateful for what you have, for love and for what God has given you. Pretty darn good advice that goes along nicely with so many things I have been taught and shown in AA, and in living a sober life.

One of the interesting things going on with my reading this book is my sense that I need to read more inspirational works as a part of my general reading. Sure I read the handful of things that I have been reading for years (Big Book, 12 X 12, etc.) but I also need to read other things as well. Throw new stuff not only into the mix but outside of my normal reading practices that are a part of my habitats (or sometimes my lack thereof!).

Be well. And Sober.

To My Knees

My active drinking career, which I pray is over, come to a slow but sure nasty bottom. I went beyond just being brought to my knees with my last drunk. My last debacle found me splayed out on the bathroom floor and in dire medical straits. I was revived, brought to the hospital and spent a night in intensive care. I knew, this time, I was defeated. I was figuratively brought to my knees in realizing my powerless. I was different, at least in realizing it was simply was not possible for me to whip this drinking problem. I also knew – finally it was absolutely clear – my drinking was a big problem. I did not just have a bad night or was unlucky. I then did something strange. I sincerely asked for help.

Today I am brought to my knees by all kinds of situations. Asking God for help in my daily life, praying about how grateful I am to have the life I have today and many other reasons. All this is now a very good thing instead of the humiliation of what my drinking drove me to become.

One funny thing about all this is I did not believe in God before I was felled by my powerlessness. I felt people who had faith in God were weak and simple minded. It says in the Twelve and twelve (and as quoted in the daily reflections book): Some of us won’t believe in God, others can’t, and still others who do believe that God exists have no faith whatever He will perform this miracle.

I am glad I am on the other side of the fence on this issue today. I know and appreciate that God does exist. He can work miracles in my life. And I can be brought to my knees on a regular basis by my faith.

But Why?

The philosophical argument about self-will versus determinism has been raging for much longer than our lifetimes. Modern ideas put new twists into this but the idea is the same. It is an argument that I am pretty sure will not be solved in my lifetime. So what to do, and what to say, when bad things happen? What was/is God’s role in such matters?

I have faced this in my own life and in trying to help others. Rape, murder, car accidents and the like are some of examples of bad things that happen. Is this all parts of “God’s plan?”

I want to believe this is not the direct doings of God. In my spiritual world these are things that happen, regardless of what God wants or is able to do for me, or for anyone else.

Self-determinism is what I believe in. I believe God wants the best for me but I am free to choose. I am a drunk. Good for me or not, if I am not vigilant and taking care of myself than I am capable of drinking. And drinking for me leads to very bad things for me and for others. On the other hand my life is pretty darn good when I am sober. This is more what I think God wants for me. So when bad things happen I don’t blame blame God. It is not necessarily his fault or his doing.

For all I know God is doing these things, perhaps for reasons I do not need to be privy to. Yet I am not God so I am not the person to understand everything. I can live with that too. I don’t need to think I know or understand everything anymore.  Drinking and getting sober beat that egotistical malarkey out of me.

Having been sober for a few decades I can deduce and live with philosophical and spiritual perspectives that support my life. I can now see things in a way that allows me to be happy (God is good) instead of bitter (why did God allow xxxx to happen?). In working with others I can share my perspectives and suggest them as useful ways to see and deal with things. I don’t pretend I am right, just that this does work. Yet sometimes there needs to be something more added to all this.

The other day one of my sponsees told me something that I thought was wonderful. It come to him via another AA member who had suffered a loss and was told this by someone else. Rather than wondering why or what God’s role in the thing that you lost was, imagine that God felt the same pain that you did or still do in relation to your loss.

An empathetic God explained in way that is personal and touching.

Happy New Year. 2010. It will be the best year ever.

Faith Abounds

One key element of my sobriety, my happiness and my ability to live in the right way is to have a strong faith. Yet it comes and goes. I came into AA not believing in God. My use and abuse of substances though did make me willing to try what Alcoholics Anonymous suggested. My willingness led me to develop a relationship with God and an ability to have faith.

Those days seem simple and quaint today. My humanness has returned as I have stayed sober and had my own little victories in life. All of these have been made possible by my sobriety – that is clear to me. I think that my faith has never been as strong as it was in my early years of sobriety. I do have some ideas why too. Part of it has been, simply that I have become somewhat normal. I am no longer so desperate. My life works today rather than it being a real mess that spills out toxicity in all areas and upon all that are around me. I could do better, sure, but I am not doing all that bad either.

So I have become comfortable and in some ways complacent.

The answer to this sometimes lacking strength in my faith is to redouble my efforts in doing what I have been taught works. Trust God, clean house and help others. I have been taking this action for months now and not surprisingly faith is beginning to spread. It is smothering the fear, getting into the nooks and crannies of my thought life and rooting out the crap. It feels good, its uplifting to have this change occur and to have it so palpable.

I am still a bit away from where I once was with my faith. I have also come to understand that what I had and thought was good can never be brought back. I am aiming to bring myself to a new place, not restore myself to an old state. That old state cannot be returned to because I will never be that person again. I have changed and today is today, it is never yesterday.

My old friend Bob used to say “the best is yet to come.” Things are pretty good but I can tell they are getting better. That is some faith I can bank on.

Three Answers

My sponser told me this little gem the other day.

You know what the three answers to your prayers can be?

Yes.

Yes but not now.

No because there is something better in store for you.

I am liking my new sponsor!

Stay sober, have fun and enjoy this day.

Recharge

Following along the same vein as my last post I am still focusing and thinking about my spiritual condition today. I think part of the problem is my having been doing a few of the same things day after day, and perhaps thinking this is enough. Praying in the morning and praying at night does get supplemented by other things throughout the day but there is not much else that I do on a regular basis. Going to a meeting can help me focus more on God but not always. Finding myself in challenging or humbling situations can make me contemplate God, say a prayer, or feel grateful I do not have to bear the burden of everything on my own, but this doesn’t always happen. And so on.

I have been thinking that I perhaps need to do something to knock me out of my complacency. Many years ago I used to fast from time to time. I would drink nothing but water for a day. Then there was a year or two where I was attending a sweat lodge in Montana a few times a month. I would fast for the part of the day leading up to the sweat. The fast coupled with the sweat lodge was a powerful spiritual experience.

All in all, my fasting experiences were truly spiritual manna. I think I need to do a one day fast soon. If your curious, you can find out more about fasting here: how to fast.

Be well and be sober.

AA 101 – prayer

I had a big problem. My uncle has been dying of cancer for awhile. A few weeks ago he was told he could not be treated anymore as there was no use in doing so. My father talked to me the other day and told me I should call him. The unspoken part of the conversation, which I only recognized a few minutes after I got off the phone, was that my Uncle does not have long to live (this post is not about how no one in my family ever talks directly about things, as if it might keep something bad or sad from happening if it isn’t stated).

I feel fortunate I had seen this uncle about out a month ago even though he lives hundreds of miles from me.

The next day I agonized over picking up the phone. I can’t recall the last time I called this uncle on the phone so the whole thing was strange to begin with. I of course was mightily uncomfortable with the idea of what to say to someone who is not far from death. Goodbye? Sorry? I hope your Ok? I talked to my fiancee about my dilemma. I was fishing for someone or something to save me from something I was scared to do. It was this last thought that saved me and helped me to dip into my AA toolbox.

There is nothing I need to be ready to say, or can say, to deal with the real enormity of what is going on with him. I simply needed to ask God for help to have the courage to pick up the phone and to ask for guidance in saying whatever was appropriate.

I picked up the phone right away, dialed his number (my Uncle’s of course, I don’t have God’s number in my speed dial), and he answered the phone. We talked for about 5 minutes. During our conversation I was able to tell him that I had heard he was not doing well and that he was in my thoughts and prayers. It was a surprisingly light conversation. I of course felt much more comfortable than I would have thought. I got off the phone and cried. As I am doing in writing about this phone conservation.

I am grateful to have been graced with the courage to call. I felt better for having had this experience. My uncle was sincerely happy to hear from me and seemed touch that I called.

It still amazes me that I can so easily tap into a power that can have me go beyond my simple set of conceptions that set off fear, retreat, and shying away from doing the right thing. Left to my own devices I used to always miss my chances to act responsibly. I lacked the wisdom and self assurance to reach out to others with love. Such behavior, I have come to learn, is living in a way that is like trying to grow a plant without water.

The strangeness of feeling grateful for being able to handle dying, death, and sad events is something I have gotten used to over the years. There are many situations that come up as part of being responsible adult that leave me and plenty of others feeling like “what I am supposed to do here!” and “I don’t want this to be happening!” Getting through those situations – by facing up to them, feeling humbled by playing my part and role in whatever I am supposed to be doing, and even feeling grateful since I know I never would have been able to do such things before – is a much better way to live.

Wishing you the best in sobriety,

AA Blogger

Freedom from the mental obsession

At my meeting today the discussion was about having the obsession to drink lifted from us and how, once lifted, it can remain so provided we stay on a spiritual path. It filled me with gratitude to recognize that my life has been free of the desire to want to drink for so many years. Yet this program is a day at a time and my current state, not even being able to imagine a situation where I would want to take a drink, can be replaced by the insanity that was once surely killing me. I am fairly certain I will not revert back to who I was provided I keep doing what I have been taught – trust God, clean house, and help others.

One of the benefits of continuing to go to meetings on a regular basis is seeing, hearing, and watching others demonstrate for me how seemingly simply decisions that can lead me away from my sobriety are so easy to make. It seems there is no end to the number of people that want and need to stop yet return to drinking. One common thread in so many of these cases is an inability to keep sobriety as the number one priority. I have spent countless hours with people who have gone back out and heard them describe how life was just too difficult, how they felt so much pressure, and how they just couldn’t handle life on life’s terms. They are not able to see with any clarity how their perception of life’s problems allowed them to lose sight of remaining steadfast in doing whatever they could to stay sober.

I too can find my thinking going down this path from time to time. Up until this point though I have always somehow been brought to recognize that my thinking was misguided and wrong. Relationship woes, dealing with work, physical challenges regarding my health, unwanted changes, financial worries, or whatever are just not that big a deal. Staying on the path of guarding my sobriety, regardless of how life is, must always trump everything else. If it does not, the thought of a drink and the obsession could return. My change in perspective that knocks life’s “big deals” down to size is not brought about by the same consciousness that created it (the self-centered and defeatist part of my mind that just never seems to get totally squashed). The realization that whatever my current troubles are, whether they be real or imagined, are relatively unimportant in light of staying sober is brought about within me by what I have learned in AA and by my connection with God. It can come to me as a result of prayer, going to a meeting and hearing just what I need to hear, talking to another drunk, or reading the big book. Much of what I have learned has so permeated my life that it does not even need to be an AA thing per say that changes my attitude.

This morning for instance, riding my bike home from the meeting, I passed a few homeless fellows that were helping each other dig through a dumpster. I see these two guys just about every day and this morning I thought, there but by the grace of God go I. And with this thought I could put my life into a proper perspective. The obsession to drink, which had brought me to the very brink of death, is something I have not struggled with today. Every thing else really is gravy and knowing this is true, I can enjoy the many blessings I have rather than worrying, being fearful, or not appreciating this day.

Wishing you all the best in sobriety,
AA Blogger