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The Blacksmith

When times are hard and I go through rough changes in my sobriety, I need to remember that my higher power, is very much like a blacksmith, and I am a piece of malleable steel, being worked by Him, for His purposes. And no matter what He may put me through, with his fire and hammer, shaping, and making me into a tool for His use, that he always, always has a very tight grip on me, no matter what, and He never, ever drops His work.

Kevin G.

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If They Have the Capacity To Be Honest…

“We buried him yesterday. The County Coroner had published the required notices for next of kin and nobody had claimed the body. It was just myself and his sponsor, no preacher even, the county doesn’t pay for those.

Not much of a send-off, and not the one David had asked for. A cheap coffin, a backhoe dug a hole, and that was it – another old AA has gone.

He had been sober for over 20 years and in AA over 30, a stern and rigid man who tried to soften his edges and never could.

He was a loner, a fringe-er, an isolated man at the edge of life’s good things. He hung in there… and in the end, hung himself. I don’t know why; I can’t know.
I know there had been a diagnosis of senile dementia, and I know that the doctor had added cancer to the list. But, I’ve seen AAs deal with such things before…I don’t know why David decided he couldn’t.

It isn’t the first time I’ve been through this in Alcoholics Anonymous. I’ve known several over the years who just up and walked out life’s door one day. Sober, but not happy. Sober, but not at peace. Sober, but they died of alcoholism.
Our disease doesn’t need us to drink in order to kill us. I wish more folks knew that and appreciated it.

Alcoholism is the only disease that is entirely capable of fighting back, of taking care of itself, and of emerging in new places and new forms when it isn’t properly treated. That’s because of the spiritual malady.

Most people think that has something to do with prayer or with God. It doesn’t. It has to do with ‘our spirit – that force which animates, motivates, and propels us.
As an alcoholic, my spirit is ill. It is flawed. My character, or basic nature, doesn’t work right. At its root, it is fundamental and unresolvable insecurity – a hole that can’t ever be filled.

It is an instinct run rampant, a desperate need for acceptance and love that cannot be met. It hurts. It fills one with fear. The selfishness and self-centeredness of the alcoholic lie here – we are totally preoccupied with what is going on with ourselves on the inside.

The slings and arrows of experience warped by this need to drive us to the fringe, and the voices of the committee in our head keep us there.

We are obsessed with ourselves, and from this condition of mind…. the insanity of feelings gone haywire, we become self-medicators eventually.

We discover alcohol or something else… and the stuff quiets the voices, provides the relief we’ve never been able to find in any other way. It isn’t any wonder we drink, or drug the way we do.

And some of us don’t develop an addiction… in attempting to meet these crying demands of our spirit become ill, we develop other malformations of behavior, and suffer in a hundred different ways.

God broke David’s obsession to drink. But, I don’t think David ever truly understood his disease. I say that because I watched him struggle with those old unresolved issues of his heart for years. His rigidity, coldness, aloofness, isolation, and difficulty with other people were a reflection of the pain in his heart…. of the disease of alcoholism gone deep inside, and still active.

Alcoholism didn’t need David to drink in order to continue trying to kill him, and in the end… it succeeded. In the end, instead of self-abandonment… David abandoned hope.. and discovered a bitter end.

Our recovery from alcoholism through the Steps must be a three-fold process. It is not one-dimensional. When we say in AA, that we have a triangle… recovery, unity, service… we mean it.

In working the Steps, I clear a pathway for two purposes… first, to come into a group of human people and away from the fringe of society where I have spent most of my emotional life.

Secondly, to discover ‘belonging’ through service to the people within that group. It is only this entire, threefold process that heals. It is especially true for those of us who suffer from the spiritual malady to a great degree.

Perhaps the 12th Step says it best: “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps (recovery), we tried to carry this message to other alcoholics (service) and practice these principles in all our affairs (unity).

You see… I cannot hold back. I must not continue to suffer that shyness, aloneness, that overwhelming sense of self in my affairs. I must get involved in a group of people to practice these principles in all my affairs.

Only the total approach is healing. Anything less is little more than driving my disease deep, and, if I do that, it will continue to eat away, trying to destroy me.
It destroyed David. This is a memorial to an old AA who gave his best shot, and I think David ended up on the plus side. It wasn’t his fault; he seemed to have been born that way.

There were a lot of old ideas about self that David could never muster the willingness to let go of. He is at rest now.

But it says somewhere that “no matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.”

David cannot speak to his experience any longer; I am speaking in his memory. And I think that if David could talk to us today, he’d say “Understand your disease thoroughly, and work the complete program of recovery!”

God bless you as you Trudge The Road!

Ted R. of Gainesville, FL

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It’s Not About Me

All of the years I’ve suffered from fears and said what in the hell did I do?

The train in my brain spins circles, insane and wonders Hey what’s wrong with you?

Numbing the real, not wanting to feel, the emotions that seeth in my gut

Then alcohol came, turned into my game and helped me get out of my rut.

The demon brew, well, it turned on me too and wanted to take me away.

Tried putting it down, the whirlwind I’d found but no matter how wrong it would stay.

Then came the day when battered and frayed the misery had taken its toll.

The demon had won and it was no longer fun and I found I was losing my soul.

It was time to get real, no matter the feel and surrender to that which I knew.

Too admit to myself it had always been me, all those years that I believed it was you.

Self seeking fears, drowning in tears of selfish and ego, I know.

The will, I thought mine had grown selfish with time and I knew that I had to let go.

Surrendering myself, to get something else to comfort and lead me along.

The peace that I get, at times, I don’t fret and try to stay honest and strong.

Rigorous honesty I’m told, that it takes and sadly sometimes only few.

Listening to truth that it’s not about me, that I need make it all about you.

Ginny A.

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The Twelve Steps to a Slip/Relapse

PERSONS who attain sobriety through the A.A. principles, do so only after a thoughtful application of the 12 Suggested Steps to recovery. They happily find themselves on a level plateau of sanity after ascending these steps, one after another, and they maintain their sobriety by a continuing application of these same steps.

Those unfortunates who lose their sobriety are said to be having a “slip”. I believe this is a misnomer, for it suggests only a momentary adversity that unexpectedly pounces on its unwary victim. A more apt term would be a “glissade,” for a slip is the result of a gradual process, beginning long before its logical termination, and progressing through a series of wrong steps, to a drink, and for us, a drunk.

A slip cannot be said to occur only when it culminates in a drink, for many of us, in our failure to apply the 12 Steps to our living, frequently have slips, which are none the less slips merely because we do not slip as far as a drink.

As one must ascend the 12 Steps gradually, I feel the “slip” is the result of unconsciously descending these Steps. And as descending steps is always accompanied with less effort than ascending them, the steps soon assume the behavior of an escalator.

As the “bottom” is reached it invariably results in taking that “one drink,” which leads, for us, only to all the remorse, terror and unhappiness that follows a binge.

These, then, are in my opinion the “12 Steps to a slip,” and are the direct result of failure to consciously apply to our lives the 12 Suggested Steps to recovery:

  1. We neglect 12th Step work.
  2. We omit contact with the Higher Power.
  3. We forget personal inventory.
  4. We assume grudges against others.
  5. We miss A.A. meetings, and avoid A.A. friends.
  6. We gradually lose humility.
  7. We fall into self pity.
  8. We worry about unalterables.
  9. Our thinkin’ really starts stinkin’.
  10. We become “cocky” and overconfident.
  11. We neglect to ask help from the Higher Power, and take “just one.”
  12. We become a “social drinker.” (Temporarily.)
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The Practice of Forgiveness

Marianne Williamson says, “The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.”

We must learn to forgive, not just for ourselves, but because we influence the rest of the world, including our loved ones and families. Forgiveness is deeply healing. It allows us to live free in the present moment.

But let me be clear about what forgiveness is not:

  • Forgiveness does not mean condoning. It does not condone past hurtful behavior. Forgiveness is consciously choosing to release past grievances that have happened, so that you can be free and move on with your life. It gives you the power to release resentment.
  • Forgiveness does not mean inaction. It does not mean that we blindly accept the destructive behaviors of others who threaten our safety. In no way does forgiveness mean that we allow violent acts to continue. Forgiveness takes great strength. True forgiveness frees us from acting out of separation and hate, and empowers us to speak the truth from our hearts.

Forgiveness may seem like a far stretch in the beginning. At first what we often feel is rage, anger, and thoughts of revenge. Violent acts of injustice often spur people toward major action. Anger lets us know something must change. We must not ignore it. But we must take time to acknowledge and experience the pain we feel, so that we do not inadvertently channel more of our pain unto others. Forgiveness is an act of self-empowerment that allows clarity and wisdom to transform our pain into loving action. It makes us clear vessels for positive change.

Forgiveness is healing. It leads you towards greater health and wholeness. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to learning how to forgive. Finding a way to plant the seed of intention for forgiveness allows it to germinate in its own time, in its own way. When you are gentle, loving and patient toward yourself through the process, the intention of forgiveness will find a way to flower on its own.

Through forgiveness you choose to act from love and strength. But how can you even begin to forgive?

Here are 10 ways to start the practice of forgiveness:

  1. Honor your true feelings. What are your true feelings? Do you allow yourself to fully express them, or do you push painful emotions away? In the healing arts, they say “feeling is healing.” By allowing what you really feel, without guilt or shame, you give yourself permission to fully purge your emotions and move forward.
  2. Practice self-observation. Notice the thoughts you have when you choose not to forgive, and the way it affects your health and energy. What happens when you don’t forgive? Where do your attention and energy tend to go? What is the story you keep telling yourself over and over again? Where do you feel contraction in your body?
  3. Imagine being the other. For a moment, take yourself out of your own shoes, and imagine being the other person. Imagine them as a child. What was it like for them to grow up? What was their experience like for them to have behaved the way they did? What was their pain like? Meditate on being the other person and seeing the situation from his/her point of view.
  4. Reflect. Take time to reflect on what happened and how the situation transpired. What was your initial intuition? What unspoken agreements were broken? What is your life lesson in the matter? What good, if any, unfolded as a result?
  5. Open your perspective. Look at the situation from a bird’s eye perspective that can see 360 degrees, across all time and space. What would you tell yourself in 200 years about what happened? What would you say to your perpetrator in 200 years? What do you see happening in other parts of the world?
  6. Take responsibility. When bad things happen, you can feel helpless. In what way can you take responsibility for your own healing and feelings? How do you choose to respond? Robert Parker acknowledges that we all have free will: “I’m not mad. I have my own agency to use this event to do whatever I can to make sure my wife and daughters are taken care of.”
  7. Forgive the other. What would it be like to forgive the other? To simply have an intention to forgive? How does it feel in your body?
  8. Forgive yourself. Can you forgive yourself for what happened? For the judgments, resentments, or actions you took? What would it be like to wholly forgive yourself?
  9. Choose to learn. What do you feel that you learned from the situation? What do you want to see change? How would you choose to act differently in the future?
  10. Take positive action. Transform your hurt into positive action. What you experienced as a “lack” or “wrong” in your previous situation, create an abundance of it in your community. If you experienced violence or apathy from those around you, offer service and healing to your community. Notice the effect it has on you and your well-being.

Forgiveness is an act of liberation. It no longer binds you to your perpetrator. It frees you from the past, and any negative energy that you hold within yourself against the other. Keep in mind that you are not giving anything up when you choose to forgive, you are choosing to claim your life back. To learn how to forgive unthinkable acts is possibly one of the most challenging, yet greatest gifts you can bestow upon yourself.

Ultimately, forgiveness is an act of self-love. It is by far one of the most loving things you could do for yourself. It takes great courage and humility to choose to forgive. When you’re feeling challenged, take time to be with your pain. Being present to your own pain is one of the hardest things you can do. But that too, is an act of self-love. It purifies you and asks you to grow. Be gentle with yourself and let yourself be nurtured in times of unbearable grief. Surround yourself with those who love you. And remember the power of forgiveness.

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12 Ways To Acceptance

  1. ACCEPT, that I am a sick person, and need help and that help can be found by attending meetings, reading literature and by practicing the program at all times.
  2. ACCEPT, that I am powerless over anyone, but that I do have the power to change myself.
  3. ACCEPT, that I am not responsible for everyone’s actions, but I am responsible to myself.
  4. ACCEPT, G-d or a Higher Power back into my life. To LET GO AND LET G-D, and to learn to have patience by not taking things back too quickly and trying to manage or play God myself.
  5. ACCEPT, that I am a good person, and it is OK to be good to myself. Don’t be afraid to be happy and enjoy what is beautiful. Always remember, I’m OK, G-D DOESN’T MAKE JUNK.
  6. ACCEPT, tolerance with others and especially myself, having faith that I can grow in our program and become a whole person again.
  7. ACCEPT, things I do not like, realizing that all things do not have good to be acceptable. By having to let someone we love suffer for their own mistakes, or actions, by detaching with love.
  8. ACCEPT, that I do not have to be right all the time and that it is OK to be wrong or make mistake, our mistakes can be a learning experience.
  9. ACCEPT, that it is OK to say I’m wrong and ask forgiveness when I hurt or wrong someone.
  10. ACCEPT, that I must be open-minded enough to listen thoughtfully to the opinions of others.
  11. ACCEPT, that each day is a new beginning and that it is within my power to make that day as good and happy as I want it to be.
  12. ACCEPT, that I have no control over the PAST. That TOMORROW is beyond our immediate control for it is yet unborn. This leaves only TODAY. Let us therefore live but ONE DAY AT A TIME!
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The mature person has developed attitudes in relation to himself and his environment which have lifted him above “childishness” in thought and behavior.

My Mind Is My Garden,
My Thoughts Are My Seeds.
I Will Harvest Either Flowers or Weeds.

Some of the characteristics of the person who has achieved true adulthood are suggested here:

  1. He accepts criticism gratefully, being honestly glad for an opportunity to improve.
  2. He does not indulge in self-pity. He has begun to feel the laws of compensation operating in all life.
  3. He does not expect special consideration from anyone.
  4. He controls his temper.
  5. He meets emergencies with poise.
  6. His feelings are not easily hurt.
  7. He accepts the responsibility of his own actions without trying to “alibi.”
  8. He has outgrown the “all or nothing” stage. He recognizes that no person or situation is wholly good or wholly bad, and he begins to appreciate the Golden Mean.
  9. He is not impatient at reasonable delays. He has learned that he is not the arbiter of the universe and that he must often adjust himself to other people and their convenience.
  10. He is a good loser. He can endure defeat and disappointment without whining or complaining.
  11. He does not worry about things he cannot help.
  12. He is not given to boasting or “showing off” in socially unacceptable ways.
  13. He is honestly glad when others enjoy success or good fortune. He has outgrown envy and jealousy.
  14. He is open-minded enough to listen thoughtfully to the opinions of others.
  15. He is not a chronic “fault-finder.”
  16. He plans things in advance rather than trusting to the inspiration of the moment.

Last of all, we think in terms of spiritual maturity:

  1. He has faith in a Power greater than himself.
  2. He feels himself an organic part of mankind as a whole, contributing his part to each group of which he is a member.
  3. He obeys the spiritual essence of the Golden Rule: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Emotional sobriety is when:

  1. I am free of resentments, jealousy, and envy–and free to forgive quickly.
  2. My emotions are not so violent that they cause me to go or be on a dry drunk.
  3. I am able to make normal everyday decisions without my vision being unduly influenced by my emotions.
  4. I am able to identify & live by my personal values without compromise to emotional pressure.
  5. I am able to enjoy life as spiritual principles would dictate–such as being properly revolted by ugliness, sin, and suffering, and positively rewarded by happenings of love, beauty and principle.
  6. I am happy when others do things better or quicker than I have done them.
  7. My emotions are in sync with my intellect, and both are in synch with God’s Will.
  8. I can live freely without being emotionally subservient to another human being.
  9. I can move freely between the emotional states of child, adult, and parent.
  10. I derive genuine, healthy pleasure from helping others without thought of reward, money, prestige, or station.
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Resent Somebody

The moment you start to resent somebody you become their slave. They control your dreams, absorb your digestion, rob you of your peace of mind and goodwill, take away the pleasure of your work.

They ruin your spirituality and nullify your prayers. You cannot take a vacation without them going along! They destroy your freedom of mind and hound you wherever you go. There is no way to escape the person you resent.

They are with you when you are awake. They invade your privacy when you sleep. They are close beside you when you eat, when you drive your car, and when you are on the job.

You can never have efficiency or happiness. They influence even the tone of your voice. They require you to take medicine for indigestion, headaches, and loss of energy. They even steal your last moment of consciousness before you go to sleep.

So if you want to be a slave, harbor your resentment.

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The Gorilla In The Room

Most of us tried to just pretend that there was nothing wrong
We tried our best to hide what had been building for so long
That drinking had a hold on us, we found we could not quit
We had to drink, we’d lost control, this we would not admit

Then comes the day when we’re exposed, ignoring time is through
The big gorilla in the room that everybody knew
Had finally been acknowledged and revealed for all to see
An alcoholic needing help, a harsh reality

I heard a member say he felt relief when that day came
The lie that he’d been living took its toll in grief and shame
But I had not experienced that feeling as he had
I tried to make the best of it but really, I was sad

I’d know the grip that alcohol had on me was insane
But how to live without it was a thought filled with disdain
John Barleycorn had been my friend for nearly fifty years
And though I sometimes hated him, to lose him fueled my fears

When my turn came to face the truth, I knew not to debate
The jig was up, it was no use, it would not resonate
So, I agreed to get some help although I’d rather flee
The problem was I acquiesced for them instead of me

The center they had chosen made me feel so out of place
Most of the people there were young and drugs were their embrace
I only stayed in there five nights, convinced that I’d been wronged
My problem’s drink, I don’t use drugs, it’s time I said so long

As a condition for release, I had to join AA
They gave me a small book that listed meetings, times, and days
I said that I would do the deal and started to attend
And in about a month or two, my fences start to mend

But I was not convinced that my past problem was that bad
The stories I heard others tell made me an undergrad
These people had a Ph.D. in drinking 101
So maybe I could grab a drink, one cocktail and be done

It did not work out like I thought, the one turned into six
And like before, I’d sneak around, was back to my old tricks
I hid it well for quite a while but as I always did
I lost control, got very drunk and I began to skid

Away again to get some help, this time for 30 days
And for a while I did not drink, was in the pink cloud phase
But it wore off and sure enough, I heard the Siren’s call
She told me it would be ok, you’ve mastered alcohol

I still attended meetings, most times in but sometimes out
My sponsor told me I could make it, but I still had my doubts
He said if we were to persist, a change had to occur
Stay as you are or do the deal, which one would I prefer

The deal, he said, consisted of a meeting every day
A phone call to a friend or two and kneel and start to pray
And find a Higher Power, one you need not understand
Then join with other members as you carry out this plan

That last thing was the turning point, the piece I had neglected
I’d always tried to right myself, and ended up dejected
I started to do outside things to help avoid a slip
By joining with some new-found friends, this AA Fellowship

When I picked up my last white chip, I did not know for sure
That it would be my final one, I knew there was no cure
But being with this group of men has shown me there’s a way
To live life free of alcohol, stay sober one more day

As years have passed, I seldom think about how it had been
To have to hide and sneak around, alone with my chagrin
Back then I would have never thought or consciously assume
The benefit of facing the gorilla in the room

Larry R.

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The Road to Humility

The word ego is actually the Latin word for “I”
That makes a lot of sense when you decide to wonder why
Our ego makes us do things that we may come to regret
Like boasting of our exploits when we use the internet

When kept under control it’s very healthy to posses
It’s what makes us unique, it helps our talents to progress
A measure of self-confidence we need to venture out
When starting a new venture where success may be in doubt

But once out of control, the ego takes another path
It leads us to become someone who soon will feel its wrath
It cons us into thinking we are always in the right
When challenged we lash out and become ready for a fight

When told we’re drinking way too much, we say it isn’t true
We say “you are mistaken and you haven’t got a clue “
Our ego tells us they are wrong, we’re strong enough to quit
We just don’t want to at this time, we’ll slow down just a bit

But slowing down don’t seem to work, in fact it’s gotten worse
We start to hide it from our friends, and then we start to curse
Those people passing judgement, make us start to feel ashamed
It’s then we finally realize that our ego is to blame

To us the word humility is not our egos friend
It tears apart what we’ve believed, it wants us to pretend
That all is well, ignore the fact that we’ve lost all control
Until we hear that desperation bell begin to toll

For some of us we had to lose the things we held most dear
The spouse, the job, the car we wrecked, our life consumed with fear
Yet other still have reached this point without those other things
We’ve hit a bottom, none the less, the misery it brings

It’s called humiliation, so ashamed what we’ve become
Inside we feel no different than the lowly sidewalk bum
It’s at those final moments that the ego must be smashed
If we will have a chance to live, before all hope is dashed

For most of us humility was not an easy task
Potholes filled the road we took, we stumbled to get past
Our ego keeps us off that road till we admit defeat
Put it aside and ask for help, acknowledge we’ve been beat

Humility’s a virtue, humiliation a disease
One brings us back our self-respect, the other to our knees
Us alcoholics need to go through one to reach the other
The road to reach humility and help us to recover

Larry R.