In Alcoholics Anonymous basic text, we learn that our recovery is a daily reprieve, contingent upon the maintenance of our spiritual condition. In other words, we don’t get to accrue recovery. I like to think of it more like remission – as long as I take my “prescription” (i.e.: prayer, meditation, participating in the program, service to others, and focus on physical health and wellness), I will reap the benefits of recovery, that freedom from the bondage of self. All too often, in part due to the nature of the disease, addicts will pull back on a diligent program after experiencing some sobriety time, inevitably finding themselves back in a state of restless, irritable discontent. This doesn’t always lead to relapse, but unfortunately puts one at risk. I believe that this mode of action, this “daily practice/growth”, if you will, draw parallels to any form of recovery one attempts to undertake, whether it be health issues/illness, mental and emotional health, or co-dependency. This spectrum would of course include the struggle of the family or spouse of someone else afflicted with any of the above issues. Over the past few years I’ve illustrated to myself the effect procrastination, laziness, and in-action has on my own recovery, and have learned some valuable lessons through trial and error on what it takes to achieve balance, to take honest stock of oneself, and what kind of effort it takes on a daily basis to not only maintain a spiritual relationship with God, but to grow with Him as well. When it comes to helping others in a healthy, meaningful way, helping yourself is of the utmost importance. “You cannot transmit something you haven’t got”. Listed below are some practical suggestions on how we can help ourselves, placing us on the path to serenity and genuine usefulness to others.
If we could solve all our problems, overcome those tough mental blocks that baffle us time and time again, we would have done so long ago. The fact of the matter is that any recovery program is based on the admission that we cannot outthink our own issues and need outside assistance. This is an excellent first step – recognizing we need help and wholeheartedly seeking it out. Whether it’s through PALS, 12-step, church, group therapy or otherwise. Attending groups whose members are walking through the same difficulties is vital. Through fellowship, support, education, and witnessing our peers succeed in real time, we too can experience comfort and freedom. Programs like PAL and 12-step have very clear-cut guidelines that are simple to follow. Meetings are filled with compassionate, heartfelt individuals who can love you when you simply cannot find that love for yourself. For me, AA provided a home, a place to lean on and learn from others, and most importantly, genuine unbridled hope. I cannot stress the importance of fellowship enough – it is the backbone, the foundation of our new way of life. When you’ve experienced enough pain and are ready to take the next step towards healing, surrounding yourself with these programs and participating in them fully, will take you far. God is alive and indeed working through others. Seeing His good works through others personal transformation, can act as the spark that will ignite the same in yourself.
Prayer and meditation. Spending time with God is paramount, and these two simple and effective practices have taken me further than I could have imagined they would at the start. Simply taking the time to talk to God, and just as importantly, to sit quietly and listen, are efforts well spent, endowing you with a quiet mind and spirit of peace. There are many different methods when it comes to meditation for beginners, guided mindfulness can be helpful. Through applications, meetings in your city, church, the opportunities are ready and available if you wish to have them. Making a practice of sitting quietly for 10 minutes every day, as simple as it may seem, can change your entire life. Ask God to guide and direct you. Better yet, leave yourself out of the equation, and ask only for His will, and for his Holy angels to watch over the lives of others, and how we might be better equipped to be of service to our fellow man. The bondage of self will only bring us worry and constant, painful overthinking. Prayer and meditation as a daily practice is an efficient, practical remedy to these types of poisonous self-centered thinking.
This is a therapeutic process. While we can readily learn from our peers in supportive groups, sometimes professional help is necessary. Various therapeutic modalities exist to assist individuals in identifying destructive, negative behaviors, and restructuring the way we think and address them. A good talk therapist, counselor, psychologist or life coach can help you reach the next level of your recovery, if the suggestions or treatment they provide are adhered to faithfully. Some may need to see a psychiatrist as well; there is no shame in this. Non-addictive medications are available for a whole host of ailments, and sometimes, regardless of the amount of effort we put into our recovery – a chemical imbalance may need to be addressed. I personally fought this idea for quite some time and couldn’t for the life of me figure out why part of me still suffered, despite my best efforts to grow with God and act. Taking this step, seeing a doctor and a therapist enabled me to plow forward again on the spiritual journey of healing, whereas I struggled significantly before.
I firmly believe that any positive step in the right direction, any small happy thing, is growth. Take a brisk walk in the evening hours. Stop to smell the flowers. Hold the door for someone. Give a stranger a warm smile. Take a vested interest in nutrition and exercise. Read spiritual literature. Say hello to a neighbor. Making an honest effort to genuinely see where you can help, giving of yourself, and your time freely. Sit in solidarity with someone struggling, holding space with them. It’s all healing, growing, positive energy. Integrating any of these principles, practices, or small kindnesses into your daily life can begin a journey of healing and self-discovery. I am not perfect. I do not always get every day right. I don’t always do everything I can, and sometimes my recovery feels stagnant or weak. But invariably, when I take the time to incorporate the things I know I need, I feel the warm, light, empowering feeling of progress. And when I feel that stability, that strength from my Higher Power, I am only then, truly in a position to assist my fellow man, with whatever it may be that I can feasibly do for them. Remember to give yourself a break. Remember to hold yourself and your brothers and sisters in loving kindness. As we say in AA – it’s practice, not perfection.
Sean – In Recovery
You can read, comment and ask questions for Sean to address in his blog on the PAL website, home page – www.PALGroup.org