Willingness, Honesty, Open Mindedness and the Spiritual Experience

“We find that no one need have difficulty with the spirituality of the program.  Willingness, honesty and open mindedness are the essentials of recovery.  But these are indispensable.” (Appendix II of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous)

When many alcoholics and addicts first venture into recovery, they are put off by the mention of God and the spiritual component of the AA Big Book and Alcoholics Anonymous. After all, many of them have lived through very difficult times and had many struggles. Most alcoholics and addicts can easily come up with a few ways in which God – if there is one, they might say – has failed them. Some will keep drinking and using because they just don’t think they can be a part of anything that talks about God and spirituality.

Lucky for suffering alcoholics and addicts, the only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking. One need not believe in God in order to be sober or to be a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. Many people find that, over time, their perceptions change and they come to their own understanding of a power greater than themselves. Some choose to call that power God. Still others refer to that power as the Universe and other names. It does not matter what you call it. It is truly about finding what works for you and what you can believe in.

In the Appendix II of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, it is explained that the most important tools of recovery are willingness, honesty and open mindedness. What many alcoholics and addicts have found through the work they have done at CA drug rehab centers is that when they travel the road to recovery, founded on willingness, honesty and open mindedness, they find themselves with a higher power of their own understanding, having a spiritual experience they didn’t think they wanted, happier than they ever thought they deserved to be.

Loneliness in Sobriety

There are times in the beginning of our sobriety when we feel most alone.  We no longer have the crutch of drugs and alcohol on which to lean however we are also without a feeling of support and understanding from anywhere, anything or anyone else.  This can lead to a sense of being lost, as if we are wandering in the desert with no oasis in sight, nary a mirage to even trick us into moving forward.  These feelings are actually far more common than not.

The idea that there is any kind of life waiting for us past the hell that we’ve been in seems difficult to conceptualize.  In the depths of our desperation, we are unable to think that there might be half a chance to live a life of even remote satisfaction, much less a life that is filled with being happy, joyous and free.  These words are as foreign to us as ancient Aramaic was to archeologists.  They are utterly and completely incomprehensible.

Now is the time to trust those around us to see the truth of what can be instead of what we think it should be or actually is.  We haven’t had much luck in following our own thinking at this point so we must put our faith in others to guide us while we remain temporarily blindfolded thinking we are actually never to have sight again.  We need those who can show us what is true and what is not.  While pursuing Recovery in a Los Angeles rehab, the counselors have an intimate knowledge as well as personal experience of what it’s like to move from this inconceivably, vastly empty place toward a life of purpose, satisfaction and that even the opportunity to revel in our destiny of joy only awaits us.  We have begun to arrive.

Prioritizing Sobriety

In the beginning stages of sobriety, it can be very easy to become quickly overwhelmed when faced with more than one task at a time.  To know which direction to go first can be very confusing.  As we move through our lives, while sober, we begin to learn where to place our energies and attention.

Prioritizing is a learned skill.  When the focus has been simply obtaining alcohol and/or drugs and then imbibing them, for most of us, that was the one and only priority to which we centered our attention.  Our lives were solely propelled by our addictions.  We needed nothing more than the substance(s) to which we were beholden.

Now, as we begin rebuilding our lives, we have tasks to accomplish; there is have work to be done; activities in which to participate, etc.  We begin to live our lives, lives that extend far past just the drink and/or the drug(s).  Learning what needs to happen in what order can be confusing, overwhelming even.

Thankfully, at this California alcohol rehabilitation center, the staff helps us learn how to build our day.  We are given a schedule and that schedule then becomes the outline by which we see what needs to happen when during the course of each day.  As we transition from living in a drug rehab in Los Angeles, to living in our respective environments, be it our own home or a shared sober living program, we have to learn and eventually know how to structure our day.  If we need help knowing what to do when, we learn to ask for guidance.  We do not have to become paralyzed by the prospect of more than one thing to do at one time.

What comes first in preparing for the day?  If we make our bed every morning, many times the rest of the day falls into place.

No Human Power…

“That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism.” – The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 60

With reading the above mentioned statement, we may not entirely grasp the gravity of its suggestion.  Many times, in a California alcohol rehab, we may put the counselor or therapist to whom we feel the most connected on a pedestal.  Perhaps after leaving this rehab, we begin to refocus our attention from the counselor/therapist to our sponsor, assuming we are working with one.  If not our sponsor, maybe we put the onus of our belief of that power greater than ourselves on another person, boyfriend, girlfriend, wife, husband, public figure, etc.

This is a definitive problem and can further the concept of having a lack of power.  As we attempt to rely on others, we find that, invariably, the human condition, which includes the inevitable mistakes and whatnot, is not a stable and reliable source for us.  We find this direction, if we attempt it, isn’t the best within where to reach/attach our faith.

It may be a struggle to come to the notion that we cannot rely upon others as an insurance policy against our drinking and/or using.  With everything we hear about working with others, being available, being of service, it can be, especially in early sobriety, confusing as to where we are to place our firm assurances.

When we rely on others for our sobriety, we are setting ourselves and the other person up for failure and for the possibility of him or her building a large resentment toward us or, conversely a resentment from us toward the person with whom we want to believe will save us and/or keep us sober.  When that other person doesn’t act, behave, give, respond, in the way we need, this can be used as our impetus to drink and/or use, before we have a spiritual foundation on which to stand.  This can, given resentments are our number one offender, propel us toward taking a drink and, therefore, quite possibly drive us straight through the gateway of misery into the waiting arms of death.

In order for us to follow the well-worn path to success in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous using the design for living provided for us in the The Big Book, it is strongly suggested we find a power great than ourselves and that power may very well need to come in the form of a burgeoning concept of our Higher Power. This is to be a power greater than ourselves and that does not mean another living being or inanimate object, as people can let us down and material items can get lost and/or break.  We are not saviors for others, as they cannot be for us, & just as we cannot, of our own will, save ourselves.

Flat Tires and Sobriety

When we are initially embarking on our sobriety, there may be incidents that come up which could easily unsettle us; a flat tire might be an example of such.  Perhaps when we were drinking and/or using, the flat tire might anger us, causing us to vehemently react to the world and our surroundings.  Maybe we felt overwhelmed by something, something that is frustrating and time consuming however our reaction to it wasn’t parallel with the scope of whatever happened.  Our reaction was angrily overblown, coloring our day and the way we engaged with others henceforth, dampening spirits wherever we went.

Now, in sobriety, there will be the inevitable “flat tire”, an incident or occurrence which is frustrating and time consuming, however, as we learn what it’s like to live a sober life, our reaction to those incidents may very well be different.  We may no longer spin angrily out of control.  We may get annoyed, frustrated, even angry, however, with this new way of living, courtesy of the instruction from this Los Angeles drug rehabilitation center, we learn that our feelings don’t need to be taken out on others nor do we need to let it dictate the remainder of our day.

In sobriety, we learn new tools and ways to live within the world as decent human beings.  Human beings with valid feelings and the understanding that our lives don’t need to be dictated by those feelings; we can acknowledge them, feel them, accept them and then, as time has shown us with others, let us not be caged by them.  Being sober lets us live freely in the world, as opposed to living as prisoners chained to our respective emotional walls.

The Alcoholic Addict and Acceptance

“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.  When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it supposed to be at this moment.” – The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 417

How many times have we been disturbed by everything and/or everyone around us?  What has run through our minds as we’ve been bothered by situations that are not to our liking?  Have we spent an inordinate amount of being unsettled by that which we didn’t find favorable?

Acceptance; it is the key to living a life of serenity.  The situations we find ourselves in, even long after we are sober, can be less-than-favorable.  We may object to the actions and/or ideas of those around us.  The more we struggle against our self-imposed chains keeping us locked and bound to the discomfort of that which we are not in favor, the harder it is to have peace within our hearts, our homes, and in our interactions with others.

We must learn to find a way to accept that which happens around us, when those are situations over which we have no control.  However, we need to find a way not to use the idea and action of acceptance to be our excuse in avoiding the taking of action.  We can accept a situation and work, within a productive way, to facilitate healthy change.  Whether the change happens or not, we are indebted to the idea of letting the results go.  Letting the results be what they are, as long as we do the necessary work, is a very large part of what acceptance is all about.  It’s not about shirking duties and shuffling feet through wet sand; it’s about putting effort into the next right action and being able to stay emotionally separate from the what-happens-next.

Sobriety and Living in the Present

As we begin and proceed down the path of sobriety, there are times when we may be swayed by remorseful thoughts of what-could-have-been or if-only-I-hadn’t-done-that or why-didn’t-I-do-this or I-should-have-done-that.  We can get caught up in the idea of missed opportunities as we’re being separated from the item(s) that kept us from being present in the world while we awaken to our lives as they actually are.

This line of thinking keeps us far from being aware and in the moment.  We realize that if we immerse ourselves in reveling in our respective remorse, we are living in a past that never actually existed while, simultaneously, we project and fantasize about what would have happened in our future.  As we are so often reminded, neither the past nor the present is the now.

It can be difficult to remain present, especially in early sobriety.  There are so many distractions, be it the person next to us talking or the radio on or the tv or even the blowing breeze.  The staff at this California rehab is well aware of what it looks like when we start to ride our horse of remorse into the wilderness of our fantasies.  They have the ability to not only recognize the moment when that starts to occur, they have the skills to refocus our wandering minds and reorient us to the present.

The present is a new and unfamiliar place in which we begin to reside.  It can be uncomfortable and it can be scary.  Conversely, it is a rich world we inhabit and until we can learn how to live within it and amongst others, aware and mindful of all that is around us, we may continue to hide.  Haven’t we, while using and drinking, hidden enough?

Feelings: Reacting vs. Responding

Feelings, we all have them.  Many times we react to them and base our responses, actions, behaviors, thoughts, our demeanor and treatment of others, and ourselves, on how we feel at that moment.  As we know, feelings can change at the drop of a hat; merely a breeze blowing from a different direction can alter our emotions.

As we move forward we begin to learn that feelings are not facts.  This doesn’t mean that while feeling them those sentiments are not our truth in that moment.  It doesn’t mean that we are wrong or bad for feeling how we feel.  We are welcome to feel anyway we’d like.  It is how we interpret them and realize that what we may feel and perceive isn’t always what the truth is around us.  As we continue, we subsequently begin to learn that it’s how we react that makes all the difference in the world to the person or people to whom we are responding.

The key difference here is reacting versus responding.  We learn how to respond.  We are taught that in our response to others, be it people or situations, our path through life can ease significantly when we grasp and enact this idea.

The staff at this rehab in Los Angeles can guide you to the stepping stones on which to travel in order to reach this goal.  We all understand that after years of reacting, immediately adopting a new system of communicating isn’t going to happen overnight.  The task-at-hand isn’t a simple one, it is, however, crucial to our survival.

The Alcoholic and Control

“Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way.  If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great.  Everybody, including himself, would be pleased.  Life would be wonderful.” – The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 60-61

How many times have we believed that if a person would only act exactly the way we think they should, complete a task the way we think it needed to be done, and say everything just the right way, it would all turn out to be nothing short of perfect?  Haven’t we thought if a particular place would only accommodate us in the way we believed we deserved, thinking ourselves to be an unknown member of the Royal Family, our treatment would allow us to then be beneficent?  Hasn’t frustration wound us up when something didn’t go just our way, causing us to retaliate and behave with venomous attacks or passive aggressive, backhanding comments?  Don’t we speak through gritted teeth and forced smiles sure that everyone and everything, everywhere, would only do our bidding, as we so believe it is meant to be done, we could successfully function in the world?

Time and time again we try to arrange and manipulate situations to some script we have secreted away from the rest of humanity.  We try to feed lines to others, believing them to be at our bidding and perform our play as it is written in our heads.  We try to create scenarios where we become the victor, the hero, the savior, the good guy, the white knight, et al.  While attempting these superhuman feats to dominate the world around us, believing that the only option is the option that serves us the best, we fall flat and sink further with every move.  Our self-serving, controlling attempts cause others strife and consternation and that’s on a good day.

One of the key lessons that can be learned while in a California drug rehabilitation center is the understanding that we cannot control people, places, and/or things.  It is a lesson that we encounter and relearn over and over again, in a multitude of ways.  There are times when it can be difficult to hold to this concept.  More often than not, we find that it is imperative for us to actively place this tenet in our new-found life so that we may, in fact, be available and of service to others, not as we believe they should be, but as they actually are.

Life and Struggles in Sobriety

When we are new in sobriety, there are times we believe that everything henceforth will be nothing but smooth sailing.  Now that the bottle’s been put down, life will move forward and all will be well, with no other struggle as great again.

This is simply untrue.  Life is just that, life.  Before the drug met our veins or the bottle met our lips, life posed challenges.  Challenges do not cease in sobriety.  We learn, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly that we are and will be still challenged, often in ways with which we aren’t quite as familiar.  Our both favorite & hated numbing agent is gone, leaving us bare to the world, and that includes being subjected to its struggles and embracing its joys.

Part of what working a program of Recovery includes is learning how to live with and survive in the struggles that occur in life.  We are given the opportunity to be brought to a place where calamity can meet serenity.  Where we can survive the pain and embrace the joy and be toppled over by neither.

One of the many gifts of sobriety is being able to feel, truly feel and live in those feelings without being devoured by them.  We are given the opportunity to not walk as zombies through life but to have experiences which enrich our lives and allow us to bring those experiences to the people around us, showing them that they too, as time moves on, will be able to share exactly as you have.  Our gift is being able to be, have feelings and pass on our legacy of sobriety.  It’s not always easy; it is, however, always worth it.