June 20 – Fear and Freedom from Fear

Topic for the week: Fear and Freedom from Fear

I’ve had a quote from the 12 and 12 on my mind a lot lately. It’s from the 12th step and it says, “We found that freedom from fear is more important than freedom from want.”

Fear has been a character defect that has reared its ugly head on multiple occasions in my sobriety. When I was a newcomer, I think the thing that most terrified me was that I didn’t believe I’d be able to stay sober. I stuck close to meetings and to others in recovery, and I worked the steps. I heard some people say that fear was stopping them from doing a 4th and 5th step, but I was desperately afraid of what would happen to me if I didn’t do what I was told.

Fear has come up in many other circumstances for me over the years, often because of financial insecurity. Certainly the pandemic has brought on a lot of fear for many of us.

I have heard that Fear stands for several things:

False Evidence Appearing Real

Forget Everything and Run

Failure Expected and Received

I was taught in early sobriety that fear is the absence of faith, and I find that the shakier my faith is, the worse my fear gets. As a single parent most of my life, my fear can grow rapidly when I give in to the illusion that I’m alone to face the challenges of my life.

An early sponsor used to say that each day she’d remind herself that nothing would come up that day that she and her higher power together couldn’t handle. Living with that faith is a great way to reduce the sting of fear.

The program encourages us to be “fearless and thorough from the very start.” I continue to work on being more fearless.

Thank you for letting me share. I invite you all to share how fear has affected your recovery and if you’ve attained freedom from fear.

Valerie D

June 13: Gratitude

Topic for the week:  Gratitude

Greetings!  My name is Nicole & I am an alcoholic.  In the past sixteen months, we have faced a shutdown, illness, disaster, loss, grief, as well as community spirit, love, grace, and gratitude.  My anniversary is next week – one day at a time, of course – and I reflect on what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now.  I remember the old-timers who faced major life problems and persevered through all of it with the help of a loving God and spiritual principles.  This year, I have faced death, cancer, trauma, pain, loss, friendship, love, and more.  Through God’s grace, my recovery is still in tact.  My sponsorship family persevered through some major issues.  Our recovery community is walking in the doors with tired eyes and gratitude to return to a sense of normalcy again.  I had to laugh about turning 21 years sober this month since my 21st birthday cost me $3600 in hospital bills for alcohol poisoning (.49 bac).  Life is a lot different today from back then.  Homeless and drunk.  I would love to hear from all of you fabulous GROW women about the topic of gratitude for where we were at, what happened and what it’s like now.  Keep trudging!

Nicole

June 06: Step Six

Topic for the week: The Sixth Step

“Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character”.

Hi GROW

I’m Sophie, an alcoholic and grateful to be here with you all and to have the opportunity to be of service.

Our topic this week is Step Six, but I believe our GROW group conscience is that we can share on this Step this week or at any time during June, it being the sixth month!

I find it helpful to return to our AA literature and I love sharing our literature with other alcoholics.

Our AA website has it available, I’m sharing links to help anyone who doesn’t have access to the AA literature and would like to.

Read online:    https://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/en_step6.pdf

Or Listen online:    https://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/twelve-steps-and-twelve-traditions-audio-version#audio-player

I like these sentences, taken from p.65 Step Six in the 12 Steps & 12 Traditions book;

[God] “asks only that we try as best we know how to make progress in the building of character.”

“This does not mean that we expect all our character defects to be lifted out of us as the drive to drink was. A few of them may be, but with most of them we shall have to be content with patient improvement.”

“The key words “entirely ready” underline the fact that we want to aim at the very best we know or can learn.

And from As Bill Sees It – no.10; Out of The Dark

“A clear light seems to fall upon us all – when we open our eyes. Since our blindness is caused by our own defects, we must first deeply realise what they are.” (Letter, 1946)

The emphasis with italics and underlining are mine, these are the things that really resonate for me on Step Six for today.

I didn’t get much of an insight into Step Six until I was around 5 years sober and working through the Steps and a Big Book study with a new sponsor after having moved cities. Previously I’d had lots of awakenings around other areas of the program and living a sober life and using AA principles as a guide.

But it was the inventory I wrote at that time that my second sponsor then sat with me and helped me see which defects were at play. It was as if I’d been in a fog around things until then. Things my first sponsor had talked with me about finally became clearer. It was also the beginning of me getting a deeper understanding of how the questioning process of inventory taking opened me up to understanding the exact nature of my defects or my part in things. I guess I was just more ready at that point in my sobriety.

In my experience I am ready when I’m ready and all I can do is practice willingness and courage and keep moving forwards.

Last week the Serenity Prayer long version talked about being patiently ready for those changes that take time. This idea is true for me too here with my defects.

There was a slogan in my early days I used to see a lot; “Give time time”. I always feel it’s a reminder to me saying Give God time.

Step Six for me is about having those insights and understandings into how I tick, where my choices and behaviours and actions are coming from, and accepting I can’t fix myself, that I’m spiritually sick with this disease of alcoholism and that god can and will in god’s time. I find the best way to see myself is to be in regular contact with my sponsor and to use questions in my column inventories and actually put pen to paper.

Things are revealed.

Healing is possible.

Growth and change are possible.

I no longer have to stay stuck struggling and miserable or in self pity and digging myself into the quagmire even deeper.

Step Six for me is about facing myself, the me from my immediate past or longer ago, having opened up to my sponsor and being clearer about my part and the character traits that I’ve used. Uncomfortable at times. Really painful sometimes too. But always the same message; once I know what the problem is I can do something about it and move into the solution; acceptance, giving it to god, applying the principles of our beautiful program.

I can call my character traits defects or shortcomings but to me they’re part of me, they’re the behaviours or skills I developed to survive my life without god, pre AA, and in my drinking and as a child. They’re my battle armour, my Mrs Fix-It armour, my Mrs I-Know-Best/Better armour….

But now I have god and am sober I can be different. Now I have AA and all of you I am inspired to be different.

It’s all here, everyday, I get to tap into this beautiful rich resource and live sober and better and different.

Please share on whatever you need to, and around defects or being ready or entirely ready or whatever your journey is with Step Six.

I know we have over 200 women here so there’s a lot of gals listening to whoever chooses to share… I was told no one knows when the thing you share may be the thing that changes someone’s day or even saves their life. I grow because others are willing to risk sharing.  Thank you all for being here. I can’t do this alone.

AA hugs to anyone who needs one today.

Sophie

May 30: Serenity Prayer Long Version

Hello Ladies, my name is Mary O and I have the pleasure to lead this week’s meeting. I must admit that I was all worked up about finding the right topic for our discussion this week. I asked HP for guidance and picked a number from one to four hundred and 221 was the number which guided me to the daily reflection titled A Prayer for All Seasons. When I read this reflection, I thought of the long version of the serenity prayer.
I like many of us have said serenity prayer which goes like this- God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and the change to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
For years I have said this prayer which correlates to the AA Fellowships. When I would say this prayer it reminded me that God was in the lead, and that if I accept life on life’s terms I would find serenity and by working the steps I gain the wisdom to know how to cope with life through working the program and staying connected to my HP.
Recently a longer version of the serenity prayer was shared and I would like to share this version with all of you ladies. It goes as follows:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting the hardships as the many pathways to peace, taking this world as it is not as I would have it.
Trusting that all things will be right if I embrace compassion, understanding and acceptance.
Grant me patience for these changes that take time. Appreciation for all that I have. Tolerance for those with different struggles and the strength to get up and try again, one day at a time.
When I heard and read this version I was, and I am moved on an emotional level and spiritual level. I see and I am reminded of the steps of the program by saying this prayer as well as many slogans that were taught to me since coming into recovery such as First Things First, One Day At A Time, Keep it Simple, and/or Easy Does It. The first paragraph I am reminded that God guides me to serenity when I stay connected to him and the people of the program.
The second paragraph tells me to live one day at a time and sometimes one second or minute at a time, which allows me to enjoy the small events, things of each day, like seeing nature watch up from winter, or seeing how my pup loves his morning walk, and/or starting the day off by talking with my life partner Pete or face the challenging situation that I may be facing at that moment. I am also reminded that life has its up and down and through these experiences I grow, and sometime growth is through painful experiences and I am not alone on this journey of life/recovery. I must remember that things are not always the way I would like them to be and that I need to make sure that the focus is on my side of the street and not someone else.
The last two parts of the prayer reminds me to trust the plan/journey that my HP has for me and that all things in life will work out and I that I have been given the tools by the program to live life on life terms and strive to be the best person by showing compassion, understanding and acceptance. Finally, I am reminded that I will fall but my HP, the tools of the program which includes each person that I am with in a meeting helps me to get up and try again- which is progress not perfection.
Thank you for listening and I invite you to share how this prayer works in your recovery or whatever is on your heart.
Mary o
(Wisconsin)
Ps. Happy Memorial Day

May 23: Navigating Relationships – Risking Emotional Intimacy

Navigating Relationships – Risking Emotional Intimacy

Two program passages I came across recently that really hit home. I like to hike and can relate to the analogy of climbing up a mountain:

“Intimacy means disclosure—full expression of ourselves to another person. Nothing held back. All bared. There are risks, of course: rejection, criticism, perhaps ridicule. But the comfort we feel within is directly proportional to the peace we’ve come to know.”

“Not letting others see or know who you really are—your thoughts, feelings, dreams, past experiences, hobbies, and your wants and needs—is like spending hours climbing up a mountain and then stopping just short of the summit. Being outdoors, feeling the physical exertion of the climb, and ascending higher with each step are all enjoyable activities, but not bringing your journey to its intended destination shuts you off from being able to fully appreciate and understand the experience.”

While I have made progress taking better care of my relationships since becoming sober and joining AA, it is still a challenge. Probably for all of the same reasons that I became an addicted, dependent person, I decided as a young girl to “hide out” and isolate both physically and socially as a coping mechanism. To this day I often struggle to reveal who I am and how I feel, and I’ll do just about anything to avoid conflict with family and friends.

I know my shield keeps an intimate relationship out of reach, but it’s high time (pun intended!) to summit the ‘risky intimacy mountain top’. I want to feel that peace of being known more often, even if it costs me the relationship (which probably means it wasn’t a healthy one for me to begin with). I fight my nature to expect instantaneous results; intimacy doesn’t happen overnight – patience is required! But I keep climbing, one step at a time, one relationship at a time. I thank God, the steps of this program, and all of you for leading me on this vulnerable part of my journey.

I would be most grateful to hear any thoughts or experiences you have to share on this topic. Thank you!
Susan P.

May 16: Expectations

When I think about all the times I’ve been in emotional turmoil, it seems like I can always trace it back to my expectations. When I was working, I expected people to be professional, smart, and respectful (of me). Needless to say, people didn’t always meet my criteria, and I’d allow my disappointment to become frustration and anger. I’d take it out on them. When I’m with family, I expect them to always be loving and gentle with me. When they aren’t, I get my feelings hurt and fall into self-pity and anger. With contractors working on a project to maintain my older home, I expect them to arrive on time, do excellent work, and clean up afterward. When they don’t, I fall into a ‘justifiable’ rage – so much so that I can’t even speak to them. There are many examples of my expectations not being met and me going on an emotional bender.

What I’ve learned is that my expectations set me up to feel unloved, disrespected, hurt, and/or angry – anything but on the beam. Of course, there is an element of acceptance here. But, for me, the expectations come before anything even happens. I get an idea of how things are supposed to be in my mind, and I judge the world – and everyone in it – based on that idea.

The fault is not in everyone else. It’s in me. Deciding I know how things are supposed to unfold or how other people are supposed to behave is my Achilles’ heel and the biggest threat to my sobriety and most certainly my serenity. For me, there’s a very long learning curve on keeping an open mind and just letting people and things be. Restraint of tongue and pen helps me avoid becoming someone I don’t want to be. Recognizing when I am working on my expectations before a social event helps me a lot with acceptance.

Do expectations set you up to fall off the beam? What do you to manage expectations and stay on the beam?