Expectations, Excape, and Practicing These Principles
I’ve had this one year anniversary in my life before with this program, but the big difference is that this time I am now truly a “grateful” alcoholic. For some reason, it kicked in at some point in the last year that I am not being punished by the fact that I am “unable to drink like a normal person,” but that I have instead been blessed with an affliction that spurs me, almost every day, to have spiritual and emotional growth.
Much of that is about the tools I am learning to address my “expectations,” and “practicing these principles” on a daily basis. This is a focus of Chapter 6 and Step 12 (and kind of a continuation of last week’s topic from Leona). We don’t have to have “gone through” the other steps (I’ve realized we are never truly “done” with the steps, they are circular and need to be continually revisited) to use these words of wisdom on a daily basis to help our entire life feel more manageable and joyous. The following quotes help capture this topic for me:
“When we first read that we were to “practice these principles in all our affairs,” some of us didn’t understand. How could we use the Twelve Steps to deal with conflict in a personal relationship or a decision about buying a house? Gradually we realized that “practicing principles” means taking specific usable pieces of truth out of larger truths and applying the smaller principles to a different situation …” – A Hunger for Healing, by J. Keith Miller, p. 196, 199, 210
“There is an old joke about the difference between a neurotic and a psychotic. The psychotic truly believes that 2 + 2 = 5. The neurotic knows that it is 4, but can’t stand it. That was the way I lived most of my life, I could see how life was but I couldn’t stand it. I was always feeling like a victim because people and life were not acting in the way I believed they “should” act.” – Robert Burney M.A, http://joy2meu.com/Serenity.html
“As we go through the day we pause, when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or action. We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running the show, humbly saying to ourselves many times each day “Thy will be done.” We are then in much less danger of excitement, fear, anger, worry, self-pity, or foolish decisions. We become much more efficient. We do not tire so easily, for we are not burning up energy foolishly as we did when we were trying to arrange life to suit ourselves.”- Page 87 of the Big Book
I grew up taught to expect that if I was “good” and did “the right thing,” then I would be rewarded (money, success, love, happiness). At some point during my early adulthood, I realized that this is not always the case. I could wake up every day and try hard and yet still not get what I thought I should. People don’t always treat us right just because we treat them right. Money doesn’t always come right away just because we work hard. Health isn’t always ours just because we eat right and exercise.
Bad things happen. A lot of bad things have happened in my life (just like I know have happened to most all of us). In my early 20’s I discovered that alcohol could help temporarily ease my disappointments. When drinking, I could “escape” for a little while. I could have “fun” and forget that I didn’t have what I expected, or think that most recent bad thing hadn’t happened. As long as I kept drinking, I was let off of my expectations and I wasn’t responsible for whatever happened.
After many years of using this form of escape, I realized that alcohol was not a choice anymore – it was out of my control. It was making me fat, sick, and stupid, and it never really lasted long enough. The temporary escape was followed by pain, and I could not keep drinking enough to blot the disappointment away or I would die. I had to look for a different solution.
Through AA and study, I realized that my life was truly “not that bad” in the grand scheme of things, and I found *gratitude*. I’m still scared sometimes about money and losing everything, or seriously losing my health, but overall things are going pretty well. This last week was one where I was tested daily and my expectations had to constantly be adjusted.
I mentioned to a friend that things were overall pretty good but I was just “waiting for the other shoe to drop” (go bad again). She said, “Teresa, what if this good life now IS the other shoe? What if you are on a path that since life earlier dealt you so many bad things, now life will be good for you?” Hmmm. So I am thankful for “what is”.
I’ve learned to use healthier options when expectations are dashed and the urge to escape arises. I now mostly use prayers, meditation, time in nature, time with family, friends, and others in this program, and positive activities like reading, writing, music, hobbies, and movement. Sometimes nutritious food, or a nap or good night’s sleep is just what I need.
I’ve come to realize that while I cannot control things, people, or events, I can use my connection to my higher power and let go of the things I can’t control. I can focus my energy every day to make the changes that I am able to make, so that my life is one where my expectations are realistic and positive, and I usually don’t feel the need to escape. I am truly grateful for where I am today, and thankful for this opportunity to lead this topic.
So.my questions for you ladies to consider this week are:
– Which AA principles and practices are you using to manage your own expectations?
– How are you using this program to build a better life for yourself, so that you don’t need to escape?