I am an individual. I am unique. I am special. Today I am able to enjoy my difference. I do not need to hide in alcohol, food or drugs. I do not have to put energy into being the same as friends or neighbors. I do not need to please people in order to feel good about myself. Today I am my own person. God made us varied and different in so many ways, and yet so many of us spend our time trying to be the same. The effort exerted to achieve the lowest common denominator is exactly that: the lowest. My spiritual program demands that I be honest with who I am and what I feel. My self-worth is rooted in my individuality. In my difference is my soul.
We are powerless over our addictions, whether liquor, pills, people, food. We are powerless over the outcome of all events involving us. And we are powerless over the lives of our friends and family members. We are not powerless, however, over our own attitudes, our own behavior, our own self-image, our own determination, our own commitment to life and this simple program. Power aplenty we have, but we must exercise it in order to understand its breadth. We’ll find all the day’s activities, interactions, plans decidedly more exciting when we exercise control over our responses. We don’t have to feel or respond except in the way that pleases us. We have total control and we’ll find this realization exhilarating. Our recovery is strengthened each time we determine the proper behavior, choose an action that feels right, take responsibility where it is clearly ours to take. The benefits will startle us and bring us joy
Once we are entirely ready to have our character defects removed, many of us are entirely ready! Ironically, that’s when the trouble really starts. The more we struggle to rid ourselves of a particular defect, the stronger that shortcoming seems to become. It is truly humbling to realize that not only are we powerless over our addiction, but even over our own defects of character. Finally, it clicks. The Seventh Step doesn’t suggest that we rid ourselves of our shortcomings, but that we ask our Higher Power to rid us of them. The focus of our daily prayers begins to shift. Admitting our inability to perfect ourselves, we plead with our Higher Power to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. And we wait. For many days, our program may stay on Step Seven. We may experience no sudden, total relief from defects – but we often do experience a subtle shift in our perceptions of ourselves and others. Through the eyes of the Seventh Step, we begin to see those around us in a less critical way. We know that, just like us, many of them are struggling with shortcomings they would dearly love to be rid of. We know that, just like us, they are powerless over their own defects. We wonder if they, too, humbly pray to have their defects removed. We begin evaluating others as we have learned to evaluate ourselves, with an empathy born of humility. As we watch others, and as we keep watch on ourselves, we can finally say, “I understand.”
Our happiness is not a present someone else holds in his or her hands. Our well-being is not held by another to be given or withheld at whim. If we reach out and try to force someone to give us what we believe he or she holds, we will be disappointed. We will discover that it is an illusion. The person didn’t hold it. He or she never shall. That beautifully wrapped box with the ribbon on it that we believed contained our happiness that someone was holding – it’s an illusion! In those moments when we are trying to reach out and force someone to stop our pain and create our joy, if we can find the courage to stop flailing about and instead stand still and deal with our issues, we will find our happiness. Yes, it is true that if someone steps on our foot, he or she is hurting us and therefore holds the power to stop our pain by removing his or her foot. But the pain is still ours. And so is the responsibility to tell someone to stop stepping on our feet. Healing will come when we’re aware of how we attempt to use others to stop our pain and create our happiness. We will heal from the past. We will receive insights that can change the course of our relationships. We will see that, all along, our happiness and our well-being have been in our hands. We have held that box. The contents are ours for the opening
“We’ll love you until you can learn to love yourself!” These words, heard so often in our meetings, promise a day we look forward to eagerly – the day when we’ll know how to love ourselves. Self-esteem, we all want this elusive quality as soon as we hear about it. Some of us seem to stumble upon it accidentally, while others embark on a course of action complete with affirmations made to our reflections in the mirror. But fix-it-yourself techniques and trendy psychological cures can only take us so far. There are some definite, practical steps we can take to show love for ourselves, whether we “feel” that love or not. We can take care of our personal responsibilities. We can do nice things for ourselves, as we would for a lover or a friend. We can start paying attention to our own needs. We can even pay attention to the qualities that we cherish in our friends – qualities like intelligence and humor – and look for those same qualities in ourselves. We’re sure to find that we really are lovable people, and once we do that, we’re well on our way.
When we refuse to take responsibility for our lives, we give away all of our personal power. We need to remember that we are powerless over our addiction, not our personal behavior. Many of us have misused the concept of powerlessness to avoid making decisions or to hold onto things we had outgrown. We have claimed powerlessness over our own actions. We have blamed others for our circumstances rather than taking positive action to change those circumstances. If we continue to avoid responsibility by claiming that we are “powerless;’ we set ourselves up for the same despair and misery we experienced in our active addiction. The potential for spending our recovery years feeling like victims is very real. Instead of living our lives by default, we can learn how to make responsible choices and take risks. We may make mistakes, but we can learn from these mistakes. A heightened awareness of ourselves and an increased willingness to accept personal responsibility gives us the freedom to change, to make choices, and to grow.
In our active addiction, we usually did not pray for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry it out. On the contrary, most of our prayers were for God to get us out of the mess we had made for ourselves. We expected miracles on demand. That kind of thinking and praying changes when we begin practicing the Eleventh Step. The only way out of the trouble we have made for ourselves is through surrender to a Power greater than ourselves. In recovery, we learn acceptance. We seek knowledge in our prayers and meditation of how we are to greet the circumstances that come our way. We stop fighting, surrender our own ideas of how things should be, ask for knowledge, and listen for the answers. The answers usually won’t come in a flash of white light accompanied by a drum roll. Usually, the answers will come merely with a quiet sense of assurance that our lives are on course, that a Power greater than ourselves is guiding us on our paths