The fear of being alone brings strange results. It may cause us to cling to arrangements and relationships that are unsatisfactory or destructive. Some of us become enablers for loved ones who are still drinking; quite often this can involve putting up with abuse we shouldn’t have to endure. We endure such relationships because we fear we’ll be alone and defenseless without them. We may even put up with friends who are manipulative or treacherous because we can’t visualize having happier, healthier friendships. When we recognize that we are holding on to unsatisfactory relationships for such reasons, we need to apply the program more diligently in our own lives. Usually, we need more self esteem–a belief that we deserve satisfactory relationships. We do not have to be alone, but neither do we have to endure what amounts to abuse and rejection. Whether I’m with people or alone today, I’ll know that all of my relationships should be satisfactory for everybody involved. I’ll let my Higher Power guide me to the relationships that are right for me.
Spirituality involves our attitudes and perceptions as well as our prayers. Spirituality requires a realistic awareness of what we need and what we have been given. Spirituality sees beyond the problems into the solution. Hope is a feeling that is based on a spiritual perception of life that shuns apathy and negativity. Everything can be used for good if it is perceived realistically; destructive experiences, painful moments and failed relationships can all be used to create a new tomorrow. The hope that stems from our ability to change requires a realistic understanding of what has happened. No aspect of life should be wasted because it can point to a glorious tomorrow.
One exercise that I practice is to try for a full inventory of my blessings and then for a right acceptance of the many gifts that are mine–both temporal and spiritual. Here I try to achieve a state of joyful gratitude. When such a brand of gratitude is repeatedly affirmed and pondered, it can finally displace the natural tendency to congratulate myself on whatever progress I may have been enabled to make in some areas of living. I try hard to hold fast to the truth that a full and thankful heart cannot entertain great conceits. When brimming with gratitude, one’s heartbeat must surely result in outgoing love, the finest emotion that we can never know
So long as I am sober I know that I am successful. But I also know that my sobriety is more than keeping away from the first drink. My sobriety requires that I be a creative and successful human being in all areas of my life — in my relationships, at work, with my family, my business ventures and in my acts of charity. The road to success is exactly that –it is a “road” that I am traveling along, and I will be on it until the day I die. I suppose the danger is in thinking that I have arrived. Then I get complacent and apathetic, I slow down and the energy for recovery is diminished. Today I know that I am successful so long as I keep moving along with my spiritual program
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.”