Principles of Service and Gratitude

12-step program12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The twelfth step of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) recognizes that the practice and principles applied in the entire ladder continue throughout a lifetime.  It is having the awareness to continue to live out the values of AA in our life and our relationships.  Learning and personal growth doesn’t stop once we complete all the steps.  It is a gradual and continual process.  It continues as long as we are open to noticing, observing our inner and outer world, and it’s affect on others and ourselves.  It is continuing responsibility for our actions, attitudes, and assessing our values and goals to ensure we are moving in harmony.

Maintaining sobriety is equivalent to a dieter who lost (fifty) 50 lbs.  To upkeep the recent weight loss; personal habits, choices, and a support system must be maintained.    The new physique is taken care of by consistent exercise, healthy food choices, and constant consciousness of the things they do, don’t do and consume.     The same is true for a member of AA.  Abstinence of alcohol unmasks many of the insecurities, fears, anger, sadness, and hurt covered by the veil of alcohol.  To help continue the change in behavior the recovering alcoholic must find healthy ways to acknowledge and process those surfacing emotions on a daily basis.  The principles of the twelve steps are a roadmap to notice, assess, and make adjustments to personal behavior that was denied while drinking.

Step twelve is based on the principles of service and gratitude.  In service, we are helping others.  In gratitude, we are thankful for the support, guidance, and safe environment to express our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs associated with our continued sobriety.

Since we have awakened from our own misguided beliefs, we have the experience, knowledge and ability to help others who may be struggling.  As a member of AA it is our duty and privilege to pass on our wisdom, our understanding, and our support.  It may be as simple as listening with an open mind and kind heart.  It may be validating for the first time someone’s thoughts and feelings.  It may be sharing from personal experience.  It may be sponsoring a newcomer and providing consistent friendship and support for their sobriety.  It may be any one or more of these deeds of service.  The most important component is to offer compassion, understanding, and an empathic listening ear.

As part of the AA program we provide service to others with humbleness and gratitude.  Having appreciation for a spiritual awakening is being thankful for the people who were there for us when we needed help.  It is reflecting on what we learned, being grateful, and in turn sharing our knowledge.  It is also assessing the approach that was given to us and adjusting it to what we would have liked when we first entered AA.  How has AA helped you and how would you convey that to others in a helpful manner?

AA is about living a clean and sober life with meaningful and honest relationships.  The twelve steps provide a foundation and platform to launch your personal growth and development of healthy relations with yourself and others.  Following the principles one day at a time enhances our lives.  The program when followed correctly ensures when we pass, we are remembered for being present, honest, courageous, humble, responsible, patient, and charitable with faith and hope for the future.

Here is a list of seven questions to help ponder your experience with the Twelfth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous.

1. Have you been able to reach out to another recovering addict? If so, describe the situation and how it feels to you.

2. What kind of approach would you like to have had when you first started the program? How can you implement your desired method in your life to others now?

3. How has the 12 Step program worked for you? 

4.  How do you usually handle conflict? Do you know of any way to be more effective in conflict resolution? If so, how would you become more effective? What would be the steps?

5.  How much time are you willing and able to work with others on their program? How will you go about setting that time aside?

6. What resources other than AA can you call upon when you need help as a sponsor?

7. How and when do you know if you are suited to helping another person on working a 12 Step program?

Contact me to enhance your journey recovering from alcohol or substance abuse addiction.  April Wright, MA., MFT Registered Intern #69624. Under supervision of Kathryn Tull, M.A., LMFT #44809 Kathryn Tull, Inc. 310.502.4944 http://www.therapywithapril.com https://femmevolution.wordpress.com

Principles of Prayer and Meditation

prayer-meditationStep 11 – Through prayer and meditation I seek to improve my conscious contact with God as I understand God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for my life and the power to carry that out

The principal of the eleventh step of Alcoholics Anonymous is prayer and meditation.  Taking a few minutes a day breaking away from everyday frustrations, distractions, and multitasking’s for self-examination can change your life.  Spending just a little time each day consciously connecting with your higher power can directly influence your thoughts, attitudes, emotions, and behaviors.

For most people, serenity is far off in the distance due to those day after day interruptions, obligations, and disturbances that cause chaos and clutter. Making prayer and meditation a daily routine is your path to new hope leading to a more serene life.

Whenever you are feeling stuck, confused, need help, or don’t know what to do next, take a few minutes to talk to your higher power.  Ask for guidance and help.  At first, it may feel awkward talking to a force you can’t see or hear.  Stay with the uncertainty and within a short period of time you will see results.

There are many books, articles, and literature on how to pray and meditate.  Most religions have formal guidelines for prayer.  Religious guiding principles include confession of wrongdoings, asking for forgiveness, expressing gratitude, asking for guidance, asking for blessings on family, friends, and loved ones or trying to love.

Choose your own religious ritual or spiritual pathway that works best for your lifestyle and beliefs.  Select a regular routine that will enable you to continue and make it a habit.  Pray in nature, taking a walk, in the shower, or on your knees by your bed.  Meditate in a group.  Bow your head, clasp your hands, or close your eyes.  Or sit alone, quietly and just think.

Talk out loud or write entries in a journal dedicated to your higher power.  Dictate a long prayer in the morning, night, or recite short messages throughout the day.   Whatever the method, you have the autonomy to choose your own process for prayer.

Whatever your course is for prayer and meditation ensure it is one you can do consistently.  During this time for yourself, you can address self-care, including how to nurture inner peace, when to reach out to others, and how to find a way to embrace a perplexing task and really own it as yours.  You can reflect upon ways to carry through on good intentions, where to make time for fun, and to be present for your feelings.

Prayer and meditation is a time to be open and receptive to whatever comes up.  Honor the process by being with and allowing your feelings to move within and through you at their own pace and timeframe. Stay with the practice trying not to change, distract, distort, or numb what is happening within.

Respect what is happening inside by mindfully acknowledging your thoughts, emotions, and perspectives.  It may be a good time to reach out to a trusted friend, your therapist, or your sponsor for validation.  Eventually you will get to a place of acceptance, understanding, and a renewed sense of relief and peace.

With an inner sense of tranquility, the hurt, anger, and helplessness is diminished.  When the walls of fury are dropped, the gates are open to a pathway for love.  You are more receptive and able to connect to those you love or trying to love. Your connections are expanded because you set free your loving presence to soar.

Cultivating a deeper prayer life provides new opportunities for reflection, affirmation, and lasting change in your relationship to yourself and others.  The eleventh step of Alcohol Anonymous is one that is encouraged to practice every day.  With diligence and consistency, a spiritual consciousness awakens a fuller, robust life with rich, meaningful relationships.

Here is a prayer to get you started.  It is a recovery prayer based on Alcoholics Anonymous, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous:

“Thank you for keeping me straight yesterday.  Please help me stay straight today.  For the next twenty-four hours, I pray for knowledge of your will for me only and the power to carry that through.  I pray that you might free my thinking of self-will, self-seeking, and wrong motives.  I pray that in times of doubt and indecision, you might send your inspiration and guidance.  I pray that you may send me the right thought, word, or action, and that you show me what my next step should be.”

Step Ten of Alcoholics Anonymous — A Life Journey

Responsibility: No single drop of water thinks it is responsible for the floodStep 10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Steps one through nine provide tools to awaken internal realizations and relational manifestations.  They offer help to accept the past and heal what is possible.  The first nine measures give guidance for honesty, faith, hope, courage, and humility for responsible lives.

Step ten is based on the principle of responsibility.  Being responsible is using our authority to make independent decisions for our actions and for our failures to take action.  We are accountable for our actions and their consequences.

The tenth step uses the basis of responsibility and applies it to daily life as an ever evolving journey.  Throughout the stages of life, we are in a in a constant state of transition, emerging, evolving, and becoming.  We are continually discovering and making sense of our existence.  As we repeatedly question ourselves, others and the world, it is important to continue looking within and practice being accountable for our behaviors especially when we are wrong.  Paying attention to our varying degrees of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors helps improve conscientious decisions-making.  Keeping abreast to our internal being and being true to ourselves and others maintains balance and happiness as we progress in our lifespan.

To help encourage awareness make time each day to practice stillness.  Stillness is slowing down from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  Set up a quiet sanctuary for your practice.  Maintain a personal ritual in a quiet place where you can focus internally.  It’s a time to just notice and listen in the moment.  This is not a time for judgment or ridicule.  Just allow thoughts to surface and pay attention to where the feeling is sensed in the body.

The concept is simple, yet can feel difficult to perform.  To assist, you might create a place dedicated solely for the purpose of reflection.  Form a tranquil space with pillows, blankets, and memorabilia that are personally special.  Wear comfortable clothing.

Nature is another sanctuary.  Ensure there are no external distractions such as electronic devices or interruptions.  Take the time to focus internally and scan your body and listen to your inner being.

Begin by taking several slow, deep breaths.  Start your practice remaining silent for five minutes and as your meditation muscles strengthen, add more time.  Increase in one to five minute intervals each week until you reach thirty or forty-five minutes, or as much as feels right for you.

In the beginning taking time for mindfulness may seem like a waste of time. Allow for the process to transpire and you will reap many benefits. You will have more clarity and decisiveness.  With less wandering of the mind, you are able to make quick, precise decisions.   You are more centered, well-balanced and connected with your core and inner being.  Having greater connection to your body and mind provides more awareness.  Being aware supplies consciousness to peace and confidence in your authenticity.

Stillness is your sacred time to connect to your spiritual power and to reflect inward.  It is a valuable time solely for you.  With practice, you will adopt, habituate and notice positive changes in all areas of your life.

Now that you are more aware of your thoughts, emotions, and actions, challenge yourself to experience fearful situations and remain there knowing you can manage your emotions and take responsibility for your behavior.  Each person has unique thoughts, emotions, and urges.  They are a natural part of life.   Distinctive thoughts and feelings are not right or wrong.  Labeling them good or bad/right or wrong is passing judgment.  Acceptance is a state of non judgment.  Reassure yourself, that your thoughts and feelings matter and are of value.  They equate just as much as everyone else’s.

The more in tune you are with your thoughts and feelings, the more you can create a safe place for you to express them in a healthy way.  This means stating your wants and desires.  If you are not getting want you want, it is your responsibility to express your needs.  People are not mind-readers.  The only way to have a healthy discussion is to communicate openly and honestly.  Allow the other person to speak, express their thoughts, desires, and feelings; and then do the same.  Use respectful dialogue.  Establish ground rules such as no name calling, blaming, yelling, or stonewalling. If the conversation elevates to such a level, take a time out with a specific day/ time to reconvene and continue the discussion.  Ensure you return at the established day/ time.  This builds trust.  With practice, responsible responses will habituate and become easier over time.

Having an awakening to your internal psyche creates more options and alternatives. Exposure to communication brings deeper connection and better relationships.  We are our choices.  Thus instead of using alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, gambling, and relationships to restrain what you think and feel, you have the capacity to notice, acknowledge and choose how you manage your internal workings.   Your relationships will show the improvement.

Step 10 encourages you to notice and allow whatever thoughts and emotions you are thinking or feeling to surface.  By observing your interior consciousness you are awakening to a richer life of happiness, joy, and serenity as well as managing your own life for safety and protection.  Having thoughts and emotions are normal and healthy.   Allowing them to surface doesn’t mean you have to act on them.  It’s being in charge, building a relationship with your fears and distress, and strengthening your confidence to know you can handle difficult experiences.

Responsibility Sure Glad the hole isn't at our end.

Forgiveness – A Crucial Component of Step 9 in the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.Forgiveness is a process and a choice.  It is the opportunity to untie the bindings of your pain from the past.   As part of the course of action, forgiveness involves confronting your fears and compassion to allow yourself time to physically and emotionally heal.  Exposing yourself to persons, surroundings, or objects that you fear offers the opening to have a corrective experience.  You are able to reorganize your memories and repair those recollections.

For example, as a child you may have experienced being attacked by a Rottweiler.  You were not physically hurt but the immediate threat startled you.  As a result you froze.  This is a natural fear response.   The terror was never discussed by your family or friends.  Thus the thoughts and emotions were not processed and disorganized memories formed.  Avoiding the discussion of the incident caused your fears to worsen.  Unprocessed feelings transform to generalized fears and all or nothing thinking.  Consequently you became fearful of all dogs and avoidant of the neighborhood where the attack occurred.

By exposing yourself to another Rottweiler that doesn’t attack gives the opportunity for a remedial and healing experience.  Difficult memories are allowed to surface.  The thoughts and emotions that were once suppressed can now be processed.   Processing gives way to reorganizing your memories.  You learn that not all Rottweilers show aggression.  You broaden your capacity for more knowledge and understanding.  All Rottweilers don’t attack.  There are some aggressive dogs and others that are very loving.  Black and white thinking transforms to accepting that Rottweillers and all animals have trustworthy and safe parts and some that are not.  For example, a cat that was once abused as a kitten associates touch as a threat.  Thus when you pet him, he bites.  As long as you don’t pet the cat, he is kind and playful.  Animals and experiences are complex and make up many parts not just good or bad.

The same is true for people.  Most parents, loved ones, and friends do not intentionally try to hurt you.  The hurtful behavior that was endeared was taught and passed down from their parents.  As a child, you have no choice but to tolerate the emotional, physical, or sexual abuse.  You are completely dependent upon your caretakers for safety and protection in whatever capacity they can.  Thus you learn to protect yourself, suppress your emotions, and tolerate abuse.  The abuse continues until you learn that as an adult you have a choice on what to tolerate.  You can now tune into your emotions and express them in a healthy manner.  As an adult you can courageously choose and confront those in your cycle of abuse.  You can choose to forgive.

The persons on your list from Step four are participants of the cycle of abuse.   By respectfully approaching those on your list, you may be able to have an open discussion, grasp a better understanding from their perspective, explain yours, and possibly heal old wounds.  All participants must be willing to have an open mind and to listen and speak compassionately from the heart.  It is possible to heal hurt with positive, respectful dialogue.  As you both come to a new understanding, unresolved emotions are replaced with restored, transformative memories to a place of forgiveness and healing.