Monday, February 15, 2010

Step 11

There is one thing I am happy about this morning. I woke up early, I have time to be introspective and I don't have to go to work. I can journal and reflect and be at peace while letting go temporarily of the demands of daily living. For awhile at least I can just be. I need these moments to feel somewhat at ease with the world.
I have been experiencing quite a few moments of unease and unhappiness. I berate myself because I don't measure up to where I think I should be. Sometimes I feel so discouraged and hopeless. It is such a relief to let go of all that and not worry mostly about what I didn't do that I said I would do at least to myself. I find myself wishing that I could temporarily withdraw from the world and somehow I think that if I could just do that, I could recenter, rebalance and generally be ok. It sounds like a retreat would be just the ticket. For now I will just enjoy this morning of solitude and quiet.
Step 11
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
I meditated for half an hour this morning. Many thoughts arose and passed away. Apparently if I do this often enough, my mind will quiet and I will know stillness and serenity.
"This doctrine of reincarnation, which at first seems so grim and heartless, actually implies a profoundly optimistic belief in the justice and order of the universe. If it is we - and not God, or our parents, or our fellow men - who have made our present predicament, then it is we who can change it. We have no excuse for self-pity and no reason for despair. We are not helplessly doomed... All we need is courage and a determination not to give up the struggle." (How to Know God - The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali, page 125)
To really understand the context of this quote, I would have to quote quite a few pages from the book. But what really jumped out for me in this discussion of reincarnation and karma is the notion that I have the power to change. It is only an illusion that I am stuck. In 12 step circles there is the concept that we do the work and leave the results up to God. I may not be able to determine how or when karma will unfold, but I have the confidence that my present circumstance will lead to my future circumstance. What I do today will impact my future either skillfully or not skillfully, positively or negatively and in ways that I cannot imagine. I quit drinking and using drugs more than 8 years ago. My life has not been perfect but I have enjoyed a stability I had not known up to that point. I overeat and don't exercise enough and I gain weight - another expression of karma. Reading and contemplating and meditating and going to meetings and working the steps will lead to some positive outcome in the future. I don't know what and I don't know when. I just have to be patient and accept what comes along.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Feeling encouraged

"Even if our efforts of attention seem for years to be producing no result, one day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood the soul." - Simone Weil

I know many times I feel discouraged and feel like giving up. But even when it feels like I am not making progress, perhaps at least mentally I am. I read somewhere else that it is in our darkest hour that we are making or are on the verge of making the most progress. That is the optimist trying to shine through. I wasn't feeling very optimistic this past weekend though. I was actually quite depressed. Perhaps that is my body's way of telling me to stop and rest because that is what I did. I didn't have a choice really. The urge to sleep and not fight was very strong and I slept and slept and slept. I am ready to join the land of the living once again and I feel ready to resume where I left off on the steps. I am currently on Step 4, the searching and fearless moral inventory. It is called a fearless inventory but I really don't know the meaning of the word fearless. If there is nothing to fear I will find something. Perhaps "fearless" refers to acting as if there was no fear.

"More than most people, the alcoholic leads a double life. He is very much the actor. To the outer world he presents his stage character. This is the one he likes his fellows to see. He wants to enjoy a certain reputation, but knows in his heart he doesn't deserve it." Big Book pg 73

People know I am bipolar and I don't really have a problem with that on an intellectual level. However, I don't want people to know that I fall apart from time to time. I want everyone to see me as normal and fully functioning. I don't want to admit that I have problems and I make mistakes and I am not as together as I like to seem. But I keep plugging along, trying to do my best and I am making progress and really that is what it is all about.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Wisdom from Deepak

I was checking blogs this morning and found some good inspiration on the Chopra Center Blog. It is about the Law of Karma and making it work in your life. Here it is:
"I will put the Law of Karma into effect by making a commitment to take the following steps:
  1. Today I will witness the choices I make in each moment. And in the mere witnessing of these choices, I will bring them to my conscious awareness. I will know that the best way to prepare for any moment in the future is to be fully conscious in the present.
  2. Whenever I make a choice, I will ask myself two questions: "What are the consequences of this choice that I'm making?" and "Will this choice bring fulfillment and happiness to me and also to those who are affected by this choice?"
  3. I will then ask my heart for guidance and be guided by its message of comfort or discomfort. If the choice feels comfortable, I will plunge ahead with abandon. If the choice feels uncomfortable, I will pause and see the consequences of my action with my inner vision. This guidance will enable me to make spontaneously correct choices for myself and for all those around me."

In 12 Step circles, we are advised to pause throughout the day and utter the prayer "Thy will, not mine, be done". I think this prayer as well as Deepak's instructions get us to pause and consider consequences before we act impetuously. We also have time to consider how our decisions affect not only ourselves but other people. The Big Book says that selfishness and self-centeredness was our problem and throughout the Big Book we are encouraged to see how we can help others. This is emphasized in the Step 3 and Step 7 prayers.

Step 3 Prayer

God, I offer myself to Thee - to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love and Thy Way of Life. May I do Thy will always. (Big Book pg 63)

Step 7 Prayer

My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding. Amen. (Big Book pg 76)

The AA 12 Steps culminate in the final step "Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs." So today I will try to always consider the consequences of my actions on myself and others and I will try to think about what I can do for others rather than what is wrong with me and my life. That is the intention that I will set for myself today. I already know ahead of time that I won't do this perfectly but this program is also about progress, not perfection.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

My Weekend

My weekend ended up seeming to be ok to me despite feeling a little sick (a cold) and feeling a bit depressed. I did manage to be abstinent all weekend (3 meals and no binges). When I did feel depressed and discouraged, I did what I ought to do and went to a meeting and talked to my sponsor. I was able to express some frustration and the meeting topic seemed to fit exactly what was on my mind. I came home, ate lunch and went to the gym with my daughter. There are massage chairs at the gym and I like to reward myself with a massage after a work out. I am a little tired now but it is a good tired. I think it will be early to bed with a book.

I've been reflecting a lot on a passage from the Big Book that my sponsor shared with me earlier in the week, It is from page 30 and it says this:
"The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker (or eater). The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death.
We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics (compulsive overeaters). This is the first step in recovery. The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be has to be smashed.
We alcoholics are men and women who have lost the ability to control our drinking. We know that no real alcoholic (compulsive overeater) ever recovers control. All of us felt at times that we were regaining control, but such intervals - usually brief - were inevitably followed by still less control, which led in time to pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization."

I've been watching people at work snack at their desks. I look at them with envy wishing I could have the control they have. But I am coming to accept that I am different. I am definitely prone to many forms of addiction, food just being particularly troublesome at this point in my life. Being abstinent this weekend, I am feeling pretty good about myself right now though I couldn't have done this on my own. Being in OA is teaching me how to rely on others in the fellowship and how to reach inside of myself for a power greater than me. Recovery is not something that happens overnight so I must be patient and not expect immediate results. I only have today and I'll deal with tomorrow when it comes. I do know that I feel a lot better after being abstinent than after a binge on chocolate bars. It is a horrible feeling when I get angry with myself for not sticking to my plan and giving in to the cravings. I try to take note of the positive feelings as much as possible so I will want to do what it takes to get them.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Couple of Steps

I enjoy all the spiritual steps but I always have a hard time sharing about them in the meetings. I always feel like a misfit when discussing them because a) I don't call my Higher Power God and b) I am interested in Buddhism. I always have to adjust the language of recovery literature to match my own conceptions. I don't mind doing this. Just sharing about it is a challenge.
"It is when we try to make our will conform with God's that we begin to use it rightly. To all of us, this was a most wonderful revelation. Our whole trouble had been the misuse of willpower. We had tried to bombard our problems with it instead of attempting to bring it into agreement with God's intention for us. To make this increasingly possible is the purpose of AA's Twelve Steps, and Step Three opens the door." (12&12 pg 40)
Now I don't try to align my will with God's but I do have a spiritual tradition that I try to follow. Buddhism tells me that the Noble Eightfold Path (right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration) will help me to overcome suffering in my life. There are also the 5 Precepts which are:
  1. We abstain from killing any being - people, animals and all living creatures. It is our intention to offer safety to all beings, everywhere without discrimination.
  2. We abstain from taking things which have not been freely given to us. Things not given freely belong to someone else.
  3. We abstain from sexual misconduct defined as sexual abuse, extramarital affairs and sexual relationships with those who are underage. It is our intention to protect others and ourselves from sexual harms.
  4. We abstain from lying. The essence of Buddhist practice is to seek the truth. Lying creates and perpetuates delusion. Lies have the capacity to create physical and emotional harm. It is our intention to prevent potential danger.
  5. We abstain from intoxicants which includes even small amounts of alcohol and recreational drugs because they cloud our ability to be mindful. They can also contribute to breaching the conduct specified in the other four precepts. Our intention is to prevent potential harm to others and ourselves.

I have heard also that "making a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him" also involves making a decision to carry on with the steps. So, for me, doing step 3 is following the Noble Eightfold Path, the Five Precepts and doing the steps and following the principles taught by 12 Step methods to the best of my ability. Is it easy? No. Do I believe that by following these guidelines "a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity"? Yes. That means I have accepted the principles of Steps 2 & 3 and am ready to move on with the steps. I have started Step 4 (Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." I will save Step 4 for another blog entry.

Even though I get Steps 1 through 3, I am still struggling with overeating. I ate too much chocolate and too many TimBits yesterday and I am thoroughly frustrated. It reminds me of a quote from the Big Book on page 64:

"Though our decision was a vital and crucial step (Step 3), it could have little permanent effect unless at once followed by a strenuous effort to face, and to be rid of, the things in ourselves which had been blocking us. Our liquor is but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions."

I am hoping that steps 4 & 5 will rid me of this urge to overeat or at least give me the strength not to overeat. That being said, it is a new day and a new start.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Step 10

I went to a meeting and the subject was Step 10. The fellow that shared stated that he knew when he needed to do a Step 10 when he started to feel "restless, irritable and discontented" (pg xxviii Big Book). Also, he referred to the bedevilments on pg 52 of the Big Book:
  • We were having trouble with personal relationships
  • We couldn't control our emotional natures
  • We were a prey to misery and depression
  • We couldn't make a living
  • We had a feeling of uselessness
  • We were full of fear
  • We were unhappy
  • We couldn't seem to be of real help to other people

Then of course there was the starting to obsess about the object of addiction. I certainly need to go through this process (Steps 4-9) again. I am definitely restless and discontented. The pit of my stomach is always churning. Though my life is not a total disaster, I am affected by the bedevilments to a degree. There are areas of my life that I am not happy with - work, finances especially. I don't feel like my attention is on my work properly. I am full of fear though I can't exactly nail down why. This is just a very broad overview of the problem as I see it. It is time to dive into Step 4 and get it all out. May I have the courage to do that!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

No Control

Let me introduce you to Sock Monkey. He is going to be my mascot as I work the steps. Right now Sock Monkey is overwhelmed with his problems. That is how I am feeling too. No matter how hard I try, I can't stay away from that gosh-darned first bite. Right now I feel so angry and so frustrated but not to the point where I want to throw in the towel. I believe in Step 1 so thoroughly that I really don't need any proof. I want to do whatever is necessary to stop this behaviour that is driving me insane. Since yesterday I have been going over every possible reason that I am having this problem from thyroid issues, medication, a job I don't want anymore and on and on and on. All of these things might be factors but one thing is for certain. I can't withdraw from life to work on this problem. I have to continue to function and take care of my responsibilities through all this. So I enlisted the help of Sock Monkey. He can be my mini sponsor and encourage and inspire me throughout this path.