Auds here, abstinent and sober one day at a time by the grace of God, these fellowships, and my own effort.
Well, Thanksgiving Day is past and it was a glorious day of feeling closer to my Higher Power. I started the day with a meeting at eight and then church at ten the blessing of the hunt and a dinner I didn't have to cook at noon-thirty. The meal at my daughter's house was deliciously abstinent. We all had time to interact with love and laughter.
So today I am reflecting on all the ways I seek a closer relationship with my Higher Power. The first thing is my program comes first. ( so I secretaried a meeting at 8 a.m.) Then music is such a spiritual turn-on for me, and our church has the most marvelous choir. Yesterday they had a trumpeter who knocked our socks off and a crowded church made the roof resound with hundreds of voices making a joyous noise "unto the Lord."
Due to the effects of the first ten steps I went with joyous anticipation where I used to dread to go. When I was into addiction, I ate and drank full meals before going out, afraid I wouldn't get full. The result was I entered family homes knowing that the attitude of my family members would make me feel "less than." As we have seen in the first ten steps we have a great deal of responsibility in the result of our actions. hmmm
How many times have we blamed God for the results of our own actions? Have you ever said "you don't exist God, if you did, how could you do this to me?"
This attitude is hardly conducive to a close contact with our Higher Power. The first ten steps have shown us that our lives have made the most marvelous turnings when we turn our lives over to the care of our Higher Power so I am assuming that you are all willing to believe that your Higher Power has made a good beginning in the life you are now experiencing.
So now look back, write down all the positive results this program has made in your life. Are there any negative results? REALLY? Wait more will be revealed. Now discuss with your sponsor the things you think are negative. I'll bet that her or his Higher Power will put the exact right words in their mouths that make it easy for you to be patient and accepting. This program talks about God's time a lot. There is a reason for that. "Time takes time"
So here we go: Step eleven, "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."
Here is how this step works for me. The AA 12&12 suggests that we start with a prayer found on page 99 in the small version of that book. It is a prayer written during World War I. A foxhole prayer, i.e., a prayer that was written while its author was in the most fearful situation. The prayer has long since been known as the prayer of Saint Francis. It goes like this.
"Lord make me an instrument of your peace." I pray, oh Lord slow me down, help me to stay silent and think about peace and how I am involved in making or destroying peace; then I start again, I do this three times taking my time with each phrase. I think about that particular phrase. Step ten is a path to peace, think about why that is and how it might increase your conscious contact with your Higher Power.
"Lord make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred may I spread love. Where there is wrong let me bring forgiveness." Note here, it doesn't say let me forgive if they deserve forgiveness.
"Where there is discord let me bring harmony. That where there is error let me bring truth" Note here, I mean God's truth not mine. hmmmm
"Where there is doubt let me bring hope" My favorite version of this prayer is where there is darkness let me bring light. This doesn't say let me get credit for the things I think others should thank me for.
"Where there is sadness let me bring joy. Oh Lord grant me that I may seek to comfort rather than to be comforted, to understand rather than to be understood, to love rather than to be loved. For it is in self-forgetting that one finds and it is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one finds eternal life," Amen.
Now I take time to sit still, breathe deeply, and read this prayer line by line. phrase by phrase.
How does all the work you have done to find self esteem enable you to now be selfless? Quietly, sit still, breathe deeply. How do you see yourself in God's eyes? Quietly, sit still, pray "please God let me know you, let me be your hands held out to my fellows."
Quietly, sit still, breathe deeply. Waiting in silence is a great healer. "Please God, let me know the difference between Your will and mine. Please God, let me do the next right thing no matter how demeaning I perceive it to be.
Read the prayer again. How can you see the right path, how can you be sure that God intends for you to do the difficult, the demeaning, those things you didn't do before because they were not good for your public image? Can you refrain from doing those things you did only for applause?
Sit still, think, look back at the growth you have made. Feel empowered by the spirit of your Higher Power who has changed your life so much for the better.
Thank God for all the blessings you can see around you. What are they? Are you giving back especially to those who don't deserve it?
Please Lord, let me see the results of your work. Please Lord, let me hear your words given me by others, Let me feel your hugs given me by others. Let me hug and speak your words to others.
SILENCE. NOW YOU HAVE BEEN MEDITATING. NOT SO HARD TO DO RIGHT? NOW JUST SIT AND REST LET YOUR MIND BE BLANK.
I believe that God will do the rest. For me the eleventh step is an everyday thing. When I wake in the morning I thank God for my abstinence and sobriety the day just past and pray that if he is willing that I have abstinence and sobriety today.
Back to square one? I need to admit I have faith in things being exactly as they should be. I had all sorts of requirements for the "PERFECT" life before I started on this journey in the program with my Higher Power. I needed respect, but didn't give it, I needed applause, money, fame even. Sometimes I even got applause and fleeting fame, but they didn't fill me up. NO meal had the power to fill me. I felt "less than" I was always chasing that elusive quality of life, happiness. I never knew that the qualities that fill me are PEACE, SERENITY, GRATITUDE, LOVE OF OTHERS, GIVING.
Looking back I could see turmoil. Alienation, hatred, rage, terror, and hopelessness. I never saw those things when into my addictions. I blocked them out with sugar highs and alcoholic black outs. Where was my Higher Power? He was there waiting to catch me. Faith takes mileage and today when I question his will for me. I slow down, I pray, I open myself to the possibility that my Higher Power can do again what I see now that he has done for me before. HE CAN DO FOR ME WHAT I cannot DO FOR MYSELF.
I have said so many times that I find closeness to my Higher Power when my emotions are raw. I sit in the silence of my small forest. I sit in the crashing power of great symphonies or choruses. I sometimes weep. Sometimes I sit with my arms wide open and embrace the feelings I can't name, but those I know are a gift of healing from my Higher Power. These are feelings I can't feel when I block them with sugar or alcohol.
This is what meditation does for me. It makes me see clearly for a moment or two, that I want a close relationship with my Higher Power. When silent, unfamiliar thoughts invade my being, I believe my Higher Power talks to me. When silent, I hear sounds of peace and love. I hear directions. I hear gentle pushes in directions I don't want to go. I feel such love. This feeling fills me like no material substance ever could.
So why would I relapse? Why would I give up this joy of living I never had before? I am a sugar addict and alcoholic, my disease keeps telling all this step work is ridiculous. It holds out to me the same dreams I thought would fulfill me. If I don't keep my conscious contact with the Higher Power I choose to call God, I allow this disease to infiltrate my senses and I slide towards relapse. So each day I begin with program. At this moment I read and meditate and pray and then write for the first part of my day. Then with the full armor of my belief that my higher power can do for me what I cannot do for myself I sit down to breakfast and enjoy the foods that fuel me.
Next week we will explore what happens when "all of us without exception" rebel. How we return to prayer and a close relationship with our higher power, whom I choose to call God.
Until then read the chapter on step eleven in the AA 12& 12. Read it slowly, do you identify with anything? If so what. I know that I identify with one paragraph one day and one another day I am amazed to read a paragraph I don't remember reading before.
hmmmm. This journey is precious to me. I savor every day and wonder at the things God has in store for me.
As usual take what you need and leave the rest. Know that God loves you and so do I.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
It is in dying that we receive eternal life.
Auds here, sober and abstinent one day at a time by the grace of God, these fellowships and my own effort.
This week we return to step eleven: 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.
Remember, that this is my take on my higher power whom I choose to call God. We are all encouraged to develop our own sense of God as we develop our spirituality. Working the steps has brought us to an acute awareness that something or someone has made our lives manageable, and productive. We have become more loving and are taking a greater interest in our fellow man. Who do you think brought about these changes????
What are the stepping stones towards coming to believe and the milestones in your recovery that you can attribute to no living person? If you attribute these steps toward recovery as aided by a person, who do you think brought this person into your life? If any of my work over the last ten weeks has given you strength to do the next right thing, who do you think put me here in your path? Okay, lets assume we all now believe that a power greater than ourselves brought us to this contented recovery. What now? How do we continue to get closer to our higher power and why do we need to do so? Lots of questions to share with your sponsor. You do have a sponsor don't you? If not why not?
Every morning when I wake up, I stretch and look out the wall of windows in my bedroom. In the summer there is a curtain of green, shielding me from the sunrise. Huge maples grow outside my house and they give enough shade to keep me from buying air conditioners. In the winter I can see "forever" across a mile of houseless fields to the woods beyond. I love the spines of my trees and I thank God for giving me beauty to look at when I wake. I thank God for my abstinence yesterday, I pray that I remain in recovery today if it be His will. Then I calm the dogs who are in a hurry to dash outdoors to begin their important jobs for the day. They charm me with their exuberance, they love me even when I am acting less than lovable. Hmmm is this a hint of the way God loves me?
Now I make tea and turn on my computer. There are always a great of e-mails which need my attention first I pick up my meditation books and turn on the music programed into my machine. Today it's baroque Christmas. I read my daily meditation and sit and think while my machine slowly! boots up AOL. And says "you've got mail." Then I delete all people I don't know. So if you want me, be sure to address me in the subject line. Next, I look for those who are asking for help. This is my way of finding out what God wants me to address today. I then pray before each reply, "God, please let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be always acceptable in Thy sight." Then I proceed to do the next right thing as I perceive it.
It has take a long time for me to have gotten to this point. I have been in recovery for 26 years. So how did it all begin?
When I had been abstinent and sober for one year I hit a snag in my serenity. I had been perfect of course (yeah, right), and now my father and sister died two months to the day from each other. My father let it be known, by the will he wrote, that he didn't like me very much. Also that he didn't trust me to stay in recovery.
I was sitting in the ICU waiting room at Roper hospital in Charleston, SC. I had been there a long time several hours when our parish priest came in and greeted me. He then went into the ward where my sister Pam lay. I heard her say "Happy Easter, " Oh my, I was enraged. My sister was only fifty, and we had only become friends after my father died on the nineteenth of February. Now it was the 18th of april and my sister and new friend was cheerfully saying Happy Easter when I knew she was dying, and she did not know that. How dare God do this to me!! hmmmm, was it being done to me???
Father Coleman came and sat down by me and asked if I would like to pray. I bit his head off. I don't pray, I answered belligerently. Father Coleman was not put off by my attitude, he asked how I communicated with the Lord. I said that I talked to him, Well what are you saying to him now?
RIGHT NOW I, AM CUSSING HIM. I expected a bolt of lightening or an expression of horror but Father Coleman said to me "that is a powerful prayer." Since that time, I have realized that my higher power, whom I choose to call God is there for me no matter how I try to reach him.
On page 104 of the AA 12&12 there begins a couple of paragraphs that have cleared a channel to my God.
"We discover that we do receive guidance for our lives to just about the extent that we stop making demands upon God to give it to us on order and on our terms. We find that our affairs have taken remarkable and unexpected turns for the better as we tried to improve our conscious contact with God. And we find that out of every bout of grief or suffering when the hand of God seemed heavy or unjust, new resources for courage were uncovered. Finally, inescapably, the conviction came that God does "move in a mysterious way His wonders to perform"
Here is a paragraph that increased my belief that I am loved even when acting in belligerent and unloving way towards my higher power.
"All of the above should be very encouraging news for those who recoil from prayer because they don't believe in it or because they feel themselves cut off from God's help and direction. ALL OF US, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, pass through times when we can pray only with the greatest exertion of will. Occasionally we go even further than this. We are seized with a rebellion so sickening that we simply won't pray. WHEN, these things happen we should not think too ill of ourselves. We should simply resume prayer as soon as we can doing what we know to be good for us." ALL OF US WITHOUT EXCEPTION? WHEN? Not "if." hmmm Once again I felt alone violated by a whimsical God I had now decided to divorce. ALL OF US WITHOUT EXCEPTION. HMMMM. WHEN, NOT IF THESE THINGS HAPPEN. Now I knew what my mother had been talking about when she said you need to talk to God because all others will fail you they are only human. you need a relationship with God to get through the hard times.
So now I feel that one of the greatest rewards of meditation and prayer is that sense of not being alone. I have come to believe that my God is always present with me. I may not always act as if He is but according to the 12& 12, that is a fact of life and I must not use adversity that we all encounter at one time or another as an excuse to do what I know is not the next right thing. If I am seeking God's will and the power to carry that out, then I need to stay quiet, breathe, pray for guidance, listen to those that God puts in my path like Father Coleman who showed me the path to a closer contact with my higher power was acceptance. I would like God to do things my way but as I get older and older and have more mileage I see that the things I thought were most unwanted from the hand of God were often times things that brought me strength and conviction in His doing what was right for me. I believe that my God does not cause harm to anyone, but is there for us when harm occurs to surround us with love and hugs and guidance.
I believe that God was with me when my young sister died and I was one year into recovery, I believe he put me in that ICU waiting room so that I was comforted by those who were afflicted by the same sorrow I was feeling. I believe he put Father Coleman there to encourage me to talk freely to my higher power. Who would have thought that cussing was a prayer.
As I walk this road of happy destiny, there is always someone there to nudge me onto the path my higher power has chosen for me. A few years ago I retired from my profession which had been my vision of myself. All that I was, I recognized through my work. All I thought admirable and worthy, was seen through my vocation. I moved from a place where I was supported by my program friends to a place where I had to make new ones. I was once again irritated by my life which was not as I supposed it should be. One day my priest asked why I came to church so seldom. I proudly said that my program was my spiritual path. hmmmm, Had I been walking that path or just remembering walking that path? I went to less meetings than I was used to going to, I did not share as often as I used to do. I was starting to isolate. REALLY SCARY PLACE FOR ME. So after I went home and thought HOW DARE HE ASSUME THAT I NEED CHURCH. I calmed down I sat down and prayed okay God what do you want me to do. Go to church or my meeting? I heard the answer in my own mind immediately. How many opportunities do you have to go to meetings? How many Sundays are there in a week? There are other services to go to. I don't like those other services. hmmm. Okay God I get it. The program encourages us to increase our participation in old religious habits, along with our new spiritual directions. So I sat still. Who put these thoughts in my head? I starting going to church more often and found opportunities for service that I had not been privy to before. hmmm. Recently that same priest asked me to do something I didn't want to do. I tried to rationalize not doing this thing that was put in my path. I used the "I'm not able to do this" card. hmmm. My priest and friend was not having any of that and I ended up being the people pleaser I am and dragging my feet in as many ways possible doing what I did not want to do.
OF COURSE YOU KNOW THE REST OF THAT STORY. MY PROGRAM HAS BENEFITED FROM THIS ACTION OF MAXIMUM USE. WITHOUT PRAYER AND MEDITATION I WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ON THE PATH TO FURTHER SPIRITUALITY.
So at last, I near the end of my encouragement to you to use step eleven everyday. Pray, meditate, and ask for the power to do the things God wants you to do. whether big or small. Doing small things gives you the ability to tackle the large things which even if you fail in their accomplishment are great successes. You tried something hard, you were open-minded, a good place to be and you showed faith that God intended you to walk that path and even if you get it wrong and miss the joy he planned he never stopped holding your hand. He intended for to go as far as you went. Hurray.
Now can you share with us and your sponsor some of your spiritual path. How you came to believe and how you increase your conscious contact with your higher power? What actions have you taken that surprise you that you now believe are the direct result of your desire to be of maximum service?
Okay, this is heavy duty work to be done here. Heads up and walk with joy and take what you need and leave the rest. Know that if my God had not insisted, I would not be doing this service which is increasing my conscious contact with Him as I understand Him. Know that God loves you and so do I.