Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Self acceptance

 I've long heard people talk about starting and ending their day reading from pages 86 - 88 of the Big Book, the "Upon awakening" and "When we retire at night" bits. Good stuff. Really good stuff, but I've never made that a part of my practice. I have my AM and PM routines, though neither includes a formalized 10th Step, or the above Step 11. But, after hearing yet another member share how their program was enhanced by making this a part of their day, I decided to start, always interested in enhancement. I want to up my game, stay engaged, be entirely willing. 

However...  When I repetitively read something, there comes a point when my eyes glaze and my mind wanders as I lose focus on the now memorized words. Noticing this phenomenon of inattention with 86 & 87, I realized that, for me at least, it isn't so much about adherence to the actual pages, but to their intent. It is a good idea to review my day, whether right before sleep or earlier. It is an excellent idea to reflect on the day ahead when I wake up, and an even better idea to remind myself to get out of my own way and see where I might be helpful or supportive of others. So, here I am, again and still, not reading from the Big Book morning and night, but being more mindful of the intentional pause, the setting of intention, the review that will keep me conscious of the principles of recovery.

In a recent online meeting geared towards women with long term sobriety, someone shared that she'd retired from her profession, and had retired from self-improvement. Oy vey. I've been on the self-improvement train since I was nine or ten years old, from dieting to generalized "Be a better person." The program is geared towards halting hurtful behaviors and attitudes, rightly so - I was a mess of self-indulgence when I got sober. And, doesn't there come a point when enough is enough? I'm not at all suggesting to stop the inventory or working of Steps - just that with 35 years sober and 67 years on the planet, I have traits and quirks and preferences that no amount of Step work can budge (or it would've done so long ago). I desire to continue to grow, spiritually and emotionally, but have come to understand that it doesn't mean taking a machete to my psyche on a regular basis. I'm human. I screw up on occasion with a hurtful word or an impulsive decision. I may have deficiencies, but I am not a defect. I'm so glad to know that today.

I heard something brilliant a few weeks ago, from someone after their relapse. They described how relapse starts by un-working the Steps backwards, as in first you stop carrying the message (12), then you stop prayer and meditation (11). You then stop your personal inventory (10) and making amends (8 & 9). By that time, you likely aren't recognizing any defects/defenses (6 & 7) and aren't talking with a sponsor (5), and definitely not doing any pen-to-paper. Soon you're attempting to run the show (2 & 3) and in all likelihood, have convinced yourself you are not powerless over anything. Maybe you pick up, maybe you don't, but this trajectory sure sounds like the template of relapse stories I've heard. As I've said many times before, we don't just wake up on a Tuesday and decide to drink.

I've argued that once I "fully concede to [my] innermost self" that I'm alcoholic, I can't un-concede, but a friend has pointed out that we forget. We forget the devastation of hitting bottom, the ways we hurt ourselves and our loved ones, and how hard it was to finally make the decision to stop. I can romanticize both the drink and the excitement of early recovery. I once heard someone say they drank because they wanted to start over. I'm under no delusion that I could  recreate the heady days of early sobriety. For one thing, I'm not 31 years old anymore, running with a pack of other newbies in my age range (for me, that was from 21 to 51!). Even were I to drink again, sobriety would never again be "new." New perspective, perhaps, from a new vantage point, but today I'll do my best to follow the suggestion: "Keep Coming Back, but Stay, It's Easier."

Are you a by-the-book person, or a modifier? How do you know when  your modifications veer towards self-will or self deception? And where are you with self-acceptance? Can you be comfortable, most days, with who you are, rather than who you think you should be? 

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Just in time for the holidays, or your year-end inventory, consider my workbook, "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" covering such topics as Aging, Sponsorship, Relationships, and Grief & Loss with a narrative, a member's view, and processing questions, with space for writing. Perfect for sharing with a sponsor, trusted other, or in a small group.

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