Being Thankful – Episode 180

DSC_5126How are you thankful? Can you be thankful even when life isn’t going well? How can being thankful improve your situation?

As I approach the US Thanksgiving holiday, my thoughts naturally turn to thankfulness.
In Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, we find this bit of conversation between Hamlet and Rosencrantz. Hamlet has just remarked that Denmark is a prison, and Rosencrantz says that he doesn’t find it so:

HAMLET: Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there is
nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it
so. To me, it is a prison.
ROSENCRANTZ: Why, then, your ambition makes it one.
’Tis too narrow for your mind.
HAMLET: O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and
count myself a king of infinite space, were it not
that I have bad dreams.
And don’t we all (have bad dreams)? How can we be thankful in spite of them? How can being thankful actually help us drive away our bad dreams?

Let’s look at the reading from How Al-Anon Works on gratitude.

  • “Actively practicing gratitude is one way we can promote attitude adjustment. Instead of taking for granted the many blessings in our lives, we make a point to mentally acknowledge them until doing so becomes a habit.”
    • I don’t “notice” when things are going well, but
    • I dwell on the times when things went poorly.
  • “Writing them down in a “gratitude list” and then reading the list to our Sponsor or sharing it with other Al-Anon members helps us realize that there are many things in our lives for which we are truly grateful. “
    • A to Z gratitude list
    • How I felt afterwards
  • “Gratitude enables us to savor the unrecognized good that surrounds us, no matter what the circumstances. As we become accustomed to noticing the positive aspects of our lives, we begin to recognize small, subtle gifts and cloaked opportunities when they appear in our day-to-day experience.”
    • My winter day story — a friend helped me to see the good that had happened that day instead of “moaning” about the bad
    • I remember this story and it helps me to see the positive as well as the negative.
  • “ Eventually, as we continue to practice, we actually do find something to be grateful for, even in painful or difficult situations. We replace our victim mentality with an attitude of gratitude.”
    • Psych ward story.
  • “Instead of feeling drained, overwhelmed, and stressed by the circumstances we encounter, we begin to feel empowered and capable of coping, even flourishing, because we have learned that our Higher Power can use every situation, every relationship, every experience, to enhance our lives and foster strength, faith, and personal growth. Thus, everyone and everything has a special gift to offer us.”
    • Visiting with my aging and ailing mother.
    • How I felt, how I grew.
  • “We need only open our eyes to see it.”

Previous episodes and blog posts on gratitude are

Upcoming topics include anger. Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email feedback@therecoveryshow.com with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.

Start where you are – Episode 173

DSC_0379Start where you are. Bring your angry self. Bring your despairing self. Bring your resentful and frustrated self. Bring your confused self. And we will meet you there.

Sometimes I think I need to be “ready” before I can do something, before I can make a change. But that’s not true of our program. I was able to start where I was, and I can still start where I am. How does this work? How was I able to “start where I am” at each point along the path of recovery? Because recovery is a process, not an event.

  • Walking into my first meeting.
    • You met me where I was. You didn’t require that I know anything, that I agree to anything, you just welcomed me.
  • Step 1: We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
    • My first challenge – what does “powerless” mean? Can I admit that I am “powerless”? How do I recognize the unmanageability of my life? Is this where I am right now?
  • Step 2: Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
    • I start into this step where I am: questioning the very existence of a Higher Power. Some start into this step with a vengeful, angry God. No matter where we start, we can find an understanding of this step.
  • Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
    • If my starting point is “the meeting is my HP”, I can look for guidance and wisdom in the meeting, and try to follow that.
  • Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
    • This step has always met me where I was. As my starting point has changed, the inventory has also changed. My new point of view has revealed other aspects of myself, which were not visible earlier.
  • Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
    • My first starting point for this step was “no way!” My second starting point was “there’s some stuff I’m just not going to talk about.” I *think* that, at this time, I’ve admitted all my wrongs, but I might be wrong about that.
    • Each time, there was power in the step, no matter where I started, and how “well” I did it. The point is to take the step, not to take it perfectly.
  • Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
    • Again, my starting point has “moved” with time. I’ve gone from “well, of course” to “um, not that one!” to “please help me to become willing”.
    • I didn’t understand this step the first time I “took” it, but I did it anyway.
  • Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
    • What does this step mean if I don’t have a concrete idea of G-o-d?
    • But, I found that, when I ask for help, I find it, and I change.
  • Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
    • The literature suggested that I can group my list into: people I am willing to make amends to, people I might be willing to make amends to, and those people who I was not willing to make amends to.
    • I started there, and found that my lists changed as I moved into Step 9.
  • Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
    • Do the easy ones first, and don’t worry about doing it perfectly!
  • Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
    • I started doing this step before I actually got to it. Because I didn’t want to add new things to my “Step 4 inventory.”
  • 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.
    • Wow. What is prayer? How do I do it? You suggested I start with the Serenity prayer. And I was able to do that.
    • Meditation? How? When? “Just try. Sit with me. Breathe.” It’s a start.
  • Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
    • My awakening came gradually, as I moved in recovery, I became more awake, where I was.
  • Sponsorship!
    • I was not “ready” (in my mind) to be a sponsor the first time I was asked. But I said “yes” and did the best I could.
  • Gratitude
    • Finding gratitude in small things helped to to develop an “attitude of gratitude”.

So, start where you are, and we will meet you there and welcome you into the beginning of your path to recovery.

Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email feedback@therecoveryshow.com with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.

Say Yes! to Life – Episode 155

surf!Last weekend, I drove back to the city I grew up in, to attend a memorial service for a childhood friend. As family and friends shared their memories of my friend, I reflected on the ways we say “Yes!” to life in the presence of death. This week, I am re-issuing episode 76, Loss, with a new title. The original notes for that episode follow.

What do you do when you lose someone close to you? How can I use the tools we have learned in the program to get through a loss? I was inspired to this topic by a tragic, accidental death in the past week. It brought me to reflect on the nature of loss, on how loss affects me and those close to me, and how my response to loss is so different now than it was before I came into the program. I used this outline as a guide for my musings.

  • The story.
  • How did I deal with loss in the past?
    • Stuff it
    • Ignore it
    • Numb it
    • Isolate
  • Other kinds of loss?
    • Loss of dreams
    • Loss of friendship
      • Separation and divorce
  • Fear of Loss
  • How has the program helped me to deal with loss?
    • Feel it.
    • Acceptance.
    • Gratitude for what was.
    • Grief process — acknowledge it.
    • Less guilt.
  • How to deal with loss and grief
    • Take care of self
    • Prayer
    • Ask for help
    • Talk about it
    • One Day at a Time
    • Letting go

Our topic for next week is new topic. Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email feedback@therecoveryshow.com with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.
Continue reading “Say Yes! to Life – Episode 155”

Shutting down as a defense – Episode 152

closer to perfectionDo you retreat into yourself when problems arise? Do you prefer not to hear bad news? Maybe you are shutting down as a defense.

Here’s our outline:

  • Which of these statements do I connect with about shutting down?
    • “When I am stressed, I retreat into myself.”
    • “If I don’t think about a problem, it will go away.” (Tom)
    • “Instead of doing something, I chew over my problems in my head, over and over.”
    • “I escape into a book/movie/tv show/video game/… when I don’t want to face something.”
    • “Conflict just shuts me down. Sometimes I can’t even talk.”
    • “I keep busy with unimportant tasks, so I don’t have to face the things I don’t want to do.” (Tom)
    • “When there is chaos around me, I can’t do anything. I just shut down and retreat into my skull.”
    • “I hide by not answering the phone, or not opening mail.” (Tom)
    • “I fantasize about a better future, but I don’t seem to be able to do anything about getting there.” (Tom)
    • “In an airport or other public space I make sure nobody will sit next to me.” (Tom)
    • “I avoid difficult conversations at all costs.”
    • “There’s only one way to survive life. Shut down, or get hurt and die.”
  • What have I learned about myself, and about my ways of “shutting down” and “escaping”?
    • Conflict avoidant.
    • Lack of self-worth/self-esteem.
    • Fear of criticism, rejection, other mental/spiritual harm.
    • Fear of bodily harm.
    • Fear of intimacy.
    • Denial — if I don’t “know” about a problem, maybe it won’t happen.
    • Isolating
    • Depression
  • When can it be healthy to “shut down”?
    • Detachment
    • Taking a break
    • Resting
  • What tools can I use to face daily conflicts, problems, and discomfort of dealing with other people?
    • Serenity prayer.
    • Other prayers.
    • Inventory. (I can’t change something if I don’t see it.)
    • Gratitude.
    • Check in with program friends.
    • Living in the moment. “One day at a time.”
    • Meditation.
    • Practicing Step 10. “… and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”
    • Self-acceptance
    • Vulnerability.
    • HOW: “Honest, open, and willing.”
    • Detachment — “it’s not me/mine”
    • Scheduling activities with others to prevent a self-isolating funk
    • Progress not perfection

Some online resources

Suppressing Emotions

Emotionally Closed Off: Healing Pain and Learning to Love

Why Anxiety Causes Detachment “Why anxiety causes detachment” (about the “bad” kind of detachment — distancing, emotional shutting down)

Upcoming topics include another “gift of Al-Anon”. This one is “Our sight, once clouded and confused, will clear and we will be able to perceive reality and recognize truth.” Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email feedback@therecoveryshow.com with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.
Continue reading “Shutting down as a defense – Episode 152”

My gratitude list (2015)

SunriseAround the time of the American Thanksgiving holiday, I think about the things I am grateful for. I have found the “alphabetical gratitude list” to be a useful tool in cultivating an attitude of gratitude.

A — I am grateful for Age. Youth was fun, and there are times I wish I was young again. The perspective, experience, and, yes, wisdom that come with age are irreplaceable.

B — I am grateful for my Brother. He inspires me with his joy and engagement in life. He has faced challenges, setbacks, and disability with grace and acceptance. And yet, he continues to engage and celebrate what he has.

C – I am grateful for Children. I am grateful for my children, who have brought so much joy and challenges into my life. I am grateful for others’ children, who are our future, and who keep my life from stagnating.

D – I am grateful for my Dog. He loves me unconditionally, but is also straightforward about making his needs known.

E – I am grateful for Electricity. It makes my life comfortable, and I wouldn’t be able to do most of what I do without it.

F – I am grateful for Fall.

G – I am grateful for my Grandparents, who are no longer physically in my life, but who were a big part of my childhood, teaching me to appreciate the outdoors, and who loved me and supported me in a way different from my parents.

H – I am grateful for my Health. While I have issues, I am able-bodied and generally healthy.

I – I am grateful for Ice Cream. I enjoy its cool, smooth texture, and its melting deliciousness.

J – I am grateful for Junk. I am starting to be able to get rid of the junk I have accumulated in my life, and that is a good thing.

K – I am grateful for my Kitchen. I love to cook, to create wonderful flavors and to provide for my needs and those of my family.

L – I am grateful for Love. It is a gift to both give and receive love, and to be able to love myself whole heartedly.

M – I am grateful for my Mother. With her aging, she is teaching me to accept the now, rather than wishing for what was.

O – I am grateful for Others. Life would be easier without them, but it would also be infinitely more boring.

P – I am grateful for Podcasting. Doing the podcast has deepened my recovery and my appreciation of life. It has also brought some amazing people into my life, who I would never have met otherwise.

Q – I am grateful for Questions. As long as there are things I do not know, or do not understand, I continue to grow. When I have no more questions, I will be dead.

R – I am grateful for the color Red. It is bright and cheerful.

S – I am grateful for Silence. In the silence, I can hear that still, small voice within. In the silence, I can calm my “monkey mind”.

T – I am grateful for Transitions. Change is life, and life is change. Transition can be uncomfortable, but is also inevitable. I can reject it and be miserable, or accept it, live into it, and revel in it as I move into a new phase of living.

U – I am grateful for Underwear. It makes my life more comfortable.

V – I am grateful for Vision, both literal and figurative. My vision enables me to enjoy the lovely sunrise this Thanksgiving morning. My vision enables me to look ahead and to envision a new future.

W – I am grateful for Water. Water to drink is a necessity of life. Water as stream, river, lake, or ocean connects me to something larger than myself.

X – I am grateful for Xerography. Without it, there would be no copy machine, no laser printer. It also reminds me of a family friend who worked for Xerox, and who was a model for me in my professional life.

Y – I am grateful for Yams. We will enjoy this sweet, orange vegetable as part of our Thanksgiving dinner.

Z – I am grateful for Zest. A bit of lemon zest adds sparkle to a dish or a drink. A bit of zest adds sparkle to my life.