Confession, Redemption, and Forgiveness – Episode 166

love“I’ve got a confession to make.”

How do you feel when you say that? How do you feel when you hear it?!

What is the power that confession has for us in Step 5? (Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.) How does the inventory and self-examination of Step 4 make it possible to honestly make that confession? (Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.) How do these combine to give us ownership of our own faults, so that we are ready to change? (Step 6, Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.) And to ask for help in changing ourselves? (Step 7, Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.) Is it possible to truly “make it right” with those we hurt without having first made confession from the depth of our being? (Steps 8 and 9, Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.) Confession, in Steps 5 and 9, is a cornerstone of recovery, and makes it possible to find redemption and forgiveness.

Our topic for next week is either serenity or shame. Both start with the letter “s” but are otherwise pretty much unrelated. (How) have you found serenity? What does it mean to you? Or… Does shame still dominate your life? How has recovery helped you to move into and through your shame? 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.
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Stepping Stones to Serenity Part 2 – Episode 159

Stepping StonesThis is part 2 of a 4-part seminar titled “Stepping Stones to Serenity”, presented by Ellen C in 2008. This part covers steps 4 through 6.

Life on Purpose – Episode 156

Can you say what is your purpose? How do you decide what to do on a daily basis? What do you want to be “when you grow up”?

This episode is inspired by the book Life on Purpose.

  • How has recovery challenged me to articulate my values and my purpose?
  • What is the purpose of “purpose”?
    • Give direction and meaning to my life
    • Articulate what matters to me
  • Creating my life vs taking life for granted.
  • Live a longer and healthier life?
  • “So let’s imagine a drug that was shown to add years to your life; reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke; cut your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by more than half; help you relax during the day and sleep better at night; double your chances of staying drug- and alcohol-free after treatment; activate your natural killer cells; diminish your inflammatory cells; increase your good cholesterol; and repair your DNA. What if this imaginary drug reduced hospital stays so much that it put a dent in the national health-care crisis? Oh, and as a bonus, gave you better sex? The pharmaceutical company who made the drug would be worth billions. The inventors of the drug would receive Nobel Prizes and have institutes named for them! But it’s not a drug. It’s purpose. And it’s free. Oh, and the side effects? More friends. More happiness. Deeper engagement in life. And did I mention better sex?”
  • Eudaimonic (self-transcending) vs Hedonic (self-enhancing) pleasure.
    • Eudaimonic pleasure: Connecting with our (inner) divinity, living in harmony with it.
    • Hedonic pleasure: gratifying short-term desires.
    • How do we do this in recovery? Step 11!
  • How do I find and describe my purpose?
    • Consider my different roles? Do I have a purpose in each of those roles?
      • Community
      • Work
      • Family
      • Self
    • What do I want written on my headstone? (“Mentor, Husband and Father”? Or “Highest score in Candy Crush”?)
  • What are my values?
    • From episode 101: Integrity, Commitment, Acceptance, Love
    • How do these drive my purpose?
    • What other values might be part of my purpose?
    • What are the values of people I admire? How do they live their purposes?
  • Affirming values as a reason for behavior change enhances the ability to make that change. (Connecting to Steps 6 & 7.)
    • A positive approach to behavior change.
    • From AA Big Book: “On awakening let us think about the twenty-four hours ahead. We consider our plans for the day. Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives.”
    • And “When we retire at night, we constructively review our day.”
  • What are my goals (based on my values)? (Statements starting with “To…”)
    • To lead others into recovery. (Community)
    • To create software that makes a difference in people’s lives. (Work)
    • To be a loving and committed husband, father, and son. (Family)
    • To be fully present and to enjoy life. (Personal)
  • Self-transcendance
    • Step 3 – Living according to my Higher Power’s will.
    • “Make the other band members look and sound good. Bring out the best in them; that’s your job.” – CHRISSIE HYNDE
    • Find a self-transcending “why” for what I do, and I will do better!
    • But also: set good boundaries!
  • Time management or Energy management?
    • It’s really about energy management.
    • Positive affirmation of values and purpose can increase energy. (also “gratitude list”)
    • But not just energy – it needs direction. Without a direction, all the energy in the world is unlikely to accomplish something.
    • Roughly two thousand years ago, the Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote, “When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.”
  • Sources of energy
    • Positive emotions or actions.
    • Beauty
    • Doing things for myself
    • SPACE acronym:
    • Physical activity
    • Eating well
    • Sleeping well
    • Presence
    • Creativity
  • Willpower
    • “Now don’t say you can’t swear off drinking; it’s easy. I’ve done it a thousand times.” W. C. FIELDS
    • Positive energy, affirming values, and considering purpose increases will power. (Also SPACE.)
    • “ psychologists have found that willpower acts in a similar manner to a muscle: it can be depleted after mental exertion, it can be strengthened, and it can be fueled.”
  • Using and achieving purpose
    • “The life we receive is not short, but we make it so, nor do we have any lack of it, but are wasteful of it.” SENECA
    • Steps 10, 11, 12.

Upcoming topics include Step 1. 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.
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plant a tree – a meditation

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The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.

The second best time is now.

– Chinese Proverb

 

Steps 6 and 7 give me an opportunity to change. It is easy for me to say “Oh, that’s just the way I am, and anyway, it’s too late to do anything about it.” Or, in other words “I should have planted that  tree 20 years ago.” But you know, my life is not over. And if I plant a new tree now, I will probably still be around in 20 years to enjoy it. If I start to make a change in the way I act, now, I will enjoy the benefits of that change for years to come.

Step 7, “Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings”, is a tool I can use to begin that change. By saying, “I want to change, please help me,” I open the door to a happier future.  I plant the seed. Of course, I will need to tend the seedling tree, watering, weeding, protecting it from damage as it grows. In my life, I need to water the seed of change by noticing when my character defect still surfaces, by practicing new behavior, and by being gentle with myself when the old behavior recurs (as it inevitably will.) I celebrate my progress, just as I celebrate the tree growing from a sprout, to a “whip”, to a sapling, to a small tree, and finally into a full grown tree with flowers and maybe fruit, which I can sit in the shade of or climb as I wish.

I may need to ask my Higher Power for the humility to be teachable, to learn a new way of being. That is the essence of Step 6, “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.” In Step 6, I prepare the ground of my spirit for the seed of change, just as I might prepare soil for planting a tree. To plant a tree, I would dig a hole. I would mix various amendments such as peat, sand, compost, or fertilizer into the soil, so that the seed has a nourishing and well-drained environment to encourage its growth. Similarly, I might examine my shortcomings, asking myself  these questions: What is the pain caused by this shortcoming? What is the payoff? Why did I develop this behavior? How does it continue to benefit me? Can I have the patience I need for real change? In this way, I prepare myself and become ready to accept the new life that is sure to grow in the time ahead.

A meditation for November 14, 2013.

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amends – a meditation

 

The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.

John Green, Looking for Alaska

I have had a lot of anger towards loved ones in the past. I remember that I used to write down the resentments against them when I took my inventory. I was so upset from the harms that I perceived had been committed against me – even if they were decades old. I had heard in the meeting rooms that forgiveness is key to finding peace. And I kept telling myself to forgive these people. I would even chant it to myself or act as if I had forgiven them. Nothing helped. My resentments remained and I felt frustrated.

Eventually, I got to the 8th Step in my Stepwork with my Sponsor. To do the 8th Step, I had to make a list of all persons I had harmed and become willing to make amends to them all. I listed everyone on my resentment list and listed my anger and judgment against them to be reasons for my amends. Thankfully, I had a wonderful Sponsor that asked me where my amends to myself was on the list. I realized I had no amends to myself – not really. I had hastily scribbled my name on the last page in the margin. My Sponsor reminded me that I was not really honoring  and respecting myself by ignoring my self-amends. I took her suggestion and sat and wrote a proper amends to myself. In the amends, I apologized for not standing up for myself in the past. I apologized for lying about my feelings  to myself and others. I apologized for ignoring my own needs. I apologized for giving up my power to other people. And then I cried because I had just been given an amends by the one person with whom I actually angry, myself.

As I cried, the pain left me and the suffering left me and my wounds started to close. Since then, every day that I am honest about my feelings, every time I honor my needs, and every time I stand up for myself, the wounds close a little more and open up more space for gratitude and love and even more forgiveness. And as I heal and forgive myself, forgiveness for others comes so easily. I think this is because my reality exists within me and I project that reality onto the world around me. Now that my reality is that I am responsible for loving myself, so I am able to seeking external validation and resenting people when I do not receive it.

Today, my Higher Power blessed me with happiness and peace as well as pain and fear. All four blessings are always present for me; some offer comfort and some offer opportunity. When I can see all of these as equal, one not better than another, I can stop feeling like a victim and be accepting, grateful, and forgiving.

A meditation for September 29, 2013

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