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A New Beginning 

I wrote my first gratitude list in February 2017 at the age of 39. Since then I have tried to find gratitude in whoever, wherever, whenever and whatever. For too long had I taken the simple things for granted. Almost a year later I now find myself appreciating a wide variety of things such as clean water and my freely given miracle of sight. This way of thinking has assisted in the transformation of the way I currently perceive and live my life. I have set up this blog with the intention of sharing gratitude on a daily basis. Today I have gratitude for gratitude. May you find gratitude too.

 

Even more proof

What proof do I have that the spiritual program (unity, service, recovery) works?

1) The experience, strength and hope of those who work it.
2) The experience, strength and hope of those who don’t.
3) The experiences I have when I work it.
4) The experiences I have when I don’t.

And after the last couple of days, I can add another…

5) When I’m in the spiritual malady, want to remain there and choose not to work it because I know it will work. When I don’t want to feel better. When I don’t want to feel happy.

Do I need anymore proof than that?

Another difficulty. Same solution.

Physically exhausted. Emotionally drained. Mentally all over the place. That’s where I was at 20:50pm after a long and busy day.

A little over two hours later though, I felt afresh and as light as a feather. Did I have a double espresso? A little power nap? Did I escape my feelings and self-solve by acting out? No.

What I did do, was use some spiritual tools. I attended a meeting. I gave service by doing a reading. I shared honestly how I was feeling. I was present whilst I listened to others. And after the meeting I took a sponsee through some book work.

On paper, one would be excused to think doing the above instead of getting an early night would just amplify how low I was feeling. And honestly, on one side that’s how I did feel. The other side though was one of experience and faith that spiritual action will pull me through yet again. And it did.

It is very easy for me to blame the state of my spiritual health on my physical, emotional and mental condition. I am sure they are all intertwined in some weird ‘chicken or egg’ paradox, but experience has proven again and again that my spiritual health has the power to remove all sorts. Exhaustion was removed this time round but other shortcomings including resentment, fear, dishonesty, selfish behaviour, insanity and let’s not forget the biggest miracle of them all – the obsession to gamble have also fell victim to the power of spirituality.

Rewind four and a bit years I was spiritually bankrupt. No wonder I struggled so much with life. What changed? Sponsorship. Steps. Service. Unity. Recovery.

I am grateful for experiences like this, as they remind me that what may seem like the logical choice is not always the right one. Sometimes I have to place my faith in something more powerful than me. In this case – the spiritual program. Thank you GA and those who give service past and present, for the spiritual tools freely laid at my feet.

…. in ALL my affairs

My partner and I had a chat last night. She spoke, I listened. I was present. I was calm. I didn’t interrupt. I didn’t judge or criticise. I believe… she spoke honestly about how she was feeling and was able to get things off her chest.

Upon grateful reflection it occurred to me that I had attended a ‘meeting’ last night. To the best of my ability I was able to mimic the same platform I am abundantly blessed with as an addict. The same platform upon which she can share without fear of judgement. Give her the same love, tolerance and consideration I so easily afford my fellows at meetings.

‘….. practice these principles in all our affairs’ comes to mind.

Answer to Powerlessness

My experience

Rewind four and a half years, if someone had asked me to list down ways to stop gambling it would’ve looked something like this:

  • Stay away from betting establishments
  • Cross the road if I need to
  • Even change my usual route to prevent passing them
  • Ban myself from bookies and casinos
  • Ban myself online and from apps
  • Hate and rebel against the industry
  • Don’t associate with other gamblers
  • Turn the channel when there’s a betting advert
  • Skip the racing pages
  • Don’t watch football or any sport I can bet on
  • Hand over my finances to another
  • Don’t take cash out
  • Leave my money at home
  • Cut up my cards
  • Gamble all my money and be quick about it
  • Consolidate my debts in to one loan
  • Swear on the lives of my loved ones
  • Make genuine promises to myself
  • Get caught out
  • Find some hobbies
  • Get some counselling
  • Think of the consequences
  • Use my willpower
  • Lock myself in my room (didn’t try that one!)
  • End my life?

My experience is… Bar the last two, I have tried every one and probably many more, but all have failed 100%. They seem like fairly obvious answers? They appear sane and logical ideas. Like 1+1=2. It’s the kind of understandable list of suggestions a non-addict might come up with.

Maybe these suggestions would work for a ‘normal gambler’, but not for me. What worked for me is not so obvious. I would never have come up with the answer, not in a million years. It wasn’t a 1+1=2 type of solution, it was some weird and wonderful algorithm that even now could appear to some as less logical as the suggestions listed above. The importance lies in the fact it works. The answer that worked for me? A daily reprieve based on my Spiritual Health. And this was the solution that led me there:

Attend meetings and (not or) do service at meetings

and (not or) connect with fellows outside of meetings

and (not or) get a sponsor

and (not or) do a list of daily suggestions

and (not or) admitted I was powerless over gambling, that my life had become unmanageable.

and (not or) came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to a normal way of thinking and living.

and (not or) made a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of this Power of my own understanding.

and (not or) made a searching and fearless moral and financial inventory of myself.

and (not or) admitted to myself and to another human being the exact nature of my wrongs.

and (not or) was entirely ready to have these defects of character removed.

and (not or) humbly asked God (of my understanding) to remove my shortcomings.

and (not or) made a list of all persons I had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

and (not or) made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

and (not or) continued to take personal inventory and when I was wrong promptly admitted it.

and (not or) sought through prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with God (as I understand him) praying only for knowledge of His will for me and the power to carry that out.(not or) having made an effort to practise these principles in all my affairs, I tried to carry this message to other compulsive gamblers.

As you can see, there is zero mention of how to stop gambling, or how to control my gambling obsession. Yet as an indirect result that is exactly what has been given to me. And as a cheeky little bonus, the same solution has been the answer to much, much more. Thank God there was an answer already out there, being shared by others through the ages, others who had been through it themselves. All I had to be was honest, open-minded and willing to give it a try.

A Surreal Spiritual Experience

A Surreal Spiritual Experience

Trying to pause when agitated is a relatively new concept to me but I have been trying to make it part of my life for the last four and a bit years. The typical scenario starts when someone does something that causes me harm and I get hurt. If I have the serenity to pause and not react, I don’t make things worse and the hurt goes. It starts, I pause, it finishes. Done. Over the last week though, through no effort on my behalf, my experience has been been quite surreal. I have been consciously sensing my attitude towards the situation gradually change.  I feel incredibly present throughout, to a point where I can actually feel my negative feelings and emotions reduce level by level to a place of acceptance. Hurt to anger, anger to frustration, frustration to irritable, irritable to tolerant, tolerant to considerate, considerate to humble, humble to love! All within a brief moment and I felt it all the way. Time had slowed down enough for me to actually acknowledge and witness the process of me letting go of self-will and allowing God back in. The red mist had cleared to be replaced with clarity.

There’s no way I can do the experience justice by putting it into words, but has anyone else felt anything similar?

The Stream Of Life

What could I add to the stream of life?

Thanks to being in recovery I am adding more to the stream of life on a daily basis by being of service to others. But what about something extra? For example, right now I am sitting on the tube, what could I add to the stream of life right now? I could share this message and be of service to this group. I could contact someone I know who is struggling. I could message someone to say I love them. I could message to say I’m proud of them. I could share a smile with someone sitting opposite me (if there was someone!). I could look at my own reflection and tell myself ‘you’re enough’. I could read some literature and gain some calmness before I interact with others.

And this is whilst I’m on the tube! What about when I’m at home? Or at work? Or at a meeting? There’s an abundance of ways I can add to the stream of life if I am present enough to pause and ask myself ‘what can I do in this God given moment? Maybe a loving kiss, a supportive hug, an understanding hand on a shoulder, a compliment, a house chore, a resistance to be right, a willingness to do something I’d rather not, maybe an extra bit of tolerance or consideration.

What could you do right now?

Step 11

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.”

Recent events have made me realise 3 things about conscious contact.

(1) My experience is, improving the contact between myself and my higher power (being spiritually awake) definitely takes a conscious effort.

(2) Contacting my self-will takes no conscious effort at all. Its my default position. Its what I wake upto every morning. I’ve never once thought “Right! Come on! I need to contact my self-will!”

(3) Point (2) confirms how important point (1) is.

Step 7

Step 7 – Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

The Step 7 prayer in the Big Book suggests a willingness that my creator ‘should have all of me, good and bad’. The inclusion of the word ‘good’ has always had a profound effect on me.

My initial thoughts were that not only do I have to be willing to hand over what I believe to be my defects of character, but also the strengths of character I deem to possess too. Hand over ‘all of me’ and let my creator decide what my defects are. Fair enough, I’m not the best judge. I discovered this when I looked at the second half of step1. Step 10 reminds me on a daily basis.

In essence, I am handing over my shortcomings but only as a result of handing over my thinking, my perception, my justification, my rationalisation, my logic, my decision making.

Some shortcomings are clearly present and I can be specific with the wording of the prayer, others are less clear and a more open-minded approach is required.

Just my interpretation, but what an amazing step. What an amazing leap of faith. 🙏

‘.. the program is a road not a resting place’……’For life is not flat but a slope upwards’…

‘.. the program is a road not a resting place’……’For life is not flat but a slope upwards’…

I love this. It reminds me that I need to keep working in order for me to keep progressing.

Before recovery I was walking the road through Hell. Not that I knew it, my mind was entirely focused on self. Like tunnel vision I did not notice what was around. I did not notice the destruction that surrounded me, the view was too ugly to bear, I’d rather not look. Neither did I notice the glimmers of beauty that were trying to break through, I had no time to appreciate them, I had a purpose to fulfil. For many, many years I walked down the same road.

In February 2017 I came across a man, he was neither friend nor family but he was willing to help me. He assured me there was a another way and that I didn’t need to continue down the same dubious path. He had been shown another way, a road of recovery. He spoke of a new life, a life of serenity and happiness and he offered to walk with me as long as I was willing to walk the walk. I stood and looked in the direction he was pointing, I couldn’t see what lied ahead (the future is like that) but after decades of experience I knew where my old road was leading so I thought ‘what the hell’ and took a step into the unknown.

What I can say now, is that leap of faith has been the best decision I have made. So unlike me to make a decision like that, I often wonder if I was given a big nudge by a divine hand. Walking the walk has meant dilligent effort on a daily basis but boy it’s worth it, the views are gorgeous. No longer is my vison tunneled. My eyes have been opened and I now look around me with gratitude, I can see the beauty the world has to offer. So beautiful is the world it is often tempting to stop. But the man, who is still with me, tells me things get even better and the slope back down can get slippery if I stay too long. I still have no idea what lies ahead but my belief has turned into faith and my faith is fast turning to trust. I trust that there is a never ending road ahead of me and I trust that the road just gets more and more beautiful. The colours become more vibrant, the good in people becomes more evident, I become more joyous and free. All I need to do is keep walking the walk.

Let’s stick together

My name is *** and I am an addict.

In my experience, when life has thrown a challenge my way, it has effected my motivation to do the next right thing. Suggestions can become lackadaisical, I can start to think about the steps rather than act upon them, meetings can become a chore and my priorities can get turned on their head.

But why? Surely in difficult times it is even more necessary to work a solid program? I know it works if I work it, so why in tough times can I take my foot off the pedal? Truly baffling I can be.

When I do not put in the daily diligent effort I can very easily become resentful and/or fearful. Selfish and dishonest behaviours aren’t far behind. A perilous way for an addict to live.

I am as much an addict as I ever was. This will never not be the case. NEVER. The 20 questions still apply to me now and always will. ALWAYS.

Why am I sharing this now? Because, we are all being challenged in one way or another right now and it appears to be set to last for a considerable amount of time.

It is my belief, that like it or not, us addicts find ourselves in a potentially vulnerable position. Vulnerable to relapse. Vulnerable to causing further harm and destruction to ourselves and our loved ones. BUT only if we allow it too. It DOES NOT have to be that way.

Please consider the following:

– Keep in constant contact with fellows. Reach out to someone who will appreciate your call. Be of service to the fellowships that have done so much for us.

– Attend (in person or online) as many meetings per week. Get things off your chest. Talk about your feelings. Give service by listening to and sharing the message of experience, strength and hope.

– SMASH the suggestions to pieces! Do two gratitude lists if you have to! Mediate three times a day if it helps! Call ten fellows and not just two! Smash them all.

– Pray, pray, pray, pray and pray again to your higher power. If you do not have your own concept of God, choose someone in your life you believe has faith and pray to theirs.

– Do not delay the steps. If it is impossible for you to physically meet with your sponsor, don’t waste any time. We are blessed with technology which allows calls and video calls. Use them.

– If you are interested in sponsorship and willing to go to any lengths then start now! Do not wait, sponsorship has proven it can work from country to country. We are blessed to have many available sponsors who can be (somewhat) flexible in their delivery.

– Be selfless. Think of others less fortunate than you, that includes the elderly, the homeless, our families and everyone not in a fellowship (in my opinion). Even if it’s to listen to them share their feelings and get things off there chest, let’s do what we can.

– Put the effort in on a daily basis. 6 days per week is not enough.

By keeping our foot flat out on the pedal we will improve our chances of being abstinent and reduce the chance of harming others and leaving destruction on our paths. Through God or the simple higher power of the fellowship, we can be the best version of ourselves and of best use to the people around us.

Grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, Courage to change the things we can and the Wisdom to know the difference.