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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.

 

Progression

“We claim spiritual progression, not spiritual perfection.” How many times have I used this bit of advice to justify something I could have done better? In some cases this rings true, as I am a human being and therefore prone to making mistakes and shouldn’t expect perfection. However, the word “progression” in itself requires movement of some kind in the right direction. Therefore, remaining in the same place is not progression. Over the last few years, my experience is, as long as I work a strong enough program the result is progression in many aspects of my life. But what happened when I didn’t? Over any considerable amount of time (heard that somewhere 😉) things got worse. My program began to deteriorate. First it was a suggestion, then a few weeks later it was two, then it was a meeting less and so on and so on. It was a slow and subtle deterioration (heard that somewhere too!). So subtle it was, that I was blind to it, or denied it…. one of the two. My long winded point is in MY experience, I am either progressing or deteriorating, there is no remaining still. I’m not sure if it is even possible to dynamically work a program that is so accurate to the finest detail that I remain in balance? Maybe it is, but I don’t believe I have experienced it yet.

So I ask myself on a regular basis is the program I am working progressing or deteriorating? For me, it’s one or the other.

Another, question I regularly ask myself, and a more important one is, why wouldn’t I want to progress further?

My answer to these questions today is, yes I believe I am progressing and yes I desire to progress further. Why wouldn’t I. Obviously. I desire to progress over running the risk of an insidious and baffling deterioration that winds down to a point where I leave the program completely. I’ve experienced this before and witnessed it too many times.

A Daily Gratitude

Today I am grateful for the power which graced me with this day’s abstinence from compulsive gambling. My bitter experiences have proved beyond all doubt, that I am completely powerless over gambling and always will be. Therefore, I know with absolute certainty, that this power has not come from me. I am equally aware that no other human power, without exception, has ever relieved me of compulsive gambling. I choose to believe, through my own spiritual experience and that of thousands of others who share a common solution, that this power has come from a power greater than myself. Obviously. I choose to refer to this power, whatever it may be, as a God of my own understanding. I am also grateful for the guidance, motivation and inspiration that has led to another day of action on my part. Action that maintains and progresses this spiritual health.

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. 🙏