Back when I thought abstinence was the key to all my troubles, this ‘cyclone’ analogy fitted me perfectly. I genuinely believed once I was clean from gambling everything would be fine. I was definitely unthinking in terms of the extent of destruction I had left behind. Thankfully, I am no longer that farmer. I now work a program involving service, unity and recovery. This action is progressively clearing the debris, repairing the damage, mending broken hearts, strengthening relationships and replanting seeds of affection which now fill my home with love and kindness.
They are daily for a reason.
What if I don’t drink any water today? Does my body hydrate itself?
What happens if I don’t brush my teeth in the morning? Do they clean themselves?
What if I don’t wash my hands with soap? Does the bacteria just jump off?
These are but a few “suggestions” that better my physical health. If I don’t do them, it will be to my own physical detriment in some way or another. And the longer I neglect them, the more they disintegrate. They are all suggestions in a sense that nobody forces me to do them, yet I do them day after day. They have become non-negotiable habits.
But what of my spiritual health? The very thing that brings me serenity, humility, courage, acceptance, sanity, happiness, gratitude, honesty, faith, forgiveness and love. Why would I neglect my spiritual growth? Well I did for decades. I was stuck in ‘self’ and quite simply my life as a result wasn’t pretty reading. Not surprisingly, instead of living alongside the strengths above, I constantly lived in the spiritual malady with defects like resentment, fear, selfishness and dishonesty.
A quote on the word ‘spiritual’ from page 28 in the Orange Book reads ‘Simply stated, the word can be said to describe that characteristic of the human mind which is marked by the highest and finest qualities such as generosity, honesty, tolerance and humility.’
In my humble opinion, and bear in mind I know very little, this is what I get in return for embracing, taking advantage of and practicing each suggestion.
Prayer – humility, gratitude, thankfulness, selflessness, faith
Meditation – calmness, open-mindedness, serenity, mindfulness, high mindedness, spirituality
Gratitude List – gratitude, appreciation, serenity, happiness, contentment
Reading – wisdom, knowledge, open-mindedness, inspiration, motivation
Calling my Sponsor – honesty, willingness, commitment, humility, open-mindedness
Calling Two Members – selflessness, generosity, unity, service, love, compassion, kindness
Inventory – honesty, self-honesty, humility, self-evaluation, looking for the good
The Daily Suggestions, as they are fondly known, aren’t just thrown together without any thought. They are proven. They have worked for thousands of others. They each have the ability to take me out of self and better my spiritual health. For obvious reasons, I wouldn’t want to go a day without sleeping, why would I want to skip on suggestions that give so much back?
Spiritual health is not something I can reach, collect the certificate, and then put down again. Like going to the gym, I can’t get spiritually fit, stop working it and expect to stay that way. I need to look after and nurture it. They say ‘faith without works is dead’, well so is my spiritual health. My illness does not stop. To quote a fellow, ‘my illness is always there in the background doing press-ups’ waiting for me to take my foot off the gas.
Hence these suggestions are daily.
Disclaimer – other than the quote from the Orange Book the views above are expressed by me, an addict who cannot manage his own life, they are not the view of any fellowship as a whole, so take it as you please with a big pinch of salt 😉
Terms and conditions – the daily suggestions work best when part of a bigger program including the 12 steps, 2 home meetings with service and sponsorship 😉
How It’s Working
Today I am grateful I can completely give myself to this simple program
Today I am grateful I am constitutionally capable of being honest with myself
Today I am grateful I am naturally capable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty
Today I am grateful I decided I want what you have and am willing to go to any length to get it
Today I am grateful I am not trying to find an easier, softer way
Today I am grateful I was fearless and thorough from the very start
Today I am grateful I did not try to hold on to my old ideas
Today I am grateful I found Him
Today I am grateful I experienced half measures availed me nothing
Today I am grateful I stood at the turning point. I asked His protection and care with complete abandon
Today is a good day
50 days ago another coin dropped. There was no planning. No bolt of lightning moment. The only way I can describe it is: the time was right. I had been through what I needed to and went with the flow when the opportunity presented itself.
As a result I am 50 day’s free from chocolate, biscuits, cakes, pastries, fried chicken, Greggs, McDonalds and those salty ribs I get from the local chip shop. All of which can trigger me into compulsive eating and has done so for the last three decades.
Make no mistake – this a miracle!!
What’s more is, for the first time in my life I don’t want to relapse. A strange thing for someone to say when that someone has struggled with food for as long as he can remember, someone who has been on countless diets and whose weight has continued to go up and down like a yoyo. For a few years now, I have been aware of the insanity around my thinking but I continued to test the water, to put the feelers out and try again. Oh, the great obsession to be a normal eater.
But I have finally accepted my powerlessness over certain foods. Through bitter experience I know where that first bite will take me. It maybe instant, it may take a few days or a few weeks, but what’s certain is I will reach the point of no return. I will cross that invisible line into compulsive eating and the self-pity, self-delusion, self-loathing and dishonesty that comes with it.
So how did I get to this rather serene place? First of all my sponsor suggested I did 90 meetings in 90 days. Thankfully, I quickly committed before my ego got the better of me. And of course, the more meetings I went to, the more shares of experience, strength and hope I heard, the more service I got to do, the more literature I read, the more serenity prayers I said and the more fellows I got to know.
Unlike my other fellowship, I had to grow into this one. The magic wasn’t instant. I had to do the basics and ‘keep coming back’.
I am so grateful for this abstinence. If I take notice, miracles are happening to me on a daily basis – I can turn down a donut when they’re brought into the office, I am not weighing myself numerous times a day, I can leave food on my plate if I feel full, I can attend a buffet and not sample everything, and Christmas is not an inevitable binge.
Today I feel so much better about my relationship with food. I can enjoy what I eat without fear and that’s a blessing.
It’s like a game of ‘whack-a-mole’! What’s next? Bring it on!
As I continue to work on my recovery I continue to see life with new eyes. Here are a few images which give just a glimmer of the serenity and joy I experienced…..
Up A Downward Escalator
I can liken my recovery to walking up a downward escalator. At the beginning, standing afoot, even the look of what lied ahead was a daunting prospect. Most daunting of all was I couldn’t even see the top, it went on forever. But there were others climbing ahead of me. They had smiles on their faces and a sparkle of hope in their eyes. From my comfort zone, I stood and watched them working, week after week, month after month. Until one day, an experienced hand reached back towards my own. Accepting this selfless offer of help would prove to be vital. I have no idea where the courage came from but I took that leap of faith and made that first step.
In the early days I bounded up those steps like a mountain goat. The suggestions, meetings and initial bookwork ushered me upwards with relative ease leaving the idea of relapse beneath me. With this came the progression of blessings including gratitude, happiness and serenity.
At times though, I stood still, complacent, whilst I procrastinated or took the weekend off. I quickly learnt there is a problem with standing still on a downward escalator. I don’t stay still. I regress. I need no more proof that a lack of action is directly linked to the increase of dishonest, selfish, resentful and fearful behaviours. To make things worse, the downward motion seemed to pick up speed the longer I did nothing. Carry on and soon enough my rock bottom would be above me as I dig deeper and discover new depths.
So I had a choice. I could put in the necessary diligent effort by practicing to the best of my ability – Unity, Recovery and Service, and continue to progress. Or I could do half measures, tread water and flirt just above that invisible, insidious line of relapse.
I also had to consider life’s challenges. The setbacks. They are coming, I am not immune. When they do I will get knocked down. How far I fall will depend on how strong my defence is. When I fall, how far above that relapse line do I want to be? As far as possible thank you very much.
So I chose to work hard and keep going. And as I climbed higher and higher, not only did I create more distance between myself and that next bet, everything around me was improving. Humility was deflating my ego, my relationships were fixing, gratitude was overcoming expectation, I was thinking of others instead of just myself, and faith was replacing fear. Things simply kept getting better and better. I was learning to love life. I was learning to love myself.
Not seeing a top to this lifelong escalator was once a daunting prospect, the same thought now fills me with genuine hope. If there is no top, no end, if perfection is not attainable, that surely means there is no limit to my progression. As long as I continue to work at it. Bearing in mind how much I have progressed in what is a small fraction of my life thus far, that thought is an exciting one.
Now my hand is reaching back.