People, places and things

The following is based on my experience….

A person very close to me has been showing symptoms of compulsive behaviour. Symptoms that are recognisable to an addict like myself. This compulsion has been progressing over the last couple of years and despite my good intentions the effect I have had over it is minimal at best. Over the last week I have spent a lot of time with this person and subsequently seen first hand how far his compulsion has developed.

For the first four days or so, I had decided (emphasis on the ‘I’) not to act and instead seek guidance from those with experience at the end of the week. As a result, I allowed his compulsive behaviour to continue on the basis that I had no idea how to deal with it so why bother trying. At the time I genuinely believed this to be the right course of action. And maybe it was, maybe I had to do something wrong (or paradoxically right) to learn from it and progress.

I continued to pray and meditate around this subject and by the fifth day, an answer began to dawn on me. I became aware that I had been feeling an almost constant resentment in the form of frustration and disappointment towards this person. I could also sense two others were holding similar resentments towards him and further resentments towards me for not doing anything about it. I then resented them for resenting me! Last but not least, the person himself could feel the negativity that surrounded him, so probably resented the three of us in return!!

So, in this particular situation (because every situation is different) by doing nothing, I had allowed the situation to fester. Four people were now suffering with resentment – a crippling defect of character. The four of us ended up, in a way, against each other. And why? Because I feared for this person’s welfare. I feared failure. I feared powerlessness. I feared making this person unhappy. I feared being disliked. I feared I would ruin the time we were spending together. I feared a negative effect on the impossible perfection.

This sudden, somewhat obvious, realisation slapped me round the face (not the first time recovery has provided this kind of wake up call). I realised that ‘I’ had made the decision to do nothing. This decision was born out of fear and not out of the powerlessness over people, places and things which is what I originally thought. And ever since I did, I had unintentionally made the whole experience about me. I hadn’t been thinking of this person – the one who is actually struggling, or anyone else involved at all. Just me and my fears.

Along with this realisation was a guidance towards action. I still need to explore the available help and support from someone with experience, but I also needed to act now – in the form of being honest with this person. Being truthful can sometimes be tough for the person on the receiving end, but some situations warrant hard truths. I needed to pray for my fears to be removed. I needed to pray for the courage to change the things I can – by being honest. I needed to pray for the acceptance that I might not be this person’s ‘favourite person’ for a while.

So, on that fifth day, the honesty card was played and I can confirm I wasn’t this person’s ‘favourite person’. But only for an hour or so.

This resulted in vast improvement. Firstly whilst being honest I felt (for the first time) that I was actually thinking of this person and the others involved too. Secondly, the person took the hard truths on board and showed a degree of willingness and desire to progress. Thirdly, everyone seemed happier.

I must add that this particular action is by no means set in black and white. It is of my opinion that each situation is wholly different no matter the similarities. Action or no action, acceptance or courage, form the greyest of grey areas. Especially when it comes to people, places and things. It is why I continuously pray for ‘the wisdom to know the difference’. That said, being honest is very rarely the wrong thing to do. One exception I can think of is being honest to save my own skin.

Windows of Opportunities

Windows of Opportunities

My experience in the fellowship has been one full of opportunities. I have taken many but missed many too. Nearly every time, the window of opportunity opens up before me without warning and if I don’t take the leap of faith and grab it with both hands, before I know it, the window will close and the opportunity will be gone. Through trial and error, I have learnt the importance of taking these opportunities as soon as they present themselves.

This is best summed up in my experience of getting a sponsor. A taken opportunity that has turned my life around.

I came back to the meetings in September 2016 after relapsing from several years of abstinence. At that point, I was a mess, I had found another rock bottom, I had caused a huge amount of harm to the ones I love and I would’ve done anything to stop. I had ‘the gift of desperation’. Had I been directly offered sponsorship on that first meeting back I may have taken it. (It should be noted, unlike today, the chances of being offered sponsorship on your first meeting was slim at best) For me, I can say with a degree of certainty that first window closed on me with the serenity prayer that very same evening. Why? Because the magic of that meeting worked, the obsession to gamble lifted, I felt better, I felt strong, I felt recovered, I was cured. I didn’t need the steps and sponsorship. Life was great again. Window closed. Clearly the obsession that I am not an addict got the better of me once again.

For others, that gift of desperation may have lasted for another week or two. Everyone is different, but it is my belief that sooner or later the window will close. I had to wait another 6 months before this particular window reopened. Thankfully I kept ‘coming back’ to meetings. Eventually, the consistent message of recovery coincided with another gift of desperation in the form of a sudden realisation that I, despite my past and present abstinence, had not changed a single bit. I was still the same fearful, resentful, lustful, dishonest person. I didn’t like who I was, gambling or not, and I was desperate for change. The window was ajar for the second time.

That evening, I never had the courage to ask for a sponsor but I gave the most honest and desperate share of my life. At the end of the meeting, and before the window shut in my face again, God placed before me my sponsor, who promptly proceeded to give me a clear idea of what being a sponsee entailed. I’m genuinely not sure what came over me, but despite my many reservations, I took that leap of faith, something I had never done before, and took the opportunity that presented itself. Had I not, I have no idea how long that window of opportunity would have stayed open. Knowing me, not long.

This is just one of many examples. Some windows come along every few months or so, some on a weekly basis and some every single day. Whether it be an opportunity to attend an extra meeting, or reach out to a struggling member, or make amends to someone I’ve harmed, or tell someone I love them, I try to take the opportunity before it disappears for some reason or another – because it will.

When God speaks to me, however I hear his words, I need to act before the idea of not doing so becomes an overpowering comfortable one.

Windows of Opportunities….. I assume they call it Windows because they open……. And close.

Update….

Further to yesterday “Can we have a chat later?”

So yesterday’s chat came and went. The content of the conversation was what I expected. I can say with a degree of certainty, based on personal experience, that had that conversation happened maybe a year ago, maybe even less, the way I reacted to it and the way the conversation flowed would have been completely different. I am not going to go into the nitty-gritty of what was spoken but it’s safe to say my old self would have hated the situation. Defects of character would have burst out of me like fireworks – arrogance, Intolerance, impatience, anger, self pity, judgement. These are just a few. Yesterday I spoke of how different my thoughts and feelings were in the build up to this conversation. I felt incredibly connected yesterday and it’s this connection that enabled me to think like that. Because the preceding hours weren’t filled with fear and self I was able to prepare spiritually and put into practice all of what the 12 steps have taught me. Subsequently none of those defects of character came out. Instead I sat, I listened, I really listened, I considered, I understood and I learnt a great deal. No harm was felt and none was caused. Feeling very blessed.

Gratitude for Gratitude

As I’ve previously mentioned, I have decided to not post my daily gratitude list anymore. In doing so, I have to admit, that my gratitude lists have become more authentic.

It’s not that I ever listed something I was not grateful for, but what I wrote was influenced by the simple knowledge that I was posting it for others to read. What I realised, is that I began to write lists to be of service to others and carry a message of recovery. I also took into consideration how someone might react to certain things and would therefore be careful about what I wrote and how I wrote it.

Neither ‘being of service’ or ‘consideration for others’ are bad, in fact they are two things I thrive for on a daily basis. But despite my good intentions, they did have an effect on what I wrote and therefore my gratitude wasn’t always entirely authentic. I can continue to be of service to others and continue to use consideration, but in other ways.

I have also come to realise that ‘people pleasing’ had a huge part to play in this. If I didn’t suffer from people pleasing then my gratitude lists would have stayed true. They wouldn’t have been swayed in the way they were. Again, wanting to please people is not a bad thing, unless by doing so it effects my own recovery, and through tainting my gratitude lists, it had.

Today I am grateful that my gratitude contains gratitude and nothing else.

Gratitude for gratitude.

Gratitude List 29/06/2019

Gratitude List 29/06/2019

Today I am grateful for the English weather. Sometimes cold, sometimes hot, sometimes wet, sometimes dry and highly possible to experience all four seasons in one day. But it’s rarely severe to the point lives are lost.

Today I am grateful to be up with the birds and on my way to better myself with some recovery work. An early morning spiritual gym workout!

Today I am grateful my willingness to put in diligent effort is as strong as it was when I started my spiritual journey two and a bit years ago.

Today I am grateful to be able to close my eyes wherever I am (currently on a bus) and improve my conscious contact with God through prayer and meditation.

Today I am grateful for how much God has been speaking to me (through God’s conscience – gut instinct) and for how much I have been listening to him.

Today I am grateful for recently witnessing how recovery has helped people come through some very difficult times. It’s absolutely miraculous.

Today I am grateful for who I am. For my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. My outlook upon my self has completely changed.

Today I am grateful that despite with being happy with who I am, I will not stop working. For two reasons, one I can still progress further – I am no saint, and two if I stop I will surely degress.

Today I am grateful that one thought of recovery and all of a sudden my gratitude list goes off on another spiritual tangen. I started with the weather! Can’t help it! I have so much gratitude for it.

Today I am grateful for all the poeple in my life who have helped shape me into the person I am today. Good or bad experiences, I have learnt from you all.

Gratitude List 28/06/2019

Gratitude List 28/06/2019

Addiction demanded so much of me. It demanded my time, my money, my thoughts, my sanity, my happiness. It demanded dishonesty, selfishness, fear and resentment. It demanded me to break relationships, lose trust and isolate. It demands I get nothing in return. Nothing.

Recovery made no such demands of me, in fact it made suggestions.

Today I am grateful recovery suggests I attend meetings regularly.

Today I am grateful recovery suggests I share how I am feeling.

Today I am grateful recovery suggests I do service at the meetings.

Today I am grateful recovery suggests I work through the 12 steps.

Today I am grateful recovery suggests I do so with a sponsor.

Today I am grateful recovery suggests I carry the message to another.

Today I am grateful recovery suggests I am honest, open-minded and willing.

Today I am grateful recovery suggests I believe in a power greater than myself.

Today I am grateful recovery suggests I am loving, caring and forgiving.

Today I am grateful recovery suggests I complete a simple set of suggestions.

In comparison, these suggestions are far less taxing than the demands gambling made. Truthfully, they’re not taxing at all. They aren’t chores. They are blessed opportunities. Unlike addiction, I get an abundance in return – I get serenity, happiness, hope, humility, trust, maturity, faith, self-esteem, emotional security, purpose, tolerance, love, etc etc etc.

If only these suggestions were demands 😉

👍🏻💪🏻❤😊🙏🏻

Gratitude List 27/06/2019

Gratitude List 27/06/2019

Today I am grateful I took my car in for it’s MOT before it expired!! Woop woop! Responsible me! Haha!

Today I am grateful that not a lot of work needed to be done. I don’t know how. I should really make amends to my car, I’ve caused a lot of harm through neglect over the years.

Today I am grateful I agreed to get the brake pads replaced even if it would have passed the MOT anyway. No way I would’ve done this in the past, I would’ve run the risk!

Today I am grateful for the school run this morning with my daughter. Always has been one of my favourite parts of my day. Saying goodbye always tugs at the heart strings.

Today I am grateful my son is comfortable in our new home. He was more than happy to stay in bed, have a lie in and then make his way home a bit later.

Today I am grateful for the lovely evening we had last night. After dinner we went outside in the garden and just talked. No TV, no phones, just interaction.

Today I am grateful to reach day 4 in my food related abstinence. The obsession is not there at the moment and when it is, I am able to surrender to God’s will.

Today I am grateful for the day ahead of me. If all goes to plan, I’ll finish work mid afternoon and follow it up with several hours of service, recovery and unity.

Today I am grateful for this opportunity. For this void in my day to do this suggestion. I’m grateful I haven’t filled it with something not so positive.

Today I am grateful for the smile on my face, the serenity in my mind and the bounce in my step. It really does work if I work it.

Gratitude List 26/06/2019: No longer

Gratitude List 26/06/2019

Yesterday, I had to make a card payment over the internet. To complete it, I had to take my card out of my wallet to find out the card number etc.

Today I am grateful I no longer know all the details of my bank cards off by heart. This wasn’t autistic behaviour, it was a result of continuous online deposits.

Today I am grateful I no longer have to write frantically whilst looking at a TV screen instead of what I’m writing on.

Today I am grateful I no longer have to go outside to answer my phone. “Sorry darling, I’m stuck in traffic.”

Today I am grateful I no longer have to jump behind some furniture when certain people walk past. Staff must’ve thought I was mad.

Today I am grateful I no longer have to cough whilst in bed to hide any sounds the online roulette machine makes.

Today I am grateful I no longer have to hide under the duvet and dim the phone light.

Today I am grateful I no longer know what number it will be just by where the ball comes out. And let everyone know about it too!

Today I am grateful I no longer have to transfer pence from on account to another to make up a withdrawable amount.

Today I am grateful I no longer have to queue up in a bank with my drivers licence because I had found the strength to leave my bank cards at home.

Today I am grateful I no longer have to use the work printer to scan my identity because my online accounts had been blocked due to suspected fraudulent activity. It was just me and my insanity!

Gratitude List 25/06/2019

Gratitude List 25/06/2019

Today I am grateful to hear the sound of the rain hitting the window. It’s very tranquil.

Today I am grateful to be surrounded by life. So much of what is around me is alive like I am.

Today I am grateful I feel a part of the life around me. I can connect to it and tap in to its power.

Today I am grateful for how my outlook upon has changed, is continuing to change.

Today I am grateful I can learn from my past, make the most of the present and have hope for the future.

Today I am grateful that my conscious contact with God as I understand Him is improving. Something magical is happening.

Today I am grateful I am surrendering to His will. This thought process has made it easier to do the right thing.

Today I am grateful for the plans I have made for today. Thinking of others is my motto.

Today I am grateful my daughter has been given her first phone – she’s better at answering it than my son, that’s for sure.

Today I am grateful for how at peace I feel.

The rain can add to the beauty.

An audio clip of the sounds I can here right now.

Gratitude List 24/06/2019: Time

Gratitude List 24/06/2019

When in action, I always find time to feed my compulsions. My responsibilities are thrown out the window and with them goes my chances of living a happy, joyous and free life.

Why is it then, when in recovery, time seems to dissappear? Of course, as an addict in recovery I am more responsible. No longer am I dishonestly creating time to act out. I often told work “I need to pop to the bank” or text my girlfriend “Sorry, I have to do overtime”. Nowadays, when I should be at work, I’m at work. As such, some of the windows of time I used to have are now shut with this new found maturity.

I was once deviously clever with creating time. Now, I can still be clever, but in a sincere way. I have to, my life and happiness depend on it.

Today I am grateful I can create time by going to sleep later.

Today I am grateful I can create time by setting my alarm earlier.

Today I am grateful I can read and write whilst commuting to work.

Today I am grateful I can call if I’m driving (using hands free of course).

Today I am grateful to have an opportunity during my lunch break.

Today I am grateful I can read and write whilst commuting back home.

Life is life and it may not be possible to do all of the above but I have learnt to make use of the opportunities when they arise. If I procrastinate and leave it till the next opportunity, it may never materialise.

Today I am grateful I can choose to fill the voids in my evenings with recovery.

It doesn’t mean I can never watch TV, it doesn’t mean I can never go to the gym, it doesn’t mean I don’t get to spend quality time with my loved ones. But as my life and everything in it depends on whether I am clean and abstinent, I must choose to sacrifice things on a daily basis. It may mean I need to delay watching TV, it may mean I have to ask the kids to play in their room for a bit. If I’m clever and wise and make the most of my opportunities, I will still have plenty of time each day to enjoy life.

If I find myself struggling to fill these voids with something productive:

Today I am grateful I can recognise and admit when I am suffering with laziness or procrastination.

Today I am grateful I can hand over my will to my greater power and ask for His strength and guidance.

Today I am grateful I can surrender to His guidance when that ‘gut feeling’ tells me I should be doing something else.

Lastly, I mustn’t forget that doing recovery work is good for me!! It’s not a chore!