Wow, I love this! Something I can really relate to. Whenever I cast my mind back to where I was spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally and financially three years ago, I am shocked as to how far I have come. With such a dramatic turnaround it would be easy for me to rest on my laurels, enjoy the comfort zone and seize to take action. But something (mainly my sponsor) has kept me going, kept me working, kept me progressing and I will be eternally grateful.
I am not perfect and I never will be. This is not negative thinking, its quite the contrary. If perfection is unreachable then that means there is no ceiling to my recovery! I can keep progressing, I can keep going! Where I was three years ago is not where I am today and where I am today will not be where I’ll be in three years time.
I can also relate to this quote from a completely different perspective. There have been many moments where I have had to endure difficult times – some brief and some extended. Upon reflection I can say through experience that I kept going. I didn’t dwell and reside in that difficult moment, I took action sometimes quickly sometimes slowly, but in time things have always passed.
I’d like to hear how you relate to this quote? 🙂
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.
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 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 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!
Gratitude List 22/06/2019
Right now, I am exhausted and as a result I am super irritable. Time for some simple gratitude.
Today I am grateful I am not gambling.
Today I am grateful I have nothing to worry about.
Today I am grateful I am not in a rush.
Today I am grateful for the clothes on my back.
Today I am grateful for the food in the fridge.
Today I am grateful for my health.
Today I am grateful for the opportunities I have.
Today I am grateful for the beautiful weather this morning.
Today I am grateful I have plenty to be grateful for.
Today I am grateful I have some answers.
Today I am grateful I am alive, I have my freedom and I have my sanity.
Today I am grateful for each breath.
And hey presto! I feel much better! These gratitude lists, as well as other recovery tools I have gathered along the way, have the ability to change the direction of my day. All I need to do is surrender to God’s will when He plants a thought of action in my head, instead of of surrendering to my own self-will telling me not to bother.