Up A Downward Escalator

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.

My Gift. My purpose.

This just about sums it up for me. Shame I only found it three and a bit years ago! Although, to be fair, I truly believe it was precisely the right time. I had to go through exactly what I had to go through. Any other time and things just wouldn’t be the same.

Daily recovery from self was my gift. Carrying the same message to others is my purpose. My gift and my purpose go hand in hand. One cannot live without the other.

My Ego Vs My Spiritual Self: The Forty Two Year Wars

My Ego Vs My Spiritual Self: The Forty Two Year Wars

For decades my ego enjoyed landslide victories in this war. So cunning were it’s triumphs I didn’t even know it sat upon the throne in complete control. Like a ghost puppet it pulled my strings into the darkest of places and mis-shaped my life.

Three years ago, at Rock Bottom, my desperate spiritual self produced a challenge that hurt my ego. Until this day any attempt had been nonchalantly brushed off with ease. This small cut, produced not by force but by a leap of faith, was a glimmer of hope and changed history.

Since that fateful day my spiritual self has not rested. With daily diligent effort, it’s army led by gallant knights such as Sir Love and Sir Humility has continued to grow with new soldiers enrolling every day. Coinciding with this progress, my ego has deflated into a regressing gang of pirates succeeding only in little ambushes. Insidious jabs which remind my spiritual self not to get too comfortable.

Unity

Tradition 1 – Our common welfare should come first, personal recovery depends upon Unity.

Now read it again. And again.

Sounds like Unity is vital, but what does unity actually mean. Here are some quotes and definitions that have helped me understand the meaning of unity.

“The state of being united or joined as a whole.” – Oxford dictionary

“It’s the opposite of being divided.” – vocabulary.com

“We must hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” – Benjamin Franklin

“That no personal sacrifice is too great for preservation of the fellowship. He learns that the clamour of desires and ambitions within him must be silenced whenever these could damage the group. It becomes plain that the group must survive or the individual will not.” – Twelve and Twelve

Do I really want to stop?

Do I really want to stop?

When I first walked into the rooms I was met with just one requirement – a desire to refrain. Did I have that desire? Of course I did. I had the gift of desperation. My path of destruction had caused a huge amount of pain to both myself and others. Why wouldn’t I want to give up the cause of it? This was my conscious thinking at the time.

In hindsight I have come to realise that not only had I given up the negative side of my addiction, but the level of desperation meant I had also given up the ‘apparent’ positives. There were positives of course. I wouldn’t have done what I did had it not been for the dopamine hits I was getting in return. This realisation took my surrender to a new level. I clearly wanted to stop 100%.

Which brings me back, do I really want to stop? Do I really want to stop over-eating? Do I really want to stop being dishonest? Do I really want to stop being a people pleaser? Sure I want to stop feeling crap after binge eating on pastries, but do I want to stop the brief pleasures I get from eating that sugary pain-Au-chocolate? Sure I want to stop lying to the people I love the most, but do I want to stop taking what seems to be the easy way out? Sure I want to stop living in fear of letting someone down, but do I want to stop being everyone’s best friend?

To have a desire to refrain, to really want to stop, my recovery from my primary addiction has taught me that I need to surrender 100%, the bad… and the good.

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.

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.