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.

‘Who are you to say there is no God?’

‘Who are you to say there is no God?’ pg 56 AA’s Big Book

Am I the only one who reads this and thinks of Miracle on 34th Street?

In all seriousness, the ‘We Agnostics’ chapter and in particular this line, provided the foundation to my belief in a greater power than myself. As well as bringing Richard Attenborough’s festive smile to mind, it gave me humility. How egocentric was I for this to have such a profound impact on me? Did I really think I knew everything? I am not the almighty. I am not celestial. I am not all powerful.

And it’s this humility which is the over riding thought when I get on my knees and pray. I have no idea who or what I pray to but I do know its not me. There is plenty of things more powerful and that is enough for me.

Where am I?

Where am I?

Exactly? Well I’m on the tube having just been to another 12 Step meeting. That’s 52 meetings in as many days. I’m 6021 days without a bet of any kind and 6 and a half days free from overeating. I am comfortably into my fourth decade on Earth and I am happier than I can remember. I used to dread the future to a point that I never planned for it, now I have a sincere hope. I’ve gone from managing my own life as well as managing the lives of those around me to handing my life over to a greater power I choose to call God. I am understanding how powerless I am over people, places and things. I am realising, sometime too slowly, the importance of self honesty. I am mending relationships instead of breaking them. I now meditate and have become one of those spiritual beings I used to laugh at. Through Unity, Service and Recovery I am progressing instead of regressing. The fear I sometimes wake up to is quickly recognised for what it truly is – not real. To life’s challenges I have found some answers. I lean towards consideratation, tolerance and patience. I practice love, forgiveness and gratitude. My pathological dishonesty is leaving me. I accept I am not perfect and never will be. I have found humility and I try to remain teachable. I am able to use my past for reflection and learn from it, instead of surpressing it under lock and key. I have found my purpose in life – to carry this message to others.

Chalk and Cheese

This is very relevant to my life at the moment so I thought I’d share my experience of Step 2 – “Came to believe in a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

“Came to believe…” This is exactly what happened to me. Through the humbling of Step 1 and reading the first few chapters of the Big Book, I came to believe. There was no existing belief beforehand, in fact, I almost resented the idea on the basis it was ridiculous, a sign of weakness and lack of self-will. It was comforting to know I didn’t need the belief before I embarked on the 12 Step Program.

“… in a power greater than ourselves…” The admission of my powerlessness over my illness and the the fact I had done an awful job at managing my life, gave me the necessary humility to accept and come to believe there are many things more powerful than I. For me it was that simple. The fact I am not the most powerful thing means there is an abundance of things that are. When I get on my knees and pray, this is what’s going through my mind. Simple humility.

“….could restore us to sanity.” Wait a minute! Not only do I have to believe in a power greater than myself, but I have to believe this power can influence me enough to restore sanity?? Despite my initial reservations, my experience has proved this can be quite simple. To start with, one of the main reasons I started this journey of recovery is because I wanted the apparent serenity I could see in others. If the programme, which includes a belief in a greater power, can work for them, why can’t it work for me too? Who am I to say it won’t? That was enough for me to get started. Since then, my belief has progressed and evolved into faith. How? Simply through experience. On a daily basis, when I feel connected to my greater power, I am a different person. I am calmer, I talk lower, I am at peace, I am a good listener, I appreciate the small things. When I am running on self will I am in a rush, I obsess over food, I am resentful, I am fearful, I am angry, I am selfish. Like chalk and cheese. Like black and white. It is as clear as night and day if I am running on self will or a greater power’s will. So, do I believe a power greater than myself can restore me to sanity? Most definitely.

Chalk and Cheese

This is very relevant to my life at the moment so I thought I’d share my experience of Step 2 – “Came to believe in a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

“Came to believe…” This is exactly what happened to me. Through the humbling of Step 1 and reading the first few chapters of the Big Book, I came to believe. There was no existing belief beforehand, in fact, I almost resented the idea on the basis it was ridiculous, a sign of weakness and lack of self-will. It was comforting to know I didn’t need the belief before I embarked on the 12 Step Program.

“… in a power greater than ourselves…” The admission of my powerlessness over my illness and the the fact I had done an awful job at managing my life, gave me the necessary humility to accept and come to believe there are many things more powerful than I. For me it was that simple. The fact I am not the most powerful thing means there is an abundance of things that are. When I get on my knees and pray, this is what’s going through my mind. Simple humility.

“….could restore us to sanity.” Wait a minute! Not only do I have to believe in a power greater than myself, but I have to believe this power can influence me enough to restore sanity?? Despite my initial reservations, my experience has proved this can be quite simple. To start with, one of the main reasons I started this journey of recovery is because I wanted the apparent serenity I could see in others. If the programme, which includes a belief in a greater power, can work for them, why can’t it work for me too? Who am I to say it won’t? That was enough for me to get started. Since then, my belief has progressed and evolved into faith. How? Simply through experience. On a daily basis, when I feel connected to my greater power, I am a different person. I am calmer, I talk lower, I am at peace, I am a good listener, I appreciate the small things. When I am running on self will I am in a rush, I obsess over food, I am resentful, I am fearful, I am angry, I am selfish. Like chalk and cheese. Like black and white. It is as clear as night and day if I am running on self will or a greater power’s will. So, do I believe a power greater than myself can restore me to sanity? Most definitely.

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.