Less vulnerable

Gratitude List 22/01/2019

When I look back at the person I once was, it’s not surprising I did some of the things I did. I was riddled with defects – dishonesty, resentment, fear, intolerance, discontentment, courseness, irritability, lustfulness, laziness, arrogance, impatience, selfishness, self-centeredness etc etc etc the list goes on and on. Of course I had strengths of character too, but they were overwhelmed by the defects that were being empowered by my ego and controlled by my self-will. As a result I was very vulnerable to a number of negative reactions.

Through working the recovery program I have learnt how to lessen my defects and strengthen my strengths. Through practicing the principles in my daily life, having faith in a greater power and completing some simple suggestions I gain spirituality. I am improving as a person and that spirituality surrounds me like an invisible forcefield. This, along with the strengths of character that now play a more significant role in my life, I am less vulnerable to my negative reactions that more often than not, used to harm me and others.

Today I am grateful I am less vulnerable to relapsing.

Today I am grateful I am less vulnerable to unnecessarily snapping at my kids.

Today I am grateful I am less vulnerable to telling a lie.

Today I am grateful I am less vulnerable to people pleasing.

Today I am grateful I am less vulnerable to fear and resentment.

Today I am grateful I am less vulnerable to being arrested for a dishonest act.

Today I am grateful I am less vulnerable to acting out on my lustful thoughts.

Today I am grateful I am less vulnerable to living on the streets.

Today I am grateful I am less vulnerable to going insane.

Today I am grateful I am less vulnerable to self harm or suicide.

The last couple of years in recovery have proven I cannot take my foot off the pedal in terms of my recovery. If I do I simply become vulnerable to all of the above and I do not want any of them anymore!

Morals

Gratitude List 21/01/2019

Morals – ‘standards of behaviour; principles of right and wrong.’

I once lived very few morals. Its not like I purposely went about life without them, it was more a case of having very little awareness. Going through the ‘Who Am I?’ book educated me. It taught me about the strengths and defects of character I possess and the morals behind them.

I am not a Saint nor will I ever be, but when I practice good morals, it makes me feel good, and when I act with bad morals it makes me feel bad. It’s as simple as that. So knowing what I should be doing and what I shouldn’t hugely benefits my recovery.

Today I am grateful I am aware it’s morally right to love. Thanks to this awareness I strive to express love as much as possible and forgive as soon as I can.

Today I am grateful I am aware it’s morally wrong to gossip and talk behind someone’s back. Thanks to this awareness I strive to not partake.

Today I am grateful I am aware it’s morally right to see the good in people. Thanks to this awareness I will remind myself when I’m only seeing the bad.

Today I am grateful I am aware it’s morally wrong to act like a complete hooligan when watching football. Thanks to this awareness I strive to just enjoy the beautiful game.

Today I am grateful I am aware it’s morally right to be tolerant. Thanks to this awareness I strive to take a deep breath, remain calm and let it go.

Today I am grateful I am aware it’s morally wrong to watch pornography and look at women in a lustful way in the street. Thanks to this awareness I strive to treat women with more respect.

Today I am grateful I am aware it’s morally right to be honest. Thanks to this awareness I strive to tell the truth, be sincere and omit nothing.

Today I am grateful I am aware it’s morally wrong to blame and judge people. Thanks to this awareness I strive to remain humble and accept people for who they are.

Today I am grateful I am aware it’s morally right to show gratitude towards the things I have. Thanks to this awareness I strive to expect nothing.

My reactions

Gratitude List 20/01/2019

How I react to life determines the effect it has on me. At this very moment, things are occurring and I am reacting. My reactions are determining my current emotions.

Today I am grateful I react to things that could scare me by facing those fears, writing and sharing about them, action and prayer.

Today I am grateful I react to things that lead to projection and thinking the worse by practicing mindfulness and gratitude.

Today I am grateful I react to things that worry me by accepting the things I cannot change.

Today I am grateful I react to things that cause resentment by looking at the harm its caused me, where I was to blame and some action.

Today I am grateful I react to things that cause me pain by remaining humble and using my courage to seek help and guidance.

Today I am grateful I react to things that stress me out by taking a deep breath, staying calm and reminding myself of the serenity prayer.

Today I am grateful I react to things I want to procrastinate by just doing them and remembering how good it feels when I do and how bad it feels when I don’t.

Today I am grateful I react to things that tempt me by connecting with a power that is greater than me and doing something I know will strengthen that connection.

Today I am grateful I react to things that could lead to self pity by looking around at what I have and where I have come from.

With hindsight

Gratitude List 19/01/2019

It occured to me recently that a lot of what I enjoy in my life today is due to my past actions. That’s obvious, you may think and that would be true. I didn’t suddenly grasp happiness, serenity and hope from thin air did I?

Most of these actions were given to me as suggestions. Suggestions to recover. Suggestions that have been proven to work. Despite this, I met each suggestion with scrutiny, some I even resented. But something deep inside my conscience told me to take a leap of faith and just do them, no questions asked. Maybe it was the gift of desperation I had at that very moment? The fact I would try anything to make me feel better.

Today I am grateful I call my sponsor. With hindsight I have come to realise I have been practicing honesty and humility as I share my difficulties and humbly ask for guidance.

Today I am grateful I am grateful I read recovery based literature. With hindsight I have come to realise my knowledge surrounding my illness has been growing. The words have also played a major role in my current motivation and inspiration.

Today I am grateful I do these lists. With hindsight I have come to realise that gratitude has been replacing expectations which has led to increased happiness and serenity.

Today I am grateful I attend regular meetings and take up service positions. With hindsight I have come to realise that service and unity are absolute key components in the solution to my illness. Togetherness has been replacing isolation.

Today I am grateful I pick up the phone and call other fellows. With hindsight I have come to realise that thinking of others is a great way to take me out of self. I have been practicing selflessness.

Today I am grateful I do daily inventories. With hindsight I have come to realise the prompting questions highlight my shortcomings. Again, I get to practice honesty and in return I have been gaining humility and content for my evening prayer.

Today I am grateful I pray and meditate. With hindsight I have come to realise my connection has grown from willingness, to belief, to faith.

Each benefit I get from doing these suggestions has enabled me to grow within spiritual lines. It’s this spiritual growth that will prevent me from a relapse, keep me grateful, make me a better person and allow me enjoy life.

Lifestyle and habit

Gratitude List 18/01/2019

Habit – ‘A settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.’

Through recovery’s design for life my regular ‘tendencies’ and ‘practices’ are changing. The once ‘settled’ bad habits are being disturbed. Some have been completely eradicated.

Today I am grateful the answer to breaking a habit of a lifetime is quite straightforward. That doesn’t make it easy, it takes diligent effort and action. It appears to me that every bad habit has an opposite, a good habit that counters the bad – commonly known in recovery as liabilities and assets or defects and strengths. For example, if I regularly practice honesty through my words, actions and behaviours then by default my tendency to be dishonest will be less regular. This will naturally lead to the unsettling of dishonesty as a bad habit and the forming of a new positive habit in honesty. Unfortunately, as my past has proven it can work in reverse too.

Today I am grateful that connecting with God through prayer and meditation is becoming habitual. This is the most important habit for me to possess as it takes me out of self. It’s my self-will that has a tendency to practice the bad habits, so in effect, the more I practice my connection with God, the easier it will be for me to practice any other good habits I maybe striving for.

Today I am grateful for the term ‘non negotiable’. This term has helped me create the good habits that bring so much joy to my current life. I can’t think of many good habits that weren’t initially difficult to do regularly. Being honest when I’ve consistently lied for decades is not easy. Praying when I’m not sure who or what I’m praying to is not easy. Calling other fellows when it feels so unnatural is not easy. Non negotiable, means I do it nevertheless, no matter how I feel. The last two and a bit years have proved to me that no matter how much I resist a good practice, if I just do it, without question, then a habit is always formed. As a result, the once difficulty disappears and in its place comes an understanding, enjoyment and not to forget, the benefits of serenity and happiness.

Happy birthday mum

Gratitude List 16/01/2019

One of my biggest regrets as an addict was the many times I chose to be in action instead of spending time with my mum at the hospice. I loved her like no other and I knew she didn’t have long, but my decision to spend my spare time acting out was rarely swayed. After she died, my ego wouldn’t allow me to admit and face what I had done. It took almost eleven years, and a fearless step 4, for me to finally unlock those few months I had surpressed so securely to the back of my mind.

Today I am grateful that this ‘was’ and not ‘is’ one of my biggest regrets. Step 4 also taught me how to forgive myself. I’m also grateful I have learnt how to use my past as a tool to better the person I am today.

Today is my mum’s birthday and today I am grateful that when she comes to mind (which is more often than ever before) I am not suffering with shame, regret and guilt. Instead I can now reflect upon our time together with gratitude, love and acceptance.

My spiritual growth means I now feel very connected with my mum, I genuinely feel her presence. When she was alive, she was always a source of inspiration, support and guidance. Today, in a different way, I am grateful she remains to be one of my greater powers.

The Answer

Gratitude List 15/01/2018

If I don’t want to procrastinate doing my daily suggestions, then the answer for me is to spiritually connect. If I don’t want to suffer a resentment towards my ex, then the answer for me is to spiritually connect. If I don’t want to be tortured by a fear of letting my girlfriend down, then the answer for me is to spiritually connect. If I dont want to get frustrated at my daughter at dinner time, then the answer for me is to spiritually connect. If I want to be a better person and give back to the world, then the answer for me is to spiritually connect.

How does it work? At this stage, I have absolutely no idea!! To be honest, I don’t need to know. The only thing I know is, by being connected I am by default not running on self-will. If I’m not running on self-will, then I’m not managing my life. If I’m not managing my life, then my defects lessen and my strengths strengthen as I practice the second half of step one.

Sometimes, a spiritual connection is all that is needed to resolve the issue at hand. Sometimes, the connection leads to necessary action like writing, reading, connecting. Either way, as a result, things just get better.

Today I am grateful that my open-mindedness and willingness to believe in a greater power was stronger than my stubborn ego.

Today I am grateful my sponsor guided me through the very basics of spirituality. I was a complete beginner.

Today I am grateful for all the ways I can practice and strengthen my spiritual connection. There’s so much I can do.

Today I am grateful I have put this knowledge into action. ‘It works if I work it.’

Today I am grateful that on reflection, I have grown within spiritual lines.

Today I am grateful for my continued open-mindedness and willingness towards spirituality, which allows me to remain teachable.

Today I am grateful for my faith in my spiritual connection.

With awareness follows desire

Gratitude List 14/01/2019

With awareness follows desire.

The Recovery Program, specifically step 4 taught me a lot about who I am. Through the process, I realised how little I knew about myself as well as how much I ignored and denied – my defects of character for example. The very meaning and understanding of my defects in itself is a tool, another is knowing the harm they caused me and others, another is the morales behind them. This knowledge gives me awareness and humility.

The awareness enables me to recognise defects when they arise in my daily life. The humility gives me the desire to do something about them.

No matter how much I try to connect with the program and my greater power, my self-will can retake control on a daily basis. I am only human. It’s within these moments I am most vulnerable to my defects. This is when the tools of step 4 really kick in.

Today I am grateful that when I get resentful, I at least recognise it, admit it and have the desire to be tolerant and forgiving.

Today I am grateful that when I become fearful, I at least recognise it, admit it and have the desire to let go and let God.

Today I am grateful that when I eat junk food, I at least recognise it, admit it and have the desire to eat healthier.

Today I am grateful that when I stare at women in the wrong way, I at least recognise it, admit it and have the desire to turn my eyes away.

Today I am grateful that when I tell a lie, or omit the truth, I at least recognise it, admit it and have the desire to put things right and be honest.

Today I am grateful that when I procrastinate, I at least recognise it, admit it and have the desire to take the first necessary step.

Today I am grateful that when I use my phone whilst driving, I at least recognise it, admit it and have the desire to put it down and wait till it’s safe.

Today I am grateful that when I’m wasting time doing things that aren’t good for me, I at least recognise it, admit it and have the desire to do something positive and productive.

Like I said, the above may seem very obvious but a few years ago I genuinely had zero knowledge, no morales and I was void of humility. I would have been none the wiser and would’ve carried on regardless, adamant I was doing nothing wrong.

I am grateful for self-knowledge. With awareness, morales and humility, my desire to learn will continue.

Above everything!

Gratitude List 13/01/2019

‘Put recovery above everything.’

I can’t deny that when I first heard that phrase, I thought ‘not a chance’. I didn’t want to put recovery ahead of my children for example. Also, I feared how my girlfriend would feel knowing that after the suffering my illness had brought her, she would now fall behind ‘recovery’ in my priorities. Despite this resistance I have done my best to put recovery first as often as I can.

It wasn’t until recently when a good friend gave the simplest of explanations to this phrase did I fully understand it. His interpretation was simply ‘if I want something in life, the best way of achieving it, is to put recovery ahead of it’.

When I reflect on the last couple of years I am grateful I have done my best to put recovery first. As a result and without me putting two and two together, a lot of the things I’ve only dreamt of have come to fruition.

Today I am grateful I have put recovery ahead of spending all of my spare time with and making amends to my girlfriend. I attend 2-3 meetings a week, and when in her company I make and accept calls from fellows and do my daily suggestions/step work. As a result our relationship has grown in strength and love and we’re now engaged.

Today I am grateful I have put recovery ahead of the quality time I have with my children. This is difficult, I only see them twice a week. I may not go to a meeting but, when their with me I will still do my daily suggestions. Killing two birds with one stone I will also practice tolerance, patience and being present (practice the steps). As a result, our time together has a blessing. I cherish and make the most of each second.

Today I am grateful I have put recovery ahead of my financial goals. A simple one but it would have been easy for me to work crazy hours and try to make it up that way. With recovery I am learning how to be responsible and honest with money. As a result, although it is far from being perfect, I am in a better situation and I have learnt to respect money.

Today I am grateful I have put recovery ahead of my health. I have never been the healthiest of people, over the years my weight has resembled a roller-coaster and my mental state has flirted with insanity too many times. Through recovery I found serenity and happiness and self-love. As a result I have joined the gym, lost weight, become more aware of what I eat, I feel better about myself – physically and mentally and have found a spiritual-wellness.

Today I am grateful I have put recovery ahead of watching Netflix, going to the cinema, supporting Spurs, not supporting Arsenal, checking Facebook again, going out drinking or eating with friends and any other apparent pleasures. As a result I don’t practice my defects as often.

Today I am grateful I have put recovery ahead of the management of my own life. Again, I am no Saint when it comes to this but I am progressing. If a situation arises that I instinctively feel I need to manage, I do my upmost to let go and let God. Its not easy, but if I do it always works. As a result life is better.

On reflection and in hindsight I am now able to put two and two together and realise all that’s now good in my life is because I put recovery ahead of it. For the future, if I desire anything, from going on a nice holiday to becoming an even better father, then I know exactly how to do it. Put recovery first.

I chose the porridge

Gratitude List 12/01/2019

Today I am grateful I chose the porridge.

You’ll have to excuse me today. Trust me, there’s a point behind what follows, hopefully I’m able to put it into words and make some sense. In short, the other day, I went to McDonalds with my son and ordered porridge. I do struggle with what I eat and my powerlessness over food highly resembles the lack of power I have over gambling – so this was a big success for me.

A previous reaction I only know too well would have gone something like this:

– I would have accepted, before it even happened, that me eating junk food was inevitable. As far as I was concerned the deed was done and it was pointless trying to fight it.

– I would have convinved myself that this would be my treat for the day and for the rest of the day I would eat healthy and make up for it. ‘I am a normal eater,’ I would have told myself.

– I would have told myself to keep it sensible and try to be semi-healthy. Then at the vital moment (at the counter) I would order whatever I craved and even something extra, something sweet. Along came the first thoughts of ‘what am I doing?!’

– I would then sit down and not even enjoy it. I’m sure I scoff down junk food because I subconsciously know it tastes awful.

– I would then ponder the questions ‘Where was the fight? What happened to the promises I made to myself? Did I even have a choice?’

– I would then leave and as I did the following thought would have suddenly popped into my head ‘ah crap! I could’ve ordered the porridge!’ A good idea but too late now. If only I had thought of that earlier.

– I would then, with a degree of certainty, have carried on eating in the same way for the rest of the day. I had already hit that f**k it button so what’s the point. The day was ruined anyway.

As I write this, the similarities between my powerlessness over food and gambling are clearly highlighted. The spiritual malady is exactly the same.

Today I am grateful my day didn’t pan out how it has done so many times before.

Today I am grateful for my few days of abstinence. Abstinence that gave me a bit of strength.

Today I am grateful for the action I’m putting in. Going to the gym, recording what food I am eating and sharing my food compulsion stories with another like minded fellow. I can still do more.

Today I am mostly grateful for my recent efforts to improve my conscious contact with God through meditation and prayer. It’s this improved spiritual connection that fought (and won) against the spiritual malady. I genuinely believe that’s why I made the logical, rationale and sane choice. I believe its why I had a choice in the first place. I believe it’s why that choice came at the right time. And I believe it’s exactly the same spiritual connection and its power that will stop me putting on that first bet.