12 steps to sanity

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By Tom Holmes

Contributing Reporter / Religion Blogger

My name is G and Ive been a member of St. B's for ~ 29 yrs, although I've also gone to St. Luke's with my wife, L since we got married at St Luke's 9.5 yrs ago. We actually met on a Kingdom retreat 13 or 14 years ago. This was the second mairage resulting from these retreats, sooooo if your looking for a mate, you might want to look around. (just kidding)

I picked this sng to lead with because I heard a reading in January that spoke to where I am at spiritually.  It was the reading about Eli and his son Samuel.

I took this reading personally because while I've grown in Faith from a low start, I still don't quite trust God – I'm lacking in Hope. My problem is listening to God.

My background starts in a Polish neighborhood near Milwaukee and Central Park in Chicago. I later moved to Skokie for the 4th grade. I had 12 yrs of good Catholic education including 4 yrs at Notre Dame Hs. I grew up with some problems. I didn't remember it until I was in my thirties, but I now remember being sexually abused by my father when I was ~ 4 or 5. To my knowledge it continued  for several years, stopping by the time I was 7 or 8  Another dysfunction in my family I like to blame on my German heritage. We never talked about feelings because feelings were good and bad. If you had a good feeling you should thank God, but not brag about it, but if you had a bad feeling like sadness or anger you couldn't admit to it, because you would be less than perfect. So I grew up emotionally isolated and comparing my insides (like feelings) with everyone else's happy, cheery exteriors. In other words, I felt almost worthless. I channeled that dysfunction by isolating and concentrating on doing well in school, where I could get some type of praise.

I went to Purdue where I was introduced to drugs and alcohol(This was the late 60s). These drugs, I realized later, made me temporarily feel like part of a group. I somehow still managed to get pretty good grades, good enough to get into the PhD. Program at Northwestern.  

While I did get my degree there, my stay there was pivotal in that I got into a relationship with a fellow grad student.  This turned out badly for me, but was entirely predictable. It doesn't take a Ms in counseling to know that having an affair with a woman who was living with another man,for three yrs already; especially when she kept the affair a secret from her, as it turned out, future husband. hThis was what I now call insanity, with  little chance of working out well. I always had had difficulties in relationships with the opposite sex. A mixture of anger and guilt started my daily drinking, looking for that elusive "I'm OK" feeling.  Shortly after she got married I did talk to a priest and went to more than Sunday Mass, but this didn't work fast enough for me , drinking seemed faster, at the time

The drinking probably brought on my diabetes and when I went into the hospital in 1975, I weighed 143 lbs.  So I started on insulin, but decided to do an experiment of one. Though everything I read said not to drink while taking insulin, I kept on drinking in denial. I remember one moment of clarity while I was in Detroit on a postdoc. Iwas drinking lab alcohol over ice with just enough diet cola to turn it slightly brown when it occurred to me that I was going to be dead by the time I was 40.  Of course it never occurred to me that the problem was in my glass.  Add to this my father suffered and died from terminal lung cancer.

I continued drinking for about 3 more years, at which time I had lost another relationship due to my drinking and got a DUI in 1982 after a 20 mile drive in a blackout.

My Recovery started in 1983

12 steps – 2 things 1) brought me out of a world where everything bad was either my fault or someone elses fault – nothing in between and back to reality and 2) brought me to a closer contact  with God as I understood (or didn't understand ) ,him

Let me explain  my reaction to some of the steps

Step 2 Came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore us to sanity

Here I recognized that – while I believed in God I never saw Him working in my life – I thought I was stuck with doing it all myself and if I did pray for something and usually didn'y get it (Thank God) I reacted like a cat. _______________________________________

After I while sober I could start seeing that God wasn't there to provide me the immediate self –gratification I thought I found in Alcohol and drugs. He was providing the guidance I needed, painful as it sometime appeared to me so I could get over the thought that the world had to be my way for me to be OK. The  world is what it is.

Steps 6&7  Are ones I still have problems with. 6 Were entirely ready to have God remove ALL these character defects - it took a while  t    o realize how much I thought of my character defects as being the real me – as though God gave me these at birth.  I doubt that I was born a procrastinator.

That brings us to Step 7 Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.  Unfortunately, I took too many Psych courses in my college days and I keep thinking that I can fix these defects myself w/o asking for help. Secondly, I am not too proud to say that I seem to like some of these defects. What works for me is to think of the shortcomings as outward actions that are expressions of these defects. Even if I still have the defects, if I don't act on them they tend to recede into the background.

I've mentioned in previous talks about Step 11, Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. I've had enough success with this    to have 32 years without a drink, not 32 years of sanity. If I can quote some one from a meeting, recovery is not a part-time job.  I sometimes still get in trouble when I assume that God's will must, of course, coincide with my will. (Here comes that self-centered cat again) When things don't work out as planned I have been known to pray for things to turn out as I want, instead of the knowledge of his will for me and the power to carry that out.  For me, Misuse of my assumptions about God's will for me leads to me being "restless, irritable and discontented". This could lead to my getting drunk at the worst, or at the very least being a jerk.

Step 12 states the obvious – Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried tp carry this message to other alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Doing this step is almost guaranteed to relieve me of that self-centered cat syndrome When I have worked with others and have seen these people get sooo much better sometimes very quickly shows the miracles that God works in others lives, and makes me grateful for what God has given me. For those that don't get  it (Kurt), There is always – There but for the grace of God go I.

While some of you may have noticed in my pre-marriage talks, it may have seemed that I have interpreted  "affairs"  as the male-female type, to me this part simply states that recovery is doing God's will ALWAYS. By the way, the next paragraph contains the usual response to that call – "What an order, I can't go through with it" It also says "We are not saints."  I don't believe that my wife is collecting a list of miracles that I've done to send to the Vatican canonization process.  (No? Oh well) It just means that doing God's will is also not a part-time job, it's not even a full-time job – it's a 24/7  JOY

It is a joy when I do something that I know is God's will for me. Two examples:

When I was newly sober I had a management type meeting with my immediate supervisor who himself had a drinking problem. He told me that he had seen a change my behavior for the better but wasn't confident that it would stay that way. He wanted to know what had changed. I desparately tried to weasel my way out of telling this guy who I didn't like (and who clearly didn't like me) the truth. He kept pressing me until I realized that God wanted me to tell him about my recovery  even though this could backfire at work if it got out. After I told him, he told me  that what I said may have helped him.  And I walked away amazed at what I had done. It was not in my character at that time so it clearly was God, to me. I wish that I could say that then he sobered up, but actually he apparently went home and started drinking so heavily that he missed work w/o calling in and even took the phone off the hook at home.

The second time that God's will was obvious to me was when I saw Laura walk up the aisle on our wedding day. Grooms are supposed to be nervous on their wedding day – I wasn't. I had that Gut level joy that comes from knowing that you've found your life mate. L and I have been involved with WWME for _ 8 yrs now . On our WWME weekend in Nov of 2006, we were  supposed to write a love letter to our spouse. After I prayed about it,  I wrote this love letter unlike any that I had thought of writing to other women friends. I was shocked that I didn't tell her that she was gorgeous  and perfect. I started by saying that I wouldn't be married to her if I wasn't sure that God wanted me to be there by her side. If that requirement was not met, then I would be bad for her and she would be bad for me.  I still feel most MARRIED in church.  Eight years later, I feel the same way. If what is in her soul, was on her outsides, I could say I was married to a supermodel (w/o the cocaine problem)

While I have thought that finding God's will for me would be easier if God slipped a To-Do list under my pillow at night (it would certainly scare the HELL out of me)  that's not how it works, apparently. I have to stop and listen and interpret what I hear. While my wife does tend to give me her To-Do list in the morning, this doesn't quite qualify as communication from my higher power.  While L does ask for obedience in a quite assertive, but helping manner, she still doesn't qualify as my higher power. I like to think of her as my shorter power. Actually , since her To-Do list most often contains many of the things that God wants from me, and she's my angel, I lthink of her as my archangel, armor and all. After finding God's will for me, I still have to DO IT.

 In observing recovering people, I have noticed how hard it is to practice my favorite spiritual axiom –the Golden Rule Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I recently found out that this axiom goes back to the time of Confucius. Some of the recovering people, just out of prison, that I have worked with see this rule as Do unto others BEFORE they do unto you. In recovery they progress to the interpretation that a lot of this culture believes in (I admit to some of this myself) Do unto others as they do unto you. In my opinion this is close but no cigar. The problem with this interpretation is that I may have unknowingly done something to the other party that , by this principle, would justify their hurting me. Either way I have to be a mind reader to see why they did this to me.

The modern interpretation of the Golden Rule is ridiculously hard to do. Turning the other cheek is not easy.

The second of Christ's greatest commandments "Love thy neighbor as yourself. is almost as hard as the first commandment  "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. I rarely succeed at either of them, but the glimpses that I get of a world where these commandments are followed gives me the hope that I need to carry on in this less than perfect world.

I mentioned earlier about my sitting with lab alcohol in my hand, thinking that I would die before I was 40. I'm 25 years older than that now, have a lovely wife and a life that I never dreamed I could have. I have many people that know me as I am, not as I can pretend to be, and, believe it or not – most of them like me. I owe it all to "to the grace of God and the AA fellowship because w/o the latter I may have never noticed that grace. L and I sometimes talk about our funeral arrangements (don't worry – I don't any terminal illness) I thought of A song that I would like to play at my wake. It's the Beatles "In my life" While there are people and friends that went before – I've loved them all but In my life I've loved you more. It should be obvious who that final YOU is. I would like to think, however,  that the you could also be God though that's a "work in progress"

 

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