Step 3 – Hand it Over

This is a blog post about how I try to make sense of Step 3 of AA’s 12-step programme.

Step 3

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

I struggle with Step 3.    I did a good job of trying to wreck it, but this is my life and how the hell do you turn your ‘will’ over to someone or something else?   I know people in AA who’ve managed to do exactly what Step 3 asks and felt the benefits in their sobriety.  I admire them for that.  Not so for me; I’ve had to find a compromise that is still a work in progress.   I don’t know how God feels about my re-imagining of Step 3; let’s hope he’s willing to humour me.

My problem with Step 3 is that it feels like handing over control and that fills me with dread.  A big part of the reason my life now ‘works’ is that I exercise a lot of control over what I do and do not do.  In my head, there’s a strong link between this control and sobriety and whilst I’m sure God wants me to be sober too, I’d rather not let go completely because so far, what I’m doing works.   It seems, not for the first time, that I have a trust issue.

Also, for me, Step 3 smacks of abdicating responsibility and I can’t do that. The mess I made of my life when I was drinking was down to me.  If I relapse, that’s down to me too. The hard work required to stay sober… well that’s down to me too.   I do believe that God is willing to help if I ask him to and providing I’m doing my best to help myself.  I also believe he’s willing to offer guidance and point out the right path to take when it isn’t clear to me. Of course this only works if I’m listening.  Perhaps what I’m saying here is that I’m willing to accept help, but only when I ask for it which might translate to only when I think I need it …  As you can see, I don’t find this stuff easy.

What I can see is that God is a force for the good and as such would want me to look after myself, lead an honest life, help others whenever I can and reach my full potential – however much or little that turns out to be.

There will be times when what I want to do, isn’t the right thing to do, because it’s dishonest, selfish or harmful.  There will be times when I should give up what I want to do in order to help someone or something else.   I try to do this every time I can and not expect a ‘thank you’ or some sort of karmic pay back for being a good egg.

My life is mine but I certainly don’t have control over everything that happens (no matter how hard I try) and there are times when I ask God for guidance and/or help for myself or others.  If I’m prepared to ask for help then it follows that I believe I might get it – God might do for me or someone else, what we cannot do for ourselves.  His ‘power’ trumps my self-will and best efforts.

As I said in an earlier post, I have real issues with God not intervening every time to put an end to suffering.  Actually it makes by blood boil and reduces me to tears, yet I continue to believe and I can’t explain why; it feels counter-intuitive, even to me.  Perhaps this is another reason I struggle with Step 3.

Turning my will and life over to the power of God as I understand him means that I’ve chosen to try to live a ‘good’ life and listen when he gives me a push in a certain direction. Having lived through the horrific consequences of doing things my way, I’m trying to get better at giving someone else a turn at the tiller but there’s still a way to go.

I know this post is full of contradictory thoughts and ideas and am sorry for that but I’m still working this stuff out and can only be honest about where I am with it right now.  In any event, thanks for listening.

Hope you’ve all had a great weekend and stay well.

Billie.

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167 Days to Christmas

I don’t much like Spring and Summer, I’m an Autumn and Winter person.  I’ve come to prefer leaden skies, cooler temperatures, and wellies over flipflops.  This morning is satisfyingly overcast.  Great for me, not so good for the Wimbledon Men’s Singles Final this afternoon. I can appreciate the beauty of a sunny, Summer day but given the choice, I’ll take heavy, dark skies any day of the week.

I have a big problem with bright sunlight because it gives me headaches and my body clock can’t adjust to it not being completely dark when I go to bed.  I feel so much calmer and safer when it’s dark, and the earlier the better.  The only upsides to summer are that I’m wide awake as soon as it’s light so get up earlier, and the gas bill is much reduced.  Still, I’ll be happier once we get to Autumn and the nights begin to close in.  I love the smells that herald the arrival of Autumn – wood smoke and decomposing windfall apples.  I love it when evening mist rolls rolls over the fields and chimneys rediscover their raison d’etre.

One of my favourite things about Autumn and Winter is the countdown to Christmas.  I feel relieved when the shops start to stock festive stuff – cards, wrapping paper and napkins covered in prancing reindeer.

It’s said to be bad luck, but I always leave out one decoration when the rest head back to the cellar in the New Year.  I leave it somewhere I can see it, to remind me that whilst my favourite time of year is over, it’s only a temporary separation. This year’s ‘reminder’ is a set of silver bells on my dressing table.

Christmas 2016 might be our last in this house as we are trying to sell. It’s an old house (built in 1850) with a big fireplace and high ceilings.  My brother once described it as a great place to host a ‘Dickensian’ Christmas.  I wonder what ‘Mr D’ would make of that?

So, with only 167 days to go (I’m relying on an internet ‘countdown’ calculator for my info) I better start planning!  In the meantime, there’s a bit more of the English summer time to go.  Good luck Andy!

Have a great day everyone and thanks for listening.

Billie.

 

Technoklutz

Technology and IT are not my thing.  I’m old enough to remember offices with manual typewriters and a time without email, laptops or mobile phones.  I admit, I’m a bit scared of it so only ever use the ‘bits’ I need to and don’t experiment or try to learn how to do new things… unless I have supervision  LOL.   My brother-in-law is my ‘go to’ IT advice person and is very patient with me.

So, here’s my current IT problem.  I’m loving WordPress because I’ve found it easy to navigate but have discovered that sometimes when I get email notification of a new post and try to go to that post from my email, WordPress tells me that the page cannot be found. I’ve tried accessing the post from my own WP site and the individual blogger’s page but get the same message.  It doesn’t happen with all posts, just some of them.  If anyone has any idea what I’m doing wrong, can you please tell me and when you do, make the explanation idiot-proof!!!!    Thank you.

Billie.

 

Friday Update

So this morning I started my new job which I’d been really anxious about.  It took me ages to find the house (I’m working from someone’s home) and the sat nav was as confused as I was, which is saying something.  I found myself on a single track country road and got pretty stressed about meeting something coming the other way.  Thankfully it didn’t happen.   My boss is a lovely lady.  She explained what she wanted me to do and kept me supplied with coffee.  I was thinking to myself ‘Isn’t this supposed to be the other way around?’

I worked for two and a half hours and will be doing four more next week but working from my house instead.   I haven’t had a job since 2012 when I had to give up work to look after my dad, who was terminally ill.   I always enjoyed going to work and am happy to be back in the saddle.  Now the first day is out of the way, I hope I’ll feel more confident.

I even bought myself a ‘first day back at work’ outfit as most of my clothes are suitable for dog walking but not much else… which is fine as I do a lot of dog walking! Anyway, it was nice to look a bit smarter and leave the house wearing something other than green wellies and an anorak.

I don’t have exciting plans for this afternoon but there are two baskets of ironing winking at me!   I’m refusing to make eye contact in the hope they’ll disappear.  I’m sure my washing and ironing baskets are involved in some sort of breeding programme.  How two people can produce quite so much laundry is beyond me.

My husband has suggested that we make tonight ‘film night’ and has even got the popcorn in.  I’ve no idea what film he has planned – I love a disaster movie and have watched ‘San Andreas’ so many times that I can quote the script LOL.

I don’t have much else to report – sorry for such a boring blog but maybe, as they say, ‘no news is good news.’  I haven’t had a drink today and haven’t wanted to.  My head isn’t racing and I don’t feel irritable or unhappy.  Famous last words?  Let’s hope not.  Anyway, for now, all is well and for that I’m very grateful.

Thank you to everyone who has read and followed my blog this week and for your comments. I really appreciate it.

I hope you all have a great Friday and a good weekend.

Stay well

Billie.

 

 

H.A.L.T

HALT – stands for hungry, angry, lonely,  tired.  In rehab programmes and AA, any one of the four is considered a potential trigger for relapse, or at the very least some ‘stinking thinking.’  Experiencing more than one constitutes a red flag.

Tonight I can stick my hand up to two out of the four, so quite rightly, there’s an alarm sounding in my head.  I’m angry and I’m tired.  I was hungry too but that’s sorted now courtesy of the microwave.

I need to work out why I’m angry, the part I played and what, if anything, I can do about it. Then I need to address the tiredness issue by getting an early night.

These are thing things that are making me angry:

  1.  My drumming lesson was a car crash.  I haven’t done enough practice in the last couple of weeks and boy did it show.  I have no one to blame but myself, and being so tired didn’t help. Also, I don’t understand the homework I came away with. I can find some online tutorials to help or phone my teacher and ask him. He’s a great guy, totally approachable and always willing to help. Today I wasted an hour of his time.  It was embarrassing and I felt humiliated.   I need to ring fence some time every week for practice.
  2. I couldn’t find the address of the place where I’m starting work tomorrow – unbelievable I know.  I did have it in an email but now can’t find it.  Feeling so tired was did nothing for my patience so I contacted the lady I’ll be working for to explain. She was cool about it and sent the details.  Again, this is down to me and I’ve now put the address into my phone.
  3. Throughout the day, people haven’t replied to my texts as quickly as I’d like. They all work and have more important things to do than reply to me.  I know this but am still irritated by it.  They will reply, because they always do.  None of the messages I’ve sent are urgent.  I need to work on my patience and give my friends some space.

Everything on the list is down to me and things that I’m lacking – energy, effort, organisation and patience.  Now I’ve sat with and unraveled these uncomfortable feelings, I’ve massively reduced the chance that I will drink on them and my sobriety remains intact. Also, I’ve worked out what I can and should do to get things back on track.

If I don’t analyse my feelings and make a plan to address what lies behind them, I end up with a head like a washing machine on spin cycle and begin to build resentments.  Crucially, I have to accept responsibility for the part I’ve played.  In the old days I’d have had a drink, then another, believing that my life was awful enough to justify numbing myself to it.  I don’t always find it easy to be honest or feel my feelings but both are a condition of sobriety.

I’m off to bed now but thanks for listening.

All the best,

Billie.

Step 2 – You Better Believe It Baby

This blog is about how I make sense of Step 2 of AA’s 12 Step Programme.

Step 2

Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

The premise of this step is two-fold.

First, there is a ‘Power’ at work (and available to me) with a reach and influence greater than my own self-will and problems with addiction.  It’s got me totally out-gunned and a bloody good job too.   The ‘Power’ is a force for the good, will help me if I ask it to, and crucially, when I’m also helping myself.  Sometimes I need more help than others.  The ‘Power’ knows this and asks only that I do my best.  It doesn’t expect perfection, only willingness, effort and honesty. It knows that sometimes my thinking is ‘off’ and will offer me a sanity check to restore order!

Second, sanity can be recovered… and I should know.  By the end of my drinking ‘career’ I was certifiably crazy. The best part of a bottle of Scotch and threat of being sectioned had me climbing from a third floor hospital window, believing that I could land, uninjured, in the car park below – at the time it seemed reasonable.

I found my ‘Power’ and the route back to sanity in the rooms of AA.  It took a while for us to ‘hook up’ because I was reluctant but once connected, things improved faster than I could ever have hoped.   When I work with the ‘Power’, my mind is stronger, thinking clearer and my actions more honest. I get to stay sober.  We are a partnership where I’m still learning the ropes and continue to struggle.

(Note to self:  Sanity is just as easily lost, so no slacking. Recovery is not a passive process).   

So what is the ‘Power greater than myself?’  Well, despite my best efforts not to, I still believe in God. I know this because in times of trouble I ask for help and when I receive it, never doubt where it came from.  I spend a lot of time saying “thank you.”  God is part of my ‘Power greater than myself’ but not the whole story.

I say ‘despite my best efforts’ because I’m often angry with God and don’t understand how she/he/it works. Perhaps I’m missing the point. I’m enraged at God’s selective ambivalence and failure to always intervene to halt the suffering of anyone or anything. In other areas of my life, I need, at the very least, to understand something before I give it the time of day.  Not so with God.  Believe me, I’ve tried hard to make getting a satisfactory explanation a condition of my faith, but it’s just not happening and I can’t explain why.

Greedy as ever, I have another ‘Power greater than myself’ and that’s the combined will and generosity of the recovery community, both inside and outside AA.  I know this ‘Power’ exists and is greater, in every way, than me.  When I’m struggling, my friends in recovery will support me for as long as I need it, and I will do the same for them. I’ve had my sanity restored many times through sharing and listening to others do the same.

When we come together at an AA meeting, the strength and hope in the room is tangible. But it’s not a ‘slam dunk’ and part of the ‘Power of the Group’ is that we know our enemy, how it works and what it’s capable of.  We are an army of individual warriors bound together by a common purpose, and as happy to lead the charge when we’re able, as ask for shelter when we need it. I’ve seen people arrive at a meeting in bits, despondent and without hope; ninety minutes later, they leave with renewed strength, having heard what they need to fight another day, and the knowledge that they are not alone.

Step 2  – it works folks… you better believe it!

As ever, thanks for letting me share my stuff.  Have a great day all and stay well.

Billie.

Step 1 – The Patient Predator

The 12-steps are the backbone of AA, but when I went to my first meeting and saw them listed on a large scroll at the front of the room, I felt overwhelmed and confused. Actually that’s a lie. I read them, thought ‘WTF’ and then felt overwhelmed and confused.   Typically, I wondered if there was an easier, softer way, but AA was right…there was not.   The addict in me has always preferred to ‘cherry pick’ my solutions.

This blog is about how I make sense of Step 1.

Step 1

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.

By the time I was ready to look at Step 1, I’d caused so much damage to myself and others that there was no denying how much trouble I was in.  I accepted that I was powerless over alcohol and that my addiction to it had made my life unmanageable. As I’ve said before, I never did manage to reconcile that with a desire to stop drinking, but reached a place where I was willing to.

Whether drinking or sober, I’m as powerless over alcohol as I ever was and it will always be this way.  I think of it like this – me versus caged predator. I’m powerless to survive the predator should I try to interact with it and will be destroyed by it if I don’t take certain steps to keep myself safe:  I don’t enter it’s cage and must always keep the gate locked. Equally important, I don’t feed it through the bars – not even tidbits because that will just make it want more.  It can’t be bargained with or placated.

Remembering to keep the gate locked ought to be easy but my memory can be short and selective. On a few occasions, when I’ve been complacent, the opportunistic predator has come close to escaping, but with the help of friends who understand the nature of the beast, I slammed the gate shut in its face. The predator was disappointed but not deterred.  If anything it became more determined. It’s a patient predator, prepared to bide its time.

Just because I’ve put some defenses in place, the predator is no less powerful over me and I remain totally powerless over it.  All that divides us is my willingness and vigilance as gatekeeper.

As for a life unmanageable.  I don’t even know where to start – wrecked relationships, trips to the Emergency Department, lost jobs, facial burns, a damaged liver, waking up in a filthy bed with empty cans and bottles.   The weight of evidence for ‘unmanageable’ is overwhelming and the memories distressing.  I pray they stay that way.

So thank you AA (as ever), and thank you Step 1.  As I type, the predator is caged and the gate locked, but it will always be there and never tire of waiting.  Its power isn’t depleted by confinement.   The predator is my responsibility but it helps to know that I’ve got a great gang of mates who understand what’s at stake and will help me with the gate should I need it.

Have a good day everyone and thanks for listening to me share on what Step 1 means to me.

All the best and stay well.

Billie.