We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection. Our description of the alcoholic (addict)… our personal adventures before and after make clear three pertinent ideas:
a. That we were alcoholics (addicts) and could not manage our own lives.
(Is this you – yes-no?)
b. That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism (addiction).
(Are you beyond human aid – yes-no?)
c. That God could and would if He were sought.
(Are you willing to believe – yes-no?)
Being convinced (of a, b and c), we were at Step Three, which is that we decided to turn our will and our life over to God as we understood Him. Just what do we mean by that, and just what do we do?
The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. (Are you convinced – yes-no?) (AA p. 60)
Selfishness, self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt.
So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic (addict) is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though they usually do not think so.
Above everything, we alcoholics (addicts) must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us!
God makes that possible. And there often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without His aid. Many of us had moral and philosophical convictions galore, but we could not live up to them even though we would have liked to. Neither could we reduce our self-centeredness much by wishing or trying on our own power. We had to have God’s help.
This is the how and the why of it. First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn’t work. (Would you agree – yes-no?) Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director (yes-no?). He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children. Most good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom. (AA p. 61-62)
Step 3 Paycheck
When we sincerely took such a position, all sorts of remarkable things followed. We had a new Employer. Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well. Established on such a footing we became less and less interested in ourselves, our own little plans and designs. More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life. As we felt new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter. We were reborn. (AA p. 63)
Step 3 Instruction
We were now at Step Three. Many of us said to our Maker, as we understood Him: “God, I offer myself to Thee — to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!”
We thought well before taking this step making sure we were ready; that we could at last abandon ourselves utterly to Him. (yes-no?) (AA p. 63)
If you can answer yes, then let us take this prayer together and we will have taken step three.
Excerpted from “Big Book Sponsorship – The Twelve Step Program – Big Book Guide”, which can be found in its entirety here.
by Dan Joseph
Although I cover a wide range of issues in my counselling practice, there is one aspect that dominates my new-client inquiries: requests for help with careers.
For many of us, our work is a major part of our lives — and it exerts a profound effect on our emotions and relationships. Forty hours engaged in anything each week will have an impact on our experience of life.
Some of my career counselling clients are seeking a job. However, most already have work that they find it unfulfilling. They are spending their lives engaged in activities that feel empty. They want to use their gifts in a way that yields a greater sense of purpose.
With these clients, I usually run through common career counselling methods at first — assessment of interests, discussion of new options, assistance in writing cover letters and resumes. But with most people, I find that I need to take a deeper approach.
When a person feels like a round peg in a square career hole, it is tempting to believe that the answer lies in simply finding a better job or a new career. But I have seen people bounce from one job to another (or from one career to another) all the while continuing to feel mismatched.
As time goes on, I’m becoming convinced that the real answer to career issues lies in discovering our true purpose here — our calling. This is an inner discovery, not a worldly search.
And what is this calling? Ultimately, you could say, our calling is to discover who we really are.
Finding the Gifts
Most of us see ourselves as little people on a big planet — separate individuals competing with other individuals to get our needs met. There is a pie out there, and we need to get a bigger or better slice of it.
The whole world is designed to support this perception. Life seems to pass us by, with what we have always at risk of slipping away. We need to continually strive to get and keep the things that keep us safe. Compete, acquire, protect — this is how many people see their work lives.
But I find that the secret of career success is to shift our perception. Instead of seeing ourselves as limited creatures in need of a better situation, we can see ourselves as inspired, gifted beings empowered to improve every situation we find ourselves in.
In my practice, I frequently find myself having a conversation like this:
“I hate my job,” says my client.
“What do you hate about it?” I ask.
“Everyone is rude where I work.”
“Yeah. Everyone is mean. It’s a terrible place to work.”
“Do you think you could improve things a little?”
“Improve? In what way?”
“You seem like a kind-hearted person. Could you bring some of that kindness into your workplace?”
“Why should I have to do that? I just want to get out of there.”
“Don’t you think that your experience of work might improve if you bring some of your kindness into your office?”
“Nah, I just want out. I want to find something better.”
What that person isn’t realizing is that he’s missing an opportunity to solve his problem at the core. He feels powerless, at the mercy of his company culture. But he actually possesses a remarkable inner power — a power that can be accessed by pouring forth his gifts into the world.
As this person learns to access his spiritual gifts, and share them with the world, he will see them expand. He will increasingly access his wise mind, and will experience greater clarity and peace.
Solutions to problems will become more apparent. His vision will become clearer. He will gain greater levels of understanding. And of course, he may feel inspired to pursue new job or career opportunities — but he will be doing so from a place of inspiration.
I believe that finding our gifts within, and allowing them to flow into the world, is the purpose of our lives here. This calling allows us to see who we really are.
If you have questions about how you can improve your own work activities, I invite you to try the following process:
1. To begin, try to step back from any thoughts you have about what you need and how to get it. These thoughts (usually quite fear-based) are often the clouds that obscure the light. You might say:
I do not know what I need,
How to get it,
Or the form that it may take.
I am willing to clear and open my mind.
2. Next, turn to your wise mind — the spiritually-inspired part of your consciousness. Even if it takes some practice to “search around” for it, it’s worth the effort. You might say:
Perhaps there is a part of me that is filled with inspiration.
Perhaps a part of me has enormous gifts to share with the world.
I am willing to turn to that inspired part.
I am willing to let it guide my steps.
3. Finally (and this is often the challenging part), try to sit quietly and receptively for a while, waiting to receive guidance about a step or two to take. If your mind wanders, you can ask your wise mind:
How can I share my gifts with the world?
How can I bring joy to the world in a way that I enjoy?
How can my gifts be used today?
I am willing to receive guidance.
That’s it… If you don’t seem to “get anything” at first, the effort it still worth it. I’ve sat with clients, engaging in this type of practice for ten or twenty minutes until they began to get a “hint” of inspiration from the wise mind. But that hint grew as they practised.
I believe that there are limitless ways for you to share your gifts — and that as you share them, you will gain a greater understanding of the spiritual glory within you. This is the great healing shift. It is a shift that brings happiness not only to you, but to all those around you as well.
Excerpted from the Quiet Mind newsletter by Dan Joseph and reprinted by kind permission of the author. To sign up for the free Quiet Mind newsletter, please visit www.danjoseph.com.
by Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D.
Why should family members be involved in the treatment process of their alcoholic/addicted family member? Let me count the ways. The benefits of family treatment could go on and on, but here are eight good reasons.
- You learn that you are not alone. Family dynamics of addiction and recovery are pretty predictable. As the disease progresses for the addict, they as well as their kin become more and more isolated. Shame also isolates and keeps hurting the band of survivors silent about the disease. Spouses and parents may also have a compulsion to keep the secret in order to protect the addict from consequences that could affect the whole clan (i.e., financially, career, legal, etc.). Because the dynamics of addiction are played out in silence and isolation, each person feels that they alone have experienced the shame, guilt, hurt, sadness, loneliness, compulsion to take control and doubt about their own sanity that comes with addiction.
- You have an opportunity to recover from your own pain. No one escapes from an alcoholic system unscathed. It does not happen. Any close collection of people that has an addicted member has pain. While the relatives of the addict are focused on the afflicted’s pain and survival, they tend to ignore, downplay, or minimize their own pain. They are often oblivious to the negative effects on their own lives. They are negatively affected not only by the behaviour of the addict, but by their own attempts to cope and problem solve.
- You have an opportunity to make decisions based on strength rather than fear and desperation. The chaotic environment of the alcoholic home creates an acute stress reaction in all residents of the home. Each household member tends to get stuck in “survival mode.” Decision-making often occurs in the context of identifying the least damaging or the least scary options. Relatives often see themselves between the hard place and the rock, with no attractive alternatives. In treatment, spouses and parents are able to identify alternatives previously not considered and to begin to make choices based on knowledge rather than emotion.
- You get to find yourself again. Spouses often complain that they have lost themselves in the process of their significant other’s addiction. They find that they have become people that they not only never intended to be, but that they do not like. They often come to realize that they have acted outside their own value system by lying, manipulating and shaming the addict to get them to change. In treatment, these spouses have an opportunity to learn new ways to communicate and problem solve with their addicted significant others.
- You get to learn what is and is not your responsibility. In the treatment process, you get to learn how to let go of that which is not yours. You have an opportunity to learn to be assertive and choose your own activities. You become empowered to take responsibility for your own behaviour while allowing others the dignity to be responsible for their behaviour. Spouses often come to identify that they have been compelled to “parent” their addicted spouse during active addiction. One of the most freeing aspects of family treatment is learning how to let of that.
- You get to learn about alcoholism and other drug addictions. Most people buy into some antiquated ideas, myths and stereotypes about alcoholics and addicts. Treatment dispels those myths. Family members get to meet folks from all walks of life – brilliant, creative, charming people who are captains of industry, lawyers, doctors, mechanics, artists, house painters, entrepreneurs – who also happen to be alcoholics/addicts. Addiction is no respecter of person or position. Old notions of who is and who isn’t alcoholic/addicted will be challenged. Incorrect information that you may have learned from your family of origin (or others) about addiction being a “choice,” a “character problem,” or a “moral dilemma” will be replaced with factual data from the current knowledge base. You will have an opportunity to learn about the family dynamics of addiction and recovery so that you will know some of what to expect in early recovery. You will come to know and accept that your loved one’s addiction is not your fault and that you cannot make them relapse. Principles of cross-addiction, a very important concept for continuing recovery, are reviewed. You should also leave treatment armed with knowledge about the symptoms and process of relapse. This is crucial information to have.
- You will learn a new language. Significant others entering a treatment program often remark that there seems to be a common language being spoken in treatment, and that they feel like the “uninitiated.” A common recovery language is helpful for the addict and the family, so that they can better understand each other. Otherwise, family members often feel left behind, or like they are “on the outside, looking in.”
- You will also have an opportunity to learn about principles of family dynamics and the qualities of family systems that operate to work against continuing recovery. You will come to understand how system processes and characteristics that evolve over time to incorporate the illness into the balance and functioning of that system, also operate to keep things the same in recovery. If only one person in the system gets help, it can be difficult for the recovering person to maintain their positive changes in the midst of the old family rules, roles, and established patterns.
Not only is participation of significant others in addiction rehab important for the recovery of the addict and the family members, most family members leave treatment feeling blessed that they had an opportunity to experience the learning and healing process afforded them.
Copyright © Peggy Ferguson. Reprinted by kind permission of the author. More of her writings on the family dynamics of addiction and recovery can be found at www.peggyferguson.com.
Renascent offers a suite of Family Care programs, including Children’s Healthy Coping Skills and an Intensive Family Codependency Retreat. Learn about our Family Care programs here, and email Sunil Boodhai or call 416-927-1202, ext. 3010 for more information.
by Rabbi Shais Taub
There’s an old piece of sage advice that old-timers in recovery like to say: “No relationships for the first year.” If you hang around long enough, and watch enough people come and go, you’ll see that the old-timers are right.
But why is getting intimately involved with another person so damaging in early recovery? And if it is a threat in early recovery, why does it somehow become all right later on?
All addiction is essentially addiction to self. Recovery is a spiritual growth process that enables the self-centred person to become available to make connections outside of self.
In other words, in active addiction, every connection is ultimately a connection to one’s own ego. Even when it seems like I am connecting to you, I am really only connecting back to myself.
It’s like the old fable of the salmon who gets caught in the fisherman’s net and hears him exclaim, “Oh great! A salmon! I will bring this to the king because the king loves lox.” The salmon thinks to himself, “This fisherman is not very nice. He has taken me from my home. But he says that the king loves lox. The king will love me and be kind to me.”
The fisherman rushes to the palace and shows his catch to the palace guard, who immediately opens the doors, saying, “I will take you immediately to the royal chef, because the king loves lox.” The salmon thinks, “I hope they get me to this king who loves lox already.”
They run to the royal kitchen, and the royal chef shouts with glee, “Bring the fish to me! You know how the king loves lox.” Again, the salmon thinks, “Finally, when this lox-loving king arrives, I will be saved.”
The king enters the kitchen and watches with relish as the chef guts the fish on the table. The salmon suddenly realizes that he is to be the king’s lunch and, with his last breath, mutters to himself, “These humans don’t know what love is! They say the king loves lox, but he only loves himself.”
The inner addict is like the king in this story, and the addict’s “beloved” is like the salmon. The addict is incapable of being truly intimate with another person; the closer the addict tries to get to another, the closer he is to himself. This explains a seeming paradox: One of the best things an addict can do to start recovering is to hang out with and befriend other addicts, while one of the worst things an addict can do to start recovering is to become romantically involved with other addicts.
As the addict recovers, however, and learns life skills that enable him to move away from complete self-interest, it becomes increasingly possible for him to actually become close to another person. One of the ultimate objectives of recovery is to be able to form loving relationships with others. The ability to be involved in a romantic relationship is not just an indication of good recovery, but one of the goals of recovery.
Many times people stagnate in what we might call “the middle stages” of recovery. They basically get their lives together, but they never become capable of being involved in an intimate, loving, committed relationship. Many, unfortunately, are jaded by past heartbreaks; they say, “I’ll never love again.” That is, in my opinion, a great loss. Just as addiction is a destroyer of intimacy, recovery is the greatest catalyst for intimacy. Good recovery means good relationships. Indeed, I would venture to say – although this may be outside the scope of this article – that every troubled marriage, even when no addictive behaviour can be identified, is lacking recovery.
In the end, it all depends on how you see it. If romantic love is something we see as “icing on the cake of recovery,” then we’re probably not ready for it. If, on the other hand, we see an intimate relationship as an obligation toward the god of our understanding, then not only are we ready for it, we are actually required to give of ourselves in this manner.