How I Finally Learned That AA Is Just the ‘Cult’ I Need

Before I ever attended even one Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, I had decided what it was about.

My knowledge of AA was based on what I had heard or observed, mainly from acquaintances or friends. I hadn’t read up on the subject, asked professionals, or done research. I understood AA as a ‘cult’ mainly because I’d heard about the slogans, the get-togethers to talk about feelings—get-togethers where members greet each other with hugs.

I wanted AA to only be a place where I went to learn how not to drink.

A guy about my age once told the story of his past 15 years of sobriety, and he put it this way: AA is a ‘design for living.’ This was back in the early days of my recovery, and what he said is right on. AA has helped me practice a way of life that has allowed me to find solutions for my troubles without drinking. I have finally found a pathway to peace in my life, and maybe peace of mind for those who love me and who I love most.

Here are the elements of AA’s ‘design for living’ in my life:

A new habit: In my early days going to AA, the older guys who would pat me on the back on their way out as they said, “keep coming back.” “What the fuck does that mean?” I would think. I know now that when I keep coming back, I’m developing a practice that helps me stay sober—similar to how an athlete or musician practices. (More on practice later.)

Telling my stories: During my first AA meetings I learned that the ‘get-togethers’ were about more than just ‘hugs.’ They loved to tell stories. This was perfect for me because I loved to tell stories about myself. The group would listen respectfully, laugh at my jokes, and nod understandingly. I was too busy thinking about what I was going to say next. In fact, most of the time I couldn’t wait to get to a meeting to hear what I was going to say.

Listening to the stories of others: Talking about yourself only gets you so far, I learned. After about three years of stubbornly not drinking, I relapsed. It wasn’t pretty and it almost cost me my life and family. It was devastating and demoralizing, but it did bring me to my knees. Almost!

The second time around I learned to listen, primarily because those old bastards after the meeting wouldn’t stop saying, “keep coming back.” I was determined to find out what that meant.

Practice: The more I listened and opened up to others the more comfortable I became with what had been extremely uncomfortable. It was like an athlete who is having trouble hitting the curveball but doesn’t change anything that she is doing. A coach approaches her and suggests a change in her stance. It’s uncomfortable at first, but the more she does it the more comfortable it becomes. And the more curveballs she starts hitting. There was a ripple effect. My sponsors’ suggestions became easier to follow. I made friends with people I would have never spoken to. Most importantly, I began to accept my feelings as a human condition.

Education: My first time around with AA, before I relapsed, I wasn’t reading the literature, getting a sponsor or listening. The second time around, I got a sponsor, read the book, and listened for similarities in the stories I heard.

Community: I’ve felt like an outsider during much of my life. For example, when I was 10 years old, we were living in the 7th or 8th neighborhood of my life. I joined the local Little League. After tryouts, I was the last kid chosen by any of the coaches. Then the next day before practice, my coach told me that I had been traded to another team. A trade? In Little League? A Little League trade was another confirmation that I wasn’t good enough and didn’t belong.
Most of my closest friends in AA were guys younger than me—which as an aside was unusual for me because I would actually seek advice from them. They asked me to join a Men’s Step Study Workshop a few of them were facilitating. First of all, being asked to join some other guys to do anything was not my life. I had friends and we hung out, but I always felt like an outsider. Not so among my AA friends.

A spiritual dimension open to everyone: But there was something gnawing at me that I couldn’t understand at first. But then it became very apparent: I’m not a Christian. I am Jewish. My issue with AA was what I perceived to be the Christian aspect of its prayers, rituals, and philosophy. The meetings were usually in churches. I heard God and Jesus as being everyone’s concept of a Higher Power. This was my own delusional thinking, as I came to understand later.

Back to the AA Study Group I’d been asked to join. We were following an outline of the Big Book with questions and writing assignments. At the same time I was studying with the group, I was also studying the spiritual principles of my religion, Judaism, with my Rabbi—no rituals, no holidays nothing that was not related to spiritual principles.

Being a “real” alcoholic, I was reading ahead when I came across the exercise at the end of Step Three. We were to pray on our knees as a group. My suspicions came to a head, because Jews do not pray on their knees. This was the final proof that AA was a Christian program.

I met with my Rabbi, who was aware of my sobriety and membership in AA. I told him what was being asked of me and for his help. He looked me straight in the eye and asked the following:

1. Is there a crucifix in the room? (No!)
2. Are you being asked to accept Christ as your savior? (No!)
3. Are you aware that before Christianity, Jews prayed on their knees? It was only because the two religions were distancing themselves from each other that Christians, who had been Jews, continued the practice. (Oh!)
4. And finally, you could probably use a little more humility in your life. (What?)

The Lesson I learned? What I perceived as cult-like. Is not a cult. It’s a “design for living”

That was almost 15 years ago, and I have been usually praying on my knees since, after my morning meditation. God has given me the energy and power to do the next right thing and accept life on life’s terms. And I learned how not to drink, one day at a time.

DAILY STRESS RELIEF

Looking for peace in your life and relief from the daily stress we all encounter? Try this short list of changes in your routine. It may not be comfortable at first but the more you do it the more comfortable it will become.

Add to your daily routine the following: If you miss a day or one of the steps don’t worry its OK, get back in stride the next day.

• Set aside 5-10 minutes each night before sleep to meditate, no digital devices and not TV. Let your mind unwind and be at peace before you fall asleep.
1) Sit comfortably, finding a stable position you can maintain for a while, either on the floor or in a chair. Close your eyes if you like or leave them open and gaze downward toward the floor.
2) Draw attention to the physical sensation of breathing, perhaps noticing the always-present rising and falling of your abdomen or chest, or perhaps the air moving in and out through your nose or mouth. With each breath, bring attention to these sensations. If you like, mentally note, “Breathing in… Breathing out.”
3) Many times, over, thoughts or feelings will distract you. You may feel distracted more often than not. That’s normal. There’s no need to block or eliminate thinking or anything else. Without giving yourself a hard time or expecting anything different, when you discover that your attention has wandered, notice whatever has distracted you and then come back to the breath.
4) Practice pausing before making any physical adjustments, such as moving your body or scratching an itch. With intention, shift at a moment you choose, allowing space between what you experience and what you choose to do.
5) You may find your mind wandering constantly, caught up in a whirlwind—that’s normal, too. Instead of wrestling with or engaging with those thoughts as much, practice observing, noting wherever your attention has been, and then returning to the physical sensation of breathing.
6) Let go of any sense of trying to make something happen. For these few minutes, create an opportunity to not plan or fix or whatever else is your habit. Exert enough effort to sustain this practice, but without causing yourself mental strain. Seek balance in this way; if you find yourself mostly daydreaming and off in fantasy, devote a little extra effort to maintaining your focus.
7) Breathing in and breathing out, return your attention to the breath each time it wanders elsewhere.
8) Continue to practice observing without needing to react. Just sit and pay attention as best as you are able. As hard as it is to maintain, that’s all that there is. Come back over and over again, without judgment or expectation.
9) When you’re ready, gently open your eyes. Take a moment and notice any sounds in the environment. Notice how your body feels right now. Notice your thoughts and emotions. Pausing for a moment, decide how you’d like to continue on with your day.
• Avoid red and processed meats and sugar. Chew your food deliberately and completely before you swallow, take your time. Meals are to be enjoyed not hurried like a race. Eat as much fruit and vegetables as possible.
• Do 15-30 minutes of exercise each day, even if it’s just a walk.
• Chew gum it stimulates the frontal cortex in a calming way, without creating craving, and relaxes the body. Make sure it is sugar free.

You can expand the timeframe, as you get more comfortable with your routine. Make time for your mind and body to grow in a healthy way.

Acceptance of Shortcomings

“THE SPIRITUALITY OF IMPERFECTION”
by Ernest Kurtz

The acceptance of shortcomings is a strength. This message resounds, as always, in all traditions, loud and clear: Mistakes are part of being human. The real meaning of “sin” has to do not with committing evil deeds, not with willfully breaking laws, not even with the act of “falling short.” The term sin classically signifies not an action but the state of falling short, a situation of alienation from reality. One brilliance of Alcoholics Anonymous is that it never uses the term sin, a word hopelessly overloaded with convoluted meanings, but talks instead of the “defects of character” and the “shortcomings” of those who are “alcoholics.” For sin has become a word of religion, of absolutes; shortcomings are words of humanity, a concept in tune with the understanding that we are imperfect.
And if we do “fall short”? That very awareness of “falling short” implies two related realities: First, we are trying, and second, we need to try again. There is no failure here, for spirituality, as the ancients reminded over and over again, involves a continual falling down and getting back up again. That is why humility—the knowledge of our own imperfections—is so important, and that is why spirituality goes on and on and on, a never-ending adventure of coming to know ourselves, seeing ourselves clearly, learning to be at home with ourselves. The great need is for balance—when we are down, we need to get up; and when we are up, we need to remember that we have been, and certainly will be again, “down”.

It was a large meeting, well over two hundred people. At one end of the room stood the canister of regular coffee; at the other end, the pot of decaf. Conversation around the first coffeepot centered on a man who was clearly depressed and afraid.
“I just feel like I’m at the end of my rope,” he admitted. “It’s one damned thing after another. Nothing seems to be going right. This week my dog died, my kids came down with strep throat, I can’t keep my mind on my work, my wife and I are fighting constantly. I just don’t know how I’m going to make it.”
“Well, son,” an old-timer said gently, “at least you didn’t take a drink today.”
The conversation at the other end of the room centered on a man who exuded good cheer. “I just feel so wonderful,” he was saying. “What a week this has been! I got a promotion at work; my daughter is graduating from college with honors; my wife and I are like newly married lovers. And just yesterday I had the best golf game of my life!”
“It all sounds great,” another old-timer said gently. “But remember … you’re an alcoholic. Just one drink will destroy it all.

The point of Humility is to find a balance, that place in the middle of life’s teeter-totter that allows one foot to reside on the side of “god/saint/angel” and the other on the side of “worm/sinner/beast.” From this perspective, A.A.’s most significant contribution to the tradition of a spirituality of imperfection can be summed up in two words: sober alcoholic.

TWELFTH STEP MESSAGE

TWELFTH STEP – MESSAGEBUT REMEMBER TO TAKE THE MESSAGE WITH YOU!!!

Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles above personalities.

A hallmark of 12 step recovery programs is the offer of anonymity to participants, but the principle goes deeper than just not revealing last names.

In order to keep the focus on principles and not personalities, personal anonymity should be maintained at all levels of participation in 12 step fellowship — in meetings, in 12th step work, and even in sponsorship. Anonymity is maintained not so much for the protection of the individual as for the protection of the program.

Home – Prayer of Desperation

Pleading prayer of desperation, “Please God, please God, let me come home from the wars.” As far as I know, I have never read that anywhere. It came out of a heart filled with despair and anguish and self-reproach and self-hatred. But I knew the minute I heard it that the key word was home … home. It was coming out of a guy who had never ever, in his life, felt at home.
A home is where the heart finds rest and renewal. That’s where coming home is. I am far enough along in the journey now to be able to see that there is only one ultimate coming home, and that is the final, total, complete, surrender of self to a Power greater than myself. I’m also brave enough today to believe that there will come a day, there will be a place sometime, somewhere, someday, there will be an altar or a confessional, a mountain or a valley … probably in all likelihood .. just a plain, everyday, run-of the-mill AA meeting, where I will finally no longer pull back and say, “Oh, my God, no, no, don’t ask that of me, don’t take that away from me too.”
And when that moment comes, then I know that I will have finally come home. In the meantime, I am more at home here than anywhere I have ever been in my life. I’m more at home here for a very simple reason … you have never, ever asked anything of me … therefore I have been able to give you what I could afford.
What I’m trying to do tonight is to tell you that I have made a return, for as T. S. Eliot said, “There will never be any end from exploring, and the end of all our exploration will be to return to the place where we started and to see it for the first time.”
That is why I tell you, it took something that almost killed me to return me finally to the place where I started, to see it for the first time, and to return to you tonight and tell you that this journey has been worth everything I have been asked to pay to make it.

by Allen Reid McGinnis
The Rest Of Your Life
http://amzn.to/1T1xNRT

Can I Stay Away From The First Drink?

The first question I have to answer is; Can I stay away from the first drink?

“So, it seemed to me the answer to this thing lies in do I believe I’ve got it and do I believe it can kill me? If the answer to that is yes, then it doesn’t matter a damn whether it is a physical disease, a spiritual disease, an emotional disease, a mental disease, or a combination of all of them. The fact remains I’ve got to buy whether or not I think it is a killer disease. If the answer to that is yes, then comes the last question, and that is … Would I rather live than die? And, if the answer to that is yes, then you’re finally up against it. You’re up against will I, can I, stay away from the first drink? Can I stay away from the first drink? I had answered this many, many times before and so have all of you. We’ve all stayed away from the first drink for varying lengths of time. I stayed away once for a year and-a half with no trouble at all. So I knew I could stay away from the first drink.”

“I separated the state of sobriety from the state of my soul, from the state of my health, from the state of my finances, from the state of my job, from the state of my love life, if any. I separated it from the state of everything. I simply made up my mind that I would rather live than die, and if I had a disease, I would have to stay away from the first drink, and I knew that if I took all this other stuff from it, if I took the “be a better person” business off of it, I would be able to do it. That night I made a very simple decision and I now know it was the first authentic, 24-carat decision I had ever made in my life, because the minute I made it, I knew I’d be able to do it.”

By Allen Reid McGinnis
The Rest Of Your Life

Promises To Self

My Promises

I promise myself: Promises
To be so strong that nothing can disturb my peace of mind.
To talk, health, happiness and prosperity for all to every person I meet.
To make all my friends feel that there is something important within them.
To look at the sunny side of everything making my optimism my truth.
To think only good thoughts, to work only on good deeds and have only good goals.
To not regret the mistakes of the past and go forward creating a future of hope for all.
To wear a cheerful face and smile at every living creäture I encounter.
To give so much to improvement of self that I don’t have time to criticize others.
To be aware of worry, fear and anger but let the Spirit of my Soul shine and dominate the present.

REEL Recovery Film Festival

REEL Recovery Film FestivalHi hope you are doing well.
InTheRooms.com is producing the Fort Lauderdale Reel Recovery Film Festival this year, Nov. 4-6 at the Classic Gateway Theatre. This is an excellent marketing tool and your support will benefit the work you are doing. This is the perfect venue to showcase to the South Florida Recovery Community. It also includes time to speak to the attendees, included in packages.
Please take a look and let me know how you would like to participate.
http://intherooms.org/reelrecovery/
Be well and call me if you have questions and to finalize your sponsorship..

Marc J Dunn, RC, TOT
CCAR Certified
mjdunn@bellsouth.net
954-665-3770

InTheRooms.com is producing the Fort Lauderdale Reel Recovery Film Festival this year, Nov. 4-6 at the Classic Gateway Theatre. This is an excellent marketing tool and your support will benefit the work you are doing. This is the perfect venue to showcase to the South Florida Recovery Community. It also includes time to speak to the attendees, included in packages.

InTheRooms.com is producing the Fort Lauderdale Reel Recovery Film Festival this year, Nov. 4-6 at the Classic Gateway Theatre. This is an excellent marketing tool and your support will benefit the work you are doing. This is the perfect venue to showcase to the South Florida Recovery Community. It also includes time to speak to the attendees, included in packages.

Recovery Coach Recovery Coach Recovery Coach Recovery Coach Recovery Coach

Dual Diagnosis and Addiction

Research shows that most people who struggle with addiction are also dealing with a mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. The technical term for this is dual diagnosis.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “Among the 20.2 million adults in the US who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5%—10.2 million adults—had a co-occurring mental illness.”

Proper treatment for mental illness involves professional therapy, not just coping skills. At the end of the day, the question is, Do you want to cope with your issues or heal them?

Combining Coping Skills for Addiction and Therapy

Dual diagnosis treatment isn’t about choosing between coping skills and therapy. Rather, it’s about combining the strengths of addiction coping skills and therapy to promote recovery. It’s about using a holistic model of healing, one that integrates all four levels of self:

  • The physical level (what we do)
  • The mental level (what we think and believe)
  • The emotional level (what we feel)
  • The spiritual level (who we really are)

In true dual diagnosis addiction treatment, trained clinicians use evidence-based tools and approaches to empower people to both encounter and heal their emotional wounds.

Emotional wounds are like physical ones in that if you open up a wound, it is important to know how to close it back up properly! Trained therapists can help individuals to close those inner wounds with love, compassion, and expertise.

In the process, people tap into the power within them and redirect it for good.

They learn to stop abusing themselves and begin to make self-honoring choices.

They start to counsel themselves and work through the issues that arise when they return to their normal lives.

The aftercare from treatment to normal living requires structure and discipline.

The Rest Of Your Life offers complete lifestyle changes for relapse prevention.

Thank You

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”
Meister Eckhardt

Some of us are more delusional than others, but delusion and grandiosity are commonly present in most alcoholics. My life was centered on perfection and the projection that I was always right. Saying or expressing thank you never crossed my mind. This wasn’t a compulsive disorder as much as it was arrogance and self-centeredness.

“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.” Big Book

Several years ago a company recruited me to be its COO. It was an industry I was well acquainted with and the job came with a major increase in pay and responsibility. In my mind it was about time I was to be rewarded for my talents. This was while I was still a sober drunk without a program, steps or recovery.

It didn’t take long for me to alienate most of the employees and cause serious regrets by the owner of the company. My deluded self-absorption convinced me that I was doing a phenomenal job. I exposed company theft, poor decisions by ownership and a total lack of controls. I also did not waste any time letting everyone know how incompetent they had been and what actions we had to take to correct these poor decisions. Of course without any regard for the people I offended or feelings for them.

It took about six months for them tell me my services were no longer needed and I was dismissed. I left with resentments, anger, dishonesty and self-centered righteousness. I had been wronged and told everyone who would listen. Within six more months I was drinking again; much worse than before.

Within another six months I had crashed and burned. I crawled back into AA searching for an answer to the fear that if I drank again I would surely die.

Willingness to be teachable led me to a new path of recovery and a beginning to build a new life and a new mind. The 12 Steps, a sponsor and the unconditional love of people in the fellowship opened me to all the promises of AA.

I heard from one of my co-workers several months after I was dismissed that the owner of the company had remarked after I was gone that he had a God in his life and didn’t need another one.

Now it is time for me to do another 9th Step and make amends for the wreckage I caused with the people who gave me an opportunity that I destroyed. Thank God I learned how in the 12 Steps.