Archive for the 12th Step Category
Attending twelve-step meetings regularly, you are bound to hear somebody recommend that you get a commitment. Personally, I am one of the people that suggests even the newest of my sponsees get commitments. Commitments have been one of the greatest tools in my sobriety, are relatively simple, and the return on investment is huge.
Getting commitments have several benefits. First, I truly felt like a part of the recovery group I was in. My home group meets every morning, and has about 4o-50 people. Everyone knows each other, and coming in new to this meeting was a little scary. I got a few commitments on different days, and everyone quickly learned my name. People recognized me even when I didn’t recognize them. Even though I still wasn’t completely self-confident, I felt much better about attending the meeting. Even if I had the simplest commitment, I felt as I was an integral part, just as I had seen other with commitment as integral parts.
Having commitments has also helped me show up when I don’t want to. Often, I wake up in the morning and do not feel like going to my regular meeting. My mind tells me I don’t need to, that I should sleep in, etc. However, a commitment helps me show up and be responsible even when I don’t feel like doing so. Almost always, I show up on these days in a bad mood and leave with great gratitude that I came. Commitments really have helped me keep some consistency in my sobriety.
Commitments are great ways to be of service on a regular basis as well. Although taking commitments does a lot for us, it also is a great way to help others. Meetings need people to take commitments in order to run. Without commitment-takers, meetings would fall apart. Whether you set up the meeting, clean cigarette butts, or make the sponsorship announcement, taking a commitment is a great service to the group as a whole. Because it is a form of service, commitments help us build esteem and connect with the community.
1. Work the steps – Whether or not you have gone through the steps before, go through them this year. The steps are great practice for all of us, and can be a tool of great growth.
3. Read the literature – Regardless of what group you belong to, read the literature. Most programs have a fair amount of official literature, and many unofficial books and pamphlets.
4. Check out a new meeting – Many of us have “home groups” or regular meetings. Although this is great, it is also beneficial to step out and try a new meeting. You may meet new people or hear new things!
5. Find a home group – If you don’t already have a home group, find one! This should be a meeting you attend consistently, have a commitment at, and are a part of.
6. Get a commitment – Even if you already have commitments, grab a new one! Commitments are a wonderful encouragement to show up, and also help us become a part of the community.
7. Greet a newcomer – When newcomers identify in a meeting, watch and listen. After the meeting, stop and talk to them. Remember how it felt when you were new, and how beneficial a kind word can be!
8. Greet a visitor - Just as with the newcomer, watch for visitors from other areas. Welcome them, offer a phone number, and make sure you do what you can to make them feel at home!
9. Sign up for a panel - You may have a local Hospitals and Institutions group (H and I) where you may find opportunities to speak at jails and hospitals. If not, you may keep your ears open in meetings and ask around for ways to bring your program to those who are not able to come to you.
10. Do a tenth step – Not everyone does a written tenth step. This year, try doing a tenth step that works for you, whether it is through meditation, writing, or speaking to a trusted friend.
11. Pray and meditate – Many people slight prayer and meditation. This year, give it a try. Even as an atheist myself, I am able to pray and meditate and find it extremely important in my program.
12. Go through the traditions - Just as we work the steps, many people go through the Twelve Traditions. Going through the traditions with a guide is a great way to learn about their importance and how they hold the group together.
13. Do 30 and 30 – Many newcomers are given the suggestion of going to 90 meetings in 90 days. To recommit to your recovery, try doing 30 meetings in 30 days!
15. Attend a gender-specific meeting – Attending gender-specific meetings is something that many of us shy away from. However, there is some relief in sharing amongst people of your own gender. Try one of these meetings!
16. Sponsor someone - This year, sponsor someone. Taking somebody else through the program you are in is a great way to learn more about the program and be of service. In my experience, being able to take others through the steps is both the greatest tool and the greatest gift of my recovery.
17. Go to a conference - Many areas have conferences or roundups. Attending one is very powerful. There are around-the-clock meetings with different topics, fun activities with others in recovery, and great opportunities to meet others.
18. Be of service - There are many ways to be of service. You may give someone a ride to a meeting, talk to somebody after a meeting, or give somebody a call. The simplest actions can make a big difference.
19. Help your Central Office - Find your local Central Office, and see what you can do to help. Many offices need help answering phones, selling literature, or organizing events.
I knew that the only way to ensure I would never drink or use drugs again was to work Step 12.
The Big Book says in Chapter 7, page 89, “Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics”
My only experience with working Step 12, was when I had a sponsee at 3 months sober and she relapsed and I was so mad at her but really I was mad at myself for failing her.
I realized that I had done all 12 steps but I had not had a spiritual awakening. So how could I possibly carry a message of hope and faith when I haven’t had one myself?
After Renascent, I began to work the steps again, people around me kept noticing how I was able to handle stressful situations. Boom, my spiritual awakening had happened and I knew I wanted to help others.
A Renascent Alumni, whom I had known for almost a year had asked me to sponsor her and I was hesitating because I wanted to make sure I had “it” before I worked with her. In a Vision for You it states “But obviously you cannot transmit something you haven’t got.” So I wanted to make sure I worked all 12 steps before I tried to help anyone.
I starting working work with this prospect and I noticed her life was beginning to change. She admitted she wasn’t honest and had been using. However, I did not feel as if I was failing her like the last sponsee.
I had to remember Step 12 was “Tried to carry this message” Not forced it down their throats. After her relapse, we continued to work together.
When I came for an alumni meeting at Renascent, one of the women asked me to sponsor her and I was really shocked that she thought I had a message to carry.
She told me that she heard my struggles and heard how I got through them without resorting to alcohol or drugs.
I felt really surprised that people were actually listening to what I was sharing.
I was speaking at a One Year Medallion and someone afterwards approached me and asked me to sponsor them. She stated she had been watching me for the past 4 months and was sure we would be the right fit.
A few weeks ago, after I was finishing a workshop at work, one of the clients had pulled me aside and asked me if I would sponsor her…
On page 89 it states “Life will take on new meaning. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends – this is an experience you must not miss. We know you will not want to miss it. Frequent contact with newcomers and with each other is the bright spot of our lives.”
This was exactly what I was feeling. Contact with these newcomers would make my day all that much better.
To see them get better and make progress has been so amazing. On page 94 it says “he has helped you more than you have helped him.” This is so true. It seems like when I struggle with something or have a bad morning and have a sponsee God points out exactly what I need to work on. It’s a beautiful thing to see the sponsee tree grow.
Life has never been so full and so amazing. My son has come back into my life and I have sponsees over at my home when he is sleeping. Like my sponsor said “I’m not the only single mother in recovery.” God makes all this possible. I never knew how much Step 12 could help me out but it helps me every single day. I am so proud of the women I have the privilege of working with. I love this life I have been given.
I really enjoy being of maximum helpfulness to others (Page 102). This is a feeling I want to continue to enjoy for the rest of my life and what this means if I will do Step 12 for the rest of my life and I am beyond excited about it.
The promise that is the most prominent right now is “No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.”
I am still shocked today that I am able to balance sponsses, work, meetings and being a mother. I know God will always provide for me and allow me to do what He needs me to do.
I am responsible when anyone anywhere reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA always to be there, and for that I’m responsible.
This is an amazing fact of my life with AA.
Written by the amazing Natasha B.
2. Use a phone list from a meeting to reach out to strangers.
3. Call a fellow addict and focus on how they are doing.
4. Call your local Central Office; there are often opportunities to help… Phone shifts often need covering.
5. Go to your local Hospitals and Institutions meeting; get a panel, or volunteer to speak on one.
6. If volunteers are asked to help clean up or put away chairs, raise your hand and help!
7. Talk to somebody newer than you.
8. Don’t turn down a direct request to be of service.
9. Smile at strangers.
10. If you have a car, give somebody a ride to a meeting.
11. Join your local General Service Board.
12. Join a committee for a roundup or convention.
And a few more great ideas from our users…
13. Pick up trash
14. Introduce yourself to people at meetings.
15. Go to a local grocery store and round up the shopping carts from the parking lot. Put them back where they belong!
16. Be responsible for the energy you are bringing to each situation.
17. Talk to others and find out what his or her needs are.
18. Pick up when somebody calls you.
19. Be yourself.
20. Be patient and kind.
21. Open a door for someone.
There are far less female sponsors in Alcoholics Anonymous than there are male. Have you ever been to a meeting where they make a sponsorship announcement and only a handful of women, or none at all, raise their hands to sponsor? I’ve witnessed this trend at almost all of the AA meetings I go to, especially young people’s meetings. This phenomenon probably has to do with the higher relapse rates among women and generally the lack of fellowship that I have witnessed, especially among competitive young females. When I came into the rooms of AA, I said many times that I hated other woman or that I didn’t trust other women. Since then I have heard many other newcomers say the same thing. The problem wasn’t that I really disliked or was mistrustful of other women; I was competitive, jealous and attention seeking. I didn’t get the type of attention I was looking for from girls so instead of immediately sticking with strong sober women, I had male friends or unhealthy female friends. Luckily, I found a strong female sponsor, and through the steps, hard work with her, and work with others, I was able to change my attitude towards women. From the sponsor-sponsee relationship I discovered a strong fellowship in Alcoholics Anonymous.
I remember the first time I met my sponsor. It was outside a large AA meeting in Los Angeles and even before I saw her I was intimidated. When I saw Devin I was even more afraid; she was exactly the type of woman I avoided, confident and beautiful. One of the first things Devin asked me was if I was willing to do whatever it took to stay sober. I had about sixty days sober and I was yet to start the steps. I deeply felt that something was missing, so I told her yes, I was willing to do whatever it took. Once I got into the book and started my step work I was able to take a look at my negative perception of other women. Slowly there was a shift in my perception and behavior. One exercise Devin had me do was go to one woman’s meeting every week and get at least three women’s phone numbers. This was a struggle for me. I found it difficult to reach out to anyone but her and generally didn’t feel accepted, because I was unable to accept myself. Regardless, I did it, and at best it made me interact with other women and see how irrational my fear was.
The first big shift that I felt was when I read my fifth step to Devin. I clearly saw in the fourth column of my inventory how unhealthy the few female friendships I had were. I saw my own self-seeking behavior, jealousy and competition with other women. I began to see that behavior stemmed from a lack of love, acceptance and forgiveness for myself. When I read my fifth step to Devin I got all those things I lacked. I felt accepted, loved, and connected. It was that connection that I had been searching for in my using and also in my early sobriety. She told me that she used to act out in similar ways and rather than regretting and being ashamed of it, I should form new healthy bonds and work with other sober women. The connection that I got through that sponsor-sponsee relationship was my first positive experience with female fellowship.
The next big shift happened for me when I got to the <a href=”http://theeasiersofterway.com/category/12th-step/”>twelfth step</a> and began sponsoring other women. At first it was a radical experience walking up to a newcomer girl after a meeting to ask if she had a sponsor and give her my phone number. I had no other agenda than wanting to be of service. I found reaching out in this way easy and rewarding. Unlike when Devin asked me to go to women’s meetings and get phone numbers, I actually enjoyed this. I found myself in a different mindset than I had been just a few months before. I was genuinely excited to be talking to other sober women.
One of the greatest gifts my sobriety has given me is the ability to sponsor other sober women. I take my sponsees through the steps the same way that Devin took me through them. I ask them to call me everyday, and take them through one step a week. I offer firm deadlines, and we meet once a week to discuss the step work. I always ask, just like Devin asked me, if they are willing to do whatever it takes to stay sober. It is an incredible experience hearing a sponsee read her step work.
I currently have one active sponsee. She just finished making her amends and is starting a daily written inventory. She is a shining example of a young person in sobriety. Melanie is 19 years old, and came to California for sober living. We meet once a week to go over her step work and talk about what is going on in her life. Although we have almost no material similarities, I relate to her on a deep level and her experience reminds me of my own struggles in early sobriety. Many of the things that bother her on a daily basis are things that I still struggled with. Working with her makes me feel connected to another person, and reminds me of what I have to work on. She is helping me stay sober just as much as (if not more than) I am helping her. I truly can’t wait until she can start sponsoring other women and experience the greatest gift of connecting and giving back.
I have had a few other sponsees in the past, and from many of those relationships I have learned how to maintain healthy boundaries. The first sponsee I had was a woman named Kira. I approached her at a meeting I was secretary of, and asked if she needed a sponsor. I talked to her a couple times after this meeting before she actually called me. As soon as she did, we got started on her step work and we met once a week to go over it. However, Kira constantly wanted me to drive her places because she didn’t have a car, or sometimes asked unreasonable favors. Before I worked a program I thought loving someone meant doing everything they asked and generally being overly generous, but now I have a different perspective. The only time I went out of my way was when it involved driving her to a meeting or doing something I thought was imperative to her sobriety. I never enabled her when she was lazy or entitled, but instead held strong with my boundaries. Helping sponsees and being connected has nothing to do with what we physically do for them, but rather how we honestly and openly communicate.
My second lesson in healthy boundaries came when Kira relapsed. After her third step she stopped calling me and stopped responding to my texts. I knew that she had relapsed and I was incredibly worried that she was in serious danger. Even though I knew that there was nothing that I could do for her unless she reached out for help, I wanted to fix everything. I talked to my own sponsor and came to a place in myself where I was able to pray for her with a reasonable detachment. I knew that getting emotionally worked up about something I could not control only caused me distress, so instead I gave it up to my higher power. I have had this experience with the vast majority of sponsees that I have had. Unfortunately, the odds are against us and people do relapse. Every time I see a woman fall out of the program it is because she stops doing step work and gets disconnected because she hasn’t built a fellowship of strong sober women.
Having a fellowship beyond just a sponsor has helped keep me connected in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. Recently I started working with another sponsor. I went through the steps with my first sponsor twice, and after completing them the second time I realized I wanted a different experience. This time I picked a sponsor because of her strong spirituality. I am currently trying to expand my spiritual understanding of the steps. I still talk to my old sponsor. I don’t see it as switching but rather an expansion of my fellowship. There are a few women I talk to regularly about what it going on with me. I talk to a few women who attend my homegroup meeting and I always try to stay after the meeting to honestly talk about what’s going, and hear how they are as well. I meet with my current sponsor every other week but we communicate every day. I am currently doing a written tenth step every night where I simply state the good, the bad, and the ugly from that day. My sponsor responds in the morning with a simple thought or word of advice. Doing the steps with a second person has expanded my connection to the fellowship and helped me discover more about myself.
Sponsorship was my first introduction to the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. The number of female sponsors in AA will greatly increase if we reach out to newcomer women. It is our responsibility to reach out and encourage them to find the fellowship and work the steps, so that they can in turn sponsor, and give back to the next newcomer. We can’t just tell people about the beauty of connecting to people in AA. We have to experience it for ourselves by giving back.
Sponsorship is an extremely important part of the Twelve Step programs, both for the newcomer and the sponsor. As the A.A. pamphlet, Questions and Answers on Sponsorship says about the newcomer, ”Sponsorship gives the newcomer an understanding, sympathetic friend when one is needed the most. Sponsorship also provides the bridge enabling the new person to meet other alcoholics – in a home group and in other groups visited.”
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous points out the importance of sponsorship for the sponsor on page 89, “Practical experience shows that nothing will so much sure insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics.” Sponsorship is an integral part of the program for both sponsors and sponsees.
Picking a Sponsor
When picking a sponsor, there are many things that people consider: time, involvement, gender, age, similarities and more.
The Pamphlet on sponsorship reminds us, “An old A.A. saying suggests, ‘Stick with the winners.’ It’s only reasonable to seek a sharing of experience with a member who seems to be using the A.A. program successfully in everyday life.” When picking a sponsor, this is a very important issue to consider. Is the person we would like to sponsor us using the program wisely? A most beneficial sponsor will work the program in all aspects of his or her life, and be able to offer experience on how the program can work for us.
Often, newcomers look for a sponsor that shares a similar story and have similar hobbies. Although finding a sponsor who you can relate to may be beneficial, it is absolutely not necessary. The aforementioned pamphlet points out, ”Often, a newcomer feels most at ease with a sponsor of similar background and interests. However, many A.A.s say they were greatly helped by sponsors totally unlike themselves. Maybe that’s because their attention was then focused on the most important things that any sponsor and newcomer have in common: alcoholics and recovery in A.A.” Having a sponsor with a different background may force us to really look at the similarities.
In my humble opinion based on my experience, a newcomer should get a sponsor as soon as possible. Even as a temporary sponsor, somebody with a little more time can be the catalyst for change.
Everyone has different opinions on how the sponsor-sponsee relationship should be. I stress that these are only my opinions, not the opinions of any Twelve-Step group as a whole, and I am not an expert. There are a few points I think are important in the sponsor-sponsee relationship.
First, a sponsor should not be “above” or “better than” the sponsee. Sponsors and sponsees are equals. Yes, the sponsor is sharing his or her experience, strength, and hope with the newcomer, but it does not make him or her a leader or dictator. In many cases, sponsors tell sponsees exactly what to do, and are there only to take people through the steps. However, as the first quote in this piece says, ”Sponsorship gives the newcomer an understanding, sympathetic friend when one is needed the most.” Sponsors and sponsees absolutely do not need to be friends, but they should absolutely be friendly and compassionate.
Second, if a sponsee has a question or objection, they should always be able to ask. The pamphlet on sponsorship touches on this, saying, ”If the sponsor’s idea sound strange or unclear, the newcomer had better speak up and ask questions. Theirs is supposed to be an easy, open relationship, in which both parties talk freely and honestly with each other.” Openness is essential for the sponsor-sponsee relationship. The sponsee must feel comfortable asking a question, and the sponsor must welcome such curiosity.
Finally, although a sponsor is the newcomer’s main bridge into the twelve step program, the newcomer must also have other resources. I found early in my sobriety that although I had a steady sponsor, I needed to add other people to my toolbox. I still have many men I speak with in the program daily; I do not go to just one. I do think it is very important to find a person to be entirely honest with and tell everything to. However, when we are ready, it is beneficial to open up to others. There are millions of Twelve-Step members across the world, and we are doing an injustice to ourselves if we don’t explore the knowledge and experience out there. Again, from the pamphlet on sponsorship, ”We have many resources when we are unable to contact our sponsors. We can telephone other members; go to an A.A. meeting; phone or visit the nearest A.A. office or clubroom for sober alcoholics; read A.A. books or pamphlets or our magazine, the A.A. Grapevine, to find answers for almost any problem troubling us at the moment.”
The Twelfth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous suggests we “practice these principles in all our affairs.” In prayer and meditation, our work with others, and meetings we are able to be present and work our spiritual program. However, the majority of our days are spent in the real world. It is much more difficult for us to work our programs in daily life, and we must remain vigilant.
A fundamental tool we have for practicing the principles in our lives is to remain mindful. When we are truly present, focused on what we are doing in the moment, we are able to see more clearly our own actions and thoughts. With mindfulness, we are able to be conscious of our spiritual practice. Whether we are meditating, walking, or working, we always have the potential to be mindful. People hear the word meditation, and most commonly think of a formal sitting meditation. Meditation means, “To focus one’s thoughts.” Recognizing where we currently are physically, emotionally, and mentally is focusing one’s thoughts.
One of the first thing we often notice when practicing this mindfulness is the arising of thoughts and emotions. We begin to notice more frequently anxiety, fear, resentment, etc. This can be painful, but leads to great insight. As we recognize our emotions and thoughts, we take some of their power away. Sometimes we feel that we are suffering but not exactly sure why. This is because the emotions and thoughts are being pushed down and eventually build up. When we are mindful and recognize them, we are able to prevent them from controlling us so much. Simply recognizing to ourselves, “I feel anxious” has tremendous power. Speaking about it with somebody else is even more powerful.
The Quality of Our Actions
Our thoughts and emotions drive our actions. When we become aware of the feelings and thoughts, we see the actions that follow them. We must ask ourselves many times throughout the day where our actions are coming from. Are they coming from a place of love? Of fear? Of anger? Of compassion? When we recognize where our actions are coming from, we gain insight into our true nature. The principles we are working to practice become more visibile to us, and we gain judgement in our actions.
A big part of looking at the quality of our actions is how we speak. Speaking accounts for the majority of our communication with others, not just what we say, but how we say it. Remaining mindful of our speech, we often say things and are able to see where in the heart or mind they came from. With this knowledge, we are able to work on these thoughts and feelings, or at least on not acting (speaking) on them. We check if our words are helpful, true, and loving or if they are vengeful, jealous, or harsh.
Along with the actual quality of our actions, we also must investigate our true intentions. Sometimes we do “good” things with bad intentions, or we make mistakes when our intentions are pure. When we notice resentful, selfish, or averting intentions arise, we must recognize them, for if we don’t we will act on them. When we perform a good deed, we also must gently praise ourselves for keeping pure intentions.
Being Gentle with Ourselves
When we find ourselves making a mistake or acting in an unwholesome manner, we must be accountable. We cannot afford to let ourselves get away with everything; we must deal with our mistakes before they deal with us. However, there is a gentle way to go about this. We must practice the principle of compassion with ourselves in these cases. Everyone makes mistakes, and they truly are opportunities to learn. If we hurt others, we must make amends promptly. We also must make amends to ourselves by diligently working to change the behavior.
It truly is not easy to practice these principles in the fast-paced world where not everyone is working a spiritual program. However, this is not an excuse to behave poorly. It is a true test of our abilities and growth.
When many people look at the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, they see them in their linear form, as they are meant to be worked in my opinion. However, Step Twelve which states, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs,” can be worked from the beginning. It is not something that is often stressed, but I found and continue to find it to be a crucial part of my recovery.
Although a newcomer may not have worked all twelve steps, and the first part of the 12th Step (“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps…”) is not fully applicable, they absolutely have something to offer other alcoholics. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous explains in Appendix II: Spiritual Experience, “The terms “spiritual experience” and “spiritual awakening” are used many times in this book which, upon careful reading, shows that the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism has manifested itself among us in many different forms.” In essence, what this says is that the terms spiritual awakening and spiritual experience mean a personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism.
Many of us experience this “spiritual awakening” in the beginning of our stay in Alcoholics Anonymous. My experience is that I had a spiritual experience at around my 30th day of sobriety, where I became truly willing to work the program and open-minded to the ideas laid out before me. It is my opinion that this was enough of a “spiritual experience” to begin my path to sobriety, and be of service.
When I was new, I met people with a few days or weeks more than me, and they were of just as much service to me as anyone else in the program. Similarly, when I had 30 days, I spoke to people with less time, and when appropriate, shared what I had done so far. I had my first sponsee at just over five months sober (and yes, he is still sober today, and an amazing young man), I was secretary of a meeting before having 6 months, I spoke on Hospitals and Institutions panels regularly from 30 days on, and I returned to my treatment center immediately after I left to be of service to those there.
It has been my experience that service is a crucial part of sobriety. Regardless of how important time appears to be in many meetings, we ALL have something to offer our fellows. Being of service from early sobriety and offering what little I did have helped me build a strong foundation of my understanding for compassion and love in Alcoholics Anonymous.
The flip side to this is that I try my hardest to NEVER shut down a newcomer for any reason. When I was new, I was timid and afraid of what the “oldtimers” would think of me. I was afraid to reach out and offer help, because I was surrounded by people who had far more time than me. When I see two newcomers helping each other, I let it happen. I also encourage my sponsees to do their utmost to be of service where appropriate. Having commitments, speaking on panels and carrying the messages, and volunteering to help at meetings are great simple ways to be of service every day.
I have been reading a lot of Thich Nhat Hanh recently. If you are not familiar with him, he is a Vietnamese Buddhist Monk who teaches at Plum Village, has authored many books, and a strong peace advocate. Considered by many as the most influential figure in Zen Buddhism, Thich Nhat Hanh has been paramount in bringing Buddhism to the West.
Thich Nhat Hanh insists that it is through living in the present moment that we find happiness. Relating core Zen Buddhist principles to modern life is one of the many things he has to offer. During his speeches, he often rings a small bell to remind the listeners to return to the present moment.
When Thich Nhat Hanh is with is students, he often asks them the simple question, “What are you doing?” He asks this when it is most obvious what the student is doing, with the intention of bringing them back to what they are doing, and nothing more. The idea behind this is for us to stay present. Regardless of what we are doing, we have the opportunity to live fully in the moment and enjoy what we are doing. The Buddha often said, “Drishta dharma sukha viharin,” which is most commonly translated as, “Dwell happily in things as they are.” Although this may be easier in certain situations than others, we nonetheless have the choice to make the most of our experience.
Another concept that Thich Nhat Hanh often uses is to smile. He stresses the importance of smiling at the world upon awakening, and smiling at intervals throughout the day. Upon practicing this, I have found extreme value in it. When I smile, it encourages a lighthearted, compassionate feeling, and I am almost immediately struck with at least a slight decrease in anxiety.
My sponsor often tells me that my phone is one of the greatest tools I progress for spiritual growth. I can use it to reach out to other members of Alcoholics Anonymous, get in contact with sponsees, read the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, and one more key thing that I have just discovered. With my phone, I set a reminder every day with two things. The first reminder I set for myself it to smile. Twice a day, my phone pops up with a reminder that simply says, “Smile!” Upon seeing this reminder, I follow instructions and smile! I also set a reminder with the question, “What are you doing?” This reminds me to live in the present moment and stay focused on enjoying exactly what I am doing.
These two reminders cover very basic Buddhist principles for me. They are also very helpful in terms of Buddhism and recovery. In Twelve-Step meetings, we are often reminded, “One Day at a Time.” For me, I have to take things one moment at a time. The reminders I set help me practice Right Mindfulness in everyday life. Although I do regularly meditate as a part of my Tenth Step and Buddhism, I know that I must practice mindfulness and self-awareness in everyday life.
Just as meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous are refueling stations for life outside the rooms, meditation is good practice for life outside of our meditation routine. The 12th Step of Alcoholics Anonymous suggests that we “practice these principles in all our affairs.” Although the rooms help us learn from our fellows, hear stories, and learn about ourselves, we must take what we learn outside the rooms if we are to thrive. Similarly, in Buddhism, meditation has much value, and it is through meditation that we calm the mind, realize the nature of our true being, and learn to let go of our attachment to thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. However, we also must take these principles outside our meditation.
I use my phone to remind me to practice the most basic of Buddhist principles, as I am often so wrapped up in my thoughts, that I forget to smile or be present. When my phone goes off, Buddhism slaps me in the face. I am brought back to the present moment, to enjoying my moment, and to not get caught in the future nor the past.