Archive for the 9th Step Category
Being in an intimate relationship in sobriety is difficult to say the least. Relationships are like steroids for my character defects; they cause them to grow more powerful than I imagined possible. From jealousy to control issues, my need to be right to my need to know everything, my character defects really come to light in relationships. However, being in a relationship has taught me a lot, and my growth has been great.
Keys to My Healthy Relationship
With my character defects glaring me in the face in this relationship, I have found several important keys to keeping the relationship strong and healthy. As with the rest of my recovery, I must remain vigilante with myself in order to sustain this healthy relationship.
The first, and most important, tool in my healthy relationship is communication. Communication is an absolutely indispensable tool in my relationship. Obviously, this applies in the sense of not lying, straightforward nor by omission. However, communicating goes much further than telling the truth.
In order to maintain a healthy relationship, communication must go both ways. I must walk through my (often irrational) fears, and be able to communicate how I feel. Remaining considerate of her feelings, I tell her how I feel, whether I am upset (with her or not), happy, anxious, or dealing with something. She is not my sponsor, nor is she my Higher Power. However, she is an integral part of my support network. Furthermore, when I hold things in too much, it closes off my heart to her. As my heart fills with fear and resentment, my capacity to love is diminished. As I become able to tell her how I feel and what is going on with me, it frees my heart up to be filled with love. It is not always easy, as fears of being judged, not being enough, and driving her away do arise. However, I consistently walk through these fears, and each time the fears are easier to overcome.
Also, I must be open to communication from her end. As important as talking is to communication, so is listening. When she speaks to me, whether it is a casual conversation or something more serious, I make a diligent effort to listen mindfully. My reactions are not always compassionate and loving, and it is something I am consciously working on. I find that as I listen with more mindfulness, I am able to respond with more compassion rather than reacting with fear. When I react with fear, I am not encouraging a safe, open environment. Just as I go through fears sharing my feelings, so does she. It is not within my control whether or not she will be open and honest with me, but it is within my control to encourage a safe space to nurture the love rather than the fear.
Step Ten of Alcoholics Anonymous reminds us to promptly admit when we are wrong. This is a huge part of a healthy relationship for me. I make mistakes, I hurt myself, and I hurt her. Never once have I done so on purpose, but it simply happens. When it does happen, regardless of my intentions, I absolutely must promptly make amends. If I am not able to admit when I am wrong, the behavior is not likely to change, and I will continue to hurt her. Selfishness is at the root of our disease, and I must be vigilante with my character defects.
This is something that we hear a lot in regards to relationships in sobriety. My loved one and I must keep our sobriety number one in our own lives, independently of each other. I cannot make her my Higher Power, my sponsor, nor put her above my sobriety and my program. This being said, I don’t have to ignore her in order to work my program. I find time to meet with my sponsor, sponsees, friends, and go to meetings on my own. I have a different perception of a Higher Power than her, I have a sponsor that works differently than hers, and I don’t enjoy all the same meetings as she.
Keeping our programs separate, we are able to grow together. Something different works for everyone, and I must constantly remind myself that. We go to meetings together, we meditate together constantly, and we have many talks about our spiritual work. However, there are certain things that are different, and we recognize these things. It is one of the most beautiful things about both Twelve Step programs and Buddhism: to be able to have our own experiences and find our own truths. As we work on ourselves, we are becoming more and more human each day. Capable of loving, compassionate, insightful, and accepting, we are able to grow closer together.
These are just three big things that come to mind when I think of my first healthy relationship I have ever had in my life. With all the defects popping up of mine, it can be overwhelming at times. However, we always have a support network to get us through things, give us advice, and share experiences with us.
“Since most of us are born with an abundance of natural desires, it isn’t strange that we often let these far exceed their intended purpose. When they drive us blindly, or we willfully demand that they supply us with more satisfactions or pleasures than are possible or due us, that is the point at which we depart from the degree of perfection that God wishes for us here on earth. That is the measure of our character defects, or, if you wish, our sins”
“Above all, we should try to be absolutely sure that we are not delaying because we are afraid. For the readiness to take the full consequences of our past acts, and to take responsibility for the well-being of others at the same time, is the very spirit of Step Nine.”
I have found in my recovery that I must continue to take personal inventory ON PAPER. Simply trying to do it in my head does not work, and I fall behind. Furthermore, when I am doing a written inventory, I must also take the action to make amends where they are due.
Many meetings across the country read the beginning of Chapter Five, entitled “How it Works.” A part of the reading says, “If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it – then you are ready to take certain steps.” This is important to remember both for newcomers and those with time.
I see newcomers who are homeless, struggling to eat, and an emotional wreck inside. I ask if they are truly willing to go to any lengths necessary to get better. I know I was. Whatever my sponsor suggested, I did, even if I did not see the purpose.
Although when I was new I was able to see this, I have had times where I have forgotten this. Later in the book, in Chapter Six, the book says, “Remember it was agreed at the beginning we would go to any lengths for victory over alcohol.”
I must remind myself at times that I had conceded to my innermost self that I was alcoholic. I must work today as hard for my sobriety as I did when I first got sober.
Sometimes amends cannot be made to one’s face. Whether because of legal restrictions, courtesy to the person, or compassion toward others, amends sometimes should not be made directly to one’s face. This is not up to me to tell you where and when to make amends. I have had a hard time dealing with the concept of “living amends,” and would like to share my thoughts as well as hear others’.
For me, living amends are a daily process. For some things, there may be direct actions I may take. For example, the way I treated my family was horrendous. Today, I make amends by being there for them when they need me. I have a relationship with them, and practice coming from a place of love when I am frustrated.
For other amends, I must simply live in a positive way. There are some things that I can never fix, but I can only move forward. I practice living in a way for myself that will ensure I do not act in those ways again.
Making amends is for me as well as for the other person. When I am living right and acting right, I am able to look back at my behavior and feel alright about it. I do not regret the past today nor wish to shut the door on it. When I am living in a healthy way, and look back at my actions, I am driven to excel even more. Making amends builds esteem, and helps me bring out my true nature.
The Ninth Step Promises have and still are coming true every day for me. Through practicing the Eightfold Path, I find daily amends to come naturally. The esteem I have gained is not quantifiable. I am infinitely more happy living a daily amends, and although I have harmed people in my past, I know I can be forgiven. I trust that my higher power forgives me, and I need to practice forgiving myself. If I do not practice the twelve steps and the Eightfold Path in all my affairs, I cannot forgive myself. When I do, forgiveness is a direct result.
Before I got sober, I was ruled by fear. I often hear in twelve-step meetings the importance of turning my will and life over to a power greater than myself. Looking back throughout my life, I always was and am turning my life over to something, essentially giving it control. When I was using, I turned my will and life over to Fear. My actions and thoughts were ruled by my fear of myself and my overwhelming emotions which I never learned to cope with.
Fear completely ruled my life. I lived in suffering, and found no peace in things as they were. There were problems with me, a spiritual malady that prevented me from seeing the blessing of life. Instead of living in gratitude, I let fear overpower me.
When I was newly sober, there were many times that I felt overwhelmed by my emotions. My sponsor used to say to me, “The good news is you’re feeling again. The bad news is you’re feeling again.” My fear of seeing my true emotions and who I was were what drove me to use. Life had gotten so unbearable, that when I made that decision to seek a better path, I had to suddenly start dealing with all these emotions. I didn’t feel like I wanted to get high, I just felt like I didn’t want to feel.
Today, I am able to deal with these emotions, although fear still does get the best of me on occasion. The second and third step were my first turning point with the fear situation. I trust that a power greater than myself holds the best path for me, and that everything happens for a reason. My higher power is forgiving, and no thought or feeling I have is inherently wrong. As I trust in God, I am able to walk through my fear, and see that it is only making me stronger and better able to cope with it.
Buddhism has also greatly aided me through living without the controlling reign of fear. My Samatha and Vipassana practices have helped me become more aware of myself and my emotions, as well as seeing the true nature of my fear. I see that fear comes completely from within, as I am sometimes in fear when completely alone and silent. It is often said in the program that fear is one side of the coin and faith is the other. I have found this especially true through my meditation practices. When I experience fear, it is directly because I have a lack of faith in that moment. Just as fear comes from within, my higher power must come from within.
When I am able to sear my fear and my suffering in this light, it opens a door to a realm of possibilities. I am able to see that one of my suffering is a lack of faith, and even being too hard on myself about it. I criticize the world, specifically myself, and am not able to live in acceptance. I see that the cessation of this specific suffering is possible, because I have experienced it before. I know that the way through this suffering is through right effort, right livelihood, right action, and of course right view. My view is becoming stronger and stronger as the days go by. I know that right effort is important because I must not give up and persevere through the fearful times. Right livelihood is important to me today because I earn a good honest living. My livelihood is important to maintain because it allows me to live in confidence, knowing that my faith and lack of fear brings me to higher ground. Finally, my actions are extremely important. as I sometimes must act my way into right thinking. With Buddhism as well as twelve-step recovery, right action sometimes needs to come first, as experience leads to true faith.
I heard a newcomer say in a meeting recently that “fear is some powerful shit.” I respect his opinion of course, but I pray that one day he can see that it is only as powerful as he allows it to be. Today, fear is not as powerful as it used to be. Waves of emotion occur. I do not have to let them become waves of fear or waves of craving, and for that I love my higher power.