Archive for the Twelve-Step Recovery Category
“We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.”
-Alcoholics Anonymous p. 84 (Into Action)
“To those of us who have hitherto known only excitement, depression, or anxiety – in other words, to all of us – this newfound peace is a priceless gift.”
-Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions p. 74 (Step Seven)
Throughout my using, I had difficulty connecting with myself and others. Even into my sobriety, I didn’t know how to build healthy relationships. My sponsor often says that addiction manifests as a problem with the three relationships we have in our lives: our relationship with ourselves, our relationship with a Higher Power, and our relationships with others. These three relationships are beyond important today in my life; they are the focus of my spiritual practice.
Relationships with Ourselves
When I was using, my relationship with myself suffered greatly. The nature of addiction is that we let go of our values and stop listening to our hearts. Although I thought I used to deal with outside circumstances, the truth was that I used to run away from myself. After years of avidly running away from myself and pushing things down, it was inevitable that I became completely detached from who I was. I pushed my true self down and was driven completely by my cravings.
Essentially, my relationship with myself had become one of aversion and avoidance. Not only was I out of touch with my emotions, thoughts, and even my actions, I was actively trying to distance myself even further from them. It is safe to say that my relationship with myself was very poor and left much room for improvement.
In recovery, I have worked very hard on my relationship with myself. Step One offers us a chance to begin rebuilding this relationship. In the first step, we are encouraged to take a look at ourselves honestly. The Big Book recommends we “full concede to our innermost selves” that we are addicts or alcoholics. For me, this was quite a radical statement. Having spent many years denying my true nature, honestly admitting something to myself was powerful.
The main part of rebuilding my relationship with myself was through meditation. My first meditations were but a few minutes. Taking the time to sit with myself for even a few breaths proved very useful. When something unpleasant was arising within, I took a moment to pause and simply feel how it felt. Through this process, I slowly was able to face the things I had been running from. The anxiety, anger, and fear were overwhelming at times. My mentor helped me to sit with them and feel them. I learned to not act on every thought and emotion I had.
As time went on, I began sitting in meditation for longer periods of time. I found that there was a whole lot going on that I wasn’t aware of. Even today, I often learn things about myself through meditation of which I was totally oblivious before. In this way, I have strengthened my relationship with myself. I know myself today better than I ever have, and I continue to learn. In building a relationship with myself, I no longer am shocked by my own behavior and thoughts, I am gaining insight into the nature of my addiction, and I am dealing with my pain.
Relationships with a Higher Power
The problem here is fairly simple: I made myself my Higher Power. When I think about a Higher Power, I think of turning my will and my life over and I think of letting something have power over me. In my using, I definitely made drugs and alcohol my Higher Power. I let them control me, and completely turned my entire life over. I also turned my life and will over to my own thoughts. Rather than sitting with my thoughts and emotions, I blindly followed them.
The solution for me has been to reassess to what I should turn my will and my life over. In my sobriety, the concept of a Higher Power has changed. Today, I take it to mean the seed of goodness within us all. When I turn my will and my life over today, I turn it over to the loving, compassionate, wise piece of myself within. In Buddhism, they would call this the Buddha-seed or Buddhahood that we all carry within.
I work on this relationship by performing esteemable acts and meditating. When I act in a loving way, I am watering seeds of love within me. If I act with anger, I am watering seeds of anger within. Through esteemable action, I am able to water the healthy seeds. I try to work with others, take commitments, be on time, and act with integrity even when nobody is looking. Even if nobody knows that I dropped a piece of trash, I have to sleep with it at night.
Relationships with Others
My relationships with other people were selfish and self-seeking, as the Big Book so accurately points out. My relationships centered on my own needs. My friends were all my friends because of unhealthy reasons. I chose lower companions that made me feel okay about my using. If a friend did not have anything to offer me as far as drugs, alcohol, or security in my using, I generally let the relationship fall to the side.
My relationship with my family and other loved ones suffered as well. I spoke to my family only when I needed something (usually when I wanted money). I lied, stole, and hurt them greatly. Again, my relationships centered around me having my needs met. I didn’t care much about who I hurt in the process, and it showed. Eventually, my family stopped talking to me.
Finally, my intimate relationships were quite painful. I was in a few unhealthy relationships. There were fights, cheating, and a whole lot of lying. I rarely thought about my partner’s feelings. The only time I made an effort was when I thought it would serve me well. Because I was so scared of myself, I didn’t want to let anybody else in.
Working on my relationship with others has been an integral part of my sobriety. Steps four through nine really help us work on these relationships. In these steps, I learned to see my part in my relationships. Where I previously had blamed everyone else for my problems, I began to take some personal responsibility. In the Ninth Step, I cleaned up the wreckage of my past (or at least tried to). I was given a fresh start and an opportunity to build new relationships with people.
Step Ten allows me to continually check my relationships. I no longer sabotage relationships blindly, then wonder what happened. I take a look at the pain and the feelings, and figure out ways to address it. Step Twelve has greatly helped me as well. When I take somebody else through the steps, I am able to fully connect. Rather than taking, I am giving. It is a complete turn-around.
I also like to work on my relationships with others in daily life. I try my best to be friendly to everyone I meet. I practice metta meditation to try to connect my own desires to be happy with those of others. Although I am not perfect, I do my best to understand, accept, and have compassion. When I got sober, I wanted to work immediately on my relationships with others. However, I found I had to work on the other two first before I could honestly offer myself to anyone else.
Recently, I have heard a lot of talk about what exactly it means to be sober. Somebody mentioned they were sober because they had stopped using drugs, but they still drank. Somebody else argued that they had never drank or used in their entire life, and they understood what it was like to be sober. Finally, a non-alcoholic friend asked me about caffeine, smoking, and prescription medication, and their relationship with sobriety.
This example of somebody who quit hard drugs and just drinks is very common. I did this myself for years. Although some people benefit from this tactic, it is absolutely not sober. My personal experience was that I was simply no better off switching drugs. As my sponsor puts it, it is like switching seats on the Titanic. I still repressed feelings and pain. I didn’t look within or grow. Although marijuana may physically be less harmful than methamphetamine, it is no better for my spirit.
However, it is not for me to judge how other people choose to live their lives. If somebody can quit using crack but continue drinking alcohol, then I support them. My personal Buddhist beliefs are that I should not ingest anything that leads to heedlessness, but I would never push this on somebody else (just as I don’t want somebody pushing their religion on me). Just because I wasn’t able to continue using one substance while quitting another does not mean everyone will have the same experience. However, this simply does not make one sober.
Having an Addiction
Although the word sober actually means not intoxicated, there is a different connotation in recovery circles. Being sober implies that the person once went through an addiction. If somebody never picks up or uses in their life, they are technically sober. However, they are not sober in the same way that somebody is who has gone through an addiction. This does not make their sobriety any less valuable or important. However, it is just not the same.
I was recently in a position where a non-alcoholic was speaking to a newcomer. The non-alcoholic said they had never used, and understood what the newcomer was going through. Because this person had never used, they had experienced much pressure and desires to try drugs and alcohol. However, this is completely different from trying to get sober from an addiction. Although the non-alcoholic here had a valid point about choosing not to use, the non-alcoholic simply cannot understand the addict’s feelings. When we get sober, our brains are suddenly without substances they are accustomed to. We have been spending much of our lives running from every feeling. Suddenly, we are confronted by our feelings, and are often overwhelmed. However, the non-alcoholic has had many years to face their feelings.
As I am writing this, it sounds a bit exclusive or elitist. I don’t think alcoholics are better than non-alcoholics. I don’t think non-addicts don’t suffer from social pressure, cravings, or desires to escape. I also know that non-addicts have many things to offer us (as everyone does). I simply think that nobody can help an addict like another addict. Although a “normie” may have great advice to offer, their advice on sobriety and recovery is often not from personal experience. Sharing from personal experience is one of the greatest gifts addicts can give to each other. However, I personally do not shut non-addicts out of my support network.
Addressing other mind-altering substances is tricky. These include caffeine, nicotine, sugar, etc. All I can share here is my personal experience and opinion. I am not an authority on the issue. I have found that all of these substances do affect me. When I was new, I drank a ton of coffee, chain-smoked, and ingested a lot of sugar. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was using these substances to numb my feelings a bit. They’re not quite as strong as other drugs, but they do affect our brain. I truly believe that cigarettes and caffeine helped me to stay sober in the beginning.
As time went on, my needs changed. As I became more able to meet life on life’s terms, I became less concerned with these substances. I rarely drink caffeine, gave up coffee completely, and have been smoke free for about 3 and a half months now. I don’t think this makes me more sober or better than anyone else. Nicotine and caffeine were of great help to me. As they helped me get sober and stay sober for a bit, they allowed me to get to where I am. Now that I can look at my craving and attachment to pleasure more deeply, I can change my relationship to these substances.
However, those that smoke cigarettes, drink a lot of coffee, or eat sugar are still sober in my opinion. They do not alter the mind enough to truly be considered a relapse. However, I encourage everyone to take a look at your relationship to them. I thought I drank coffee becauseI enjoyed the taste of coffee, but it turns out the caffeine made me feel good for a bit.
Finally, we come to the issue of prescription medication. This is a touchy one for many people. I have heard many stories of people who have had legitimate reasons to take prescription medications, only to eventually relapse. My opinion and experience on this is that if a doctor prescribes medication for a legitimate issue and we take the medication in a healthy manner, we are in the clear. However, we must be very careful. We must make sure we are taking medications because we legitimately need them. Our minds can trick us into thinking we do, so it is probably best to speak to others about it.
A few times a year, I have kidney stones. The pain is usually excruciating, and doctors often give me pain medication in the hospital, as well as a prescription. I try very hard to get through it with ibuprofen and rest, but sometimes I do need medication. I like to ask myself what my intentions are and if I truly need medication. I don’t need to be a martyr, but I do need to be safe. I call my sponsor, and often ask my sober girlfriend for her thoughts. In the hospital, I talk to a sober addict before taking any medications. When I leave the hospital, I generally decline and painkillers. If I do need to take them, I ask the doctor for a low quantity. I tell my sponsor before I take even one.
In my opinion, we can absolutely take prescription medications if we need them. However, we have a problem that centers in our minds, and we must not deceive ourselves. If somebody is taking prescription meds without a medical issue, this is probably not sober. If you are in a situation that meds are a possibility, I would recommend you:
-Ask yourself if you absolutely need the meds
-Call your sponsor or some mentors
-Remember that just because you take the meds as prescribed doesn’t make it healthy or not a relapse
-Be aware of withdrawal effects
This is the first ranting post I have written in quite a while. I just had this on my mind, and find that this is a great way to get my thoughts out! Let me know if you have any experience or thoughts with these issues! I have two conclusions from this. First, an addict is bodily and mentally different; being clean your whole life is not the same as sober. Second, if somebody else drinks coffee, smokes, takes meds, or is drinking instead of using hard drugs, it is not our business. We can offer support and love, but one path does not work for everyone!
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.
I was recently asked to speak at a meeting in which the speaker chose a reading from As Bill Sees It. I flipped open the book randomly, and came to the entry on page 226 entitled Give Thanks from the March 1962 episode of the Grapevine. It read:
Though I still find it difficult to accept today’s pain and anxiety with any great degree of serenity – as those more advanced in the spiritual life seem able to do – I can give thanks for present pain nevertheless.
I find the willingness to do this by contemplating the lessons learned from past suffering – lessons which have led to the blessings I now enjoy. I can remember how the agonies of alcoholism, the pain of rebellion and thwarted pride, have often led me to God’s grace, and so to a new freedom.
I have not read every page of As Bill Sees It, but I don’t know if I could have turned to a page that I agree with more. Although I do not practice this in every moment, I try my best to. Turning toward our suffering and not running from it is a indispensable practice. The tendency of recovering addicts to run from unpleasant feelings is often a result of what is taught in twelve-step programs: to call your sponsor, go to a meeting, or help a newcomer.
Generally, I think these things are great. I call my mentors every day, go to many meetings, and work with as many newcomers as I am able to. However, these are not solutions for our own issues. When I am feeling an unpleasant feeling (like anxiety), calling a sponsor may not be the right choice. A sponsor may tell me to go to a meeting or help a newcomer, but these are not helping me grow how I need. Going to a meeting or working with somebody else are both important aspects of my recovery, but again, they do not necessarily offer the best solution.
I have found that the best answer is often to just sit in it. I don’t mean whine, play the victim, or blame others. I mean that we simply must sit in our feelings sometimes. When anxiety takes over, we must allow ourselves to feel the feeling. There are many ways I have benefited from doing this.
First, awareness of our suffering allows us to learn about the feelings. When an unpleasant emotion arises, I run. It is one of the foundational parts of being an addict. When I began to sit with my emotions, I began to learn about them. I noticed that my anxiety was generally a combination of tightness in my chest, a feeling in my arms and hands, and racing thoughts. Only when I sat with it was I able to see that anxiety was just a combination of other sensations, and not really as “bad” as I had thought. It was just unpleasant.
When we sit with our suffering, we are doing the most compassionate thing possible. It may not seem this way at first, but when we truly sit with our pain, we are able to change our relationship to it. When we accept our pain and look at it with a curious eye, we are able to treat it with more love and compassion. When we run from it, we are not giving it any attention, nor allowing it to teach us anything.
We also learn a lot about our instinct to run from unpleasantness when we sit with our feelings. When we run, we encourage ourselves to not feel the feelings. Every time we sit with an unpleasant feeling, we are able to strengthen our ability to change our relationship to unpleasantness. We may see our immediate reaction of aversion, and work on changing it to a more loving and compassionate response.
Finally, as the reading in As Bill Sees It points out, suffering has a lot to teach us. If we are willing to learn, our pain may be our greatest teacher. Pain is a motivator for change, and without it, we probably wouldn’t be on a spiritual path. When we suffer, we are truly offered a chance to learn something about ourselves. Buddhist monk Ajahn Chah says, “In each moment of suffering lies an opportunity for awakening.”
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.
Far be it from me to exclude myself from the royal “us” of which I speak here – so, at the outset, let me be clear that I’m in. Me, you, them – we’re all bundled up into one heaving mass of trying-to-get-it-right. So it’s even tougher when I notice that there are natural forces working against us; things that just want to get in the way. One of these, as I’m seeing in my own life, is the peculiarly earthly pull toward homeostatis. Oh, how we love to keep things just the way that they are, or that they always were – even when it sucks. Even when they’re a mess of nausea-inducing, soul-wretching, heartbreaking crappiness. The pull toward what is familiar, in my experience, is right up there with gravity in its fortitude. The only counterforce I’ve been able to detect (to the extent that one exists) is awareness. Well, in theory, at least. Aren’t theories the greatest? They make everything seem so…possible. It’s the action part where things generally go off the rails for me. Damn you; theories, and all your sparkly hopefulness.
In any event, there are many patterns – most of them reactionary and retro, based on now completely counterproductive coping tools of my time as a little person – that I’m trying to change in my own life. And when I’m successful, it’s awesome. Truly. I’m a little bit more sane every time I can push the grown-up button instead of dealing with something like a kindergartner (funny; these old reactions are what my ego used to tell me made me so damn special…). But I’m noticing something that’s kind of disturbing: the calmer I get; the more my reactions deviate from what they used to be – the more the people in my life start pulling out the stops to get me to do what I used to do. I used to pray for really good one-liners and airtight counterarguments in the heat of conflict – now I just pray to keep my mouth shut and to make like Hippocrates (first, to do no harm).
If you lived inside my head during tense moments these days, it would sound something like this: “DearGodpleasehelpmeshutuppleasedon’tletmesaythatsnarkythingthatjustcameintomyheadpleasenowordspleasejust-helpmeshutshutshutupshutUP.” But the quieter I get (at least as far as anyone can see), the more my dear loved ones (and they really are just lovely people) start to see me as a tiger in a cage who doesn’t know it, but has a flashing billboard behind my head that says “poke me.” ”Provoke me,” even. Somehow, I’m transmitting a signal that’s telling them to do whatever they have to do to turn me back into my irrational baby self, who was a bear to live with and around. Curious, isn’t it? Wasn’t there a happy little song about the witch being dead? Wasn’t that cause for celebration, at some point? Isn’t it a good thing if those parts of myself end up smooshed under a very large house?
As it turns out, not really. Change is uncomfortable. It’s weird. It’s foreign. It renders us a stranger in a strange land. Who wants that? On most days, not me – not even as I’m witnessing the overwhelmingly positive changes happening in my own life as a result of my willingness to get lost. Plus, when someone else can get me to be the asshole, well – the accountability imperative for them is sort of eviscerated, don’t you think? I’m getting better at not taking the bait, but catch me on a day when I’m tired, or when my head hurts, or when I just haven’t been able to connect with God in quite the way I want to – and yep, I’ll sign up for butthead of the day like a seven-year-old automaton. And the people around me are all too willing to seek this return to “normalcy,” because for God’s sake then at least no one has to look at themselves. Everyone can just keep looking at me, and shaking their heads in a wistful, “but-she-could-have-been-so-much-more” kind of a way. I become the tragedy, and they get to be the mourners. See how that works?
As for my part in this whole thing, I’ve willingly handed over my purse full of serenity to a mugger with no weapon time and time again. I’m off-center, adrift in diseased thinking, and have momentarily forgotten how to separate other people’s stuff from my own. This, too, sucks. Because then I’ve got to trudge all the way back to step one, take a lot of deep breaths while I ask God to restore peace and calm to my heart, and take a bunch of Advil to ward off the headache I feel forming behind my right eye. I mean; are any of us better off? We’re back to the status quo, but better off? I don’t think so. Nobody’s growing. We’re all just back to chasing pavement, thinking we’re getting somewhere. But damn; does it feel a hell of a lot better then trying to figure out where the hell where actually supposed to go.
Importantly – very importantly – none of this is to say that a) I don’t try to yank people back into behaving how they used to (even if it didn’t work for them, or for me), or b) that the people who do this in our lives don’t love us, truly and deeply. The homeostasis imperative just one of those weird terms of the contract inherent in living on earth. No judgment. But as I’ve told my clients zillions of times – read three times, sign once…so an awareness of this particular clause, and a willingness to pay attention to its outcomes in our lives, is a worthy pursuit in my little corner of the world.
This is a contribution from Stephanie Croke. Check out Stephanie’s bio at the bottom of the piece, and thank her on her Twitter!
You’ll want to listen to some music to get into the right frame of mind (and heart) to read what’s ahead. For me, hearing this particular piece is like taking an express train through the most poignant, painful valleys of a recovery journey: we all know those the moments when our doubts outweigh our faith; when we feel like the God of our understanding may well have forgotten us. He hasn’t, I learn over and over again. He won’t – so long as we’re clear about who He is (and is not).
I stumbled upon this ethereally longing piece of music (or, perhaps more appropriately, it stumbled upon me) on an ordinary day, writing a grad school paper while I listened to Pandora in the kitchen. Generally, classical music is the only thing I can use as background noise while I’m working if I want to stay productive. But once this came on, everything stopped. This wasn’t just music; it’s an unintentional hymn. One that without words, says everything.
Here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMoFmICrISE. You may want to let it play as you read today’s entry.
I heard this score when I saw the movie Castaway during its original release. At the time, I certainly didn’t see the allegories woven throughout the film that I do now, and I’m not even sure whether what I see with today’s lens is a product of accident or deliberation. Either way, it seems to me that there’s an awful lot to be gleaned from a bloody volleyball and Hollywood story when it comes to our own recoveries.
As those of you who have seen the movie will remember, Tom Hanks finds himself alone on a prototypical deserted island, the sole survivor of a cargo plane crash. As he sifts through the wreckage, one of the few items that emerges unharmed is a Wilson volleyball, perfectly preserved in its original box. Overwhelmed by the sad gravity of his situation, Hanks picks up the ball and angrily tosses it aside, only to find that his own bloody handprint has left an impression that looks a lot like a face. It is in this moment that his friend – his only friend – Wilson is born, and the two begin their long journey to survive isolation, desperation, and starvation: physical, mental, and spiritual. (Sounds a lot like the life of anyone who’s struggled with addiction, if you ask me.)
All of hardships that you might imagine befall them as the movie continues – but it is Wilson who keeps Hanks alive (or so he thinks). The ball with a face becomes his lifeline, his touchstone, his reason to go on. And then he falls asleep on a ramshackle raft one day, and wakes up to find his beloved Wilson gone – lost to the sea. Unrecoverable. Hanks is devastated, apologizing profusely to Wilson for having lost him. Viewers wonder if he’ll give up his fight for survival; if this loss the final straw – more than any man can be expected to bear.
It’s beautifully tragic, isn’t it? Can’t we all so viscerally identify with that feeling of the last fraying thread of a lifeline snapping; the last breath of hope leaving our bodies? I can. But in relating to this particular story, we forget an important truth: it was just a volleyball.
Can’t the same be said for a drink, or a high, or for anything that we substitute for a rich, spiritual connection with a higher power?
At the heart of any addiction, won’t we always find a Wilson?
In my view, then, Castaway begs the question: what are we hanging on to in life that fools us into believing that it’s our only hope? What people, places, or things have we mistaken for God, or for the higher power of our own understanding? What or who have we elected as our own charlatans of hope; our carpet baggers of healing? What are our Wilsons? And perhaps most importantly, what would it take for us to let them go, and to turn instead toward a real higher power – the true and only source of grace and redemption?
I’m loathe to give a movie ending away, so for those of you who hate spoilers, consider this fair warning…
As we consider the bloody handprints we’ve left all over our own lives by desperately clutching volleyballs, let’s not forget that Tom Hanks made it off that island just fine. Wilson didn’t, but he did.
Friends, so long as we anchor our hope to a truly spiritual pillar – we are never cast away.
Based in Williamsburg, Va., Stephanie Croke has been writing about wellness and recovery since 2008. She holds a B.A. in communications from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland and a J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law. Croke is also pursuing a master’s degree in addiction counseling from The College of William and Mary.
When I was very new in sobriety, I put forth almost no effort. I went to meetings, and that was about it. As I began to work the steps and grow fond of sobriety, I gave it my all. I had 4 service commitments a week, attended at least 10 meetings a week, was active with Hospitals and Institutions, and took my sobriety extremely seriously. I gave it my all, as I wanted so badly to remain sober.
As time went on, the effort in sobriety I have put forth has fluctuated. When I find myself in an unpleasant place, I often work extremely hard. When everything is going well, I slack. This cycle of effort reflects my ups and downs. I don’t always put 100% in, and I don’t always feel 100%. Things work like this in my life, and I am okay with it.
I think it is important to note that I don’t need to give it absolutely 100% in order to stay sober, grow, and progress. When I look at my effort in sobriety, I see that I have always given some of myself to my program. No matter how little of a program I was working, I always went to meetings, was of service, and meditated. I never put no effort in.
When I was new and putting forth a great amount of effort in sobriety, I would not necessarily have benefited from knowing this information. But now, I am grateful that I know that I don’t have to stress about how perfect of a program I am working. To me, that is the point… I don’t have to work a perfect program. It is okay that I don’t give it my all every single moment. It is okay that I don’t work my program without error. I do put forth effort in my sobriety consistently, and I never give up.
With the ups and downs, I am able to find peace in the reality that I may choose to work my program to fit my needs. I know that at the very least, my needs are that I stay sober, help others, and continue going to meetings. I have learned about myself enough through the Twelve Steps and my meditation practice that I know when I need to put more effort forth. Similarly, I am beginning to recognize when I am expecting too much of myself.
Recently, it seems that many people are up in arms over some things The Easier Softer Way is doing, specifically that we charge money for our daily email lists. In order to help you understand why this is, we would like to give a little background on us here, and hope it gives you some insight.
In early 2011, I was an aspiring web designer and SEO specialist who needed a site to test my skills on. I started The Easier Softer Way as theeasiersofterway.wordpress.com, on the free web host WordPress with limited capabilities. As the site grew, we moved over here to www.theeasiersofterway.com and began to change the site. It was just a simple one-page blog with my musings, experience, etc. The site gained a little traffic and footing, and we decided to take this a little more seriously! My SEO and web design company was doing well, but I was working for some questionable clients, and felt my skills could be better utilized.
The Easier Softer Way Now
The Easier Softer Way now receives thousands of visitors every month. We have three daily emails we send out, are posting constantly on our social media pages, have new posts on our website weekly, and run our shop. The Easier Softer Way takes about 10-12 hours a day to keep running. We receive hundreds of emails asking for information, help, and opinions every week. We like to think that each minute we spend with the site helps us reach somebody else who would like to grow.
I personally write every single daily email (Daily Minfulness, Daily Meditation, and Big Book & Twelve N’ Twelve Quotes). It is not some big automated process. Every day, I spend at least an hour compiling the quotes and thoughts, sending them out in emails, and posting them on our social medias. I work from about 9am to 7 or 8pm every day on The Easier Softer Way.
I have no day job, and work with The Easier Softer Way full time. For those that are unaware, I am still on parole and have a criminal record showing Armed Robbery, Kidnapping, and Unlawful Use of a Weapon. It is very difficult for me to find a job, although I have been sober and with a clean record for years. I really find that my work with The Easier Softer Way is the most fulfilling work I have done in my life. I love reaching new people, learning from followers, and hearing other opinions.
The Easier Softer Way has many expenses that people may not be aware of. We have web hosting and expensive email hosting (as we have large email lists and newsletters and send thousands of emails a day), down payments on renting space and artists for our charity events, and paying people to keep it going when I am on my frequent retreats. On top of all these expenses, THIS IS MY ONLY JOB!
The Easier Softer Way would not be what it is if I did not spend my time here, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I truly have a deep love and respect for this work. However, any time I mention that we charge for our daily emails, people post mean comments across all of our social medias, unfollow us, and bash us on their own pages. I understand that there are many people out there making a lot of money in this field. However, I promise you we are not. After our expenses and rent, I barely squeeze by. Furthermore, we have many volunteers who help keep stuff running by donating a few hours a week to making things happen.
I am in no way asking for your sympathy or pity. I simply want people to understand the truth behind The Easier Softer Way. We are not a huge company getting rich. I am a young man using my web design and SEO skills for good. The $1/month contribution is not very large, but it makes a huge difference to us! If you are offended by us asking for just $1/month (as many people have said they are), we truly apologize and do not mean to cause any harm.
I truly hope that you understand The Easier Softer Way a little better. I am extremely proud that we offer as much inspiration and help as we do for free, and have reached as many as we have. As just one person running this without any money at all, I am excited that we have reached the thousands of fans on our social medias, thousands of visitors every month, and hundreds of emails we answer helping others. You may take a moment to notice that we have done this all in an AD FREE environment!!! If you have any questions at all, you can email me on my personal email at Matthew (at) TheEasierSofterWay (dot) com.
Owner, The Easier Softer Way