My sobriety has taught me accountability and commitment that has helped me maintain a job. Early in sobriety my sponsor directed me to take commitments at meetings, show up regularly, and have integrity. I learned to arrive at meetings on time and not break commitments. My first commitment was making the clean up announcement at a meeting. I showed up every week thirty minutes early and stayed late to make sure that everything was cleaned up. I engaged in fellowship with people as a result and enjoyed the accountability that was required.
I also regularly attended a meeting in Venice; one week the secretary didn’t show up and didn’t notify anyone that he wouldn’t be there. There were twenty people standing outside about to leave, when I suggested that we hold the meeting outside. I asked someone to speak, grabbed a big book out of my purse and asked someone else to do the readings. With six months sober I was elected secretary of that meeting. As much as the clean up commitment taught me I gained a true sense of pride and responsibility from running a meeting. I found speakers, showed up early and stayed late again. I helped set up the meeting and enjoyed seeing people every week that counted on me to be there. Having that commitment gave me a sense of pride and confidence.
Working Before Sobriety
Before I was sober I was a lifeguard. I showed up to work late, I fell asleep on my lunch breaks, and I constantly called in sick. I didn’t have a sense of commitment or pride in my job so I didn’t care if I was late or called at the last minute to say I wouldn’t be there. Even though I had a job and I showed up somewhat consistently I didn’t have any sense of accountability or commitment to my job. I didn’t have those qualities in any area of my life, so I was unable to display them in my work. I didn’t build confidence from my job because I didn’t put real effort into it. Once I learned accountability and a sense of commitment I carried it through to my work.
Working in Sobriety
Four months into my sobriety I got a job at a clothing store. In my time there I have had a strong sense of loyalty and commitment to my job. I am always on time, when necessary I work on my days off, and do anything I can to help my boss. A few months ago my boss’ uncle died, seeing how upset she was I offered to help. I accompanied her to her uncle’s house, moved furniture, and cleaned out everything she needed. Shorty after I started working my boss asked me if I could take a look at the web site, just to see if I could figure out how to post some picture. Knowing nothing about websites I took a look. I realized that I needed help figuring it out, I asked my boss to hire someone to redo her site and told her I would communicate with him and do anything needed from our end. I helped open the online store; and now I am in charge of all social media, blogging and I run the online store.
From these estimable acts I built self-esteem and self-confidence. I finally had a strong sense of pride in my job and in my ability to perform my job well. This confidence started entering other areas of my life and sobriety. I have an overall sense of integrity and self worth that I have learned from having a job for a year and a half. I am able to show up for my friends and not break commitments with them. I do my step work on time and with integrity. I try to never be late when meeting with anyone for anything. These qualities that I learned first from commitments at meeting, then from work, have helped me be and responsible and have integrity.
There are numerous ways in which people compare Buddhism and Twelve-Step programs. One of the easiest similarities to see between Buddhism and recovery is in the Three Jewels and the AA Triangle symbol. A simple connection to make, these two ideas from two different spiritual programs tie together beautifully.
The Three Jewels of Buddhism
The Three Jewels of Buddhism, also referred to as the Three Refuges and the Triple Gem, are the three things in which Buddhists take refuge in, or look to guidance for.
The first of the Three Refuges is the Buddha. The Buddha is the chief form of inspiration for Buddhists. Through the Buddha’s life, he showed that salvation from dukkha is possible indeed. Looking to the Buddha for refuge is twofold. It is both looking to the spirit of the Buddha for guidance, as well as looking to our own Buddha-seed for inspiration.
The Dharma is the second of the Three Jewels. The Dharma is the term that literally means the Way of Nature, and in Buddhism refers to the teachings taught by Shakyamuni Buddha. The Dharma teaches us the way to enlightenment and sukkha, and away from dukkha. When someone takes refuge in the Dharma, they are essentially seeking guidance in the path, or the teachings of the Buddha.
The Sangha is most commonly translated as “community.” Although the Sangha refers to monastic communities in traditional Buddhism, it also refers to the association of like-minded Buddhists seeking to gain spiritually. To some Buddhists, the Sangha may refer to anyone seeking any kind of spiritual realization. When we seek refuge in the Sangha, we are looking to the community for guidance. Taking refuge in the Sangha includes learning from community atmosphere, relating to others, and helping others along their path.
The A.A. Triangle
The triangle of Alcoholics Anonymous is no longer an official symbol, but is commonly seen online, on chips and coins, and on adornments. The circle inside the triangle is a symbol recognized by most every member of Alcoholics Anonymous. An ancient symbol used to symbolize the mind, body, and spirit, the triangle is a deep symbol. Called the three legacies, the triangle stands for three important aspects of the program.
The bottom of the triangle stands for recovery. Recovery includes the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, and is the bottom part, as it is what supports both unity and service. Recovery is following the steps and the program that is outlined in the book. Recovery is often associated with the mind, or the mental obsession.
Unity is the second part of the triangle. Unity is uncovered in the Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, and is what keeps us together. As the First Tradition of AA states, “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.” Unity is being a part of regular meetings, having commitments, and being a part of the community. Unity is associated with the physical craving, or the body.
The last, but definitely not least important, part of the triangle is service. Service is an integral part of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, and includes taking others through the steps. Contained in the Twelve Concepts, service is associated with the spiritual malady, or the spirit.
The first similarity between the two symbols can be found between Recovery and the Dharma. Recovery is following the path of the Twelve Steps discussed in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, and the Dharma is following the teachings and path laid out by the Buddha. Although the paths being followed may be different, the principle is almost exactly the same.
The next similarity is between the Sangha and Unity and Service. Unity and Service both involve being an active part of the community, both in learning from each other and being of service, just as taking refuge in the Sangha suggests. When we take refuge in the Sangha, we look to the community for guidance. This may come in many forms. Two great examples are through being of service to the community, and becoming an active part of the community. One of the reasons meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous are so important is because they provide a place for us to not feel so alone, just as taking refuge in the Sangha suggests.
The Buddha is not left out either. Seeking refuge in the Buddha in the sense of looking to our fellows for inspiration can be found in the Unity part of the triangle. Seeking refuge in the Buddha-seed within can be found in the Recovery aspect of the triangle. When we take the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, I like to think we are working to uncover our Buddha-nature within. When we look to sponsors, we are looking to figures that are “enlightened” in the context of Alcoholics Anonymous. To be clear, when we look to someone that has worked the steps and continues to work them, we are looking to someone who has found something that we want.
Buddhism and Twelve Step recovery go together very well in many ways, and this is just one. I find that although the ideas may not all be exactly the same, they are often complimentary, and Buddhism may help me better understand my program, just as my program may help me better understand my Buddhism.
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.
Great post! Thanks for the heads up that this was here; I am glad I read it! I really like the focus on the word “powerless”, as you discussed in the post a little while ago. I think that powerlessness is an interesting word. I do not necessarily agree with its true meaning, but do understand the idea behind it.