Progress, Not Perfection

     Um, just for the record, I make tons of mistakes and usually on a daily basis. I still lose it on idiot Massachusetts drivers who generally have such low self-esteem that when they do something wrong they regress into children, yelling and swearing at you because they nearly slammed into you while texting, thereby killing your wife and infant child sitting on the passenger side – yup, somehow that was my fault. Sometimes I lose patience with my wife for no other reason than I’m not basking in my comfort zone, so I figure I’ll just take it out on her – like the other day when she was graciously helping me with some publicity stuff and I said in return, “Enough comments for now, thanks…” I still judge and criticize and generalize. I still make false assumptions and project my own flaws onto others. I still sometimes resent the very things that I do myself. I’m still sometimes a mouthy jerk who is petty, self-seeking, and almost pathologically selfish.

     However, other times, and fortunately more often than not, I am the opposite of those things and I live by moral and spiritual principles. The difference between me now and me then is that now I have a conscience which creeps through every cell in my body. I have strong and visceral feelings in my gut and in my heart when something is wrong, and I do not ignore my conscience. That is to say that I NEVER knowingly commit wrong. This is crucial for any addict who plans on staying sober for more than 24 hours. This is why he or she must stay close, very close to God. So when I screw up (which we all do because we are inherently flawed), I will admit my wrong and make it right. And by the way, if I did screw up and still haven’t figured it out (which is certainly possible because I am a moron) then please let me know and I’ll be more than happy to become accountable for my wrong and make it right with you, if possible.

God, please expand my conscience and give my the power, peace and willingness to listen… 

Never Too Early

     Watch out for mainstream AA. The first time I was “12 Stepped” by someone at a local meeting was eye opening. I had just done my 5th, 6th and 7th Steps, and returned home from treatment. My sponsor told me to immediately start making amends or else… Or else what? Or else I would soon return to insanity and relapse.

     But the AA guy gave me a mouthful. He told me that it was “way too early” to be making amends to anyone. He said I had no idea what I was doing and that I “wouldn’t be ready to make amends for like a year” or more. He also told me I probably went through the Steps “way too quickly”, and that I “need a sponsor”. The last thing he said was that all I should be doing right now is to “just keep going to meetings”.

     If you’re an alcoholic or an addict new to recovery and someone accosts you at a meeting and says that, here is some sound advice: RUN the other way. If I had listened to this guy, my wife and my mother would have most likely buried me several years ago. If I had stopped making amends, stopped growing, stopped healing, stopped changing, stopped shedding my self will and selfishness, I would have soon lost my mind, sunk into a depression, cut the cord with God and become encroached by RID (Restlessness, Irritability, Discontent). Then I relapse. Then I lose everything. Then I die. Great advice.

     So I looked at the guy and said, “It’s never too early to get better.”

     Halfway through the meeting, he came over to me and apologized, and then left the meeting early. Boy, I hope that guy didn’t have a ton of sponsees. It’s a shame that this is the sort of watered down AA that so many newcomers get, only to continue suffering and struggling day after day. The end result is either relapse or untreated alcoholism, both of which ensure ongoing harm to all who surround the alcoholic. I’m not saying there is only one way, but if we’re talking about AA, the last time I checked there was only one program and it’s laid out in the first 164 pages of the Big Book.

God, please help us narcissistic addicts truly recover first before cluelessly chasing people around…

Them, Not Us

     Someone once asked me about one of her amends. I told her she needed to make it. She said,

    “But this f’ing bitch was way more of an f’ing bitch than I was.”

      First of all, wanh, wanh, wanh… do you want a pity-pot to cry in? I didn’t say that, although it would have been a good idea. I told her to first pray for this person until she no longer cares about what she did. She said, 

     “I will never pray for her other than to pray she rots in hell.”

     Oh, okay. So then why the hell are you asking me for advice when you aren’t really serious about getting better? Why bother doing any amends at all if you’re going to leave out the ones where someone else wronged you too? I told her that she is not willing to go to any lengths to get better and that ultimately she will relapse. And she did. Two weeks later.

     99.9% = 0%.

     If we plan on recovering from alcoholism and addiction, we must give 100% and we must never leave anything out. Sure others are flawed, but it’s not about them. If someone has wronged us but we owe them an amends as well, we better make it and not expect a single thing in return.

     So why do we have to make ALL of our amends, other than because we have wronged others and it’s the right thing to do? We make them because if we don’t, we will drink again. If we cannot swallow our pride and make an amends to someone who has also wronged us, we have no business in the Steps. Once we take that 3rd Step and make a pact with God, we are entering mystical territory. At that point, if we walk away, bad things will happen. Trust me. I see it all the time.

God, please give me the power, strength and willingness to make all my amends, and to continue making amends if and when I hurt other going foward…

Feelings, Fear & Insecurity

     One of wisest things I’ve ever heard: Don’t let your feelings stop you.

     I spent the first 28 years of my life crippled by fear. And the only way to conquer fear is to literally walk right into it… and then right through it. Do the very things we fear. If we fear public speaking, speak publicly. If we fear intimacy, be intimate. If we fear what we have done to someone in the past, find that person and make a direct amends to him or her.

     By the way, if you want to grow up in lightening speed, go make some amends. Coming out of a tough amends to someone, I was a different person than going in. To walk right into shame, to feel that sort of humility, to sweat through the ass of my pants from nervousness, to speak honestly about how I’ve wronged you… this will change anybody, unless of course, you are a sociopath and lack the capacity to be honest. In that case, there isn’t much hope. We all know these types, and usually it’s impossible for them to get better. But anyone who can be honest with themselves can change, heal, grow and recover.

     The moment I begin to avoid fear, avoid making an amends, avoid what I know will feel uncomfortable but is the right thing to do… that is the very moment I begin to suffer, become sicker, and sink back into a well of self-pity and cowardice.

     My feelings of self-consciousness and insecurity used to be so strong, they paralyzed me. I didn’t have the guts to face the world, to do what I needed to do. But the moment I begin to push myself and do what I need to do regardless of how shitty I feel, that’s when I start getting better. Do what you fear and that which you fear loses power. It becomes easier and easier. Now I run, not walk towards any opportunity to speak publicly if it might help or inspire people. I’ve actually come to enjoy it. The bigger the crowd, the better.

     Here is some magic. Have you ever had a nasty cold or something and then had to teach, speak, lead, or be of some service to others? What happens when you start giving of yourself? I had the flu last winter and I had to guest speak at a Twelve Step group late in the evening. The second I opened my mouth, the flu was gone… and gone it stayed until I was driving home. Magic.

God, please give me the courage and power to walk right into my fear…