Learning To Pray

     I remember kneeling down in the chapel up North to take a 3rd Step and hoping that I’d be able to connect deeply with the prayer. Don’t get me wrong, the prayers in the Big Book are beautifully written, but they aren’t written by me. I realized that if prayer was going to work on a daily basis, if it was going to access this Power that existed, then it would have to be much more personal. Prayers that were written 2000 years ago are lovely, but they’re not exactly our ‘language’, so to speak. So I started praying in my own language, in my own voice, using my own words. And I don’t attach all sorts of rules to my prayer. I don’t need to be clean before praying, or only pray on a special mat, or only pray in church, or make sure to pray before a certain meal, on a certain day, in a certain way. If you want to pray in the shower, on the toilet, or in front of a urinal, go for it. And make it your own.

    God, please keep me out of my fucking head today. God, please give me the power to walk through this exhaustion and get my ass to work. God, please help me not freak out on this Masshole driver. God, please give me the patience to talk to this annoying person. God, teach me how to meditate. God, help me to think one thought at a time. God, help me to be more honest. God, help me walk through this fear and make this amends. God, be with me as I go to work with this sponsee. God, teach me to better love and forgive myself so that I may better love and forgive others and do Your work well. God, help me to let go of my fear, anger and resentment… and instead live by Your principles of honesty, love, compassion, tolerance, courage and strength. 

And for others:

    God, please give this sponsee the power and willingness to take Steps thoroughly so he may find You. God, please embrace this relative and teach them to love and respect themselves. God, I pray for this annoying person I resent to have everything I want for myself – happiness, love, joy, abundance, health and inner peace. God, help me to be willing to go to any lengths to grow spiritually so that I may better serve You. God, please help me to think about others more often. God, please teach me how to better serve others. God, please bring the opportunity to help someone…

     Watch out for that last one. I guarantee you that praying for the opportunity to help someone will work every time. It’s an unselfish prayer, and these are by far the most powerful. My sponsor once said that God isn’t Santa Claus. I wish we could embrace that truth on a macro-religious level.

God, teach me how to pray…

Pray For Those We Resent

     What happens if we write inventory but a resentment continues to haunt us?

     Pray for that person. I suggested this to someone who my wife and I were trying to help and her response was, “I’m not praying for that bitch! I pray that she rots in fucking hell!”

     She relapsed about two weeks later, becoming delusional once again.

     If you can’t pray for someone whom you resent, then you probably aren’t cut out for the Steps. If we don’t have the guts or the courage or the willingness to grow spiritually, than relapse is inevitable. Swallowing our pride and ego and anger is a sign of maturity, but a refusal to mature and evolve will surely lead to failure. We will relapse, cause more pain to others, and eventually leave behind an unresolved life after a premature death.

From Alcoholics Anonymous, p.552:

     “If you have a resentment you want to be free of, if you will pray for the person or the thing that you resent, you will be free. If you will ask in prayer for everything you want for yourself to be given to them, you will be free. Ask for their health, their prosperity, their happiness, and you will be free. Even when you don’t really want it for them and your prayers are only words and you don’t mean it, go ahead and do it anyway. Do it every day for two weeks, and you will find you have come to mean it and to want it for them, and you will realize that where you used to feel bitterness and resentment and hatred, you now feel compassionate understanding and love.”

     When we pray for others in this way, we harness the power and willingness necessary to diffuse our anger and judgement. Trust me, letting go is pure and total freedom.

God, please give me the courage and willingness to pray for those I resent…

God Isn’t Santa Claus

     What is prayer? And why doesn’t selfish prayer work? I was taught that prayer is supposed to be an unselfish action of humility that grants us access to God, to something greater. It can open up a telephone line between me and Power. When I’m engaged in selfish thought, word or action, I am shut off from any connection to God. That is why selfish prayer doesn’t work. We cannot reach or connect to God when engaged in selfishness.

     Early in recovery, sure I prayed for myself. But it wasn’t for cars, money, or a promotion. It was for the willingness to walk through a fear I was having, or the patience to make an amends to someone difficult, or the power to walk through my exhaustion and get myself to work. I had to pray for these things to 1) get better, and 2) to become more useful to God and to others.

     But as we continue to grow up and get better, we learn to pray unselfishly. Generally, unselfish prayer isn’t directed toward self anymore. We start praying for others. We pray for others to have joy, peace, happiness, love, courage, strength, prosperity, and God in their lives. Sure I sometimes do this for selfish reasons. I pray for someone whom I resent to have everything I want for myself. I do this to relieve me of the resentment, and that of course, is selfish. But ridding ourselves of resentment is also unselfish in the sense that it cleans us and allows to us then be more useful.

     I still need to pray for myself at times. I pray for help being more honest, more tolerant, more willing to grow spiritually. I pray to become a better man. But you should be able to feel it in your gut if your prayer is purely selfish and therefore wrong. If we find ourselves praying for something to feed our ego or pride, we should feel that it is wrong. And we should feel shut off from Spirit. When we pray unselfishly, there is an immediate internal shift. Sure it may be subtle, but we should feel a quietness, a calmness, a humility, a connection. We have officially tapped in.

God, teach me how to pray unselfishly…

AA Slogans

     I hate to say it, but most AA slogans are pretty much nonsense. Imagine an AA bumper sticker that directly contradicts the fundamental principle of AA. I’m not sure you want to advertise advice that might kill the people you want to reign in, especially when you’re attaching AA’s namesake to a bunch of utter bullshit. Now, I’ll admit there are one or two diamonds in the rough, so I promise to give them their due another time. But for now, let’s just take it from the top:

“Just Don’t Drink” & “Put The Plug In The Jug”
     These two slogans contradict the fundamental principle of the very 1st Step of AA – that we are powerless of alcohol. Having no power over alcohol means that alcoholics have LOST the ability to ‘just not drink‘. We have lost the power to choose whether we drink or not. It is an obsession, an insanity that we cannot fight alone. Sure this might work if you’re not really an alcoholic, but for any certified alcoholic or drug addict, there is no ‘putting the plug in the jug‘. If it were that simple, we’d all be fine!

“Sit Down, Shut Up & Wait For The Miracle To Happen”
     Ah, okay. This is advice I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. According to modern day AA, we should just come in, sit down, shut up and wait… and eventually a miracle will occur as we’re staring off into space drinking lukewarm coffee. First of all, if you have recently achieved sobriety, then you are freaking out inside. We can’t ‘sit down‘. We’re going nuts. Our heads are about to blow up. We need to DO something, and soon.

     Second, shutting up is exactly the opposite of what we should be doing. Those of us who are new to sobriety and to AA are the ones who need to open our mouths and ask, “How the hell do I get better??? I’m going crazy here and I’m not gonna make it unless someone offers me a solution that actually works!”

     And finally, ‘waiting for a miracle’ might actually kill you. First of all, I can’t wait very long, folks, because I’m gonna go get jammed if I don’t start feeling better soon. Thirdly, miracles don’t zap us in the brain while we’re sitting on our asses doing absolutely nothing. We  create the miracles with the help of God by getting up and taking action – in the case of alcoholics or addicts, this action would involve taking Steps.

“Easy Does It” & “Just Keep Comin'”
     These may be the two most dangerous slogans from the new age of watered down AA. Alcoholics and drug addicts need to do the opposite of ‘taking it easy’ (unless you take it to mean not trying to overachieve in the beginning). We must engage in rigorous action if we are going to beat an opponent as lethal and relentless as addiction.

     ‘Just keep comin’ refers to ‘just keep going to meetings’. If that worked, I would have recovered ten years ago. So I feel the need to repeat here that newly sober alcoholics and drug addicts are completely insane and will not make it for very long just dragging themselves to meetings everyday. For me, meetings made no internal difference whatsoever, as I still felt untreated and depressed. I knew I was going to keep drinking and using.

     If alcoholics and addicts have any chance of staying sober, they need to immediately replace their addiction with a powerful solution, a solution capable of restoring them to sanity, and certainly a solution more powerful than an AA bumper sticker slogan or a string of local meetings. I feel like hitting myself in the head when I hear these guys get up and say, “Just Keep Comin’!” That’s advice of someone who’s either not an alcoholic, or someone who thinks AA is group therapy and snack time, and the solution is to white-knuckle it until you somehow magically get better.

     Don’t mean to be too harsh. I enjoy meetings, shit coffee, and someone pretending to know how to bake, too… sometimes. But this is my experience as a chronic alcoholic and drug addict. Addiction carries with it a grave spiritual imbalance that can only be addressed by fairly drastic measures.

God, show me that getting better entails more than reciting a few bumper stickers…