Deep down in every man, woman, and child is the fundamental idea of God.
It may be obscured by calamity, by pomp, by worship of other things,
but in some form or other it is there.
For faith in a Power greater than ourselves,
and miraculous demonstrations of that of that power in human lives,
are facts as old as man himself…
We found the Great Reality deep down with us.
Alocholics Anonymous, P.55
I love this! A few years ago, on one of the morning shows, there was a story about some parents who were raising their child as an atheist. They showed a whole segment that they had pre-recorded about their life. At the end of the show, they did a live interview with the parents and their child. The newsanchor asked the child, “Do you believe in God?” The child immediately said “yes”. His parents looked down at him in disbelief; then he looked at them and immediately said “oh, I mean no, I don’t.” His immediate response reflected the great reality in his heart. This example to me epitomizes the passage above.
A middle aged couple, while driving to a banquet one evening decided to discuss the closeness of their relationship. To make her point the wife reminisces, “Remember when we were first dating and even after we were married a while, whenever we drove somewhere, I always sat in the middle and you would put your arm around me. I would rub your shoulders and when we stopped at a light you would lean over and give me a kiss. It seems like we never do that anymore. We now sit on opposite sides of the seat. Why is that?” The man turned to his wife and replied, “Well, I’m driving so you are the one that moved over.”
Moving away from God can happen for a number of reasons. We have already discussed being busy and being caught up in emotions. Other reasons include feelings of entitlement, self-pity, and self-centeredness. It is import for us to make a conscious effort to sit in that middle seat again with God, to move closer and practice those things that give us access to the sunlight of the Spirit. While it is a given that one’s prayer life must not falter during the holidays, it is also prudent to remember and practice service work and gratefulness.
For the past 20 years, my family has made a conscious effort be involved in service work either through a local church, a civic organization, or a nonprofit organization. We have grown closer through activities such as building houses with Habitat for Humanity, serving food to the homeless at the SAMM shelter, Christmas caroling at a nursing home, delivering presents to children through Project Angel Tree, or leading songs in a church service at the Strong Foundation home in San Antonio. In addition to helping, we keep our perspective on the meaning of the holidays; it also brings our family closer together.
My grandma used to say “count your blessings.” It was such a trite phrase to me as a child. Now, in contrast, I can look toward the holidays and remember, I have a roof over my head, I have a job I love, I have a family that I am proud of, and no matter what goes wrong I can still be grateful. Each holiday I experience is one where I won’t be stumbling around drunk and embarrassing myself and others, I won’t wake up in jail or in a ditch, and I won’t have to regret it. I now think I understand the profundity of Grandma’s words.
People are like stained glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when darkness sets in, their beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.
- Elizabeth Kubler Ross
In recovery we learn that it is an inside job and we work the program to fill that hole in our souls. I know for me, at the end of my drinking, everything looked good on the outside but on the inside I was dying. As long as I continue to seek and grow with my Higher Power, the sunlight from the spirit will continue to shine.
“Holidays in general breed unrealistic expectations. The minute you start wondering, is it going to be wonderful enough? it never will be.”
Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., Sociologist and Author.
It was early December of 1978 in Wamego, Kansas. As a young college student from a well to do family prepares to recline on a cold hard cot, the cell door slams shut, resounding within the stone walls of the county jail like a cannon shot. The young man then thinks the obvious thought, “this did not go as planned.” He reflected upon his intention to make good on a $10 bad check written in a haze of alcoholism, the 20 year-old’s emotional state quickly travelled from fear, to anger and resentment against law enforcement officials and a local merchant, to depression that could be summed up with the title of The Beatles’ song “I’m a Loser”. This was the first time that thoughts of suicide entered his head.
What had landed this former honor student in jail? Put simply, it was a bad check that was written 3 months prior and subsequently ignored until the arrest warrant was issued. What was the origin of this array of self destructive emotions? Again a simple answer suffices: unrealistic expectations. If you have not deduced this already, the hapless jailbird was yours truly and I literally laugh out loud now when I think about how unrealistic, if not down right delusional, I was about this situation.
What sane rational person would think this was a good plan for making amends? I walk into a courtroom in a town where no one knows me and speak to a judge that neither knows me nor my family. I proceed to try and convince him that I have no money and if he gives me a few days, I will make full restitution to the merchant and the court. All this was being said in light of the fact that for the past three months, despite notices from the merchant and the court, I had not attempted to make restitution or even make contact with them for that matter. I wonder why he did not go for it.
While holiday planning will not likely lead to jail, it certainly can lead to disappointment and feelings of anger or depression. In the rooms of AA, they have a saying: “unrealistic expectations are rehearsals for resentments.” These days, I find it helpful to realize that, no matter how good my intentions are, I cannot control most outcomes. Powerlessness rears its ugly head once more.
When it comes to expectations, however, we do have some options. Take a look at the following scenarios articulated by Alex Lickerman, M.D. in the March 2010 edition of Psychology Today.
1. Low expectations and a poor experience, where our low expectations can mute the disappointment or even the discomfort we feel at actually having a poor experience.
2. Low expectations but a good experience, leading to a pleasant surprise.
3. High expectations and good experience, in which we get to enjoy not only the anticipation of looking forward to something fabulous but an experience that actually lives up to our expectations and therefore feels thoroughly satisfying.
4. High expectations but a poor experience, in which we often emerge bitterly disappointed or even traumatized.
While most of us have natural and learned tendencies toward either high or low expectations, it is possible to assess a situation and make adjustments in our thinking and stay in reality. We can bounce ideas off friends and set realistic goals and even simplify the event. In doing this we take less of a risk in order to gain the same benefit.
This is an awesome letter from Judy in The Store about the impact this particular book has had for her. Slaying the Dragon is a history of the treatment of substance abuse and recovery in America. It is meant not only for people working on the “front lines” everyday but people in recovery would enjoy it too. I have read most of it and what surprised me the most was the amount of “medicinal cures” there have been that obviously don’t work.
Everyone that works in the treatment field would benefit from reading “Slaying the Dragon.” It helped me to understand the patient and where the whole field of treatment came from; this is more than just a job. This fight has been raging long before anyone ever thought of rehab. Each patient who passes through our doors has a story of events that brought them here. We watch our patients, who at first sight look like crumpled pieces of paper with nothing but a faraway place in their eyes, unfold, smooth out, and focus on the here and now. Then we give them a map to the future with hope. I would say seeing and knowing them from the first scared day to the last pride-filled, confident day—that is the best part of my job. “Slaying the Dragon”— it’s a great tool to understand what we’re doing here and why.