From the BlogMeet Ron

Some more from Chuck D,

On Cultivating Tolerance
by Dr. Bob S.
Copyright © AA Grapevine, Inc July 1944
 
During nine years in AA, I have observed that those who follow the Alcoholics Anonymous program with the greatest earnestness and zeal not only maintain sobriety but often acquire finer characteristics and attitudes as well. One of these is tolerance. Tolerance expresses itself in a variety of ways: in kindness and consideration toward the man or woman who is just beginning the march along the spiritual path; in the understanding of those who perhaps have been less fortunate in education advantages; and in sympathy toward those whose religious ideas may seem to be at great variance with our own.
 
I am reminded in this connection of the picture of a hub with its radiating spokes. We all start at the outer circumference and approach our destination by one of many routes. To say that one spoke is much better than all the other spokes is true only in the sense of its being best suited to you as an individual. Human nature is such that without some degree of tolerance, each one of us might be inclined to believe that we have found the best or perhaps the shortest spoke. Without some tolerance, we might tend to become a bit smug or superior – which, of course, is not helpful to the person we are trying to help and may be quite painful or obnoxious to others. No one of us wishes to do anything that might act as a deterrent to the advancement of another – and a patronizing attitude can readily slow up this process.
 
Tolerance furnishes, as a by-product, a greater freedom from the tendency to cling to preconceived ideas and stubbornly adhered-to opinions. In other words, it often promotes an open-mindedness that is vastly important – is, in fact, a prerequisite to the successful termination of any line of search, whether it be scientific or spiritual.
 
These, then, are a few of the reasons why an attempt to acquire tolerance should be made by each one of us.
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Everyone once, once only. Just once and no more. And we also once. Never again. But this having been once, although only once, to have been of the earth, seems irrevocable. 
–Rainer Maria Rilke
 
In the hopelessness of addiction and codependency, and as children of alcoholics, some of us have considered suicide, and some of us have actually tried to kill ourselves. We have maintained the option as an escape in case life got too difficult. Now, in recovery, we have chosen life. We’ve stopped killing ourselves in the slow ways of our old behaviors, yet some of us hold on to our ace in the hole. Either consciously or unconsciously, we haven’t made that unconditional commitment to life.
It may be one firmer step into recovery – a vote for the life we have been given – to say, “I will never choose suicide. Whatever comes my way, it is not an option for me.” When we give up that one final controlling maneuver, we may find ourselves freer to live in this one irretrievable life we’ve been given.
In choosing to be totally on the side of life,
I step further into the care of God.
Whatever 1 must meet, God is with me.

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The lust for power is not rooted in strength but in weakness. 
–Erich Fromm
 
 
Many of us have felt so insecure, so poor, or so much the underdog that we made a fervent promise to ourselves that we’d come out on top later. We know how weak we felt, and that image continues to be our guiding force long after the weakness was overcome. We may have spiritual problems because we are blind to the reality of our present life. While grasping for more security, more love, more money, or trying to lose more weight or attract more friends, we fail to stop and realize the real rewards we already have today. We are driven by the memory of pain and insecurity, rather than rising above it and relating to the higher principles and people around us. Getting more control or more achievements does not solve our spiritual problems, but by making peace with the fact that life is insecure.
Today, I will let go of my grasping for more.
I will let go of it again and again throughout
the day so I am not ruled by this weakness.

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I am ill because my mind is in a rut and refuses to leave. 
–Karen Giordino
 
We are vulnerable human beings. We are susceptible to accidents and disease, and we can get bogged down in unhealthy thinking. We aren’t at fault when we catch a cold or get a more serious illness, and accidents can happen to anyone. In the same way our addictions and the addictions of people we are close to are not our fault. We never asked for these afflictions, yet we must deal with them.
Physical and spiritual health can’t be separated. A thriving spiritual life creates an environment for physical healing and strength. In the same way, physical well-being infuses our spirit with hope and joy. Human beings cannot go through life without sometimes being ill in either mind or body. Living by this program helps make us healthier in all ways. When we are bogged down, we can turn to one of the Steps as a means of healing and release.
Today, I will remember that lama whole human,
with body and spirit as one.
As I turn to the Steps,
my whole being is healed.

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You cannot get it by taking thought; You cannot seek it by not taking thought. 
–Zenrin poem
 
We are transported into unfamiliar worlds in this program by ideas that sometimes confound our mind. In the spiritual realms we learn things we didn’t learn anywhere else, and gradually they bring us peace. We can decide with our will to follow a spiritual direction, to turn our life and will over to the care of our God. We cannot control what God will do with them. When we learn that part of our problem was trying too hard, being too self sufficient, or being too controlling, our old ways tell us to try hard to control that. But then we are only doing more of the same old thing. We learn that after making our decision, our Higher Power takes over. Now it is possible to be released from our own trying, to move beyond our own efforts by falling into the caring hand of God.
I must give this program first priority in my life, 
remembering my spiritual progress comes as a gift,
not as an achievement.

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Which Came First, the Drink or the Disease? 
Grapevine May 1983
 
SOMETIMES, in speaking to an AA group, I depart from the standard opening, and start with:
 
“My name is E– , and I have alcoholism. Putting it this way helps me remember something I must never forget: I have a progressive, incurable, and unless arrested, fatal illness, and I will have it to the day I die. Alcoholism is a sickness which happens to some people through no fault of their own. It happened to me.”
And always, I wonder how many of the AA members sitting there, nodding agreement, actually believe it with real conviction.
 
I was new to AA the first time I heard a speaker say, “I became an alcoholic as the result of drinking too much too long.” Even in the chaotic condition of my mind in those early weeks, that struck me as illogical. Was he saying that everyone who drank a considerable amount over an extended period was bound to develop alcoholism? We need only look around us to disprove that.
 
I could look at my own kin, typical of thousands of American families. Of the twenty-seven assorted parents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, and cousins who made up our clan, I don’t know of any who didn’t partake of and enjoy alcoholic beverages. On the theory that drinking causes alcoholism, we should have produced twenty-seven alcoholics, but we didn’t. We produced three: me and two of my cousins.
 
I was to hear variations of the drinking-causes-alcoholism theme repeatedly as time went on. The most recent was at an AA conference, almost twenty-four years after my first one. “I drank myself right into alcoholism!” the speaker declared.
 
In my opinion, that man was getting cause and effect mixed up. He didn’t get alcoholism because he drank too much. He drank too much because he had alcoholism.
 
To attribute our alcoholism to drinking, rather than our drinking to alcoholism, as I see it, is to hold on to one of our old ideas we need to let go of absolutely. It is, in effect, to deny that our compulsive drinking is the result of an illness for which we are in no way to blame.
 
How patiently and resolutely we try to set straight the mixed-up thinking of the newcomers who say, “I drank because my husband (or wife) nagged me all the time,” or “I drank because I had so much stress at work,” or “I drank because I was worried sick over my debts.”
 
“No,” we tell them. “Those are the excuses you make to justify your excessive drinking, but they were not the reason for it. The reason you drank alcoholically is that you have alcoholism. The world is full of people who have problems just as serious as yours, but their drinking doesn’t go out of control. They aren’t any better or stronger than we are, but they are different from us. They don’t have alcoholism, and we do.”
 
Shouldn’t we go on to convince our new members that their drinking didn’t cause their alcoholism, any more than their problems did? For if they say, “I developed alcoholism because I drank,” they are also saying, “If I had not drunk, I wouldn’t have become an alcoholic. So it comes back to being all my fault, after all.” Most of us reach AA bowed down under a heavy load of guilt. We don’t need any more.
Clinging to the notion that alcoholism is caused by excessive drinking or, worse, that alcoholism is excessive drinking, presents two grave dangers.
 
First, the general public is slow to give up the belief that alcoholism is an immoral condition, that heavy drinking is a “bad” thing to do, and those who do it must be “bad” people. Still-drinking alcoholics who haven’t reached us yet are a part of that general public, and very likely just as misinformed. They find themselves in an impossible situation.
 
They hear from all sides that they “ought” to stop drinking, and that their failure to do so is the result of their own weakness, depravity, and lack of willpower. And they believe it. Yet they know they literally cannot control their drinking by their own efforts (only God and the alcoholics know how hard they’ve tried!), and they know that in no other area of their lives are they either weak or depraved. The only way they can see out of the dilemma is to deny that they are alcoholics–and all too many of them do to the day they die, of alcoholism.
 
We can reach more of these suffering alcoholics if we persuade them to believe the truth–that they have developed an illness the exact cause of which is still unknown–and if we can also convince their spouses, doctors, bartenders, ministers, and all the others in a position to point them in our direction. We can do this more effectively if we believe it ourselves.
 
The second danger of confusing the symptom, compulsive drinking, with the illness, alcoholism, is that it can hamper new arrivals in their efforts to get a grip on the AA program of recovery. Many times, in AA talks, we hear this:
 
“I came to AA and stopped drinking. I was on top of the world. I knew I would never drink again. As long as I was sober, there didn’t seem to be any reason for taking the Steps, or going to a lot of meetings. So I started to skip meetings. In three months, I was drinking again. And it took two sick, miserable, drunken years before I got back. You were right–it is a progressive illness.”
 
Whenever I hear something like that, I wonder whether it might have been avoided if the speaker’s early mentors in AA had talked less about alcohol and more about alcoholism–if they had dinned it into the newcomer that stopping drinking does not constitute recovery but is only the absolutely essential beginning of a recovery process that changes each of us into the kind of person we can live with contentedly, sober. Given the belief that drinking causes alcoholism, it is easy to con ourselves into thinking that stopping drinking is all we need.
 
It would be impossible to overestimate the importance of getting the drinking stopped. That must come before any real recovery can take place. A still-drinking alcoholic, I firmly believe, can make no progress in taking the Twelve Steps of AA, or in spiritual growth.
 
But becoming dry is the starting point, not the stopping point. Just as drinking didn’t cause our alcoholism, stopping drinking doesn’t deal with it. I came into AA as a confused, self-centered, egotistical, defensive person who drank excessively. I then became a confused, self-centered, egotistical, defensive person who didn’t drink. I was still sick, but from alcoholism, not from alcohol.
 
The real difference was that now I could start to recover.
I could set out on the difficult, exciting,
often discouraging, but always rewarding experience
in living that we call the AA program.
E. E.
Tulsa, Oklahoma

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Change and growth take place when a person has risked himself
and dares to become involved with experimenting with his own life. 
–Herbert Otto
 
 
The rewards of our new life are apparent to us because of how we feel, and apparent to others by what they can see. Many of us had reached our bottom point, and we felt there was no risk in trying a program of recovery. Yet, we still had some distorted security in our harmful ways of relating to others or in our addictions. Letting go was an experiment. This program gives us guidelines for experimenting with our life for growth, and we continue growing everyday.
Some of our benefits are increased confidence and self respect, more intimacy with our partner, better friendships, and better physical health. We feel these changes in ourselves, and we see them in the other men and women in this program.
Today, I am grateful for the rewards in my life from this experiment in recovery.

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Many could forego heavy meals, a full wardrobe, a fine house, et cetera; it is the ego they cannot forego. 
–Mohandas Gandhi
 
We inevitably confront our ego in this program. We face our macho self, our powerful self, or our always-right self. We have developed many trappings, which give us an identity: our car, our stereo system, our job, our popularity, or our place to sit in church. The more attached we are to these trappings, the tougher it is for us to make progress on this spiritual path.
In stepping across a stream we must leave the side we are on in order to get to the other side. The repeated challenge in our spiritual life is to leave the secure trappings we know and take comfort in the still unknown new self. That is the leap of faith. We take the risk and trust something will be there for us. We have faith that letting go of our immediate attachments will bring us to a better place, that God will be there for us.
  I will let go of external images and use my faith to take the leap forward.

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Look at the post as a bullet. Once it’s fired it’s finished. 
–Catherine Bauby
 
Today is before us as an unformed experience. Yesterday took its own shape, and whatever it was has now gone. Our only opportunities exist in what we will do this day. Perhaps we can enhance the day by starting with a review of yesterday and then letting go. What were the major events in our experiences yesterday? How do we feel about them? Is something left unfinished in our feelings or actions that we need to complete or repair today? Can we take yesterday’s experience to build a better today?
We have centered ourselves in this day by reviewing where we just came from. We have taken a spot check inventory. Now we can let go of yesterday and move forward in the present. That does not mean we never think about the past again. It means we build on the past by learning from our experiences and letting them shape our activities now. In that way we draw ever closer into accord with the will of our Higher Power.
I will let go of the past by learning from it. I give myself to shaping today.

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