Thought That Counts

It was not easy to master the idea that thinking of others in need and thinking of others’ benefit AND expressing it IS a key to successful communication and relationships.

When I have read the program of recovery I’ve accepted was a selfish program, I laughed. I sure was selfish. When I realized though what it meant I was not laughing, yet nodding I was because it made sense. We have to take care of our own world on sickness before we could be of service to others.

It took a while to learn how to say things that were meaningful to others and to me without hurting anyone, even though I may have seen in my mind that my idea would benefit all parties involved. It took longer time to realize that my immediate and/or clear benefit is not always necessary.

The thought always counts. But it takes more than just a thought of respecting others’ needs. Unless it is a fight for personal survival, it takes more thinking for others and not for what you can immediately gain from that. My gain could be observed in hindsight.

I could see eventually that I could benefit both parties by not starting a conflict which I originally thought could caress my ego for it would prove I was right. Absence of pride masturbation led to absence of conflict.

Its been a while that I have lived not knowing all that. Nobody told me, I think. So, I lived hurting another person, not even being aware of that. At the same time I doing other things right. I was caring and attentive to the need of another person, yet I took recovery program mandatory honesty and openness to heart and spoke what was on my mind, not thinking how another person would take it.

Some other parties I would hurt differently, but the same. Honesty and truth would bubble inside of me requiring release, but to others it would come out looking and feeling as vengeance and rage, I guess. They didn’t feel like they deserved it yet wouldn’t say so right then. Instead, they would retreat from communicating, shutting down, putting the pain in “denial and forget” box.

Their hurt and pain as a reaction to what I did or said lasted beyond the time I may have thought would take for them to heal.

Some time passed and I realized that although my life took a turn, I was still doing that, this time to another person. Different story, different hurt, same mindset on my part somehow. Compassionate and caring me remained selfish, because I only considered the thought that counted for a moment, not checking if my altruism could be faulty if seen through the eyes of the person who I was trying to be of service to. Was I doing that for them, for us, or for me?

It took talking to figure out that I was still a selfish creature, no matter how much recovery wisdom I took in. Selfishness was an important part of me, I thought, in a sense of self preservation, for the sake of security, mental and spiritual needs to be met. But I wanted things to be done my way, nevertheless. When that was challenged, I retaliated out of thought that I didn’t want to be pushed around to do things others wanted to be done their way, even if I saw that doing things that way worked well. Some other times I saw that doing things my way worked well too, so I persisted doing them that way and resisted change that I perceived as unnecessary.

Among other things, it led to meeting the ends of my pride and hurting feelings of others. It appeared that I was repeating my old mistakes while I thought I was improving for the sake if all parties involved.

Here’s where the Third Step statement (Let Go and Let God, in a nutshell) as well as The Third Step Prayer (“May I do thy will always”) would come into view. And that is all fine and dandy, but I often still remain blind to what does Their will want me to do. How much do I surrender to not fall prey to the sick will of others? How much of myself can I give away to not fall apart?

Except listening is a part of that Step as well. I know about listening, as in Listening to others and The Listening to the High One. I suck at both, I think. Yes, still. Perhaps, my thinking is too good, and I need to slow down on that. I overthink a lot once I start. Could it be that my thinking messes with Listening?

Power to Carry (Listening, part 2)

sea-waves-moonThere is a nice quote framed on the wall at my home group meeting room this week. It says, “Even if you are on a right path, you will get run over if you just sit there.” It’s attributed to Will Rogers.

Today we were sharing on Step 11, and although I didn’t have a chance to share, I did some thinking over it in connection to the aforementioned quote.

See, when I was looking over at my situation with drinking before it got better, I was thinking that I needed to quit, but I would do nothing about it. I saw the things falling out of my control and I observed complete powerlessness over the situation, but I wouldn’t consciously admit to it and accept it. I didn’t have the tools, nor did I have the connections, and I didn’t know which way to go to have anything accomplished regarding my relationship with the substance abuse. I just sat there, wondering, making hollow promises to myself.

When I came to the recovery program, I started going to meetings and I started doing the Steps. Step 11, the one talking about prayer and meditation, was the least explored for a while, but I eventually started doing both of these things. In case with meditation, what I started doing was listening and watching without speaking on it.

There was this person in one meeting I attended who said: “Quitting drinking is easy.” I immediately took offence to that because I knew it wasn’t easy for me. But then they went on: “It’s staying sober that is difficult.” And they had it right. I knew then where they was coming from and where they were going to with it – was something I full-heartedly agreed with. And I focused on that idea.

Then couple years later I was to a different meeting and a person sitting next to me said: “I don’t have a problem with alcohol.” So, I thought well what the hell are they doing here?! Then that person said: “But it’s life that I have a problem with.” And they had me, right there, right then. I kept listening, nodding my head, because I knew that talking about themselves, that person also talked about me. Alcohol was a substance that I was addicted to because I didn’t have the grip on myself and how to deal with life. Not being able to deal with life and people came first, alcohol was some sort of a bad medicine. In the situation with the speaker, if I didn’t listen and dwell in my birthing resentment to what they originally said, I’d miss a valuable statement that since then made a lot of sense to me and strengthened my recovery.

A couple weeks I heard a very similar share from a person at a meeting, but it was given a new depth: “If drinking is your problem, you are a drinker. If drinking is your solution, you are an alcoholic.” I kept sitting on my chair when I heard that, but believe me, I was floored. This was something I knew all this time, but it was never said out loud. And hell, was it ever eloquently put into words, just as it was deadly truthful!

Step 11 doesn’t just speak about prayer and meditation, it also mentions a power to carry out the will of our higher power in our daily living. This is where I’d connect it to that quote. Recovery, particularly through AA, is motion. If I just in a sandbox, surrounded by wisdom I don’t apply to life, resentments that I love to hate, and wonderings that keeps  ideas at illusory level, attached to nothing, I will be run over by life that doesn’t stay on one spot, but keeps moving like the waves of the southern sea. I came to AA to stay sober, but I learned additionally how to carry on soberly and have a good life.


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Listening

listen-imageThat evening I was contemplating if I should be going to the regular Monday night AA meeting or stay home with my partner and watch Mom. With Mom being a TV series about recovering alcoholics, it and the meeting kind of would be similar experiences: both social, conversational, and recovery aspects are present.

At the beginning I wouldn’t want to hear about it. TV show about addicts in recovery? Give me a break! How much more about recovery can you put out?! I was taking recovery and sobriety very seriously, so making an entertainment out of it didn’t sit right with me. But then my partner kept watching it and as I kept walking in and out of the room, I listened and watched. And the only thing that was getting me annoyed was the wall of constant background laughter. So that’s not so bad, I figured. One day I sat down and watched several episodes in the row. With some good laugh, I took something else out of it. There were good lessons. As one member at my AA meeting said, whoever wrote that show had a very good idea and a very good feel for recovery. I kept watching and liking it.

I always had a hard time with listening. I had so much on my mind, so many things unspoken, ideas, rants, that I felt like I needed to keep running my mouth. As the result, I missed out on a lot of things others have said. You’d guess I wasn’t a big fan of hearing “I’ve told you so” because I heard it too many times! I was told many things thousands of times when I was a kid, and although my parents meant well, I wanted to keep my ears covered for half a day. Thus, I missed on some wisdom through out the years.

It was recovery that taught me to listen. Among other things, it talks about prayer and meditation, and I was well familiar with the first one, so that was not an issue. Yet the second one… My recovery teacher told me in our first meeting together not to talk, but listen, to pay attention to what people say, what’s going on in the room, and then after several meetings share what I had. That was a good a lesson, because I learned some patience, some tact, some care for what to say and what to keep out of respect for others.

I went on listening farther through the days, and I realized there was more to life than constant talking, thinking, moving, and buying. In fact, I already knew it, but I was not giving it enough chance and enough time to become essential in my life. To watch without judging. To listen without interrupting, no matter how wise my input may be. It took me years to learn that sometimes listening is the best form of having a conversation.


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Can’t Hear a Thing

cartoon7151Among things we as humans do, such as move, produce, preserve, and copulate, there is one more thing that we can do really well, and yet often fail at. It’s communicating.

Funny enough, in the world of today where communicating is recognized as vital, and with many different ways of communicating are invented, starting with education of languages and lectures on body language, and ending with phones, faxes, and whatever else they’ve invented lately that I’ve missed, we fail to communicate so much.

And that’s amazing, considering that we communicate all the time. When I write this, you read it, so I’ve communicated to you what I think and feel, and whether you agreed or disagreed with it, you can’t help but receive the information that I’ve shared. When you stand in front of me and talk, I hear you, but I also read your face expressing how you feel about what you’re saying, and I can also pay attention to your hands and the rest of your body reacting to what is being said or what you really thought. We share that information and most of us are inherently good at it.

And yet, so often we communicate and not pay attention to what was communicated to us. So often we listen, but we don’t hear. And so often we don’t even try to listen, just pass by, thinking something else is important. I am guilty of that. I can be so lost in thoughts that I am lost for words when they need to be said. Whether it is to say that I agree, or to say I’m sorry, or to provide an insight, often I just seem to think there are more important things to pay attention to right at that moment, and I ignore others. Or sometimes I am so lost in my thoughts that I miss or misinterpret what’s being said and make wrong judgements of it and come to negative and upsetting conclusions.

I read a story by Chuck Palaniuk, the author of Fight Club, where he wrote that you only get people’s attention when you disclose that you are diagnosed with or dying from some incurable disease. That’s when people start really paying attention to what you’re saying and how you are feeling.

It is at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting that we really listen to others. We hear their stories, we think about how it relates to us, we express empathy with our nods and smiles, and after the meeting we talk, we discuss, and often go somewhere to talk about it some more. It is a system that works well for decades. It is not unique though, because people do that on a regular basis. People talk, people solve problems by discussing it. Only in AA meeting we discuss something that, if left unspoken, may literally destroy person’s life. That’s why we make sure we give a word to a newcomer, even if they don’t feel like talking in front of strangers.

The fact that this fellowship exists is a great thing. Over a decade ago it saved my life, just like for the last 80 years it was saving lives of thousands. But I can’t help but wonder if there could be less reasons for AA’s existence if we, the humans in general, could originally communicate better.

What if we could talk without being hurtful so that we wouldn’t cause people to look for a potentially dangerous outlet, such as drugs and alcohol? What if we didn’t produce so much alcohol that we needed to advertise it so rampantly? Remember, advertising is communication too, just as a movie you watched, or a book you read, only TV or Internet ads provide short ideas faster and with a shock value that successfully affects your mental faculties, promising you desires to be fulfilled. A powerful language to present ideas, and dangerous at that.

Could we advertise more ideas of hope and kindness than what to buy, where, for how much, and where it is less expensive and move convenient? Would we improve our lives with more products… or with more hope and understanding that we should care for others? So often I realize that it is not what we say to others, but how we say it that has more lasting effect, negative and positive.

Unfortunately, I don’t know if these questions can be answered. Thus, I focus on what’s at hand and stay sober and go to my AA home group meetings. Communication is power, and AA is based on communication. Without, it AA won’t work. We speak, we listen, we share, we read recovery books, and when we pray, it is communication to, isn’t it?

So now that we are afflicted, since the failures of communication already happened to plague us, let’s try to connect better. Maybe let’s do a better effort to listen to those that need to speak, with our loved ones (especially with them, because we may think we had a perfect connection, but we’re so often take it for granted), with our friends, with strangers, on a bus, on a street, in a group, even if we have no time, or desire to do so. Somebody’s life and sanity may depend on it.

I guess, I have to start with myself. Writing this is only the first step of dealing with it.


image copied from https://www.andertoons.com/speaking/cartoon/7151/know-youre-new-but-its-hear-ye-hear-ye-not-listen-up-people thanks.