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Intentionally setting the direction for the rest of one’s life is quite an ambitious task, but that is what’s called for at the twelfth and last step of a recovery program. Moreover, this direction is not simply a general effort toward better habits; it is envisioned as a spiritual journey. Step Twelve of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) says: “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
How does this powerful statement fit into the context of negativity? When we develop more understanding of the harm done by negative thinking, we’re not just letting go of the particular negative thoughts that caused our problems—we are removing heaps of grungy old mental clutter and freeing up space to invite more beauty, peace, and joy into our lives. Then we are empowered to share our creative energy with others, bringing more kindness and joy to the world in ways we might never have imagined. We go through our days feeling more awake and alive. A spiritual awakening, indeed!
This bold vision is tempered by a reasonable dose of humility, in that it acknowledges not everything is going to work out perfectly. What’s required is to make the effort: “we tried…” I believe there are worthwhile lessons to be learned from unsuccessful efforts, in that they help to make clear what works and what doesn’t, so that more can be accomplished the next time around. That said, when something fails we shouldn’t just give up and say, oh well, we tried. If we start feeling like that, we might do better to look for motivation from Yoda: “Do or do not—there is no try!”
Carrying the message, in AA groups, means setting a good example for others and sponsoring new members. When we’re talking about negativity through online interactions such as blogging, rather than an actual recovery group, I would say it means keeping a positive tone in all the writings we publish, including comments on other people’s blogs and on social media. No personal attacks, no rants, no excessive drama. It also means avoiding pointless online arguments. Sometimes constructive criticism can be useful, both as to individual mistakes and as to cultural problems; but there is rarely anything to be gained from posting comments into the sort of threads where people yell at each other for days.
And finally, what are the principles we should seek to practice in all our affairs? I would put honest self-evaluation at the top, along with cultivating the belief that help will be there when we need it—that we’re not just struggling through life all on our own. Whether that belief is framed as having faith in God or more generally as having trust in the workings of the Universe, it goes a long way toward reducing the anxiety that underlies addictive behavior. And when we accept the discomfort of acknowledging our mistakes and correcting them promptly, we find that it’s not nearly as painful as avoiding our problems.
I hope that these virtual meetings have been helpful and that the upcoming year will be a good one for us all! If something I’ve said in this series of posts resonated with you, please take a few minutes to write a comment, provided you have the time. I would love to know!