goalsSetting goals isn’t often a big topic in 12 Step recovery groups. After all, our one-day-at-a-time approach works when it comes to letting go of our addiction. It’s usually after we’ve gained some solid sobriety and we’re back in the world that setting goals  begins to take on importance for many.

Smart goal setting drives me nuts

Over time I’ve used various goal setting techniques and had varying luck with each of them. The best known approach to setting goals is probably the so-called SMART method. That stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

Somehow trying to fit my life or even just my work life into that framework feels like trying to crawl into a box that’s way too small for me. “Timely” sort of confused me. I gather it means that I believe or need to achieve the goal by a specific date rather than something vague like ‘some day.’

Goals focuses on something undone

The problem it seems to me is having a locked in, specific goal forces me to focus on what’s missing rather than on the present moment. That can keep me feeling I’m not enough or I’m not doing it right or any number of other thoughts that essentially put me in a down position.

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meditation Meditation used to baffle me almost completely. When I first came to program I didn’t pay much attention to Step 11, “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God.” That was for the best.

Like most, I needed to focus on embracing the truth of my alcoholism and drug addiction, my belief in some sort of power greater than just me, and my willingness to trust that Higher Power – in other words, Step 1, Step 2 and Step 3.

After the fog really cleared, I began to wonder about Step 11 and how it might apply in my life. I understood prayer pretty much – asking God for help had always been easy for me. After I realized most of my prayers were utterly selfish I was able to change their focus a bit. But meditation was a total mystery for me and remained that way for years.

Oh I asked people about it. I remember my sponsor telling me I should be able to sit quietly and keep my mind blank “like a turned off television.” I even read some books on the topic over time, but nothing clicked.

My meditation mistakes

First, I had some notion that you had to wear special clothes if you were really going to meditate. You know, orange robes, or something like that.

While it’s true people in various meditation practices may use robes of any color, most people who meditate do so in clothes they would wear regularly.

Next, and this is the biggie, I figured real mediators were able to sit with a clear mind, thinking nothing, right from the beginning. I clearly remember multiple attempts at sitting with a clear mind aiming for 20 or 30 minutes. I thought my inability to clear my mind for even a minute or two meant I was a failure at this spiritual practice.

Not so!

Minds are meant to think

Someone eventually pointed out to me that our minds are meant to think. It’s what they do. Our brains are pretty much in action all the time. It’s totally normal for our minds to jump from one topic to another, and another, and another… This is sometimes known as ‘monkey mind’ which is meant as a description only, not a criticism.

The goal, it turns out, is not so much to stop thinking or to turn off our brain, but to slow it down some. Some people say we’re to ‘cool’ the mind.

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apologiesApologies came up today in my writing forum. One writer told of an editor who not only was demanding in the changes she asked for, but was also willing to apologize when she made a mistake, The writer commented on how much easier that made it for her to accept the changes the editor wanted.

It’s absolutely true, when people are willing to admit their mistakes and say their sorry, it makes it so much easier to be with them and to build a solid relationship.

I wondered why apologies were so effective,  then remembered a perfectly awful customer support experience I had recently. It turned out there was only a single person there who could do what I wanted – an insane situation in my humble opinion. But the person who told me this and gave me his best guess about when and how to reach her also sincerely apologized that I was having trouble.

I felt heard and even appreciated

Although he couldn’t solve the problem I realized for the first time that day of being transferred hither thither and yon while listing to hold music I hated, I’d finally at least been heard. While he didn’t say he also thought the company was nuts for their approach (probably because we were being taped – who listens to all that stuff?), his tone of voice let me know he would be on my side if he could be.

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HalloweenOh good grief! Today is Halloween and I’m the original Grinch about Halloween.

Why? Great question.

Until very recently I’ve considered that Halloween was largely a chance for middle class kids to beg for candy – not a pretty picture and not fair either.

Over the last few years I’ve also really recognized that my Halloween is the day before millions who celebrate the Day of the Dead. As I understand it, the Day of the Dead is simply a remembrance of those who have passed and maybe some prayers or other thoughts to help them on their spiritual journey.

Which, it turns out, is pretty much what Halloween is or used to be all about.

A change in attitude about Halloween

Last night I was poking around online and saw a bunch of costumes that people have made for Halloween. For the first time in ages I thought it might be fun to make or get a costume and go to a party. It seems I’m no longer embarrassed by the idea! Yippee!!

It’s doubtful it will happen this year, although I’m willing to be surprised, but I think I’ll do that next year.

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Another Alkie Who Understands He Is Recovered!

Danny S. who is apparently somewhere in New England has a blog called Real Live Recovered Alcoholic. I found him by googling something like 12 step recovery blogs. Not surprisingly I was drawn by another 12 Stepper using ‘recovered.’ What a hoot! The more I poke around his site, he’s been blogging there since 2003 apparently, […]

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Practicing These Principles In All Our Affairs = Serenity

Step 12 says, among other things, we’re to “practice these principles in all our affairs.” As I said in my article on Step 12, there isn’t a list with the title ‘The 12 Principles.’ If you google the term you’ll usually come up with a list of sites and blogs that one way or another […]

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What About Secrets In 12 Step Recovery?

One of the unofficial slogans you’ll hear at 12 Step Recovery meetings is ‘your only as sick as your secrets!’ My sense of this saying is it’s mostly true and designed to help people be more honest with themselves, and as a result, more honest with others. But I wonder about the part that says […]

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13th Stepping & Sexual Predators in 12 Step Recovery

You don’t have to be in 12 Step recovery long before you hear the terms, “13th Step” and “13th Stepping.” The definition is simple – someone with more time preys on a newcomer, usually for sex and/or sometimes for money. Generally it’s men who hustle women newcomers, but sometimes it’s the women who hustle men. […]

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Down Memory Lane

You know you’re an old timer or bleeding deacon when someone contacts you asking about the history of AA in your area! Yes, it’s now happened to me and although I don’t feel that old, one truth is that I am. I’ve now been sober and clean over half my life! And yes, I remember […]

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Four Ways To Trick Yourself Into Going To Meetings

In every 12 Step Program, one of  the major suggestions for success is attending meetings. And for the most part, that’s pretty good advice. It’s not always easy to follow, as you probably already know. In fact, I don’t know anyone with any time in Program who hasn’t experienced resistance and reluctance to going to […]

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