When A 12 Stepper Gets Stuck In Her Story…

12 Step StoryFor years I’ve had a story about me and money. It was a grand tale and explained a great deal about my life.

The story was all about what my mom and dad taught me about money.

Knowing that story and telling it has been interesting and a wonderful way to gain some sympathy from folks.

But even though I’d been in touch with most of that story for years, and even though I’d recently found yet another part of that story, nothing much about my relationship with money really changed. Even when I’d written the story in a 4th Step and shared it in a 5th Step and prayed for the willingness to let it go in the 6th Step, my money issues remained.

I joined Debtors Anonymous and learned how to take care of the money I have and how to charge clients in a way that reflected my skills more accurately. I even learned how to have rational and calm conversations with people, both close and not so close about money.  All valuable skills indeed, and I was still stuck.

When Underearners Anonymous started about seven years ago, I helped start a group in my home town. In that 12 Step group I learned how to track my time so I wouldn’t set myself up by promising more than I could deliver. Again, good things to know, and I was still stuck.

In both organizations I’d occasionally tell the story about how what my parents taught me about money was the root of my problems with money. I’d get sympathy, and understanding and my bottom line relationship with money never really changed.

Recently I’ve had a hazy idea that maybe my folks, my father in particular, didn’t exactly teach me negative beliefs about women and money.

Unbeknownst to me, that was the beginning of a break-through.

Zen and the 12 Steps

Over the years I’ve been drawn to study the teaching of the Buddha. Like many 12 Steppers I’ve noticed a real compatibility between the 12 Steps and those teachings. When I finally began to mediate regularly I found my way to Zen and began to practice at the Sweetwater Zen Center. The only reason this matters at all is because we have a teacher there, Herb Ein Eko Deer, Senseiwho incorporates the 12 Steps into his teachings.

I’d been vaguely interested in that but pretty much figured I didn’t need formal work in the two. After all, I was relatively new to Zen and had been practicing the 12 Steps for over three decades. Wouldn’t it, I reasoned to myself, make sense to focus on Zen? And that worked until yesterday.

While meditating in the Zendo on a typical Sunday, I began to wonder if it wouldn’t make sense for me to work the steps with Zen. It took about 10 minutes and the internal message became more or less, get off your high horse and at least ask Herb about it.  I did and the result is I’ve now started working the Steps with him.

Hit, metaphorically, over the head!

This morning in mediation I had one of those aha moments. All those things my folks taught me about money? Those beliefs they instilled in me that resulted in lots of confusion and pain around money for me?

Well darn!

Guess who had been believing them all these years?

That’s right! I’d been believing them!

I was the one who believed it’s not nice to be poor and that women shouldn’t either earn money or have (much) of their own, and that I should look to men to financially support me. That was me acting more or less unconsciously on those beliefs I’d been hanging on to as if my life depended on them. That is, I clung to the story of how I acquired those beliefs, but without seeing how those beliefs had become my own.

I’d gotten thoroughly stuck in my story, stuck in a way that meant I couldn’t see my part in it. And since I couldn’t see my part I couldn’t really begin to accept it and until I accept something I find I can’t really let go of it.

Are my money issues magically solved because I’ve begun to take responsibility for those things that I’d come to believe? I doubt it. Experience tells me that while there may be a major letting go in an aha moment, there still a ton of work to be done. I’ve likened it to a giant rock. If you’ve ever seen one moved you’ve probably also noticed that there tends to be a bunch of junk left in the whole that also has to be cleared away. In fact, I can feel that there’s more. I’m also reasonably confident that if I stay open what I need to see in me will make itself known and if I’m willing I will be able to let go of those things too.

Apparently, and I may even be grateful for this, the growing never stops. Or at least the potential for growing.

It’s about those Steps!

Notice that what worked and is working for me in this new version of my money story is the Steps. It seems that no matter how we get to them, it’s our willingness to work them, over and over again as issues arise that makes the change possible.

And although sometimes time in the Program makes it easier to see what we’re doing, it can also help us stay stuck because we think we know what we’re doing. At least that’s what happened to me in this instance, and in a few others.

Do we ever get to the place where we’re totally healed? Apparently not, and I may even be grateful for this, the growing never stops. Or at least the potential for growing.

Fortunately we have the Steps, which lay out a specific path or method of letting go. We also have people around us who know and work those same Steps, in other Programs and maybe even in other ways. We have only to be willing to ask for help.

In short, the Program works at any point in our lives.

What do you say? Have you had any recent experience discovering some stuckness? Have you been able to move through it yet or get started moving through it? Tell us your story, stuck in it or not, in comments.

Love, blessings and abundance,

Anne W. Powerfully Recovered

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Sharon Hurley Hall January 7, 2013 at 11:49 pm

We all have stories about what we’re worth, what we deserve, Anne, though it may manifest in different ways. Not something I can respond to off the top of my head, but I know I’ve got my share of those, for sure.

Trev January 8, 2013 at 7:07 am

Why do you not believe that we do not get totally healed?
I am healed from alcoholism and drug addiction.
That is why I identify with folks who have recovered.
If your talking ego, well I would agree with you, this is why our program is circular and not linear.
MY late mentor used to say to me that part of learning is the unlearning of our belief systems instilled in us throughout our lives. Some by parents others by teachers and our social or work environments.
For me I was able to let go of many resentments through forgiveness that was they key for me. It Once I let everyone off the hook, I let myself off and forgave me. It was liberating as I was no longer a prisoner of my own mind /ego . The document I used was called Forgiveness The Missing Step. I use it with folks I sponsor. A great group of AA’s called The Big Book Bunch put it together, Forever grateful to those cats.
The other thing I was taught was by living in the now, fear evaporates.

My story is only in a general way what I was like… hopeless. My real story is on the awakening I had as a result of the 12 steps.

annew January 9, 2013 at 12:43 am

Totally agree, Trev, that the real story is the recovery/awakening we have.

The reason I’m leery of talking about total healing from addiction is the temptation to confuse healed or cured with the ability to drink/use again… as far as I know that’s not possible.

And totally agree that in the now fear is gone… thanks for posting.

Cathy Miller January 8, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Your story so resonates with me, Anne. Although it may not have been directly communicated, the era we grew up in promoted the idea of reliance on a male for survival. I realized a long time ago, in a very fundamental way, I was waiting to be rescued.

I, too, get stuck at times, and continue to work on it. Thanks for sharing your personal story, Anne,
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annew January 9, 2013 at 12:43 am

And one truth is that I’d still loved to be rescued! If they’d do it ‘my way.’ 😉

John January 15, 2013 at 11:49 am

Hi Anne,
I’ve been stuck on Step 9 for a while and after reading this realized I was actually also stuck in my story and unable to move on from a particular event that happened 25 years ago and still resonates in my life. I think tonight I have the answer.
BTW. I was reading “My Pocket Sponsor” last night and there was a quote out of your book!
Still not making it to meetings as my partner is against them. Thankfully reading AA lit and joing the Sober Recovery forum works as a sort of an alternative.

annew January 18, 2013 at 3:58 pm

There’s a quote from my book? I’ve never heard of the Pocket Sponsor before – just looked it up – http://www.pocketsponsor.com – can you tell me what they quoted? Here’s something I learned very recently, so I’m not totally sure of it, but when we get stuck there is, of course, resistance. I’m told if I can move that resistance to open curiosity I may learn what I need and/or find that it’s much easier to let go of – from that idea of “hmmmm… I wonder what this really is…” or something that doesn’t loop back to the story… it makes sense to me and I’ve been experimenting with it… stopping the loop back is the key I think… let me know if it works for you if you try it.

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