Amazing 20 Years

Today I celebrate the most important day of my life.

It was on Saturday, March 10, 1990, at 10:15am, on the upper side of Manhattan (NYC) that I first walked into the rooms of a 12 Step program. It is there where I found Home, my family of choice, and commenced my conscious spiritual journey. It was the beginning of transforming my entire way of living via changing my world view.

This day 20 years ago was the start of my coming to believe in a God of my understanding. And, having been a ‘devout’ atheist, that was no small feat! After all, I’d known about The Program for five years but had declined attending a meeting because I knew the word “God” was going to be uttered.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into and how much my life was going to change by finally taking that fateful step of going to my first meeting – I actually landed up attending three that very first day!. But I had reached bottom, knew that something was ‘wrong’ with me, and also knew that psychotherapy, while helpful with other issues, was not sufficient to address this issue of my eating disorder.

I am grateful to the 12 Step program in more ways and for more things than I could ever recount. My life and relationships would not be what they are today if I had not adopted the 12 Step way of life and had a personality shift of huge proportion. Over the years of practicing the principles and relying on a Power greater than myself, my life has become rich in a myriad of ways and my journey of awakening has become more adventurous.

Today I celebrate: having conscious contact with the Great Mystery who I know is my Source; the love of other spirits having a human experience; knowing peace and serenity are mine any time I choose despite what’s going on in the outer world; knowing my life has a purpose and being of service – the list goes on, and on, and on.

It’s an extra special day of grace and blessing! Thanks be to Spirit, and to all of you friends of Bill W. whose paths have crossed mine, where together we are living in the solution.  God bless.

Spiritual Prescription

Last night I watched the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie “My Name is Bill W.”, the story of the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. I have often heard it said in the 12 Step rooms that the coming together of Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith and their formulation of the 12 Step principles was a miracle. And many others describe AA as the greatest spiritual movement of the 20th century. I’d have to agree.

This coming June will be the 75th anniversary of the start of AA… and this March marks 20 years that I first stepped into the rooms of another Anonymous program.

Not only did I get help with the physical issue of my eating disorder, but even more importantly, I got the spiritual help my soul was crying out for (unbeknownst to me). As I’ve learned, whatever manifests in the physical is the end result of something spiritual in nature. And, a foundation for living was given to me; I am so grateful for the guidance.

Bill W. wrote in the September 1947 issue of Guideposts the following:

“Our most enthusiastic friends think Alcoholics Anonymous is a modern miracle. So they ask, “Why can’t A.A. principles be applied to any personal problem?” The world today is a problem world because it is full of problem people. We are now on the greatest emotional bender of all time; practically no one of us is free from the tightening coils of insecurity, fear, resentment and avarice. If A.A. can revive an alcoholic by removing these paralyzing liabilities from him, it must be strong medicine. Perhaps the rest of us could use the same prescription.”

Surely these days there are many going through life without a compass. Especially in these accelerated and crazy times, a spiritual prescription is the key for waking up and living in joy, peace, and love regardless of outer appearances.

Beyond the World

“Care not what the world thinks, and allow God to protect and nurture you in ways the world cannot comprehend.” – The Voice for Love, September 12.

Ah… what a soothing idea.

My ‘handle’ on match.com when I was seeking Roger 5+ years was “Unusual Woman”. Yep, unusual, that’s me. It’s not always an attractive term to others, but thank heaven it was to Rog!

It also means that oftimes I felt like I did not fit in.

I wasn’t comfortable in my family of origin and couldn’t wait to move out on my own.  Being an educated woman didn’t always endear me to my lesser-educated male colleagues when I worked at AMTRAK (the railroad), especially when I excelled and became their supervisor. The New York banking world was not a good fit either. Socially, I often felt uncomfortable, not feeling able to connect to people, perhaps because of age, gender, values, whatever.

But of course, the lack of comfort was with myself, not the outer world. Still, to some extent, maverick that I was (not always out of choice it seems), I did care about what others thought of me.

It wasn’t until I joined a 12 Step program that I felt like I fit in. I fit it with others who had eating disorders, understood my crazy behaviors because they’d been there too, and were honestly look for a better way of life. I fit in because there was mutual respect, love, and concern.

I did not fit in initially from the ‘God thing” perspective as I was a devout atheist when I first entered the rooms.  That of course changed, and when I came to believe in a Power greater than myself, I started fitting in at other venues too. For now, Spirit was with me, I no longer felt alone. It no longer mattered what others thought of me. It just came down to me and God.

I am glad to be reminded that it does not matter what the world thinks as I march to the tune of a different drum. Spirit is always with me, and there is where I find comfort, love, joy, and peace beyond the world’s understanding.

Pearls of Wisdom

The last week has been wild and wonderful, full of God and synchronicity as Rog and I get closer to the trustee sale date of our cozy Gilbert home and seek the next place to hang our hats to be located in the Verde Valley. We’re pretty peaceful as we get guidance, take action, then await results. Still, as we get closer to the wire (mid-May), I sometimes feel a tinge of fear, a fear of the unknown in a particularly serious life situation.

Today I remembered some concepts I first heard years ago in 12 Step meetings which immediately bolstered my faith, leaving no place for its opposite (fear).

“God hasn’t brought me this far to leave me now.” Oh, yes, yes! How uplifting, how true!

We’re looking to barter our talents and services for rent, not the most conventional situation. Three days ago we thought our next home might be a classroom in a historic elementary school that is to be converted into a country inn. Then it looked like it might be a 900 sq ft funky house, and this morning it looked like it might be a 1200 sq ft cottage and greenhouse on 5 acres near a river. We progressed from one possibility to the next and all are still viable, but we’ve no clear path here yet. And so, as I noticed the progressive order of one housing possibility to the next, I remembered that if one thing doesn’t materialize it means that “God’s got something better in store.”

I have always been grateful for the many pearls of wisdom I’ve heard in 12 Step Program. I am particularly grateful now to be remembering these to help me as I venture into a new territory of life experience.

Another Anniversary

Today is a special day for me: the 19th anniversary of stepping into the 12 Step rooms.

March 10, 1990 – the most important day of my life because it was the dawning of my path of coming to believe in Spirit.

In the past, I’ve often said that the only way God was going to get my attention was to hit me over the head with a baseball bat in the form of food. Sounds a bit forceful, but I did reach bottom, so the only way to go was up. I’m so grateful for finally having the willingness to check out the 12 Step program in spite of the ‘G’-word – working it transformed me and hence my future life, and made me a better human being for my fellows.

Since that fateful day, I’ve discovered and explored other paths, some complementary to the 12 Step philosophy, some not so much, but all leading Home just the same.

These days my path is no longer focused on the 12 Steps; still, it is and will always be dear to my heart.

I will be forever grateful to Bill W. and Dr. Bob, the founders of AA, who with Spirit, started it all. And, I’m grateful for all those I’ve met along the 12 Step path, who helped me and vice versa – you are dear to me. It is a way of living and a family like no other I’ve encountered.

We are all so very blessed, one day at a time. And that is surely cause for all of us to celebrate.

About Gratitude

When I was a devout atheist, I felt there was no one to be thankful to. That changed as soon as I came to believe in a power greater than myself. I’m grateful for that, for walking into the rooms of a 12 Step program, which led me to the most important thing in my life: God, as I understand God.

This week is one that I particularly pause to give thought to gratitude.

So it was no surprise (at least not to me, the facilitator 🙂 ) that at last night’s meeting of the Gilbert Spirituality Meetup group, the topic was Gratitude. The shared stories were “inspirational” as one member put it. Yes, indeed.

When a father can get down on his knees after his son has died and the first words out of his mouth are “I am grateful…for the time You gave me with my child” that is inspiring. Recalling that this man, in his darkest hour, offered thanks to God and not venom, will get me back on track when I’m feeling less than grateful because of some minor occurrence that threw me into a tizzy.

Another member made a point of saying that even if you do have negative thoughts but have a semblance of gratitude, your energy vibrates at a higher frequency. That will get the spiral headed upward towards positivity.

I was reminded that every moment is a moment in which I can choose to be grateful. Every moment is unique, will not be repeated ever again, and hence is a sole/soul(!) opportunity to be seized and savored. The expression “Wake up and smell the roses” came to mind.

When I feel gratitude, my heart is full and I am oftimes moved to tears, tears of joy. When Rog expressed a connection between gratitude and joy, I realized he was right. He expounds upon this in his book Choosing Joy at Work.

Speaking of work, we can sometimes be self-conscious about expressing appreciation of others to those folks, especially in a business setting. What a stark indicator of our increased separation from our fellows with whom we are One. This group member was going to go ahead anyway and be her authentic, expressive, appreciative self. Yes!

When I surround myself with people who not only feel grateful, but express it – like at last night’s meeting – I feel uplifted. And, for that I am grateful.

My Story Continues…

[Continued from yesterday’s blog]

The day I departed for my first trip to Europe with six weeks of sobriety and 12 Step recovery under my belt, I had planned to work a good portion of the day and then leave directly for the airport from my office. I was delayed (ya know, just one more thing…), and rushed out of the World Financial Center in lower Manhattan hoping I would not miss my flight; I did not.

The plane was boarded, an older gentleman sat down next to me, and then he started making a fuss about the luggage under our seats. Nonetheless we settled in, the plane took flight, and before I knew it, my fellow traveler was placing a copy of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous into the pouch in front of him! Excited and feeling an instant connection with him, I turned to him and told him I had a copy of the Big Book with me too. Thus a dreaded 7-hour flight to Rome sped by as we talked in the same language about the Program, our feelings, and our experiences.

This was synchronicity at work for numerous reasons and I chuckled that:
. In this plane with 300 or so passenger seats, a member of a 12 Step Fellowship was assigned to a seat next to me
. His unmistakable membership in this anonymous association was revealed to me (and early in the trip)
. Peter was an American (like me) from the northeastern United States (like me) in a planeload mostly full of Italian-speaking Romans
. Last, but certainly not least, Peter was a Christian missionary stationed in Rome!

The significance here for me was strong. I was not left alone, new in my sobriety and new in my traveling to Europe. I got to enjoy the company of a ‘man of the cloth’ whereas up until this time, I had looked askance at ‘such people.’ Also, this came at a time when I was actively searching for a higher power. I walked off that plane onto another continent with a new attitude, my perspective shifted.

Upon hearing this story, my dear friend Jay (a member of the AA Fellowship) said to me “Even you, Joyce, have to admit this had to be more than a coincidence…” Indeed, even I. I chuckled, knowing (and glad) that my evolving conception of a higher power had a sense of humor.

My Story Begins…

The Gilbert Spirituality MeetUp Group met the other night and the topic was God Stories. We mostly focused on sharing incidents in which events happened which could not be a coincidence – or at least the person involved thought so, which is all that matters.

The idea of synchronicity was developed by Carl Jung and has special meaning for me. It was the way in which I came to believe in God. One of my first conscious “encounters” – after all God is always making Its Presence known but I often am not paying attention – occurred when I was newly on my path.

I walked into the rooms of a 12 Step program of recovery for eating disorders in March 1990 in New York City, bringing with me 19 years of ‘hard core’ atheism. I held a strong belief and daily practice based on Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism where reason and logic were the answer to everything and self-sufficiency, along with perfectionism, was extreme. I had a great disdain for organized religion, and would barely give a member of the clergy the time of day if asked to. But, I considered myself a ‘free thinker’!

Six weeks later, abstinent (sober) for that period, I was on my way to Europe for the first time. Being so new to the program and traveling into unfamiliar territory, I was concerned about my ability to remain abstinent. I endeavored to get a copy of the Big Book, the ‘bible’ of the program Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) on which my particular program was based, and secured a copy in the nick of time. Reading this, indeed just having it with me, was to help ‘protect’ me from my disease of compulsive overeating. I had not yet developed a conception of a higher power to help me. I was about to get a clear demonstration of Higher Power at work.

[Continued tomorrow…]