October 6, 2011

In Search of Character, Led... Back to Humble Beginnings

 inspired by October 6th reading in CTC 

Do you find,  that as you heal, "new character flaws pop up, like weeds in a newly mown lawn?"    I like to imagine those weeds showing me the way to come back again and again, and see the Steps with a fresh eye. With each return, I am more grateful for my ability to recover.

Over the years in program, I have advanced in my understanding of recovery. Yet, I've also discovered that, under the "right" set of conditions I can still slip and slip huge.  Last fall (after over five years of insightful progress),   I had an unexpected relapse.  

The biggest lesson I got from this experience was that excellence in one aspect of program is no guarantee that I cannot fall down (or off) on my recovery again.  When I fall (or relapse), it does not mean that the program does not work. Nor does it mean I did  my program all wrong.  I can ride my program bicycle very well, and fall off when I hit a hidden bump.  Or my bicycle may have needed maintenance that I'd overlooked.  Today, with program tools,  I have the wherewithal to get up a little more confidently, though it still may look messy.  Taking my time in restarting my program, slowly gently, gives me time to look at the larger picture and see things I may have missed. 

Once I have my perspective back, I can better see what might have helped prevent the crisis. Today, for example,  I see ways I can better advocate for myself in hospital. Before my relapse, I had begun by looking at my family of origin issues, then gone to studying my personal anger. Then, I became eager to  understand what fears lie beneath my anger. The hospital stay showed me my habitual ways of avoiding my shame. I'd been detouring around that pothole a long time!

(Our brochure on Shame is one of the pieces of EA literature that educate about this powerful emotion.)

In my  "new normal" life,  there continue to be things for me to learn or revisit. My emotions remain a ready teacher. I find myself recognizing something a newcomer had shared with me in an early face-to-face meeting in EA: he had come to our rooms to heal his shame. I've come full circle, to be able to perceive what that means for me, some twenty years later!  

T.S. Eliot's words from Little Gidding are often my mantra: 

We shall not cease from exploration, and at the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.  

Eliot's words are simply a catalyst for me. They help me stay mindful that, no matter many months or years I sojourn in program,   I will never cease to find new ways to apply our Twelve Steps to my life.  

I am grateful today for the restart of my program last fall.

Let this day also be a fresh start, and another chance to "open my mind and my heart to the lessons my Higher Power brings to me." Some of those lessons come from the words of others. Other amazing insights have come from the humblest places--like when I find myself at a familiar "beginning," retracing my steps after a hospital stay.  

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