If God is for us who can be against us?

 

Is this not a strange way to open up our blog today? Depends. It centers around what our topic might be. Today our topic is centered on spirituality and depression.  As a member of a 12 Step fellowship, Depressed Anonymous,  we talk and reflect  upon the fact that  we believe in a Power greater than ourselves.  We also commit ourselves to the belief in Step two  that “a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.” Following this  we reflect on Step Three which states  that we “Made a decision  to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand God to be.”

It was here at this point that Bill W., and Dr. Bob made a very important decision in how God would be presented  to the alcoholic, who  for many different reasons would reject the idea that the God of their understanding had their best interests at heart.  Their idea of what the “preachers” had to say about God was not what they were looking for. In fact, there were the “preachers” in New York’s Bowery, during the Great Depression of the 1930’s who set up store-front churches where the practicing  alcoholics come, get off the street, get a free meal, and hear a Christian message about salvation, redemption and  freedom from drink. But it appeared that some of the preachers emphasized hellfire  and fear instead of giving the alcoholic a way out that included a plan – a simple process of surrender and how “to turn over our will  and life over to  God as we understood God to be.”

I believe with  poet Robert Frost, who wrote that memorable poem, The road less traveled, where he was faced with a fork in the road, one road  went one way and one the other.  The one he eventually took was “the road less traveled.”

This poem speaks to me when I think of Bill W., the cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, who by his personal experience with the God as he understood God, provided him with a way to understand God, not just a Christian God, a Buddhist God, a Muslim God, but a God as we understand God.  It was only when he had his own epiphany with God, did it prepare him to share this understanding with other alcoholics so  all could choose the God of their own understanding–not just the God of the Christian “preachers.”

This was the freedom that the early A.A., pioneers brought into the discussion where anyone could believe whatever they wanted about a Higher Power. In today’s modern world, you can find AA, NA, DA, Al-Anon in almost every nation on the planet.  If he had not traveled down a road that only God knew where it led, would we have the Twelve Steps be open to all, regardless of their own spiritual beliefs or religious dogmas.

The following is an autobiographical  account of Bill W.,s  own encounter with God.

“My depression deepened unbearably, and  it seemed to me as though I was at the very bottom of the pit. For the moment, the last vestige of my proud obstinacy was crushed. All at once, I found myself crying out,  “If there is God, let Him show Himself! I am ready to do anything, anything!

Suddenly the room lit up with a great light. It seemed to me, in my mind’s eye, that I was on a mountain and that a wind not of air but of spirit was blowing. And then it burst upon me  that I was a free  man. Slowly the ecstasy subsided. I lay on the bed, but now for a time I was in another world, a new world of consciousness. All about me and through me there was a wonderful presence, and I thought to myself, so this is the God  of the preachers!” A.A. Comes of Age. p.63.

And finally, there was another road that Bill W., and others traveled and that was how one alcoholic talking with another alcoholic, sharing their story, would make all  the difference in the world.  It’s a simple story, one recovering alcoholic being open, honest and willing  to share their own painful story with another alcoholic, one person at a time. One day at a time.

I am one of those persons with whom a recovered  alcoholic shared his story. Today, I am celebrating  my 32nd year recovery birthday. I am a friend of Bill W.

Hugh

 

I will face my fears!

I will take another small step in my own recovery  and face any uncomfortable  fears that arises. I will face it and let go.

“I had to surrender to God, quit controlling everything and everyone, including God.  Let go and let God.” (8 )

CLARIFICATION OF THOUGHT

To think of letting go of my depression is like telling a drowning man to let go of his life jacket. When we have been depressed for so many years and this is all we know, we don’t know what to make of someone telling us to let go and surrender this experience to God.

I also know that for me to be in control, either by my sadness at home or my attempts to control every member of the family, I know that this keeps me from having to face all the pain in my own life. My thoughts don’t flow the way other peoples’ thoughts flow. My thoughts continually flow in a stream of heavy blackness. The blackness has always been part of my life and I feel that there is no way to escape it.  The only way out for me now is to “admit that I am powerless over my depression and that my life is unmanageable.”

I know that in the program there is much talk about giving over one’s life to a Higher Power and letting it guide us.  It’s somewhat like we are going down the road of life and we see a large narrow bridge which is spanning a river before us. We see the bridge and  can even see the other side but instead of crossing over we get out of our car, go down the embankment and begin to swim across to the other side. Depression and our own feelings of unworthiness won’t allow us to risk a way out of our sadness. Like so many life situations, the answers are hidden there in plain sight.

 

MEDITATION

We used to believe that our God was a God of wrath. We needed to believe that,  because we were feeling so bad, evil, worthless and unacceptable about ourselves. Now we believe God’s supply of love is endless. (See Step #3).

A dis-ease of the spirit-

 

In his voluminous work THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLIA first published in 1621, the  author traces the historical understanding of melancholia or depression as we know it today.  Already back in the 16th century this alchemist and physician rightly spoke about depression  being a disease of the spirit and that a spiritual solution need be sought for relief.

Paracelsus held the conviction that God has to be part of the healing as melancholia for him was a spiritual disease and so needed a spiritual cure. And now the insight and belief put forward by Paracelsus in the present time is being echoed in our own time by Bill W., co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous and all those who are availing themselves of the spirituality of the Twelve  Steps. All members of Twelve Step fellowships who are acknowledging  the importance of a belief in a power greater than themselves have the guiding star of hope and meaning in their daily lives.”

COMMENT

The experiencing  of those dark symptoms of depression and the hopelessness that they present, can best be understood as a painful dis-ease of the human spirit. The human spirit is filled with anxiety, a hollowness and a lack of purpose or meaning.  It is this dis-ease of the human spirit which  is the impetus   to seek  a remedy that will bring an equilibrium of meaning and purpose back into one’s fragmented life.

How often has David Karp, sociologist at Boston University writes about the  number of participants in his study of depression, who speak about the benefits of a spirituality in their quest for a remedy to their sadness. The author of Speaking of Sadness was surprised at how many of his interviewed  respondents  gave credence to a  spirituality of their own  and how it buoyed their spirits and  was a source of light and hope amidst the darkness.

Bill W., also depended on a Higher Power for help in  bringing sobriety into his own downward spiral of alcoholism  and saving his life.  He makes   no apologies for his belief in a Power greater than himself.   And like Paracelsus, as mentioned above,  saw that  the cure for melancholia, a  spiritual dis-ease,  as that of a faith in a Power greater than oneself.    As  stated in the 3rd Step of Depressed Anonymous  “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand God to be.”

For me personally, it was only after I had hit bottom with no where to go but up, that I admitted my life was out of control and I prayed to God to help me. That is when  I walked into a 12 Step Group meeting and found what I was looking for. Help and wholeness.

Hugh

 

 

SOURCES:   Copyright (c) I’ll do it when  I feel better. Hugh Smith (2016) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. pgs. 84-85.

Copyright (c) Believing is seeing: 15 ways to leave the prison of depression (2017) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.

” For the first time in 14 years I have hope…”

”  I had always known that  I was hard on myself. I reamed myself every time something bad happened. “Why can’t I find someone to love me?” “Why isn’t God looking after me?”   But for some reason, when I realized that I was doing this to myself, it made me realize that maybe all that I  would have to do is to stop doing it.   All of a sudden it made sense.

If I tell myself negative thoughts, I feel negative. If I tell myself nothing, I feel nothing.  So if I tell myself positive thoughts, eventually I’ll have to feel positive.

Of course I’m still testing it out, but I feel better and for the first time in 14  years I have hope, It’s not that hard to find something positive about myself or my life now. So I remind  myself of something positive every day and that’s what I am going to do until I don’t have to remind myself anymore because I’ll know.”

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To read more by this member of Depressed Anonymous see #9, A VICTIM IN MY OWN MIND in the Personal Stories contained in Depressed Anonymous, pages 120-121.

Also, it’s good to remember as pointed out in the 1st Statement of Belief in Believing is Seeing,  that “I accept and believe that however  hopeless everything appears right now, I will make a decision to recover from depression.  I am not helpless.  I will make a choice  to get better.”

SOURCES: (c) Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. (2011) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.

 (c)Believing is seeing: 15  ways to leave the prison of depression. (2014) Depressed Anonymous Publications.

Louisville.

Information for additional literature on Depression and the 12 Steps of recovery is available at   VISIT THE STORE. (See Menu)

“I now am conscious of a new path out of my misery.”

In our book, Believing is seeing: 15 ways to leave the prison of depression (2014) we learn that there is a path that will lead us out of the prison of depression. We know from experience that once we begin to take this path, walk it, step by step, that we will find ourselves gradually leaving behind our misery. Our sense of personal worthlessness will disappear and the courage  to confront our selves will grow stronger with each effort at stepping onto a path with its daily pointing toward hope.

How do I know this to be true? I know it to be true because I myself have walked the path and continue to walk it everyday of my life. I show others how to walk the path and many reach the same point of hope as did I. But let’s be straight about the way we get on this path. First of all, we have to admit that we have a need for this journey of hope. The alternative is potentially deadly. Just by admitting that I was powerless over my depression and that my life had become unmanageable put my feet on the path. I had to choose: take the first step or not take the first step. I took the step forward. The further I moved along the path of hope the further back was the misery that held me in its tight grasp. Now when a difficult situation appears on my path I deal with it effectively and move on.  I believe that with my own growing confidence, with a group of persons like myself who want to make the trip with me, will lead out of the twisted thinking  that kept me confused and helpless. No more.

If you too want to join me on the path of hope, give us a call (502) 5691989 or email us (depanon@netpenny.net) and we can tell you  how you too can have the same positive results in your own life that  those of us who chose hope instead of misery.

Thank you.

Hugh

12 Ideas about appropriate self-help activities for use when depressed.

1. Attributing the depression to a cause. 2. Attempting to rectify the problem considered responsible for evoking the feeling of depression. 3. Finding social and moral support. 4. Engaging in diverting and distracting  recreations.  5. Keeping busy and working. 6. Focusing one’s attention elsewhere than on the depression problems or depressed feelings. 7. Restructuring one’s cognitions so as to minimize the significance of the depressing events. 8. Engaging in  self-care and maintenance activities. 9. Visiting one’s emotions. 10. Taking prescribed medication. 11. Finding compensations and boosting feelings of self-esteem/ or self sufficiency through useful, purposeful activity. 12. Taking comfort in one’s religious beliefs.

Source: Rippere, V., and Williams, Ruth. Wounded Healers. NY: John Wiley and sons. Ltd.,1985.

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I might add that one of the more therapeutic activities for a person depressed is to join a Depressed Anonymous group where you will find yourself no longer alone and isolated. The group members will speak a language which tells you that they know what you are  experiencing. And when you do turn your attention to your personal experience with depression they will provide you with a solution-focused plan of recovery. We call it the Twelve Step program of recovery This plan has been tried and tested for almost a century now, and  has been found to be the “real deal.”

Take a look at some of the literature offered by Depressed Anonymous, use it,  then become a believer that it works.

Sources: Believing is seeing:15 ways to leave the prison of depression. (2015) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville

Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. (2011) Depressed  Anonymous Publications. Louisville..

“Please treat yourself kindly! Begin to plan pleasurable activities into your life today.”

  Believing is Seeing: 15 ways to leave the prison of depression#8 Please treat yourself kindly! Begin to plan pleasurable activities into your life today.

“One of the best ways to make sure you will have a pleasurable activity today is to plan for it the day before and then placing it on your calendar for the next day. Don’t say you will do it “when I feel better,” as you and I both know, we don’t usually do anything no matter what we tell ourselves. I think we have  all heard the saying “have a nice day unless you have made other plans.”  A lot depends on our attitude. If this isn’t  enough, just know that Abraham Lincoln said that we are about as happy as  we make up our minds to be.

What do you think?  Have you thought about  developing a “gratitude attitude?”

Note: Another resource for personal reflection is the work titled “I’ll do it when I feel better.” Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. (2014).

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SOURCES: Believing is seeing: 15 ways to leave the prison of depression. (2015) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. Pages 45-46.

Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. (2011)  Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.

Where do you plan to live today?

Today is all that we have. Don’t let dwelling on yesterday’s hurts and fears or about tomorrow, rob you of peace today. Contrary to what you might have thought — you are responsible for how you think and feel..”

Many of us in the program, no matter what our compulsion happens to be, prefer living in the past and/ or the next day.  We have a difficult time living through each day–it’s too risky to have to feel the pain of  the moment. But we know that the pain of the present needs to be felt if we are to reduce the lifelong misery which is ours unless we face the enemy and deal with it.  It is a promise of the program that we hand over and let God deal with us in God’s time and in God’s own way.  We know that God, with our assistance and work, our life can be straightened out. Like the old Russian saying.   “Pray, but keep rowing to shore”

Now that we have learnt how to take care of ourselves and our recovery, we now believe that we are responsible for finding our way out of depression. We can blame our sadness on our genes, hormones or a chemical imbalance. All this finger pointing can’t prevent us from having to take full responsibility for finding and using that map which points the way out of the darkness of depression. Since we have been involved in the 12 Step program of recovery we continue to learn the “how” of working our way out of sadness in the context of the fellowship of the group.

The best way to live today is to be fully conscious of the present moment and create that strong desire to be part of it.  Let’s not live in yesterday –the rent can kill you.

How often do I spend  time in tomorrow and so miss the joy of today?  I think one of the more serious occupations (aren’t  they all serious?) of the depressed is just to sit and think, and think some more about how bad life is and what awful people they are. The self-bashing makes one’s ability to change even more difficult, as continued depressive ruminations promote a great sense of unworthiness and confusion.  We feel  that we have no control over what happens in our life. Actually we are not so sure that we should care.  Everything seems hopeless. Living in yesterday is to pay some high price rent –and when you’re done paying the rent, you still have nothing to show for it.

I have to live in the here and now –I can’t run and hide in the unknown  of tomorrow  or disappear into the gloomy fog of yesterday.”

Where do you plan to live today?

Sources: Believing is seeing: 15 ways to leave the prison of depression. Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. Pages 37-39.

Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. (2011)  Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.

I needed to lay all my cards out on the table…

Affirmation

First I need to forgive myself for not being perfect. I want to accept the fact that I am human and fallible.

” Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” Step Nine of Depressed Anonymous

Clarification of thought

When I made up my mind to attend my first Twelve Step meeting that was the beginning of making amends to myself and to others.  It was this taking the step and coming to a meeting that I made my statement that I needed help and that I might change the way that I lived my life.  I need to  lay all my cards on the table and get straight with anyone from my past who I feel that I hurt by my continual withdrawal  from living a full life.  I need to make amends to those who I passively watched when I would have been a support or a partner.  For the readiness to take the full consequences of our past acts, and to take responsibility for the well being of others at the same time, is the very spirit of Step Nine.

This really means that I will take an active role in changing my life. Amends doesn’t mean that we just shift the furniture around the room of our life. I might have to rip out the plumbing, knock out a wall, that is, face a major overhaul on the way I look at myself.

Meditation

Our  God will help us locate the truth about whom we need to make amends; that is, how God  wishes us to be changed and whom we need to have forgiveness from so that we will be God’s  worthy vessels to carry  hope to others still suffering from  the despair of their sadness.”

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Source: (c) Higher Thoughts for Down Days: 365 daily thoughts and meditations for members of Twelve Step Fellowship groups. Louisville. Page 166.

Other sources of interest:

Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition  (2011). Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.

  I’ll do it when I feel better (2014) Depressed Anonymous  Publications. Louisville.

    Believing is seeing (2015) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.

PRIZING YOURSELF

 

One of the activities that you might think about is something that you found fun or pleasurable before your present depression.  You might  give this activity some thought and then  write down this activity with any other fun things that comes to your attention. After a while, I think you will find that there are many  things that you could do when you are feeling especially low. At a time when I was especially feeling a total lack of energy I would go and lie down –why fight the fatigue?  But then I learned that if I would reject the thought of lying down  and instead interest my attention in an activity such as typing on my computer that I found my energy coming back.  The thought that I was too tired to do anything disappeared in a short while.  Weird, but it works!

Also, as for planning pleasurable  activities, you might want to start listening to the way you talk to yourself. Try to speak words to yourself as if you were talking to a guest in your home. Talk out loud if you wish – hear yourself say kind things to yourself. For once, say something good about yourself instead of listening to all those old negative tapes that always made you feel you’d be better off dead. Or else be someone else. You get the idea.

When  you start listing your strengths  as part of your Fourth Step Inventory, list all  the good things  that you like about yourself. (See the Depressed Anonymous Workbook). With every negative statement about yourself don’t allow yourself another statement about yourself until you are able to replace it with three positive statements. I mean. let’s be fair and balance this thing out.  I know that you might feel a bit uncomfortable about prizing yourself, but give it a try anyway.  One of the best ways to make sure you will have a pleasurable activity today is to plan for it the day before and then placing it on your calendar for the next day.  Don’t say you will do it “when I feel  better,” as you and I both know, we don’t usually do anything, no matter what we tell ourselves. I think we have all heard the saying “have a nice day unless you have made other plans.”  A lot depends on our attitude. If this isn’t enough, just know that Abraham Lincoln said that we are all about as happy as we make up  our minds to be. What do you think?

SOURCE: Believing is seeing: 15 ways to leave the prison of depression. (2015) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.   Pages 43-45.