All posts by Bill R

When we are disturbed, something is wrong with us

It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us. If somebody hurts us and we are sore, we are in the wrong also. But are there no exceptions to this rule? What about “justifiable” anger? If somebody cheats us, aren’t we entitled to be mad? Can’t we be properly angry with self-righteous folk? For us of A.A. these are dangerous exceptions. We have found that justified anger ought to be left to those better qualified to handle it.
Twelves Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 90

I need to remember that if I’m disturbed with something or someone I need to look within a see what is wrong with me. How am I thinking about my current situation? Is my thinking mature, serene, and sound regarding this circumstance? Am I looking to see where I’ve fallen short?

I say these things not as another opportunity to beat myself up but rather as a point of reflection. Is there anything that I could do that would be better than how I handled it before?

Improvement is possible only if I can recognize how things actually are and not how I think they should be. Accepting my part in my circumstance is the place from which I can grow and become better.

Could I give in to justifiable anger? Of course I could but would that be helpful and useful? Not very likely. It is far better for me to examine where I fell short, where I’m upset because that sticking point is where growth can occur. Have the courage to look within. It may be scary to look within, but that is where healing occurs. Good luck on your trip within.

Yours in recovery, Bill R

Metaphor for my depression

OK, I’m acknowledging and admitting in public that I have depression. I choose not to say that I suffer from depression, as I believe suffering is a choice. Here I mean the Buddhist interpretation of suffering, the mental and emotional anguish that we put ourselves through when we don’t accept the present moment for what it is.

Pain is part of the human experience, suffering is optional.

I choose to say instead that I have depression, or that I sometimes experience the symptoms of depression. This simple change of the words I use to describe my condition allows for space for the possibility that someday I won’t have depression, or that I don’t experience the symptoms of depression.

Why all this talk about words? Well words have great power. If you read Genesis, God first spoke “Let there be light”, then light existed. Words are the first step of creation. The words I choose to use help create my reality.

Many of us view life as a series of metaphors. Some view life as a race, others view it as a game, still others see it as a constant struggle. What metaphor do I use to describe my depression?

As I mentioned in a prior post, humans are dualistic beings. I see myself as two beings in one:

  1. a wounded inner child
  2. a mature outer adult

My depression shows itself by a lack of energy, a lack of progress, and a lack of emotion. The swing is not moving.

The depression is a manifestation of my wounded inner child. It is sitting in the swing. It is petulent and drags its feet in the sand. Sometimes it goes so far as to pump its legs in the opposite direction to prevent progress.

My outer mature adult is smaller than the depression. I can’t give a single push to get the depression swinging. I have to time my pushes, and consistently apply positive actions in my life. I have to encourage the inner child to lift his feet. After that I can encourage the inner child to begin pumping his legs so swinging isn’t relying totally on my smaller outer self.

It’s not a perfect metaphor mind you, but it is fairly consistent with my experience with my depression. I am hopeful that consistently giving gentle pushes I will emerge from the depression, free and happy once again. This future is possible for you too.

Yours in recovery, Bill R

The Second Arrow

The parable of the second arrow is a Buddhist parable about dealing with suffering more skillfully. The Buddhists say that any time we suffer misfortune, two arrows fly our way. Being struck by an arrow is painful. Being struck by a second arrow is even more painful.

The Buddha explained:

“In life, we can’t always control the first arrow. However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first. The second arrow is optional.”

Picture yourself walking through a forest. Suddenly, you’re hit by an arrow. The first arrow is an actual bad event, which can cause pain. But it isn’t over yet. There is a second arrow. The second arrow brings more pain and suffering. Can you avoid the second one? The second arrow represents our reaction to the bad event. It’s the manner in which we choose to respond emotionally.
Source: https://grandrapidstherapygroup.com/second-arrow-of-suffering/

We can’t control the first arrow. Bad things happen, even to good people. It sucks, but that is life.

I do however have control over the second arrow. I don’t HAVE TO sadden myself. If I apply the spiritual principles of the Twelve Steps I can have a daily reprieve from saddening myself. That portion of my depression I have some level of control over. The rest of my depression could be caused by a chemical imbalance in my brain, trauma that has occurred in my life, heck it could be caused by gremlins. I just have to accept that certain things are outside of my control.

Yours in recovery, Bill R

Sick Man’s Prayer

God, when a person offends me, help me to remember this is a sick person.
Help me show the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend.
Show me how can I help them.
Save me from being angry.
Thy will be done.
– Alcoholics Anonymous p. 67

Just as I am sick and broken and going through my own struggles the same is probably true for others as well. I need to be compassionate towards myself and others. I COULD judge myself and others, but is it helpful to do so? Judgment is the realm of God and humans need to tread lightly when going into judgment.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
– Matthew 7:1 New International Version

Be open to the possibility that the other person is not acting out of malice but perhaps they are acting out of a place of pain. That doesn’t excuse any action that they take, but it should soften your heart towards others.

Yours in recovery, Bill R

Resentment is the number one offender

What’s your problem? One problem that many of us have is that we are riddled with resentment. How do I come to that conclusion? It’s found in the AA Big Book (remember that Depressed Anonymous is based on the model pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous).

Resentment is the “number one” offender. It destroys more alcoholics (or depressed people) than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick. When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically. In dealing with resentments, we set them on paper. We listed people, institutions or principles with whom we were angry. We asked ourselves why we were angry. In most cases it was found that our self-esteem, our pocketbooks, our ambitions, our personal relationships (including sex) were hurt or threatened. So we were sore. We were “burned up.”

Alcoholics Anonymous, pages 64-65

Okay, so we’ve identified the number one offender. We must set ourselves free from resentment. What do we do to rid ourselves of resentment? That too is found in the AA Big Book:

If you have a resentment you want to be free of, if you will pray for the person or the thing that you resent, you will be free. If you will ask in prayer for everything you want for yourself to be given to them, you will be free. Ask for their health, their prosperity, their happiness, and you will be free. Even when you don’t really want it for them and your prayers are only words and you don’t mean it, go ahead and do it anyway. Do it every day for two weeks, and you will find you have come to mean it and to want it for them, and you will realize that where you used to feel bitterness and resentment and hatred, you now feel compassionate understanding and love.

It worked for me then, and it has worked for me many times since, and it will work for me every time I am willing to work it. Sometimes I have to ask first for the willingness, but it too always comes. And because it works for me, it will work for all of us. As another great man says, “The only real freedom a human being can ever know is doing what you ought to do because you want to do it.”

Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition, page 552

I can personally attest to the fact that praying for the people you resent truly works. I harbored a deep resentment for over 15 years. My parents chose not to come to my daughter’s funeral. The resentment was all consuming. My sponsor in AA told me “Bill you need to pray for your parents”.

The first thought that came to mind was: “No way in hell am I praying for my parents”. Then the small still voice of my Higher Power asked me a question: “Well Bill, what are you willing to do?”.

I realized that I was willing to pray for willingness. I prayed for two weeks, and the willingness came. I prayed for two weeks for my parents: that they know peace, that they feel the presence of God in their life, that they have wisdom.

I prayed and the resentment was gone. The scar was still there because they hurt me. It however was no longer an open and festering wound. No longer was there bile in the back of my throat because of deep anger. I was free!

Prayer truly works if you pray for those you resent, and not pray at them.

Yours in recovery, Bill R

Don’t Compare – Identify

When we compare ourselves to others it is a divisive action. We separate ourselves from others. What we are all looking for is to be part of, to belong, to be in a community.

If you truly want to be in a community – stop comparing. Seek instead the common ground.

Look for the good in people. You will find what you are looking for. Some people have coined a new term: The Law of Attraction. That law has been present for a long time.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
Matthew 7:7-8 New International Version 1

When you go to a 12 Step meeting and listen to people sharing, don’t focus on the surface details. The details will differ. Listen instead for the emotions behind the stories. The same things will come up again and again:

  • fear
  • loneliness
  • feeling like you don’t belong
  • abandonment and neglect
  • hurt
  • anger
  • abuse (severe or mild, physical or emotional)

You belong if you say you belong. You belong if you seek the common ground among your peers.

Yours in recovery, Bill R

Notes

  1. I’m not looking to convert you into Christianity. I’m merely pointing out the truth in a single line from that scripture. Take what you like and leave the rest. Sometimes even religious people get things right.

Today’s cleanliness can’t rely on yesterday’s shower

Bill, what the heck are you talking about?

Sometimes when we are depressed it feels like too much effort to take a shower. Sometimes you are just not in the mood. Cleansing yourself is not a chore, it is something you can do that is self-nurturing and you feel better as a result. Sometimes the shock of the water on your skin can feel like it’s too much. Continue on through it, you will eventually feel better.

So too goes recovery. Sometimes going to a meeting can feel like a chore and something you don’t want to do. Trust me, you will feel better as a result.

Diving into step work can be a shock to the system – who wants to take a fearless and moral inventory of themselves? Step work is just that, Work, but it is necessary if you want the deep healing and cleansing that is possible.

Some people say 12 Step programs are brainwashing. I don’t know about you, but my brain needs a good washing.

Recovery is all about achieving a daily reprieve from whatever your addiction is. Today’s sobriety can’t rely on yesterday’s recovery work. Recovery is a spiritual practice that you must practice. Not forever, just for today!

Dive in. Do the work. You are worth it!

Yours in recovery, Bill R

The potential reason why we’re depressed and anxious

There are many potential causes for depression and anxiety. Genetics, chemical imbalance in the brain, trauma, side effects of certain medications, and yet many more. Johann Hari, in his TED Talk This could be why you’re depressed or anxious suggests that many of us have the contributing factors of:

  • A feeling of not belonging
  • Lack of purpose in life

Depressed Anonymous can provide relief for both of those conditions. You belong here if you believe you belong here. As the Third Tradition states: The only requirement for Depressed Anonymous membership is a desire to stop saddening yourself. If you have the desire within you to stop saddening yourself then you can decide that you belong here. By participating in recovery you become part of. Participating could be sharing your story, but participating is also showing up and listening intently to your colleagues as they share their story.

Within Depressed Anonymous you have a purpose! Tradition Five states: Each group has but one primary purpose – to carry its message to the depressed person who still suffers. Each one of us can carry the message that a daily reprieve from depression is possible. By applying the spiritual principles of the Twelve Steps you can be relieved of the symptoms of depression for today.

Recovery is about progress, not perfection. Dark thoughts will come back to me. I have depression, and that is where my brain goes by default. With recovery I have a choice. I can choose to use the tools and techniques that I have learned here within Depressed Anonymous. Recovery will not magically take depression away for me forever but it is possible to have a daily reprieve from the darkness of depression. The following slogan sums this up for me:

The monkey is off my back, but the circus is still in town.

I don’t have to apply the spiritual principles each and every day, but rather I choose to apply the principles each day. I don’t have to take a shower each day, but I choose to do so, and I feel better as a result.

Yours in recovery, Bill R

I can’t be held responsible for my first thought

Big news flash everyone – I have depression. Given that fact I can’t be held responsible for my first thought. My first thought more often than not is dark, depressive, critical, judgmental and self-serving. I’ve had to accept that my brain is broken and this is its default. I forgive myself for my first thought. Learn to forgive yourself for your first thought because your brain could be broken too.

Instead focus on your second thought and your first action. What am I choosing to focus on? Am I embracing an attitude of gratitude or am I stuck in a mentality of lack? You can choose what you focus on. That first thought – you are powerless over that. Let the judgment go. Am I focusing on the spiritual aspects of the program? Am I seeking a connection, a communion, with the God of my understanding? Am I choosing to be humble, or am I stuck in false pride?

Regarding my first action – am I taking one step closer to my goal of being a happy and serene person? (pardon the pun there) Or am I taking another step closer to the deep pit of depression? Am I choosing to be self-serving, or am I choosing to act in service of others? Service can be as simple as holding the door open for someone. A great way of doing service is listening to another with compassion and without judgment.

As a depressive and an addict I can’t be held responsible for my first thought. Being in recovery though means I am responsible for my second thought and my first action.

I urge you to forgive yourself for your first thought. Put focus and intention on your second thought and your first action. It will work, if you work it!

Yours in recovery, Bill R

Unhelpful Comparisons vs. Helpful Comparisons

We’ve all fallen into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. This is a losing game if there ever was one. You don’t know the struggles that the other person has gone through to get where they are now. Comparing yourself to others in an attempt to boost your own self-esteem degrades the other person’s worth. These are unhelpful forms of comparison. These forms of comparison create suffering in yourself and others.

Don’t compare your insides to somebody else’s outsides.
Slogan heard at a recovery meeting

What then is a helpful comparison (lessen the suffering in yourself and others)? The best way is to compare your current self and situation to an earlier incarnation of yourself. Have you improved or have you gotten worse over time? This is a comparison that provides you valuable information about yourself. This type comparison can show you how you have improved over time, that you are not stuck and stagnated in your present state. You do change, even if that change is slight.

To overcome the challenge of managing your depression stop comparing yourself to others and begin comparing yourself to your past self.

For further information on this please watch Dean Furness’s TED Talk To overcome challenges, stop comparing yourself to others on YouTube. https://youtu.be/IOrmS8vJDQw

Yours in recovery, Bill R