Category Archives: Courage

Having had a spiritual awakening …

Step 12 is about having a spiritual awakening. Remember, Step 12 is the last Step of our 12 Step recovery program. The 12 Steps are the 12 spiritual principles, the core of what we believe and what our lives and daily actions are based. The following remarks are mine and express the belief that has carried me personally through a time of darkness and hopelessness. Until, I had a “spiritual experience…an awakening.” I woke up to a new way of living my life. My old way of living brought me to the edge of personal disaster. That is, until I walked into a meeting of people who were just like myself. Let me explain. They WERE like me. They welcomed me. They shared how the God of their understanding gave them a new way of looking at themselves and others. They had an experience that changed their lives. They had a “spiritual awakening.” Their lives were no longer consumed by the devastatingly presence of fear and aloneness.

The text following is found in the Introduction to Depressed Anonymous, our 12 Step recovery program where the author extends an invitation to be part of this fellowship.

We now have a solution to offer those who want to reach out and grow into the new way of life, a life that is now focused on recovery and a feeling of hope. With this offer and solution daily before our eyes, we are beginning to see that the depressed have to depend on a spiritual experience to really be free from that debilitating scourge of depression. It is this spiritual experience, coupled with the power of the fellowship of those who like ourselves where we neither need to explain of excuse ourselves or apologize for being depressed that is the basis for our recovery.
You must want to begin this journey seriously enough to actually begin the recovery program of Depressed Anonymous. Someday I hope to know you as a kindred spirit in recovery.
Depressed Anonymous, 3rd Edition, p. 23

Again, I would like to share a quote from A Meister Eckarte (c. 1260-1328) who shaped his insight for us about the nature of knowing God and how our knowing, comes from God himself. Here are his thoughts about the Spiritual awakening that comes to those of us and are “willing to turn their lives and wills over to the care of God as they understand God to be.”

This work then when it is perfect, will be due solely to God’s action while you have been passive. If you really forsake your own knowledge and will, then surely and gladly God will enter your own knowledge shining clearly. Where God achieves self-consciousness, your own knowledge is of no use nor has it standing. Do not imagine that your own intelligence may rise to it, so that you may know God. Indeed, when God divinely enlightens you, no natural light is required to bring that about. This (natural light) must in fact be completely extinguished before God can come in with his light, bringing back with God all that you have forsaken and a thousand times more, together with a new form to contain it all.
Depressed Anonymous, 3rd Edition, p. 161

In Depressed Anonymous, you can read the stories of those who have had their lives changed by letting go, letting God, and willing to do what it takes to recover from depression. Please join us.

RESOURCE
Copyright(c) Depressed Anonymous, 3rd Edition, (2011) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville KY

Energy of activation – Walking through the struggle

I study chemistry, and I see a correlation between a chemistry concept and walking through a struggle in depression.   In a chemical reaction, there is something called the “energy of activation.”  It is the energy that is necessary for a reaction to proceed.  In the diagram below, is the large hump or hill between the initial state and the final state.  So if I relate that to depression, it is the struggle that I go through to perform a particular task.  Now, I’ve realized it’s not about the task.  For example, it does not matter if the task I’m trying to achieve is getting out of bed, going to a meeting, going to work, going to the gym, or achieving a lofty goal.  It’s about the energy of activation, or the difficulty of the struggle that matters. When I am in severe depression, the energy of activation required for me to get out of bed is immense.  It may feel impossible at times!  Now that I am not in a depression, that task is not a struggle for me.  It has a low activation energy.  In other words, it’s easy for me at this time.

So why does this matter?  Because I used to (and still can) compare myself to others and ask myself the question “how does that person do this or that so easily?  How come it’s so hard for me to get out of bed but so easy for someone else?”  This concept of activation energy helps me realize that everyone has struggles.  And if I focus on how to get through the struggle, then I am focusing on the solution.  I also realize that at different points in my life, the activation energy for the same task can be VERY different.  This also tells me that I can and should give myself credit for getting through the struggle, no matter what the task is!!  Because what matters is getting over that hump.

So how do we do that?  It boils down to our thinking, doesn’t it?  If I feed myself positive thoughts, such as “this is possible,” “I can do it,” “I’ve had successes is the past, so I can do it again,” “I am capable and I am worth it,” then I’m going to get into action and take baby steps up the hill.  But if I think negative thoughts (or choose to stay with those negative thoughts, since in my case my default thinking is negative) then I am going to walk myself right down that hill and stay stuck at the bottom.  Sometimes I need to think positive thoughts that will get me to call someone else and ask for help or motivation.  It’s okay to get help – it’s easier to climb that hill together!

I’m realizing that when I focus on giving myself credit for overcoming that struggle, then I’m helping myself.  If I tell myself, “oh, it’s no big deal.  All I did was get out of bed today.  That doesn’t really count as a success,”  then not only am I saddening myself, but I’m also being dishonest with myself!!   Because overcoming the energy of activation for that task was critical and a major achievement!!  And best of all, at the end of the task, I’m in a better place than where I started.  So just for today, I am going to give myself credit for walking though the struggle – no matter how big or small the task.

If I do what I always did, I’m going to get what I always got

If I do what I always did, I’m going to get what I always got.
Slogan heard in a recovery meeting

I need to do things differently. If I attempt to go on autopilot I’m doomed as my autopilot takes me to deep, dark places. I have a choice today because of recovery. I don’t have to go with the default dark thoughts and feelings. I can take action, something different, because my old way of doing things have brought me to depression.

Depression can be viewed as being in the habit of (addiction to) feeling bad. The truth is that feelings are not in isolation. They are in a relationship with thoughts and actions.

  • Feelings influence our thoughts and actions.
  • Thoughts influence our feelings and actions.
  • Actions influence our feelings and thoughts.

I’ve got some good news and bad news.

  • Bad news – you can NOT directly control your feelings. It’s just flat out impossible.
  • Good news – you can directly control your thoughts and your actions, which greatly influence your feelings.

Accept the fact that you can’t control your feelings. Have the courage to change your thoughts and actions. That is the way to a better place.

Move a muscle, change a thought.
Slogan heard in a recovery meeting

Yours in recovery, Bill R

Accept what is…

When I argue with reality, I lose — but only 100 percent of the time.
Byron Katie

Reality is what it is. When I fight the reality of my present moment I will lose. I need to accept what is and make it the foundation for the future. Acceptance is not about resigning and giving up the fight. It merely mean to see things as they are, not as I perceive them to be.

All of us have things about our present moment that we don’t like. A certain amount of dissatisfaction is part of the human experience. I don’t like the fact that I’m visited often by negative thoughts and dark moods, but to deny and not like those things is not truly helpful. I need to accept what is: I’m visited often by dark and negative thoughts. What do I do with that then? I need to accept that as my current reality. That is my present, but it need not be my future.

I can put into play better thoughts and better actions that have the possibility of creating a better future for myself and those around me. The future has not yet been written. I can have an influence over that future with what I do and what I think. I need to put in the work and do those things that have the potential to lessen my suffering. The outcome is in God’s hands, but I can do my part in creating that better future.

I have to humble myself, clean house, and trust in the God of my understanding. By doing these things persistently I have a real shot at creating a better future, but first I need to accept what is. May you have the courage to accept your present moment without judgment and work towards creating a better future.

Yours in recovery, Bill R

Courage to Change

Fear has held me back so often in life, especially in depression. Although I hated the feelings of depression, there was a security in that dark depressing place. A respite from the uncertainties of the world. Change involves uncertainty – or the question “What if?”  My mind automatically goes to the negative.  What if I try this again & fail again? What if I can’t do it?  What if I’m not capable?  And so on. The needle on my mental compass defaults to negative thinking. I have to make a serious effort to shift my thinking to the positive.  It occurred to me that I could ask myself other “what if” questions.  What if I can make a positive change?  What if I am capable?  What if I can do something good for myself? What would that look like, and what would that feel like? It was almost scary to find out!  Again, because it was different and new.

I’ve made a lot of positive changes in my life lately, and I had to ask my Higher Power for help. I said, “God, please give me the courage to change the things I can.  Please give me the courage to walk through the fear. I know that with Your help, one day at a time, this is possible.”  It has been possible, and it still is!  I’ve been walking through fear and making positive changes!  Two years ago I thought it would be impossible for me to get up Monday through Friday and go to work (let alone get out of bed and be functional, or show up to chair a meeting). But with the help of my Higher Power, this program & the fellowship – just for today – God has given me the courage to walk through fear and change the things I can. And for that, I am immensely grateful. ❤

Promises of Recovery

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.  We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.  That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.  Self-seeking will slip away.  Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. The fear of people and economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.

When I first joined DA, the Promises of Recovery statement gave me a glimmer of hope that I have not seen in a long, long time. Living in this modern world as a thirty something year old, with unrealistic expectations of myself and my life, and resentments building up overtime, I found myself burned out like a log turning into ash. But I got used to finding comfort in the smoldering fire… at least my life was basically over and I could just fade into the background and withdraw from this world.

Joining DA really made an impact on how I saw life, and towards the word “future”, which I was avoiding at all cost. The Promises of Recovery gave me hope, that there was a life waiting for me if I made a decision to change my perspective and my old habits. It was a scary decision filled with doubts and terror and a whole lot of shallow breathing. But I was desperate; I would have believed in a chair if that meant that it would help me feel and be different. So I decided to give it my all, with the same energy I used to fulfill my perfectionist self. I stuck to meetings and diligently worked on the steps. I’ve faced some of my past and figured out a way to live with it without regret or shutting the door on it. I was shown many instances of serenity and peace throughout the shares in the meetings. I was very much down the scale and at the very bottom, but I used that to relate to others and helped my fellows by just listening and understanding and crying with them. I realized that so much of my suffering came from my self-seeking ways, and helping people with something I deeply understood filled me with acceptance and service. I was giving myself permission of being helped when I helped others. I learned to forgive others and by doing so was able to forgive myself. It’s funny how everything starts circling back to you.

I thought The Promises of Recovery was all such extravagant promises. It took me a while to allow myself to believe them. But that’s what I learned. Spirituality is a choice. There are so many things standing in my way, but they will be gone if I decide to let them. My recovery has been a slow process, with one step forward and many steps back. I can’t put a finger on a certain step or mantra, but the promises are being fulfilled inside of me, sometimes quickly, most of the time slowly. “All growth is gradual in this natural world.”  I can really stand by that now. And when I hit one of the many bumps and roadblocks on the way, I just have to tell myself, “It’s fine, I’m working on it”. 

Anna T.

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

Making gratitude my attitude helps keep Robin out of depression

Through the Depressed Anonymous program of recovery, which utilizes the Twelve Steps, I have been on a journey of transformation from the everyday life of struggle, gloom, and desperation to discovering new freedom and new happiness – something I didn’t know existed. My entire perspective is changing. Other people who I thought were judgmental are now considered as all being a child of God- all created equal. What a provocative pence tool this is! Really! It helps me lift those negative attitudes and places them with affirmations. This is undoubtedly the most valuable technique offered in Depressed Anonymous to acquire an optimistic attitude towards life itself or simply “making gratitude my attitude.” So many of us were only familiar with the sham and the drudgery of life, but even with all the sham and drudgery in the world, it is still a beautiful place to live. We learn to change not the world but how we view the world and all its intricacies.

Using the Twelve Steps allows me to begin the journey of hope and to admit that I am powerless over depression. There is the time when depression overwhelms me so intensely that it nearly cripples me altogether. These emotions of failure, shame, and “feeling less than”, become so uncontrollable that I have to stop and simply admit that I am powerless over them. But now, I genuinely believe that there is a power greater than myself and greater than those emotions.

The Higher Power (whom I call God) is there to help me any time I ask Him. And you know what? He rescues me every single time.

Resources
Depressed Anonymous 3rd Edition, © 2011, Depressed Anonymous Publications, Louisville KY. (Pages 115)

Fun? When was the last time you had some?

In Step Four of our Depressed Anonymous Workbook, we find the statement: “When was the last time you had some fun?” You could also add when was the last time you actually laughed or even had a smile on your face? In one of our early Depressed Anonymous meetings. Bob told the group that the DA meeting was the only place where he could actually find himself laughing.

At our online Depressed Anonymous meetings, we are presently sharing our thoughts and feelings about Step Four. As part of our inventory, there are a number of questions pertaining to our Family of Origin. The following section helps me to take and reflect on my own family of origins and the relationship that I had with all those persons who I shared my life in those early childhood years.

In order to make a good inventory I need to go to my roots and discover how I came to be the person that I am today. AS the saying goes, “WE are our parents.”
When we were small, we “swallowed” our parents, meaning “swallowed” their main personality characteristics. Even today parents, grandparents, a stepparent, or guardian all are now part of our personality -for good or for ill. For myself to escape from my depression I need to discover how I might have received certain messages from my depression I need to discover how I might have received certain messages about myself from those adults who surrounded me as a helpless infant and child. All of us have received messages as children -some helpful and others not so helpful. Some messages directed toward us might have made us feel worthless because we got the message that we could never do anything to please others.

Our Depressed Anonymous manual, with an excerpt from Step Four gives a detailed and traumatic account of one of my experiences as a 10-year-old child. This event had recurring consequences for my young life and into my adult years. We might want to take a deeper look into some of the unpleasant feelings that we have today, traced to their origins in our childhood. I know for a fact that these events, producing guilt and shame, were finally dealt with in therapy as a young adult.

“I still remember being embarrassed when my third-grade teacher told me in front of the whole class That I would never be like my brother who was much smarter than me. I used to feel my face get hot every time I thought about that embarrassing incident. But the more I share my shame of having been exposed to others about something that I had no control over, the freer I became of that fear. The same principle is at work here in the Depressed Anonymous group. We can take our own personal inventory of our weaknesses and fears and trust the group to hear us out and accept our stories of shame and hurt as we accept theirs. We begin to see how and why so many people feel bad because in their earlier years people made them feel they could never measure up to the way others expected them to grow up. By becoming our little child once more, we paradoxically grow up.”

More about our childhood experiences, pleasant and unpleasant in the days to follow. And since it is time for school to start again, it seems that our bodies, sensors that they are, remind us that the Fall weather and school both arrive at the same time of year.

(c) The Depressed Anonymous Workbook (2002) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville, p.29.
(c) Depressed Anonymous, (2011) THIRD EDITION. Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville, p. 55.

Willingness to Take Baby Steps

A common question in other 12 step fellowships is “Are you willing to go to any lengths to achieve recovery?” When thinking about willingness and my depression, I don’t know how well this applied to me. I mean, if I had the willingness to go to any lengths when I was in my deepest darkest depression, I would have just hopped out of bed, embraced the day, and ran a 5K! But that is not how it worked for me!
When I was in the depths of my depression, my willingness had gone out the door. “What was the purpose anyway?” I thought. I didn’t think I could get any better. But Depressed Anonymous showed me that there is hope, and there is a way out. For me, that path to recovery has been a series of baby steps. After coming to meetings, I saw people who were like me; people who really suffered from depression, and I saw that they were recovering. Once I had the realization that there was hope, I needed to ask myself a question. “Just for today, am I willing to take a baby step to help myself recover from depression?”
This was something that I could comprehend and that I thought might be possible. Yes, I can take a baby step and get out of bed. Yes, I can take a baby step and call someone from the fellowship. Yes, I can take a baby step and order the literature, then take another baby step and read a page of the literature. I can answer one question in the workbook today. Yes, I can do one little thing to help myself today!!
That is how my recovery began. That is how I climbed out of that 80-foot hole of depression-one baby step at a time. And the beautiful thing is that I don’t have to do it alone! Honestly, I don’t think I could have done it alone. I tried for years, and although I met with sporadic success, I inevitably fell back into that pit of depression. Today I have the DA fellowship surrounding me. I have a Higher Power. I have a sponsor and friends in the fellowship who help me along my path. I am also here to help others on their path to recovery. Today, I am grateful for the willingness to take baby steps.