Category Archives: Step 03

Strands vs. Steps

OK we all know the metaphor of the steps. They are an ever increasing ascent into sobriety. But is that the only metaphor that we can use for recovery?

I think not. I’m a big fan of trivia, and I have a thirst for the esoteric. One image that comes to my mind about recovery is the act of rope making. Thread is woven together to make yarn. Yarn is woven together to make twine. Twine is woven together to make rope. As the strands come together the result becomes stronger and stronger.

We start off with Step One, our first thread of recovery. It is the beginning of our recovery and a necessary part of it. Admitting powerlessness is a difficult undertaking. I think I have power: I am the master of my domain. Nothing is further from the truth. We can quibble over whether powerlessness is 0% power or is it 1% power, or some other single digit percentage of power. The bottom line is that we have very little power in our lives. Admitting powerlessness is a turning point in recovery. Something, somewhere, a power exists, but it is definitely not within us. Powerlessness is not the same as helplessness or hopelessness. It means that we are fallible and flawed beings. That is not a condemnation of our state of being, merely a statement of truth that we are fallible and that we need help.

Step Two is then woven in with Step One. Step One is still there, but we are now adding the additional wisdom of another spiritual principle. The most beautiful words in the English language are “Came to believe”. We see that there is a way out of our pit of depression. This power, this Higher Power can restore us to sanity. What does sanity mean? Well let’s look it up:

sanity – the quality or state of being sane
sane – proceeding from a sound mind
Sourcehttps://www.merriam-webster.com

Can we say that being in a state of depression is “proceeding from a sound mind”? I would say it is not.

Step Three is then woven with the other 2 strands. Turning our will and lives over to the care of the God1 of Our Understanding is a very hard idea to wrap your mind around. There is a saying in recovery: “Surrender to win”. Surrender is not about giving up. It’s about accepting fully to your current reality. You need help and your Higher Power can help if you’re willing. Remember that it is God’s will and not your will. You have it within your right to ask for things, but it is up to God1 to decide what is going to come to fruition.

Step Four is then woven in with the preceding strands. Making a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves is a difficult task, but a necessary one. We need to put down on paper what we have done, both right and wrong. Don’t just include your liabilities, but also include your assets. You haven’t been all bad, and neither are you all right. Have the courage to write is all down. You won’t die because of it.

“Admitting to God1, ourselves, and another human being…” is necessary as well. Step Five is about humility and sharing deeply about ourselves with another. Some people say: “I don’t want to confess my sins to another”. Confessing is not about supplicating yourself on the alter of forgiveness to escape damnation. The origin of the word confession is “testifying to the truth”. State clearly and concisely what has brought you to the state of depression.

Now that we have taken our inventory we can follow the guidelines of Step Six and make a list of all of our shortcomings. We can surrender these to the God1 of our understanding and become entirely ready to have Him2 remove them. This is not about beating yourself up, it’s about having the humility to admit where you have fallen short.

Which brings us to Step Seven: “Humbly asked Him2 to remove our shortcomings.” We can ask to have our character defects removed, but it is up to Him2 to decide which character defects will be removed. When asking to have your shortcomings removed end your petition with “Thy will, not mine be done”. Which ones will be removed is not up to you, it is up to Him2.

Step Eight is about making a list of all persons we have harmed. We don’t have anything else to do just yet. We are merely making a list. Don’t get ahead of yourself, you are not at Step 9. Focus on making the list.

“Made direct amends to such people, wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others”. Step Nine can be very frightening. If you are afraid to start making amends then I suggest that you talk to your sponsor. You may have created a terrible situation in your mind that you discover after talking with your sponsor that you don’t need to make amends to that person. Don’t avoid this step – it has amazing healing ability. A weight will be lifted from your shoulders. Making amends is not about begging for forgiveness. It’s about admitting what you did hurt another person, and that you are striving not to make that mistake any more. You can start with the easy amends and work your way towards the more difficult ones.

Step Ten is the next strand: “Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.” The longer you are in recovery the more prompt prompt becomes. It’s all about not creating a further wrong that needs to be fixed with another Step 9. Admit you were at fault. You will be glad you did.

If you’re in a hole, quit digging.
– Will Rogers

“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God1…” brings us to Step Eleven. It’s all about seeking that deeper relationship with your Higher Power. The seeking is what is important. There will be times you feel connected to your Higher Power and there will be times that you are in a dark night of the soul and you don’t feel the presence of your Higher Power. Don’t beat yourself up that your relationship with your Higher Power ebbs and flows. That’s what it does.

Yes it is important that you have had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps. The critical thing with Step Twelve is “..we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all of our affairs.” Be of service to others. Help someone else. Not for accolades, but rather to pay your blessings forward that you have been pardoned from the prison of depression.

You have woven a rope of recovery. It is so much stronger than the single thread that you began with. You are free from depression, and with this rope you can move great obstacles in your life.

Notes:

  1. Here I mean whatever you conceive your Higher Power to be. It could be God, or Jesus, or Allah, or Buddha, or Universal Truth, or Love, or any other conception. Your conception of your Higher Power is yours and yours alone. It is just a whole lot easier to write it in the shorthand term God. Please don’t be offended.
  2. Using the pronoun Him does not mean that God is definitively masculine, it’s just a shorthand way of referring to your Higher Power. Please don’t be offended.

Faith Appears To Be Good For One’s Health

Joyce  was a client of mine a few years back. She was in her early sixties and just recuperating from   a successful  open heart surgery. She also was very  depressed.  That’s where I come in. I was asked by my clinical supervisor  if I would spend some time with her and see  how I might be of help to her.  I agreed to do what I could do.

In the midst of counseling and listening to Joyce’s  story, I discovered her  strong faith,  which included her personal faith in God which gave her the belief that she was going to get through whatever  that had her  in lockdown.

She wasn’t aware of our Depressed Anonymous group and so I shared my story with her and the fact that I too  was once depressed. I told her how I became a  believer in the spirituality of the Twelve Steps and how my belief in God  delivered me from my symptoms of depression. Now don’t get me wrong -my own story is that it took me over a year to finally  get free of this noose around my neck.  Also, because of my faith in a program and the  recovered  people who lived it out in their daily lives,  I started on the road to recovery.

My faith told me if I would follow some of the simple steps outlined in this recovery program I would get better. My faith got me off of my seat,  out of bed and out my door to begin walking.  I believed  walking might be the key that unlocked my prison of depression. I read  that some Doctors in England were writing out   prescriptions for exercise for their depressed patients. I figured that it worked for them and so why wouldn’t exercise work for me.  After a year of walking everyday I finally walked out of the mental fog, lost the jitters and became free of depression. My faith in a Higher Power and my getting my body moving on a daily basis produced the healing effect that I had hoped for.

Back to Joyce. She and I had ten sessions together and I suggested to her that she start to think about the things that she did before her depression. What provided the satisfaction  and those pleasant events previously in her life. She talked about how she at one time was a cartoonist as well as a lover of writing poetry. So, that is what I suggested — that she involve herself with these pleasant activities again.  She said that she believed that she could do it–even though her mind and body rebelled at moving out of her comfort zone of doing absolutely nothing. The main defense for doing nothing is the oft repeated mantra from all of us when  we are depressed which  is “I’ll do it when I feel better.”

With each new session she would share with me a cartoon or a poem which she had created the previous  week. As she continued doing what she liked, I  noticed more energy in her voice as she shared her feelings about her new  creations.  All the while, she was compliant with her own physical recovery from heart surgery. Her pleasant moods  gave her a feeling of being in control of her life and her future.  She came to believe that a power greater than herself would restore not only her sanity but her health as well. Her faith was renewed in the God of her understanding while restoring  her belief that her  health was going to get better. Not only did  she have a plan to follow but she made the spiritual principles of the Twelve Steps her way out of depression. She continues to follow this map to this very day.

The following quote is from a work  titled,  The Secret Strength of Depression written by Frederic Flach, M.D., K.H.S.

Faith appears to be good for one’s overall health. Cardiovascular illnesses are more frequently seen in depressed individuals, in patients with coronary ischemia, depression worsens the outcome, possibly due to alterations in platelet function and changes in autonomic tone. Depression is also associated with a higher mortality rate following acute myocardial infarction; for those patients who survive, the recovery process is often a more complicated  one. Studies suggest that the recovery rate from medical and surgical procedures, from the repair of hip  fractures to coronary bypass surgery, is faster among believers. Moreover, patients undergoing such treatment appear less likely to have serious complications or die.” Page 239.

SOURCES:  Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. Depressed Anonymous Publications.  Louisville. Ky.

Copyright(c)  I’ll do it when I feel better. 2nd  Edition 1986,  2013.  Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. KY.

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

The total surprise of living.

 

I’ve finally found how to live.  I guess you could say it was pretty much a round -about- way.   Surprisingly, it all came about with my face to face struggle with the dark forces of depression.  Included in these  waves of darkness appeared  the demons of shame, guilt, fear and isolation.  All these foes of serenity and happiness entered through the  door of my life and settled in. I was imprisoned.  It took all my energies to mobilize my will to even get out of bed in the morning.

I reached down deep into my soul and made a commitment to myself and to my wanting to live.  I discovered a “power greater than myself” in a belief that told me that I could free myself from this strong attachment to sadness and despair. I moved my body. I began to force myself to get up and walk. Almost like Jesus telling the man paralyzed from birth to get up, take up his mat and walk.  And that is what I did. I got out of bed and started walking.

Later I realized that I had put a goal into my life. I had a purpose. It wasn’t some grandiose plan to free myself from the demons of fear–it was  a simple action that put meaning in my life. I lived every day  with a purpose to survive whatever had me by the throat.

“I came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore  me to sanity.” That was Step Two of the Twelve Steps of Depressed Anonymous. That was the moment I made a decision to trust that the God of my understanding would give me back my life. This is indeed what happened.

As it states in our  Manual, ” We found God does not make too hard terms with those who speak seek its guidance. To us, the realm of the spirit is broad, roomy, all inclusive, and never exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek it. It is open, we believe to all men and women.

We believe that to be conscious is to have been able first of all to listen to someone or something that expresses God’s desire to free us from the misery as soon as  we are willing to turn our minds and our wills over to it.  Somewhere  along the way, we were convinced that that the only safe way to  make this life bearable and predictable was to  continually sadden ourselves, withdraw into our little shell and make sure that our own small world was completely under our control. It was a perfect little world, this world of ours. It was dark, gloomy and painful, but at least we knew what we had. It is this predictableness that makes life inescapably  hell for all of us, even though we’d rather have this than the total surprise of living.”

Scott Peck, in his best selling book, The Road Less Traveled makes the statement in the first sentence of his book  “That life is unpredictable.”  Yes, life is definitely unpredictable. That is what can make it an adventure of discovery instead of  completely removing all spontaneity  and joy because of our being imprisoned in that small, painful, and ongoing total isolation of depression.

Break free! Push on!  In time you too will live and enjoy the daily adventure of living life.  Be surprised by the daily joys of living life!

SOURCES: Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition (2011) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. KY. Pg. 97.

Please VISIT THE DEPRESSED ANONYMOUS PUBLICATIONS  BOOKSTORE FOR MORE INFORMATION.

 

Coming Attractions!

How often do we  hear about “coming attractions” when we go to our local theater? There are always movies that are advertised to be shown in the future. They usually depict short clips from some of the movies  that will be coming  soon.

Now, today, as we go  about our day, our mind reviews some of the coming attractions that we will bump into this day. Have you ever noticed that the human mind, with its fears and apprehensions, usually attracts all those things that we fear might actually  happen to us. Let me give  an example of how “coming attractions” works in the brain. It’s very much like Murphy’s law which tells us that if you think something bad is going to happen–it usually does. It is a strange phenomenon but it actually works out that what we fear many times actually occurs. It’s almost like the negative fear attracts the very thing that we fear. Let’s say we are thinking about a person who is a big pain and suddenly there they are -right in front of us. How does this happen? Is  there some mysterious magnetic force in the universe that  makes this fear become a reality? Or another example: I go to a room filled with strangers and I think, “nobody will want to talk with me.” And almost magically we find ourselves standing in a corner watching everyone else interacting with others.  We just knew that this would happen. This is one of those “coming attractions” to which  our mind alerted us. And then again, how about this situation. You are at the grocery or market and you  see someone you’d just as well not want  to see . So you go down another aisle in the store and head for the check out lane. Lo and behold, guess  who pulls up their cart right behind you. Yep, you guessed it. It’s one of those “coming attractions” that our mind makes happen. Negativity attracts negative events. Negativity thoughts  attracts more negative thinking.

Can there be a reverse side of this “coming attractions” business of the mind?  I believe so. It is just as true that our mind attracts whatever we put into it. If we fear this or that,  make a mountain out of a molehill, but then reflect and see it for what it is, and reduce it to its appropriate size, we will not get stuck in the cycling negative thinking  of how bad it is or might appear to us at the time.

In Step Three  of Depressed Anonymous we  read that “we came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”   This is one of my favorite “coming attractions” that has proved time and time again to be so true. Over time and with practice,  I no longer waste my time thinking about what is going to happen to me in the future  with its promised catastrophic end. So now my positive thinking abounds in a positive outlook for my life. I just know that whatever comes to me today I can handle. I just know that the Promises of Depressed Anonymous are as true today as when they wewre first written back in 1935. I also believe that all I have is today–just this 24 hour period. That is all God gives me. One day at a time. And whatever the “coming attractions” are  for me today–God and myself can handle them. I am going to have a great day  today! How about your day?

For more about the “coming attractions ” for your life,  read what will happen for those of us who choose the  way that leads out of depression. In the program of recovery we call them the “PROMISES.”

“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 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 help 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 that 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. ”

SOURCE:   Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition(2011) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. Page 109.

The Promises (2002) Depressed Anonymous Publications .Louisville.

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

VISIT THE BOOKSTORE FOR MORE INFO.

I accepted that God, as the God of my understanding…

The Second way out of the prison of our depression states that “I accepted that God, the God of my understanding is loving and forgiving. The 12 Step group and our God is the pillar  of our strength and healing.

LIVING A HALF-LIFE

In depression the first thing that we must do is to take charge of our lives and incorporate a planned pleasant activity in our lives. If I don’t, I will continue to linger on  alone and live a half-life. Nothing beyond my reach can absorb my pain of isolation and feeling worthless.

This is especially true for many of us in mid-life where the dreams we once thought possible  remains stillborn. We seem to have  lost the time to do something positive with our lives. We feel stuck. I want to get involved with a fellowship of persons who  are learning new ways of living with a sense of purpose. We want to live our lives with hope. Step  Two of Depressed Anonymous states that “we came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”  We will “let go and let God.” P.11.


Check the menu here  at our site and discover if there is a Depressed Anonymous group in your community.

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

Overcome our need to be compulsive about everything…

Affirmation

I will be fearless as I take my personal inventory and uncover those thoughts that I sad myself with on an ongoing basis.

“The most common symptoms of emotional insecurity are worry, anger, self-pity, and depression. These stem from causes which sometimes seem to be within us, and at other times to come from without. To take inventory in this respect we ought to consider carefully all personal relationships which bring continuous or recurring trouble.”

Clarification of thought

I am seeing how my attitudes of worry, anger, self-pity and depression can keep me imprisoned. Working with my program has been and is part and parcel of my every waking minute.  The Steps that I put so much faith in are the road signs that keep me on this shining path which I call God’s will for me. I am reminded of not sticking my nose always into other people’s business so that my serenity is lost.

I am mindful that this program is mine for the used.  I believe that this program deals with the way we respond to our attachments and compulsions.  The Second  and the Third Step help me realize that there is a God larger than me. Once I am in his will, I can move on and be changed for the better. It is a simple reality to realize that to work on my program is to let God work through me.

Depression sometimes is a symptom of something inside me that I have lost. It is a sadness over something gone out of my life.  This loss could be the reality of never being good enough, never doing enough or being les than perfect. The symptoms disappear when I can learn to live with the belief that I will find hope and begin to feel better.

Meditation

God will help us today to overcome our need to be compulsive about everything negative that we say to ourselves. God will help us say Stop to all those compulsive and self-defeating thoughts.”

Sources:

Copyright(c) Higher Thoughts for Down days: 365 daily thoughts and meditations for members of 12 step fellowship groups. Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. Page 168.

Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.

             Hope to hope. Depressed Anonymous Publications. (2000) Louisville.