Balance & Moderation
Reprinted from www.actwithcourage.com (my home group)
I have an associate, not a friend, who says,” Balance is not a newcomer issue” I agree with that...sort of. I always thought moderation and balance were the same. Not true.
My addiction was so extreme that the only way to bring balance into my life was to create equal force in recovery to reach balance in my life. Extreme force. It’s really just Newtonian physics applied to addiction and recovery. “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”. Once I did reach balance...a place where I felt safe that the addiction wouldn’t just mow me down unexpectedly then I got to be moderate. For me to reach balance I had to go to a meeting every day for seven and a half years. Now, most people don’t need that kind of spiritual torque... but I did.
The Big Book of A.A. says” Father may have laid aside for years all normal activities-clubs, civic duties, sports.” The famous A.C.O.A. speaker Bob Earle says, “You know, the first three years you go to meetings every night, you make the coffee, you set up the chairs, you lead the meetings and then one night you risk it all and go to a movie”.
For me “Moderation is not a newcomer issue”...If your wife comes first that’s where the disease will hit you. If your religious faith is put in front of recovery then that’s where you’ll lose. Same thing for job, children, and parents...As we say, anything I put in front of my recovery I lose...
But let’s say you do make it to, if not an old timer, at least” Middle level management”. You know the ones I’m talking about. The people, not that the group goes to when there is a crisis, but, the one’s that run the meetings week in week out that always have a steadying voice in the group’s direction. What do you do?
I once took a psychological profile while in one of the many custody battles I was in for my daughter. I had surrendered alcohol, drugs, tobacco, caffeine, sugar, meat, dairy, eggs, debting, overworking, all forms of sex and many other things.... so my mind was pretty clear. When I finished with the exam the therapist said, “You’ve got to be lying. Nobody scores that on this test “. So I asked her “Well, how fucked up do you need me to be to maintain custody of my child”. It became very apparent to me that healthy and normal were two vastly different things.
Janet Wotitz the famous A.C.O.A author says, “The number one problem that A.C.O.A’s have is determining what normal is”. I have decided that normal people have relationships, work, workout and have fun. That’s it...not complicated.
First around relationships: I need to be sponsored...that is where I learn healthy relationships initially. I need to feel what it’s like to be loved unconditionally and good sponsorship may be my first genuine opportunity to experience this. I also need program buddies that are right about where I am in recovery. It’s harder for an addict to be fully open to a sponsor while in relapse where a program buddy might feel a whole lot safer to be with.
I also want to develop a relationship with the “God” of my understanding through prayer, meditation, study, and service and this takes a little time...
Most importantly, I need to create, develop and sustain a healthy relationship with myself through taking care of myself, paying attention to my feelings, honoring my limits, protecting myself from others with my anger, encouraging myself, giving myself full credit for my successes and my favorite thing...laughing.
Being a father is, after being sober, the most important thing I do. I believe that raising children is holy so as soon as I feel reasonably safe about my sobriety I begin to focus on this relationship. I also cultivate friends that have common interests. For me, although I am actively sexual, I love the benefits of chastity so I have nearly two dozen friends who are monks that I see, phone, e-mail or write... I also have two close skydiving friends who, like me, enjoy jumping out of the plane just for the fun of it.
Finally, I too want to be in a sexual/romantic relationship. I think most people do...or there wouldn’t be so many songs and movies about it...but I find I need the above mentioned relationship network in place before I allow myself to be open to love and romance or I will fall into relationship addiction and the “God” of my understanding does not support addiction in any area of my life. About work...Pablo M. the former monk who sponsored me for six years once said, “I do not have the gift of work”...I know what he means...I don’t like to work, never have and probably never will. But what I can do is try to look at work as an opportunity to serve others. I have a prayer I have used for about twelve years... “God, I pray for the opportunity, the strength, the desire, the enthusiasm, and the humor to serve others so that I can take care of myself and my family. Amen”
.Hey, 'ya want to be normal or not?
Around working out...I was very pleased the other day as I looked at the adults all around me at my thirteen year olds volleyball practice. While sartorially we seemed to have reduced ourselves to Levi’s, Nike’s, and T-shirts there are more healthy athletic bodies under those non-descript clothes than there were 30 years ago. (Excepting those with eating disorders... which is a topic for a different document on a different day!). I felt happy for us as Americans and pleased I was part of this trend. I personally like to body build, run, backpack, and do yoga postures and breathing. Finally, I need fun in my life. My old friend Eddie H. and I used to say, “We’re to busy recovering to have any fun”...There are those among us who believe that not acting out is sobriety. I vehemently disagree. Not acting out is only the union card to get in. Joy is where sobriety is and “If you ain’t got joy, you ain’t got nothing I want.” I love stand-up comedy, organic foods, acoustic blues, singing and lots of movies (Disney is my favorite film producer). As I move from the extremity of addiction to the necessary extremity of early recovery I get to extreme balance. Then I get an opportunity to move to moderation in recovery...Slowly. As I become normal I then get a chance to balance my moderate life.
PCI – Picky!
There is a tool called a Personal Craziness Index or PCI (pronounced picky!) that Patrick Carnes recommends that I like. You write down all the things that indicate what is normal and functional for your life and if you aren’t doing them...then you’re crazy! Also there’s the Quicky Picky, which includes the first signs that you’re falling apart
Here’s mine: (Quicky Picky)
•Projecting Income, creating a monthly spending plan and keeping a spending record, balancing checkbook, saving and investing money
• Not eating: wheat, C02, sweet tasting non-sugar foods, non-organic foods
• Biweekly run and biweekly bodybuilding
• Sufficient meetings
• Sufficient phone calls
(The balance of the PCI)
Written Step Work
Time with my daughter
Time with my partner
Guitar strings changed
Enjoying my food
Serving other teenagers with sleep-overs, pizza, movies, and shopping
Practicing the guitar
Wardrobe updated and maintained
A word to the wise, literally...I have never been able to be moderate by trying to be moderate more that I’ve been happy by trying to be happy. Happiness is a by-product of service, I’ve found, and moderation is a by-product of acting with wisdom.
Finally, the presence of moderation, balance, and normality are signs of advanced recovery...And what is it that I have recovered? Myself...in my life.