DALTON G. (RGW/HILLMAN)
“When my life gets hectic and busy the serenity waterfall is my favorite place to go to find peace. I’m very fortunate to live so close and have access to it. I love sitting on the rocks and freeing my mind, forgetting all stress, and remembering all the wonderful moments that took place at Rosecrance. It is my place of Zen.” -Taylor C. (RGW/Marlowe)
Alumni Tales of Triumph Real stories of Hope and Recovery written by members of the Rosecrance Alumni Program
TABLE OF CONTENTS FOLLOWING YOUR PASSION IN RECOVERY................................................1 AIDAN M. (HILLMAN)
THE LUCKY PENNY.......................................................................................................................2 LISA S.
NEW BEGINNINGS, RECOVERY, THY WILL................................................ 3-5 KESEAN A. (RGW/HILLMAN)
#415, #418 & #419........................................................................................................................6 GABBY H. (RGW/MARLOWE)
IT’S ALWAYS DARKEST BEFORE THE DAWN................................................7 AMY K. (RGW/MARLOWE)
“SERENITY” & “UNTWISTED”.........................................................................................8 NATHAN J. (GREENDALE)
I NEVER IMAGINED MY LIFE AS IT IS TODAY..............................................9 TERESA M. (RHC)
LIVING LIFE ON LIFE’S TERMS WITH 12 STEPS...................................... 11 SHIVANI K. (RGW/MARLOWE)
I’M ON THE ROAD TO RECOVERY........................................................................ 12 KATRINA B. (RGW/MARLOWE)
FOLLOWING YOUR PASSION IN RECOVERY AIDAN M. HILLMAN HOUSE ALUMNUS
Aidan M., Rosecrance Alumnus, has trudged a long Aidan’s ideal DJ career has changed over time from road repairing his past over the last year and a half since wanting to be an electronic music rock star to being a coming to Rosecrance. humble radio DJ. “Right now it’s hard for me to decide what I want to do. I believe if I keep doing what I’m Today Aidan is living in a recovery home, working as supposed to do, work hard, stick with the program, and a salesman by day, attending meetings and seeking DJ stay true to myself, those things will come to me in gigs at night. time.” Aidan’s love for music began when he was 15. He started producing his own music using an Akai keyboard, an MPC Pad, and computer software. As his talent increased, he started producing for small-time Seattlebased hip hop artists at school. Aidan then met other musicians and DJ’s at school dances and Seattle clubs. As with any business, there are barriers. “I have realized a lot of these brick walls or limits are simply creations of my own. My recovery has helped me a lot in overcoming this black-and-white thinking, opening the door to so many more opportunities.” Page 1
To listen to Aidan’s latest work, “Take Some Time,” hover your mouse over the album artwork and click the blue ‘link’ icon that pops up.
THE LUCKY PENNY LISA S.
Missy and Lisa S.
“Hi, my name is Lisa…and I am an addict.” The very first time I said those words, I was filled with pain, shame, and utter helplessness. It was my first meeting at the closed group of Cedar St. in Rockford, Illinois. It was early in August. By the end of September, I would have relapsed, twice. The people were always loving and supportive. I decided to enter treatment and had another first day clean. The day was September 30th, 1987. I never forgot the day, and after 28 years clean, I never will. These years have been some of the best and worst of “my” life. I say ‘my’ because without recovery, my life would not exist. If I had somehow managed to stay alive and using, I never would have lived. That woman would have been but a mere shadow of existence. Today, I am working on my 2nd Master’s degree while teaching at a four-year university in the state of Washington. I am in a creative writing program. I am working on a book about my life. This coming Wednesday, I will be meeting with the assistant director of the Veteran’s Center to begin my new volunteer project. I will be working with veterans who are in therapy. I will be leading a creative writing workshop. This Saturday, I will be reading from my work to the public. I am…living. You wouldn’t recognize the young, desperate woman of 28 years ago. I will never forget her. She lives in me. Her name is Lisa…she is a recovering addict. I love that girl. She is brave beyond all measure. She got me here…one day at a time. She kept coming back…and that message from a group of other brave people…she kept that in her pocket…the lucky penny of humble beginnings. Page 2
NEW BEGINNINGS KESEAN A. RGW/HILLMAN ALUMNUS (This is new beginnings, this is new beginnings better hang with the winners because your life is straight depending I say this is new beginnings, this is new beginnings you ain’t with it you could quit it but the time is steady ticking huh huh) I told myself 2014 wasn’t changing me so it’s rearranging me kind of insane to be the boy who came from the dirt don’t you know I’ve been hurt
they only tried to crown me
everybody preferred that shut up and lurk
we was always together I guess we brothers
but I’m not taking no opinions I just do it for the
loving one another as each other grew together
demons that’s inside of me
but they will still grab you by your hand
burning it’s a tragedy saying I’m a masterpiece
they will make you understand
crying on my Auntie E. telling her to pack the heat
you can be the richest man
boyfriend steady beat time for him to hit the street
out you whole entire land now
family only trying to eat
and I’m turn you up that what this beat do lethal justice coming at you guess they see through
Like Eminem said I’ve been bood off and shut out
all about the money
and moved off stage
bout the paper you need a redo
but the people that surround me
family probably need you
they never ever down me
selling is illegal but everybody’s equal
RECOVERY KESEAN A. RGW/HILLMAN ALUMNUS (Recovery is discovering how you’re going to be for eternity, for eternity) 2x They tell me recovery is possible as I stumble on obstacles and yes I’m breaking the shackles because they’re smaller than spectacles but I’m impeccable, impenetrable yeah we’re international he thinking kind of rational
So ask yourself how do you feel or if life is real
and this is just a passion though I’m holding you
but if you’re focused on the past man
you can’t catch a meal so here the real deal
this is my conclusion bro
better sit down and obtain some skills
watch and see my music flow
this is how you stay fulfilled
you think it is an elusion so you keep it on the down
and not by your will so we stop popping pills
low now everybody lose control
on the block where it kills
and this is not amusing bro I’m have to let go
and I’m a ill mind like Hopsin it’s an option
or I’m have to let you know so girl you hit the door
booth rocking not stopping dreads locking but I ain’t copying I’m just doing me and coincided as can be so clearly I can see that the devil is a thief no I don’t have a chief cause my worship goes to thy and do you pep my language no speaking Spanish my brain just vanished this disadvantage trying to micromanage that lead to damage. Page 4
THY WILL BE DONE KESEAN A. RGW/HILLMAN ALUMNUS (Thy will be done cause God is the one
how I’m screaming and I’m yelling as
so look upon your son, we’re not gonna run
I’m calling you to be so I hope I never sleep
then thy will be then thy will be done) 2x
until that change is within reach
You know our self-seeking motives
no I’m not about to preach come to God
man they kept drinking potions
I’m a leech for that money and that power
while these people overdosing
and fame I’m bout to teach but each
think your problems most is bigger than an ocean
and every one that will live by the gun
are you scared of emotions them believe him
might be searching for their life
can’t you see externally you haunted me
cause you only get one
but stunned by the honesty that’s economy
and I’m saying that I’m done
I’m tired of the inner beef it’s eating me consuming me
trying to be the best son
I’m calling it the thief always had me smoking leaf
cause I’m forsaken gun think it’s fun
grieving over memories I tend to see my enemies
and you sick as I’m coughing out my lungs
they wonder how I kill this beat
you’re not worried but stunned
my homey in the field with heats
so here’s your refund
I’m asking you for better peace
and I’m not just talking paper but I’m talking to
I’m asking you for better peace
these haters live or die I’ll see you later all my life
So if you look into my eyes
I wanted favors cause I couldn’t get higher
you will see uncertainty
now I’m standing in the building saying yes
you look upon my heart
I’m on fire and I love how I desire to be
you will see the child in me
the best one then God worshiped to me and he said that it is won
#415 GABBY H. RGW/MARLOWE ALUMNA Strung out on God’s good humor Wish I would’ve seen it sooner Stiff back, hard as cement My heart’s been broken not bent Arms lag my body falls High on drugs, that enclose me in four walls
This is it for me and my shot at a second chance
GABBY H. RGW/MARLOWE ALUMNA
But, I gave up on my life, too far in advance
He wandered outside as he follows the crowd
#418 GABBY H. RGW/MARLOWE ALUMNA
Noises everywhere it becomes too loud, trudging the road behind his dad Turning and twirling over confusion he had Walking cautious behind his father’s staggering steps As the man and the boy fall one by one
Thoughts shoot through my distorted brain
Painfully, they get up and wander back home
Using, my life was headed down the drain
Through the night, the moonlight shone
Depending on something to take away the pain
Next day the boy took again to his dad
Years and months of violent rains
Out the door to the street stumbling bad
But it could never quite satisfied the thirst I craved
Same spot, insane bump
It cost me to just drastically misbehave
Cause both to fall into another slump
However, I put down the game for a while
Clever boy that slowly learned
1 year sober and I’m not suicidal Miracle, yes indeed
This time he stopped, as he saw his father fall
For a drunk like me to actually succeed
Walking on alone as he settles in for the long-haul
IT’S ALWAYS DARKEST BEFORE THE DAWN AMY K. RGW/MARLOWE
When I made this picture I was connecting with my other half - my alter-ego, the person I can remember being in my active addiction. The demon on the side represents my drug of choice grasping me and dragging me through hell. The girl in the picture is me at three different stages of my rock-bottom. The girl trapped in the bottle is bottling her feelings and has drowned herself in pity mixed with sorrow. The girl that is hanging onto the curtain is me today. I can finally see and reach my dreams, only by the grace of my Higher Power. I’m pulling myself out of my addiction and away from my demons and skeletons of my past. I have to remember it’s always darkest before the dawn!
SERENITY NATHAN J. GREENDALE ALUMNUS When I am out of the fellowship with my higher power, my inner peace and joy (serenity) run low because my primary fellowship is tied to other people. Like myself of all people aren’t perfect and flawed. At times my expectation in others gets very high. The problem there is this brings my serenity very low. The AA Big Book says “our expectations are inversely proportional to our serenity.” Very simply stated “my false expectations are when I expect someone else to do what I won’t or cannot myself perform.” Contrary to expectations the 12 steps are spiritual principles leading me to improve my conscious contact (Fellowship) with my higher power. Through prayer, meditation, and reflection, I’ve come to understand how my learning can translate into my living, and how my experience can benefit others.
UNTWISTED NATHAN J. GREENDALE ALUMNUS
When I accepted my life was unmanageable, which is the manifestation of powerlessness, I did not see clearly then the scope of my problem. Today, being sober with an un-drugged view of my past condition, I see it was just the threshold of being unstable. I was also uncivilized, unhappy, uncooperative, uncontrolled, unrepentant, unclean, unwilling, unemployed, and uninsured. It was unthinkable to be unnoticed, but I was unapproachable, unpleasant, unreliable, unrealistic, and definitely untrustworthy. Unable to unlock from using ready to give up living, I prayed to be renewed, realigned, revitalized, restructured, recharge, revived and in recovery. Unaware that I underestimated my higher power, he sent a man in blue and I was rescued from myself.
I NEVER IMAGINED MY LIFE AS IT IS TODAY TERESA M. RHC ALUMNA Hi, my name is Teresa and I’m an alcoholic. I grew up with five other siblings and my childhood was great! I had great parents that cared for us. We didn’t have a lot of money and things, but we had security and love. When I think back, I always felt like I just wasn’t good enough. I was always very nervous. I bit my fingernails and hated leaving my home and my mom. Every day before school I would get so worked up, I actually threw up, every morning. My siblings used to make fun, and I don’t blame them. Probably today I’d be diagnosed with social anxiety. But whatever the case, what used to calm me was cough syrup. I never knew it had alcohol in it; all I knew is that I felt so great whenever I would take a swig before school. It became a little secret to me. It worked. In my early teens, I hung out with my older sister a lot. I used to drink with them– same with my older brother. With my sister and brother it was weekend stuff. I was 13-14 years old and would spend the night with my sister and her husband who really didn’t drink, but always had it around for me! I continued this drinking throughout the rest of my teens, into adulthood.
When I left home at 18, I got married, moved to another state, started a family and was known as the “fun” person. At this time, I still didn’t realize that this drinking was progressing. My brother had sobered up and warned me, but I wasn’t as bad as him…right? I had great kids, a wonderful husband… and I drank every day. If it wasn’t every day, it was every other day. One a day for healing. In May of 2010 I had a heart attack. What? Well I had a blockage and they fixed it, told me I needed to stop drinking that much beer and smoking. I guess when I was out; my family told them my drinking habits. To say the least, I was bummed. Felt a little betrayed. I wasn’t that bad…was I? I remember a nurse came into my room and I was feeling down and I told her how I was told I couldn’t drink beer anymore and I’m sorry, I love my beer. She told me, “Well you know WINE is good for the heart”. God bless her, she didn’t know who she was talking to. A door was opened. So I started drinking wine, one glass led to three bottles…and I was back in the emergency room. The stent they put in my heart collapsed. Again, I was warned. I didn’t really heed that as I was back in getting a third stent in October.
“I embraced the program with everything I had. I made some great friends, but more importantly I was seeing myself as a pretty cool person, sober!” My brother was in my head a lot at this point, and I have to tell you that in 2004 he passed of a heart attack because he had started drinking again. He was gone… was this my fate? So the anxiety was high at this point. I was unable to go anywhere. I couldn’t drive to my job. There I was: me lying in a fetal position, crying, full of fear and the only thing that I knew would help is if I drank it away–so I did. One day before work I ran and bought three cans of some kind of wine drink and I was drunk after one and a half cans. That was December 1, 2010. I called into my work. I couldn’t tell you what I said but I wasn’t coming in, again. I called my niece, she was a nurse and for some reason I knew she would help me. I asked her to take me to treatment. She was at my house within three minutes flat. We packed in another five minutes and I was out the door. I was checked into treatment at Rosecrance. Then on December 6th, I was taken from treatment to the emergency room with another blockage. This time it was in a spot that literally could have killed me if I had not gotten to the ER as fast as I did. I went back into treatment and was serious–I needed help. I never asked for help for anything before. I was sick, I was in need and I surrendered. I embraced the program with everything that I had. I spent the 30 days in and I was coming to life! I was laughing, loving life. The one thing I remember that was so amazing to me was: at night, I was falling asleep, not passing out! I was waking up at 6am feeling good, not sick. I made some great friends, but more importantly I was seeing myself as a pretty cool person, sober!
After getting out of treatment, I did what they told me. I found a support meeting close to my house, I started going. I was still sick. I cried at those meetings for quite a while. The people in those meetings understood me! They encouraged me to keep coming back. I found a sponsor, started working the steps. My sponsor got me involved in service work right away. That was so great for me! The best I feel is when I am out of me and helping others! It’s July 2014 and I am still sober, today! I take it one day at a time. God has removed that craving. I never thought I was worthy of anything God had to give out…well, was I ever wrong! I never imagined my life as it is today. I have three amazing kids. In the 3.5 years of me being alive, I have seen four grandchildren be born. My job embraced me back. My family has embraced me. I’ve had to prove myself. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t immediate, but they finally believe, Mom is going to be ok! If I keep doing the things I’m supposed to do, I will be o.k. and so can you! I thank God every day for this life I have. I have regrets that I didn’t get this sooner, but for some reason, that wasn’t the plan! This is the plan, I had to participate. I couldn’t leave it all up to Him or others. I had to take action! That is my story. I hope people reading this are encouraged. I was considered “hopeless.” I have learned no one is hopeless! I got that poison out of my system and out of my life! Today I don’t have thoughts to run to that drink for my solution–and for that I am very grateful! God bless!
LIVING LIFE ON LIFE’S TERMS WITH 12 STEPS SHIVANI K. RGW/MARLOWE ALUMNA Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable Who else is a fan of admitting complete defeat? Anyone? Well certainly not me. See, I have this thing called pride. It’s a pretty little force within my subconscious that tells me I am capable of doing whatever I want to do no matter the circumstances. And when I am challenged, my ego pays a visit. My ego tells me I can win the challenge, and when I fail to succeed time and time again, I am faced with my pride and ego’s worst enemies: defeat and powerlessness. Admitting I was powerless over alcohol and all other mind-altering substances was an entire process in itself. Admitting that my life had become unmanageable felt something like convincing a dog it could meow — impossible. People often speak of “bottoms” and knowing when they have really “hit their bottom,” or in other terms, when enough is enough. The way I see it, your bottom is whenever you choose to stop digging and simply put the shovel down. For me, the first step is something I must work through on a daily basis. It is easy after some time to drift back into thinking that perhaps you gained the power back. It is in my other behaviors and actions that I am able to identify my powerlessness and regain the confidence that without the 12 steps, my life would become unmanageable all over again. Though it may be the step that people battle with the most, it is step one for a reason. It will set the foundation of one’s recovery if only they are honest, open, and willing. Page 11
Step 2: Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity Step two introduces the spiritual aspect of the program. For some, this is no big deal because they have followed and believed in a Higher Power their entire lives. For others, it is not so easy. Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat. Nowhere in the book of Alcoholics Anonymous does it specify a Higher Power. There is no mention of Christ, Buddha, Allah, Krishna, or any other named manifestations of God. In fact, the text enforces that a Higher Power is entirely that of one’s own understanding. Step two was a bit difficult for me. See, my mother comes from a small predominantly Christian town in southern Illinois, and my father comes from a Hindu background having lived in India until the age of 17. As a child my parents instilled in my sister and me the teachings of both Hinduism and Christianity. We frequently went to church and visited the temple,
spent time doing activities immersed in both cultures, and we celebrated both religions’ holidays. As we got older, our religious preference became more of our own decision. I decided to go with neither religion and in doing so, had very little faith in any type of Higher Power. But then a strange thing happened. Two nights before I went to treatment at Rosecrance I was faced with my mother’s question, “What are we going to do about this?” Now, I can say with 100% certainty that the words that came out of my mouth next were not of my own. I did not say them. Rather, someone or something spoke through me as I said, “I don’t know. I can’t stop. I think I need help”. I didn’t know it then, but that was my Higher Power speaking through me when I was unable to do it for myself.
By Katrina B. (RGW/Marlowe)
After a few months having been sober I realized that God as I understood Him had been a part of my life since the very day I was born and had not left my side since. It sounds funny to someone who has never had a faith of their own, but it is so rewarding and relieving to finally find power in something beyond yourself. We, as humans, are basically the ants of the world, so small and insignificant, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of other organisms, forms of life, forces of nature, and ways of the world. So if you can, for even just a moment, close your eyes and think of all the beauty that surrounds you and just how incapable you are to create, alter, and in some cases destroy that beauty. Surely, you can see that there is something in this world beyond us. Now, at last, just believe. After all, simply believing is all this step asks of you. The rest comes next.
“LIVING LIFE ON LIFE’S TERMS” CONTINUED... Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.
and drug addict? Why am I 16 years old and living in a halfway house? What did I do to deserve this?”
On February 16, 2015, I lost one of my very best friends and biggest cheerleader, my grandmother. The two of us had a relationship that I am not sure some even have with their own mothers.
Being in the program and sitting around the tables of AA you often hear phrases like “just pray about it”, “give it to God” and most commonly “let go and let God”. To a newcomer without any belief in a higher power, I understand how frustrating and difficult it is to comprehend why Step 3 is so crucial to a healthy and happy recovery, I thought the same thing in my first few months sober. But over time, believing in a power greater than myself not only allowed me to process things in a new way, but allowed me to fully appreciate the life I live and take note of how truly fortunate I really am to be alive.
We understood each other without having to say much at all. When I got sober, both my grandmother and grandfather were among my top supporters. Losing her has taken a deep toll not only on me, but also on my entire family, especially my grandfather and mother. My grandparents had been together for 60 years (*que “Love Like Crazy* by Lee Brice) and shared the most genuine undying love with each other and for their entire family. But what she had that taught me the most, what she held more closely to her heart than anything in the whole wide world, my grandmother had faith. For as far back as I can remember my grandparents had faith in a God of their understanding. When I was living in the Monarch (Marlowe) house we would talk on the phone quite often. On one particularly difficult night I called her hoping to find some comfort. I can still hear her telling me, “In your weakest moments and lowest lows, find comfort and hope in God. I don’t care who your God is; it doesn’t have to be the same as mine. Just find faith in something and hold on to it for dear life. Let it be your guide and let it handle the tough stuff. And remember that we don’t have control over the world, God does. Cause baby girl, if we did, the world would be a complete mess.” There was a time I was angry with God, or rather angry at the idea of a God because I was unable to wrap my head around how any God would lay such a horrible path for me. I often asked myself questions like “If there were really a God, why am I an alcoholic Page 12
This past month has taken a toll on mine and my family’s life, but with the God of my understanding by my side, I am once again reminded that I am never alone, I do not and will never have control over life, and that through faith in a power greater than myself, suddenly all things are possible. Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves Oh April, you fourth month of the year you! Well, the fourth month means we have reached the fourth step. For some reason the fourth step has a reputation of being the big, bad, ugly, most dreaded step of them all. Yes, it is one of the more intense steps; after all, it does state that we are to make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. But none of that has to make it scary and overwhelming. As I talked about in last month’s column on the third step, turning our will and our lives over to the care of the God of our understanding plays a key role in this step. In case anyone hasn’t taken note of this... the steps are in order for a reason!
Personally, talking about the resentments I hold isn’t hard. I can easily talk about the people who have hurt me and go on and on about what others have done wrong to me, but when it comes to people I have hurt and the things that I have done wrong to others... well, suddenly it’s not so easy. I don’t know about you, but talking about my self-esteem, pride, security, personal relations, ambitions, and intimate relationships can feel like a pretty heavy task. And, it is! The fourth step isn’t meant to be fun, it is meant to open your eyes to the reality of this disease. But here’s the thing: It is truly only as difficult as you choose to make it, as with most things in life. The way my first sponsor took me through the steps was immediate, rigorous, and brutally honest. We didn’t spend much time working up to each step, we didn’t do much dilly dallying or putzing around; she sort of just said, “Hey, here’s the Big Book; let’s read it together and do exactly what it says. Ready, set, go!” I was terrified of doing my fourth step because I had heard so many other people in recovery say how awful it was for them. But I was also terrified of my sponsor (in a good way) so I took a deep breath and picked up a pen. Some people do their fourth step in one sitting while others do it over a length of time. I did mine in one sitting because once I started I just wanted to put it all out there and be done. However, how you do it isn’t nearly as important as it is to just do it.
This month I have actually been putting a lot of thought into the things being covered in a fourth step because soon I will be doing another fourth step with my current sponsor. As strange as it may sound to a newcomer, I cannot wait to do it! I did my first fourth step at about three months sober. After I got everything down on paper I thought to myself “Wow, I am so glad that’s over with; I will never have to do that again!” I felt like there was nothing else I could ever have to do a fourth step on. Silly me, I forgot that life happens on life’s terms! I definitely will be doing multiple fourth steps throughout my life. I now know why the fourth step is so “intimidating.” It’s not because it’s the worst thing in the world, but rather because it is so, so essential to living a healthy life in recovery. It is incredibly cleansing and leads to so much self-discovery and personal growth. Having worked through all twelve steps I don’t necessarily incorporate the fourth step into my daily life because, as we will discuss in October, I work a daily tenth step which is essentially just keeping up with taking inventory of your life and correcting yourself when necessary. I can say without a doubt that because of the fourth step I have gained the ability to not only recognize when I am wrong, but the ability to admit my wrongdoings and right them in any way possible. So friends, the best suggestion I could possibly give you on working the fourth step is... just do it. It worked for me, and it will for you too.
“LIVING LIFE ON LIFE’S TERMS” CONTINUED... Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. Fifth month, fifth step, eh? Not too shabby. As we talked about in the last step, the fourth step is a matter of getting everything out on to paper. Well, the fifth step is really just admitting everything that was written down and taking full responsibility for your actions where it seems fit. When admitting these resentments, fears, wrongdoings and harmful behaviors we must first admit them to God, to ourselves, and then to another human being (usually your sponsor). I personally found the fifth step equally, if not more cleansing than the fourth step. I felt as though I was finally free of all of these things I had carried around with me my entire life. I suppose in a sense I do a fifth step whenever I need to nowadays. For example, when I know I have done something wrong, when I am facing a fear or allowing my old behaviors to creep in to my day-to-day life, and especially when I am harboring resentments toward someone or something, I know what to do and how to go about resolving it. It is even more important that I am able to recognize them in my life pretty darn soon after they first arise.
It is important to know and understand that in some situations in which we were harmed, we did not do anything wrong. There are some things that we may need to admit to that we do not need to feel at fault for. When it comes to such things, this is our chance to finally bring these experiences up out of the dark and let go of the harm that may have been done to you. This is the part where you may be able to set yourself free from moments and memories of the past that have no place in your future. As for the things I am at fault for, I won’t lie, sometimes I wish I didn’t have these tools in my life so I could just be angry and resentful toward someone and let that be. But no, instead I almost instantly lay out the situation in my head… “So she might have done that, but did I play a part in this conflict? Is there something I could have handled differently? Eh, probably so.” Usually, that’s about how it goes. In that scenario I am forced to understand my part in what went wrong and in doing so, I must admit to myself the exact nature of my wrongs. So then what do I do? Well, I ask the Higher Power of my understanding to remove these defects of character, also known as Step Six!
Step Six: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. If you remember, a big part of steps four and five are finding the areas of our lives that we have done wrong. In doing this, we discover certain characteristics we have that are of no use to us. Some of these are easy to remove while others may require patience and continued effort. The important part of step six is the phrase “entirely ready”, which means we are aiming for the best we know and are willing to learn all that we don’t.
We don’t and won’t always have the degree of willingness and honesty that is necessary for this step, but the point is that we try. We don’t want to be angry people; we don’t want to run off of fear and loneliness, and we definitely don’t want to be so full of ourselves that others avoid of us. So, we must realize that though we don’t like when these character defects arise within us, they still do. And so we then have to ask the God of our understanding to remove these from us so that we
can lead happy and healthy lives. After all, that is what we set out for when we parted ways with alcohol and/ or drugs, isn’t it? So how and when do I apply the sixth step into my life? Well simply put, I ask that these defects of character be removed daily, multiple times a day, for the many defects that arise in me. We all have them! Sometimes when I feel insecure and uncomfortable in a group, for instance if one of my friends is being short with me, but playful and normal with others, I get angry and I feel targeted. But is my friend doing this on purpose? Regardless of my friend’s intention, it is in that Step Seven: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. Step seven is a special step; a step that tends to be clumped with step six. What makes this step so important is the root of the first word of the step; humbly. Humbly comes from the word humility. Let’s define humility according to the dictionary first—“a modest or low view of ones own importance.” Now it is necessary to also note that “lowering your importance” does not mean lowering your self-worth, but rather being actively aware that you are no better than the person beside you. The word comes from the Latin word humilitas, which translates literally to “grounded from the earth”. That being said we are asking the God of our understanding from a grounded, leveled perspective to remove our shortcomings. Once again guys, lets face it. Alcoholics have ego problems. We’ve talked about this before, yes? For so much of our lives we carried around a disability of a lack of humility, though many of times we truly did have good intentions. For me personally I grew in to this step over time; and I mean that literally. The first time I worked step seven I did what I mentioned earlier. I just sort of tied it together with step six and moved on. It wasn’t until
moment that I ask God to remove my selfishness and insecurities. I remind myself that I am not the center of the universe, that my friend may not realize she is making me feel this way. However this scenario plays out is not the point. The point is that I feel a certain way, so I take action. I first evaluate the situation, then I look for where I may be playing a part in it, and I ask God to remove this defect from me. If it doesn’t work, then I ask again. I pray and I ask again and again with fierce honesty and it will be removed ... so long as I remain constantly aware of myself, my actions and all that surround them.
later in my sobriety where I reached a point where I realized I was unable to truly 100% humbly ask the God of my understanding for anything simply because I had never had a good, respectful and honest attitude toward God. So before I was truly able to take away the gifts this step promises I had to ground myself and remember that while my feet are on the ground, my head must be up in the sky with God—in my case this means with the world and universe as a whole, not a glowing man on a throne in the clouds. Basically it is crucial that you remain brutally honest with yourself throughout every step of the way. Step seven is when we get to step outside of ourselves toward the rest of the world and toward the God of our understanding. Its nearly the same as when we admitted we were powerless over alcohol and came to believe a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. Whenever I face a problem I do my best to take that step back and ground myself. I remind myself that I can get through it with the guidance and love of those who surround me and a power greater than myself, as well as reminding myself that where I am at today and the problems that I face today are far less than those I once faced.
“LIVING LIFE ON LIFE’S TERMS” CONTINUED... Step Eight: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. Step Nine: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. Step eight: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. Key words? Became willing. Step eight is one that may need to be taken slowly, because step nine comes with action unto others whereas this step is more focused on action within us as individuals. I lost my favorite person in the whole wide world last month, my papa. If you remember I lost my grandmother back in February. She used to always joke that if she went first, my papa wouldn’t last more than six months without her. Well, my Papa made it exactly six months and one day before joining her to share their love for eternity. Losing the both of them so soon brought about so many memories, and quite a few of those memories from the more recent years have to deal with the eighth and ninth step. What better way to relate the steps to my life than to share the story of making my amends to my grandparents in light of their passing? What I am going to share with you will show not just that I harmed others, but how I harmed them and why a formal amend needed to be made. Okay, lets rewind about three and a half years, it is Christmas Eve and I am getting high in my grandparents garage while the rest of our family and friends are enjoying our annual Christmas Eve Pajama Party. After passing out, falling off of a bar stool and cutting my chin open on my way down on my Papa’s saw table, my parents took me to the nearby Urgent Care to get stitches. When I got back to the party I found out my parents had told everyone I had just fallen off of the stool by Page 16
mistake, they had not shared the truth behind why as of yet. So, the night went on. The next morning on Christmas Day as we left their house for home my parents told them the truth about what had happened. I will never forget my Papa opening the car door to say goodbye, grabbing my arm and looking me directly in the eye as he said, “You can do this baby, okay? You can do this”. I remember him having the most complex expression on his face. He was furious with me, he was hurt and sad, but mostly he was afraid. My grandmother did not come to the car to say goodbye to me, though I remember looking out of the car window and seeing her with her head down. Fast forward about a year from then when I sat down with my sponsor to come up with this list of people who I owed an amend to. I referred to my fourth step quite a bit while making this list as it covered most of them. It was not too long before I came to my grandparents. I knew in my heart I had harmed them. Not only had I been getting high in their home and therefore taking advantage of them, but also I had been harming myself, someone whom they loved and cared for so deeply. I had harmed them by harming myself, and for that I was truly so sorry. I realized then that harming others does not always involve a direct action taken toward another with ill intentions, it can just as easily be indirect and still truly harm them. So, Step nine: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. Shortly after making my list I happened to be visiting with them for the weekend. I sat them both down outside and began to explain why I was having this conversation with them, why it was important for me to do and for them to hear, and that their forgiveness is not what I was seeking, but rather their willingness to listen. I went on with my amends, telling them what I knew I had done wrong and apologizing for the pain I had caused them.
My grandmother cried a little bit, and they both told me that they appreciated my words but that all they truly cared about was that I was living such a happy, healthy, and wonderful life now. Luckily for me they were willing to put the past behind them and choose instead to look at the present and future with joy. I do however want to quickly touch on the fact that amends do not always go as smoothly as they did with my grandparents and that the last part of step nine is very important to understand. Step nine ends by saying except when to do so would injure them or others. “Others” can mean you. You do not need to make an amend if in doing so you may hurt yourself or anyone else in the process. If this happens, remember that you can make your amends to this person vicariously by living the principles of the program and being willing to make amends if the opportunity (safely) presented itself. There are times, too, where someone may not accept your amends. That is okay. The point of these steps is that you have come to terms with the harm you have done, you have accepted the responsibility and consequences of it and are ready to share your findings with others in hopes to settle and ease past wrongs with current and future rights. There is nothing you can do or say if someone else is unwilling to hear or accept what you have to say; find peace in the fact that you have come to this point and the best is yet to come. Step Ten: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. October is my favorite month. Not only is it right in the height of fall, but it’s also Halloween…and I love Halloween! I think the reason I love fall so much goes far beyond the obvious beauty. Yes, the colors of the leaves are absolutely stunning, rich, and warm. But fall represents something that I find extremely important. To me, while fall represents the end of a life cycle, it shows the grace in growth and aging, the artistry in
maturing, and the elegance of wisdom. All of the once young and vibrant leaves are reaching the end of their lives, yet they are somehow more charming as they are drying out in one of the many warm, rich colors and textures than they were when they were flexible, smooth, and similar to the other leaves on their branch. How does this have anything to do with step ten? Let me tell you. When we are new in sobriety we go through these steps and feel more and more cleansed, more and more young and alive. But we are also doing what everyone else in the program has done upon getting sober. As we near the end of the steps we have become wiser, more aware, matured, and began to grow into individuals once again. See, we all come in to the program as almost the same people, or people in the same place in their lives. We are all tired, sick, helpless, and nearly, if not completely empty. The steps and the community allow us to slowly become who we are as unique individuals. We are not reaching the end of our lives, no not at all, but rather we are coming back to life. Get this, when the leaves do eventually crumble up and absorb into the earth for winter, they come back to life more beautiful than before come spring. And as the summer nears, they bloom again, reborn and better than ever. The seasons are like the steps, we grow and we blossom, but we never become immune to the fact that we will crumble. The tenth step says we continue to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, we promptly admit it. This means that we must never stop checking in with ourselves and reviewing our choices, decisions, actions, motives, reasons, and so on. In order to follow the seasons of our lives in sobriety, in order to grow, mature, and be continuously reborn as a better version of ourselves we must continue to take that inventory and be sure we are living up to all that we have come to know and see as a better way of life. We have to remain true to all that we have learned and all that we have become. If we do that the cycle can go on, and by next fall, we will be so much more than we are in this very moment.
“LIVING LIFE ON LIFE’S TERMS” CONTINUED... Step Ten: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. October is my favorite month. Not only is it right in the height of fall, but it’s also Halloween…and I love Halloween! I think the reason I love fall so much goes far beyond the obvious beauty. Yes, the colors of the leaves are absolutely stunning, rich, and warm. But fall represents something that I find extremely important. To me, while fall represents the end of a life cycle, it shows the grace in growth and aging, the artistry in maturing, and the elegance of wisdom. All of the once young and vibrant leaves are reaching the end of their lives, yet they are somehow more charming as they are drying out in one of the many warm, rich colors and textures than they were when they were flexible, smooth, and similar to the other leaves on their branch. How does this have anything to do with step ten? Let me tell you. When we are new in sobriety we go through these steps and feel more and more cleansed, more and more young and alive. But we are also doing what everyone else in the program has done upon getting sober. As we near the end of the steps we have become wiser, more aware, matured, and began to grow into individuals once again. See, we all come in to the program as almost the same people, or people in the same place in their lives. We are all tired, sick, helpless, and nearly, if not completely empty. The steps and the community allow us to slowly become who we are as unique individuals. We are not reaching the end of our lives, no not at all, but rather we are coming back to life. Get this, when the leaves do eventually crumble up and absorb into the earth for winter, they come back to life more beautiful than before come spring. And as the summer nears, they bloom again, reborn and better than ever. The seasons are like the steps, we grow and we blossom, but we never become immune to the fact that we will crumble. Page 18
The tenth step says we continue to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, we promptly admit it. This means that we must never stop checking in with ourselves and reviewing our choices, decisions, actions, motives, reasons, and so on. In order to follow the seasons of our lives in sobriety, in order to grow, mature, and be continuously reborn as a better version of ourselves we must continue to take that inventory and be sure we are living up to all that we have come to know and see as a better way of life. We have to remain true to all that we have learned and all that we have become. If we do that the cycle can go on, and by next fall, we will be so much more than we are in this very moment. Step Eleven: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. So, let’s face it. The greater majority of people in today’s society spend all year complaining until November comes along suddenly they become thankful for everything. Right? Okay, not everyone, but you all know what I mean. I think that being in the program has really instilled the true meaning and value of gratitude into me and who I am. Gratitude does not simply mean “being thankful”, but rather the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Well in order to know the quality of being thankful we must remain in constant contact with the God of our understanding. We must stay on top of and keep working toward improving our conscious contact with our Higher Power because that tool is inevitably what allowed us to get sober, and therefore is what will continue aiding us in maintaining our sobriety.
In my opinion, the most important part of this step is the second half, “praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out”. This serves as a huge reminder that while we must remain in contact and stay close to the God of our understanding, we also have to keep in mind that though we may feel wiser, we still should refrain from acting on our own personal will. I have the number “130” tattooed on my left wrist, and I want to share with you all what that means, or rather where it comes from. “Those of us who have spent much time in the world of spiritual make-believe have eventually seen the childishness of it. This dream world has been replaced by a great sense of purpose, accompanied by a growing consciousness of the power of God in our lives. We have come to believe He would like us to keep our heads in the clouds with Him, but that our feet ought to be firmly planted on earth. That is where our fellow travelers are, and that is where our work must be done. These are the realities for us. We have found nothing incompatible between a powerful spiritual experience and a life of sane and happy usefulness”. That passage can be found on page 130 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. Those words, found on that page, written in ink on my wrist, are my daily reminder to keep a conscious contact with the God of my understanding and that while I may get lost in the midst of this crazy world, so long as my head (and heart) remains with my higher power and my feet remain on the ground, I’ll be just fine. I truly am thankful for every single one of you and for having the opportunity to write these columns. See you next month for the final chapter! Happy Thanksgiving!
Step Twelve: Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. Can you believe it is already December? Man, time really flies! Back in January we started out this column with Step One and here we are at Step Twelve. Step Twelve is the action step. This is the step in which you get to really live through the program, out in to the rest of the world, with the rest of society. There are two main parts of Step Twelve: you have had a spiritual awakening and now must practice these principles in all your affairs to maintain and continue to improve your recovery, and in doing so you carry this message of hope and solution to other alcoholics. This is where you have the privilege of helping other alcoholics as they find their way into recovery. It is truly a gift that keeps on giving. Just a few days ago a friend of mine told me of someone who was really struggling as an alcoholic. My friend knows I am in recovery, so I told her if she felt comfortable she could throw my name out there as someone who may be able to help. Thankfully, she did and her friend reached out to me! I explained the program in a broad sense and suggested we go to a meeting the next morning. At the meeting the next day I had an overwhelming sense of relief. Not only was I able to bring hope through this program of solution to someone who was in that hopeless state we have all known before, but also I was getting just as much hope in return. See, it is only through the promises and miracles of working this program that I am able to help myself by helping others.
“LIVING LIFE ON LIFE’S TERMS” CONTINUED... Step Twelve continued: It is important to note that while sometimes you may want to go to any lengths in order to help another alcoholic, you must always keep in mind that just as no human power could have saved you, you cannot save them. You can however introduce them to the program and show them that there is so much more to life after and without alcohol simply by living your own. To watch the hearts and minds of other men and women like yourself open up to a new world is simply a gift that holds no monetary value whatsoever. I try to do as much as I can in an effort to spread the message inside and outside of the walls of AA. For example, I have been speaking at high schools throughout the Chicagoland area for the past three years, I often speak at Family Programming at the Rosecrance Griffin Williamson Campus and for Rosecrance in general, and this year I had a few new, awesome opportunities. This year I was one of the three alumni featured in a short film that was played at the annual banquet, I was able to be a part of the fight to open a sober living facility in the neighborhood of Lakeview in Chicago, and of course, I was asked to write this column every month for all of you! These are things I am so grateful to have the chance and honor to take part in. I hope you all have enjoyed reading my column as much as I have loved writing it. Have a wonderful, safe, and happy holiday everyone! All my love, Shivani
Shivani K in the Rosecrance annual banquet video Page 20