FiveTools For Dealing With Irritation

Life has a way of letting us know that we are not in charge. From minor irritations to major bugaboos, from one direction or another, stuff happens. I’m speaking mainly of the more or less minor things that irritate us, sometimes even ruining our day, the times when we’re apt to be told, or tell ourselves, “Get over it already,” “Just let it go,” or similar advice. Fine, but how can we do that? Here are five tools I’ve found work for me.

Understanding. We are all human, therefore we are all imperfect. If someone says or does something that irritates you, don’t take it personally, just take a moment to put yourself in their place. Everyone you meet has their own backstory of troubles, stressors and ills. Try to treat them as you would like to be treated if you were in their place.

Compassion. With practice at understanding others, genuine compassion develops. With compassion, you can actually set yourself up to be of service to those others. A kind word or just a smile to the harried sales clerks that can frustrate us so easily this time of year, for example.

Gratitude. It’s amazing how much better my life is when I cultivate and practice gratitude. Daily or weekly, take time to stop and reflect on the things that have happened for which you are truly grateful. Write them down in a daily or weekly Gratitude Journal.

The Serenity Prayer. For those situations where, as Forrest Gump said, “There just aren’t enough rocks,” this prayer works wonders. “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” There may be a few exceptions, but nearly always I am the only thing I can change in a given situation. Like my recent situation with an ISP that hasn’t lived up to my expectations, together with a computer virus that has rendered my old laptop unsalvageable. Saying the prayer reminds me that there are some things I just have to accept and work with.

A Support System. “No man is an island,” and you need not try to be. Grow and nurture a support system of friends and family who will rally to your side with understanding, compassion and love when things start to become overwhelming.

These five tools go a long way toward keeping me centered and moving forward. I also have a few other tools I use which are specific to my spirituality. If you are a spiritual person, use the tools available in your religion or philosophy. Life is big and rough and unpredictable; grab all the tools you can, and remember to throw away those that don’t work.

How about you? What coping tools do you use to get over life’s speed bumps without banging your bottom on the pavement? Leave a comment and tell us about them.

  1. This post offers a great outline of tools that everyone, alcoholic/addict or otherwise, can use. It has taken a long time for me to learn humility, and self-reflection, to accept and to realize and show massive amounts of gratitude. For some, myself included, these can be traits and tools that are hard learned but are worth the price of the education.

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Absence Makes the Work Pile-up

Well, hell.

At some point toward the end of last May or early June my computer was hijacked by a very nasty virus. Hopefully, I’ll be back in operation by the end of this month. Until then, I’m on a temporary system trying to catch up on comments and new subscriber acknowledgements; updating a few things around the blog; and hoping I can post a new article or two.

Until then, may you find blessings and peace, sooner rather than later, and in abundance.

  1. Excellent post. I was checking continuously this blog and I am impressed!
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    • Hi! Welcome and thank you for the comment. I’ve been having computer problems, but I think they’re ironed out now. I should be posting again this week. Please stay tuned!

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    • Hi, Lavonne, welcome to SoR! I’ve had a few technical problems in the recent past that I think have been solved. I should be posting much more frequently in 2014. Thank you for your interest!

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David Sheff’s Addiction Manifesto | The Fix

David Sheff’s Addiction Manifesto | The Fix.

A must-read for anyone concerned with addiction treatment.

  1. I agree, he makes some great comments about the need for addiction to have a more public face. I think there is a big difference between anonymity and secrecy. Too many people are choosing to be secret about their battles with addiction.

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    • Yes. I believe anonymity is a personal choice; no one should be guilted/shamed into choosing to ‘come out’ or remain anonymous. But as more and more of us do go public with our problem, the social stigma will slowly disappear. Thanks for the comment!

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      • G-d damn, please take an ounce of responsiblity! It’s tough, I know, but the mirror is the best judge. Stop pushing the blame … love u guys and what I’ve read

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      • Hello, and welcome. You have me at a disadvantage here. I haven’t a clue as to what you are referring. Could you explain, please? Thanks!

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  2. It is tough for most people to accept that addiction is a disease, as David Sheff points out in the article. Whether or not an addict has “no choice” when it comes his addiction is debatable. I think that addiction is a disease but free will and choice are always present. An addict must make the choice to choose treatment and stay clean.No one can make that choice for him. Even with the disease of addiction, the addict must become responsible and stop blaming others if he or she wants to recover. Thanks for sharing this interesting article that brings up alot of important issues in addiction treatment.

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  3. I do agree with David Sheff and Veronica above. Anonymity should be a choice and not something that people fighting addiction are forced to adopt. Thanks for sharing this, Ron.

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  4. I am saddened that the author suggests that hospital-type treatments are preferred. The fact is that outpatient treatment may be more appropriate and more effective in some cases. I think he was unclear about appropriate levels of care, much like the new DSM V is.

    Whoa!-briety

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  5. Just found this blog! Very happy I shall be returning. I agree what was mentioned above regarding secrecy. Slowly things are changing and more people are coming out and admitting to addiction. Still so much stigma attached though.
    Cheers

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Book Review: Undrunk

UNDRUNK:  A Skeptic’s Guide to AA, by A. J. Adams, © 2009

Undrunk: A Skeptic's Guide To AA

As a long time member of Alcoholics Anonymous, I found this book to be a moderately entertaining peek inside the complex organization that is AA.  It’s a good basic primer for folks who are wondering if AA might work for them, with the author explaining his personal experience with the 12 Steps (one year when the book was written,) including his misgivings and misconceptions going in and lessons learned.

The book suffers, however, from overlong explanations which became tedious very quickly.  I was also disappointed that the author didn’t cite his sources in those sections dealing with AA history.

I have mixed feelings about this book.  Anyone wishing to know what AA attendance is like would do better to go to a dozen or so meetings and get the experience first hand.  For those who think that would be too time consuming, following a dozen or so AA recovery blogs or forums for a month would give a more complete picture.  Still, for those with more money than time, this book would be a worthwhile read.  I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

  1. I read this book early in recovery and found it more entertaining than informative. It was nonetheless a positive glimpse into the 12-step world, so its heart seemed in the right place. You offer some excellent practical suggestions for those curious about AA.

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  2. I appreciate your review, I am just about to release my book, 30 Days of Recovery, which I am probably keeping the name only because that’s what everyone knows it as, I would change it if possible. There’s actually quite a bit I would like to change but I have been advised to keep it as is because it was written in early recovery and therefore should reflect early recovery. My sixth draft is about to go out to three author friends who are going to give me notes. I will consider their notes, make my final changes and release the book as an E-book first. It caught my eye about citing work on AA history. I have referenced things in my book about AA and NA but I am not sure if just giving credit in the passage is good enough.

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  3. Really appreciate this information. Found your blog through Google. Specifically I appreciate such data as ” … those with more money than time …” Wow. Definitely people who have plenty of money to spend on books; and then people like me who DON’T. And, very little time to do worthwhile research. I look forward to following your blog. T

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  4. Thanks for the candid review. I appreciate the honest opinions and I hate when someone feels obligated to give a positive review. I won’t be scrambling to the bookstore for this one, but if it crosses my path I’ll give it a try.

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Teens and Alcohol

A great fact-based article about underage drinking posted on alcoholism.about.com

Teens and Alcohol Don’t Mix – Alcohol Awareness Month.

 

ALCOHOL-FREE WEEKEND

Alcohol-Free Weekend, traditionally observed during NCADD Alcohol Awareness Month in April, is coming up this weekend, April 5-7.

During Alcohol-Free Weekend (April 5-7, 2013), NCADD and the Spirit of Recovery ask parents and other adults to abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages for a 72-hour period to demonstrate that alcohol isn’t necessary to have a good time. Participants who find it difficult to go without alcohol during this period are urged to obtain further information on problem drinking and alcoholism.

Alcohol Awareness Month, founded and sponsored by The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) since 1987, is a national grassroots effort observed by communities throughout the United States to support prevention, research, education, intervention, treatment and recovery from alcoholism and alcohol-related problems.

NCADD Alcohol Awareness Month offers community organizations concerned about individuals, families and children an opportunity to work together to not only raise awareness and understanding about the negative consequences of alcohol, but to highlight the need for local action and services focused on prevention, treatment and recovery.

 

Alcohol Awareness Month

April is Alcohol Awareness Month in the US.  No foolin’!  Designated by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependance, Inc. (NCADD), back in 1987.   So, if you weren’t aware on the above, now you are!

Apology and Amends—Step 9

Having made our list of people we have harmed, Step 9 directs us to make amends to those people, except when do so would cause further harm to them or others.  If there be magic in the Steps, this is where it happens.

Simple, yet daunting, when done from the heart and for the right reasons, we set ourselves free from our mistakes of the past, repair broken relationships, remove much of our guilt and shame, and deepen our self-awareness.  Perhaps most important, proper apologies and amends reinforce in us a humility in which we accept the fact that we are imperfect beings and therefore fallible.  That, in turn, allows us to be more open-minded and to improve our interactions with those around us.  Recognizing when our mistakes have hurt someone, when we have been insensitive or unkind, and accepting responsibility for those mistakes, we can learn to avoid making them again.

But regardless of what we may gain—

Amends and apologies are always for the benefit of the other person.

The focus should stay on the other person and never on us.  Berating ourselves (“I was an idiot to say that, ” or “I’ve been so stressed lately that I just forgot our lunch meeting,” etc.) is inappropriate as it brings the focus back on us and our problems.  While explanations are sometimes needed, keep them as short as possible and never with the intention to gain sympathy.

We apologize for what we have done.  What the other person has or has not done is not part of the equation, nor is their reaction to what we have done.  If I’ve said something that hurt or embarrassed my friend, I might say, “I’m sorry I hurt (or embarrassed) you.”  But I should never say “I’m sorry your feelings were hurt,” or “I’m sorry you were embarrassed by what I said.”  Notice how I subtly shift responsibility from myself to the other person in those examples of non-apologies.

A proper apology consists of:

  • an expression of remorse (I’m sorry, or I apologize.);
  • an explicit statement of what we are apologizing for (…I hurt your feelings when I said those things…);
  • our acceptance of responsibility (…and I was wrong to do that.);
  • and an amends, or restitution, apropos to the offense.  This could be anything from a promise not to repeat the mistake to returning a possession that is rightfully theirs to paying back money owed.  When in doubt, ask them how you can set things right.

Thus:  “I’m sorry.  I know I hurt your feelings when I said those things, and I was wrong to say them.  I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.  Is there anything else I can do to make this right?

And then, of course, I have to make sure I don’t do it again.  I can’t begin to count the times I told my wife “I’m sorry I got drunk last night; I promise it won’t happen again,” and the next night I drank again.  Sound familiar?  Without the effort to ensure against a repeat of the offense, the apology is worse than just another empty promise; it’s a slap to the face of the other person.

The Aftermath

After I’ve made an apology, I have to allow the other person as much time as they need to process through their own feelings about both the offense and my apology.  The larger the offense, the more time will likely be required, and the size of the offense is always about how the other person feels.  Something that I feel is minor might be a major blunder to them, and that call is theirs to make.

I’ve learned that with most things in life I have to act as I believe is right, and then accept whatever results from my action.  Simply put–I cannot expect any particular result.  In the context of this topic, the other person may or may not accept my apology; may or may not forgive me; may, in fact, meet my apology with a new barrage of anger and resentment.  I have to accept that result.

In actual practice, I’ve learned that most people will graciously accept an honest and proper apology.  And why not?  It gives them a chance to let go of any resentment they have been carrying around against me.  Very few people, it seems, want to keep their resentments once they see a way to let go.

When the Situation is Reversed

I’ve also learned to accept an apology when it’s sincerely offered.  It tells me the other person is feeling guilt or shame, and is remorseful.  Even in situations where I didn’t feel hurt, angry or whatever, I don’t laugh it off or otherwise invalidate their apology; I respond with variations of “Hey, it’s OK.  I understand.  Apology accepted.  Thanks for coming to me with it.”

Some Words To Avoid

‘Ifs,’ ‘Buts,’ ‘Mays,’ and ‘Wants.’ As in:

  • “I’m sorry if I embarrassed you,” or  “I apologize if anyone thinks my comments were out of line.”
  • “I’m sorry, but…  (Anything that comes after a ‘but’ negates everything in front of it.)
  • “I’m sorry.  I may have said something inappropriate.”
  • “I want to apologize for…”  (To paraphrase Yoda:  “Don’t want.  Do.”)

Notice how the effect of these words is to deflect or minimize our responsibility in the matter.

The Exception

“Made direct amends…except when to do so would injure them or others.”  I take this exception very seriously.  Some fellow 12-Steppers have told me I take it to the extreme, and a few have told me I’m using it as an excuse not to make the amends.  In the end, it’s a personal judgement call that each of us has to make; a decision we have to live while the ‘advisers’ go on their merry way.

It seems clear to me that amends are made for the benefit of the other person; anything I might gain from the action is secondary.  If there’s any chance that my action in offering the apology will cause further hurt to the person, or cause harm to one or more third-parties, I won’t act.  Better for me to live with the knowledge that an injury I caused has gone without an amends than to pile on more injuries which will require more amends, possibly to more people.

In cases where I believe the exception applies, I make ‘living amends,’ as that is the best way I know to atone for those harms.

How about you?  Tell us your thoughts or experience with apologies and amends.

  1. Great outline in making amends! I certainly have to remember that amends aren’t apologies explicit, that they are a way to mend or repair what damage I have done to someone. Just like you so expertly showed, I do not grovel, minimize, insinuate, deflect or take their inventory. I am there to take responsibility for my harms to them, make the amend, and move on. Whether or not they accept it, is not my concern. My concern is cleaning up my side of the street!

    I have a handful of amends left – I need a shot of step 8 willingness to finish – but in all the amends I have made, I have yet to have someone get upset, storm off, refuse to sit, etc. Everyone has been gracious, lovely, loving, accepting and wonderful about it. Surprising is the word I use most. Like you said, I can’t have expectations, or else I set myself up. I recall one guy, an ex-employer who had no idea why I wanted to talk to him. When he saw me in the coffee shop, he thought I was there to either sue him or punch him out or something else dastardly. When I made the amend, he shared with me a similar process he went through with his dad (this man is not in a 12-step program, but it was similar in intent), and he started to tear up and break down a bit. We then got into a very deep and mutually respectful conversation. it was very moving, and very, very unexpected. I saw a side to this man I never saw before. And all because of this amend. All my experiences have had some unexpected things happen, and I have been very grateful.

    Thanks for this post – wonderful, wonderful stuff. 🙂

    Cheers, Paul

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    • Thanks for the great comment, Paul. Yes, more often than not my relationship with the other person is not just repaired, it’s stronger and deeper than before. The amends process is powerful medicine!

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Step 8

8.  Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

The List

I had a pretty good start on this list from the inventory back in Step 4.  That’s where we look at our resentments and find our own mistakes in each case.  So I already had a list of resentments along with the whos and the whys, including where I had acted selfishly, dishonestly, or for my benefit at the expense of the other person.  Without going into specifics, let’s just say I had a hefty list and a lot of work to do.  In nearly all of my resentments, and I’m sure it is (or will be) true of your inventory, I was at least partly at fault.  But it was far from complete.

My list wasn’t lacking from thoroughness; it was lacking all those times I’d caused someone to hurt that did not involve resentment on my part—a thoughtless word spoken in anger or frustration, a forgotten birthday, or a case of insensitivity to another’s situation.

Keeping in mind that in Steps 8 and 9 we are dealing with people we have harmed, there may be people on our resentment list who have harmed us in some way while we did nothing to cause harm to them.  A woman who has been raped or a person who suffered physical or sexual abuse as a child come to mind as obvious blameless victims.  No amends are necessary or appropriate where we have caused no harm.  Forgiveness, yes, but that is not what these two Steps are about.  I’ll talk about forgiveness in a later post.

The Willingness

By the time I’d gotten this far into the Steps, I was already willing to do whatever it was going to take, so the willingness wasn’t a huge problem for me.  I will admit, tho, that for several people on my list, I needed to keep reminding myself that they were human, too, and even if they weren’t alcoholic, they had problems, too.  When I could see them as like unto myself, it made the amends process easier.  As recommended in the Big Book, I could say to myself, “This is a sick person.  How can I be helpful?”

And in fact, the other person can benefit from our amends as much as we do.  If they have carried resentment against us, as we against them, it gives them the opportunity to also let go. That’s entirely their call, tho.  My job in the process is to offer to amend the damage I’ve caused.  It’s not up to me to even so much as suggest what they should or should not do from there.  From the Tao Te Ching:  “The wise one acts, then steps back.”  (And accepts whatever the result might be.)

Next up—Step 9, where the magic happens.

Any thoughts or questions about Step 8?  Please leave a comment!

From Cynic to Taoist in 12 Easy Steps

First of all a shout out and a big thank you to all of you who are following The Spirit of DawnRecovery.  When we go on a journey, we might go faster alone, but it’s a sure thing we’ll go farther together.

Since the topic of that Webcast I was invited to take part in (but could not attend) was “Spirituality in Recovery,” I thought I’d go ahead and talk about it here.  I mean, the title of the blog is “The Spirit of Recovery,” after all.

First some quick background info, which should fill up this post just enough to make you drowsy but not put you to sleep.  Then future posts will concern specific topics within the broad range of spirituality in recovery.

Very well, then.

I was born into a long line of protestants of various shapes and raised in a moderately evangelical protestant church.  I left that church, and pretty much left organized religion entirely, when I was 14 years old.  Tried to make science my religion, but couldn’t find my answers there, either.  During my first tour of duty with the Navy, I found myself stationed in the middle of the Mojave desert (yes, the “Desert Navy”) with little to do after work.  I joined a yoga class at the community college there and was introduced to relaxation meditation, yoga and Buddhism.  I didn’t care much for the yoga, but kept up the meditation practice, and after about a year, swapped the Buddhist philosophy for Taoism.

But it wasn’t long after that when life’s responsibilities overwhelmed all else.  That, and my increasing use of alcohol to escape much of life and its responsibilities brought a complete halt to my search into the mysteries of existence.  This was back in the mid-1970′s.

Fast-forward to a more recent past when, at last, I took the 12 Steps.  I didn’t exactly take them in order.  I did try, but it wasn’t going to work that way for me.  As I mentioned before in “A Point of Order,” I skipped Step 3 and plunged ahead to Steps 4-9.  The work I did and the self-knowledge I gained in those steps brought me back into contact with my spirituality at precisely the point I had left it when the alcoholism took over back in the ’70s.

It Just Doesn’t Matter
Today, my spirituality (or my religion, if you’d prefer the term) is an eclectic blend of Taoism, the Abrahamic faiths, Huxley’s Perennial Philosophy, and a smattering of various other sources.  Not everyone’s cup of tea; but I rarely mention it much anyway, because it doesn’t matter.  In the context of the 12 Steps, it just doesn’t matter what anyone’s specific faith or beliefs are; what matters is how we live our faith and beliefs.

Based on millennia-old, nearly universal principles, the Steps can work for anyone.  They bring us back to our true values, and in doing so, either reunite us with beliefs and faith we’ve forgotten we had, deepen and enrich our faith and beliefs that we already have, or let us discover beliefs and faith where none may have existed before. And that’s a beautiful thing!

One last bit of personal history before I end this post, for no other reason than I love the irony of it.  In 1978, I married the woman I still live with today, and we had a son in 1984.  My wife is a Roman Catholic; my son grew up to join a charismatic Christian church; and I am, I don’t know, I yam what I yam.  And we’ve never argued over religion!  Well, unless you count the time I tried to wriggle out of going to a Christmas midnight Mass with my wife.  (I lost that one, and it was a wonderful Mass.)

How about you?  If you’ve been through the Steps, did you come away with a deeper faith, renewed faith, or find a faith from the experience?  If you’ve yet to take the Steps, do you believe they can do one of those three things for you?  Any questions or problems in the broad topic of spirituality and recovery that you’d like to see discussed here in the future?  As always, we appreciate and value your comments/questions at SoR.  Even when you (gasp!) disagree. 

Again, thanks for being here.  Let’s go far together in 2013!

  1. Great post. Thank you for the topic. I love your line, “my increasing use of alcohol to escape much of life and its responsibilities brought a complete halt to my search into the mysteries of existence.” That rang so true for me. In fact, my use of alcohol brought a complete halt to many of my pursuits….intellectual, relationships, career-oriented. So sad how it ‘fuzzes’ the brain and the damage is so long-lasting! Thankfully, when we abstain, the desire to pursue these things often re-awakens or renews itself with atleast much of the old vigor.

    Keep writing. Your posts are encouraging to someone with less than a year under her belt. Thank you.