We’re counting down like David Letterman used to do for fun, and because I miss the hell out of David Letterman, his countdowns and Paul and… because I believe that the #1 benefit of recovery from a 12-Step program will surprise you. Wherever you are in this life, you can use these benefits to grow, develop yourself and find peace.
Number 10 on the list is… (can’t you hear the band now?)
10. Finding your resentments against others, yourself, or life itself and letting them go.
Founders of the first 12-step program, upon which all of them are modeled, say it best,
…this business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harboring such feeling we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit.
No matter what the Spirit means to you, you can easily reference the “sunlight” as the light of life; the light that shines as the sun and differentiates the darkness of night from the light of day.
And just like all of us know what it is like to feel the cold of the darkness when we’re not in the warmth of the sunlight, that darkness references the resentments and grudges you hold against yourself, others, and life itself. As our years pass, we gather resentments like we gather clothing, furniture, lovers, friends, colleagues, jobs, or anything else we find ourselves with more of as we age.
However, our resentments, as they gather, begin to weigh us down like bricks (the same could be said of the others mentioned in the list above, but it’s usually our resentments about those things that weigh the most). Though, for the most part, and oddly enough, we don’t pay attention to those heavy-ass bricks. But those bricks build up like a wall, and our resentments “shut us off from the sunlight of the spirit” – or you can say, what you love about life, what lights you up about life, or what makes life so sweet. Sometimes we turn a blind eye to the bricks because we don’t want to focus on what we consider “bad.” Except that just puts the bricks in our blind spot, it doesn’t make them disappear. In the same vein, sometimes we shift our focus away from the bricks because we don’t want to “make more of it” than what we think we should. However, if we don’t deal with that we have resentment, we won’t deal with our own healthy or unhealthy mental state. Depression, anxiety, PTSD, stress disorders are all mental health challenges and can become crises and can begin with bricks… lots ‘o’ bricks. Here’s one thing to do to begin dealing with the bricks and the wall ‘o’ them.
In dealing with resentments, we set them on paper. We asked ourselves why we were angry. Was it our self-esteem, our security, our ambitions, our personal, or sex relations, which had been interfered with?
— The Big Book, reference for Alcoholics Anonymous
Number 9 is…
9. Letting go (period).
In number 10, you heard about “letting them go.” Now you’re about to delve into “letting go, period.” What do I mean?… Letting go of things that don’t work in your life with no excuses. Letting go of people that don’t serve your life or what you’re about. No excuses. Letting go of what holds you back. No excuses. These are just the beginning of what is meant by “Letting go (period).”
It’s important to be able to actually see, acknowledge and then release or expunge all that is not working in your life. It takes courage, compassion for yourself and willingness to be honest with yourself. It also takes a willingness to hold your health and well-being as your number one priority, and not set it aside for someone else’s or something else’s benefit. You’ve got to put yourself at the top of your priorities.
8. Forgiving others and yourself.
Sometimes we forgive as a pretense. We pretend to forgive, sometimes because we are not privy to how much we are leaving ourselves without the multitudes of benefits forgiveness provides. Sometimes we pretend to forgive, not because we intend to pretend, but because we’re not sure what it will take to forgive someone or something that has truly hurt us; and even, in every instance in our lives.
Each instance of forgiveness is unique. It is impossible to gauge what it will take to forgive a person, an instance, a condition or a situation in your life from the outset. Meaning… you can’t look at a situation and say, I forgive it, and think that’s all it will take to truly forgive.
Forgiveness is an intangible asset you must feel your way into. It requires finesse. It requires compassion for yourself and the subject of your forgiveness.
Forgiving sometimes is a simple task, but more often than not it requires some real healing of wounds, real acceptance of one’s pain, and real evolution of one’s emotions with an eye toward growth.
All of this is part and parcel of an on-going process to complete and finish raw, open-ended, incomplete circumstances that have triggered negative emotions and experiences for us.
7. Taking life one day at a time, one step at a time.
Come to think of it, there’s truly nothing else that is physically possible. We must live each moment as it comes to us, and yet, we think, think, think, think our way into our future, our past and everything in between that has nothing to do with this moment or this day.
Life is only giving us what we can handle one moment at a time. If we’re overwhelmed, then that’s a function of our minds and the thoughts running rampant in them.
Mindfulness and meditation are great tools for slowing down the mind. However, there are other ways of practicing being present in life. Presence of mind not only allows us to be in the moment in life – the only moment that’s ever happening – but it also allows us to have the clarity and space to allow for the impulses and intuitive guidance of life to guide us to what we want. Life is guiding us in every moment, but when we’re overwhelmed, we’ve got no shot at hearing the still, small voice.
6. Getting help from the people around you.
We are not islands.
We are all in this together.
If you’re one of those people who think you did it on your own or you admire those you think “did it all on their own,” you live in un-reality.
There is nothing you do on your own in life, but feed yourself and go to the toilet. And even those things you have help with on your way into this world and have help with on your way out of this world. So what do we do wholly on our own? Nothing.
Everyone helps us. You get a job because someone says, This person deserves a chance to be in my company. You have customers because someone says, This person has something of value I want. Your food goes through many hands before it touches yours. Your style has been culminated from everything you’ve seen or experienced in life. In totality, you are the culmination of everything and most people you’ve witnessed or experienced.
So allow yourself to contribute and be contributed to. It’s up to you what you take and what you choose. Opening yourself to all that’s available in this world is a simple matter of gathering your courage to be interdependent and let go of the fear of not being independent. Courage is the willingness to be a part of this world and know that you need others just as much as they need you.
You are not alone.
5. Listening to others.
We’ll begin where we just left off… You are not alone.
Communication is an active 2-way street. Talking may require actively moving your mouth, but listening requires actively hearing what another is saying. Getting your judgments out of the way, not being ready to start talking the minute you hear them stop talking, quieting your mind so that your mind is not focused on you but on them, are all things that help you be a great listener.
Communication is key to great relationships. And relationships with others are everything in life.
4. Not judging them or yourself.
Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate.
— The Big Book, reference for Alcoholics Anonymous
We can be our worst enemy; even when we think we’re not. And wherever we judge ourselves harshly, we tend to do the same with others as well.
Finding a place where you can begin to accept both what you like and what you don’t like about you, others and all of life.
You can find a way to accept what you vilify in life, not because you have to make it good but because it will give you peace of mind and room to be who you truly want to be in the world.
3. Finding a power greater than yourself.
Twelve step programs are based on spiritual transformation and the basis of this principle is meant to inspire greater change than is possible if we were to only use our limited capacity – our minds and ourselves. Transformation is about tapping into something greater than ourselves. And the first step is acknowledging that whatever you’ve done up until this point has not gotten it done. To admit that life has become unmanageable where we are, and that we are powerless to effect a positive, lasting change on our own.
Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a Power greater than ourselves. Obviously. But where and how were we to find this Power?
— The Big Book, reference for Alcoholics Anonymous
A Power greater than ourselves does not mean God to everyone. Twelve step always empowers to find a higher power as you understand that higher power.
If you’re interested in this concept, it is a must to define what higher power means for you. However, the biggest piece is to understand that there can be, in your own understanding, a force greater than all of us that wants to guide you to only what is best for you. When you can submit to the thought that the Universe, or whatever you would name it, has got your back with no doubts, then you’ve got access to personal power you’ve not known previously. It is ultimately the most personal journey you will take. And it’s a personal journey worthy of your pursuit.
In the end, however, defining your own higher power is whatever empowers you best.
2. Having faith in our journey and trusting that life has more for us.
Faith is a funny thing. Religious implications connects it only with God, but faith is much larger than that. It’s a much more expansive idea than one singular connection – although that connection is not small, by any means.
Faith, as defined by Merriam-Webster, means
strong belief or trust in someone or something.
Faith can be in yourself, can be in something greater than yourself, can be in life itself, can be in that your life is working out for you, always. Faith is a moving force that can inspire the best in all of us. It can be a trust in that there is something better that can happen for you. It is a trust in that there is a rhythm to life, that life offers you seasons, that there is a greater timing to everything than you can explain. It is larger than you and brings a new, fresh perspective to what’s possible beyond what you could ever fathom or imagine.
Faith is a big, bright burning star. It is the moon and the stars, and it makes everything possible. What could it make possible for you?
And the number 1 benefit of recovery great for every person on this planet?
Number 1 …
Surrender is not giving up. It is giving in. It is letting go of your need to control the outcomes of life. It is an opportunity to dance with life and while expecting the best, find the splendor in being surprised – and delighted! – by what’s coming around the corner. Surrender and faith work hand in hand with one another and allow the dance to be a rich one, one full of verve, and laughter and childlike exuberance.
Surrender can allow life to be miraculous everyday, if you allow yourself to surrender. And it doesn’t cost anything but your desire to control that which cannot be controlled anyway. Your circumstances will be there, the people in your life will be there, and situations will come your way because that’s how life goes, but who you are and how you respond are the things you can control in life; the only things you can control in life.
Surrender brings levity and naivete where they can be of the utmost use, and leverage the uniqueness of life. Being childlike and having faith that life is always working out for you can create a sweetness in life that is delicious.
Well, here’s the 10 greatest benefits of recovery, that I can see, can make a difference in anyone’s life. And… Here’s to life!