I have come to see working my DA program as a practice. This has come up strongly for me in my current work on Steps 6 & 7. Just FYI, I am reading Drop the Rock: Removing Character Defects along with the Big Book and 12 & 12 to do this work.
What do I mean by practice? Let me first explain by using meditation as an example.
What Does it Mean to Practice in Meditation?
I try to meditate every day as part of my recovery. While there are (rare) times I do miss a day, I no longer miss weeks, months, or (sometimes) years. Meditation has become dear to me as part of my program.
Because meditation is definitely an instruction as written in Step 11, I always knew that it was not something I could just brush off. I would have to work toward integrating meditation into my life daily if I wanted a full-bodied recovery. Meditation is not an option for us if we believe the Steps are our instructions for recovery.
There are many ways to meditate, but I use a simple technique of watching my breath and being in the present moment. When I have an inevitable thought (or many rushing in), as soon as I recognize them, I acknowledge them and go back to watching my breath. When I feel physical pain or anxiety or fear, as soon as I recognize it, and as soon as I am able to detach from its tentacles, I go back to watching the breath. I have written a post on meditation if you want more information.
I consider my meditation a practice … as well as an action of practice. I cherish the opportunity to come back from thoughts and feelings, pain and angst, because without them, there would be nothing to practice. When I am able to detach from the claws of my thoughts and feelings, to see them but not be devoured by them, it is the best of my practice. When I have the opportunity during meditation to explore pain that blankets me, as an observer instead of as a victim, it shows me that I am not my pain. Doing this practice absolutely helps me better deal with life on life’s terms outside of meditation.
Persistence and Patience, Not Perfection
I used to think I was supposed to be defect-free or I was not in recovery. How silly that was. As the Big Book says on page 60:
No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. We are not saints. The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.
In order to continue to grow spiritually, there has to be something to work on. And I have to be willing to persistently work on that ever-changing “something” … whatever “it” is and every time “it” crops up.
Isn’t it true that we have far more spiritual growth when life is rocky and we work through it soberly (i.e., without debting or compulsively spending or hoarding) than when all is going our way and we have the delusion (or hope) that it will stay that way? During these “good” times (i.e., when everything is going our way), we may become complacent about our program and, in fact, grasping to hold on to the status quo, forgetting this immutable law of nature:
Nothing stays the same. All things change. Impermanence is the only sure thing.
I will add to that the fact that defects most often spring up again and again. It takes continual effort over time to lessen their effects on us. The goal may be to be free of our defects, but most of us must be satisfied with patient effort toward this goal. We must remember that we are on a lifelong journey on the river of Improvement, not a short ride to the land of Perfection.
Using Problems to Justify Relapse
I am also a food addict/compulsive overeater in recovery. For many years, I would relapse because of the delusion that if I were thin and abstinent, all my dreams would come true and my problems would be no more. I would get famous and a knight in shining armor would come along.
When, instead, I was beset by discomfort with my new body and fear of illness (a common theme among many who lose weight) or a rise in my defects because now I wasn’t covering them up with food, I inevitably relapsed. Once I realized that this was a big lie I told myself, I was finally able to stay sober with food without this expectation.
So, too, with our debting and compulsive spending or hoarding, if we collapse in the face of challenges to our recovery and instantly go back to throwing money at our problems or further depriving ourselves, we are not using the Program as a Practice to help us gain Faith and become restored to sanity. We need to recognize that recovery doesn’t mean our problems disappear, nor should it. It means that we now live on a level playing ground and are blessed with tools to deal with life on life’s terms without acting in addiction.
Improving Our Spiritual Condition by Slow and Steady Practice
Getting back to the idea of program as practice. Let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that by being in recovery and doing what we need to do to get and stay sober with money that all our money problems will mysteriously disappear. Instead, let us think about our program as a way to practice and improve our spiritual condition surrounding, not only money, but life, itself.
Working Steps 6 & 7 are a continual practice of seeing our defects rise up and practicing the opposite to allow our Higher Power to remove the deeper emotions. The hold of some of our defects on us may never disappear entirely, but with continual practice, you can be sure that you will be spiritually improved. Our spiritual growth is a direct result of our constancy in practicing the principles of our program … not in thinking we are failures if we don’t achieve perfection as a result.