keithb

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  1. Step 11/Twelve Steps Each year I like to run through the 12 steps as written in the book Alcoholics Anonymous. These steps were an adaptation of many works before them, and are a universal truth for all people who want to enjoy good mental Hygiene and an abundant life. They have been adopted by some 150 self-help groups, and in the words of my favourite forensic psychologist, are the best basis for mental health around IF worked and lived. I am not a step guru, and like to keep things as simple as possible. In Step 11, we continue with our maintenance of a balanced and spiritually anchored way of life. Step 11 says: 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. At first, this seemed very simple. I had to reflect deeply on what this step tells me to do, and I know many others who did not get the full meaning for a while! Think on the words. Praying had become, and still is, a part of my regular routine. At least once a day I say the Serenity Prayer, the 3rd Step Prayer and the 7th Step Prayer. Each of these prayers is very important to me, and in doing them, I ask simply for my higher power's will to be done. I also ask for the power within to carry it out. I don't ask for stuff, I don't ask for things for other people. Ultimately, my higher power's will is what happens, for the way life plays out is ultimately the will of my higher power. My higher power trusts me enough to give me freedom of choice; there I certainly times I make bad choices, and there is a reason beyond my understanding for that. Conscious Contact. What an interesting concept. A thought provoker. Do I have it and how can I increase? Long ago I saw an old movie which starred, I am told, Fred McMurray and was called "Harvey". To make a long story short, the lead player had an invisible pet rabbit named Harvey who he could converse with at will. Similarly, a meditation book, to paraphrase, one day told me to focus for a day on seeing my higher power beside me and talk freely to my higher power. People in the movie thought the lead actor was nuts, and I'm sure some days people think I'm nuts when I talk to my higher power in public places. These are examples of how I get conscious contact; my higher power is always there when I make a point to be conscious. That wonderful and really misunderstood word and action, MEDITATION. For years I had this vision of some funny character up in the Himalayas chanting and levitating. Then I learned a bit about meditation. Today, I meditate in one of two ways, and some days use both. There are dozens of ways to meditate effectively. In quiet meditation, I am now able to quiet my mind to a point where all I am conscious of is my breathing, life in, life out. I can take a "time out" from the endless mind chatter and the squirrels running lose in my head. In these moments there is a conscious contact with god. A quiet voice inside is heard, and I listen to my higher power and gain shockingly good new insights into things. Other times I will reflect on a single thought, word or phrase, and do this in solitude. Again, insights received are amazing. Through meditation and being tuned in to what is around me and listening, I gain insight into god’s will for me. In prayer, I ask my higher power for THE POWER within to do his will. Often, his will goes against my grain and is difficult to execute it. I need all the help I can get! Ultimately, it is god's will that occurs , even when things occur because in the moment, I've taken back my will and control and acted not in accordance with that small quiet voice. Ever felt that twinge when you've done something you knew wasn't right? That's being human. Step 11 is once again a step that needs to be practiced daily. It is never done. In working Step 11 in my life, I increase my practice of good mental hygiene, something I did not do in active addiction. Not a simple step, and not easily understood, but a step of balance in life! -- keithb
  2. Step 10/Twelve Steps Each year I like to run through the 12 steps as written in the book Alcoholics Anonymous. These steps were an adaptation of many works before them, and are a universal truth for all people who want to enjoy good mental Hygiene and an abundant life. They have been adopted by some 150 self-help groups, and in the words of my favourite forensic psychologist, are the best basis for mental health around IF worked and lived. I am not a step guru, and like to keep things as simple as possible. In Step 10 we start lifetime maintenance. Step 10 says: Continued to take personal inventory and when WE were wrong, promptly admitted it. A new way of life had begun; practicing good mental hygiene had to become a life habit. By this stage of my journey, I had begun to review my days both in my head and through journaling and sharing. I'd worked very hard to clean up the garbage of my past, and had no desire to accumulate more. The daily practice of Step 10 prevents accumulation. An amazing discovery I had made; in MOST issues were conflict arose in my daily living, my hand was in there! In arguments that involved high emotion, I found quite often that I was not wrong in what I was saying, but often how I said it could have been much better. When things were said that negatively affected me, I had to learn to say "When you say". This is how I feel. There are oft times that I am wrong. Amazing!! When I was WRONG, I learned how to take responsibility for MY role, and square it up through admission and/or amend as quickly as possible. I have become far more aware of the impact that my words or actions can have on others, and how those lovely "defects of character" can rear their ugly head. The little voice I stay tuned to inside lets me know when I'm wrong, and I'm far better at listening to it than I was. This truly is a daily step. It is one that gets easier to do with vigilant practice. The garbage bin is fairly empty as I write this; I have serenity that allows me to be better at all aspects of my life and make better choices. Daily, and with gratitude, I do recognize the many things I have done right. There is payoff in changing and I recognize that in myself with thanks. -- keithb
  3. Step 9/Twelve Steps Each year I like to run through the 12 steps as written in the book Alcoholics Anonymous. These steps were an adaptation of many works before them, and are a universal truth for all people who want to enjoy good mental Hygiene and an abundant life. They have been adopted by some 150 self-help groups, and in the words of my favourite forensic psychologist, are the best basis for mental health around IF worked and lived. I am not a step guru, and like to keep things as simple as possible. Step 9 says we are to: Make DIRECT amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. Who didn't come into a recovery journey or 12 step programs and try to make amends in the early going. Particularly to family and those we were closest to? We, in the early going, wanted to save things that were important to us. We had much work to do on ourselves and our spiritual condition before we were truly ready to make sincere amends. I made the list in 7. The one piece of advice I got that really helped me get benefit from this step was to consult about my list, and consult about specific amends just before doing them. Like many addicted people, I was inclined to have moments of grandiosity. My list was in fact a lot longer than it should have been because didn't you know, I was the baddest. Some will relate. After review of the list, it was prioritized by the weight of what I was carrying. I had to remember I was taking this action strictly for me, not trying to please the other person, and had to remember that I had to be totally honest, no matter what the cost. My 9th step coach helped me to do this, he was fully experienced. To my wife, I kept my admissions to a general nature. I said enough to her to dispel thoughts she may have had about falsely accusing me of intolerable behavior, but did not get specific enough to hurt 3rd parties. As my program tells me, for many of us, our sexual conduct was not exemplary! To my former wife and a family member of hers, it was decided to wait until a private face to face opportunity came around. In time, it did, and the amend was made properly. To a couple of people who had passed, I wrote a letter of amends to them. For the majority, it was face to face or voice to voice. I was humble and honest, non-argumentative and as open as I could be. I made no excuses for my behavior and took full responsibility for my actions. I asked honestly if there were a specific amend that could be made. There were a few suggested amends, and up until today, I have lived up to what was agreed. To those I am closest to, particularly family, my amends continue daily. I have changed significantly, and am far more responsible in my behavior in the roles I play in their lives. With my wife (because many expect instant forgiveness) I can honestly say it was about 4 years before I earned back MOST of her trust. Actions, not words, are the acid test. I am a better person today than I was those years ago, but work in progress. The reaction. Most were pleased to hear that I realized I had problems and had taken action. They were quite prepared to let bygones be bygones. A few were skeptical, and to put it mildly, we will never be personally close. I thought about, but tried to avoid "the except when to do so" part of this step. I probably could have rationalized many people to fit that category. There was only one person, and I did write a letter and burn it. If I had not taken full responsibility, particularly with the people I thought of often, I would not have got the improvement in peace of mind, self-esteem and better human relationships that this step gave me. I got rid of a lot of guilt and shame I had been holding on to. The step was done to the best of my ability when I had dealt with the goals that had been set forth. Every name was addressed in an appropriate fashion. Periodically something will surface, and is my regular practice, I deal with it promptly! I took consequences and responsibility for my actions, and at the same time, I know a few people saw their personal well being improved! Step 9 is a truly significant healing process when done at the proper time and in the right frame of mind and spiritual fitness. Please note; I did not talk about amends to me. The program I learned does not talk to the need. As I have healed, I have regained me. -- keithb
  4. Step 8/Twelve Steps Each year I like to run through the 12 steps as written in the book Alcoholics Anonymous. These steps were an adaptation of many works before them, and are a universal truth for all people who want to enjoy good mental Hygiene and an abundant life. They have been adopted by some 150 self-help groups, and in the words of my favourite forensic psychologist, are the best basis for mental health around IF worked and lived. I am not a step guru, and like to keep things as simple as possible. Step 8 reads, and please read carefully: Made a list of all persons WE had harmed, and BECAME WILLING to make amends to them all. We are about ready to do some things that will help us end our isolation from parts of the world. Calm, thoughtful reflection is needed to make this list. The step says ALL people WE had harmed; it does not say "but not if they harmed us more". This step is not about others and their actions, we are listing the people WE had harmed; we make an unsparing survey of the human wreckage WE had caused. We must be thorough; the more thorough we are, the better the results. It is well worth the time. In making the list, I went back over my step 4 for names, some from a distant past. There were people who did me wrong, and I had got even. My getting even put that name on the list. There were people who the very thought of made my emotions flip negatively, and these persons also made the list. There were some poor souls who I had sabotaged, and they never knew it. For all who have been in addiction, don't kid yourself. You have harmed every person, including family members that you are close to in your life. If you believe you only hurt yourself, you're being totally dishonest with you! I then took time to think of people that had drifted in and out of my life. I came up with a few more names. I did the best list I could. I then made a decision that I would forgive all those who had harmed me as best I could. This process, to do completely, took years. Bad human relations had helped fire my active addiction, I wanted a clean up as big as possible, wanted the garbage faced and gone. There was a therapeutic value in just making the list. Over time and through much soul searching and prayer, I became WILLING to make amends. At this point, I did not rush out and do the amends! The step was done to the best of my ability when I, with thought and calm reflection, using the resources at my disposal, made the list and became willing. I have found, over the years that the odd thing has come up that I had forgotten about. When another name surfaces, I write down the name and become willing. The names are far fewer, but every now and again, one pops up. I needed far better personal relationships if I was to live the life I truly wanted, and doing this step was a big move forward in the process, worth the time and thought invested!! -- keithb
  5. Step 7/Twelve Steps Each year I like to run through the 12 steps as written in the book Alcoholics Anonymous. These steps were an adaptation of many works before them, and are a universal truth for all people who want to enjoy good mental Hygiene and an abundant life. They have been adopted by some 150 self-help groups, and in the words of my favourite forensic psychologist, are the best basis for mental health around IF worked and lived. I am not a step guru, and like to keep things as simple as possible. Step 7 says: HUMBLY asked him to remove our shortcomings. This, for me, is a step that I must take daily. Today, I have done this step for 5,235 days, give or take a day. Humility to me is simply seeking to do the will of my higher power, living with character and placing the material things at best, second. It is living a life that is not "ME" centered. For years, I had known defeat and humiliation because I placed my will first. Humility came, in part, as a result of humiliation. "My will" got me to my bottom. Today I know that by being conscious of my higher power and listening to it, knowing that will give me what I really want in life. Gradually, I have become less self-centered. Humility allows me serenity and joy. Humiliation and self-centeredness gave excitement, depression, fear and anxiety, not what anyone really wants. Periodically I may still humiliate myself, every day I need reminding of what humility is and to live with it. "My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character that stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go from here, to do your bidding." It was not my good qualities that took me emotionally down so deeply. It was acting on the defects of character that took me down. It was these defects that caused pain, and I found my own medications to temporarily take pain away. Humility grows within as on a daily basis, I realize I'm not the center of the universe, and I am much better when I ask for and take help. My defects of character are part of who I am. They are just below the surface. Without help, they will once again take over my life; I must remain spiritually fit every day. On many days, my defects are very much in the background. Some days, when I try to run the show, the defects surface very abruptly; "out of the blue". I need external strength daily! Through prayer, I ask. How did I know I had achieved some measure of humility? For years, when given a compliment, I couldn't accept it with grace. Today, when the compliment is genuine, I can simply say thank-you and feel gratitude. Step 7 requires humility to sincerely ask for help. -- keithb
  6. Step 6/Twelve Steps Each year I like to run through the 12 steps as written in the book Alcoholics Anonymous. These steps were an adaptation of many works before them, and are a universal truth for all people who want to enjoy good mental Hygiene and an abundant life. They have been adopted by some 150 self-help groups, and in the words of my favourite forensic psychologist, are the best basis for mental health around IF worked and lived. I am not a step guru, and like to keep things as simple as possible. Step 6 reads: Were entirely ready to have god remove all these defects of character. On first blush, this appeared to be a no brainer. Upon reflection, there is more to this than at first appeared. By this stage of the journey, I had found a higher power that I could feel and even trust some. I had not had a drink or used in a while, and I had no cravings to do so. This had started to happen when I decided to turn things over. In having god remove all my defects of character, would this not make me perfect? And I always tongue in cheek remember what happened to the only perfect person I had read about. Upon reflection, I realized that there were none of the defects that had been identified that I would mind having removed. I could well live without them. If it were my higher powers will for me, or if I could abdicate from self will, then that would be great. My trust level and faith were at a point I was ready. Nothing in the Step says that my higher power would wave a wand and poof, all defects would be gone. Having things entirely ready is a perfect ideal. From what I had witnessed, it likely would not come to be 100%, but if it did, I was ready. I was one of the fortunate ones. I had no defects I would not be prepared to give up. Some I know have had things they swore they would NEVER give up. Funny, in hanging on to their will so desperately, they never seemed to get the life they truly wanted. Readiness, in practical terms, has come in stages. As the journey progresses and my conscious contact with my higher power continues to deepen and evolve, I become ready for things to change in different ways. It truly is work in progress. In step 6 I was asked to have faith, and be ready for change. A talk with myself in the old tool, the mirror, told me I was ready to have my higher power remove my character defects. My best efforts had at best, limited success. I was ready to change. You cannot do this step without some rudimentary faith in a higher power. -- keithb
  7. Step 5/Twelve Steps Each year I like to run through the 12 steps as written in the book Alcoholics Anonymous. These steps were an adaptation of many works before them, and are a universal truth for all people who want to enjoy good mental Hygiene and an abundant life. They have been adopted by some 150 self-help groups, and in the words of my favourite forensic psychologist, are the best basis for mental health around IF worked and lived. I am not a step guru, and like to keep things as simple as possible. Step 5 says: Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. The thought of admitting to another human being the exact nature of my wrongs gave me some trepidation. Did I really have to tell someone else exactly what I had done; share a few things I thought no one ever needed to know; share a lot of things that I wasn't proud of? The simple answer was yes, and the trepidation I had was part of the ego and false pride that had been the reason that I had bottomed. I also noted that the step didn't ask me to share the exact nature of my rights! You have several options as to who you can do your 5th with. Some prefer to do it with a person from the clergy. That was not in the cards for me. I had an AA sponsor I trusted and respected and it was with him that I did my 5th step. We started with a small prayer and invited formally God to join us. In 4, I had made note of people I had harmed and the defects of character that had been active. These items formed the basis of my 5th. I did not just read what I had written. We talked of the specific incidents that I wanted to talk about the least. We talked of things like dishonesty, fear, resentment, false pride, lust; the things that had been driving me crazy and that had stolen my self-esteem. I shared the destructive feelings I had inside. In god's presence, and the presence of another human being, I admitted the exact nature of my wrongs. Funny, my sharing did not blow my sponsor away. In fact, a few times he shared with me similar incidents that had happened to him. In sharing and admitting, I felt a new sense of humbleness and not the total humiliation that I feared. What had happened in my life had happened, it was now history. It was time to move forward and get the recovery journey in gear. How did I know I had done the 5th step? Before I left my sponsor, I reviewed my written 4th. I made sure that there was nothing that was written that was not discussed in specific, or in the context of feelings or injury to others. There were several "defects" that had reared their ugly head frequently, but every single incident was not discussed in detail. I left my 5th knowing I had shared everything. I had started to become transparent. I had taken responsibility for what had happened to all parties concern, and importantly, had taken personal responsibility. -- keithb
  8. We don't want to live in the past, but we do need to learn to live comfortably with it. When I started my personal journey to recovery, I certainly had a past! It was the spiralling negatives that got me to a place that I was sick and tired of being both sick and tired of how I was living! Sure there were positives, but they were not dragging me down! My journey began with a recovery coach, in this case an MD who worked with egotistical people like me. It was this man, who over time, introduced me to 12 step programs, the concept of humility, the benefits of the “right” rehab program and directed me to set new life goals and seek the help I needed to formulate a plan and achieve my reasonable goals. Dealing with the past was a very big part of the process for me. "We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it." This is a promise of the Twelve Step program. One of the most useful tools we have for learning to live with our past is the Fourth Step inventory. Once we have examined our dark corners and shared with someone else the times when we did not live up to our expectations, we no longer fear reminders of those times, nor do we try to block them out. It takes energy to try to hold shut the door to the past. Coming to terms with mistakes we have made, making amends, forgiving ourselves, and forgiving others releases this energy so we can use it for living more fully now, in the present. Allowing the door to the past to swing open in its own time gives us access to the good memories that we were also repressing.” Is there something I need to do today so that I can live more comfortably with the past? Today I realise my past is like all pasts; it is known as history. I studied history extensively in school and realised its study allowed me to understand what happened before today and to learn from it. In doing a 4th step (I coach a 4th Footprint) I wrote my own biography, and at an appropriate time looked at it like any other biography. I gained huge insight and learning. It is my history and never to be forgotten. Today, I try as best I can to utilize this understanding and Learning to make today a far better day than the ones that came before. It doesn’t work everyday, but I am pleased to have been blessed with constant progress. I will never make perfection (character flaws are still a part of me) and will never be in need of a cross. Despite normal adversities, quality of life keeps on getting better. I live today but as the quoted writing says, do not shut the door on my past. My past makes for a better today; I want to expend my energies on trudging forward! Yes, I am a coach, but will chat with anyone “off the clock” if I can assist them to move forward. I can be reached through khbray@rogers.com and welcome hearing from others who are struggling or searching! -- keithb
  9. A Moment of Clarity Ever have occurrences and thoughts in your life that seem to come out of nowhere, then reoccur over a period of time? I have been going through just that over the past few weeks. In my line of work, I see many people struggling to get a new life and grow in a new direction. To stay on top of things and to keep my mind open, I read a lot and go on a number of web sites on which people are struggling and/or have successfully turned their lives around. In volunteer work, and professionally, I am in constant contact with people who are walking the road or state that they want to move to a new place in their lives. I was graced with a recovered life. It was a gift, a gift I was able to humbly receive and accept for no reason known to me. I was a person, like millions of others who was depressed, had low self-esteem, was functional but a misfit in many functions and got to a point where I was just sick and tired of being sick and tired, tired of saying I’m sorry and tiered of feeling like a life underachiever. Recent things that have been reoccurring have made me really think; what was the one thing that turned it around, that made the difference. If sharing this offers others some insight great; but it is important that I remember. Accepting completely where I was at in my life was important, as was reconnecting to a power greater than myself, having some illogical faith that this power could help and seeking help just based on faith; all of these things were important. I was told to do a fearless and searching inventory of myself. I was given the Big Book of AA and other AA material to assist, and the suggestions of some good people. I can reflect back and say I did the best I could with what I had, but, quite frankly, did not find clarity on why I was the way I was. I did get a better understanding of my flaws and things I had done to hurt others. I did not need to do an inventory to know I was carrying a lot of garbage, guilt and shame. I had lived with these feelings for years. One day a professional who was a part of my life offered me a very lengthy questionnaire which guided me and gave me the structure to take a look at my life from earliest memories to current times. I was told not to over think (a bad habit of mine) but to just answer the questions very thoughtfully and in order. I truly wanted to know why I had got to what I now call my bottom. I knew that things had started a long way back. I worked diligently on this project; like the life or death it was. I wrote and I wrote, not looking back, but focusing on the question at hand. At times, I had to stop, because I had to look at areas of my life that evoke very deep emotions. I noted these emotions. Finally, I got to the end and put my “biography” away for a few days and allowed the emotions to settle. I took the completed document back out and read it as objectively as I could, as if were the story of someone I knew about but not in detail. It was not a literary masterpiece, yet I wasn’t reading it to grade it or give style points. I wanted to find an answer-WHY AM I? It happened. A true moment of clarity, a real Ah Ha moment. There was a day when I was between three and four years old, a day my life changed forever. I was ripped from a very secure world to what to me was a far less secure world. I started to act out to get attention. Some of this acting out was cutesy, a lot was destructive. I went from a world where I belonged and fit to a world where I was second best, not quite good enough. A pattern began that was to evolve downward for over forty years. A life of great highs and great lows. The life that made me who I am. I, for the first time, understood the “WHY” and it was a huge relief and a point that allowed me to truly accept and begin the process of recovering a life with real meaning. I was set free. So many I have seen struggle lately, in my opinion, play around the edges. There is no one way to recovering a life you really want. There are ways to insure failure, and those of us in active recovery who are witnesses watch it happen. No real acceptance, no real action. A charade to fool self and others. The percentage of those who don’t get turned around is staggering, and the focus of my life today is to use my experience and training to make a small difference. Those who have recovered all have some things generally in common. They have sought help. They have fully accepted what has happened. They’ve committed to a taken action. They, in there own way, give a bit of what they have got back to society to get more of what they were “gifted”. They have set some life goals, and not lost focus on the basic goals. They have recovered a life. Some hit a point that they are fully content with, others make life recovery a life time search, but they all enjoy a large amount of hope and serenity. A few months back, I faced the toughest question I think I have ever had to deal with. A young boy phoned me and asked, “Can you get my Daddy sober?”It floored me, and I had to answer no, but told him he could help his Dad get sober by telling Dad that it meant a lot to him, and I told that lad I would also be there to help Dad as Dad did what Dad had to do. I have recently watched, witnessed and read about a lot of slipping and sliding and read pros and cons on the best way to turn things around. The answer for me was straight forward. A moment of clarity that came as a result of the hard work that I was asked to do. Understanding the why and accepting the who and a lifetime of continuous recovery work. It is a gift I was humble enough to receive, and a gift that is available to those who truly accept and take action. If this sparks some thoughts, I love to read your response, or contact me directly at khbray@hopeserenity.ca. I wish that you find YOUR DREAM and your WHY! -- keithb
  10. I can remember those dark days back in 1994 that I really did not know who I was. Have you been there or are you at that point today. I knew the roles that I played, amongst them husband, father, employer, community volunteer, company leader; roles I played on life’s stage like an actor. Some I played much better than others. Inside I was a mess and frequently felt like the cartoon character that walks around with a little black cloud over my head. I frequently compared myself to others and took others inventory as a way to make me feel OK. Something inside of me kept saying things were not OK. The most important relationships in my life were crumbling and I was escaping in the ways I knew would work, escaping through the use of mood altering substances and behaviours. I was “spiritually empty. I could go on, but I think some of you will know the place I was at. I did know my roles in life although I had begun to fail miserably at some of them. Who was I as a person? Who was I inside? Why was I so discontent and unhappy? Most importantly, how did I get there? Why me? What was the cause? I wasn’t sure who I was but knew I was not happy and did not like the person I had become. In the language of AA, I had come to a turning point and had to take massive action and it all started with me. At this point I needed help to become fearless and courageous in that a look at myself and my life. I needed “guides”, both professional and process to get to the bottom of the question and to get some help. I was given the courage to do both. I went through a process. In 12 step language it is known as a 4th step. I was coached and guided by people that knew what they were doing. They were trained; they had walked the path before me. They had come out at the other end and were people I respected. At the end of this process I understood who I was for the first time in my adult life. I understood what had happened to get me to a low I couldn’t handle. I understood life patterns that went way back. I understood my weaknesses but every bit as importantly, understood the strengths and values that were still alive in me. This massive action allowed me to be in a position to move forward on my journey of life transformation and recovery. Many say you can get this “free” through a 12 step group, and for many this is true. For my own reasons, at this point in my life, it was not the option that worked for me. (For years I have been a member of a 12 step group). I needed professional help and reached out and got it. It was the single best investment I made in myself bar nothing. I can’t say this emphatically enough. I don’t knock other options but am grateful that I took a path that for me has given me on an increasing basis a me that I love and a life more in keeping with the life I was meant to live. Do you know who you really are? Are you unhappy with where you are at in life today? Is the mirror your friend or are you uncomfortable looking yourself in the eye? There are avenues open to you IF you are prepared to take a hard look at yourself then take massive personal action. If you can identify and want to discuss change, I’d be pleased to talk with you. I’m glad I took the journey and this step. There is more than one way and there is a way that is right for you WHEN YOU make the decision! Coaching and/or therapy are options. (www.hopeserenity.ca; khbray@hopeserenity.ca) Want to get going so you know the answer to “WHO AM I?” -- keithb
  11. Step 4/Twelve Steps-The Scary One Each year I like to run through the 12 steps as written in the book Alcoholics Anonymous. These steps were an adaptation of many works before them, and are a universal truth for all people who want to enjoy good mental Hygiene and an abundant life. They have been adopted by some 150 self-help groups, and in the words of my favourite forensic psychologist, are the best basis for mental health around IF worked and lived. I am not a step guru, and like to keep things as simple as possible. The 4th Step reads: Made a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves. The 4th Step is a place where many people get stuck. It requires action and it does require work. I did a 4th that worked when I was prepared to be honest with myself, look thoroughly at my life, and take this new higher power I had found along on the journey with me. The higher power was there, and that allowed me to do the step without the fear I had felt in the past when I looked over my past life. Doing the step did take work. I found a written set of questions that I used as a guide in doing the step. They led me to nooks and crannies, as well as specific actions of the past I probably would not have looked at. While thinking and writing, a lot of emotions both good and negative were stirred up. I allowed myself to feel them, noted them, and a few times when they became over whelming, I took at time out. I dug out things I had buried deeply and felt the feelings of these things. I put on paper things that I thought would remain inside of me hidden for the balance of my life. Upon reflection, it felt good to get this stuff out. I highlighted the names of people I had hurt over my life. I identified and noted the defects of character that had been at play (dishonesty, false pride, fear, resentments, sloth, etc.) and noted them. Had I hurt me? Yes, but that was not the point of the exercise. I know today I did things that were plain wrong and within my control. There was also much good that I discovered, as there is in an inventory of anything that is taken. I did note this, but it was not good healthy living that was causing me to be active in my addictions and that was destroying my life. The good did offer hope going forward, the good was a foundation I could build a new life upon! The good didn't require letting go. After doing the writing, getting down anything that was on my mind that was a negative from my past that was still in my thoughts, I put the document away. I had been as searching, fearless and thorough as I possibly could. In a few days, I went back and read what was written. I tried to read it like I was reading the story of someone else, a person named Keith. Slowly the lights came on. For the first time in my adult life I has an idea of who I was and the incidents that had happened to bring me to my bottom. For me, the downward trend started on a day when I was still a happy child between 3-4 years old. On that day, my world shifted, and I started to act out. Keith had always been a good person deep inside. He began, on that fateful day, to feel that he didn't quite fit in, was not as special as he once was. Keith began to act out to get the attention he wanted, and a lot of the acting out was not healthy. At a fairly young age, he found mood altering substances and behaviors, including social behaviors that made him feel better. It included gravitation to what the Big Book calls "lower company". This start at poor mental hygiene accelerated until a bottom was reached! Mood altering substance and behavior became a way to medicate the pain inside. I did not know how to properly deal with emotions and feelings so either stuffed them or numbed them. A sad story. Talent wasted, people hurt. On balance, I was given talents at birth that were put to use. On the outside, Keith had many successes and learned to be a person others expected him to be in certain situations, most notably the work world. Little did people know the scared little boy that was inside! Ego and pride is what Keith showed to others; a false confidence. Inside there was fear, insecurity, stunted emotional growth and more, all leading to pain. I had found several medications that would temporarily numb the pain. I had become very selfish in my behavior while wanting to please people and controlling life because I was terrified of what would happen if I didn't control my little universe. I always knew, and know today, there was always a caring, loving person inside who had great potential (funny what you see when you read old school report cards). There are many ways to do a 4th. Books have literally been written about it and this step is the topic of many conversations at meetings and among people. There is no "right" format, but that being said, writing a 4th gets stuff outside of you. I found a detailed question guide that worked for me, and I share it with anyone who wants it. I use it with my coaching clients both non-addicted and addicted. I use it because it is a major step in achieving good mental hygiene and a full and abundant life going forward. Step 4 is a great investment of your time in your own new life. There is really no true recovery without doing this step. There is no right way to do; JUST DO IT! How did I know it was complete? For me I knew it was complete when I read it over, made changes, cleared up areas where I couched the truth and honestly noted feelings and character defects at work. I knew it was complete when I read the story, knew it was mine, and understood for the first time in my adult life who I was and how I got there. From seeing the good, I could move forward with hope. -- keithb
  12. A small change had started in my life. A journey of transformation had started and I was starting to recover a life I wanted. I had some hope sanity could return to my life. As I worked through the journey as laid out in the 12 steps, I hit something that called for a tough decision. It was a decision I was not ready for immediately, a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of this higher power thing. For a person who had lived a life where I believed I was in control; turning my life and my will over to anything was tough thing to contemplate. Without fully appreciating it I tried to control all around me and appreciate today that I lacked trust in myself and others and that it was fear based. What would happen if I simply turned things that I could not control over to this higher power? Would life start to be like a towel in a dryer? How do I know what I can and can’t control? The thoughts were a little frightening. At that point in my life, I met a great man and mentor by the name of John Skelly. John coached me through this phase of change and even after I had began to learn how to turn things over and trust a bit; he was a constant reminder to me when I looked to take over too much control. The most important thing I learned was at this point in my journey, all I had to do was to make a DECISION to try some new behaviour. Ultimately, I tried and found a little at a time that it worked. I had developed a little faith (and faith is not totally rational) in something outside of myself. To say that things totally changed from this point on would be a stretch. I have had to keep making the decision consciously on a daily basis to turn over issues outside of my control and even today my success is not perfect; no where near it; but life has got better. In accepting where I was at in life and wanting change; in realising that there was an element of insanity in my life and with help this could chance and in making a decision to try and turn things over to this higher power, things I could not control, a funny thing happened. I found myself undergoing a significant change in my attitude toward life. I began to feel more balanced and get a bit of serenity. I began to feel hope. I was more “alive” inside than I had been in years. I found the courage to really start looking at causes, not just try to band aid the surface wounds. From a person who wanted to be in control and run the show; a person who had a lot of internal fear; a person who thought they could fix them self; I had made huge progress. I was able to reach outside of me for help. If I could do it so can anyone who really wants change. All it takes is the courage to reach out for help and realise you can’t do it on your own but that help in several forms is available! Is it YOUR time to make a DECISION? (khbray@hopeserenity.ca’ www.hopeserenity.ca) -- KeithB
  13. (TURN IT OVER) Years ago, when I hit my personal bottom, a man named John Skelly was put into my life. John was not a man who would have made my “social circle” for my life up until 1994 when we met. He was rough and gruff, lived in the wrong part of town, looked like an unmade bed most of the time, was under employed and was given- lovingly by my wife- the nick name Grumpy- and it fit to a tee. Yet John gave me insights in to how to live a new life better than any other human being. He lived alone, and a group of us starting out to recover life became his family. He brought us together for dinners and we ran the streets all over the place to go to fellowship meetings. He loved us when we couldn’t love ourselves, and in my case, he became a member of our “family” and was at all family events. It was hilarious when my wife would call him and ask him for dinner and before accepting, Grumpy would always ask what we were having. John did not have a life I wanted, but had knowledge of the things I needed to get a life that I wanted desperately, and he gave freely. There is a voice of “John” that I still hear when I’m agitated, a phrase he said to our “gang” on a frequent basis and the material below made it very real. “LET IT GO-TURN IT OVER”! "To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day." -- Lao Tzu How do we take something away? As we cultivate higher awareness, we begin to see just how much we have added things that really aren't there to our picture of reality. Our beliefs, concepts and emotions all add layers of meaning to physical reality, but that meaning exists for us only - it has no objective existence. For example, the word 'mother' has a complicated network of meaning for each of us. Become aware of how your beliefs and emotions colour your perception of different events in your life. See if you can begin to step out of your fabrications to experience the truth and spaciousness of what is. "When guilt rears its ugly head confront it, discuss it and let it go. The past is over. ... Forgive yourself and move on." -- Bernie S. Siegel Just about 10 years ago from today, I had the misfortune of finding “Grumpy” dead in his apartment the afternoon after a “fellowship” wedding between two of the group that ran together. Grumpy did not take care of himself health wise, had revelled at the wedding (not drank), had dramatically over eaten his high cholesterol but loved foods at the reception, had got home and taken of his finery and was in his AA suit, sat in his favourite chair with a smile on his face, and before he could light a cigarette, had the big one. He let it go and turned it over for the final time. A real loss for many of us. Today, I still here that grumpy hoarse voice, and hear it frequently during rough patches, “TURN IT OVER- let it go”. With practise, it has become easier and has helped me to replace old habits and living issues and add new skills. It has allowed me to live life in a real place and in the now. It has allowed me to forgive myself and live. It has given me balance back. If you want an abundant life with large measures of hope and serenity, learn to let go of the garbage that steals daily from you. There re ways to acquire the ability. I was blessed to have a John Skelly in my life, my own Grumpy elf. If I can assist you, get in touch at khbray@hopeserenity.ca, -- keithb
  14. Step 3/Twelve Steps Each year I like to run through the 12 steps as written in the book Alcoholics Anonymous. These steps were an adaptation of many works before them, and are a universal truth for all people who want to enjoy good mental Hygiene and an abundant life. They have been adopted by some 150 self-help groups, and in the words of my favourite forensic psychologist, are the best basis for mental health around IF worked and lived. I am not a step guru, and like to keep things as simple as possible. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of god as WE UNDERSTOOD him. There was a great man who had a major influence on the early part of my journey. His name was John Skelly, we lovingly called him Grumpy. John had a brilliant grasp on the applications of the steps and being an uncomplicated man, taught them simply and directly. Each time I relook Step 3, I can hear John's gravelly voice,"Just TURN IT OVER"! For me, I was soured on formal religion and institutions by the time I hit my low point. God was then, and remains today, a "church" word for me. Today I can handle to word, because as a society we label everything, as an acronym for "Good Orderly Direction". The god I am intimate with today feels very different than the god I knew in church. In Step 2 I recognized there was a power greater than me that could help. With regards to my sanity in early recovery, god was not a part of things. It was very evident, as I learned to get honest to some extent with myself, that my actions and thinking over time had taken me to a place I hated being at in life. I was convinced that I had to seek help to solve things; I could not do it alone. A slight bit of progress that had begun through Step 2 reinforced this. Gradually, and as the step asked me to do, I made a decision to try and turn problems over to the care of things outside of myself. The god/higher power/universal truth I know today works in mysterious ways; often through other people like John. I did experiments at first in turning things over. It was very difficult for me. I did not trust and certainly did not trust structured religion things. I loved being in control, and had tried (and with some success for a while) to control people places and things. I began to turn certain things over to a god that I thought I might understand,; something outside of me. Funny, when I made a decision to do this, several of the things I turned over seemed to work out OK without my help. As I progress on my journey, my concept of a higher power seems to constantly evolve. The consistent has been there is something that gives overall direction and that something IS NOT ME. That being said, I found something inside of me (and in many places) that does give good orderly direction, and proves to me there is good orderly direction, if I pay attention. The question, how do I know when I've done Step 3. With this step, the answer for me is ongoing. Way back when, and with the propting of Grumy, I made a decision to start turning some of my will and parts of my life over to this higher power as I understood it then. Over time, I learned to trust more and more, and turn more and more over. For me, who still likes to take control, Step 3 is a daily step and is always work in progress. Each day I say the 3rd Step Prayer in my own fashion. I ask for relief from "self" and ask that for the day, I listen to and respond to the "voice" of a higher power I feel and have grown to love and trust. This higher power gives me "FREE WILL", and sometimes I do take control back, and many times the results are not very good when I do that. Funny, when I remain conscious of my higher power and take the time to really turn things over, the outcomes are so much better and sleep is far less troubled! For me, Step 3 was done early in the journey as best I could. I did make the decision asked for. But it remains work in progress, and I have to make the decision on a daily basis to "Turn It Over." I have achieved progress, not perfection. -- keithb
  15. NOW IS THE TIME TO EMBRACE CO-CREATIVE RECOVERY After we have worked the 12 steps to the best of our ability, we have started a journey that offers unlimited potential. What we do from here is critical. We have made tremendous change in our life. We have begun the practice of good mental hygiene and are humbly confidant in who we are. We once again care for ourselves, and in doing so, have a far better ability to positively interact with others. We have begun a spiritual life with a higher power we understand, and feel the presence of this higher power on a regular basis. We have started to live a more "balanced" life. We feel daily the benefits of the work that we have done. What now?? It is time to keep working the steps, but, GET A LIFE! Unfortunately, I have seen people get addicted to their 12 Step program. You can have worse addictions, but my higher power gave me a chance to have a full and balanced life through living the 12 Steps, practicing good mental hygiene, and getting the help in needed to have a complete and happy life where I had the ability to live many of my dreams. Balance is the key. Unfortunately, the failure rate of those who attend a 12 Step meeting and/or go through rehab is very (95 %+) high. While I don't have stats, I would bet the success rate is very much better to those who have honestly worked the 12 Steps and live them. They are a real foundation for living. Our improved way of living, when used as a base for holistic living, can give us new opportunities in our financial lives and careers, in all relationships, in bettering our education, in new hobbies, in our spiritual life, you dream it, it can be done! The horizons are without limit if we keep our new foundation solid! It is based on this knowledge that Patrick Meninga started putting together the Creative Theory of Life Recovery (www.spiritualriver.com). Through who knows how, Patrick and I connected, have a common desire to see more people find what we have found, and have evolved a coaching process for clients, the "Co-Creative Process of Life Recovery". It works for those who truly want more out of life, and can be honest. Co-Creative, yes, because it involves more than the client in the process. So there we are, 12 Steps, hopefully kept simple for those who have been following; reviewed for me and my own journey. If we can help you with the STEPS we're here. If we can coach you to new success in YOUR life, please contact through www.creativeliferecovery.com or www.hopeserenity.ca to set up a complimentary getting to know each other session. We guarantee results! -- keithb