November 22, 2005

How to Deal with Difficult Family Members

By Leonard Felder, Ph.D.

As a psychologist who helps people deal with their more difficult relatives, I've found that at holiday time these stresses and personality clashes with certain family members come out more strongly than at other times of the year. To make sure your family gatherings are more harmonious this year than in the past, there are specific--and spiritual--things you can do.

1. Say a silent prayer or meditate silently right at the moment when your family is acting up. The prayer can be, "Please God (or Spirit), give me strength to be patient with the difficult members of my family and open me up to the possibility that I will have a few sacred moments of connection with those family I love and whom I don't get to see often enough." Or, humorously, it can be, "Thank you God (or Spirit) that I don't have to see these people 24/7."

2. Choose to bless your most troubled or difficult family member rather than cursing this person. In most spiritual traditions there are blessings you can say to regain your peace of mind and your ability to speak respectfully to even the most unpleasant individuals. For example, if you silently say to yourself, "May God bless and keep this person," it gives you an extra 10 seconds of impulse control so that you can negotiate calmly with this difficult individual rather than erupting in anger or insults. Instead of provoking a war with this person, you can silently bless him or her and then say respectfully out loud, "Let's work together to figure out how to improve the way we interact at these holiday gatherings. You go first, and I'll listen to your ideas. Then I'll go second, and I hope you'll listen to my ideas, too."

3. Look for the wounded soul that is often hidden deeply under this person's toxic comments and personality traits. You may need to do some informal research ahead of the next visit to find out from aunts, uncles, cousins, or others when and how this difficult family member changed from being a kind soul into an angry or self-absorbed individual. That doesn't mean you need to whitewash or minimize the hurtful things he or she does, but rather it will give you the compassion and perspective to realize this person's woundedness is old and deep, having nothing to do with you.

4. Experience gratitude for each small grain of progress. Rather than hoping your difficult relative will become perfect or stress-free, you can seek to notice each small moment of connection or decency that occurs between you. If last year you could only stand this person for 5 minutes and this year you successfully enjoyed 10 quality minutes with this troubled individual, that is a huge improvement.

5. Recognize the growth that this person stirs up in you. In the 23rd Psalm, there is a mysterious statement that "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies." Some spiritual teachers suggest that just as an oyster needs sand to irritate, polish and create a fine pearl, so does life give us difficult relatives who force us to grow and learn more about patience, compassion, kindness, limit-setting, strength, and the release of expectations. If it weren't for your difficult relatives, would you have ever been forced to work so hard at becoming the kind of person you are today? If it weren't for the unpleasant ways you were treated by certain members of your family, would you have known to be so careful so as not to mistreat your spouse, your kids, your friends, or your co-workers? Rather than dreading your encounters with your toughest or most insensitive relatives, you can view each current and future interaction as another chance to be tested and see how far you have come on your personal journey. You don't need to be perfect, but you can remind yourself to stay open to what each stressful situation with your family is trying to teach you.

6. When you're feeling trapped, call a "lifeline." You can regain your sense of humor and your inner strength by phoning a supportive friend and saying, "Could you please remind me if I'm a worthwhile human being...I'm with my relatives right now and I've completely forgotten." Just that one sentence of ironic humor can snap you out of the feelings of victimization and aloneness that could cause you to shut down, overeat, or drink too much at family gatherings.

From Beliefnet's Inspiration Newsletter.

A Faith that Casts Out Fear

As Bill Sees It

The Coming Of Faith, p. 51

In my own case, the foundation stone of freedom from fear is that of faith: a faith that, despite all worldly appearances to the contrary, causes me to believe that I live in a universe that makes sense.

To me, this means a belief in a Creator who is all power, justice, and love; a God who intends for me a purpose, a meaning, and a destiny to grow, however little and haltingly, toward His own likeness and image. Before the coming of faith I had lived as an alien in a cosmos that too often seemed both hostile and cruel. In it there could be no inner security for me.

<< << << >> >> >>

"When I was driven to my knees by alcohol, I was made ready to ask for the gift of faith. And all was changed. Never again, my pains and problems notwithstanding, would I experience my former desolation. I saw the universe to be lighted by God's love; I was alone no more."

1. Grapevine, January 1962
2. Letter, 1966

Welcoming Life's Curve Balls

"In life, we are always setting goals for ourselves and working to make them happen. This gives us focus and ensures that we use our time and energy efficiently and effectively. It also provides us with a sense of purpose and direction. We know where we are going and what we want to do. But quite often, due to forces outside our control, things do not go as we had planned-the flat tire on the way to the wedding, the unforeseen flu virus-and we have to adjust to a postponement or create a whole new set of circumstances. Even positive turns of fortune - an unexpected influx of cash or falling in love - require us to be flexible and to reconsider our plans and priorities, sometimes in the blink of an eye. This is what happens when life throws you a curve ball.

The ability to accept what is happening and let go of your original expectations is key when dealing with these unexpected turns of fate. We have a tendency to get stuck in our heads, clinging to an idea of how we think life should go, and we can have a hard time accepting anything that doesn't comply with that idea. The fact is that life is unpredictable. The trip you thought was for business - and when the deal fell through, you got depressed - actually landed you at the airport two days earlier than planned so you could meet the love of your life. Your car breaks down, and you are late for an appointment. While it's true that you never arrive at that important meeting, you end up spending a few relaxing hours with people you would never have met otherwise.

In order to keep us awake to opportunity and to teach us equanimity, the universe throws us the occasional curve ball. Remember that curve balls are not only life's way of keeping us awake, which is a gift in and of itself; they are also often life's way of bringing us wonderful surprises. Next time a curve ball comes your way, take a deep breath, say thank you, and open your mind to a new opportunity."

From the DailyOM - Nurturing Mind Body & Spirit

Build a Firm Foundation

Just For Today
November 22 Foundation first

"As we begin to function in society, our creative freedom helps us sort our priorities and do the basic things first." Basic Text p. 83

No sooner do we get clean than some of us begin putting other priorities ahead of our recovery. Careers, families, relationships-all these are part of the life we find once we've laid the foundation of our recovery. But we can't build a stable life for ourselves before we do the hard, basic work of laying our recovery foundation. Like a house built on sand, such a life will be shaky, at best.

Before we begin putting all our attention to rebuilding the detailed framework of our lives, we need to lay our foundation. We acknowledge, first, that we don't yet have a foundation, that our addiction has made our lives utterly unmanageable. Then, with the help of our sponsor and our home group, we find faith in a Power strong enough to help us prepare the ground of our new lives. We clear the wreckage from the site upon which we will build our future. Finally, we develop a deep, working familiarity with the principles we will practice in our continuing affairs: honest self-examination, reliance upon our Higher Power's guidance and strength, and service to others.

Once our foundation is prepared, then we can go full steam ahead to put our new lives together. But first we must ask ourselves if our foundation is secure, for without our foundation, nothing we build can stand for long.

Just for today: I will take care to lay a secure foundation for my recovery. Upon such a foundation, I can build for a lifetime in recovery.

Just For Today Daily Meditation is the property of Narcotics Anonymous © 1991 by World Service Office Inc.

November 21, 2005

Grateful to be Responsible

"A complete change takes place in our approach to life. Where we used to run from responsibility, we find ourselves accepting it with gratitude that we can successfully shoulder it. Instead of wanting to escape some perplexing problem,
we experience a thrill of challenge in the opportunity it affords for another application of AA techniques, and we find ourselves tackling it with surprising vigor."

c. 1976AAWS, Alcoholics Anonymous, pp. 311-12

Thought to Consider . . .

When brimming with gratitude, one's heartbeat must surely result in outgoing love, the finest emotion we can ever know.
Bill W., March 1962

November 20, 2005

Open to Possibilities

"It was out of the depths of loneliness, depression and despair that I sought the help of A.A. As I recovered and began to face the emptiness and ruin of my life, I
began to open myself to the possibility of the healing that recovery offers through the A.A. program.

By coming to meetings, staying sober, and taking the Steps, I had the opportunity to listen with increasing attentiveness to the depths of my soul. Daily I waited, in hope and gratitude, for that sure belief and steadfast love I had longed for in my life. In this process, I met my God, as I understand Him."

c. 1990, Daily Reflections, page 177

November 19, 2005

Gratitude Keeps the Channel Open

"One way to keep the channel open and to improve my conscious contact with God is to maintain a grateful attitude. On the days when I am grateful, good things seem to happen in my life. The instant I start cursing things in my life, however, the flow of good stops. God did not interrupt the flow; my own negativity did."

c. 1990, Daily Reflections, page 319

November 18, 2005

Experience the Joy of Sobriety

Father Leo's Daily Meditation

"Experience is not what happens to a man. It is what a man does with what happens to him."
-- Aldous Huxley

Today I experience the joy of sobriety. Today I experience God in my world. Today I experience the peace and serenity that for years eluded me.

Experience is the key. It locates all that is in my life. Experience allows me to appreciate what living is all about.

Love is to be felt. Forgiveness is to be experienced. Humility is to be lived in action. Hope is to be recognized in the brightness of the eye.

Life is to be experienced. That is spirituality.

May the God that I experience be reflected in daily life.

November 16, 2005

Letting Go

Just For Today

"Take my will and my life. Guide me in my recovery. Show me how to live." Basic Text p. 25

How do we begin the process of letting our Higher Power guide our lives? When we seek advice about situations that trouble us, we often find that our Higher Power works through others. When we accept that we don't have all the answers, we open ourselves to new and different options. A willingness to let go of our preconceived ideas and opinions opens the channel for spiritual guidance to light our way.

At times, we must be driven to the point of distraction before we are ready to turn difficult situations over to our Higher Power. Anxiously plotting, struggling, planning, worrying-none of these suffice. We can be sure that if we turn our problems over to our Higher Power, through listening to others share their experience or in the quiet of meditation, the answers will come.

There is no point in living a frantic existence. Charging through life like the house is on fire exhausts us and gets us nowhere. In the long run, no amount of manipulation on our part will change a situation. When we let go and allow ourselves access to a Higher Power, we will discover the best way to proceed. Rest assured, answers derived from a sound spiritual basis will be far superior to any answers we could concoct on our own.

Just for today: I will let go and let my Higher Power guide my life.

Just For Today Daily Meditation is the property of Narcotics Anonymous © 1991 by World Service Office Inc.

November 15, 2005

The Short and Long-Term Benefits of Recovery

There are two benefits from recovery: we have short-term gains and long-term gains. The short-term gains are the things we can do today that help us feel better immediately.

We can wake up in the morning, read for a few minutes in our meditation book, and feel lifted. We can work a Step and often notice an immediate difference in the way we feel and function. We can go to a meeting and feel refreshed, talk to a friend and feel comforted, or practice a new recovery behavior, such as dealing with our feelings or doing something good for ourselves, and feel relieved.

There are other benefits from recovery, though, that we don't see immediately on a daily or even a monthly basis. These are the long-term gains, the larger progress we make in our life.

Over the years, we can see tremendous rewards. We can watch ourselves grow strong in faith, until we have a daily personal relationship with a Higher Power that is as real to us as a relationship with a best friend.

We can watch ourselves grow beautiful as we shed shame, guilt, resentments, self-hatred, and other negative buildups from our past. We can watch the quality of our relationships improve with family, friends, and spouses. We find ourselves growing steadily and gradually in our capacity to be intimate and close, to give and receive.

We can watch ourselves grow in our careers, in our ability to be creative, powerful, productive people, using our gifts and talents in a way that feels good and benefits others.

We discover the joy and beauty in ourselves, others, and life.

The long-term progress is steady, but sometimes slow, happening in increments and often with much forward and backward movement. Enough days at a time of practicing recovery behaviors and piling up short term gains leads to long-term rewards.

Today, I will be grateful for the immediate and long-term rewards of recovery. If I am new to recovery, I will have faith that I can achieve the long-term benefits. If I've been recovering for a while, I will pause to reflect, and be grateful for my overall progress.

©1990, Hazelden Foundation.

November 08, 2005

A Few of My Favorite Recovery Words


There Is Only Now

"It can be easy for us to walk through the world and our lives without really being present. While dwelling on the past and living for the future are common pastimes, it is physically impossible to live anywhere but the present moment. We cannot step out our front door and take a left turn to May of last year any more than we can take a right turn to December 2010. Nevertheless, we can easily miss the future we are waiting for as it becomes the now we are too busy to pay attention to. We then spend the rest of our time playing "catch up" to the moment that we just let pass by. During moments like these, it is important to remember that there is only Now.

In order to feel more at home in the present moment, it is important to try to stay aware, open, and receptive. Being in the present moment requires our full attention so that we are fully awake to experience it. When we are fully present, our minds do not wander. We are focused on what is going on right now, rather than thinking about what just happened or worrying about what is going to happen next. Being present lets us experience each moment in our lives in a way that cannot be fully lived through memory or fantasy.

When we begin to corral our attention into the present moment, it can be almost overwhelming to be here. There is a state of stillness that has to happen that can take some getting used to, and the mind chatter that so often gets us into our heads and out of the present moment doesn't have as much to do. We may feel a lack of control because we aren't busy planning our next move, assessing our current situation, or anticipating the future. Instead, being present requires that we be flexible, creative, attentive, and spontaneous. Each present moment is completely new, and nothing like it has happened or will ever happen again. As you move through your day, remember to stay present in each moment. In doing so, you will live your life without having to wait for the future or yearn for the past. Life happens to us when we happen to life in the Now."

From DailyOM - There Is Only Now

Excessive Worrying is Harmful

"Worrying about things we have no control over is counterproductive. It makesyou tense -- which, in turn, ruins your judgment. When you are worried, you live in a state of fear. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to be loving, helpful, and kind on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis. And being kind is what the world needs most at this time. We need living examples among us who are confident, loving, kind, courageous, and generous. As individuals, being excessively worried about our personal and national safety doesn't support these ideals.

When we're too worried, we tend to be less generous. We're so concerned about our own needs and fears that we forget about others. There are exceptions, such as immediately following a national crisis, when people can be extremely generous, but generally speaking, we are usually more stingy with our time and money when we are focused on ourselves and our own worries.

When you're not overly worried, you trust that everything is going to be okay. It's therefore easier for you to reach out to others and to be an example of someone who isn't frightened. You intuitively understand that giving and receiving are two sides of the same coin. The more you give, the more you receive. You trust your heart instead of only relying on your head. Other people see the way you live your life and begin to trust that it's okay to be generous and kind themselves. Your lack of fear spreads a positive message.

On the flip side, one of the problems with excessive worry is that it's also contagious. When you're worried, you tend to discuss your fears and commiserate with others about those fears. We then focus too much on what's wrong with the world, instead of remembering how much good there is as well. This spreads worry and negativity, which compounds the problem and makes us feel even more insecure. Too much worry makes people suspicious and cynical. When our children see us worried, then they too become frightened. It creates a vicious cycle, and the best way to help is to step outside the confines of that cycle.

Beyond all the negative practical aspects of fear is the simple truth that worry interferes with the quality of your life. Rather than being awestruck by the beauty of life, you focus too much on its potential dangers. You have fewer experiences because of fear of what might happen. Worry interferes with spontaneous joy. It keeps us tense and on guard. It makes us far more reactive, which in turn negatively affects all of our relationships, personal and otherwise. Our patience is affected, as is our temper. When we worry too much, it's harder to see the innocence in people and to remember that, although there are obvious exceptions, a vast majority of people are decent and loving.

This doesn't mean there aren't legitimate things to worry about. It's just that it's important to know that worry itself is something we do to ourselves, within our own thinking. It's not bad. It's just important to know where it's coming from in order to create the possibility to let it go. Worry is one of those things that tends to magnify and feed on itself unless and until we can recognize the role that our thinking is playing in the process.

Many people equate being worried with caring, as if the two are interconnected. To some extent, I disagree with this notion. While it's certainly true that there are appropriate times to worry about those we love, it's also important to know that worry is not synonymous with love. In fact, when you describe or think about love or caring, what words do you use? To me, words like gentle, kind, trust, relaxed, selfless, giving, supportive, listening, willing, and hugs come to mind. What about you?

On the other hand, when you think of worry, the opposite adjectives come to mind: words like tense, untrusting, cynical, suspicious, and on-edge, to name a few. I bring this to your attention as further justification for attempting to eliminate, or at least greatly reduce, your sense of fear. It's always easier to get rid of something when you see it as harmful instead of as an asset.

Whatever you do, don't pretend that you have no fear. It's not necessary, and it's not the best way to get rid of fear anyway. The most effective "fear-buster" that I'm aware of is to acknowledge the fear fully, but rather than running from it -- or reacting to it -- the technique is to turn toward the fear, face on. You can even talk to it like this: 'I see you, fear, and it's okay that you're here. I am, however, prepared to give you less significance. From now on, when you surface, I'm going to dismiss you more quickly.'"

This article is excerpted from What About the Big Stuff?, ©2002, by Richard Carlson, Ph.D.

About the Author:
RICHARD CARLSON is the bestselling author of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff at Work; Don't Sweat the Small Stuff for Teens; and Don't Sweat the Small Stuff for Men, among other titles. He lectures around the country and internationally, and lives with his wife and children in Northern California. Visit his website at

Keys to the Kingdom

As the years go by, working together, sharing our experiences with one another, and also sharing a mutual trust, understanding and love -- without strings, without obligation -- we acquire relationships that are unique and priceless. There is no more aloneness, with that awful ache, so deep in the heart of every alcoholic that nothing, before, could ever reach it. That ache is gone and never need return again. . . .

In return for a bottle and a hangover, we have been given the Keys of the Kingdom.

c. 2001 AAWS, Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 276

November 07, 2005

A Gift in Every Relationship

There is a gift for us in each relationship that comes our way.

Sometimes the gift is a behavior we're learning to acquire: detachment, self esteem, becoming confident enough to set a boundary, or owning our power in another way.

Some relationships trigger healing in us - healing from issues of the past or an issue we're facing today.

Sometimes we find ourselves learning the most important lessons from the people we least expect to help us. Relationships may teach us about loving ourselves or someone else. Or maybe we'll learn to let others love us.

Sometimes, we aren't certain what lesson we're learning, especially while we're in the midst of the process. But we can trust that the lesson and the gift are there. We don't have to control this process. We'll understand, when it's time. We can also trust that the gift is precisely what we need.

Today, I'll be grateful for all my relationships. I will open myself to the lesson and the gift from each person in my life. I will trust that I, too, am a gift in the other people's lives.

©1990, Hazelden Foundation. All rights reserved.

November 06, 2005

Honestly Accepting a Realistic View of Ourselves

"Humility is a result of getting honest with ourselves."
Basic Text p. 35

Humility was an idea so foreign to most of us that we ignored it as long as we could. When we first saw the word "humbly" ahead in Step Seven, we may have figured it meant we had quite a bit of humiliation in store. Perhaps we chose to look it up in the dictionary, only to become even more confused by the definition. We didn't understand how "lowliness and subservience" applied to recovery.

To be humble does not mean we are the lowest form of life. On the contrary, becoming humble means we attain a realistic view of ourselves and where we fit in the world. We grow into a state of awareness founded on our acceptance of all aspects of ourselves. We neither deny our good qualities nor overemphasize our defects. We honestly accept who we are.

No one of us will ever attain a state of perfect humility. But we can certainly strive to honestly admit our faults, accept our assets, and rely on our Higher Power as a source of strength. Humility doesn't mean we have to crawl life's path on our hands and knees; it just means we must admit we cannot recover on our own. We need each other and, above all, we need the power of a loving God.

Just for today:

To be humble, I will honestly accept all facets of myself, seeing my true place in the world. For the strength I need to fill that place, I will rely on the God of my understanding.

Just For Today Daily Meditation is the property of Narcotics Anonymous ©1991 by World Service Office Inc.

Realm of the Spirit

"As soon as we admitted the possible existence of a Creative Intelligence, A Spirit of the Universe underlying the totality of things, we began to be possessed of a new sense of power and direction, provided we took other simple steps. We found that God does not make too hard terms for those who seek Him. To us, the Realm of the Spirit is broad, roomy, all inclusive, never exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek. It is open, we believe, to all"

c. 1976AAWS, Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 46

November 05, 2005

Helping Others Helps You

We realize now that we were excessively self-centered, chiefly concerned about our feelings, our problems, other people's reactions to us, and our own past and future. Therefore, trying to get into communication with and to help other people is a recovery measure for us, because it helps take us out of ourselves. Trying to heal ourselves by helping others works, even when it is an insincere gesture. Try it some time.

c. 1998 AAWS, Living Sober, p. 85

Thought to Ponder . . .

Every time I encourage, I receive courage

November 04, 2005

Try to Think Faith Instead of Fear

A.A. Thought For The Day

Fear and worry had me down. They were increased by my drinking. I worried about what had done when I was drunk. I was afraid of what the consequences might be. I was afraid to face people because of the fear of being found out. Fear kept me in hot water all the time. I was a nervous wreck from fear and worry. I was a tied-up bundle of nerves. I had a fear of failure, of the future, of growing old, of sickness, of hangover, of suicide. I had a wrong set of ideas and attitudes. When A.A. told me to surrender these fears and worries to a Higher Power, I did so. I now try to think faith instead of fear. Have I put faith in place of fear?

Meditation For The Day

Spiritual power is God in action. God can only act through human beings. Whenever you, however weak you may be, allow God to act through you, then all you think and say and do is spiritually powerful. It is not you alone who produces a change in the lives of others! It is also the Divine Spirit in you and working through you. Power is God in action. God can use you as a tool to accomplish miracles in peoples' lives.

Prayer For The Day

I pray that I may try to let God's power act through me today. I pray that I may get rid of those blocks which keep His power from me.

©Hazelden Foundation PO Box 176 Center City, MN 55012©