Practicing Principles Before Personalities

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My 12-step program promises that I’ll get to practice its principles in every aspect of my life.

Those principles include showing love and tolerance when someone irritates the crap out of me.  So, whether I’m at home, at work, in an airport or a grocery store, whenever there’s an opportunity to smile, nod, and turn the other cheek, I get to leap into action.


Don’t you sometimes just want to stay in bed so that you don’t have to play nice with people?

A code for living

My life is all about not drinking; although I don’t think about drinking, I often think about not drinking.  My code for living is meant to keep myself in a good spiritual condition so that I don’t drink.

Trust me, after 21 1/2 years of sobriety, it’s just as important to follow my code for living.  I’m not immune to slipping back into my active disease of addiction.

But since you do have to get out of bed in the mornings and interact with people, what drives you?  What is your code for living?

Your code may look different from mine, especially if you don’t participate in a 12-step program.  Would you say that you live by a set of  principles?

Do you think about how you can improve your interactions with others?

Part of my work is to improve my humanity to man and increase my appreciation of self.  That’s a heady way of saying I try not to scream or swear at you when you cut me off in traffic or when you question my ability to do my job.

It’s taken a long time in sobriety to realize that my reactions to you depend on how well I’m practicing my code for living.

When the code is clicking, every other aspect of my life is good, including my outlook of the personalities that populate my mind.

Those dreaded personalities

Do you ever dread being with certain people because you know they’re going to suck the life out of you?

It’s not about them, is it?  Remember:  personalities cannot kill your principles!

Admittedly, too much of my time is spent anticipating–and dreading–being with you, if your personality is different from mine.  There are many different kinds of personalities that rub me the wrong way and I’m not very good at practicing tolerance if that’s the case.

Personalities that exhibit large egos, insecurities, a lack of leadership if they’re leaders, a low-level of respect for anyone beside themselves–those are all types that cause me to mentally flail.

The way I see it, I have two options–hang out in silent scorn or live and let live.  The latter gives me freedom, the former kills my joy.

The bonus round

If your code is functioning well, and you really want to advance spiritually, consider praying for those dreaded personality types.  If someone is causing you grief, focus prayerful thoughts on them for two weeks and I promise that you’ll change.

Consider it the Code of Conduct Bonus.

Only people can affect the change of principles, not the other way around.  Only you can change your reaction to personalities.

Putting principles before personalities means withholding judgment.  It means not playing the sarcasm game, letting icky circumstances play out naturally and abandoning the need to insert your will into situations.

What do you think?  Are you up for trying?  Or would you rather stay in bed with the covers pulled around your nose?  Leave a note in the comments below and tell us about your code for living.

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10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There) + Book Giveaway!

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Regular readers received a heads up that I would be reviewing 10 Steps; they probably knew the review would be favorable.  After all, I did include all those quotes in my Monday prequel blog post.

So let’s cut to the chase.  There is nothing about Galen Pearl’s gem (intentional pun) of a book that I dislike.

My preference for inspirational books is less emphasis on expertism and more on “been there, done that.”

That’s why Galen had me with her introduction.  She writes, “I am no prophet or guru.  I am no expert.  I am a beginner.  Always.”

With those simple words, I knew that whatever came next–all 10 steps plus one (The 11th Step:  You Can Go Home Again)–would be gut-level honest and real-life understandable to me.

I love that kind of humility in a writer, in fact, in a person.

Like most people, I struggle with my spiritual lessons.  As it turns out, so does Galen.  But she is courageous enough to share her experience about the specific thing or things that moves her beyond the life problem and into a concrete solution.

She pours herself onto the page with great sensitivity and candor.  “Later, when I became a mother, I felt responsible for my son’s autism.  My failure to find a cure for him was a personal failure that caused more soul anguish than I have words to describe,” Galen writes.  “In the part of my mind that does not listen to reason, not only was his autism my fault but so was my inability to cure him.”

She calls these kinds of thoughts “shadow beliefs” and says that they are rooted in us as fear, anxiety, an overdeveloped sense of responsibility (that’s me!) and ultimately, that it’s not okay to be happy.

Galen writes that her life-changing moment came when she realized shadow beliefs are little more than choices–decades old, but choices nonetheless–that can be countered with new beliefs.

I love these two sentences, “We choose the stories we tell ourselves.  Even better, we can choose not to tell ourselves any stories at all and just pay attention to what is really happening.”

10 Steps is not a “how-to” book.

I’m a little slow sometimes.  I’ve been reading Galen’s blog of the same name (http://10stepstofindingyourhappyplace.blogspot.com/) without giving much thought to the whole 10 steps thing.

When I learned the book would have the same title, I thought, well, that’s cool.  I’ll learn the 10 ways to find my happy place.

Silly me.

I suppose Galen’s 10 steps will each take me to happiness, but I believe I stand a much better chance for ongoing happiness if I practice them wholly as a way of life.  I think that’s what she has in mind.

I first realized the difference as I read Step 4:  Feel Your Feelings.

When I turned the page, my first thought was, “Dear God, please not the feelings thing.”  Then my eyes fell across these words, “This morning, I realized that all week I have been fighting my feelings instead of feeling my feelings.  I relaxed my resistance and surrendered to my feelings, whispering, ‘This, too.  This, too.’”

Immediately, Galen’s beautiful description spoke to the weeping in my soul.  I knew then that the parenthetical part of the book’s title would mean the reversal of several long-standing operating guidelines.  I also knew that all my poker chips were going to the middle of the table; I was all in this happiness game.

Hard to have a favorite step/chapter

Forced to pick, I’d probably choose the hardest one (at least to my over-achieving mind):  Step 8:  Forgive Everyone.  Galen’s stories in this step took my breath away.  She has a magical way of taking complex life concepts and weaving their components into an easy-to-wear garment.

Read it.  You’ll see what I mean.

Galen and I have several things in common:  we write and blog, we practice spiritual principles, we love our dogs unapologetically and our people both come from Missouri.

After reading her book, I now know that we’re also members of a sisterhood of imperfect seekers.  As she writes, “If the present moment is my home, then I spend a lot of time on road trips.”

How’s that for permission to stumble along life’s byways?  Join us, won’t you?  Galen and I would love to traverse the trail with you.

Leave a comment below or send me an email about why you want to find your way to happiness and stay there.  The best response will receive a free hard copy of Galen’s book. 

If you’d like to order a copy, go to your local independent bookseller, or online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It’s also available as an ebook from Kindle and Nook.

Here’s the best part:  All proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to Edwards Center, a nonprofit organization providing residential and vocational services to adults with developmental disabilities. Galen’s two sons live at Edwards Center.  www.edwardscenter.org
Beth6 fix.cropped 236x300 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There) + Book Giveaway!Galen Pearl’s stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul and A Cup of Comfort anthologies, and her popular blog, 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There), attracts thousands of readers every month. Recently retired from teaching law, she regularly leads retreats and workshops on developing habits to grow a joyful spirit. A Southern girl transplanted to the Pacific Northwest, she enjoys her five kids and two grandchildren, martial arts, her cabin in the mountains, and mahjong. http://10stepstofindingyourhappyplace.blogspot.com/
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Balance Point: Where Intention and Integrity Meet

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Here’s my intention for B Here Today: I want to help you balance your life “out there” with the peace of your being, the part that resides “in here.”

Sounds great, doesn’t it?  But what does it mean?

Admittedly, I’ve struggled a bit on the two or three occasions when I’ve been asked to explain BHT’s purpose.  Then, last month, I attended a workshop in Austin, TX hosted by Marcia Wieder, CEO and founder of Dream University.

She said something that really resonated with me.  She said that phenomenal things occur when intention meets up with integrity.

That’s it, I thought!  That’s the balance point needed for peace and serenity.  When your intentions (what’s “out there”) intersect with your integrity (what’s “in here”), you find a point of harmony.

And harmony is what we all want, isn’t it?

Setting your intentions

Have you ever said you intended to do something but then never followed through with action steps?

A couple of months ago, I set an intention to take better care of my spiritual needs, but I failed to take action, which Marcia says is the only thing that deters doubt, fear, reality and insanity (I added the last word.).

Not only did I not take action, I deliberately chose inaction.  I stopped doing one of the things that is spiritual medicine for me–I stopped going to my 12-step meetings.  Call it an experiment.

I laid it all out nicely in my head–which as anyone in recovery knows, is a dangerous place to hang out.

I fell in with the pack of people that Marcia describes as “most people”–those who have one foot in reality (the reality they make up) and the other foot in doubt.

The place I created for myself was manufactured, solitary and only temporarily peaceful.  I say manufactured because I repeated a mantra of “I am happy.  I am fine,” to trick myself into believing I was at peace.

My made-up playground was mine alone–I pushed everyone else out of bounds.  It was temporary because I think I knew in my heart of hearts that it wouldn’t–and couldn’t–last.

Of myself I am nothing

Life is not meant to be a sentence of solitary confinement.  Ah, but my ego sure believes it might be worth a try.

The unhappy ending to this story–the darkness before the dawn–is that I was massively out of integrity with myself.  Marcia says that when we’re not in integrity, we’re not living in peace, love and joy.

Today, I’m tossing aside that ego-generated reality and writing a new ending.  I’m holding tight to Marcia’s words, “Intention with integrity is the combined stake in the ground for living the dream.”

Is there an area in your life where you have good intentions but are having trouble with follow-up actions?  Please know that we are all capable of inaction from time to time.

If it’s a perpetual trouble spot for you, though, you may be out of integrity with an agreement you’ve made with yourself or with someone else.  Let this be your first action step:  Fix your agreement!

Then sit back and watch the next steps fall into logical order as your stake sinks further and further into your balanced life.

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A Recovery Staple: The Serenity Prayer

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Many of us are familiar with the prayer that begins, “God, grant me the serenity . . . ”

In my 21 years of sobriety, I’ve recited the first verse of The Serenity Prayer more than 3,000 times at meetings.  I’ve repeated its words during countless other times of pain, desperation and bewilderment.

I’ve listened to speakers break it down word-by-word, dissecting it’s nuances.  To me, the prayer is summarized with these five, simple words:






A Prayer to Ease Political and Social Unrest

I read an article in The Huffington Post today about the Serenity Prayer and its original prayer date in 1943 during the war against Germany.  Its creator, Reinhold Niebuhr (who was born in my home state of Missouri), first spoke the prayer in a farming community in Heath, MA.  He was expressing his political as well as spiritual concerns, according to Niebuhr’s daughter, Elisabeth Sifton in her book The Serenity Prayer: Faith and Politics in Times of Peace and War:

“To pray for the strength to change unjust, illiberal, selfish policies which gave rise to war, social unrest, and economic woe; to pray for the strength to help fashion a more fair, just, and peaceful world, and to work for that end.”

Sifton goes on to write in her book:

“The Serenity Prayer addresses the inconsolable pain, loss and guilt that war inflicts on the communities that wage it; it goes to the heart of the possibilities and impossibilities of collective action for collective betterment—that is to say, to the heart of the possibilities for peace.”

Don’t you find it comforting to know that just as the prayer was written to ease the “inconsolable pain, loss and guilt of war” caused by communities or even countries, so to is the prayer meant to console you for the pain, loss and guilt that you have waged against yourself and others?

Aren’t we ultimately praying for “the possibilities of peace” when we say The Serenity Prayer?

A Response to Applying the Prayer to Recovery

The Huffington Post asked Sifton what she might say to a room full of AA members about The Serenity Prayer being used as a tool for recovery.

She responded in an email,

“I’d tell them that they’re a step ahead of most everyone else, since they have acknowledged the need for daily, patient, modest work in building a good life–not everyone else has.”

During this month of celebrating Recovery, may we all think about the ways we have built a good life.  I know I’m feeling an immense amount of gratitude for the ways in which I’ve grown to love and accept myself–warts and all!–in the last 21 years.

Those five words listed above–God, Serenity, Acceptance, Courage and Wisdom–represent a five-pointed guiding star in my life.  I know that I’m a better person thanks to The Serenity Prayer and I pray daily to be shown how to carry its message of peace into all my activities, not just those surrounding recovery.

How do you incorporate The Serenity Prayer into your life?  Please share in the comments section below.

(photo courtesy of xololounge)
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4 Ways to Bridge Spirituality and Recovery

 4 Ways to Bridge Spirituality and Recovery

Savvy Families in a Drug Saturated Culture

There is a saying within the recovery community that religion is for folks who don’t want to go to hell and that spirituality is for folks who’ve been there.

This past weekend, Faith Lutheran Church in Bellaire, TX, a suburb of Houston, hosted a day-long event that explored connections between, not religion and recovery, but spirituality and recovery.

The gathered group of church members, addicts and recovery workers agreed that religion provides dogma and interpretations of a belief system.  People in recovery may or may not actively participate in churches or religious bodies; it’s not even essential to their recovery.

However, according to Pastor Kerry Nelson, a case can be made that spirituality is absolutely necessary for recovery because “spirituality is about relationships, it’s about connectedness.”

There is an online article written by a member of the recovery community called “Spirituality is a Simple Way of Living,” that reads, “It seems there are four basic movements that recovering people need to make to put their lives on a positive spiritual basis. The first of these is a movement from fear to trust; the second, from self-pity to gratitude; the third, from resentment to acceptance; and the fourth, from dishonesty to honesty.”

Don’t you think that most people–in recovery or not–could use that advice?  I know I can but it seems like a lot of work.

A Simple Bridge

I think there’s a more simple path across a solid bridge between spirituality and recovery.  Pastor Kerry defines the bridge as moving between the beliefs of an addict or alcoholic initially entering recovery (which tend to be negative) and the healthy beliefs of that same person when he or she embraces the power of relationships.

Relationships–with yourselves, families, classmates, colleagues, communities and with a personal higher power–are the building blocks of spirituality.  The strength of your recovery is based on the lessons grown within each relationship block.  The more grounded you are within any relationship, the more firmly the blocks cement your spirituality with your recovery.

Here are Pastor Kerry’s four belief shifts that bridge recovery and spirituality:


He describes the addict as initially believing sentences like, I am bad.  I am worthless.  I am stupid.  I am fat.  I am short.  I am ugly.

The bridge is I am a good person with the disease of addiction.  I am worthy.  I am smart.  I am a beautiful person.


Initial belief:  If people know who I really am, they will reject me and I’ll be all alone.

Bridge belief:  When people get to know me, they will like me for who I am and I’ll never be alone.


Initial belief:  My needs will never be met if I have to depend on others, so I’ll never depend on others and just take care of myself.

Bridge belief:  I have many needs that other people can help me with when I allow myself to depend on them.


Initial belief:  The most important thing in my life is my next drink or drug.

Bridge belief:  I will work on my recovery one day at a time because my recovery is the most important thing in my life.

When you think about it, tools used for bridging between spirituality and recovery  can also be used to step from any unhealthy behavior toward the higher part of yourself.  Knowing yourself–having faith and believing in yourself–does create a bridge between who you no longer want to be and the person you’re striving to become.

How are you bridging old beliefs with new ones?  Let us know in the comments section below.

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