Tag Archives: twelve steps

Life Outside the Comfort Zone

14 Sep

I have a magnet on my refrigerator that says “Life begins outside the comfort zone”. A very dear friend suggests doing one thing every day out of your comfort zone. I started to think about my journey through recovery and thought about how much of it has been outside what I would consider my comfort zone.

From the very moment when we admit our weaknesses, in my case being powerless over alcohol, we become vulnerable and take a giant leap of faith outside our comfort zone. Alcohol was my comfort zone. I turned to it when I was sad and depressed, I turned to it when I was happy and wanted to celebrate, I turned to it for pretty much everything. Admitting that my life had become unmanageable because of alcohol was step one out of that territory.

The next monumental step for me was walking into the rooms of AA. I’ll never forget how desperate I was for help (often called the “gift of desperation”) but how scared I was to walk into my first meeting. I sat outside in my car on the phone with my friend who told me to go in because I would be with people who understood exactly what I was going through. She was right. Next step out of my comfort zone was saying the words out loud—“my name is Martha and I am an alcoholic”. I could barely get them out of my mouth.

As I continued on my path to recovery, there were several other turns away from what had become my norm. Asking someone to be my sponsor. Sharing at a meeting. Leading a meeting. Working the twelve steps. Surrendering and turning things over to my Higher Power. Asking for the “serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. Making a searching and fearless moral inventory of my character defects. Making a list of all the people I had harmed when I was drinking. Making amends to those people. And now, trying to help others as they go through this process or similar ones. It doesn’t have to be alcohol. Whatever your demons are, having the guts to face them and working to overcome them inevitably takes you out of your comfort zone.

As human beings, familiarity and routine are comforting to us.. Breaking out of those can be scary, sometimes terrifying. But without making a decision as to which path to take at the crossroads, and often choosing the more difficult one, we cannot grow. Another friend of mine often says “Sometimes the only form of transportation available to us is a giant leap of faith”. We can stay on the path of what is familiar and comfortable, even though in my case it could be fatal, or we can take that road filled with potholes and bumps which leads to a better life.

Growth and emotional maturity are the rewards of that step outside the comfort zone. But it takes work. Michael Barbarulo said “God has given you the power and desire to change but you still need to be willing to do the work. Doing the work means facing your fears and getting out of your comfort zone.” It has also been said that courage is not a lack of fear, but rather a mastery of fear with the help of your Higher Power. Although the work can be challenging to say the least, we don’t have to do it alone. We can use the resources available to us to smooth the potholes and bumps in the road and help us along our journey.

“Life is a never ending journey of reaching out of our comfort zone. We can always reach new levels.”
― Matthew Donnelly

Slowly I Turned, Step by Step……

17 Apr

I remember watching Abbott and Costello on the weekends with my brothers when we were kids. I still laugh when I think about the “Slowly I Turned…” vaudeville sketch they did. The routine features a man dramatically relating the tale of getting revenge on his enemy. He becomes so riled up in telling the story that he attacks the innocent listener (Costello). The man seems to regain his composure until someone once again says something that triggers another outburst and attack.

Strangely, this sums up how I feel about working my twelve steps in recovery. I make progress, step by step, and then WHAM! – something arms the cunning disease with more ammo to attack me. Especially when it comes to the fourth step. Step Four in the Twelve Step program in which I participate says we are to have “made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”. Many of you know what I mean when I say this is much easier said than done. This is where we need to pull up our big girl panties (or big boy boxers) and take a serious look at our shortcomings and character defects (which we humbly ask to be removed in Step Seven).

It’s taken me nearly 35 months of sobriety to get to my fourth step. Well, actually, I’ve gotten to it. I just haven’t gotten past it. So I sat down the other night and started writing. And writing. And going through my memories and writing more. Wow. Looking back at it now, I can’t believe that I didn’t see all the red flags about my alcoholism. Or even just a few of them. I guess it’s true when they say you won’t see it until you are ready.

I think everyone could benefit from doing the fourth step. A chance to take a look at the skeletons in one’s closet, air them out, and then bury them for good. Alcoholic or not, everyone has regrets. Everyone has traits that they would like to improve upon or change. Some try to ignore the past. Some beat themselves up over it. Some carry the guilt, remorse and shame around with them as heavy baggage. The hard part comes from stepping up (ha) and finding the courage to actually make the change or unpack the baggage and put it down, once and for all. Step Four can take you down and dark and scary road. Coming out on the other side, into the sunlight, takes some hard work but it’s well worth it.

I’m not saying that it’s as easy as deciding to make the change and simply letting go of the burden of past mistakes. It’s extremely difficult. As we look back, and take our “searching and fearless moral inventory”, sometimes things bubble up to the surface from deep down that we had forgotten or subconsciously repressed. Layers of the onion begin to peel off. As open as I am with my struggle with alcoholism, in the hope that I can help others, there are things that I could never imagine sharing. But according to Step Five, we have to admit to “God, to ourselves, and to one other human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” The one other human being can be anyone you choose—friend, sponsor, therapist, clergy, etc. No, the basketball that you draw a face on and call “Joe” doesn’t count.

Unfortunately, Step Four can be too tough for many alcoholics or addicts to tackle. The skeletons in the closet are more like tenacious zombies that are not ready to be put to rest. And some don’t understand that while God forgives their past regressions, they have to forgive themselves before they can move on. Later in the Twelve Steps, we come to the part where we have to make amends to those whom we have harmed. In many cases, some of these can not be made, whether it’s because the person is no longer alive, unable to be reached, or when making the amends would “injure them or others”.

I’m not proud of some of the things I’ve done. And looking back through years of therapy, I can see more clearly some of my character defects, especially the insecurity and low self esteem, that led to much of the regretful behavior. But I feel that the best thing I can do, the most helpful “step” in the right direction, is to make a living amends. To make an attempt every day to to the next right thing and live my life in a way that atones for past mistakes. To be present with my kids and my husband, to be a better friend to those who bless me with their friendship and to make the choice every day to take the next step down the right path.

“We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.” — Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life

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