The Traditions are designed to keep the GROUP from destroying ITSELF; the Steps are designed to keep US from destroying OURSELVES!

Tradition One:  “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on A.A. unity.” (Also: NA, OA, CA et.al.)

For me, a valuable aspect of this tradition has been the fact that, “No AA can compel another to do anything; nobody can be punished or expelled” from AA.  As someone who was routinely punished by society for my misbehavior, and has been expelled from more than one drinking establishment, I was relieved to find out that the only requirement for membership in AA really is an honest desire to stop drinking!

The Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous were first published in 1946 in The Grapevine magazine and were developed slowly and painfully through much struggle, hard lessons and compromise. Some of these struggles are outlined in the book “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.”  Also, they have been adopted by every 12-Step recovery program in the world.

The purpose of the Traditions is to ensure the continued existence of meetings and meeting places, to keep the doors open for everyone seeking relief from addiction, and to give us a framework to accomplish this task.

According to a pamphlet published by Alcoholics Anonymous in 1955, titled “AA Tradition, How It Developed, By Bill W”:
“When an alcoholic applies the Twelve Steps of our recovery program to his personal life, his disintegration stops and his unification begins. The Power which now holds him together in one piece overcomes those forces which had rent him apart. Exactly the same principle applies to each A.A. group and to Alcoholics Anonymous as a whole. So long as the ties which bind us together prove far stronger than those forces which would divide us if they could, all will be well. We shall be secure as a movement; our essential unity will remain a certainty…”

Additionally, Bill wrote: “Unity is so vital to us A.A.’s that we cannot risk those attitudes and practices which have sometimes demoralized other forms of human society. Thus far we have succeeded because we have been different.”

The Steps and Traditions that continue to underlie the 12-Step recovery model to this day remain a significant achievement in establishing a framework to establish a safe haven for people recovering from addiction and dysfunction in their lives.

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In August, I celebrated ten years of sobriety. It is hard to believe that I have had the honor of being in recovery for a decade. Today my life is so unbelievably different than it was when I was still actively using.

Like most addicts and alcoholics, my life was entirely out of control at every level. I had all but failed out of school, and after ten years in and out of college, I still did not have a degree. My parents tried their best to help me, but I manipulated them and blamed them for my using. My physical health was continuing to decline. There were many mental health diagnoses, but I was never honest with the doctors about the drugs and alcohol I was consuming. My addiction ended up landing me in the hospital and being Baker Acted. Then after about twelve years of active addiction and a year of failed attempts to get sober, a miracle happened. At some point, I became willing to be honest and follow some simple direction.

In the last ten years, recovery and spiritual principles have drastically changed me from the inside out. During this time I have remained free from drugs and alcohol, but that is just a part of the gift of recovery. I have an inner peace and connection with my Higher Power that is hard to put into words but is with me each day. I have regained my physical health and sanity. My family is a part of my life again. I am currently in a master’s program after earning two bachelor degrees. Last December I married my beautiful wife in front of our friends and families. I am available to help other addicts and alcoholics on a daily basis. Joining the millions of people in active recovery is the best thing that has happened to me.

To anyone currently struggling with the many forms of addiction, my prayer and hope is that you join this way of life.

Alex K.

 

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Just for Today by Lexi B.

On September 17th, 2018, posted in: recovery by

Do you ever have a day where everything doesn’t go your way? Your dog wakes you up barking, you spill your tea all over the counter (and clean dishes), traffic is awful, work is super busy, you’re in a bad mood… the list goes on. You open up your web browser and go to jftna.org and read the daily meditation. Just for today… Finally, a sigh of relief. Then, halfway through the day, your moment of clarity and relief is gone. You are stressed again. Can’t I catch a break?!

I recently finished my 7th Step with my sponsor. “We humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings.” I finally realized, when I have those bad days it is one of two things: I haven’t prayed to God or I am acting out on my character defects. Normally it is a combination of both. The 7th Step taught me that I’m not perfect. As my sponsor likes to me remind me, I am human. God is perfect. He can remove my pain and give me joy. All I have to do is ask.

The 6th Step was pretty painful, listing all my defects of character. Procrastination, Perfectionism, and Projecting, to name a few. I am so thankful the Steps go in order, or else I would still be stuck at Step 6 having a pity party for myself. Boo-hoo. Step 7 lets you humbly ask God to remove all this pain and replace it with the positive spiritual principle. I can finally say, “God, I need you. Please remove this hurt and show me how to live!” Unfortunately, with this Step it’s not that simple. God may remove a shortcoming, then it can pop back up in a few weeks.  I have to practice patience and trust in God’s timing. If I act out on one of my defects, I can say, “Okay, I made a mistake. Let’s try to learn from this and not do it again.” I can pray and once again ask God to remove it. Next time, hopefully, I can pause, ask for help and respond with the opposite spiritual principle. It is progress, not perfection, right?

Prayer: God, please help remove my defects of character and replace them with the opposite spiritual principle. Give me the patience to trust in your timing. Help me live out your will and help others. Amen.

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Balance in Recovery by Kellie W.

On September 10th, 2018, posted in: recovery by

Every year that I go through my recovery, my sponsor will give me a theme.  This is not, by any means, out of the book; it’s just something her and I have done from the beginning of my recovery.  Year one was just about getting my shit together.  Year two, we had a solid theme of “Relationships.”  Year three was “Balance.”   When year four began, we were kind of stuck.  You see, she had these themes correlate with my life happenings.  Finally, since balance is seemingly a never-ending struggle for me, we came to the conclusion that year four would be about, “Maintaining my Personal Recovery while Maintaining a Life.”  Seem redundant?  I promise it’s not.

Year one, I found myself living in my parent’s house, with my now ex-husband and my daughter who was two at the time.  I had pulled my job down over my head and was attempting to get off of a lot of prescription medication that I knew had become an issue in my life.  I found myself drinking heavily to cope and my then husband, who was a paramedic, had taken me to a few hospitals swearing I was having some sort of a nervous breakdown.  When the psych hospital that he had taken me to told him that I had a blood alcohol level of .36, shocked and not knowing where else to turn, he dragged me to my first 12-Step meeting.  I had a rough start, but something inside me knew that I was home for the first time in my life.  I had zero previous Twelve Step experience, but I was cognizant enough to know that the people in these meetings were talking about things that I understood, yet never talked about out loud.

I relapsed six days in and eventually found a sponsor and started working my Steps.  When that sponsor relapsed about six months into my recovery, I found myself at a loss. Quickly, I evaluated my experiences and reached out to a few friends, who connected me to my now sponsor.  We began working the Steps all over again and life was beginning to stabilize, until I realized that there was something in my life that wasn’t quite right. At about the time I picked up my one-year chip, my sponsor looked at me and said, “Year two is about relationships.”  I knew in my gut she was right.

I had always heard that you don’t begin any new romantic relationships in your first year of recovery, and I took that rule seriously.  However, the more independent, responsible and whole I was becoming, the more my marriage was suffering.  I couldn’t fathom at the time why, just when I was beginning to feel like whom I should have always been, that people couldn’t accept and love me just the same.  I now know the other side and just how hard it was, although being happy for me, to see an entirely new person emerge from the wreckage.  I wasn’t the same person my then husband married, and he knew it.

We attempted to work on it.  We sought counseling, but eventually the relationship crumbled and we divorced.  I truly believe that he was in my life for a reason and played a huge part in saving my life.  This is what he was good at, after all.  He was a rescuer by trade, a paramedic, a first responder. This is what he did.  He gave me a beautiful daughter and he saved my life.  I could never repay him for all that he did.  But, he had no idea how to handle a whole, independent, career-driven spouse.  It felt to me that he liked the sick version of me better.

It turns out that we are much better at being friends. We co-parent beautifully.  My now partner and I celebrate holidays with my ex’s family, so my daughter can have her whole family together at once, and really because we are all still family just the same.  He has a great girlfriend himself and I couldn’t ask for a better influence in my daughter’s life.  I am not saying that this is all common, or that it happened fast.  It took some work.  The divorce was hard.  My daughter, although young, had questions.  But we did our best and we continue to do our best for her.  I now am in what I believe to be the first healthy relationship of my life.  Year two, “Relationships”?  Yeah, I’d say so.

Year three I was insanely busy in my career.  My first solid job in recovery was back in my field of social work.  I integrated slowly, finishing my Steps and working on myself before I began to help others again.  I had a job where I was in my community, taking substance abuse prevention classes into the local schools in my area and working with a local substance abuse prevention coalition. I LOVED it and felt like I had found my calling.  However, I quickly found myself spending a LOT of time with work and not enough time on my own personal recovery.  It was tough, my job was recovery related and I felt like everything I did revolved around recovery…but I wasn’t taking enough time to slow my role in helping others, to look at my own recovery.  My sponsor stopped me and said, “You know, balance is a heck of a thing.”  Balance.  Ah, there was my theme.

I worked at that job, pushed every comfort zone I had, pushed through my anxiety to do presentations, where at the max were over 1,200 people at once. I won awards, gained community recognition and really became integrated and connected in ways I never knew I could.   I had a calling to help and a story to tell.  But if I didn’t take the time to work on me, all of those things would be a moot point.

At the end of year three, one of my sponsees passed away when her newborn son was just 21 days old. I was shocked to my core.  She was a beautiful soul with a family business, a new son, a new husband and what seemed like life at her fingertips. The grief I experienced was immense and I began to evaluate my personal relationships and if I was taking enough time to let the people in my life know just how special they were to me.  I knew I was doing something right because through all of these things, I didn’t have to numb myself, but I also knew, to get the answers I was seeking, I needed to look inward.

Today, I still work in the substance abuse field.  I am still connected to my community and do a lot of community work. I still adore it.  To say that I haven’t slowed down a bit, though, would be a lie. I am still passionately connected to helping others; but life is a journey, not a race.  Recovery is a lifelong process and if I don’t stride instead of sprint, I may miss all the beauty that I ask God to show me daily.

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Recovery has been amazing. Nothing has so much equipped me for dealing with life like the coping skills I have learned in sobriety and in working the 12 Steps of AA. I think acceptance is the best coping skill one can have and, for me, that was not realized until I could grasp the concepts of letting go and trusting the process. Acceptance teaches me that I may not like the process but my approval is not necessary. With acceptance, I have stopped trying to control things that I spent my life thinking I could control, and this has led to peace and serenity…most of the time! Sometimes I get frustrated but my response, in recovery, is much different than it was when I was active in my addiction. I definitely was the “I’ll show you” type of drinker, and the only one that suffered from such was me. I have had many magnificent life moments, many celebratory events in my life, and all appreciated with a clean and sober lens on life. I have also had some significant losses and devastating occurrences, and sobriety equipped me to handle those in a much more appropriate manner. I honestly have no regrets about being a recovered alcoholic and living life unfiltered. Ups and down, a sober life is a beautiful thing.

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I have found differences between “trying to be abstinent” versus “being willing to be abstinent.”
If I am trying to be abstinent, I am in a state of great confusion.
If I am willing to be abstinent, I am in a state of great humility.

Trying to be abstinent implies I should be able to do it, but I am struggling.
Being willing to be abstinent implies I do not know how to do it, but I am willing to learn.

If I am trying to be abstinent, I am closed to guidance.
If I am willing to be abstinent, I am open to receiving help.

If I have been trying to give up old ways and have condemned myself for failing to do so, I can simply become willing to learn how to replace those old ways with new ways of peace.

If I am trying to be abstinent, I tend to judge myself a failure.
If I am willing to be abstinent, no setback becomes a problem, for I know I will be shown the way.

Trying to be abstinent places the responsibility on me.
Being willing to be abstinent places the responsibility on God.

Trying to be abstinent is an act of separation from God.
Willingness to be abstinent is, in a sense, a prayer.

When I try, there is resistance.
When I am willing, there is acceptance.

If I am trying to be abstinent, everything is interference.
If I am willing to be abstinent, everything is of assistance.

Outside the will of God there is no such thing as success.
Inside the will of God, there cannot be any failure.

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Sometimes by Ashley N.

On January 30th, 2018, posted in: recovery by

Sometimes, I feel crazy. Not like straight-jacket crazy, but crazy nonetheless. I heard it said in a meeting over a decade ago that, “The good thing about getting clean is that I’d get to feel my feelings and the bad thing about getting clean is that I’d get to feel my feelings.” Ding, Ding, Ding! Nothing else that I’ve heard in the rooms rings more true.

This way of life has afforded me many things. Great friendships, jobs that I love, a roof over my head, a vehicle to drive, a kick-ass husband AND, most importantly, freedom from active addiction. My life is so full today that sometimes I literally feel like I cannot fit one more positive piece into the puzzle of my life. And then BAM! Everything seems to suck! I can’t manage my schedule, I can’t find time for my sponsees, I can’t find time for my Step work, I can’t find time for my friends, I can’t find time for a meeting, multiple things in my house need to be repaired and, all of a sudden, every piece that I try to squeeze into the puzzle, frustratingly, doesn’t fit.

When life gets out of control and I feel like I am spinning out and zooming around, I have to stop dead in my tracks and ask for help. I have to share in a meeting and get some experience, strength and hope. I have to write a gratitude list. I have to make choices about what I have to do, what I want to do and what can wait.

My disease is lying in wait for an opening. It is a daily possibility that I create that opening. BUT, if I do the next right thing, take care of myself and, most importantly, take using off the table as an option, everything will fall into place. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.

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September is National Recovery Month and our staff would like to share their experience, strength and hope.

“Don’t Drink or use no matter WHAT!”

I remember someone saying that to me in a meeting 34 years ago. I couldn’t have imaged “WHAT” the journey was going to be like.  Well, in short, it has been incredible.  As I remember, in that same meeting another wise member also mentioned to “strap on your seat belt for sobriety; it’s a hell of a ride.” Now that was some truth.  Don’t get me wrong, there have been some difficult moments, hours and days. But there have been some sweet, sweet times also. Working here at Turning Point of Tampa for the past 24 years has been one of the sweet ones.  I have met and worked with some of the most dedicated people to recovery, clients and staff.  I am grateful for where the journey has taken me.  So in essence, Alumni, don’t drink or use no matter what, make sure your seat belt is secure, be of service, and trust in your Higher Power, for the ride of your life!  — Joan B.

At the end of my drinking my cynicism about life and the world was only exceeded by the shame I felt about being Jim Dwyer. I remember clearly the realization I had about two weeks into rehab that if I was going to stay sober I’d have to start caring again…about myself, this life, this world…and let me just admit that caring again scared me more than trying to live without drinking….but here’s what I saw when I started to attend AA…beautiful, fallible, mixed up shook up, brave and crazy people trying to stay sober and care about each other, trying to accept life on life’s terms, trying to do some good despite their own shortcomings, despite the often inexplicable pain of this life…I was inspired to follow their lead and I’m grateful that I did…it’s a messy world and I am a bit of a mess myself, but because of sobriety I’ve been able to make a small contribution at times to decreasing the amount of pain in the world…it’s a decent and honorable way of life…addiction is slavery…recovery is the chance to be free.  — Jim D.

“Don’t leave 5 minutes before the miracle,” “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable” and “a grateful addict will not use” were all things that I heard early on in the rooms that really stuck with me.  After 11 years of “One Day at a Time” I could not be more grateful for the life that recovery has afforded me. Today I have a life beyond my wildest dreams.  — Ashley N.

People used to tell me-“Don’t give up before the miracle happens”.  Well, I haven’t given up and the miracles keep on happening. Thank God, thank AA, and thank God for other recovering people. — Hans L.

Turning Point of Tampa truly saved my life. While I was here I was defiant, unwilling and totally detached from my Higher Power. I didn’t see the point in working a program or being in treatment. I thought the only thing I had to do was to stop drinking and using. This thought process led me straight to a relapse. I simply wasn’t ready. After many failed attempts at getting sober, I finally reached my bottom and spent over a year in jail. During that time, the only hope I had at preparing myself for staying stopped was to use the tools I gained from Turning Point. I had to stop being the center of chaos.  I had to stop glorifying my use. And I had to get honest that I can’t do this by myself. I am not responsible for my disease but I am responsible for my recovery. Today I work a program of recovery through Alcoholics Anonymous. I have a sponsor who has a sponsor and I sponsor other women. I practice the 12 steps to the best of my ability and thanks to my Higher Power, AA and Turning Point,  I live a life I am grateful for and continue to progress spiritually, mentally and emotionally. One Day at A Time.  — Molly S.

To all alumni and friends of Turning Point of Tampa, I hope this writing finds you happy, healthy and sober. Although this is recovery month, we in the rooms know our program is a recovery day, a recovery hour and sometimes a recovery minute that we rely upon. I know for me I don’t always see my recovery program working in the moment. It can take some time passing, some perspective from my sponsor and network or some awareness from my higher power to see. What always reminds me of recovery working is when I see and hear the success stories of our alumni at Turning Point. I wish everyone continued happiness, joy and freedom on your journey! — Logan C.

Early recovery for me was about learning to do what I didn’t want to do. I realized that I did what I wanted to my entire life and all sorts of bad things happened. When I first came to AA I hated myself, but I allowed the women in the program to love me when I thought that I was unlovable. Through their love and the love of my Higher Power I began to see my worth. When I began to take direction from my sponsor and women with long term sobriety my life began to change. I learned I can’t do this alone and that together we really can recover! My life got better and everything around me got better. Today all the promises have all come true for me. Today I love myself, I’ve realized that I am worthy, capable and strong and that I have something good to offer this world. Through recovery I get to experience total freedom from my addiction Through recovery I get to experience total freedom from my addiction and no matter what comes my way, life is good. Really good!!  — Beverly W.

“Recovery is my parachute, it is my safety net….the umbrella I open above me, every morning.”  — Mark M.

“Nothing tastes as good as abstinence feels!”  I’m coming up on 30 years of abstinence, and when I first heard that quote 3 decades ago (OMG, THREE DECADES!!), food still tasted much better than anything I was feeling.  But now, thousands of meals down the road, my abstinent food now tastes great AND I get to feel happy, joyous and free much of the time.  I may not always feel happy and joyous, but I always feel FREE.  Living in recovery is as good as it gets!  — Clara W.

“An addict alone is in bad company!” Call your sponsor and your support network. ”  — Steve M.

I found the peace in my life on the day I stopped keeping score. I learned how to stop keeping score by working the 12 steps! — Mike H.

Turning Point of Tampa gave me hope when I absolutely believed there was no hope. How grateful I am and what a gift it is to be able to share that hope one day at a time with others.  — Ellen S.

 

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To My Dearest Love, Recovery

This month is your Birthday and although we have shared many of my Anniversaries together, this month is yours. Happy Birthday to YOU (for a change).

We have known each other for so long, it is amazing the things I keep discovering about you every day. I have learned so much about me, through you, and that is a relationship I have with no one except you…and I love you for that.

I love you for always being there for me, even when I was angry with you and didn’t talk to you for a while. You were there waiting. I love you for always believing in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself and argued again and again with you. You still believed in me. I love you for seeing the beauty in me that I could not see in myself, the beauty that has shone and been shown, with your gentle love and guidance.

I know that this is YOUR birthday, but this is a celebration for both of us. For the ups and the downs and the break-ups and the make-ups…We’ve made it through, together. This is a celebration of everything that is good and pure in my life. You are a constant celebration of love and to fellowship and to the power of both. YOU HAVE GIVEN ME THAT, despite everything I have tried to do to undermine you. YOU are the gift AND the celebration of life.

My darling love, I would not be here, writing this letter to you, if it were not for you.

Love Eternal,

Anonymous

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At a discussion meeting the other day, the topic was emotional sobriety.  “Oh, great!” I thought, “Here’s another topic that has absolutely nothing to do with ME!”

Also, I don’t usually hear this subject talked about very often in meetings, for some reason.  And now I know why.  What self-respecting (?) sensitive, childish and grandiose alcoholic wants to talk about THAT CRAP?  Not me, thank you very much.

Also, on that particular day and at that particular time, in that particular place, I was not feeling very emotionally sober.   Mr. Restless, irritable and discontented.  That’s me, at your service.

I realized almost at once that I wouldn’t have much to add to the conversation. In fact, it turned out that I had absolutely nothing to add.  Luckily for me, that didn’t matter because almost everyone that shared did.

After the initial shock that we would be speaking about something so unrelated to ME wore off, it quickly became apparent that I possibly, maybe, could be a little guilty of this very thing!  What are the odds?  Good, apparently.

After some reflection, I admitted that yes, I had indeed fallen into a pattern of almost continuous emotional binging for the past while.  This realization, in turn, explained my initial inability and unwillingness to hear what was being said.  Suddenly, a light bulb went on over my head.  No, I mean, literally, the light bulb in the ceiling came on.  Weird.

You would think that my frequent temper tantrums and constant need for attention should have tipped me off, but no.  One of my favorite quotes is from the movie “Inherit The Wind” where the character Henry Drummond says, “I don’t think about things I don’t think about!”  Great movie, great line.

Yes, I sat through it all, listened attentively and thought, “Ok, just MAYBE possibly I have this issue.  I’ll talk to my sponsor about it tomorrow!”

However, before I could speak to him, I saw someone the next day that I knew.  He said something to me in passing and, to tell the truth, I am not even positive what he said, but I got the gist of it.  It was a remark that was left over from a previous conversation I had had with him.  And it was a put-down, a put-down that had been concocted with another person, which meant that they had been talking about me behind my back!  Oh my.

Soon after the exchange, it hit me; awareness, then the shame spiral.  It felt like I had been punched in the gut, hard.  His joke with another person at my expense was the result of MY need to be the center of attention.  Up until that point, I had always felt that someone, anyone that happened to be around me, should know every joke or thought or humorous observation that came into my brain.  Pay attention to ME!

It made me sad to realize how much I depended on others for my own self-esteem.  Apparently, I was only OK if I thought that YOU thought that I was OK.  I know!  Complicated.

I was, and still am, completely unable to generate self-esteem on my own.

And here’s the real sucky part.  Turns out, if I want self-esteem, I have to do esteem-able things!  No one told me about THIS!

Either that, or I am just too damn sensitive.

Yeah, THAT’S it.

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