Managing Our Unmanageability

Drop the pebble each day

When I first read Drop the Rock: Removing Character Defects—Steps Six and Seven, I learned many helpful examples of what I could do when feeling angry, hurt, or uncomfortable. Over time, I got better and better at not making uncomfortable situations in my life worse by practicing the important Step Six principle of being entirely ready to no longer be the way I used to be and the Step Seven principle of humbly following spiritual directions. But I also realized that even though I was managing my unmanageability, overall, I wasn't managing to feel better emotionally.

So I started to examine where or how I was picking up the rock I continued to have to drop each day—because it was taking a lot of my life energy to not do what I was used to doing and then do what I wasn't used to doing.

I realized I was reacting to the present as though it was the past. In other words, I was working on changing my responses to what was happening in my life; however, my reactions to life were the same.

The key elements of the Serenity Prayer shed light through the crack in my spiritual practice: I was changing the things I can and accepting the things I can't, but I wasn't doing anything else about my over-sensitivity and shaky self-esteem, examples of my "longer-standing difficulties" as Bill Wilson calls the sources of our emotional inebriety. (Refer to page 91 in the text: 12 Steps and 12 Traditions.)

So I started to look for more of the things I could do that would bring about changes in the things I can't. And the answer was right in front of me all along—the directions for Step 10 on page 84 in the Big Book continue to transform me, something I cannot do on my own.

Now I drop the pebble each day, sometimes into my own shoe, but most of the time not. Overall, I've got the best set of problems I've ever had as my touchstones for daily spiritual growth.

In the retreat, "Drop the Rock: The Ripple Effect of Doing the Things We Can," I will join other students of the spiritual path in discussing the essence of spiritual practices embodied not only in the Steps Six and Seven experience, following our Fifth steps, but in the moment-to-moment spiritual tipping point their practice provides as the core elements of Step Ten.

Fred Holmquist, director of the Lodge Program at the Dan Anderson Renewal Center, has worked in the field of addiction and recovery for 39 years. He is a popular international speaker on the Big Book and the principles of the Twelve Steps.

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