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PracticeThesePrinciples
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Living the Spiritual Disciplines and Virtues in 12-Step Recovery
Living the Spiritual Disciplines and Virtues in 12-Step Recovery

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Reflections: Can I Put You On Hold?

A few days ago I called my dentist’s office to confirm an appointment. Can I put you on hold? inquired the receptionist. Sure, I replied. On goes the elevator music. I waited. And waited. And waited.

Normally, I don’t make calls before or after I sit down to write. In fact, I avoid all contact with the outside world, lest I get distracted or sidetracked altogether. I wait till my workday is over. First things first.

But it was well into April and I hadn’t received the usual call asking me to confirm the appointment customarily scheduled at the conclusion of the last visit. Besides, I had never encountered a problem when calling the office before. So I took a chance and broke my regular discipline. Not surprisingly, it was a mistake. After about ten minutes, I hung up and went on with my work.

A couple of hours later, I called again, thinking they might not be as busy. Same voice. Same question. Ok, I said. Same mindless music. I suspected I was in for a repeat performance. I’ll give her 12 minutes, I thought. This time, however, I didn’t wait with my cell to my ear. Instead, I put it on speaker phone and continued to work.

Just about the time the 12 minutes were up, the receptionist came back on the line. She offered no apology for the unusually long wait. Nor did I try to elicit one. It turns out I didn’t have an appointment. She scheduled one, I thanked her, and that was that. Back to work.

Reflecting on the experience later, I tried to understand what had happened. I took inventory. Now, the idea of continuing to take inventory in Step 10 is generally thought to apply to situations where we don’t handle things well. And that is correct. In such situations, we want to examine where we’ve gone wrong so that we can improve and do better next time, and so that we can make amends where appropriate.

But the larger principle involved is that we need to continue to monitor ourselves and learn from our experience so that we can continue to grow. This is typically done with negative experiences, but it can also be done with positive ones. I can be done with those we don’t do well in, and with those we do. Some of us make it a habit to take stock in both. We find out what doesn’t work and try to stop doing it; we find what works and try to do more of that.. . .

[Image: Bill W.'s home in East Dorset, Vermont.]

Excerpt from 04/26/18 post in “Reflections in Recovery,” at http://PracticeThesePrinciplesTheBook.com. For full text, please click on the link.
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Spiritual Awakening: The Seeing Eye
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Practice These Principles: The Virtue of Kindness
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Practice These Principles: The Virtue of Perseverance
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Jay S. – AA History (Part 2): Oxford Group Origins and Connection to AA.

This is the second of a three-part series on the early history of AA, starting with its genesis in the Oxford Group. Here Jay S. focuses on OG founder Frank Buchman, the events leading to the spiritual experience which inspired him to start the Group, his first success with an alcoholic, and the sobering up of the Akron drunk which brought the Group to that city. Attending its first meeting were Dr. Bob and the two individuals who would eventually link him up with Bill W.: the Rev. Walter F. Tunks and Henrietta Seiberling. Note: given the nature of the topic, there’s a lot of religious talk here. Nevertheless, this is part of our history, and the message is one AA adopted: that the practice of spiritual principles can get us sober and change our lives for the better. (Duration: 1:10:40)

Posted 04/15/18 in "Audios & Videos" at http://practicetheseprinciplesthebook.com/. For more on this early history, click on link and see Part 1 and, in “Reflections,” “AA and the Oxford Group” and the resources listed therein.
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Virtue: The Concept

The term “virtue” is not an important part of the vocabulary of AA. The word and its cognates appear in our two basic texts only twelve times: eleven in the 12&12 and once in the Big Book. As Bill Sees It employs it five times. Only on two occasions is “virtue” coupled with specific instances of what the word traditionally designates, as in “prudence” and “humility,” quoted below.

Instead, the concept of virtue and particular instances of it are referenced in the Big Book and the 12&12 using a variety of other terms. These include assets, attributes, concepts, keynotes, practices, precepts, qualities, standards, strengths, tenets, themes, tools, traits, and values.

Obviously, these words are very general and can apply to a broad range of things which have nothing to do with recovery. This overgeneralization and imprecision, which is also shown in the use of the word “principles,” is one of the reasons why many of us might find it hard to get a handle on what “these principles” refers to in Step 12 and how we are to practice them.

How we arrived at identifying one set of those principles as virtues—and what this means for the way we work the Steps—is discussed at length in PTP. Here we are interested in summing up a number of basic points from that discussion and supplementing it with a variety of quotes reflecting what has been thought and said about the concept of virtue over the ages in different fields, traditions, and cultures. This will hopefully help us to improve our understanding and practice of the specific virtues in each of the Steps. . . .

[Image: Dr. Bob's and Anne's house in Akron, Ohio.]

Excerpt from 03/29/18 post at http://PracticeThesePrinciplesTheBook.com in “Practice These.” For full text and related quotes, please click on link.
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Jay S. – AA History (Part 1): 12-Step Origins and The Big Book

This is the first of a three-part series on the early history of AA, starting with its genesis in the Oxford Group. Here Jay S. concentrates on showing how the OG influenced the 12 Steps. He does this very concretely by drawing on the experience Bill W. and other alcoholics had in the Group, quoting OG members and literature and showing how some of their key ideas and even some of the language they used are later echoed in the 12 Steps and the Big Book. Duration: 1:19:00.

Posted 03/10/18 in "Audios & Videos" at http://practicetheseprinciplesthebook.com/. For more on this early history, click on link and see in Reflections “AA and the Oxford Group,” and the resources listed therein.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nc43bQcd3nc
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Practice These Principles: The Virtue of Courage
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AA and the Oxford Group

For the first 12 years of my sobriety I attended meetings in the Gramercy Park section of New York, near the headquarters of the Oxford Group at Calvary Episcopal Church and their 23rd Street mission, where Bill W. first got sober. AA meetings were still held in the adjacent church building, where Bill, Ebby T., Hank P., Fitz M. and other future AAs first met.

It was at one of those meetings that I first admitted my life had become unmanageable, after hearing a woman named Irene share about the unmanageability of her own life when she drank. Yet I had no idea of the history that surrounded me. Apparently, neither were apparently my fellow alcoholics. I never even heard the name Oxford Group mentioned.

That changed many years later when I moved to a rural area upstate. At Big Book meetings in particular, the subject of AA’s origins in the Group would sometimes come up. Invariably, this would arouse controversy. People either liked the Group, or intensely disliked it. The reasons were never clear. No one actually seemed to know much about the matter. Still, it was obvious that the divide had to do with religion.

That, as I eventually learned, had divided AAs from the very start. That’s why the Big Book insists ours is a spiritual, not a religious program. That’s also why it insists on open-mindedness as one of the key principles that will enable us to work it. Any alcoholic can recover, it asserts, “provided he does not close his mind to all spiritual principles.”

That assertion would seem to lay the need for open-mindedness more heavily on those who have a problem with the spiritual angle of the program than on those who don’t. And that is correct, for as the book emphasizes, the alcoholic “can only be defeated by an attitude of intolerance or belligerent denial” with regards to things spiritual.

Yet the Big Book doesn’t mean to suggest that close-mindedness is required only of the agnostic, the atheist, or the secularist in general. Believers too may need to practice this principle, and with regards to the same issue. Both groups tend to conflate spirituality and religion, only from different directions. One is disposed to reject things because of their association with religion while the other is disposed to accept them for exactly the same reason, particularly if it is their religion.

Something of this sort appears to be at work in the division evident in the rooms regarding the Oxford Group and its influence on AA. Some seem to oppose the Group simply because of its evangelical affiliation, while others seem to support it precisely because of that affiliation. In neither case does the conflict seem to have anything to do with the facts. Minds have been already made up, and closed.

Our two texts’ silence on the matter has not helped. Fearing to stoke the flames of controversy, Bill made a decision not to make any direct reference to the OG in the Big Book or the 12&12. Indeed, for a long time he sought to distance AA from the Group in the public eye. Nevertheless, Bill had always kept an open mid. When he finally acknowledged the Group’s contributions, he was even-handed and balanced. The Oxford Group, he said, had taught AA both what to do and what not to do.

Borrowing from the literature on the subject, we will try to summarize that these positive and negative lessons are, making available the basic information that can help us to come to a reasonable and fair-minded understanding of the issue. For those who may wish to explore the topic further, sources are footnoted.

Excerpts from 02/28/18 post in “Reflections,” at http://PracticeThesePrinciplesTheBook.com
For full post, including references and resources, please click on link.
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Daily Bread
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