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Juggling Made Simple

Beating addiction is hard work. Not everyone is up for the challenge. It requires a tremendous vigilance but that vigilance is rewarded in happiness, serenity, peace and an unselfish love.

Picture yourself as a juggler and the disease of alcoholism as the three balls you are juggling. Those balls are the physical allergy, the mental obsession and the spiritual bankruptcy. As long as the balls are in the air the disease can’t hurt you. For some it takes several tries to get the balls all in the air and moving in a circle around the juggler. Others seem to get it quicker but the goal is the same, to get in to the rhythm of recovery where the balls stay in the air circling the juggler seemingly without thought on the juggler’s part.

Going to meetings, reading the book “Alcoholics Anonymous”, working the steps, helping others and carrying a message of hope are the rhythm of recovery. Imagine meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous as a place where people go simply to practice juggling. The more often you are there, the sharper your skills and the less you are concerned about distractions.

Just as you may be thinking, “three balls circling is not much of an act. Is this all there is?” a plate is thrown in with the balls. This additional item requires your attention but you have seen people at your meeting juggling items more than the three balls. You are not thrown off when this happens to you. The plate is easily melded in to the mix as you have consistently practiced juggling and your skills are sharp. Soon a bowling pin is thrown in. You are now working a little more diligently. Returning to your meetings your peers assure you these additional items may seem difficult but they are simply life situations and life events. They show you how easily they are juggling even more unusual items.

The alcoholic, sober and working a program of recovery, puts his name in to a hat making himself available for good things. You are consistent at work. Unlike in your using days, you are now showing up daily and performing 120%. Your supervisors see a passion that had been lacking and you are quickly promoted. Although desired and worked for, the promotion carries with it more responsibility, more stress and a bigger commitment of time. Perhaps this is the bowling pin thrown in to the juggling act.

Staying available for good things, you are soon surrounded by a host of friends. Some of these may be the men and women in your meetings but you are available for friendships at work, in the community, at your church. Friendships grow and deepen and eventually one stands out as special. This is another item thrown in to the juggling act. It makes the act more exciting but requires time and concentration for the juggler to get it smoothly in to the routine.

At this point the act may be overwhelming. You may be getting tired. Audiences are thrilled seeing the bowling pin, the plate, the milk carton, the sword, the unusual items being juggled. You are concentrating so hard on these unusual items that you do not notice as, one at a time, the original three balls fall out of the act. Slowly the entire act begins to fall apart. One more item may fall out of the array of items beginning juggled. It too is hardly noticeable. Maybe it’s that participation in the bicycle riding club that you have given up because you just don’t seem to have the time anymore. A while later another item will fall out. You notice this and redouble your concentration on the remaining items in the air. Concentration, however, is not enough to keep the items in the air. The structure of the juggling act (the original three balls) was laid aside and the act began to fall apart and you really don’t even know when that started.

Alcoholism is a subtle foe. Recovery opens people up to a really full life and, ironically, too often that full life moves them away from recovery. Due to increased opportunities and responsibilities they cut from four meetings a week to one and that one is not attended consistently, “I can’t go to the meeting tonight. I am behind on my laundry and this is the only opportunity I will have to do it”. They may limit time available to “helping others”. “I can only answer my phone between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.. I will return the calls when I can but I am working during the day and the evenings are for my family”. The actions that made them available for a big life are being pushed out by the big life. Soon restlessness, irritability and discontent will take their place and the big life will start to become small again.

The good news is the juggling balls are right at your feet. You can pick them up at any time and integrate them back in to your life.

Does this mean the alcoholic has access to a full life but cannot have a full life? Not at all. One of the major goals of the 12 step recovery process is to return the alcoholic to the mainstream of life. Left untreated, the disease will take everything good and decent from the alcoholic. Recovery allows each man and woman the opportunity to put their name in a hat and become available for everything good in life if they are willing to work for it. The diabetic may occasionally change the hours of his dialysis but he will always have dialysis. The alcoholic’s program of recovery must be seen in the same light.

Being attentive to the physical allergy means “do not drink”. Do not use any substance for the purpose of altering feelings, awareness or moods. Attention to the mental obsession requires constant thought of others. The mental obsession begins with selfish and self centered thoughts. Replacing these with thoughts of others is paramount. The spiritual bankruptcy requires a spiritual solution. The thoughts of others must be followed by action. Helping others change by sharing how he has changed may be the most spiritual thing any man can do.

If these conditions are met daily, a full life is possible, attainable and enjoyed by countless men and women.

Email your questions or topic suggestions to: and let’s experience this journey together. You will remain anonymous.

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