Surrender And Service: Milestones On The Road To Joy
I got to DA “drowning and on fire” in the fall of 1995. As soon as I learned that Debtors Anonymous existed, I knew everything was OK. I knew the 12 Steps, I knew they worked for me, and I knew I would do what I was told.
I couldn’t wait to be told what works. I found a meeting about 45 miles away, cut up my credit cards, and sent them back to the creditors. I found a man in my area with a little more experience than me and, along with my wife, we started a meeting in our town. I never used unsecured credit again. I worked the Steps, went to meetings, had Pressure Relief Groups, and began to live in the peace and the blessings of fiscal solvency. The trouble left what had been our financially “troubled” marriage. I began to experience the joy that recovery brings to life.
At my job my newfound clarity about money got me promoted to manager. I had what I wanted and rode that wave for another 6 years--always experiencing greater abundance than I had ever believed possible for me. I was slated to become the co-director of my company and eagerly waited my ‘final’ promotion. I believed:
a) The top was as high as I could go and;
b) That my eyes could see the top and;
c) I was looking at it.
I was wrong about all three.
Throughout this period I had been keeping my numbers, intentionally working the Steps, and speaking to at least one DA member daily. On the morning of September 11, 2001, I made the decision to retire from my 13-year position. On that morning I understood there was probably more to life than my manager position, my salary, and the comfort of my familiar groove. I went home on February 15, 2002 and began creating my new life with a new goal: create and run companies. I didn’t exactly know the details of what I wanted, but I knew the feeling of what I wanted. I had an emerging vision, but at that moment it was only a brighter spot in a foggy image.
About 3 weeks after I left my job, a similar corporation called and asked me to come and help solve some problems for them. I declined. I was retired. They called again and again. Nice people but they couldn‘t take a hint. I got tired of them calling and one day, to make them finally leave me alone, I told them “You can‘t afford me.” The director on the phone simply asked “How much?” I gave an amount that I knew no one would ever pay me so she’d stop calling. To my shock, she immediately agreed to the fee. I hung up the phone and realized I just created a consulting business.
I compiled a list of what I would do for them and I completed that list in 9 days and submitted my invoice. I was looking forward to going back to retirement. When I turned in the invoice the director said, “You can‘t leave!” Someone opened my mouth and replied, “I won‘t keep working for that amount.” and we increased my fee by 50 percent. I was now charging what no one would ever pay me, plus 50 percent. I suddenly knew that The Rules I had always believed—about who I had become and what was possible—were shaky at best. Another company called. And another. And another. I had more money than ever flowing in, and I had the tools I had learned in DA to use the money wisely and stay sane.
Twenty-five years earlier I had created a business that had become quite successful, but at that time I knew nothing about recordkeeping and nothing about solvency. When I owned that business I wanted to spend all the money, never go to work, and spend my days hanging out with friends. It’s no surprise that I lost that business. It still exists today and it’s been interesting to watch it grow—as a result of recovery, my feelings about my role in creating it have gone from painful to joyful that it still exists, and that it‘s now the dominant business in its field.
Now, in my new consulting business, I was succeeding. I knew about recordkeeping, keeping a prudent reserve, and staying solvent. Those were wonderful tools to bring to this business, but something was missing. I experienced a high level of fear of losing. I was filled with anxiety, trying to control things that were beyond my control
In 2003, I began a service commitment that inspired me to go to as many meetings as possible in as many towns as possible. This was heaven to me. I loved our little rural home meeting, but I was suddenly exposed to more recovery, more inspiration, more ideas. I was receiving all the blessings that come from being of service. As a part of this service, I visited a Business Debtors Anonymous meeting with no idea of what it was. It took a while—3 or 4 minutes—before I knew I was in the right place.
In BDA I began to learn a new level of surrender. I could turn my will and my life over to my Higher Power, but it never occurred to me that my HP might have some business management guidance. A BDA member shared an experience of being led to give up a good business for an unknown greater. At some level I understood him, and I tried what he described for finding Vision: I closed my eyes daily in meditation and wrote down whatever I saw. For three weeks I saw black. Every day at 3:30 I closed my eyes and saw black. Three weeks into this I realized I was watching a ‘movie’ of me owning and running the type of business I was being hired to advise. I wrote it down but I thought it was wishful thinking. I was smart enough to know it couldn’t happen, but it was a nice idea and I wrote it down because I didn’t want to get in the habit of deciding which ideas that came in my meditations were the “good” ideas.
That was the fall of 2003. I was given my first of these businesses within 2 months, and took over that year. I was told I was chosen because of my experience and because I was solvent and financially stable. Somewhere along the line my reputation must have changed from desperate debtor, borrower, check bouncer. I know I was chosen because of all that I had received from DA and BDA, and because of my HP.
In August of 2004, while carrying out another DA service commitment, I received a phone call requesting I come to meet a board of directors I didn’t know in a company I didn’t know. They needed some help with a very small rural business that wasn’t doing well. They couldn’t afford me, so I decided to offer 2 free days of evaluation. We scheduled the meeting for 2 weeks later.
On the way to the meeting I was on the phone with a BDA member. She gave me some advice that seemed important to my task at hand. What I got from her advice was to notice that I was praying to my Higher Power, but I wasn’t paying any attention to the content of my prayer—I had no idea what I was asking for. I pulled off the road and began to write down my prayer. I wrote that I wanted to be of service to this agency and its clients. I wrote that I wanted increased prosperity and that maybe, someday, the board would give me this business. I arrived for the meeting the next morning, introduced myself and they gave me the business. Not “maybe, someday.” They patiently waited while I gave my introductory spiel, and then asked, “Will you take over our business?”
I continued my daily vision meditation, eyes closed, pen and paper in my lap. I had stopped questioning the images that came to me—I simply wrote them down and wondered how in the world they were going to happen. (As time has passed I’ve realized that all of these visions are going to happen, but not “in the world.”) Seventeen days before I took over that business I had a vision that I could now afford to buy some of these businesses, but, of course, no one would ever sell a business of this type. Two days later I received a phone call from a business owner with a chain of five similar businesses who wanted to retire. Three days before I opened the second business, I became a partner in that chain. From my original vision in 2003, I had seven businesses of a type that I knew was ’impossible’ to get. With the support of others in DA and BDA I now run these businesses in financial solvency and debt free. When I forget how incredible this is, my meetings remind me. When I try to take charge, my support system reminds me to turn it over.
Last year my wife and I had visions of being authors. We said we didn’t know how to do that, but God said we did know how. Our first book is nearing the printing phase and should be in our hands in a few months. It‘s been an exciting process for us to sit at the keyboard and watch our fingers type and type. We’re always amazed at what ends up on each page. I now have a new vision gaining clarity in my awareness. When the visions are big, they often come in little pieces that I seem to be able to grasp—little pieces on little pieces turning into big visions. I don’t know how I’m going to create this vision, but I know it’s coming. The wonderful news is that I’ve learned in recovery that causing it to manifest is not my job. Letting it manifest is my joy.
My certainty that none of this could happen was, fortunately, not as powerful as the Steps and my HP. I’ve come to realize that, at least in my life, those are the two most powerful forces that could exist—the Steps and God. I’ve learned to allow all answers to come in prayer. How much money should my businesses generate? I find the answer in prayer. How much should I pay my employees? I find the answer in prayer (God is always generous). How much money should I allow in my life? I find the answer in prayer. Where should I live? I find the answer in prayer. My life is a gift of surrender, inventory, prayers for personal and spiritual growth, listening to my Higher Power, honesty, more prayer, DA meetings, working the Steps, sponsoring, service, BDA meetings, more sponsoring, working the Steps, meditation, and carrying the message.I am a member of DA and BDA and I find recovery there. I have no unsecured debt in my personal life and all of my businesses are debt free. I’m recovering my awareness of my Higher Power. I’m recovering Joy. I’m recovering allowing myself to live a wonderful life. I’m recovering serenity. I’m recovering peace. Thank you, DA! Thank you, BDA!