Saturday, June 26, 2010

First Things First

Something I hear often, particularly among newcomers, is that they find it difficult to fit working a program into their already busy lives.

For me, the slogan “First Things First” helps me keep my priorities in order.

“First Things First” is an Al-Anon slogan, but the idea behind it is one of the few principles I retained from my corporate days. The primary thing I took away from all those time management seminars was to do the important things first.

For me, the important things are to tend to my spiritual and physical health. I don’t squeeze them into a full schedule. I build my schedule around them, by doing those things first, and asking God to set my priorities for the rest.

Early in my recovery, a woman at an open AA meeting said she liked to give God the first word. I loved that, and I’ve done it ever since.

In the morning, the first thing I do is get on my knees and pray. I always begin with the Lord’s Prayer, because it's complete in itself. When I pray this prayer, I acknowledge that my Higher Power is God and that I am not, I express a willingness to do His will, I ask Him to give me whatever I need and to guide me. I could easily stop praying right there, and I sometimes do because, really, aside from a short prayer of gratitude and prayers for others, what else is there to say?

From there, I move on to my daily reading of Al-Anon literature. Generally, I spend about 30 minutes each morning between prayer, reading and meditation. But if I only pray the Lord’s Prayer and read the one-page meditation from one of the daily readers, how long would that take? Five minutes? Ten? It’s hard for me to imagine that even the busiest person couldn’t find 10 minutes to do something as important as that to set the tone for the whole day.

Then I exercise for 30 minutes. Exercise not only keeps me healthy, it’s a natural mood booster, it gives me more energy during the day and it helps me sleep better at night. If I turn off my TV, it can also be a kind of moving meditation. I get some of my best insights on the treadmill. On a rushed day, I might exercise for 20 minutes. But I try never to skip it.

By the time I’m done, my husband is up and we sit down to breakfast together. Having done those things, I feel prepared for whatever the day has in store.

My other priorities include meditation and sleep. When I have time, I like to meditate in the morning. But sometimes my head is full of all the things I need to get done and it’s hard to get it to settle down.

Whether I’ve meditated in the morning or not, I like to meditate at the end of the workday. Most of the things that I had to accomplish are behind me then, and my mind is more willing to be still. It helps me to start with a centering prayer, such as the long version of the Serenity Prayer.

When I can, I like to spend at least 20 minutes in meditation. It’s one way I connect to my Higher Power and seek His guidance. Whether or not that comes, it always leaves me feeling refreshed. Then I’m ready to be of service to my family, my sponsees, alateens, prison inmates or the people at my meetings, depending on what’s on my agenda for the evening.

Finally, I make sleep a priority. Because I get up early to do the things I need to do for myself, I also go to bed that much earlier. If I don’t, I find myself needing another slogan: H.A.L.T. If I’m Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired I know can’t function well.

But not before I take five minutes to look back over my day, thank God for the blessings that have come my way and ask myself honestly if I have managed to keep my side of the street clean or if I have an amends I need to make.

It’s been my experience, that when I make time for all these things, my days go more smoothly. I don’t waste time thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Confident that I have the guidance of my Higher Power, I’m able to concentrate on whatever task is before me until God puts something else there.

In the past, I spent a lot of time trying to overcome obstacles that cropped up. Today, I see these obstacles as guidance. I figure, I’m not supposed to do that right now. Rather than try to power my way through, I move on to the next thing.

Of course, for me, giving up trying to control other people and fixing their problems left an astonishing amount of time I didn’t have before.

I hear people at meetings say they find it hard to do these simple things for themselves because it feels selfish. But I know it’s when I do these things that I’m able to be the most service to others. It’s like the oft-recounted airplane analogy. When the masks drop in the cabin, the flight attendant always tells you to put on your mask first. Otherwise, you can’t be of much help to anyone else.

I know there is no cure for my disease. I can only get a daily reprieve based on my spiritual condition. "First Things First" reminds me to do the things I need to do remain spiritually fit.

Above all, when I take time to feed my spirit each day, I’m a nicer, calmer, better person. I’m slower to anger. More quick to forgive. My heart expands along with my gratitude.

For me, the question has become not how can I find the time, but how I cannot.


  1. Many good points here Kathy. I have to be more vigilant about some of these. The last two weeks have been a blur of work with my wife gone. Now things are more back on track.

  2. funny how words...simple phrases calm me down and help me move forward...just like first things first...helps me stop...think...
    Your strength...helps so much Kathy...

  3. For me, what it came down to was how badly did I want to be healthy. Did I want to continue in a busy sick life or did I want to get healthy. If I wanted to work on getting healthy I would put in the time to do the work in recovery. Thank you for sharing the way you meditate and pray and how you use the serenity in your life.

  4. When I work on myself in these ways, I have noticed a change in the way I behave around others, being more compassionate, kind and caring. It feels good to make the time for myself. Thanks for this beautiful important post.

  5. I needed this more than I can tell you.

  6. Hi Kathy! I got your comment and wanted to tell you I made "Recovery Happens" invite only to give my son some privacy BUT its not really private, I would love for you to still read (or anyone interested) so please send me your email address:

    barbaralegere @

  7. Kathy, love this post. Love the schedule you have and seems to have been working for you all these years. Very encouraging. Blessings.

  8. This is great advice for everyone. Especially prayer in the morning. It sooo makes a difference.

  9. Actions speak louder than words, and I think your actions (well, I guess they're words b/c they're written here! lol), but your actions truly explain the benefits that come from putting first things first.
    I love when you pointed out that it can take 5-10 minutes!
    I also sometimes stop myself and ask the question, what is truly important? But more as a statement. What is truly important. And I find the answer often comes right out front!
    God bless.

  10. I remember hearing the "busy life" or "How will I ever fit Recovery into my life?" laments in meetings, and I'd share (first person) about how I couldn't fit life into my addiction. How virtually every waking second was focused on being loaded, getting loaded, or increasing supply. It was amazing how much time (and money) I had once I started working the program.

  11. Kathy,
    Very good reminders to do the first things first. In my job, I learned really fast that I can't give what I don't have. :) The burnout rate for counselors is very high.


  12. great post, kathy :) thank you for sharing your daily routine. i don't usually follow a routine, but i know i would feel better if i had a bit more of that. thank you for the good role model!

    wishing you well~

  13. 'Above all, when I take time to feed my spirit each day, I’m a nicer, calmer, better person. I’m slower to anger. More quick to forgive. My heart expands along with my gratitude.'

    gosh darn Kathy...excellent!!!

  14. This is just what I needed today. I've made a sign and propped it up on my dresser where I'll see it immediately when I wake up.
    "First Things First"
    Thank you for this Kathy!

  15. Very good post Kathy. Thank you for sharing.