Wednesday, January 16, 2019

On Friday, I chaired a meeting of primarily younger people - I've been sober longer than many of them have been alive (the secretary was literally born the day I went to treatment). What a reality check - don't drink, don't die, and you, too, can put together some time. I heard that when I was a newcomer, but had no idea how quickly, in retrospect, the time would pass. Speaking of, I was reminded this week that time is not a tool. Don't drink and don't die gives time, but it is not a guarantee. I learned of 3 people with 20-30 years who had to change their date over the holidays due to a relapse. Alcoholism, not alcohol-wasm....

Part of my daily reprieve comes from self-awareness, the "thou shall not bullshit thyself" commandment. My sponsor gave me a little stone with "To Thine Own Self Be True" etched on the face. That is my affirmation and intention for the coming year. Am I listening to my heart, and not just my head? Am I taking time for self-care, which can mean anything from solo time or time with friends to Step study and bike rides, and, always, getting enough sleep...

My good friend, the Tarot Card Lady, posted a mini-inventory that really struck me this week: "Make a list of all the things, big and small, that bring you happiness." She then suggests thinking about how that list has changed over the last 5 or so years, taking note of who you are now as an emotional person. She then offered the challenge to do one thing today that makes you happy.  

I especially gravitated to the "who you are now?questionIs there anything on my happiness list based who I used to be (single vs married, marathoner vs not, etc)? Have my wants and needs evolved as I have, or do I fall back on the same familiar list out of habit? Have I let go of things that no longer bring me joy? Conversely, what is on the list that I haven't done for a while, but want to, and why is that? (& more importantly, if it still matters, make a plan!)

Recovery is an ever-evolving adventure. Where will the journey take you today?

Resource: "Like" the page for "Tarot Card Lady” on Facebook  get a daily Tarot card reading in your News Feed

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Stark, cold, gray and bleak - January in all her glory. I appreciate the sense of beginning in January, cold, wet and dark before the return of spring, along with the reminder of Step One - I admit I am powerless over the weather and my life becomes unmanageable when I pretend otherwise.

There is a sense of relief with my yearly re-focus on Step One. Powerless, over so much - alcoholism, the effects of someone else's drinking, people, places, things. Step One can feel both freeing and terrifying, annoying, and a relief, depending on my perspective and the situation. From the grasping illusion of control, admitting powerlessness makes me mad - what do you mean, I can't fix this? When I've hit my head against the wall of that illusion long enough, Step One offers blessed solace - oh yeah, I'm really not in charge. Someone once suggested that when I have a resentment, it's because I've forgotten that I'm powerless. To that, I say, "yes," and, that some habits are harder to let go of than others.

In one of my meetings this week, a member shared something she'd read - there are really only three prayers: "Help," "Thank you," and "Wow." I've heard different version of that, as in: God does answer prayers - sometimes with a "yes", sometimes with "no," sometimes "not now", and sometimes, "here is something better." I love the notion of the "Wow." I so often limit myself with what I think I need, when Higher Power has a much grander plan.

At the beginning, when I was advised to "Trust the Process," I'd retort, "Screw the process!" because I had absolutely no idea what was meant by a)  trust and b) "process."  I was a fairly concrete thinker (still can be), so the idea of trusting something I couldn’t see or grab on to was foreign. I could believe in the concept of a Higher Power (hello crystal meth and cheap vodka), and was willing to explore an actual relationship with a loving and caring Power, but trusting that all was working out exactly the way it was supposed to, took time. Time, and inventory; time and hearing others speak of their experiences; time and my own unfolding examples of what happens when I get out of the way.

In one of the meetings I chaired for my anniversary last week, the topic was "What keeps you coming back?" Several members shared that they keep coming back because they are excited to see what happens next. Woo whooo! As my focus shifts from the external of "strive!" to the internal search for conscious contact, am I excited to see what's next? Getting older physically is a weird place of hopeful anticipation, coupled with the realization that I'm closer to the ending of the story than the beginning. I do have things on the horizon to be excited about, and I will do my best to be open to possibility, more specifically, possibilities that aren’t yet in my view. Suit up and show up, and see what happens next! Wow! 

What feelings come up when you imagine the "Wow!" of answered prayer?

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Yesterday, New Year's Day, I went for an early, 5am jog. A few blocks from our house, I came upon a man getting out of a cab, wavering to his front door. I got to my 7am meeting, a strong group of hearty souls out early on a frosty morning, then a quick shop at the nearly deserted grocery store. I love my early mornings, especially when I'm reminded of the joy of waking up without a hangover. I used to marvel at the newspaper's tips for avoiding the morning after - nowhere did it say, "Don't drink."

As I prepare for this dawning of 2019, with fresh journal, unmarked calendars, and a scheduled Tarot reading, I don't have the drive towards self-improvement that usually fuels my new year's thoughts. From the time I was a kid, and well into recovery, it has been "Do Better! Be Better! Lose 10 Pounds!" as if some magic formula would quiet the restlessness inside. What if what I am is enough?

The Alanon literature speaks to this self-acceptance, the idea that I can't change a particular trait until I first accept it with loving compassion. When I come at myself with fists clenched for battle, I can't win. It is only with the open palm that healing occurs. Also, Higher Power can't remove defects of character that I still actively engage in (i.e. it's not old behavior if I'm still doing it). But if I'm overly focused on what NOT to do, there is little room for change. Holding a positive intention seems to be more effective than the long list of "thou shalt not's."

Which is not to say that I don't have stuff that needs attention. For example, I have an internal sense of time urgency that my spouse doesn't share. On Sunday morning, when we were both headed to different places, I felt my anxiety rising because of fear that he would be late. I was able to recognize it (name it, claim it, tame it) and move on. The recovery tool of speaking what is in my mind to take away the power doesn't only apply to thoughts of using.

We were at the beach for the Year-End Roundup this past weekend, enjoying speakers and good times with friends. The North Coast is full of memories, from childhood forward, including recollections of my ex and his house in Tolovana: all night cocaine binges and 6am Monday mornings racing to get me to work in Portland, as well as the gift of using the house for sober slumber parties after treatment. I drove down there, from Seaside, through sideways rain, writing a letter of amends and gratitude that I later burned in my backyard. Even though all the words had been said over the years, writing it out felt good and necessary, and helped me clear my internal slate as I approach another sobriety anniversary.

In the meeting yesterday morning, a member shared that "Recovery is in the returning." Returning to meetings, to the breath, to the moment. Returning to memories as a window into today (where I've been and where I am now). Returning to the understanding that of myself, I am nothing. I need the "we" of the program, the "we" of my relationship with Spirit. Staying actively engaged with the 12 Steps allows me to walk through the hard times, and the easy times, which, for me, are often more dangerous than the valleys. I know what to do with grief, with fear, but it is joy and the routines of daily life that sometimes have me forgetting the Source of my serenity.

I'm grateful to have had a few days off as the calendar turns, with little on the agenda. I greet the new year with hopeful anticipation, and only a short list of "To-do's."  How about your? What goals or intentions have you set for 2019?

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Another Christmas come and gone. I do enjoy the festivities, to a point. I love the Solstice, the quiet of the earth here in the NW, time with friends and family, the lights...  And, today I’m ready to take down the tree, over the edge with crowds and traffic and images on TV of people going mad at the mall. It can be challenging to balance the sacred with the material world of buy, buy, buy! We aren’t huge gift givers, but simply navigating in the world is harder during these December weeks. On a positive note, has anyone else noticed how our meeting attendance goes up this time of year? We had four or five out of town visitors at our home group, and every meeting I’ve been in since Thanksgiving has been full. We come together in times of need, and these holiday times can be emotionally triggering.  Thank you, HP, for another day clean and sober. Thank you for the holidays coming to a close.

I’ve been listening to a Bob D (Las Vegas) CD. He describes how he fought recovery for so long, in and out, unable to slow his mind enough to hear the message. I feel fortunate not to have had that experience. I have an image of the drugs and alcohol exiting my system, leaving that God-shaped hole that we hear about. I then picture a vacuum, kind of like the sound of a can of coffee being opened, that sucked in the principles of the program. I’m certainly not implying that I understood much of anything at the beginning, but I did experience the immediate comfort of feeling like I’d come home, like this was what I’d been looking for. That was not my experience a month earlier, when I detoxed in a hospital for four days, then left. In that case, my daily habit was missing and all the vacuum sucked in was the frigid air of want and craving. Of course I got high again. What happened in the interim? I hit bottom, precipitated by seeing my face in a mirror as I searched for a vein that wasn't there. In that tiny, little snap of recognition that I was killing myself, I realized that I needed to stop, and became entirely willing to do what whatever was asked of me, having no idea what that meant. 

Bob D. talks a lot about the “disease of the mind,” and how his unmanagebilities were mainly on the inside. Yes. When I went to treatment, I had a car, and a nice home, food (mostly beer) in the fridge, and my mother was still speaking to me (though my other close friends barely were), so the outsides looked reasonably ok. But on the inside, I was shattered – grieving the ending of a relationship, knowing I was incapable, at that point, of supporting myself, feeling like whatever life spark that is me was about to flicker out. We often hear about the gift of desperation – I hope I never forget how broken I was prior to being graced with recovery on January 3, 1986. 

As I seek to cultivate internal stillness as the year ends, I take a mini-inventory:  How did I contribute this year/what do I feel good about? What truly matters to me at this point in my life, and how am I living those values? What do I want to learn/create/practice/experience in the coming year? What do I want to release?  How would you answer? What else comes up in your year end inventory or intention setting notes?

See you next year, kind reader. Thank you for continuing the journey.  (As always, the reminder that you can sign up, on the right side of the page, to receive these posts in your email, delivered each week on Thursday)