Wednesday, September 11, 2019

I'm thinking this week about loss and love and the solid truth of "one day at time."  I learned about the tragic suicide of an 18 year old young man, the son of a couple who were close friends earlier in recovery. I cannot begin to image the level of grief his parents and twin sister must be experiencing. I learned at a weekend meeting that a sober young women who'd been in a house fire, died from her injuries. In the same meeting, an out-of-town visitor shared sorrow for her 22 year old sponsee who'd just died of an overdose. 

Over the weekend, also, I attended the 26th anniversary meeting of a woman I 12-stepped when she was just 20 years old – a bona fide miracle of recovery. In my home group, someone took a 34 year chip and another claimed her 14 year coin, and a young woman who's been in and out for 11 years, spoke up, saying it was the first time she'd ever shared in a meeting, but wants to do something different this time.
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"Dialectical thinking" is defined as the ability to view issues from multiple perspectives and to arrive at the most reasonable reconciliation of seemingly contradictory information, as in "life is precious and beautiful," and "life is incredibly sad." On a good day, I can hold both fragile truths. On a not-so-good day, I wonder at the seemingly unfair dispensation of emotional devastation.

Like many of us, I struggled with the concept of a Higher Power and good vs evil when I first got sober – what does that mean, exactly? Not Santa Claus – that much I figured out, and then someone said, “If I could understand it, I wouldn’t need it,” which lessened my compulsion to know. Around the same time, I read a good book with a cheesy title: When Bad Things Happen to Good People, by Harold Kushner. His premise is that there are certain forces of nature – plants sprout, bloom and then die; creatures are born and creatures die. It is part of the natural order of things, though as a human, I get attached and thus, grieve. Does knowing that we are part of the natural world make loss any easier? Not necessarily. My level of sorrow is proportional to the level of my love for a particular person, place or thing, and my judgment as to what constitutes the “natural order of things.” 18 and 22 year old’s dying does not seem to be in the natural order of things.

"Acceptance is the answer," according to the old p. 449 (now 417), not because I believe there are no mistakes, but because what is, is, and there are simply things I cannot change. What I can do is take care of myself and my varied emotions so that I can be there for others – grieving parents, sponsors and friends who mourn. The “we” of the program tells us we are here for each other, through good times and bad, through happy and sad. Today, I strive to be supportive, a part of the solution, not part of the problem.

How do you take care of yourself so that you can be there for others in their time of need? If you are the person in need at the moment, how comfortable are you with asking for help?

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The monthly step group I've been participating in for several years takes its format from the recording of a Step workshop by speaker Lila R. Part of her suggestion, which is geared towards those who've been sober for a while, is that we discover a "new idea" to guide the remaining months of the year, through the inventory process and observing our thoughts. An example - if my "old idea" is that I am deficit in some way, which she describes as very common alcoholic thinking, the new idea would be based on the concept that "I am ok just as I am." As someone who often feels a sense of time urgency, a past "new idea" for me has been, "I have enough time to accomplish all that I need and want to do." Other group members have shared new ideas related to the desire to move away from judgement or impulsivity. New ideas are always stated in the positive. If I say, "I will stop _______" my subconscious focus is on the thing I want to stop. If I say, "I will be more loving" (for example), the focus is on the loving.

This year, triggered by a small token that my sponsor gave me, and based on awareness of my tendency to defer, and to impulsively move forward without thinking things through, my new idea is "To Thine Own Self Be True." I keep the little stone where I store my car keys, so I see it several times a day as a reminder of not allowing myself to get buffeted about by what's going on in the world, or by what I think someone else may want or need, or by being in a hurry. I'm reminded to pause (that word again!) and take a moment to decide rather than react out of what I think you want, or simply a desire to keep moving. (I've long felt, however erroneously, that any decision is better than no decision. Hovering is not my strength.) 

It struck me in our Step meeting this weekend, that "To Thine Own Self Be True," isn't just about my wants and needs, but about my true nature. My maternal grandmother was a devout Christian Scientist, a faith that gets a bad rap for not believing in medicine. A positive of her beliefs, though, was that my true nature is perfection. As I kid, stealing and smoking by 9 or 10, I knew the idea of being perfect didn't apply to me. I might've wanted it to, mostly to please her, but the siren call of adrenaline and sneaking around was way stronger than her idea of what I could be. As I grew up, living from my true nature was buried, deeper and deeper, under various substances, and relationship choices, though I still wanted to be better. I used to recite the Lord's Prayer, just like Grandma taught me, before I slept, as a kind of insurance. After a while, though, I understood at a gut level that the way I was living my life was no way, no how, in line with any kind of life a higher power would have for me, so I stopped, one of the subtle signposts on the way to hitting bottom. I couldn't even pretend to pray anymore.

I've long since cleaned up my act, and don't necessarily believe in a deity on a cloud somewhere calling the shots, but I do trust that my true nature is whole and healthy and strong, and that staying connected to my spiritual resources (the natural world, quiet time, journaling, community) allows me to meet the day-to-day from a place of serenity. This comes and goes. I am more centered as I age, both in life and in program, though I still stumble. When I do get off balance, I can seek inner stillness and ask myself: How would I approach  life if I truly believed, and lived, from a place of "enough" vs lack (whether that perceived lack is material or regarding my sense of self)? How would I behave in any given situation were I to come from a place of knowing my full value and true nature instead of that old notion of smallness that can still grab me by the ankles?

I am grateful, today, to be back on track with my program. It seems counter-intuitive, but if I'm not liking meetings, the solution is to go to more meetings. Bingo! The spark is re-ignited.  What do you believe about your true nature? How do you get in touch with the part of yourself that knows all is well?