Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Catching my breath here, from a richly emotion-filled week. The roller-coaster isn’t limited to new sobriety! However, these days, I know that I’m not going to fly off into space with life's ups and downs and am better able to simply enjoy the ride.

Early in the week, our “Too Old to Give a F**k” group had a reunion meeting, having disbanded at the beginning of the year. I felt a welcome exhale as I sat with these women, all with over 20 years of recovery. No B.S. with this group, simply “What is going on today, and how am I applying the principles of the program?” We will meet again.

Saturday morning, I participated in a spiritual circle with women I hadn’t seen since our beloved teacher died two years ago. Taking my seat, I started to cry with gratitude. I’ve done some exploring in those two years, but haven’t found a spiritual home that feels right and checks all my boxes (spiritual vs religious, inclusive, open to many paths, for example). We meditated and shared, and spoke to a pertinent question before deciding that we will meet again. 

And then I jetted off to a local AA women’s conference. What a gift, especially that I got to spend time with my treatment roommate from all those years ago. It feels natural and right to sit in meetings with her – she was quite literally there the day I came through the doors, and we’ve shared living arrangements, meetings, meals and many heartfelt conversations since. We were privileged to hear Lila R. as the keynote speaker, having just celebrated her 50th sobriety anniversary. My Step Group follows her format, from a workshop she gave in Tulsa, OK many years ago. Five of our seven members were there – we should’ve corralled her and shared a group hug! In any event, it was good to spend time immersed in program and hear the experience, strength and hope from all of the speakers who shared how the Steps work in their lives today. 

In between all this sisterhood, I marked my 65th birthday – weird and amazing – and noted the 7th anniversary of my dear mother’s passing. Time does march on, and both these dates prompted reflection on where I’ve been and where I am today. It was providential that I was enveloped in strong women space as I paid attention to my feelings, shared them, and moved on.

In all three settings, it was noted that, as time goes on in life and in recovery, whatever happens, and I do mean whatever, I now have my own experience, strength and hope to draw from. As Lila said, I now know, deeply know, that I will survive whatever life has to give. That is such a difference from earlier years when I allowed the winds of change to knock me to my knees. That might still happen on occasion, but I’m much quicker to recognize what will bring me back to center. What was also mentioned, more than once, is the importance of self-care, including Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, a topic I frequently mention because I need the reminder. 

So what I am thinking about, as I decompress from gratitude-overload, is “Trust the Process.” I used to say, only half in jest, “Screw the process!” because I had no idea what it meant to trust that life was working itself out without my efforts to control. When I was 30, I could absolutely not have imagined having fun without a drink in my hand. When I was, say, 37, I could not have imagined how good life is at 65. When my mother died, I would not have believed I would make peace with her absence. When I had a first date with a handsome guy from SF, I had no idea that 10 years later we’d have built a loving home together. Trust. Suit up and show up. Take it easy. Who knew that the trite little sayings would become a mantra?

Right here, right now, I am typing, with a purring cat nearby and a cup of tea on my desk. Later I will join a group of my cousins for dinner. Tomorrow morning I plan to go for a jog before work, and will hit a 4pm meeting. Period. I do have plans further out, because that is who I am. And, I grow in understanding each day that all I really have is this moment.

Where do you experience the love of the program, and if you haven't felt that lately, what needs to change? Which of the HALTs is your personal demon, and how do you pay attention to your internal signals? Which of our slogans do you refer to when you feel unsettled?

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Back from my travels... We hit a good meeting (25 regulars, 5 visitors) in Budapest where I was reminded of the gifts of recovery, by the speaker and all who shared. In Vienna, we hit a meeting of a different sort, following the format of Big Book Awakenings, a companion to the Big Book (that I'd never heard of). There were just 5 of us sharing on Step One, powerlessness. This meeting was for any 12 Step member - locals were 2 Alanons and 1 dual member. I was struck by the sincerity of the people who lived there (an Austrian, a Californian and a Brit) as they grappled with powerlessness in all its forms - yes, over drugs & alcohol, but as spiritually destructive, over the emotional twists and quirks that impact our daily well-being as the days of recovery add up.

It was mentioned during the meeting that change is initiated by pain - if something feels good, I'll repeat it (again and again). My impetus to change, to surrender, comes when fear or emotional upheaval finally takes me to that place of crying out "I can't do this any more!" There are degrees, from the wailing, on my knees surrender to the head-against-the-wall recognition that my behavior or attitude keeps bringing me to the same place of discomfort. I recently heard a member share that they then need to surrender the surrender. Just because I've turned something over doesn't mean that it will end up the way I think it should (whether that is my negative or positive projection). Such a discipline, this one-day-at-a-time, turn it over process. Stop ruminating? Live in the place of truly knowing that right here, right now, everything is okay? Progress, not perfection.

And now I am home. Being a creature of habit, it is good for me to totally shake up my routine every once in awhile, which happens when traveling. And, it feels so good to be back to my routines (not to mention, my sweet spouse and our 2 cats). 

It took me a long time in this life to acknowledge and own that I function best with structure, which includes food and sleep at regular intervals. How many arguments could've been avoided in my past life if I'd only had a sandwich?! And, how many more wouldn't happen if I just keep my mouth shut, as in Why Am I Talking (WAIT)?  It struck me, while in the back seat of our rental car, speeding through the Austrian countryside, that I didn't feel compelled to add my two cents to the front seat discussion of driving routes. What would it be like to practice that same detachment when my spouse and I are in the car together? (Ah, vehicles - the place where many a happy couple bump heads!) Never mind that I know next to nothing about the Austrian road system - a lack of knowledge rarely stops me from having an opinion. But, whether I am familiar with the streets (I did grow up here, in case you were wondering) or not, I do not need to offer an opinion or a suggestion unless I am specifically asked. Definitely one of my "Alanon-ic" issues, as an adult child of an alcoholic (who thought I needed to have answers) and the eldest of two children (who wielded what little authority I had over my unsuspecting little brother). 

So, it was a very good trip in that I learned some things about Hungary and Austria (which whetted my appetite for more) and I learned something about myself. The trick will be to follow up, whether reading more about the Austro-Hungarian empire or stopping to "THINK" (is it Thoughtful, Helpful, Intelligent, Necessary, Kind) when I feel the urge to suggest. I once heard someone quote Anne Lamott - "Helping is just the sunny side of control." Indeed...   It is helpful to remember that I'm not alone in my mental machinations.

Are there people, places or things in your life that would benefit from applying "WAIT" or "THINK?" I'd be curious as to how you implement the "pause" that can be so challenging for me.  Thank you for reading, and for those of you who chime in with comments.