Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Out with the old, in with the new...

Another new year beckons with the promise held in blank journal pages and a calendar, empty save for noted birthdays and anniversaries. A new year. A symbolic fresh start. Where will 2017 take me, take us?

I loved that promise of a fresh start even as a kid sitting at my little desk writing out a plan - for the new week, the new month, or the new year. If I could succeed at being a better person, all would be well. Maybe dad wouldn't drink so much, and mom wouldn't be so sad if only I were a better daughter. I would quit fighting with my brother and help more around the house. My parents argued about our religious needs and where to get them, so while I did have the notion of a loving and caring God, there was no personal relationship with a Deity or a church. Instead, I'd cut out sayings and adages from magazines (usually the Reader's Digest) and tape them to the wall, seeking both instruction and structure. I was taught, mostly through osmosis, a sense of right and wrong, a work ethic, fairness and compassion, but nothing about emotional maturity or about getting from point A to point B. Maybe it was the times. Maybe it was the alcoholism. Maybe I wasn't paying attention.

From far too early an age (12?) the new beginning included losing weight. Good grief - I wanted to lose weight when I weighed 100, 110, 120 pounds (i.e. a long time ago).  Always the quest to be better, look better, fit better in the world. Thin, and with a cute boyfriend, I'd be OK. Thin, with a cute boyfriend, and a cute wardrobe instead of hand-me-downs, I'd be OK. Thin, and if I were basically someone else, I'd be OK.

I recently ran across a list of resolutions from 1979 when I was 24 and in a new relationship. I vowed to: lose weight, stop smoking, cut down on drinking, take a class, be more adventurous, stop being jealous. But how could I not be jealous when the other girls were thinner, prettier, drank like ladies and were more comfortable in the world than me? I was definitely steeped in the mire of comparison, of judging my insides by others' outsides.

I sometimes ache for that young woman who so desperately wanted to be better, wanted to feel better, wanted to improve, without a single clue as to what that meant, and without the skills needed to ask the questions or seek guidance that might've helped. Instead, I toasted the new year, the new week, the new month, with the grand intent that this time would be different. But it never was.

And then I made it to treatment and was introduced to the 12 Steps. Eureka! Instructions! The guidebook I'd been unconsciously looking for. Here was a map to the "better" I'd always sought, and the secret was that it was in me, not out there in someone or something else. I didn't stop making resolutions (though now called them "intentions") when I got to recovery, but the tone shifted. I was told I could start my day over anytime. What a gift! I didn't have to wait until the first of January, or the start of a new month, to try a new behavior. And sober, the chances that I would try that new behavior and keep trying until I'd made it my own, increased exponentially. I learned to set goals, to identify the steps that would get me there, and to ask for help along the way. Eureka.

I am still thrilled with a blank journal and a new calendar. My heart quickens with the anticipation of a fresh start, even if it is simply another day.  I have a few goals for the coming year, but these days they are more about consistency than striving for a more/less or better "me." With each passing year, I am more fully understanding that I truly am just fine, as-is. The cosmic exhale that comes with being OK is a relief beyond what I would've imagined. That is the goal. That is the supreme intention - to remember that I am enough.

This year-end, my dear spouse and I will go to the beach, to the town where I got sober all those years ago. Along with attending a recovery conference, we'll light a fire and write down both what we want to release from 2016 and what we hope to embrace in the coming months, not because we are lacking, but as a means to consciously create space for the good that is in each of us.

How have your goals and intentions shifted over the years? Do you have a year end ritual? Peace and blessings for 2017. Let's see where the new year leads.

Friday, December 23, 2016


A friend recently forwarded an article by Gordon Marino, a professor of philosophy at St. Olaf College, on regret, a human emotion that can guide our behavior for the better, or can torture us for decades based on what we "should" have done. He says, "We can learn to let things go, but before we let them go, we have to let regret get hold of us."

Oh, do we alcoholics know about regret! The road to sobriety, for many of us, is paved, not with good intentions, but with regret heaped upon regret heaped upon regret. "I'll never do that again..." (but we do), "Please forgive me," (again), "I am sorry" (yes, you are.).  And then we enter recovery and are gifted with the 12 Step path that guides us to take inventory of who we are and what we have done. With that knowledge, written with courage and tears, then shared with another person, we gain insight into what, exactly, are the "nature of our wrongs," which goes much deeper than the superficial actions that got us in trouble in the first place. We ask Higher Power to remove those aspects of character that are troublesome (which, for me, usually means that my awareness of them increases ten-fold). Then, and only then, are we to commence seeking out those we have harmed in order to make amends. Sometimes those overtures are received graciously. Sometimes, not. And then we move on to, if not self-forgiveness, the self-awareness required to change.

Regret had a vicious hold on me when I entered recovery. One of the 9th Step "Promises" says that "we will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it."  I'm sorry, but there are some things that I both regret, and wish to shut the door on. I regret the immaturity that ended my first marriage through an infidelity, rather than my stepping up to say, "I need to leave."  I regret that I then harmed the man I left my husband for with my acting out and drug use. I was tortured with regret for years, and did my best to ask forgiveness. One man accepted those amends, the other didn't. What came out of that for me was an inventory on morals and values - what did I believe? Who did I want to be as a recovering woman? And out of that process, the resolve that infidelity was no longer an option. I've said that since getting sober I've learned to stop one relationship before starting another. That often gets a chuckle, but the truth is that there is a lot of pain in that statement. And out of that pain, that regret, comes the resolve and the commitment to do things differently, to travel on this earth in a way that doesn't intentionally harm another.

I've had regrets in the years since getting sober - mostly of the "decisions based on self" variety, usually when I've been in a hurry, though I don't always recognize the agitation that wants me to make any decision rather than feel uncomfortable. I can still hear my dear father admonishing me to "slow down, Jeanine!" as I raced out of the bathroom pulling my pants up to rejoin the softball game in the street. Slow down, Jeanine. To borrow from a program saying, I haven't gotten into trouble every time I've been in a hurry, but nearly every time I've gotten into trouble/made a mistake/wished I hadn't, I've been in a hurry. Slow down.

I regret not listening to my mother (she was right - I wish I'd continued with the piano, and I was too young to get married the first time). I regret making choices out of fear. I regret not listening to the still, small voice that whispered to me when a particular job, relationship or friendship wasn't working. I regret barreling along in "self will" when I knew deep inside that a certain action wasn't in my best interest, or another's.

The challenge of maturity is to learn the lessons without making the mistakes. That's where "pause when agitated or doubtful" comes in. Ah, yes. Pause. That is a spiritual muscle that has taken decades to develop. It is not my first line of defense. But I'm learning, still and always. Regret didn't feel good 31 years ago, and it sure doesn't feel good today. The difference is that today I do have choices, and enough experience to know that what's a good idea today will be a good idea tomorrow. I have enough presence, usually, to bite my tongue when speaking up is not my place. I don't live completely regret-free, but these days, they are fewer and far less toxic.

Yes, there are still a few regrets from the past that I'd like to shut the door on, but today I understand that they are my greatest teachers. Dear reader, what have been your greatest teachers? How do you pause today so that you have fewer regrets tomorrow?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Right where I'm supposed to be...

Treatment was a positive experience for me. Oh sure, there were moments of "what am I doing here?" but overall, I was mesmerized by the mere fact that I was living with all these people, and they were drug free. I was not a joiner - I'd never even been a Camp Fire Girl, and had a very small world of boyfriend and one or two close friends. There were other people around, but I was most comfortable with me, myself, and I. I might've told you at the time that I didn't like people. The truth is that I was afraid. And here I was, with thirty of them - laughing, crying, hearing stories that made me cringe, kneeling beside a guy as he had a withdrawal seizure right there in the living room.

There were many meaningful events during my 28 day stay, but one incident stands out as shaping my future. One of our group members was a Viet Nam vet who was wound tight with grief and guilt over his experiences in the war. One afternoon in group, near the end of his stay, he broke, sobbing out the terrible things he'd participated in that he'd kept secret, and drank over, all the years since. Every person in that group was right there with him, holding space as he felt the pain and released it. As he wound down, I thought, "I want to be a part of this."

I didn't have to work for the first months following treatment, for which I'll be forever grateful. When I did get a job at an insurance company at the end of that first year, I felt shell-shocked myself. It had been a while since I'd had an office job, but it was more that I felt like an alien with the other clerical gals who talked about dates and dresses, or what they were going to feed the kids for dinner. In the desperation and drama of early recovery, I cried to myself one afternoon, "Don't you people know where I've been?" Of course they didn't. But I knew then that I needed to work with people who would understand, and who might benefit from my experience in the trenches of addiction.

Last week I was at a continuing education training at the Peace-Health hospital in Vancouver, WA, which used to be St. Joseph's, or "St. Jo's."  I started my career in treatment there, in a year long training program that was a combination of classes and work experience. At the end of that year, I was hired on to work with the adolescents - a conglomeration of Native American kids from the Chemawa Boarding School and western reservations, white rural kids from the small communities surrounding Vancouver, and the occasional well-to-do youngster from Lake O, a tony suburb, where parents often insisted "we don't have a problem here." Whether running on the beach with kids who'd never seen the ocean, or holding a teenager as she cried for her lost childhood, I knew I was where I was supposed to be.

That was 28 years and four employers ago. My work is most definitely a calling, something I had to do. I've never had delusions of wanting to save the world. What I wanted was to be part of the awakening process. It is a beautiful thing to witness. But, it was a stretch. I almost backed down because public speaking was involved. Lecture? Teach? Not me. I am definitely not the same woman who sat outside the community college and cried because I didn't know where to go. Recovery has been a series of stretches, of stepping to the very edge of my comfort zone and then, just beyond, step by step.

Today, my career is winding down - not over, but the striving is done and I've got one eye on retirement. Is there a second act ahead? Who knows. I don't harbor many "I wish I'd...." in relation to work. I have been very fortunate.

I know several people with long term recovery who've switched direction in recent years, finally becoming their own boss, or traveling, or all the many avenues our dreams take us. My dreams in those early days weren't very big, but they were huge compared with what I thought myself capable of. What's next? More will definitely be revealed.  Happy trails, friends.

Thursday, December 8, 2016


When I was 7 years old, my mother pulled me from bed one morning before the sun rose to listen to the broadcast of John Glenn's earth orbit. "You'll remember this," she said. I mostly remember the strangeness of being out of bed with the television on so early, but she was right. I do remember. I remember the day that President Kennedy was killed, and seeing Ruby shoot Oswald on TV. I remember the shock of Martin Luther King's assassination, and shaking Robert Kennedy's hand the week before he was gunned down. There was a lot to remember in the 60's & 70's. I vividly remember an awareness that those were not normal times; that the social order was shifting and I was witness to it. I also remember Pearl Harbor, and D-Day, and the Depression of the 1930's, because my mother remembered, and passed her internalized patriotism and frugality on to me. I remember. (Note that I started this entry last week, before learning of Glenn's illness. Rest in peace, Astronaut Glenn)

In addition to life and historical events, most recovering people remember their first drink. Mine was in 1968, the week of my graduation from 8th grade. I'd always thought that it was at a particular friend's home, and that I wrote in my lock & key diary that I wish there'd been more. Memory seems to have fooled me, for in a recent re-reading, I discovered that the party was at another fellow's house, and that there was beer left over to be saved for later. That was very likely the first and last time I saved anything for later...

I was not a blackout drinker. I have many, many memories of momentous as well as crummy little evenings and weekends, and months. We in recovery often mine those memories for clues as to why we did what we did when we did it. The explanation, "because you're an alcoholic" never seemed quite enough. Surely I could unlock the secrets of my insanity with just one more inventory. Maybe not. Maybe I'm just an alcoholic, with events pushed in motion by my less-than-coherent choices.

I did hear someone say early on, "If you can't remember your last drink, maybe you haven't had it yet." Oh I do remember, with more clarity than I'd like. It was New Year's Eve, because I'd insisted on "just one more!" I sat by myself in front of the fireplace, drinking Moet & Chandon champagne from the bottle while my junkie boyfriend nodded out in the bathroom. So much for that final good time. I remember how the top deck of the Fremont Bridge looked covered in snow as we started the trek to Seaside at 9pm on Jan 2nd. I remember sitting in the car on the side of the road shooting up, knowing somewhere deep inside that it was the last time. And I remember pulling up to Serenity by the Sea. windows fogged with cigarette smoke and steam from coffee cups as several peers did paperwork at the dining room table.

What I remember all this time later is how empty I felt in those last few years before sobriety, and how amazing it was to step over that line into recovery. My memories today, like many of yours must be, are related to early and long lasting friendships, all the 1st's (1st sober date, 1st sober kiss, 1st sober dance, 1st sober Christmas, 1st job, etc, etc etc), special groups and groups of people; that time a bunch of us went to Hawaii... and Spain... and onward.

December seems made for memory, with the coming of the new year, both 2017, and, for me, another sober anniversary. The AA book cautions us against indulging in "morbid reflection," but I find that it is important to remember both how lonely I was, and the joys of the early days. I enjoy a good, simple life today, and lest I forget, it could've turned out a whole lot differently.

There was an AA member named Patrick at the coast, who used to sing "Oh Thank You God" to the tune of "Oh Christmas Tree."  I still sing that song. Thank you, God, for all of the memories and for right here, right now.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


When I was small, maybe 6 or 7, I padded off to the bathroom in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve. Sleepily traversing the short hallway in our tiny 2 bedroom house, I caught the reflection of something shiny under the Christmas tree that hadn't been there when my brother and I had been tucked in. I vividly remember the sense of excitement and wonder as I realized, "Santa's been here!"  Being a good girl, I went back to bed instead of to the tree, a mid-1950's version of sugar plums dancing in my head.

I don't imagine that one ever recaptures the wonder of a child at Christmas, but there have been a few moments that came close.  A decade or so ago I was at an opiate treatment providers conference in Orlando, of all things.  A colleague and I took an afternoon to visit Disney World, and rode "Peter Pan's Flight" on a lark. At the moment the pirate galleon crested Wendy's bedroom window, gliding over London's skyline, I gasped, as thoroughly enchanted as a nine year old. I was flying! 

In early recovery, so much filled me with awe and gratitude. The simplest of acts seemed unbelievably sweet or difficult or magical for the fact of doing them sober. My senses were coming back to life, a sensation both terrifying and exhilarating. Being an active participant in the world rather than skulking around at the edges brought a joy I hadn't realized was possible.

What about today? I've written about this before, but as the holiday season is upon us, the questions come back to me.  Where do I find wonder today? How do I avoid turning into the jaded old-timer who's seen it all, and then some? What does it take to be enchanted with the holiday lights in the neighborhood, or the lights coming on in someone else's eyes?

These days, I am most often moved to reverence in nature. Nature, and Radio City Music Hall, where I recently visited for the first time. I was captivated by the beautiful auditorium and the sense of connection to both my mother's generation and to the hours I'd spent watching the Rockettes synchronized kicks in movie re-runs on TV. Wonder has a component of  child-like innocence that I am unable to conjure by wishing it so. I can ready myself, but grace, however you define that, cannot be scheduled. I can walk into a beautiful theater, or along a forest path, but what I experience depends on the moment and my willingness to be aware.

It does seem that being open to wonder, cultivating pleasure in simple things, is a discipline. That really isn't an oxymoron. I can drive home from work narrowly focused on the steering wheel and whatever drama of the day is running through my mind, or I can take a breath and look up at the amazing November sky. I can go for a run in the morning and notice absolutely nothing, or I can consciously turn my attention to the trees changing colors and the sound of rain on the pavement. I can listen to the delight in a child's voice when they see snow for the first time, or watch a person new to recovery shake their head with amazement as the simplicity of recovery suddenly makes sense.

Whatever you celebrate this season, be it Hanukkah, Christmas, Solstice, Kwanza, or simply the movement of the winter sky, are there moments in your life that inspire awe?  Where is your focus, right here, right now? How can you, how can I, step back from what only seems to be important to appreciate the many wonders of this life?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Gratitude as a practice...

I was fortunate enough to inherit my mother's optimism, so keeping an "attitude of gratitude" has been a recovery tool that is fairly easy to practice. Not every day, not all the time, but generally speaking, I am an optimistic and grateful person, very aware that my story could've gone either way during those dark days of addiction. I survived. No, I've thrived, and for that I am thankful every day.

I do, however, carry around the remnants of growing up in an alcoholic household where I learned to see around corners and anticipate what was coming next. In my world, predictable equaled safety. I am not one who readily embraces ambivalence with a sense of adventure. I will dive in, eventually, but only after testing the waters with one toe and then another.

These feel like uncertain times. The scared little kid that still lives somewhere inside of me is nervous. Whichever side(s) of the recent election you were on, what happens next seems to be up in the air. It will be different. It is different, and the not-knowing has me wobbling between fear and confusion with a desire to pay attention to every detail as meted out by various sources, or to hide under the covers. Neither is particularly helpful, but is where I go in my efforts to find a balance point.

What I can do instead is step back from the fray with compassion for myself and others, and take a moment to remind myself of all that I am grateful for: that I didn't die with a needle in my arm, or behind the wheel of a car, that I have a strong marriage with a sober man, that I enjoy my workplace, that I have a steady connection with "God as I understand God," that my family and friends are healthy. On this eve of Thanksgiving I can pause, bring in my scattered energies, and breathe as I look at the branches against the sky, the fallen leaves gathering at my door.

We had a counselor when I was in treatment who would sometimes say, "What day is it? What time is it?" Once answered,  she would further ask, "Do you have a place to sleep tonight? Have you had enough to eat today?" which was her way of saying that I have all that I need. I can feel blown about by outside circumstances, but in reality, I am blessed beyond measure. I weep for those who do not have the basic safety that I so often take for granted and I am keenly aware that my gratitudes are those of privilege. I ask, each day, to be shown how I can be of service to those in my circle and the wider world. Show me, God, how to navigate, one day at a time.

On this Thanksgiving, I appreciate you and the conversations that these writings prompt, either in your posted remarks, emails, or face-to-face. We have each other, on this "road of happy destiny" that sometimes feels a bit rocky. Gratitude as a practice reminds me of the "we" of our recovery program, and that the "we" extends to all beings.   Peace be with you, today and always.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


I can almost hear people groan as they read this simple word - acceptance.  For those of us raised in recovery on the 3rd edition of the Big Book, all one has to say is "449" and you get the same groan. Acceptance? No way. Not this time. Not for this thing. Not now. Not ever.

I was in our monthly gathering of women with 20+ years sobriety last night and the chairperson opened with the paragraph that many of us love to hate: "And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation - some fact of my life - unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in god's world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life's terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes."

Now this is just one man's opinion, but I can tell you that when it was read last night, I was moved to tears, and felt a deep exhale as I let go, for just a moment, of what troubles me. What is, is.  I can argue with whether or not there are "mistakes" in god's world, I can ruminate on "what if this???" or "what if that???" but until I can sit still - and I mean that internally as well as actually sitting - I will be incapable of determining my next course of action. Acceptance does not mean approval - far from it. But acceptance is a surrender to the facts. The sun is shining. The cats are hungry. We have a new president. I am scheduled to work tomorrow.  What is, is.

I was reminded, with the simple reading of one small paragraph from our recovery literature, that I don't need to try to think myself out of my feelings.  I was reminded that I am blessed with the miracle of recovery, the miracle of life after addiction, the miracle of a wide network of supportive others. I was reminded that while anger can be a catalyst to action, fear generally isn't.  I can do my best, today, to stay centered, to trust in a higher good, and honor my process of the 3 A's - Awareness, Acceptance, Action.  One day at a time, acceptance is the answer. One day at a time.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

God, grant me the Serenity...

A couple of things from the AA Big Book -

"We try not to indulge in cynicism over the state of the nations, nor do we carry the world's troubles on our shoulders." (p. 132)  Trying here, really trying...

And from We Agnostics: "...we had to fearlessly face the proposition that either God is everything or else He is nothing. God either is, or He isn't. What was our choice to be?"  I choose "everything." I choose hope, and love and kindness and decency, despite what may be going on around me.

God, grant me the Serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the Courage to change the things I can
and the Wisdom to know the difference.

That's all I've got today, people. Breathe deeply, and don't forget to exhale.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Connections over time...

Last night I sat in circle, a sacred campfire of recovery, with three people I've been meeting with monthly for eight, maybe nine years. Sharing over time, we've gotten to that wonderfully comfortable place of being able to say, "Here is my stuff, again," with little explanation or apology needed. We know each other, in a deep way, having participated in our individual and collective growth as we've applied the steps to our addictions and co-dependency, to the aging process, or as we've simply sat still long enough to take the deep breath that signals it is ok to relax and be known.

I  love that I sometimes sit in 12 step meetings with friends I've known since grade school. Being in recovery long term and living in the same city has given me a connection over time to particular meetings, to folks I see just now and then, and has allowed deep, lasting friendships with those from the early years as well as sponsors and others whose paths have intertwined with mine, whether they live here, or half-way around the world.

Some might think it provincial, but I deeply appreciate that I live on the edges of the neighborhood I grew up in. There is a quote, by I don't know who, that says if you sit at a particular cafe in Paris, everyone you've ever known will walk by. For me, it is Hollywood Fred Meyer where I routinely see people I went to grade school and high school with, or others from my past. I love my connection to this place - my particular corner of NE Portland - where I've developed friendships that have lasted nearly my lifetime. I love it that I see former school mates at my gym, or riding their bikes in the neighborhood. I love that I met one of my closest friends on her 18th birthday, forty-some years ago, and that her family has become like mine. I was lucky enough to grow up with my cousins, so double that connection over time and space. Few of these people need the back story, because they are the back story.

I treasure those conversations that start, "Remember the time we..." or "You'll never guess who I ran into!"  Equally precious are talks with those who've listened to my deepest fears as well as my highest joys. I honor the many ways we bear witness to each other.

I am loving life on these beautiful November days, feeling grateful for connections over time.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Full Circle...

When I was 10 years old, I saw the Beatles in concert at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland. More accurately, I saw 4 specks on a stage far away, and heard mostly the screaming of the girls around me. Afterwards, my two friends desperately wanted to find the stage door so that we could see John, Paul, George and Ringo in the flesh as they entered their waiting limo. I knew that it would upset my dad if we weren't at the appointed spot at the appointed time, so we gave up the quest and proceeded to our ride home. Last week, I had the opportunity to see Ringo Starr and his All Star band - a great show. Up past my bedtime, I scooted out as soon as the last chord was played, and there, as I rounded the corner of the Keller, was Ringo getting into his waiting  limo, flashing a peace sign to the few of us in the vicinity. My inner 10 year old squealed just a bit. I saw a Beatle, in the flesh, much as I'd wished some 50 years earlier. It felt like a completion of sorts, a satisfaction of that long ago desire.

There have been other times and situations that have felt like the Universe taking a thread from the past to lead to an outcome I never would've imagined. For example, the man that I was with for 6+ years at the height of my alcoholism, left me after I started sticking a needle in my arm. He put me through treatment, but it was a painful break-up and once sober, I struggled with how to make amends since he'd left the country and married another woman. In the way that Spirit has, he phoned a few years later to ask if I'd be willing to talk with his wife, who had developed a dependency on prescription medication. Full circle - the chance to use my darkest and most painful past to help the man I'd hurt so badly.

Despite knowing better, I'd long viewed that man as my one true love. I had to ask myself, "Really? Are you saying that you blew your one cosmic chance by the time you were 29?" I knew that it didn't make sense, but the heart doesn't always respond to logic.  And then he phoned, after nearly a decade's silence, just to say "hello." In the course of our call, I realized that this man was very dear to me, and that we'd shared a very intense time together, but that my one true love would've come back. That call helped me to close the door on feelings I'd been hanging on to for decades. Within a month, I met the man who, a year later, asked me to marry him. Without  the completion and closure prompted by that conversation with my ex, I don't know that I would've been open to the love I am privileged to enjoy today. Full circle.

According to Webster, "coming full circle" describes "a series of developments that lead back to the original source, position or situation or to a complete reversal of the original position." In Oct 1985, I began that final slide of hitting bottom, spending 4 days in a care-unit before signing myself out. This is the time of year that I reflect on those last months and days of active addiction, especially as I approach a milestone - I was 31 years old when I went in to treatment, and in January will celebrate 31 years of sobriety. The first half of my life was impacted by the disease of alcoholism - the family illness and my own. Being sober as long as I was alive under the influence feels like a turning point, a marker of sorts, a coming full circle to perhaps "a complete reversal of the original position." I am a recovering woman. While not cured, I have recovered from a "seemingly hopeless state of mind and body" (AA Big Book).

Where will these next spirals on life's journey take me, now that the scales are even? What other threads from the past will reveal themselves as no longer valid? A sponsor once said that she began to truly recover when she realized that her reasons for acting out were 40 or 50 years old. Indeed. Where do I stand today, based on my spiritual practice rather than a long ago story?  What about you? Are there places where you've come full circle?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


"It is never too late to become what you might have been."   George Eliot

This quote came across a friend's news feed the other day, and has fully lodged in my brain ever since.  I am intrigued with this idea of continuing to grow and become, and the notion that there is no finish line, as long as I'm alive.

A friend told me about her self-challenge to do something she's never done before, once a month between her latest birthday and the next.  That intrigues me too, though once a month seems like a lot for this structured individual. I don't know that I have room for 1 new thing a month, and at first pass, I thought that'd I'd have to try pretty hard to find things I've never done before, and that I'm interested in. But, last night I helped to sell merchandise at a concert (Ringo Starr - awesome show). I've never done that before.  And next month I'm going to see the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. I've been to New York, but have never seen the Rockettes.  Maybe I can accept the personal challenge to get out of my very comfortable,  fully carpeted and air conditioned rut. OK, so my life is hardly a rut, but I do have my well-honed preferences and habits.

The real challenge here is to be open to opportunities to stay fully engaged with life and the world around me, my program and the Steps of recovery without the dreaded complacency settling in. "Comfortable" can be dangerous for us alcoholics.We are told that we have a "daily reprieve," and when I start thinking that I've got it all figured out, I'm probably headed for trouble. Continuing to take personal inventory, being of service - whether that is to the newcomer, the old-timer, or the neighbor down the street - helps me stay focused on the here and now as well as the adventure of becoming.

"It is never to late to become what you might have been."  That notion had a certain urgency when I was newly sober and wondering what I might do for work, what I might do with my life now that I was free from addiction.  As I age, in both recovery and years on the planet, the "what next?" is softer, but still there.  I've been blessed to have accomplished many of my desires: I earned my degrees, I published my novel, I own my home, I've run marathons, and marathons in amazing places...  But I've always been a seeker, whether that is for the spiritual key to whatever locked door I'm knocking on, to exploring beautiful places, to the quest for emotional, physical and spiritual health.  I will keep this quote posted where I can see it, to remind me that whether once a month, or as Higher Power sees fit, I am open to the joys and challenges of long term recovery.

And just maybe the becoming has to do with self-acceptance. I can seek without striving. I can grow into the idea that right here, right now, everything is exactly the way it is supposed to be.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

To Thine Own Self Be True...

A few days ago, a friend shared her struggles with the ending of a relationship. It wasn’t the relationship that was troubling her, but several well-meaning friends who were giving their opinions about what she needed to do. I suggested our slogan, “to thine own self be true.”  I need to heed my own advice.  Normally, I sit down to write this blog on a topic I’ve been thinking about, and the words flow. Yesterday, I assumed my usual position, and kept getting stuck on one topic or another.  When I walked away from the computer and relaxed into the frustration, I realized that what I really want to write about is my mother, though my logical brain was telling me to do anything but. Head vs heart – the eternal battle. To thine own self be true...

Today is the 4th anniversary of my dear mother’s death. A few weeks before she passed, she held my hand and said, “I know you’ll always miss me, just like I still miss my mother.” I thought, “Oh great. Grandma's been gone for 40 years. Does it ever go away?”  Well, not in 4 years it doesn’t. The 1st months were so painful. I now understand completely what it means to be grief stricken. The overwhelming, physically painful sadness has dissipated, but the tears and that empty space in my heart still sneak up on me. I recognize the sorrow more quickly these days, and find that if I simply sit and acknowledge the loss (“hi Mom”), it flows through me more gently. It is when I tell myself that I “shouldn’t” be feeling this way after 4 years, or when I try to self-will my feelings into something else, that I get stuck and cranky and wonder what’s wrong. Nothing is wrong. I miss my mother. Period.

My mother, Laura, was descended from Oregon pioneers. Her father, Hal Hoss, was Secretary of State, though died in office of tuberculosis in the 1930’s. Growing up in the Depression and during WWII, she knew how to make the best of hard times. This was helpful after she met my dad on a blind date, and married him in 1947.  With 2 little kids and a hard drinking husband (he got sober when I was in 8th grade), she did her best to maintain a stable household. Part of that was greeting us after school with chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven, and a cold glass of milk. She wasn't perfect, but those cookies sure tipped the scale in her favor. We fought a lot in my surly teenage years, but became friends after I got married, then divorced, then connected, then unconnected, becoming even closer after dad died in 1980. I did my best to hide my addictions from her, which mostly worked. And in my recovery years we made peace for the childhood stuff, and came to that wonderful place of enjoying each other's company. Oh how she loved to laugh. As her physician said, when I serendipitously ran into her in the grocery parking lot, my mom had that joie de vivre, a zest for life.  
And then she died, after battling tobacco-related lung disease for longer than she admitted. By all counts it was a good death – she died at home, in her bed, just as she’d wanted. She was alert and capable until she passed, and got up for a bite of my birthday pizza 2 days before.  And then she simply went to sleep, or wherever it is people go as they prepare to leave. I sang to her the Christian Science hymn that she used to sing to us as a lullaby, I recited the Lord’s Prayer, I held her hand. And then, when she was gone, I gently and gratefully turned off the noisy and necessary oxygen tank, so glad to remove her from that tether.

Life is a series of letting go, of grieving. Those of us in recovery know that all too well. We grieve the loss of our innocence, the loss of our dreams, the loss of companions to the disease.  And as we stay sober for a long time, we mourn for our loved ones – our parents and siblings and sponsors and friends. Loving means that at some point we will hurt. Grief is a gift of that love. 

So this morning, I lit candles and sat for some moments with my memories. I spoke with mom's cousin, Betty, the only living relative of that generation. Betty's husband of 67 years was recently placed in an Alzheimer's facility. In acknowledging how hard that is,Betty said, "I wish I could talk with Laura May."  I do too.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Self care...

As time goes on, I am convinced that self-care is the key to my serenity. The AA Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions, in Step 10, tells us that "It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us." Ouch. But honestly, quite often, that "something wrong" with me is that I am tired, or hungry, or haven't been taking care of my needs for fellowship or solitude, or plain old R&R. I can say for a fact that I like you and my life circumstances a lot better when I've had enough sleep.

When we enter recovery we learn about H.A.L.T. - don't get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired, each of which can be triggers to reach for some sort of relief, usually the bottle or the bag.  I thought I knew about self-care - heck, I'd quit smoking even before I quit drinking, and most days I'd have a protein shake and a handful of vitamins before my first shot of methamphetamine. In actuality, I had to learn to pay attention to my individual cues and respond appropriately.  Tired? Take a nap; not drink a lot of coffee. Hungry? Eat something nutritious, not a candy bar. In early recovery I finally figured out that I don't do well when I'm hungry - my hands shake, I don't think straight, I get lightheaded. What a relief to know what was wrong, and what to do about it - kind of like alcoholism. Name it, claim it, tame it...

Self care also applies to my emotional state. When I've convinced myself to keep quiet when all would be better served by speaking up, I am not being true to myself or to you. I don't do it too often, but when I say "yes" when I really mean "no," we both suffer by my acting from a place of resentment. Again, and always, it comes back to the "pause."  Take a breath. There is no hurry. As I've heard, if it is a good idea right now, it will still be a good idea in an hour, or a day.

Speaker Lila R. says that my best gift to you is to take care of me. Amen to that. Get enough sleep, get enough meetings, detach from workplace drama, go for a walk. The actual list probably looks a bit different for each of us, and is one of the gifts of long term recovery. I know what works for me today. I start my morning with a cup of tea and my daily readers, usually followed by a run. I end the day with a brief meditation, some stretching, and a couple of evening readers, and cut myself some slack the next day when the cats wake me in the middle of the night (let's hear it for naps). Self care is a goal that calls for adjustments on a day-to-day basis, though the basics are the same.

I think of self care as both a journey and a destination. What is your practice and how do you know when you are on track, or off?

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Posting comments. ..   I'm hearing from a few folks that they aren't able to comment.  I believe that after you type in your response,  you then need to check one of the little boxes below indicating that you are posting as Anonymous,  with Gmail,  etc. Hope this helps because I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Expect a Miracle?

A popular recovery bumper sticker says, "Expect a Miracle." What does that mean, exactly? What constitutes a miracle? I was part of a discussion in a church group a number of years ago and one of the members questioned the liberal use of "it's a miracle!" By this man's reasoning, we are past the age of miracles when the sick were healed by simply touching the hem of their Lord's garment. To him, a miracle was walking on water, not merely a baby born with all her fingers and toes.

Maybe not today, at 30 years sober, but at the beginning, the fact that I'd been able to stop using drugs and alcohol felt like a miracle on par with feeding the multitudes. For me, it was very much an example of spontaneous healing - one day I needed to ingest mind altering chemicals, and literally, a day later, the compulsion was lifted. A miracle, being that it was not of my own doing. If I could've thought my way out of my addiction, I would've. This was freedom born of surrender. I can cite many examples, witnessed or experienced directly, of interactions that could be considered Divine intervention, or the right amount of money that showed up at just the right time, the phone call that came out of nowhere. Miracles? Grace? Certainly to the persons involved.

So in my recovery-focused opinion, miracles do happen. Maybe not big-M Miracles, but certainly the little-m miracles of emotional healing, doors opening, paths illuminated, forgiveness bestowed. My question then, is does "Expect a Miracle" apply to those of us in long term recovery too, or is it solely for the newcomer who is so fresh and open to the wonder of sobriety. I am so grateful for recovery, and I must admit that most days, the wonder has rubbed off.  In early sobriety, "Expect a Miracle" meant the upheavals associated with getting my life together - school, work, repaired relationships, the magic of a sunrise seen from the appropriate vantage point (vs after being up all night).  What does it mean now?

If  I equate "miracle" with hope, what is it that I hope for today? Good health, continued sobriety, love that grows, strong friendships? Returning to the book "Yearnings," Rabbi Kula describes hope as meaning to "pull oneself into the future but stay fully present." Can I expect a miracle, many miracles, and keep my feet on the ground and my butt in the chair? Can I remember that familiarity with this good life doesn't make it any less amazing?

Expect a Miracle. What does that mean to you?  What is it that you hope for?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Serenity in a crazy world...

 I am deeply saddened and disgusted and appalled  by what is going on in this country, from shootings, to pipe bombs, stabbings in a mall, the ongoing protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and on and on.  And this is just in the past 2 weeks. This isn't meant to be a political blog, though I do have my opinions. What concerns me, and what I ask myself when feelings of despair rise in my heart, is, how do I maintain my serenity in the midst of what feels absolutely insane?  How do I stay close to God without sticking my head in the sand?  I've tried turning off the TV, but the violence is still happening and I still learn about it. Pretending it isn't there won't make it go away, and doesn't make me feel any better.

AA literature tells us that we will reach a place where we will be able to "match calamity with serenity," and that troubles will be seen as an opportunity to strengthen our spiritual connection.  My superficial response is yes, I have achieved these things and so much more. I am no longer tossed about by my own internal judge & jury and I am less impacted by the actions of others. But recovery has given me the gift of awareness, of participating in my own life and being open to the experiences of others in this world.  And that can be painful.  It is painful to think that who I see as cousins, nephews, or friends, are seen by others as a threat, simply because of their skin color.  It is frustrating that my plans to travel need to be weighed out with how much danger I'm willing to tolerate.  It is heartbreaking to watch one more unarmed  black man shot down on camera, or an African American mental health worker shot trying to help his ill patient, or a solid police officer killed in a protest gone violent.

I read a piece at work this week titled "What do I do when this all starts to seem normal?"  How do I shield myself from accepting that school shootings and massacres in bars and one more officer down is the new norm?  It is not. Something is terribly wrong here, and I am at a loss. I don't know whether to pray or cry, so I do both. I do what I can to speak up and build bridges. I try my best to focus on what is true and good and right.  I do my best to be part of the solution. But so often I simply feel helpless.

How do you get centered in the midst of what is happening in the world?  What tools do you use to stay aware, yet detached? How do you walk in this world during troubling times?

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Road of Happy Destiny...

On Wednesday, I had the gift of reconnecting with my original sponsor, the wise woman who patiently listened to my tales of woe as I learned to navigate this sober life. We met at Camp 18, and as I drove west on the Sunset Highway, I was hit with wave after wave of memory covering the decades I've traveled that road on the way to the coast.

When I was little, the family would pull over at Oney's by the huge Paul Bunyan sign. We were told it was for a bathroom break, but I now suspect it was so Dad could stop in the bar for a "snort" (what he called a highball). Oney, a crusty old gal, had a talking parrot, a great distraction while Dad lingered and Mom hoped to get going. After Dad sobered up, we'd usually drive on through to Cannon Beach, but those early years always included the stop.

My first husband and I had our honeymoon at the coast, a month after we were married and could each get the time off. My next relationship was with a man who bought a house in Tolovana. By this time, my alcoholism was in full force. Sometimes we wouldn't even see the beach all weekend, but would drive like bats out of hell early Monday mornings to get me to work on time.  And then there was Richard. We once stopped at the water fountain in the middle of the night to make out. Youth and methamphetamine is all I'll say about that.

A couple of years later, on January 2, 1986, Richard and I pulled over under a streetlight so that I could shoot up before going into treatment. I remember the cold, and how he got out of the car because he didn't want to watch. I remember thinking that this might be the last time. Thankfully it was.

On that same road, my Mother and best friend drove every weekend to visit me in treatment, hoping that this thing would take. A few months later, while driving to aftercare,  my new best friend told me he was gay. The Sunset became the road of many truths.

I was fortunate enough to have access to the Tolovana house in those early years, which ended up being the site of many a sober slumber party. We'd crash there after hanging out at the Little Yellow House in Seaside, or the weekend of the North Coast Roundup. One summer a group of us held a bonfire meeting on the beach, so grateful for connection, for life.  These days, my dear spouse and I hit the Year End Round up in Seaside, or drive down for a weekend. The road hasn't changed that much. I anticipate the particular bumps, and the tunnel, and the grove of birch trees as we get closer to the ocean, passing the "For Sale" signs at Oney's, Paul Bunyan still standing.

Driving the hour-plus to Camp 18 this week made me think of the "road of happy destiny" described in the Big Book that we sometimes trudge, sometimes skip along, and sometimes traverse on our hands and knees.  The road itself doesn't change that much, but my experience of it does based on my particular circumstances, my particular state of mind. Heading west on highway 26 will always take me to the sea if I just follow the path. And, if you'll indulge my metaphor, the sober road can always lead to serenity if I follow the directions: don't drink, continue to take daily inventory, right my wrongs, let go of the notion that I am in charge.

There are so many benefits to living where I grew up - the memories, the traditions, the familiarity. The same apply to long term recovery. I am grateful to have memories today. I am grateful for re-connections. I am grateful that the path is there for the taking.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Solitude vs Isolation...

I am a person who functions best with routine. My dear spouse has a work schedule that changes every 3 months. This has been a bit of a challenge. Just when I get acclimated to a particular homecoming time, it shifts, and then shifts again, and yet again. My task, always, is to maintain my center regardless of what is going on around me.

Where I often find myself is in the middle of the "solitude vs isolation" dilemma.  How do I balance time with my husband, precious time with friends, and my introvert's need for solitary regeneration? How do I continue to stay aware of my motives so that I can catch myself when I'm using being an introvert as an excuse for isolation?  When am I lonely, but telling myself that I'm f-i-n-e?

The poet Marianne Moore once wrote that "the cure for loneliness is solitude." I didn't understand what that meant when it was first suggested to me nearly a decade ago. I was anticipating the passing of my favorite aunt, was navigating a break-up, and felt alienated from the social community I'd been a part of for the preceding few years. Determined to experience SOLITUDE, I spent many a winter night reading Rilke while listening to a Miles Davis CD. It was tragic - all that was missing was scotch and a cigarette.  I was trying so hard to reach a healing place, but all I felt was sad and alone.

Lonely wants someone or something to fill the void. Solitude is like a deep breath. And trying to justify my gyrations around escaping loneliness is uncomfortable, though it can take  awhile to recognize the discomfort for what it is. My first reaction to discomfort is to want to change it - somehow, some way, whether that is trying to out run it, smother it with chocolate sauce, or just pretend it isn't there. What I've come to realize is that my feelings just want to be acknowledged so that they can move through me without needing to demand attention. Sitting still, whether in company or alone, is often what is needed, and generally the last thing I think to do.

I am a human being. Sometimes I will feel lonely, and sometimes I will want to be alone. Sometimes, too, I will seek the company of those friends who've walked this journey with me for many years. And, I will nurture myself through schedule changes, grateful for that my spouse and I both have work we enjoy.  I will continue to pay attention to those quiet urges that want solitude, or laughter with friends, or a cozy evening with my love.  I need all three and not always in equal measure. One day at a time, I will choose, consciously.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016


As I once heard, I no longer have a drinking problem, but I do sometimes have a thinking problem. And this gem, "My brain would've killed me a long time ago, but it needs me for transportation."  One of the tasks of early recovery was to learn that I didn't have to act on every impulse or emotion.  As I go on, it is equally important to remind myself (over & over & over again) that my thoughts are just that - thoughts, merely wisps of internal conversation.  Comedian Mark Lundholm says, "First thought wrong."  Initially, yes, definitely. Now, not always, but my first thought continues to bear examination. Who's reality am I invested in?  How does my perception impact what I'm thinking, and where will I allow it to take me?

I just listened to a recording of David Foster Wallace's 2005 Kenyon College commencement address - 22:43 minutes of brilliance.  He talks to the new grads about learning to think, about how to go through life conscious rather than succumbing to the mind numbing tedium of the day-to-day. To paraphrase, he describes the spiritual danger involved when I believe that I am the center of the universe and that all that is happening around me is happening to me, whether traffic snarls or lines in the grocery store. He goes on to say that learning that we have control over our thoughts brings power - the power of not being tossed about by the petty annoyances of the world.  Much like is stated in the Big Book (god is either everything, or nothing), Wallace says that we can choose to see the line in the grocery store as sacred, or not, but we need to recognize that this is a choice. Real freedom, he states, comes with awareness and attention.

I am in danger when I think that I know what I know; when I start to believe that my time in recovery is a guarantee of future success, when I start to value my intellect more than my soul.  Awareness and attention. Awareness and attention. And breathing into the joys and struggles of long term recovery.  What is on your mind today?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Relieve me of the bondage of self...

Yesterday morning I found myself snapping at my husband, and then making immediate amends - and this was before 5am.  I did a fair amount of self-flagellation well into the morning. Shouldn't I know better by now? Will responding, rather than reacting, ever come automatically?

I have to wonder about character defects (or defenses - call them what you will, these aspects of ourselves that cause us and others discomfort).  When I first entered recovery, I was, as we say, "a liar, a cheat and a thief."  Those defects of behavior were corrected almost immediately upon embracing sobriety. I had a lot less to lie about when I was no longer using drugs or drinking beer for breakfast.  Through the inventory process, which I initially thought was intended to punish me for bad behavior, my sponsor helped me dig below the offending action to get to the underlying defect  - the place where instincts had "gone awry." Many of those crunchy places were smoothed over with increased awareness. I caught myself and corrected the little fibs, usually before I said them. I stopped being less-than-honorable in my relationships.  I acted as if I was confident until that became a part of who I am.

But what of those tender spots that don't seem to have gone away?  After decades of inventory, there are a few aspects of self that still cause me to wince.  The acting out from those places has definitely mellowed, but there is still the little "ouch" of hearing my mind jump to the same old story line.  For me, it is insecurity and comparison that continue to plague my otherwise peaceful life.  And challenges with feeling too busy - something I've been complaining about in my journal for years and years.  Are these character defects, meant to be eradicated? Or perhaps merely aspects of my character, like my sense of humor or being organized.

I have a hunch that it is in acceptance that I will find peace. The more I focus on "not this again!" the more I am engaged in the losing battle of self change. If I could've changed myself, I would've - a long time ago.  What about relaxing into the process?  The 7th step prayer says, "Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me," not "just the healthy bits," or conversely, "just those parts I hate."  What if I could accept myself as I am in this moment?  One of the Alanon daily readers reminds me that "being human is not a character defect."  

When I snap at my spouse (self-righteousness), or grumble to myself about the person in front of me at the store (impatience), or find myself lacking in comparison to others in the room (insecurity), what if I were to pause and ask myself what I'm afraid of? What if I were to take a deep breath and take stock of where I feel out of balance? What if I were simply to notice?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


Last week I wrote about the internal "to do" list and the desire for open space in my days.  Taking a closer look, how do I balance my program with the rest of my life?

I fully acknowledge that I wouldn't have a "rest of my life" without recovery, but after decades of sobriety, what is the proper ratio of meetings and service to engagement with the greater world? This is a recurring theme in conversations with my peers - the "I got sober to live my life, not just sit in meetings" refrain.

Truthfully, I got sober to get the heat off, to stop the emotional pain, and fully expected to return to the life I'd been living, only dry. I had a very limited frame of reference for a life without substances - an enjoyable life that wasn't "stupid, boring and glum" was not something I could imagine. And then, the alternating exciting and terrifying discovery phase of discerning activities and people and places that have made my life rich and full. So here I am today, as are many of my friends and acquaintances, with lives wonderful beyond imagination; lives beautiful in their ups and downs by virtue of our presence and participation.  We are not looking through a cocktail glass at a life just out of reach - we are living.

And so, now what? It goes back to looking at my reasons for attending meetings and participating in service - am I there to give or to receive?  I need both.  I can't keep it unless I give it away, and I don't have anything to give away unless I am filling my own spiritual well.

I currently participate in several "in home" groups of like-minded folks that meet monthly. This can feel like a deep inhale, giving me freedom from the responsibility of being a long-timer.  And, I attend a couple of open meetings regularly that are a mix of old and new sobriety, that allows the opportunity to give back and to bear witness that 12 step recovery works for the long haul. Some weeks, some months, my formal meetings are fewer and farther between. Life happens. And some weeks I feel like a newcomer, soaking up the joys and pains of those I hear in the rooms.

What is your formula? How do you remain respectful of the process that brought you to long term recovery while honoring the life that you lead today?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

To Do..

I was in a meeting recently where the chairperson, opened with "I've been sober 35 years. Can't I take a week or two off ?"  Well, no. Not exactly.  Are we allowed vacation from the spiritual path? Not unless we are also planning ahead to make some amends for our behavior!  But what about this notion of rest and balance - the "human doing vs human being" that we are told to emulate?  And what happens when the "being" becomes just one more item on the to-do list?  Go to work. Run. Coffee with friends. Meeting. Hike. Bike ride. Picnic. Clean house. Laundry. Read a book. Relax. Meditate. Laundry.

I am a do-er; not compulsively, but definitely task oriented.  Employers tend to love that about me. Loved ones, maybe not so much. What I struggle with is the idea of balance. OK, not the idea of balance - I think it is admirable - but the achievement of same. I find my weeks filled with activity - social,  life maintenance, service, family time, chores...   I often crave space and find myself caught in the trap of "when life calms down, then I will (fill in the blank)."  But the thing is, life doesn't calm down - life just is. How do I balance my low boredom tolerance with the need for quiet time?

I have come to accept that I fill in my own date book. No little genie sneaks into my purse to scribble in step groups and coffee dates and symphonies. My intention each month, as I look at the beautiful blank page of a new calendar, is to leave holes in the schedule. Blank spaces for being home. For puttering in the garden. For cooking a lovely meal rather than just throwing something together. I am the guardian of my time. I need to remember that the next time I impulsively say, "Yes! I'd love to!" There is so much I'd love to do, but sometimes I need the self-discipline to say "No."  Balance is an art. Balance is a spiritual discipline. Balance is a state of being, that like the teeter-totter, moves from one end of the spectrum to the other. Today I feel in that centered spot. I think I'll stay here awhile.

What is your practice for staying balanced?  How do you manage your to-do list so that it doesn't manage you?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


What do we do if we stumble, and what various forms does that take for those of us in long term addiction & alcoholism recovery?  "They say" that the road gets narrower.  How close to the edge can we go before running the risk of falling off the path altogether?

A dear friend struggles with gambling.  Long term sobriety, and a long struggle with this other killer. Does that mean that he isn't doing something "right?" Does that mean that his years of step work, of sponsoring men, of showing up for others, means naught?  I've known others who's dis-ease has taken the form of overspending, over eating, relationship addiction - all those ways that imbalance manifests in our lives.  Are they sober?  In recovery?  How narrowly or broadly do we define those terms?

For others, that stumble may involve the various ways we stray from whatever we define as Higher Power - busyness (which is often perversely rewarded in our culture), television (when something is called "binge" anything, it's a clue...) - the "lesser" evils that nonetheless serve to distract us from our centered place.

And what about those close-calls? Those there-but-for-the-grace-of god-go-I? For me, that came when my mother was dying. I was in charge of her morphine - of filing up the little syringes that she'd squirt under her tongue every few hours to help ease the pain.  One evening, several months into the hospice journey, I spilled some of the medicine onto my hand.  My alcoholism, on high alert as I walked through those painful days, whispered, "I wonder if you'd feel it if you licked your fingers?"  I wonder.  I wonder, and I consider it grace that I recognized that voice for what it was (fear, grief, wanting to escape). I said out loud, "I see you, you f***er. You can't get me that easy," and washed my hands at the kitchen sink.  And, I felt the stumble. I was acutely aware in that moment of losing my balance. With the excruciating pain of watching my mother die, I could just as easily downed a bottle of the stuff.

How have you stumbled? Where do you feel it when you are off the beam?  How do you find your way back?


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Letting Go...

As I write, my dear spouse is in our garage with 3 young men, new to recovery, who hired on to help with the final push to close out the storage locker he's been in for years.  It has been a process of letting go, both materially and spiritually, and a statement of trust - in our 5 year marriage, our commitment to downsizing, our desire to lighten our load.

Recovery has been like that - commitment, trust and letting go. First up was the commitment to abstinence, to doing whatever it took to stay clean & sober. An old-timer named Bruce once said, "Don't let this one day at a time crap fool you - we're talking about the rest of your God damned lives!"  Yes. One day at a time, I am committed to self care rather than self harm, solutions rather than problems.  And then the letting go. Do I let go and then learn to trust, or trust and then let go? Maybe they are one and the same. I have learned to trust that the world runs just fine on its own, that if I stay out of my own way, circumstances generally work out for the better. From that experience comes the letting go - of outcomes, of my plans and designs, of my attempts at control.

At the beginning, and well into the middle years, letting go and trust were at the end of a long list of not-so-functional coping skills: drink lots of coffee, talk to 20 different people, don't think about the issue, or think about nothing else, write pros & cons lists, pray for my will to be done and pronto. Age, and years in recovery have worn me down to a more peaceful outlook, like a jagged rock made smooth by time and the elements.  Nearly everything I've ever been afraid of has already happened to me, so relax already!

Letting go is a practice. Trust is a spiritual discipline. When I feel that familiar internal clench, when I realize that I am holding on too tight to an idea or a plan, I can take a breath. I can meditate. I can talk with a trusted other. I can put pen to paper. I can pray for knowledge of God's will for me and the power to carry that out.

I'm finding that the de-cluttering taking place in our household is the physical manifestation of the de-cluttering that is taking place in my soul. What do I want to take with me on the next phase of my development? What am I finally willing to let go of?  I'm finding myself less inclined to hang on to old ideas as I more seriously realize that my time on this plane is finite. Whether it is old written inventories, dishes I haven't used in years, or the still whispering notion that I'm not enough, it is time to let go, to lighten my load - one day at a time, for the rest of my g.d. life.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


In 1988, I was the Program Chair for the now defunct Columbia River Young People's Round-up, responsible for choosing speakers for that year's conference.  On Saturday night, I sat on the dais with my friends Jay and Barbara, as we introduced Sean A, from Vancouver, BC. He carried a strong message of recovery that impressed we newcomers especially. Here was a man who was funny and handsome and talked about living a rich and full life while sober.

Last weekend, Sean A spoke from the podium at the Summerfest conference in Eugene. He sat, rather than stood, and opened his talk by sharing that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He talked about how his relationship to Step 3, where we are asked to decide to turn our will and our lives over to Higher Power, had changed. I did not have the sense that this was a foxhole conversion, but more a continuation of a long relationship.

What does it mean to have a continuing relationship with God? What does it mean today that it may not have meant when I was newly sober? Back then, my relationship with Higher Power was like falling in love, an infatuation really. It was new and exciting, and I wondered what God had in store for me next. Over time, it settled into a more comfortable knowing, which is not to say that there haven't been moments (weeks, months) of doubt, of anger, of questioning.

So often I hear people share their struggles about God - to believe or not believe, to trust or not trust. The founders of AA were brilliant in their insistence that the 12 steps refer to a God of our own understanding, each to his or her own concept or lack thereof.  I am very fortunate in that I was raised with the idea of a loving and caring God. What was missing was the sense of a personal relationship,which I was challenged to define as I moved forward in recovery. And define I tried to do, until I realized that I was trying to put God in a very small box.

In "Yearnings," Rabbi Irwin Kula notes that "the word God so often trips us up," from the notion of an Almighty in the sky who keeps score, perhaps the God within, or maybe none at all. He goes on to say that our image(s) of God "become stultifying if we don't allow them to change and grow as we do." According to his studies, the graven images forbidden by the 2nd Commandment also refer to our ideas of Creator, to the places we get stuck in our limited definitions.

I am saddened by Sean A's illness, yet I am inspired by his example of service, of showing the way with grace and dignity. I reflect on what he shared about letting go. And what greater challenge of surrender than when one is staring death in the face?  I think about my own relationship with God and how that has shifted over the years, from the Santa Claus god of early recovery to the close companion who held me as I walked with my mother on her end-of-life journey, to the comforting presence I sense today.  I learn from others, both in program and not. When I am moved by a share, by a passage read, by the experience of a sunrise, that becomes a part of the God within - the still small voice. Someone once told me that if I could understand the Higher Power, I wouldn't need it. Amen to that. Today I don't have to try to figure it out.

God speed, Sean A. Safe travels, where ever this journey leads.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


I just spent a week in northern New Mexico - beautiful country of high desert, mountains, and the Rio Grande.  And, I felt a real sense of homecoming when I returned to sea-level and our moist northwest climate.  This is my home. My sense of place and belonging is deeply connected to our mossy sidewalks and the sound of  rain on the roof when I sleep.  Even as a kid, when our family moved from the high desert of central Oregon (though not so high as Taos!), I felt a spiritual exhale in crossing the mountain to the Willamette Valley. This is where I belong.

I had that sense of almost immediate belonging the first time I sat down in a 12 step meeting. I'm not saying that I was comfortable, but I knew that these were my people - that I'd found my home.  As we hear so many say, I'd always felt like I didn't quite belong - like something was lacking in me that would let me be comfortable with others. I was initially astounded to see burly guys cry, and hear elderly ladies share incredible strength.  I was relieved to hear people talking about how I felt inside, but didn't have words for.  The walls that I'd allowed addiction to create in my psyche came tumbling down as I soaked up the language of the heart.

I consider the 12 step rooms my spiritual home.  I have other places that feed my need to connect with Creator, God, Higher Power, but the 12 steps are my base.  I've wandered at times over the last 30 years, but always come home to that connection.  Much like our verdant oasis, here where the Columbia and Willamette rivers meet, the 12 step programs are where I can take a deep breath and know that I am where I need to be. Especially in these difficult and heartbreaking times, I need that refuge.  Where is your spiritual home?

Monday, July 4, 2016

Freedom - 

On the 4th of July weekend in 1986, I chaired the noon meeting at the "Little Yellow House" in Seaside, Oregon, marking my 6th month of sobriety, which was epic.  6 months?! Amazing!  I chaired on the topic of freedom, focused on "freedom from" - freedom from the shackles of addiction, freedom from driving with one eye always on the rear-view mirror (don't let me get caught), freedom from craving.

As time went on I celebrated"freedom to" - the freedom to explore the world, freedom to push myself just slightly beyond my comfort zone, freedom to learn and to grow into the person I was intended to be - not the "shivering denizen of [King Alcohol's] mad realm," I'd once been (Big Book, p.151).

Today I celebrate those freedoms and more - the freedom of choice, the freedom to show up for myself and my loved ones, the freedom of structure afforded by the spiritual path of the 12 Steps, the freedom of  mindfully participating in my life.

The gifts are many - I do hope you have time to appreciate yours today and every day.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Memories, again

I'm stuck on this idea of memories - the sometimes visceral recollection of a time or a place or a person.  I'm assuming that it has to do with growing older, with the very real awareness that there is more time behind me than in front of me.

At a  recent writing workshop, a particular prompt stirred a strong memory I have of climbing a tall pine tree near our house when I was small - maybe 6 or 7 years old. I remember the swaying of the tree as I neared the very top, the wind and the smell of pine. I remember the sense of absolute freedom.  I know that my mother called to me to come down, trying to keep her voice from betraying the fear she had that I'd fall.  I know that because she told me later, but I don't remember that part. How many of our memories are actually our recollection and how many are the stories we've been told? How many are based on the stories that we tell ourselves?  When does memory shift to being a story, an anecdote? At what point does it lose its emotional pull?

I recently came across some writing from pre and early recovery, including a scathing letter I wrote to my cousins attacking them for their part in an intervention that got me into my first treatment experience ("how dare you?" "It's none of your business!")  I also found some early inventory, mainly about my parents as I began to wrestle with the impact of growing up with alcoholism. Now, I thank my dear cousins for their part in helping me stay alive and had completely forgotten how angry I once was. These days, I am able to "look at my past without staring" (from the Alanon reader, Courage to Change) in regards to my childhood, loving my parents fiercely for who they were, not mad any longer for who they were not.  Those shifts come from my changed perspectives, from time and distance, from step work and forgiveness and lived evidence of trusting that "if things were supposed to be any other way, they'd be different." The perspective changes because the story in my mind has changed.

In the rooms of recovery, we tell our stories, real, imagined, sometimes embellished, sometimes over and over again. Some of my stories, some of my memories, have lost their punch, have lost their ability to send me to a dark hole. These days I ask myself, "Is this recollection real? How much of what I remember is attached to the story I've told myself?"  Awareness. Mindfulness. Staying conscious of my intentions. I can no longer claim powerlessness over what stands between me and peace of mind.  Yes, life happens, but it is the stories I tell myself that shape my attitudes.

I'm grateful for my rich cache of memories, both painful and joyous. I'm grateful for experience, strength and hope. I'm grateful for the emotional distance that allows me new perspectives, new ideas, new viewpoints.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

We can do together....

In one of my first meetings I heard a guy say, "I've been here long enough to know I haven't been here long enough."  I latched on to that little phrase, using it to draw a chuckle from the group when I was still too shy to say much other than my name.  But lately, it is making more and more sense.  I've been here long enough to know I haven't been here long enough.

Last night I sat with a small group of women with 20+ years of recovery; each committed to this process of deepening the spiritual connection, of consciously engaging with the questions that come with long term sobriety, each of us nearly bursting with gratitude for the gift of life we've been given, with all its ups and downs.  Someone said that it feels like she is looking "backwards and forward at the same time."  Yes.

It is important for me to connect with those on the path, maybe now more than ever - those I walk with hand-in-hand, and those who are leading the way.  I can tell myself that I don't need to pick up the phone, that "I know what she'll tell me," that somehow I'm supposed to know how to fix myself after all this time. Ha! When did that ever work?  I can now recognize those thoughts as my dis-ease in subtle action. My alcoholism rarely announces itself - Hello! Let's take a drink today!  No, it's more of  whisper: You don't really need a meeting... Ah, don't bother her...  Let's just stay in tonight...

The "we" of the program has a depth that is only just now beginning to sink in.  I need do nothing alone. That certainly applied in early sobriety when I was inspired to stay clean one more day by the example of those in the rooms.  And it applies today as I navigate a new marriage, think about retirement, marvel at the gifts of growing older, learn to live with loss, recommit to my recovery on a daily basis...

I need the new member, for certain, to remind me of the gravity of the disease, to enchant me with the wonder of early sobriety. And, I almost desperately need my peers - those who I share history with, and those I've just met. Let's trudge this road together.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


The man who was my lover at the end of my addiction - the man who first stuck a needle in my arm, and then suggested a few years later that going to treatment was a good idea - died when I was 2 years sober.  He had a complicated relationship with his then teenage daughter, in the way that relationships with practicing addicts tend to be complicated. I didn't know her well. We had limited contact when he was living with me, and then after he overdosed she thanked me for a letter I'd sent describing what I knew of the man she had only a limited relationship with.

With the magic of social media, I reached out to her last week, some 28 years since our last conversation. Today I received a very nice reply, talking about the work she's done around reconciling the amazing man that was her father and his destructive choices.She apologized for not remembering me, or as she put it "I remember your name but have no other context for who you are."

And so, I am struck with the mercurial nature of memory. My context in relation to this girl's father is that meeting him changed the course of my life, yet she doesn't remember who I am.  Memory is almost exclusively about context, is it not? For a time,  I kept a cache of photographs locked away, afraid to look at the Pandora's Box of the final years of my addiction. When I did  finally break the seal and showed the pictures to a friend, he said, "What's the big deal?" He saw a girl wrapping Christmas presents. I saw pain, depression, and the fear of what was to come next.

A great deal of my recovery work has been about reconciling the past, those "causes and conditions" that contributed to my alcoholism and acting out.  That has meant countless inventories on what I remember about my childhood and my drinking history. And those memories have changed, have softened, over the years.  One of my Alanon daily readers says that we eventually get to a point where "we can look at the past without staring." That has taken time. A long time. I don't think that we survive this dis-ease without some trauma, even if it is the trauma of what didn't happen (dreams lost, potential set aside, relationships destroyed).

With long term sobriety, my relationship to my past has changed. My story doesn't grab me by the ankles like it once did, reminding me daily of how close I'd been to death.  I sometimes have a hard time remembering how lost I was, how driven I was to alter my consciousness, how confused I was about my place in the world.  I sometimes have a hard time remembering, and that's OK...

Monday, June 6, 2016

Live for today...

I am haunted today by the image of a burning car that we happened upon just as we crossed the Interstate bridge yesterday, coming home from a weekend away.  As I later learned, there was a four car accident about 20 minutes earlier, and the burning vehicle took one life. I keep thinking about the person who was dead in the fire that we saw from a quarter mile away. I don't know if they were male or female, an elder or a teen. I don't know if they were late for work, or headed to their mom's for dinner. Maybe they were going on a date, or had just split up from someone who wasn't good for them.  I can speculate about the people who waited, thinking, "it's not like them to be late..."  All I can be fairly sure of is that they didn't leave the house yesterday thinking they would die.

Early in recovery, I wondered what I'd do if I knew my life was ending. I assumed I would drink - why not, right? My dad did. After 13 years sober, he drank when he learned that his cancer was terminal. He had good years sober - the best of their life together, my mom used to say. But he sometimes remarked that he wished he could have a beer, or a highball, that he wished that he wasn't an alcoholic. He didn't have any kind of spiritual solace, so that when he was told to get his affairs in order, he turned to the only thing he could think of that would offer relief from his fears and his anger.  I believe he regretted that choice. I know that my mom did.  I am so sorry to think of his pain, a pain I didn't have language for at 25, when my own alcoholism was at full throttle.

I've since known several people in recovery who've made the decision to go out sober. I think of dear Kathy, who sold her life insurance policy in order to travel while she still could.  And Mark, one of the early long-term survivors of HIV/AIDS who practiced what he called "celluloid therapy" (movies) when his spirits needed lifting. Or Cathleen C, who chose to forego chemotherapy and do her best to accept the reality of her situation. They were strong examples of living in the moment.

Buddhists say that we should live each day aware of the impermanence of this fragile human life. That isn't too far removed from our "one day at a time" philosophy.  Am I making today a good day? Am I living in such a manner that if this were my final day, I would die without regrets?  I'm not sipping tea in London, or trekking in the Olympic National Forest, but I can say that on a day doing laundry, a day appreciating time with a friend over the weekend, a day of gratitude for my marriage, I am right with the world.  Do I want this to be my last day? No. There is a lot I still hope to do. But seeing the aftermath of that accident yesterday has me appreciating the simple moments of today.

Be safe out there. Tell your loved ones that you care. Remember that it really is just one day at a time.  

Monday, May 30, 2016

Catching up to myself...

I was talking with a friend about transition, and that sense of  resistance and movement experienced when outer circumstances have changed, but my psyche is still back in the old "me." He used the phrase, "catching up to myself," which perfectly captures that sense of in-between. A therapist once described it as being on the monkey bars - there is that moment when you've let go of one rung but haven't quite grabbed hold of the next.

I'm reading a thought provoking book by Rabbi Irwin Kula - Yearnings: Ancient Wisdom for Daily Life.  He writes about the still, small voice, and that "yearning to know ourselves, to comprehend who we are in the world."  Isn't that what the recovery journey is all about?  I was out of touch with my true nature during the drinking/drugging years, and much of earlier recovery. I was very adept at out-running that inner voice of wisdom that usually whispered, "Slow down. Wait and see." For so long, I'd rather make a poor decision than sit in the discomfort of not knowing what to do - those "decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt."

Someone recently said that being quiet is different than being still.  I can be quiet, but getting still is a spiritual discipline.  Rabbi Kula says, "Rather than trying to define who we are, what if we sought an ever-deepening understanding of how much we are?"  For all of my questioning and seeking, recovery - life - seems to unfold whether or not I know what's coming or not. As I'm reminded, "figuring it out" is not one of the 12 steps.  I have questions - about retirement, about my place in this world, about deepening my spiritual connection.  I'd love answers. I'd love the proverbial sky writing or neon lights that say "this way!"  Instead, I have the questions, the sense of spiritual seeking that keeps me on the path. The answers I seek may not even be answers. Maybe it is more the sense of peace of mind, of serenity, of being comfortable in the world.

Life is good today. Life is better when I detach from my own thinking, when I trust in the wisdom of experience. That is surely a gift of long term recovery...

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What do I bring?

I was in a meeting recently where a couple of fellows with long term sobriety nearly came to blows.  Fellow #1 read a religious tract during his share. Fellow #2 was offended, and in his share, spoke to our singleness of purpose and the importance of sticking to conference approved literature lest the newcomer get confused about our primary purpose.  After the meeting, they had words, which escalated into threats. A few days later someone shared about the incident, saying that he was told that if you haven’t been to a meeting where a fight breaks out, you haven’t been to enough meetings. While I hate to see anger get the best of anyone, I was actually pleased at the display of passion in Fellow #2.  We tend to feel strongly about this program of ours - this lifesaver - and it is vitally important to maintain adherence to the Traditions.

So part of what I bring to meetings is consistency, and a working knowledge of the Steps and Traditions. I am also a piece of living history -  I remember when the Alano Club burned down, and later when the meetings were so full upstairs that 3 rooms spilled into the hall. I remember Norm B greeting at the Grotto, the P.A.S.S. Club dances...  As an old-timer myself now, I am a link to those who were there when I came in, who, in turn, were a link to their predecessors, who were linked to Bill and Bob.  Whenever I share one of Leonard C’s adages, (my favorite being, “Will power will not keep you sober, but want-power will!”) I am drawing on the wisdom of my elders, and I am bringing that wisdom into the rooms. I’ve read that no one truly dies as long as someone remembers them. Well, I remember Leonard, and know his story almost as well as I know my own. It is important to keep his memory alive, and hope that someone will do the same for me someday.

It was immensely important at the beginning for me to see people walking their talk. The old guys and gals would say, “keep coming back!” and next week they’d be right there. They didn’t just tell me to come back - they came back themselves.  I do that for the newer member today.  I go to meetings for my own sanity, and to be that constant, that living, breathing evidence that it really does work.  I believe that a certain responsibility comes with long term recovery.  No, I don't need to be perfect, but it is important that I show up, that I am as real as I can be at any given moment, and that I give that welcome to the newcomer.  

It is also important that I am being nourished in return. It can be disconcerting if I'm consistently the person with the most time in the room.  Being able to give back means that I'm also seeking those places where I can fill my spiritual cup, where I can share freely and openly about the challenges and joys of long term recovery,whether that is in a meeting, across the table at a coffee shop, or on a hike in the woods...    How do you recharge?

Friday, May 20, 2016

Rest in Peace

I just learned that a fellow from one of my regular groups took his own life last weekend.  He is a man who struggled with relapse, and I do mean struggled.  Sober a year here, some months there, another chunk of time in between, but always the relapses.

I didn't know him well at all - we exchanged pleasantries before and after the meeting, and had a couple of brief conversations, but I was always struck by his sincerity.  "This time it feels different." "This time it IS different."  Always the hope, and then too often, the word that he was back drinking or drugging.

I didn't know him well at all, but I've felt like crying all day.  Crying for his mother and his former wife; crying for his sponsors, and those who supported him through ups and downs; crying for all of us who watch the disease take another life.

For all of my somewhat esoteric discussions on the meaning of recovery, the bottom line is this: addiction kills.  Addiction kills via suicide and overdose and homicide and car accidents. Addiction kills via cirrhosis and throat cancer and endocarditis. Addiction kills people and marriages; hopes and dreams.  They say that where there is life, there is hope. Well, for this man, that hope is now gone.

Part of long term recovery, then, is the grieving that comes when one of our brothers or sisters dies related to their addiction or alcoholism.  Part of long term recovery is that on-going question of why one person is able to quit and another doesn't make it.

I am sad today.  I keep picturing this guy's smile, and his earnest declarations that "I'm doing good this time."  God bless you, B.  May you rest in peace.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Questioning the practice...

After my last post, a comment  asked about dogma, about shifting alliances, and that phenomenon of feeling like recovery is flat, boring, why-do-I-have-to-keep-doing-this?  The experience of many, and recovery lore, holds that we're doomed to drink again if we aren't vigilant about our habits. What does that mean as time goes on?

At the beginning, I was probably likely to drink or use drugs if I wasn't in a meeting a day. I needed to establish a recovery lifestyle. Over time, that shifted as work, school, relationships, and new pastimes filled the spaces left open when I stopped using.  Today I have a full and rich life, fuller and richer and alive-er because I am in recovery.  Will I take a drink if I don't go to a certain number of meetings? Not today.  What about my spiritual practice, that evolved from my exposure to the principles of recovery?  What do I need to do to maintain my daily reprieve?

I see friends and acquaintances who've stopped going to meetings and have rich and full lives. I see people relapse who stop going to meetings. I see addiction morph into gambling, spending, or food, with or without meetings.  My point is that it seems very individual.

And, it can be confusing and disheartening when I'm in the middle of the desert, questioning my priorities. It is sad when a home group changes and no longer feeds my soul.  It is uncomfortable when a sponsor relationship takes a turn, or simple drifts. It is a little scary to hear someone with 20 or 30 years talking about drinking again.

But, I don't want my recovery to be based on fear.  While my outlook and emotional sobriety shifts and changes, sometimes day to day, my desire is to stay in a place of gratitude, even when (especially when?) I feel the internal shifts that suggest I might need to do something different for my spiritual growth. For me, that's always meant something in addition to my recovery program. For others, it might be an "instead."

What do you think?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Now What?

On 1/3/1986 I entered a treatment program for my methamphetamine and alcohol addictions.  I immediately jumped into the recovery rooms and haven’t had a drink or a drug since.  On 2/27/1986, I went to my first  meeting to address the family disease of alcoholism (along with the minor detail that I was still sleeping with my heroin addicted, drug dealing boyfriend and wondered how I could help him get clean). 

That was 30 years ago.  THIRTY YEARS. I am dumbfounded on several fronts. 1) I truly went into treatment on the 30 day plan, with the notion that I could win back my ex, who’d already left the country and married another woman.  I did have a tiny smidgen of hope that my life could be different, but really couldn’t imagine staying clean forever. OK, 30 years isn’t exactly forever, but it is a l-o-n-g time. 2) This whole passage of time thing really freaks me out. Where does 30 years go?   I’ve earned a couple of degrees, traveled, completed 10 marathons, gotten married, enjoyed a long term career as well as long term friendships – but 30 years?

And so, if the next 30 goes anywhere near as quickly as this chunk of time, I need to wake up.  Self-care is no longer a theory. “Someday” is now, that elusive here-and-now that I read about and glimpse from time to time.  And that being said, I cannot stay in recovery based on what I did 10 years, or even 10 weeks ago.  What is it that I need to do today?

What does it mean to be in long term recovery?  When I hit the 20 year mark, I thought, OK, this is my life. I am a recovering person.  It’s not that I felt less-than-sober all those years, but I couldn’t argue with 20 years.  20 years felt as solid as anything I’d experienced in my life to that point.  Love tends to come and go. People come and go, as do jobs.  My recovery, one day at a time, can be a constant – as long as I remain mindful of my daily reprieve.  And, it can be a challenge to keep it fresh, to stay engaged, to continue to grow.

30 years feels like it comes with a certain amount of responsibility.  I am an elder.  What does that mean, and how does one practice being an elder without veering  into “bleeding deacon” land? A friend, who recently celebrated 40 years sober, describes a stepping back, a turning over of the reins to the younger generation.  Maybe being an elder means keeping my mouth shut sometimes and seeing where the enthusiasm of those younger in recovery takes the group.

And so, in these pages, I will explore various topics related to long term recovery, both from my own experience, and the experience of others. If I’ve learned anything in these 30 years it’s that I don’t have all the answers. I’m not even sure of the questions sometimes!