Thursday, December 26, 2019

Greetings. A few of you have asked for more information on the Now What workbook... 

The workbook is 8 1/2 x 11 format, with 78 pages of topics, each including a member's view, with processing questions and room for writing on each topic .

Chapter titles are: Taking Stock, Meetings, Sponsorship, Medication and Illness, Other Addictions, Grief & Loss, Aging as a Long Timer, Young People as Long Timers, Relationships and Intimacy, Our Work Life, The Principles of the Steps, Revisited, with a few final Now What? questions.

Let me know if you have any additional questions by writing me at

Happy trails!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

To quote John Lennon, "And so this is Christmas..."  

This past week I attended two medical appointments with two people I love. One was very hopeful – not perfect, but a prognosis for a positive outcome. The other was nearly opposite, and involved sitting with a dear friend who was basically given their death sentence. I am both honored and heartbroken to have been in that room, and I know that there are darker days to come.

Talking afterwards, as my friend attempted to make sense of what he’d just heard, he engaged in some of the “what if?” questions, as in “What if this had turned out differently?” “Maybe I should have….  I wonder if…” All components of a painful life review, when it seems that the end will come sooner than anticipated. How will I be there for him, knowing that there are some tough decisions to be made? How will I answer those questions when my own end draws near, understanding that I may not get a forewarning?

Overall, 2019 has been a good year for me - several grand adventures and the excitement of planning for ending my career. And, as the calendar draws to a close, matters of life and death are at the forefront. It seems that part of growing in life, and in recovery, has to do with being able to hold opposing views – happy and sad, strong and vulnerable, gentle and firm. Black/white thinking has no place in my reality today, though wouldn’t that be easier? Good vs evil, positive vs negative? It is rarely that simple.

In thinking of the two people mentioned above, and also in listening to friends speak of people they are supporting during hard times, I was hit with gratitude for the community of our fellowships. In just a couple of days, my people have rallied, offering whatever is needed. On the other hand, my terminal friend doesn’t have a vast network to draw from, which is part of my sadness. I can be there. And I can know when to cry "uncle!" when I can't.  Having walked this road with my dear mother, I have a good sense of the questions that need asking, the gentle holding of another's heart as they walk the path only they can walk, the importance of seeking my own support.

In my home group on Sunday, the chairperson spoke of pain as love, pain as teacher, pain as the propellant towards healing. I realized that what I’ve been calling “pain” these last few weeks really isn’t that. Pain, in its purest sense, is only a millimeter away from pleasure – the gasp that signals both. What I label as pain, however, seems to be some sort of hybrid: sadness + regret, overwhelm + time constraints, fear + anger, for example.  Emotional pain is a sign of love, as in the exquisite grief when a loved one passes, but can also be an indicator that I’m confusing love with dependence, caring with neediness or control. What has always helped is putting pen to paper to unravel the depths of the emotion. And then the hugely challenging spiritual exercise of letting go, turning it over, accepting that what is, is.

A friend shared a quote (source unknown) – “What I truly want is on the other side of fear.” I would say, too, that peace of mind is on the other side of pain, if I’m willing to do the work to stay in the moment. 

Baba Ram Dass died this past week. I will share his quote and smile, hoping that this is his experience:
"Death is not an error. It is not a failure. It is the taking off a tight shoe."

How is it that pain as been your teacher? How do you both comfort yourself, and do the hard work of discovery and healing?

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Greetings of the season! I am very excited to announce that my newly printed "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What? a Workbook for the Joys & Challenges of Long Term 12 Step Recovery" is available for purchase through this site: See Paypal button at right... 

If you need to reach me, I can be found at

Best wishes to all of us for a safe & sober holiday.       

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Greetings all. My workbook, "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" is now available. I'm doing a test run with the Paypal system to make sure I see the purchaser's address and payment info before I go live - stay tuned to this space for the "Go!" message.  Thank you! I'm very excited to share this work with you.       Jeanine B

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

I’m thinking of anonymity in meetings, which can be tough for those of us who’ve been in recovery in the same town for a long time.  I so appreciate my home group – that sense of being known, of knowing others, of claiming my particular seat and knowing that others will be in their appointed places by the door, or over by the coffee pot. And sometimes, I want to be where nobody knows my name. Sometimes I want to be an anonymous (sober) drunk in the back of the room. Sometimes I want to share in a general way and not have my meeting friends try to put together the puzzle pieces.

And, I’ve essentially grown up in meetings. From someone who mostly shared intimacies when under the influence to a person who has learned to use meetings to take the power out of a given situation or emotion, I’ve grown accustomed to processing. For many years, I’d mainly share once I was firmly in the solution. These days, I often can’t help myself from sharing in a specific way. It depends on the matter at hand, and the level of safety I feel in a given group, but often, simply the act of sitting in the circle starts me crying as I feel the warm embrace of the"We," and hold still for perhaps the first time that day.

When life feels like it's coming at me from all sides, my inner sick Alanonic wants to skimp on self-care and go straight to frantic. I caffeinate, and move from awareness to action without the pause vital for the acceptance piece of the equation. My healthier self knows that I can't be there for anyone if I'm not there for myself. This week, what that meant was attending my morning meeting despite my "helper" self needing to get to work to atone for leaving early. It meant staying in rather than going to my usual nighttime group, recognizing the need for down time. It has meant being open to outside help, and asking my trusted others for support. And on Thursday, it will mean sitting in sacred circle for our annual candlelight women's Solstice meeting.

Our literature tells me that self-reliance will fail me every time. When I find myself moving in what I call "tuning fork" energy, I can take a deep breath of recognition that I'm in "I've got this" mode. The deep breath itself doesn't necessarily fix what's ailing me, but it does serve to bring my attention to my dis-ease. I've made a fear list, including self-centered fears, putting pen to paper as is suggested in the Big Book. Again, it isn't magic, but part of the process of slowing down.

Someone posted  this quote on Facebook - "On particularly rough days, I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days so far is 100% and that's pretty good." Years ago, someone pointed out that everything he's been afraid of has already happened. I haven't fallen out of a burning airplane, but otherwise, that is true for me as well. Life feels hectic in the moment, not in the least aided and abetted by the holiday rush, which I don't participate in but can't help but feeling in the busy stores and increased traffic. One day at a time, I learn good news and not so good news. One day at a time, I show up for my family and friends (& they for me), as well as the people I work with. One day at a time, signs of the season remind me that there is a beginning, a middle and an end to all things. 

Today is the one year death anniversary of the person who facilitated me getting sober so long ago, despite all the crappy things I'd done to him. This darkest week of the calendar year also marks the very darkest time of my life, leading up to treatment and my recovery anniversary on January 3rd. I know that I am a sum of all that has gone on in my life - those current events that shake my soul as well as the sad and happy memories of times gone by. Remembering the totality of who I am, sitting here today at my desk, helps maintain some sense of perspective. I know I'm talking in circles, and more will be revealed to both you and me. Suffice to say, as my sponsor reminds me, today, all is well.

What is on your heart and mind during this dark lead in to the winter Solstice? Is this time of year filled with good cheer, melancholy, or a little of both? How will you participate in the "we" this week? 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

I few years ago, I was at the HOWL conference in Hood River, perusing the literature table with a friend. As I thumbed through the various daily readers and other texts, many of which I own or recognize, I said, “I’m in long term recovery – where is my literature?” We laughed, and I joked, “Maybe I should write it.” Later that evening, as my husband and I enjoyed pizza on the waterfront, it hit me: Maybe I should write it! Maybe should write a book on long term recovery.

Out of that initial idea came this blog as I wrapped my mind around what and how I would write for those of us who've been sober a long time. I started these weekly posts on 5/14/16 and am honored to have readers locally, as well as in Madison, Seattle, and the Oregon coast, along with Dubai, Prague and Mexico. After a share on the AA Agnostica website (, I believe there are some Canadians out there as well. Thank you, all, for your participation in the conversation, whether that is in person, via email, or the occasional comment on the page (Please! Share your thoughts with other readers!).

In the meantime, the idea struck of a workbook with topics and processing questions, including input from others on the path. Because I am a somewhat haphazard writer, it has taken awhile to gel, but I’m very happy to announce that the workbook is at the printers and will (hopefully) be ready to market before the new year. Stay tuned.

Over the years, I’ve come to recognize that when an idea seems to come from nowhere, it is usually meant to be, especially if it feels too big for what I think I can handle. The intuitive thought doesn’t usually show up in neon lights, but the still, small voice is insistent and doesn’t brush off easily, though it can take time to realize the message. Often, those gentle nudges come to the surface when I’m journaling, or out for a quiet, early morning run. The world often feels far too noisy, which clutters my already busy brain. Intentionally seeking quiet helps me silence the internal chatter, as does remembering to take a deep breath.

And I’ve had to do a lot of breathing lately as life-on-life’s-terms has hit in anticipated and unexpected ways, most notably with health concerns for my loved ones. With some challenging medical news on Monday, I now realize that I immediately went into “fix it” mode until I sat in my Alanon circle Tuesday morning and began to cry. I was reminded, in yet another helpful after-the-meeting parking lot conversations, that it is ok to be concerned, that it is ok to feel. Exhale. While it is my default/old tape to move from information directly to action, I was reminded that acceptance and turning it over are vital if I want any peace of mind.

Later that afternoon I went to the grocery store, and ran into an old high school friend, and then a grade school pal, and a co-worker.  As I walked to my car, I stepped over a syringe cap, reminding me of what life used to be like, and as I turned my face to feel the rain, I felt myself sink back into my body. Yes. All is well todayLife goes on. Groceries are bought, beds are made, cats are fed, doctors phone. I can honor and experience my emotions, and by doing so, allow them to move through. It’s only when I try to stay in super efficient-mode that my feelings come out sideways and I find myself taking my car keys into the bathroom, or missing a familiar turn because I’m so wrapped up in non-productive thought. 

One day at a time, one day at a time, one day at a time. As much as it annoys me, I am SO not in charge. But, also, I am so not alone. My loved ones and I have such support and caring. When I give it even a moment's thought, I know we'll be alright, one day at a time.

What dreams are trying to get your attention?  When have you listened to your heart and taken a leap of faith that was the right thing at the right time?  If struggling with acceptance, what can you do today to move from your head to your heart?

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

I did some traveling down Memory Lane this weekend at a friend's 60th birthday celebration. She's long since moved out of town, but what a delight to see her, and the other two members of our early recovery crew. Meetings and potlucks and conferences galore! We were in each other's weddings, and attended the memorial for one of our's husband, gone far too soon. For several years, after I'd acquired a video recording camera back in the pre-cell phone & tablet dark ages, we recorded "Dreams & Goals," a sometimes rambling, giggle-filled commentary on what we thought life would be like in the coming years. Staying sober topped the list, along with getting married (though most of us were single), maybe having kids and/or a career, writing a book - basically we had no idea, which didn't stop us from being shy and silly in front of the camera. A couple of years ago, my husband inadvertently donated this old VCR tape to Goodwill. When I started to cry, said husband (a definite keeper) made his way to the distribution center and miraculously retrieved it. I need to watch it again and see what of those early intentions came to be.

Time. Time passing; time creeping or speeding by, depending on whether I'm looking forward to something or not, or simply not paying much attention. I heard several good messages in my weekend meetings regarding surrender, which somehow feels related to the idea of time passing, which it will – whether I’m ready or not. It feels like just yesterday that my friends and I were enjoying slumber parties and trips to the coast, but it’s been more like 30 years – 30 years full of life-on-life’s terms, jobs and illnesses, break ups and make ups, some of us going to meetings, some not, and the ability to pick up the conversation as if we’d seen each other last week. Time passes. People and situations change, as do I, thank goodness. I still carry around the character defaults that plagued me when I first got into recovery, but with time and Step work, their hold is less a death grip than a gentle reminder that I am human. And, I hold dear to my heart the friendships that guided me through those early years of exploration: Who am I? What is it I like to do? What are my values?

On another note, I had a good “parking lot conversation” with a fellow Alanon member yesterday morning. She’s new(ish) to recovery and has just had the light bulb moment of awareness that her parent’s illness was not her fault. Talk about a journey! It took decades for the true understanding of that fact to move from my head to my heart. I could tell you that I knew it, but until I felt it in my gut, with a sense of true compassion for the little girl who thought her daddy would be ok if she were “enough” as well as for my alcoholic father, who carried his own internal demons, I was trapped. The awareness didn’t just happen – I’d done therapy and multiple inventories around my childhood. But what I know is that I can only prepare myself for the change we ask for in Step 7 – the actual shift isn’t something I can conjure up just because I want it. For me, it was a dramatic moment, but sometimes the hoped for change comes subtly and I realize one day that, “Oh, I don’t do that anymore.” Or “Hmmm – did I actually just pause?”

Surrendering to the moment – at work, at home, in my head – is part of that preparation for the magic of the Steps to take hold. Surrendering to the busyness of the holiday season, surrendering to changes in friendships over time, surrendering the circumstances of others’ lives, surrendering my own recovery trajectory. I do the “work” (showing up, self-care, practicing the principles), period. Just because I meditate extra hard, or am a good sponsor, or blah, blah, blah, doesn’t mean that I’m rewarded with joy and positivity. Life happens. Surrender means that I give up the illusion of control, and through that, gain the strength and good humor to walk through whatever shows up on any given day. Sometimes the One Day at a Time concept seems too simple to wrap my complicated mind around. Other days, I say, yes - just for today.

This time of year I have several rituals to mark the season: I go through my new wall calendar and write in birthdays and important dates, we decorate a tree with our daughter, and at Solstice, I share with a group of women what I want to release from the old year and bring in to the new. What, if any, seasonal rituals do you participate in, either solo or as a group?