Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Away or here...

There is no such place as "away"

The above was spelled out in Scrabble blocks as part of a collage at an art installation in New Mexico, where I certainly felt "away" - away from the verdant Pacific Northwest, away from my spouse, away from my daily routines. But is "away" really away?

The statement made me think of the AA saying, "Wherever you go, there you are," the fact that I can't escape who I am, no matter the setting. That truth came home to me in an uncomfortable way years ago when I realized the same concerns I had at my new job had followed me from the old. Maybe it wasn't all those other people. Maybe at least some of it was me. 

As a takeoff on the old TV commercial, "Calgon, take me away!" I sometimes want to be transported to some mythical, stress-free paradise, which, for me could be a forest or a metropolis. As I walked (and walked and walked) the Denver airport, killing time until my connecting flight home, I imagined boarding the plane to London, or maybe Wichita, and what life might be like there - "life" or at least a vacation. As much as I enjoy travel, I'm a bit of a homebody. I wouldn't mind moving away for awhile, as long as I could come back, but I'm curious about lives in other places. What's "away" to me is "here" to someone else.

Even on vacations, I am who I am with my morning tea and journal, reading before bed, more attuned to sunrise than sunset. The cup of tea might be in a paper cup or hotel lobby, but I tend to take my habits with me - not necessarily a bad thing, but an observation. The ability to observe might be one of the gifts of long-term recovery, of aging, of settling in to what matters and what doesn't. It's taken me literal decades to be able to call on the "pause," and I don't always, but when I am able to step even a few inches back from my reactive self, I can observe, and better determine if my response to a situation is valid or some old idea play-acting as truth. 

Paul McCartney just turned 80. Freaking 80 years old. As I walk or s-l-o-w jog through my neighborhood, or giggle with women I've known since I was a kid, I can lose sight of the passage of time. But then my mom's cousin turns 93 and I think of all she's experienced in life, or a rock star turns 80 and I think of all that's happened in my life in the years since I first screamed at The Beatles in front of the television set. A friend turns 70 next week and I think of the hours we've spent pounding the pavement, stopping at my mom's for a bathroom break. We're still at it, though older and slower, and no mom to give us a cookie for sustenance.  Richard Rohr wrote that "None of the outer trappings will last," whether looks or fitness, abilities or clear eyesight, parents or movie stars. Dreams die or fade away; people die, as will I. Interests change, as do the seasons. Getting comfortable with these realities seems to be the task of this phase of my development (and maybe it always was, though my resistance got in the way). Not being one who's celebrated change in the past, I find myself trying on this new way of being, this curiosity about what's next, be that in the garden, my daily calendar or the smile-lines I see on my face and the faces of those I love.

What doesn't change are the inner trappings, my morals and values, which were there all along, obscured by addictions and insecurities. I am grateful that the principles of the program don't change either and provide an anchor no matter what else might be going on inside, or in the world. My perception of, and application of the principles may evolve, but truth is truth. Integrity is integrity. Honesty is honesty. And, self-reflection as part of  "pause when agitated or doubtful" is a way to practice my values. 

Summer has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest after a wet and cool spring. As I marked the Solstice yesterday, I took time to reflect on the six months of the year gone by, as well as those ahead. Our calendars and clocks are human-contrived, but the seasons are eternal. One day at a time, I will continue those habits and routines that bring me comfort, whether here or away, while observing and being willing to let go of that which no longer serves. I will relax into the season as it appears, not as I wish it were (cooler, hotter, more this, less that). I will "focus on that which abides," (from The Book of Runes, R. Blum) 

 Thinking of the "outer trappings" of your life, which are transient? What values and beliefs anchor you to the here and now? How will you be present in the season just upon us?


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See the Feb 4 post for a sample of the 78-page workbook, "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" available as hard copy (mailed) or PDF (emailed - ideal for those outside the U.S.). Portland Area Intergroup also has a supply available at 825 NE 20th Ave, suite 200.  Go to the WEB VERSION of this page, if you don't see the purchase link in the upper right corner




Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Change of place, change of pace

 Two summers ago, we had a couple of huge trees removed from the backyard, trees that essentially shaded the entire area. This spring, the rose bush that hadn't bloomed in the entire 18 years I've lived here has flowered, and the rhododendron has bloomed for the first time. Let there be light! 

This made me think of how we awaken to life in program, from shivering denizens to happy, joyous and free. I think of myself, and all those I've watched come in - how we go from a whirling dervish of emotions to getting jobs, and then better jobs, maybe going to college, becoming parents, hiking mountains, being of service. 

Under the dark canopy of alcoholism, either our own or the family's, survival takes precedence over thriving. Those familiar survival mechanisms followed me into sobriety because they're what I knew. Little by little I grew up and grew into who I was supposed to be all along, able to release most of the fears and the resulting behaviors that held me back. 

I attend several meetings with women in long term recovery (20+ years) and a recurring theme is self-acceptance, the recognition that we are human, and thus make mistakes from time to time. That doesn't make us bad or defective, though that is often the internal message. Sometimes "working a program" can feel like so-much naval gazing or self-flagellation, which goes back to the "me, me, me" barometer I mentioned after my 5th Step. There comes a point, I think and I hope, where it is OK to simply be. Not rest on my laurels or disregard how I move through the world, but to drop the rock of thinking myself a project to be fixed, or finished.

James Baldwin wrote, "If you don't live the only life you have, you won't live some other life - you won't live any life at all." I can reflect on that when I'm feeling hurried, or like there's too much to do (which is really just a figment of my imagination). As one of my Alanon readers says, "What is urgent is rarely important, and what is important is rarely urgent." Important is noticing how the garden is growing, and taking time to scratch the cat behind her ears. Important is laughing with friends, whether our team wins the game or not. Important is acknowledging the young woman my step-daughter has become, and honoring her proud father on his contributions to her growth. Getting here or there can feel urgent, can pretend to be important, but what I've found, over time, is that whatever truly needs to get done, gets done. Vacuuming is nice, but there is no housekeeping police. If I keep my focus on what is in front of me, which may very well be the vacuum cleaner, or perhaps reading a book, I have a better chance of living in the eternal now, one foot in front of the other, taking time to breathe.

I've been attending a lot of meetings lately, adding in a daily Step Group that has been thought provoking. But added to my usual evening meetings means a lot of meetings, and I found myself questioning how I'm spending my time, as in thinking I should be more productive. I recognize that I continue to be in transition, not only from going to work regularly, but from the mental structure that tells me I need to do something with my time. I have entered a different stage of life, and I don't exactly know what that looks like. I know what it looked like for my mom. I know (from the outside) what it looks like for some of the super-agers I read about, but what does it look like for me?

As so often happens, just when I was feeling like the ground is moving under my feet, I heard several people share that they've never been this particular age, with these specific circumstances. Of course it feels like I've never been here before because I've never been here before! When I'm feeling reasonably centered I can relax into that not-knowing. As always, the answers lie within (though often, the road map comes from listening to others). 

I had a dream recently where the house I lived in while skidding towards hitting bottom was being dismantled, having fallen into disrepair. In the dream, I was telling someone, room by room, how beautiful the house had once been, while realizing "that was then, this is now." I've read that a dream about a living space, past or present, can be related to our inner life and emotions. If that is the case, what is being dismantled within me? What used to fit, but does no longer? Might that be related to my ideas about productivity and how I'm "supposed" to spend my time?

This past weekend, we attended my step-daughter's college graduation ceremony. Talk about a beautiful blossoming! She was nine when we met and has grown into a lovely and accomplished young woman. Having decided somewhere along the line to not have children, she has been one of those life gifts I hadn't known I'd wanted. I'm very grateful, and excited to see where her next adventures lead, reflecting on my own life at 22 when I was headed for divorce. Different times, way different circumstances.

I'm visiting a good friend in the Land of Enchantment (New Mexico) this week,  so posting early. I love the damp green of home, but love the stark, arid beauty of the southwest. I appreciate the opportunity that a change of place offers to slow down the usual rapid pace of my thinking mind. 

Early Step work rightly focused on areas needing correcting, but today likely includes more in the "plus" column. How do you notice when you are thinking of yourself as a project needing to be fixed? How do you honor transitions, large and small, that you may be facing today? What old ideas are in need of dismantling? What can you celebrate today?

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See the Feb 4 post for a sample of the 78-page workbook, "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" available as hard copy (mailed) or PDF (emailed - ideal  for those of you outside  the U.S.). Portland Area Intergroup also has a supply available.  Go to the WEB VERSION of this page, if you don't see the purchase link in the upper right corner



Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Routines vs ruts...

We've recently modified our subscription to the print version of the local paper as prices have gone up once more. I get it, and am no longer able to justify the expense. That being said, I'm not crazy about the digital age. I followed family tradition and subscribed as soon as I moved out to that apartment with the shag carpet I wrote about last week. Many things have changed in my life and in the world since, but the paper hitting the door in the mornings has been a constant during times of hangovers or grief, joyousness and workday rush. I know that the past was nowhere near perfect, but sometimes I long for kids on bikes with paper routes versus pre-dawn delivery people careening through the neighborhoods in beat-up cars. I think of the days when there were just four or five TV stations, and we all heard the same news at night. Again, I know there was a lot wrong, a lot unsaid and unreported back then, and, there was a certain frame of reference, before any niche or rabbit hole could masquerade as fact. Yes, I'm aware I verge on being a cranky old lady. I knew I was getting old when some of my sentences began, "Why, I remember when..." whether that is nostalgia for the meetings-after-the-meeting we used to laugh our way through, to thinking of neighborhood places that are no more. And time marches on, with or without my permission, in print or online or somewhere in the cloud.

Which has me looking at those places where I say, "But I've always done it this way." As a supervisor in the workplace, staff saying, "We've always done this," was a signal that a program or a process might be stuck. "Just because" has never been a great reason to do anything but how often do I think that way? I take the paper because I've always taken the paper. I go to this meeting because I always go to this meeting. I don't do this but I do that. It's my on-going rub between comforting routine and stultifying rut, and how to know the difference. A clue would be that "But I've always..." statement. 

Some routine borders on tradition. A friend and I always pick peaches in July. My maternal lineage makes jam in August. I turn on Christmas lights the day after Thanksgiving. I run or walk the Holiday Half in December, rain or shine. As far as routines, I start the day with tea, journal and daily readers, and end it reading in bed. Our cat lives by routine, letting us know when it's time to get up, or when she is supposed to go out for her daily prowl around the backyard.

Some routines border on ridiculous. I'm not sure if I've told this story here, though I certainly have in my Alanon meeting. When my husband moved in, about a year after we started dating, the place we consistently bumped into each other was the very small kitchen. He kept asking me to move my teapot off the front burner so he wouldn't inadvertently get burned while making his daily coffee. But that's the burner I use, so just be a little more careful, dear, being a wee bit territorial over how it's always been. At some point, after one more minor kerfuffle over the darned teapot, it struck me that there is a second large burner on the back of the stove, completely out of the way. Good grief. Just move the darned teapot, Jeanine, and let go of this particular territorial battle. 

After last week's post, a friend told me that they've used "character aspect" instead of "character defect" for years. I like how that takes into account that I have a personality, a character that is sometimes adorable and sometimes annoying and sometimes simply neutral. Being rigid about the teapot was, obviously, annoying. The good news about long term recovery is that I can usually see my foibles sooner than I would've in the past, when I might've gone to the mats over a cup of hot water. 

Things change, whether friendships or meetings, my body (boy howdy) and its capabilities, how I like to spend my time, and yes, technology at the speed of light. I'm a paper calendar kind of gal, with appointments and dates scribbled in or neatly written, preferring the tether to an actual piece of paper rather than the "cloud." (What, exactly, is "the cloud" and what happens to my pictures, my music, my notes if the cloud evaporates??). Maybe it's ok to live with one foot the world of photo albums and CD music, and one in the ether world of online banking and zoom meetings and all the other things I don't really understand.  One day at a time, I will try to stay teachable and open-minded while doing what works for me (If it's not broke, don't fix it!)

What would you describe as traditions, routines and/or ruts in your life? Are you adaptable? To what degree? Do you welcome change? What areas of your life would you prefer stay just as they are?


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See the Feb 4 post for a sample of the 78-page workbook, "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" available as hard copy (mailed) or PDF (emailed - ideal  for those of you outside  the U.S.). Portland Area Intergroup also has a supply available.  Go to the WEB VERSION of this page, if you don't see the purchase link in the upper right corner


Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Steps 6 & 7

In September 1973, my young husband and I moved into an apartment that was as new as our marriage - we were the first to inhabit the 2-bedroom unit that had green shag carpet and avocado countertops. The after-party from our little reception at Mom and Dad's was the first of many, many parties in those rooms - drunken revelries into the wee hours, weekend dance parties ending at an all-night Chinese place, my brother and I getting stoned and making pizza while said husband was off playing cards. We were friends with Harry and Camille, and Floyd and his roommate in our corner of the complex, hanging out on the little deck during summer, BBQ grill going or a pot of gumbo on the stove, with a wide range of comings and goings. It was great, and my drinking wasn't much different than any of our friends at that point. A few years into that marriage there was a fire in the complex and a young woman was killed. I still recall the eerie sound of dripping water from the fire hoses, and creaking rafters as the building cooled and we tried to sleep. It was a long night.

We moved soon after, to a nice house on a nice street, doing our part to portray the American Dream. But by then, my drinking had increased in intensity, I'd had one affair and was headed for another, my husband was compulsively gambling (though for small stakes) while engaging in his own side-relationship and the marriage was on the rocks, just waiting for the tipping point that would end it. But even given the pain of those last months, whenever I've gone by the old apartment, my memories have been fond, thinking of how eight or twelve of us would dance the Hustle (now called the Electric Slide), or create a gymnastics pyramid in the front room while stoned. And then, this year, there was another fire that took more lives and gutted the entire complex. The site was shut down, what remained of the building bulldozed and now I drive by an empty lot, a hole where once up to 25 people cooked and slept and loved and danced, went to work and came home, did laundry and washed their cars.

I'm often struck by empty spaces where homes used to be. We see it here in Portland where old houses are demolished to make way for mini-mansions, and certainly saw it in Detroit, with empty lots in-between derelict buildings. I think about all the living in those places that are now simply open air, although in my way of thinking, those spaces aren't really empty, carrying the energy of what once was.

In a very roundabout way, this can lead me to think about Steps 6 and 7, where we take a look at our so-called character defects, and where many voice fears that if they let go of these characteristics, there will be nothing left. I don't believe that the removal of a defect, the correction of maladaptive behavior, leaves a vacant lot in the soul. The literature tells us that "nature abhors a vacuum." Ideally, when I release a piece of myself that isn't working, I have the opportunity to be refilled with a more positive aspect - often simply the other end of the continuum from what was causing me, or others, distress. 

As my husband prepared to give a share on Steps 6 & 7, we've been talking about what it means to become entirely ready, and what happens when we "ask." I hear a lot about the wording of these Steps. Notwithstanding the God/HP stuff, many replace "defect" with "defense" or take out "good and bad" from the 7th Step prayer, rationalizing that we are hard enough on ourselves without the label of "defect." I can agree with those arguments in principle, but also try to move beyond surface definitions of the language. For me, it goes back to uncovering the "exact nature of my wrongs," the root defect of character that leads to the defensive behavior. For example, I long thought that fear was a defect, when in actuality, fear is simply a human emotion, quite helpful in caveman days and sometimes now. It is the defenses that fear triggers that I hope to have "removed" in 6/7, which simply (but not easily) means gaining awareness of what I'm doing so I can choose a different response. Fears can lead me to efforts at control, people-pleasing, seduction, lying, cheating, stealing, etc. Yes, I must stop the acting out, and I need to examine root causes and conditions in order to heal from the inside out. As was pointed out during a 5th Step this week, my fears manifest because I'm propelled by self-reliance.  Lila R says that most alcoholics suffer from the "defect" of believing we aren't ok, that we're not "enough," which can lead to all sorts of compensatory emotions - anger, self-pity, self-righteousness, blame... If I'm truly, truly allowing Step 7 to work in my life, it becomes a matter of being aware of the thought patterns that trigger old ideas, telling me I'll lose something I have or not get something I want (12x12 p.76).  As my sponsor reminded me, my defenses come from a place of me, me, me. My first reaction was, "Oh no, that doesn't fit - you don't understand," but of course she's right. I don't know that anyone, outside a monastery or mountain top, is completely altruistic, but I can certainly use me, me, me as a yardstick to measure where I'm focused. Have I lost sight of my powerlessness? Am I lusting after a particular outcome? Am I pointing one finger at you and three back at myself? Have I forgotten that I'm really OK as is? Always, the opportunities to go deeper are there, if I allow myself to get still and pay attention to what's really going on inside rather than what can feel like the white-noise of my busy mind.

In the one-day-at-a-time department, I'm reminded this week how quickly things can turn, learning of two people who were professionally scammed out of money and another who's life changed drastically due to a tick bite, not to mention the horrors in Buffalo and Uvalde. One day we walk around like we know what we're doing and the next, tragedy strikes or we make an impulsive decision that turns out to be the very wrong one. One day we're sailing along and the next we're barely treading water. The literature says recovery allows us to "match calamity with serenity," to which I would say, "Maybe, by degrees." I can be grateful that the terrible things I hear about didn't happen to me without smugly thinking they never will, while not giving in to fears and not leaving the house, or locking the children away. This is a strange and often violent world we live in, especially here in the US. My task, which sometimes feels impossible, is to strive towards serenity in my own life, while doing my best to be part of the solution in the greater world - one day at a time, one choice at a time.. 

What old ideas are you aware of this week? Can you gently accept your humanness at the same time you notice what you might want to do differently next time? What are ways that you honor your memories without getting stuck in the past? If one of our primary purposes as recovering people is to be of service, how does that play out for you today, in or out of the rooms? 

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See the Feb 4 post for a sample of the 78-page workbook, "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" available as hard copy (mailed) or PDF (emailed - ideal for those of you outside the U.S.). Portland Area Intergroup also has a supply available.  Go to the WEB VERSION of this page, if you don't see the purchase link in the upper right corner

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Steps...

 Through no conscious intent, three of my regular meetings are now Step groups: Bring Your Own Big Book (Tues 7pm PDT online), Beacon Group (noon EDT Mon-Fri online) and the monthly group I've participated in for several years where we talk about how we've applied the "Step of the month".

Both the zoom meetings simply review the Steps, again and again, with a different speaker each time. My first thought was "How much can one say??" thinking I had a handle on how they work in my life. After all, I've been sober a long time - the program has, to a certain extent, become internalized. But alas, I was wrong. Each time I hear someone speak to their interpretation of a particular Step, I come away with a "Hmmm. I hadn't thought of it in that way," or validation that I'm not too far off the beam in how I practice the principles.

As an example, in a share on Step 2, I was enlightened to the fact that 2 isn't where we are restored to sanity - we just "came to believe" that we could be. The continuation of that process comes in 10 where we read, "...by this time sanity will have returned."  I had no problem believing that my behavior while under the influence was absolutely nuts (whether that was getting loaded, being loaded or recovering from) and I hoped to hell that the people in the rooms could help me come back to earth. Looking back, it is obvious that the return to sanity didn't involve a magic wand, but a gradual process of trial and error, of silly decisions giving way to more rational thought. Again, something I hadn't really thought about before hearing the speaker, which reminds me of something my first sponsor used to advise: Remain teachable.

And Step 2 isn't just about the insanity of the drink. In my recent mental gymnastics about employment, I bounced my ideas, some of them crazy, past a trusted other. Not saying this, or any, person is a higher power, but I was taught that the "power greater than myself" can be another member, or the magic in the rooms when I have the courage of vulnerability. Sometimes in a meeting, I say what it is I need to hear, or I hear my story/need reflected in another's share. 

I've been in a familiar melancholy place this week, a bit on the blue side despite a string of sunny days. Is it my mom reaching out, or others who've passed in recent years? Maybe it's related to the upcoming class reunion, thinking of who won't be there - my cousin, my former sister-in-law and her cousin, a friend from the park days and too many others (we were a class of 500).  I'm also feeling the fact that I last saw many classmates 50 years ago, when we were 17 years old. We've lived lifetimes since then, whether the traditional routes of college/career, marriage, kids, grandkids, or the more circuitous route that some of us took (i.e. the detour of addiction).  However it's turned out, we're now old, we who were the beneficiaries of the 60's social revolution and had plans for a new world order. We're gray and moving slower, perhaps reflecting on "It might have been," or "Damn, it's been a good run." The whole passage of time thing sometimes freaks me out, especially when I'm talking with someone I've known since I was 9 years old. And, here we are.

As I dug in the garden, I was reminded that life will go on long after me and mine are gone. I live in Portland, on the path of a pre-historic riverbed - the Missoula Flood Plain (as in, Montana). Even digging just a few inches uncovers handfuls of river rock, from potato to finger size stones. I appreciate this tie to the history of the land as I traverse various streets near where I grew up, noticing what's changed in the human realm (high rise apartments) and what hasn't (the public stairs where we smoked as kids). 

Life moves on, and on, and on. When I think of the past, I sometimes wish I'd paid closer attention, that I'd asked mom and other elders more questions, that I'd spent more time in the moment instead of wishing and hoping for what was next. Being closer to the end of the story than the beginning has the advantage of perspective - what I once thought of as big deals I now see as mere blips, or even gifts in disguise. Since there is absolutely no turning back the clock, how do I move from a vague sadness for what was to hopeful anticipation of the future? In The Seeker's Guide, Elizabeth Lesser writes that "the secret in life is enjoying the passage of time versus efforts to clutch onto the past or anticipate or fear the future." She further suggests that we "Experiment with letting go into the mystery, curious," instead of afraid. The unknown can be terrifying or exciting. I sometimes need to remind myself that I've never been this many years old, with this much sobriety, this long married, and so on. I don't know what's next because I don't know what's next. Making peace with that fact is the focus of my spiritual quest these days, one day at a time.

How do you view the future? Is it something to look forward to, or dread (or maybe a bit of both)? How can the 12 Steps guide you over life's varying terrain? Is there an area today that could benefit from a return to sanity? How do you check in with yourself to be sure you are remaining teachable rather than having all the answers?


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See the Feb 4 post for a sample of the 78-page workbook, "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" available as hard copy (mailed) or PDF (emailed - ideal  for those of you outside  the U.S.). Portland Area Intergroup also has a supply available.  Go to the WEB VERSION of this page, if you don't see the purchase link in the upper right corner

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Another week...

 I'm sure she is quoted often, but I will post here as I need to be reminded: "How we spend our day is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing." (Annie Dillard, in "The Writing Life")

As someone who has lived with a sense of time-urgency for much of my life, I can read that as "Oh crap, I'd better hurry and do something productive!" or, what I'm aiming for, a gentle approach that whispers, "Ah, here you are enjoying the sunlight on your face."  When I think of those years spent bound by the clock, always thinking I could squeeze in one more thing, with "more" being the operative word, I move into supreme gratitude for today being enough. 

I've had a couple of mental gyrations this week. One has to do with trying to get a handle on heartburn. I'm thinking of that part of the Big Book that describes the decision point of going on to the bitter end or accepting spiritual help, and how most of us hover, trying to figure out another angle. I'm doing the same thing, to a lesser degree: my beloved cuppa strong black tea contributes to heartburn and switching to coffee upsets the old GI tract. Waaaaaa! But I like tea and coffee. I don't want to quit! But I also don't want the consequences. I'll keep experimenting (Ha ha! Not yet ready to say I'm done with either.)

Another area of internal conflict has to do with the temp job I just finished. As my time came to an end, I offered to stay on-call. It seemed reasonable at the time, but as I've readjusted to the glories of retirement, I've had second thoughts. When I first took the job, I was excited. When I thought of staying, the energy was flat. I did a Pros and Cons list, with all the Pros related to "should's" and "what if's" - very fear based, while the Cons consisted of "I just don't want to." Today, that is enough. I've learned the hard way that fear is never a good reason to take, or stay, in a job that doesn't feel right. Sure, work is work and isn't always unicorns and rainbows, but I've got to like what I'm doing if I don't want to make myself crazy. So, I took a deep breath and sent an email, taking back the offer, only to get an immediate reply from my friend/supervisor telling me that the reconfigured wage wasn't great and she recommended I not take it. Thank you Universe, for the wisdom to listen to my inner voice, and for the confirmation that I made the right decision.

What I did this week, with heart soaring, was spend a day working for our local Election Board (and will do so again in the fall). I had a short gig feeding a friend's cat. I planted squash in the vegetable garden, shared in a Speaker Meeting, took some good long walks, and facilitated our 50th high school reunion committee. As a friend, aka Tarot Lady, tells me - what is mine to do will show up. I don't need to tie myself in knots trying to figure out "what's next??" All I really need to do is live one day at a time.

In a meeting last night I was hit by a lightening bolt of understanding when a person said, in reference to Step 7, that we don't really know what's next. It struck me that trust is what this whole thing is about. Trust and surrender to what is, whether you think of that in terms of a deity, or simply the natural progression of life that takes care of itself without my feeble (or well planned) machinations. All I've ever wanted was to feel ok, to live relatively comfortably in the world. In the past I had a lot of screwy ideas about how to get there, with self-centered fear driving the defects/defenses of control or acting out. Recovery has been a process of learning healthy coping skills, which mostly consists of staying out of my own way. The sun will come up tomorrow and I will do what is in front of me, and then the sun will go down and I'll have whatever internal resources I need to do what I need to do going forward.

We talk about triggers - those emotional booby traps that elicit fear or negativity - but a friend recently told me about glimmers, the moments of inspiration or insight that shine the light of sanity or awe on the path ahead.  I'm grateful where that light has shined this week.

Are there areas where you know you should do a particular thing but just don't want to? How do you discern what is inner rebellion and what is valid? Often, when I'm driven to a pros & cons list, I already know what it is I want to do - how about you? What makes your heart sing these days, and are you spending enough time doing that?


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See the Feb 4 post for a sample of the 78-page workbook, "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" available as hard copy (mailed) or PDF (emailed - ideal  for those of you outside  the U.S.). Portland Area Intergroup also has a supply available.  Go to the WEB VERSION of this page, if you don't see the purchase link in the upper right corner



Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Serendipity

 We were in Michigan visiting family last week, with an overnight in Detroit, specifically so I could visit the Motown Museum, aka Hitsville, USA, the building where so many of my lifetime favorite music was made. We were supposed to be in Detroit in 2020 for the International Convention, which, as we all know, was canceled due to covid. Then, the museum was part of my agenda. This time, I was saddened to learn it was closed for renovation but was determined to at least visit the site and take pictures of the building. 

Imagine my delight when we were invited inside by a guy in a suit out back who thought it a shame that we'd come all the way from Portland, Oregon and couldn't see the exhibit. Actually, "delight" barely covers it. When he said, "Give me a minute and I'll take you inside," I started to cry, and once inside, especially in the sound booth and recording studio, found myself nearly overcome with emotion, feeling the joy of the space related to the music, the artists who'd given their all, and the places where the songs intersected with my own life.

Some places are just places, and some places carry the vibe of history and emotion, depending on what we bring to the experience. Friends referred to Motown as my Lourdes, my hajj, and they weren't too far off - it felt like a pilgrimage. I talked with several people about spaces that carry the vibration of meaning, a palpable connection to what occurred there. For one friend, it was unexpectedly at Kitty Hawk, seeing the hill where the Wright brothers launched. I experienced it at the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. My brother and I both felt it at the tomb of Mary Queen of Scots in Westminster Abbey - an almost physical presence in the space, a presence that reached across the centuries to say, "I am here." 

Sometimes that feeling is in the natural world, like at the Redwood Forest, or the Narrows at Zion, but it is always unexpected and absolutely cannot be conjured. I expected to feel something at the Viet Nam Memorial in Washington, DC, which was impressive, but to me, just a wall. Like a hoped-for spiritual experience with working the Steps - "OK I'm ready for my awakening!" - it just doesn't happen that way. At a morning meeting we attended several times in East Lansing, a member talked about levitating three feet off the ground when he finally shared his Step 4 with a sponsor. Most of my 5th Steps have been helpful, but no fireworks. I set myself up when I expect to feel a certain way, whether that is predicting joy or sorrow or anything in-between.

It seems to be, like my experience in Detroit, a matter of being in the right place at the right time, through no actual planning.  I can want an ah-ha moment but it either happens or it doesn't, and sometimes the wanting itself moves the hoped-for experience further away. Serendipity and synchronicity, by their nature, are random, unexpected. And that's ok. As I've said before, if everything is special, then nothing is. And, upon reflection, in each of the moments of awe, those that have bordered on an out-of-body experience, I've been fully present, in the moment, not planning ahead or looking back. Maybe that's the fourth dimension we're rocketed to - the here and now. Simple, but not easy.

We had a good visit with family, and a great time in Detroit, where after the Motown experience, a local picked up our dinner tab and said, "Tell people this is Detroit." We attended in-person meetings at the East Lansing Alano Club, and hit a sweet, small group at a soup kitchen in the Motor City. In both places, I felt the vibe of recovery - the quiet joy of how we come together to seek sobriety or celebrate the lives we've been given. There were a number of court slips to be signed at the Lansing club house meetings. My hope, always, is that a person will hear something in a meeting, or in a conversation with a member, that moves their motivation from getting the heat off to seeing the light.

Have you had experiences where you were awed by a place or a circumstance? What was that like?  Knowing that "this too shall pass" applies to the good times as well as the not-so-good, how can you cultivate being in the present moment so that serendipity has a chance to show up? Are you available to talk when a newcomer is at your meeting?


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Check out the post from Feb 4 for a sample of the 78-page workbook, "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" now available in PDF or hard copy. Email me at shadowsandveins@gmail.com with any questions. For those of you local in Portland, Intergroup has just restocked their supply of the workbook - head down to see Garry and the crew for AA literature and the little back room with non-conference approved offerings.


 


Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Perceptions

In marking a friend's 35th sobriety anniversary this week, he noted he hadn't expected to grow old in recovery. Isn't that the truth? I came in on the 30-day plan to get the heat off, with absolutely no idea I'd still be doing the deal all these years later. As grateful as I am on a daily basis, I'm also thankful that I didn't have a crystal ball back then - the life I have today, as simple as it is, would've scared me - maybe right back to the bottle. College?? An actual career? Talking from a podium?? Being a step-mom? No thanks  - sounds like more than  I'm capable of. Fortunately, life on life's terms generally comes at me incrementally.

When I was a young girl, maybe 7 or 8, I wanted to grow up to be a horse. Not have a horse, be a horse. Then I hoped to be Pippi Longstocking, or someone adventurous like her - I had a recurring dream of joining the Navy, sailing off to ports unknown. And then, puberty hit and all I wanted was a cloaking device. Was it merely hormones, or a combination of internal combustion plus the emotional dynamics of family alcoholism? I'll never be able to separate those two - which came first, the chicken or the egg - but finally, finally, I've been able to release the hold that my perception of the past had on me. But it is interesting (to me, at least) to watch the progression of my dreams get smaller as I got older - from independently traveling the world (Pippi) to wanting to be a teacher (because I loved school in the early years) to thinking maybe I'd like to be a secretary. There's nothing wrong with office work - I've done my share, and I like the organization involved - but from sheer adventure to sitting behind a desk says more about my growing introversion than about my abilities. The world became scary, but really, it was my fears of not being "enough" that shrank my view. (I should add that I did a lot of traveling with my pre-recovery boyfriend, which was amazing and I often felt like an imposter, like Room Service would say, "'Who do you think you are?") 

So much of what I believe is perception, whether about the past, or my current interactions. I recently heard someone say that 2 + 2 = 4, but so does 3 + 1, or 6 - 2. There are lots of ways to get at the "right" answers of this life. The combination that works for me won't necessarily be what's best for you - and maybe what worked for me last week or last year isn't what is called for today. That is an on-going lesson, the Alanon-ic belief that I know what's best for others (or in AA, what is described as the Director - "if only people would do as he wished!" Big Book p.61). But I also don't always know what is best for myself. My inner guide is much wiser these days, but sometimes still it is the scared part that steers me towards a particular decision. A good rule of thumb - does this course or that feel expansive or does it make me shrink? And always the reminder that "wait" is an action. If I don't know what to do, it's ok to do nothing until the way is clear.

We're on vacation this week, so will just do a short post since I'm typing on my phone. Happy trails to you, wherever your journey takes you, whether to a movie on the couch or a travel adventure.

If alcoholism/alanon-ism is a disease of perception, how do you catch yourself entertaining old ideas? Often our perceptions are spot on, but sometimes not. How do you know the difference?


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See the Feb 4 post for a sample of the 78 page workbook, "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" available as hard copy (mailed) or PDF (emailed - ideal  for those of you outside  the U.S.). Portland Area Intergroup also has a supply.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Letting go...

 How does one do that "letting go" thing, you may ask. It's a question I certainly had for my treatment counselors all those years ago. One in particular, a wise and gruff older gal, said to me, "You just let go!" moving her hands from closed fist to open, which was of little help at the time. Hold on, let go, manipulate, obsess, release in very small increments - this has been a tough lesson. Often I don't even realize I'm trying to control until I notice my (metaphorical) clenched fists or shallow breathing. Uh oh. Have I forgotten my powerlessness? 

In a new-to-me online meeting this past week, a member shared that the Steps are tools, not weapons. Oh yeah. I can sometimes come at the self-correction part of Steps 6,7 and 10 with a bludgeon. I did that, again? Will I ever learn? Crap.  (you get the idea)

What if I was to truly employ the strategy a sponsor gave me long ago, which is to imagine holding that tender part of myself in my arms, saying, "Ah, here you are again. What is it you need to feel safe (or loved, or secure)?" As I very well know, behavior is rarely changed via punishment, whether self-imposed or otherwise.

I am certainly far from perfect - how boring would that be? This last week, the person in the big SUV behind me honked when I didn't take a left turn. I didn't take the left turn because I could see that the very long train I'd been trying to out-maneuver since leaving Costco 10 miles earlier, had traffic stopped up ahead. I may have given him a snarky wave, ala "take a breath, buddy" and will admit to wishing the train delay on him, and...  within a few blocks was singing along with the radio. I don't hold on to stuff as long as I once did, especially random traffic slights. And, really, how important is it? 

I've written here about my transition from running to walking, and have likely mentioned that I participate in a weekly training group. This last week I was invited to join the ranks of Pace Mentor, which essentially means showing up (which I do anyway) and earning a pair of shoes and a cool t-shirt. Unlike running mentors, who need to maintain a consistent speed, the walking mentor is a pretty low-key position, but I got a little misty telling my husband about it. For so many years I told myself I wasn't an athlete - I never, ever played any sports after summers of street ball as a pre-teen. The perceived humiliation of the President's Fitness Test (those of you Americans in a particular age range will know what I mean) didn't help - there was no way in hell I could shimmy up that rope. And then high school, when even the idea of getting dressed and undressed in front of strangers had me nauseous (and earned my only ever "D" for non-participation). Then I got sober and someone suggested that walking helped with detox. Then someone else recommended Jazzercise, the aerobics classes set to pop music. And then I started to run and tackled a marathon, inspired more by Oprah than my gazelle boyfriend. 10 marathons later, I transitioned to walking to save my creaky knees, with a goal of striding off into the sunset. So I guess I am an athlete. I don't need to make excuses, being wary of "I'm just a walker." I suit up and show up, and as I often joke, "I'm not fast but I'm consistent." In my personal before-times I didn't show up consistently for much, unless it was happy-hour or the dealer. Vive la difference.

So, this week I'm thinking about self-acceptance, and letting go (of my foibles and yours). I'm sitting in gratitude, reveling in not working (yay!) and plotting out time that is now, once again, my own. I'm not the best at letting go, still, but those little visuals, like the closed and open fists, help, as does thinking about all the things I've stressed about in the past that never came to be. One day at a time, right here right now, all is reasonably well.

What does letting go mean to you today? Are the ways you conjure the energy of release any different now than what you may have done in the past? Can you continue, again and again, to forgive yourself for stubbing your toe on people, places and things? What are labels you once gave yourself that no longer fit? How would you describe yourself today?


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Check out the post from Feb 4 for a sample of the 78-page workbook, "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" now available in PDF or hard copy. Email me at shadowsandveins@gmail.com with any questions. For those of you local in Portland, Intergroup has just restocked their supply of the workbook - head down to see Garry and the crew for all the AA literature and the little room with non-conference approved offerings.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Searching and fearless...

 April is the 4th month, hence a focus on Step 4, the searching and fearless inventory. In the 12x12, on page 52, in a section they must've just added since I don't remember reading it before, Bill suggests we "carefully consider all personal relationships which bring continuous or recurring trouble." Hmmm - that would be all of them pre-recovery and many since! He points out that our insecurities "may arise in any area where instincts are threatened," the old "instincts gone awry." Yes, my instinct for safety and security definitely led to decisions based on self that later placed me in a position to be hurt. 

Lila R, who we follow in our monthly Step Group, believes that with long term recovery, the only person on our yearly inventory should be ourselves. If I'm cleaning up as I go along, there shouldn't be any lingering resentments. Are there certain political figures and positions I dislike? Definitely. People I'd rather not spend time with? Oh yeah. But the beauty of long-term recovery and being true to myself means that I can (usually) choose where I spend my time, and I can balance news that is certain to cause outrage and news that increases my faith in the human race. 

This year, I intend to approach my inventory with a plus and minus column - not just focused on what I do "wrong" but what I feel good about, what I may have accomplished, along with any lurking insecurities and fears, asking if they're realistic or boogey-man fantasies. 

In a recent meeting, someone shared that they write a letter to their fear, naming the what and the why. Years ago, that exercise was suggested at a workshop, with the instruction to write to our fear with our dominant hand and respond with the other. I'd just met my now-husband at the time, and as we grew closer, my fear was that he would go away. I wrote that, sat in silence, then let my non-dominant hand write the reply, which was long the lines of "You know what to do when they leave. What if he stays?" Apparently my fear was pointed in the wrong direction. 

At this stage of life it is all about letting go of the illusion that a) I have some sort of control, b) that I can foresee the future and c) that people (including me) will live forever. I don't need to know the ending of a story before it even begins. I can appreciate those around me, knowing with each passing day, each news of someone else dying (a classmate, a friend's husband, a long-time AA member...) that it can never be too soon to tell someone they matter, but it could very well be too late.

We attended an in-person Speaker Meeting this past weekend - Don L of Bellingham, Washington if you ever get the chance to hear him. Great message, and I'm not sure I'm ready for a full return to the masses. Speaker meetings often remind me that AA itself has different applications, different niches for different people. There are those who go to 1 meeting a week, and those who attend daily; those who work with newcomers and those who are more available to the medium or long-timer; conference regulars and speaker-meeting/circuit speaker groupies - there is room for all of us. 

I tend to vacillate between full-in and allowing space in my program - the old suggestion (Biblical??) to wear the world like a loose garment. I do many spiritual things, things that hold meaning to me, with Program being just one. The important thing for me is that I have a framework from which to meet the world, with the 12 Steps as the foundation.

Brazilian writer and journalist Fernando Sabino (1923-2004) wrote, "In the end, everything will be okay. If it's not okay, it's not yet the end." This sends me back to last week's quote about stories beginning and ending with the word "and." It, this life, is about the flow from one experience to another, big and small. Morning coffee, pre-dawn walk, kid graduating from college, taking a trip, not taking a trip - it is all okay in the end, the beginning and the middle.

My temporary co-workers gave me a gift, flowers and a nice card, along with kind emails from the higher-ups, as I wind my way out of the job. I'll go in a few more days to train the permanent director, wanting to set her up for success. I am grateful for the experience, and am grateful to be (nearly) done. Six months ago I would never have foreseen this brief return-to-work episode, which is yet another reminder that all I really need to do is suit up and show up and pay attention to what is in front of me to do, or not to do. 

Where are you gripping tight to the illusion of control? What might happen if you let go? Are there fears that you might address in a letter? What do you think they'd say back? Are there things going on in your life that you wouldn't have imagined a year ago? How can that knowledge help you surrender your need-to-know today?

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Check out the post from Feb 4 for a sample of the 78-page workbook, "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" now available in PDF or hard copy. Email me at shadowsandveins@gmail.com with any questions.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

And...

 I have a notebook I kept in high school, with articles (Vietnam War, Nixon's demise, Women's Liberation, Black Power - topics of the day) along with poetry and quotes that struck my sixteen-year-old self as moving or important. I sometimes attributed the quotes to "unknown" either out of laziness or perhaps I'd written it down without noting the author. Here is one that still feels right today:

"Perhaps all stories should begin with the word 'and.' Perhaps they should end with the word 'and' too. It would remind us that no experience every begins; there was always something that preceded it. What really began, for us, was our awareness of something going on. At the end the word "and' would remind us that no story every really ends - something more will happen after."

Yes, yes and more yes. I sometimes think in terms of "the next phase of my development," or a new chapter, which each imply transit or transition, but sometimes I behave as if one thing stops and another starts abruptly, like jobs or relationships or vacations. I need to remember there is always a backstory and an epilogue. And those times of transition (which seems to be nearly constant) are so important to acknowledge, whether a change of season, a favorite shop or restaurant closing, or a meeting that no longer serves. As I may have written before, but need reminding myself, a therapist once described it as being on the monkey bars where I've let go of one rung but haven't quite grabbed on to the next - that momentary suspension in mid-air, neither here nor there. 

I'm in that place of pause as I complete my 90-day job assignment, remembering the "and" on both ends, signifying what went before and what will go on after (whether I know what that is or not).  I'm also thinking a lot about the "and" as I'm in contact with old classmates via reunion planning, some after literal decades: We crossed paths, interacting intensely when we were fifteen and... life went on. It can be funny, or a bit odd, to do the "how have you been?" routine after so long. I kind of care, but I'm more interested in seeing whether the person I knew back then is still in there - are you still funny? Did you ever take that trip you used to talk about? Did life turn out the way you thought it might?

Along those lines, I just learned of the recent passing of one of those people - a funny, delightful sixteen-year-old that I hadn't seen since. To me, he's frozen in time, "and" the reality is that he married and had kids, divorced and was ill. My experience, my knowing him, is very limited to a specific time and place, as are so many memories, whether of someone I used to sit next to in meetings, or a friend from decades ago. As time passes, on the planet and in recovery, I'm both more and less attached to the stories, the memories, my version(s) of what was. I read somewhere that when we get really old, and less out in the world, it will be our memories that nourish us. Goodness knows, I have a deep well to drink from.

And the beat goes on, one day at a time, one chapter at a time, one story at a time. Have you made peace with your stories? Are there those you've released as less-than-true? If you met someone you cared about when you were a kid, or a teenager, what would you want them to know about you today?


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Check out the post from Feb 4 for a sample of the 78-page workbook, "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" now available in PDF or hard copy. Email me at shadowsandveins@gmail.com with any questions.  







Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Self-care, and fun in recovery

 Whenever I hear Van Morrison sing "Wavelength," with its reference to the Voice of America radio station, I'm immediately thrown into a memory of riding around Beverly Hills circa 1979, in a VW Bug, with my Saudi boyfriend and his Iranian friend singing along at the top of their lungs, talking about their late-night searches on the radio dial for programming from the land of the free, home of the brave, and their deep longing to set out to this place, so far from home. 

I don't know that particular longing, the one that says, "I can't stay in this country, this city, this town without losing myself." I do know that feeling in regard to a relationship or a job - that quiet voice that says, "There is more to life than this," often followed by the fear response of "But at least I know what 'this' is." I've often had to stay in that place of neither-nor before the Universe stepped in to make a decision for me. And, sometimes, I've been able to get there on my own, via quiet stillness and my trusty journal or inventory work.

In a meeting this week, someone talked about self-care, the prescription that we take an hour, or even 30 minutes out of the day for "Me Time." I'm thinking that it's more than that - that self-care is an attitude, not merely a bubble-bath or massage appointment. If I'm taking care of myself all the time - saying "yes" when I mean "yes" and "no" when I mean "no," checking in with my physical and emotional state before making a decision, getting enough sleep and healthy nutrition - then I don't need to carve out specific times. Yes, candles and soothing music are nice, and sometimes other people and obligations take precedent, but I can care for others while still caring for myself. It's ok to sometimes resent my obligations, or to not like everyone I interact with. It's only not-ok when I pretend otherwise, putting on the happy face of "It's fine. Really."

My meth-cook lover was a follower of Lao Tsu - well, he was a reader of the Tao anyway, whether he actually practiced "The Way" or not. He often spoke of the philosophy of non-doing, the no-thing-ness of a peaceful mind. I thought that was merely his excuse to get out of cleaning the kitchen, but am very slowly coming to understand the value in not striving, not trying so hard, the value of the often elusive pause. 

As I near my re-retirement, I've again been reflecting on highlights from my career. Some of those are related to being present when a person has a breakthrough - when they "get it" in regards to their recovery. There's not much more beautiful than being there when someone makes the hard phone call, or when you see the lights of understanding come on where before the shades were drawn. Not much more beautiful unless, like me, you also count the times when the utter joy of being alive takes over - like when we took a group of teenagers in treatment to the ocean. Witnessing a small handful of tough 16-year olds from eastern Washington see the ocean for the first time, splashing around like little kids, still warms my heart. And then there was the time in prison, when during our monthly karaoke talent-show, one of the "OG's" (old gangster) did what he called the "Grand Finale," and got nearly all the guys up for a Soul Train line dance to the 70's hit, "Ain't No Stopping Us Now." (I will admit that the other disco-era counselor and I couldn't help ourselves - we joined them!). Neither of these instances were covered in any textbook I'd read, or instruction manual, but sowing "fun in sobriety" has been one of my life missions - whether at work, or in my personal life with potlucks, Big Book charades, or dance parties. I didn't get sober to be "stupid, boring and glum". It was at least partly the laughter that attracted me to recovery - wait, you mean we can enjoy life and music and each other without being high??  We each have our own version of "happy, joyous and free," and for me, it often involves celebrating life with music, food and those who share my enthusiasm. It can also mean a quiet walk, or a heartfelt conversation with a trusted other. Always and again, it is about what makes your heart sing, what brings you peace of mind in the turmoil of this troubled world. 

Where are you on the self-care meter this week? Are there any lurking decisions that are asking to be made, or are you getting the signal to wait? What does "fun in recovery" look like for you these days?

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Don't forget to check out the post from Feb 4 for a sample from the 78 page workbook, "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" now available in PDF or hard copy. Email me at shadowsandveins@gmail.com with any questions.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

To thine own self...

 Two good friends from away (Seattle area, Las Vegas) spent the weekend - the first time we've had overnight company in over two years. It was SO good to laugh and talk, and to share our every-other-week online meeting, this time with me on the computer and them on the couch downstairs. We took a couple of beautiful walks - one city and one in the woods - ate good food, watched a movie... nothing overtly spectacular, but it was spectacular, and just the positive re-set I hadn't known I was craving.

I can, and do, go along in life, mostly appreciating, if not outright enjoying my days, in a pattern of walk (solo or with friends), work (1 more month!), drive (did I say 1 more month?!) eat, prep for the next day, a TV show, my library book, snooze and repeat. Some variations, like the occasional meal with friends, but, for now, that's just about it. Not unpleasant in the least. And then I experience a nourishing few days like this past week (including a birthday visit from our daughter) and I exhale, thinking, "Oh. That's what was missing."

I am a creature of habit and structure. I really didn't know that about myself in the B.R. (Before Recovery) times. I didn't understand that part of my discomfort in the world had to do with the chaotic, overly spontaneous (flurry of activity or crashed out with hangover) lifestyle that went along with the booze and drugs. I'm glad I know that about myself, which can be annoying to friends who are more devil-may-care, but it works for me. I do at least try to loosen up at times (ha ha) but I'm not usually the person to call and say "Meet me in an hour?"  Ah well. 

My point is not about structure vs footloose, but about "To thine own self be true." And I had to learn what my own "thine self" was, with some trial and error. Today I know that I should always have access to a snack. I know that I don't have an entrepreneurial bone in my body (tell me what to do and I'll do it and collect the paycheck every two weeks!). As an end-of-the-line baby boomer, I also know I don't have too many original thoughts, since there are something like 75 million (American) people a few years ahead of me who've already experienced the growing pains of becoming an elder - and have very likely written about it. I know that, while I grew up with solid values (not that I lived by them), all I've truly learned about life and people and relationships, and my spiritual resources have been since getting sober. 

What I do experience are insights and ah-ha moments that are exclusive to me. I'll never forget leaving a speaker meeting, having been enthralled with the person's share, only to hear a couple of women saying, "Well that was boring." Were we even in the same room?? I also know that I don't know something until I do, whether that is around romance or whether I'm in the right job, or what direction I want my post-work life to go. I can learn from you, and your comments can light a spark in my heart, but just because you love something doesn't mean I will. I'm not a team-sport kind of gal. I don't like high places (like zip lines or gondola rides up mountain passes). I do not do well in committees.  And it's all ok.

Take these blogs, for instance. Sometimes an idea or theme percolates all week and I jot down phrases on scraps of paper until I can take the time to sit at my computer. Sometimes, like today, I have no idea what's going to come through the keyboard. Sometimes I force a topic only to have it feel like sawdust until I can let my fingers say what wants to come out. And sometimes I riff on something I've heard in a meeting or read in a book. And again, it's all ok.

So today, I am grateful for spring sunshine and rain. I'm grateful for good friends and my loving and welcoming spouse. I'm grateful for good health and creaky knees, sleeping a whole night through, and gas in the car. Doesn't have to be big to be appreciated...

What are traits you've learned about yourself since getting into recovery? Are you true to those wants and desires? If you find yourself compromising more than is comfortable, how will you hit your re-set button? Where does your creativity show up, whether in the kitchen, the easel, on the piano, or something else entirely?  Maybe it's a new way of looking at a Step?  How will you celebrate YOU today? 

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The workbook, "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" is now available in PDF form (emailed to you) or hardcopy, sent via the postal service. See the blog entry for Feb 4 for a sample. If you don't see the PayPal link, go to the WEB VERSION of this page at http://soberlongtime.com










Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Connections and re-connections

 This past week, my Alanon home group, which meets Tuesday and Friday mornings, started a two-month experiment of once weekly online and once weekly in-person. I don't usually attend on Fridays but wanted to be there for our return to the circle. I get choked up thinking about how happy we were to see each other in the flesh, and to get those hugs we'd been missing for literally two years. Yes, yes, yes to gratitude for online meetings, and I'm ready to steer my personal program towards a combination of zoom and in-person. It's been a long two years.

What's interesting is how many people in meetings have said they haven't minded pandemic living. Actually, my brother says the same thing - he's a homebody anyway, so no real changes to his routines. I ride the line between cozy contentment and the need to hit the road (literally or metaphorically). I will say that the pandemic has added a level of scrutiny to decisions: Who will be there? Is everyone vaccinated? Is a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd worth the anxiety? Sometimes yes, sometimes no - and I fully realize that I am one of the fortunate ones who hasn't been directly touched by the devastation. 

After last week's post of the "google 10th Step," a friend added: 4b) Forgive myself for mistakes made, so as not to "beat myself into a relapse". (thanks J.D.) Yes. I can clobber myself for even the smallest  faux pas or error - from losing a grocery coupon at the bottom of my bag, missing out on a time-sensitive bargain - to the bigger screw ups of hurting someone's feelings, past or present. Lack of power was my dilemma and sometimes it is lack of perspective that is the trouble. What are my priorities, and can I truly live in the space of forgiving myself for being less than perfect? One day at a time.

This has been a week of friendship, family and connections, with an in-person meeting (we've met in a park, online, in backyards and living rooms, masked and un-masked for the duration), a sweetly fun visit for our daughter's birthday (ahh - to be in my 20's again, but only if I could re-do it sober!) and friends coming from out-of-town for the weekend. And another dear friend just celebrated 9 years of sobriety! As part of my morning practice, I spend a few moments in gratitude for the many gifts of recovery. Some days, the same things on my gratitude list are on my "Grrrrr what's wrong" tally, but overall, I do my best to maintain an attitude of gratitude. Thank you, Mom, for your eternal optimism that apparently rubbed off. 

Whenever we celebrate my stepdaughter's birthday, I think of the passage of time, but also where I was at the same age - in this case, married, promoted at work, drinking my brains out on weekends, and getting at least tipsy every evening. I also remember the excitement and possibility of youth, when it felt like the whole world was waiting to be explored. Is it possible to bring that expectantly positive energy to my 67-year-old self? Can I be both comfortable and feel hopeful anticipation for what lies ahead?  

It's different, obviously, when the end of the journey is closer than the beginning. On one hand, I can look forward to diminished capacities, but on the other, I imagine the possibilities of doing what I want, when I want (within reason!). I think it's a balancing act. Too much comfort and satisfaction can morph into inertia which slides into the retrogressive groove, while a blasé been-there-done-that quickly becomes "Is that all there is?" Staying teachable, remaining curious (and taking naps!) can help me remain in a place of open-minded wonder, trusting that all is unfolding as it will, without my wranglings. I can be mindful of all that life's journey has taught me to this point while remembering that I'm not done just yet.

How has your life changed these past two years, and what, if any of that will you hold on to as we move forward? If you find yourself simply going through the motions, how will you re-engage with your life, open to new energy in what you thought were old dreams? And always, what is a small measure of self-acceptance you can bring to mind the next time you make what you consider to be a mistake? (and remember, some say there are no mistakes - merely opportunities for growth)


See my post from 2/4 for information on the Now What? workbook, now available for $12.95 as a PDF sent via email, or $19.95 for a spiral bound copy mailed to you.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Outlook and attitude

 I'm beginning to understand just how much of my Step work, especially 3, 7 and 11 has to do with simply holding still: getting quiet, listening, waiting for clear direction. I continually struggle with the idea that doing nothing is an action in and of itself. Holding still takes both courage and focus, when my natural tendency is to do something, even if ill advised. Listen. Pay attention. And "If you don't know what to do, don't do anything!"

As a friend reminded me, via a meeting share, we don't gain a spiritual connection by trying harder, as in a direct cause and effect. Sure, I can make myself ready for healing, I can set the stage for serenity, but I can't think myself "better.".

It struck me, that for all my recent internal pissing and moaning about this temporary job (the long commute, not the work itself) that I chose this. I'm the one who said, "Yes." I don't need the job. I wasn't seeking work. And I said, "OK" when asked. Holding still allowed me to move beyond the surface chatter to the deeper truth and take responsibility for my choices.

With that realization, I've been approaching the commute with a new attitude, appreciating the various views and small successes when traffic flows smoothly. At the worksite, I looked up from my computer last week to see a deer, not six feet from my window. I gave a little wave to farm people I intersected with on the road and daily give thanks for the extra money going into our property tax fund. It's about attitude, 90% of the time. 

In a meeting focused on Step 10 this week, a member shared how easy it is to do a daily spot check inventory on one's smart phone. Curious, I googled it! Up popped "How to Complete the Tenth Step of AA." I don't know the actual source (undoubtedly not conference approved) but I liked the directions: 

  1. Avoid immediate decisions based solely on emotion. Instead, take a step back, breathe deeply, and then act. 
  2. Be honest in your assessment of situations (Brilliant! How often does my skewed view cast a shadow on what is really going on?)
  3. Admit any mistakes you're making
  4. Forgive others when they've made mistakes
  5. Focus on progress, not perfection
I love it - especially 1 and 2. Step 10 is about changing my outlook as well as my behaviors, thinking before acting. And sometimes owning my behavior has just as much to do with catching my worn out thinking before it becomes an action as it does with making amends to you. Do I promptly admit when I've fallen back into negative thought patterns, the what-if's or the I'm-not-enough's? The making right in this case would be to change the channel and remind myself of my inherent worth (and tendency to over-dramatize my importance in whatever scenario is bugging me). Yes, make right whatever "wrongs" I've done towards my fellows, and, pay attention to the internal barometer. Some days I'll be stellar and other days I'll stumble, and it's all ok. 

These are challenging times, with mask mandates lifted just as the nightly news reports on a new variant, war in Europe, prices on nearly everything going up... I'd be a robot if I didn't feel at least a little disturbed. And, as a friend who also has long-term recovery pointed out, being sober a long time, I've lived through a lot without taking a drink, both in the big world and my own. I don't have to drink, no matter what. I can focus on what is right vs what is wrong, without sticking my head in the sand. I can remember to breathe. 

How often do you try to "think" yourself better? How might you practice the art of surrender instead? What would your inner wisdom have you do when you find yourself in a twitch about this thing or that? Where does the idea of paying attention fit with holding yourself accountable with kindness?


 


Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Being restored

 As February's Step 2 practice wound up, I've realized that being restored to sanity can take time. When I "came to believe" a bolt of lightning didn't immediately strike me sane. I was restored to sanity, however shaky, around the drink, but as for the rest of my ism's, the progress has been more gradual. If believing it to be so, or wishing and hoping, praying and dreaming (cue Dusty Springfield singing) were enough, I could've saved myself literal years of gut-wrenching insecurities.

What I've come to understand, after an episode that would've triggered an all-out panic (Warning! Warning!), instead thinking, "Hmmm. That's interesting", is that perhaps a head-on assault isn't always what's called for. Maybe being restored to sanity sometimes comes from the gentle action of time, eroding fear, exposing the flimsy rationale for what is an old idea of lack - the belief that there isn't enough (love, attention, booze) to go around, that I'm somehow not enough. Maybe it is the focus on serenity over time, or daily practicing the principles, that takes the rough edges off whatever alcoholic/alanonic thinking I'm dragging around. Maybe regular efforts at Step 3 and 7 over the years sinks in, and trust becomes a way of life, not a faraway dream meant for someone else.

In the 12x12, on page 31 (modifying language), Bill writes, "No one could believe in God and defy them too." Where, and how often, have I claimed to believe in the spiritual concept of healing, yet continued to try to run the show? Where have I opened one palm in release while hiding a clenched fist in my pocket?

The Big Book says, "At once, we commence to outgrow fear." It doesn't say, "Boom - all gone!"  I need to pay closer attention to the actual language, not what I "hear." Commence to outgrow fear. Came to believe. Made a decision...  None of it says, "Woke up one day, completely free of my human tendencies to grasp, to hold tight, to fear the unknown."  Recovery is a process. Trust the process, again and again.

In my Step group this week, someone brought up the Buddhist concept that being alive involves suffering, but that I so often create my own suffering (which is directly referenced in the Big Book - "Our troubles, we think, are of our own making."). The longer I'm around, and the better I take care of my HALTS, the more this becomes obvious. Really, today, in the grand scheme of things, I've got nothing. As was told to me in treatment all those years ago, I know where I'm sleeping tonight and I've had enough to eat today (and my city isn't being bombed).

Along those lines, on a walk this week, I came upon a man, probably in my age range, mid-way up a steep hill, headed towards a set of public stairs that go from the bottom of the ridge to the top. The thing is, this guy was hooked up to a rolling oxygen tank cart. He told me he has 30% oxygen capacity, and these stairs were number four in his quest to complete five that day. I was beyond impressed with his dedication and tenacity, especially as I sometimes find myself complaining about this ache or that pain. As a guy named Sonny used to say, when you'd ask how he was doing, "I've never had it so good." Sure, there are probably a few things I wish were different, and I am very fortunate to have good health, but today, all, ALL of my troubles are between my ears. I know that comparison isn't the road to serenity and I send healing energy of peace to those caught in the crossfire in Ukraine, in Afghanistan, in the Republic of Congo and all places on earth where violence is more the norm than the exception.

So today, well into March when I pay attention to the energy inherent in Step 3, I make a decision to get out of the way. I breathe into gratitude for all the privileges I enjoy - for safety and hot running water, for a cozy home and a strong marriage, for good friends and relative security. Above all, I am grateful for recovery, knowing it could've gone either way, knowing that sobriety provides the platform for participating in the world in a sane and healthy way.

How has your sanity been restored, either quickly or over time? Are you holding on to the illusion of control in any area?  How do you regain perspective when you find yourself in a mindset of scarcity?

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

The stories we tell ourselves

What is the story you are currently telling yourself?

What terrifies your mind but stirs your soul?

I'm a note taker, a jotter-down of tidbits and points to ponder. I'm not sure where the above originated, but they jumped out from a notebook I recently opened and seemed appropriate to where my mental energy has lately been, especially the first.

I had a flare up of obsessive thinking this past week, triggered by a bit of information disclosed that surprised me. Intellectually, I understood that what I was told had little bearing on my circumstances, but that didn't stop my mind from traveling down the "what if?" lane of fear and insecurity (intellectual knowledge rarely translates to emotional stability for me, at least not initially). But, because I have now decades of experience in taking a step back from my reactions, I was able to simply hold still and observe my disquiet, my discomfort. 

Recognizing the tip of the emotional iceberg, I uncharacteristically picked up the phone, and put pen to paper to get at the root of the problem as it manifests today. I may think I've dealt with a particular type of situation or emotion a thousand times, but really, from this vantage point, from here and now, every blip is a new blip - familiar, maybe, but I can't apply last year's solutions to today's dilemmas because I have changed, however incrementally. What is the story I'm telling myself, and is it actually true today?

 I talked it out, relieving the internal pressure-cooker, and then sat in a meeting and heard someone describe her use of the fear inventory (list them, ask myself if I'm stuck in self-reliance or figure-it- out mode, then let go). Oh yeah - the Big Book has a solution for this. Oh yeah, I'm not the only person who sometimes gets stuck in rumination about one thing or another. One day at a time. One day at a time.

We visited family in San Francisco this past weekend. In addition to seeing how the littles have grown since our last visit, we got to connect with AA friends, attending a couple of in-person meetings in the city, and across the Bay in Oakland. I hadn't realized just how much I've missed gathering and was nearly moved to tears in both settings as we stood in a circle, held hands, and recited the Serenity Prayer. I do so appreciate online meetings, and I've missed hugs and side conversations, and "Keep coming back!" chanted in unison. It did feel a bit odd, being unmasked (both were held outdoors), and I confess to waving when someone spoke, like we do on zoom, but the benefits far outweighed any lingering concerns. There are in-person groups here in Portland, though at home I'm more likely to lazily roll into my office and onto the computer (Put on shoes? Factor in driving time?).  Maybe it's the onset of spring, but I'm definitely feeling hope around a return to some semblance of normalcy (though I will keep masks handy for crowds and follow guidance for future vaccinations). I'm guessing that online groups will stay in operation for quite a while, and I would miss connecting with friends across the country so hope that is true. More will definitely be revealed.

As for the second quote, I don't know that there is much these days that actually terrifies my mind (other than war, environmental collapse and the like). Letting go of old internal fears has been a long and slow process. These days, I'm doing my best to pay attention, trying to be more attuned to what stirs my soul, whether quiet nudges or the full-blown fireworks of "yes!" For today I will bask in the warm glow of time with loved ones as well as heart connections with people in the rooms. My temp job continues, so all I really need to know in this moment is where I'll show up tomorrow. One day at a time, all is well.

What is the story you are currently telling yourself, whether about your own capabilities or a particular situation? If the story leads to a rabbit hole of fears or negativity, might talking with a trusted other release some of the power it holds? And what about anything that might feel scary but exciting at the same time? If it is a viable option for action, what is a small task you can do this week to move you closer to your goal? 

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The workbook, "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" is now available in PDF form (emailed to you) or hardcopy, sent via the postal service. See the blog entry for Feb 4 for a sample. If you don't see the PayPal link, go to the WEB VERSION of this page at http://soberlongtime.com



Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Motivation

At the doctor's office last week, I engaged in conversation with the assistant whose name badge indicated he worked in the Pain Clinic. The talk turned towards addiction treatment which turned in to him telling me he'd just celebrated 9 years clean and sober. I love sharing recovery moments in unexpected places with unexpected people, whether the kid sporting NA key tags at the grocery store or sharing a moment over someone's bumper sticker.

This week I'm thinking about motivation, or as we call it in 12 Step, willingness. Am I willing to go to any length for my recovery? Am I Honest, Open-Minded and Willing?  Do I suit up, show up and just sit, or am I motivated to take some sort of action?

Maybe the action is as simple as reading the literature or putting pen to paper. Maybe it's picking up the phone or writing that long over-due amends letter, which doesn't get any easier with time. Maybe willingness shows up when I impulsively raise my hand to take on a service commitment, or when I say "yes" to a new sponsee (Someone recently shared that if sponsoring isn't inconvenient, you aren't doing it right - not sure I agree with that, though being of service sometimes feels like a stretch).

Motivation comes and goes. Most (many?) days I'm motivated to skip the cookies or ice cream. Most days I'm willing to attend a meeting, because that's what I do. I generally walk and visit the gym as planned. But where does that come from? Is it intrinsic, or developed over time from do and repeat, do and repeat? Every time I hear a new person say, "I just didn't feel like going to a meeting," I think, "Nobody said I had a choice," telling me, over and over, that there are two times to go to a meeting - when you want to, and when you don't.  Admittedly, I can be a bit rigid, and sometimes I do take a breather, but especially when I first got sober, meetings weren't optional. Did I have the "want power" that old Leonard talked about? Then I'd get myself to my regular groups. (Seen on the wall at a meeting in Antigua, West Indies - "Don't plan your meeting around your day. Plan your day around your meeting.") This necessity is very different at 36 years than at 3, but I do try to keep the maintenance of my spiritual condition in mind every day. I don't meditate once and float off to nirvana or walk around the block one day and do a marathon the next. My serenity meter requires regular attention.

And... motivation waxes and wanes, even with the best of intentions. Sometimes I have an extra slice of pizza, or let the rain convince me to stay inside. But, the motivation, born of pain, to maintain the gift of sobriety (including that from tobacco) has never wavered, thus far at least. Fully conceding, then doing what small tasks it takes to remember that admission, keeps me on this side of the chasm, one day at a time.

While driving and switching the radio dial from 60's oldies to 80's to jazz to classical and back, a chorale rendition of "Oh Shenandoah" came on the air. As I sang along, lyrics etched in my mind from music class in grade school, I felt a twinge of melancholy sadness, thinking of the girl who loved to sing, whether it was show tunes and classics in school, on family road trips, or huddled around the piano with my cousins while mom played WWI and II era songs. Sadness, because I didn't have the confidence to pursue choir in high school, or much of anything really. Puberty did a number on my already shaky self-esteem, and I retreated, making choices that seemed safer at the time.

I've heard several long-time women speak recently about the slow process of letting themselves off the hook for poor decisions, for deciding that you mattered more than me. It has been a slow process, and I can still chastise my inner 12, 14 or 16 year old (or 20, 23, 25 year old) for doing whatever it was I did or didn't do. My first sponsor would tell me, "If you'd known better, you would've done better." Well, I often did know better, and I was cursed with the disease of "more," the trait of "make hay while the sun shines" and damn the consequences. 

I very rarely say "damn the consequences" these days. Not for a long time have I said "stay" when I should've said, "go" or booked a flight when I should've checked with my boss first. Maybe it's part of getting older, this smoothing of the impulse-meter. Maybe it's having been around the block quite a few times now, learning sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, that all my actions have consequences, positive or not so much. Am I only thinking of myself when I strike out to greet the day, or do I consider how I might impact another? 

This week mark's my 36th Alanon anniversary. I went to my first meeting about a month out of treatment, hoping to save my heroin-addicted lover from his fate, and stayed because I realized I had work to do around the relationship with my father. I keep coming back because I got married nearly 11 years ago, and I strive to keep my side of the street clean. Ours is not a perfect relationship (is anyone's?) but before tying the knot, we talked about the whole "'til death do you part," thing, neither of us wanting a second divorce. I am grateful for the tools, no matter how heavy they sometimes feel, that guide us in the tough conversations as well as the joyous celebrations. Thank you, Alanon. 

What motivates you, today, to do what is needed for your sanity and serenity? Do you hold yourself accountable, or are you better off with a helper? If you find yourself regretting the past, how do you intentionally return to gratitude for today?

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See my post from 2/4 for information on the Now What? workbook, now available for $12.95 as a PDF I send you via email, or $19.95 for a spiral bound copy I mail to you.


Wednesday, February 16, 2022

What you think of me is none of my business

After reading him last week's post, my husband thought it important to note that "Jeopardy" is my favorite (and only) game show, lest someone mistakenly think I watch Wheel of Fortune or some other drivel (ha! my judgement). I've watched Jeopardy regularly since 7th grade, when I was literally laid up for three weeks, flat on my back with pneumonia. It was a mid-day show back then, and I played along with pencil and paper to record my "wins," contributing to an internal storehouse of trivia. I don't know a lot about anything, but I do know a little about a lot (though I will admit for the category 1985, I zero'd out, nil, nada. I got sober in January, 1986 and still couldn't tell you a thing that happened in '85).

So does it matter what people think about my TV viewing habits? It probably did, in the past. There was a time I wouldn't leave the house without being fully made up and would never go grocery shopping in sweats. I was petrified to speak in a meeting, paralyzed by the bondage of self - I want your attention, but please don't look at me.  

Growing up, and well into my 30's (and beyond??) I cared what you thought - about how I looked, how I acted, how I was in the world. Much of that was likely the normal adolescent developmental stage of the "imaginary audience" where we think everyone is paying attention to us. And, when we start drinking at 12, 13 or 14, we can get stuck there. So, yeah, I came into the rooms of recovery more concerned than I needed to be about what you thought of me, until I came to realize, many of you felt the same. I'll never forget the guy, who before my first AA dance, told me not to worry because I'd be in a room full of self-centered alcoholics who wouldn't be paying any attention to me. What a relief! 

When I felt hollow inside, the outside was all I had to offer, but somewhere along the line (thank you Steps, therapy, and meetings galore), I got to the place where my insides and outsides matched. I no longer had to look a certain way to mask my insecurities - not that they weren't still there, but as I learned and grew through the Steps, I understood it was my character that mattered more than whether or not I had on mascara.

On another note, do any of you who were raised on the 3rd edition, remark, when you notice the clock at 4:49, "Acceptance!"? I love how the principles and sayings and catch phrases have become a part of who I am, my operating instructions and guides. In early recovery I could use the word, "acceptance" in a sentence, but until I put the principle of surrender into action, it was just a word. I can still struggle with remembering to level the playing field by accepting what is going on - not liking or approving but acknowledging what is. Only then can I apply the Serenity Prayer to determine what is mine to change and when to simply move on.

And I continue to have my mind blown by how we live this thing called recovery. In a Step 6 meeting last night, my brain made a synaptic connection between "fully conceded to our innermost selves," and the directive "were entirely ready..."  Sometimes the absolutes in the first 164 pages can slip by me. "Entirely ready," yeah, yeah. "Admit powerlessness," okay, okay. Can't we just get on with it? Sure, I can go through the motions, but the act of standing on the edge of a cliff and saying, "Alright! I surrender!" takes a conscious effort, lest I slip back to the perceived comfort of hanging on tightly to old ideas of safety and security. Those old ideas are my ideas, and some are pretty entrenched by now, but I love and appreciate when I read a sentence or hear a phrase in a new way.  

How has, "What you think of me is none of my business," entered your psyche? Does that apply more at some times than others? When the bondage of self strikes, how do you breathe into acceptance of yourself in all your perfectly imperfect-ness? What might you be battling to accept today? How can you remember your powerlessness in order to bring you closer to serenity?

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See my post from 2/4 for information on the Now What? workbook, now available for $12.95 as a PDF I send you via email, or $19.95 for a spiral bound copy I mail to you.






Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Step Two

 In The Seekers Guide, Elizabeth Lesser writes "The secret in life is enjoying the passage of time... Experiment with letting go into the mystery... You don't really know where it's all going anyway, so why not relax and experience the ride!"

Why not, indeed. Rather than the internal effort to step on the brakes, I can be conscious of the eternal now. I tried doing that on my long walk over the weekend, paying attention to every footfall, each contraction of my already tight quadriceps. I am a planner, a list maker, a ticket-buyer. Planning for my spring garden as I walk is fine in and of itself, but not if it keeps me from noticing the blooming crocus and hellebore along my route. 

I get so lost in my mind, with this story or that, this consideration or that forecast, from the simplest of household tasks to grand schemes for the future. Again, nothing wrong with being organized, and... where are my feet? Are my butt and my brain in the same place? 

In thinking about Step Two, for February just beginning, I am reminded that I am neither the star of the show, or the director. I think back to my online communication several years ago with the daughter of the meth cook I was with when I hit bottom. Meeting that man was a huge turning point in my life - huge, and his daughter didn't remember me. With some detail-prompting, she did recall my house and my place in the triangle between me, him and another woman, but not in the neon lights her dad's presence was in my life. Something similar happened at our 50th grade school reunion when a woman looked at my name badge and said, "Hmm. I don't think I remember you." Seriously? There were only a hundred of us, and I certainly felt visible with my cutting up in class, the thwacked-on-my-head-with-a-book-by-the-math-teacher incident, getting suspended for putting glue on the toilet seats - and you don't remember me?! 

Again, I am only the star of my own show, and sometimes even there I've played second or third fiddle to romantic partners or other, bigger personalities. Humbling.

The gist of Step Two, for me, is getting out of my own way and acknowledging that I don't have all the answers - especially when it comes to the future. I know how not to drink one day at a time, but I have yet to discover a fully functioning crystal ball. I did figure out early on, pre-recovery, that what goes around comes around, but have learned since that this is rarely in direct correlation to my ideas of cause and effect. What if I was better able to relax into the mystery? What if I truly enjoyed the passing of time rather than complaining about how fast it goes?

What does it mean to be returned to sanity? First of all, I have to acknowledge the insanity of trying to control the uncontrollable, of forgetting my powerlessness over just about everything, including my first thought (but not my second). I have to remember that time passes, with or without my permission. When I meditate, am I sitting in stillness, or thinking about the grocery list? When watching my favorite game show on TV, am I paying attention, or scrolling on social media? In an online meeting, am I truly listening with my ears and my heart? 

Recovery is a process, a process that doesn't end with physical sobriety. I'll keep coming back.

When you notice that your name is in lights on the imaginary marquee of everyone else's life story as well as your own, can you see the humor and gently bring yourself back to right-size? How do you keep your butt and your brain in the same place? How do you stay in today?

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See my post from 2/4 for information on the Now What? workbook, now available for $14.95 as a PDF I send you via email, or $19.95 for a spiral bound copy I mail to you.