Wednesday, August 31, 2022

What's next?

 "Don't die with your music still in you."  Wayne Dyer

I can take the above quote as an affirmation, a challenge or chastisement, hopeful or resigned. Am I sharing my best self with the world, or keeping myself small out of fear?  Have my hopes and dreams fizzled, or am I merely in transition from one way of being to another? What exactly is the "music" inside me, and how has the tune changed over the years?

I will say I've fully embraced retired life. I have a few friends who say they'll never retire as they can't imagine what they'd do with themselves. I don't have that problem, at least not today. A couple of years before retirement, I felt the same - I liked the structure of work, the sense of purpose and accomplishment (and the bi-monthly paycheck). Then, a couple of years before I pulled the plug, I couldn't imagine working another week, let alone years, as I struggled to keep my mojo alive. But, once I'd picked a date to quit, I fell back in love with my job, aware of all the "last times" as I walked through them - last snowstorm to arrange coverage, last talent show, last staff meeting, etc. Farewell!  And then, the pandemic hit, which changed everything about my job. I stuck with my original plan, recognizing that I wasn't leaving the job I loved, but was leaving, nonetheless.

Whenever I've completed a big project, my work-life being one, but also after publishing Shadows and Veins, or when I graduated college (both times) or even recently with my high school reunion, I've wondered, "What's next?" I like having something(s) to look forward to - a trip, a project, a good book. This is a recurring theme. I am an anticipator, an if-I-can-see-around-the-next-corner-all-will-be-well person. Of course, I do know that isn't possible, and as someone once pointed out, how boring it would be to always know what's ahead. And yet, I ponder and wonder and try to figure it out before finally hitting the surrender switch. 

That being said, I am conscious of increasing my ability to simply sit still (hard for an alcoholic of my kind), waiting for whatever is "next" to present itself. I don't need to look or search or try to figure out what the universe has in store. First of all, I don't have a crystal ball, and second, I don't need to force the issue. What is in front of me today, this week? And by sitting still, I don't actually mean holding still! For me it is more a state of mind, a peacefulness that is present when I stop the internal search, the need to define, to know.

This past week, I've been "tour guide" with an out-of-state friend. It's always fun to view home with the eyes of a visitor. Yes, parts of our city are ugly with graffiti and homeless encampments, and parts of it are still/again lovely and lively. We went to the coast, and a hike in the Columbia River Gorge, plus some outdoor music, a concert and lots of good restaurants that I never frequent on my own. So "what's next?" today means eating salad, getting to sleep on time, catching up on laundry as well as meetings. I've generally heeded the old saying that going a week without a meeting makes one weak, but sometimes the joys of a sober life intercede. I've also heard, "Don't let the life AA gave you get in the way of your AA life." Point taken, and I never get very far away. You are my people. I miss you and the wisdom I routinely hear if I'm out in the woods for too long (ha ha - in 36+ years I've rarely gone more than a week without a meeting, save the one time I was out of the country with a non-program friend). I am a meeting goer - initially out of desperation and these days from gratitude.

And I write that mainly to remind myself. I'm a meeting go-er and noticed the very faint whisper, (not to be confused with the wise still, small voice) saying, "You've done just fine without meetings. You could probably skip this week too." Sure, I probably wouldn't get drunk tomorrow were I to forego my home groups, but I would've missed a great lead last night, and would miss catching up with friends. I'd never presume to think I know all there is to know about recovery or spiritual growth just because I've been sober a long time. I'd never tell myself to stop reading books because I've already read 1,000, any more than I would've declared myself exempt from continuing education in my field. As I've written, thinking I know all I need to know is a big, waving red flag. As we read, "alcohol is a subtle foe."

Just for today I can relax into what is instead of what might be. I can pay attention when another long timer shares his experience on Step 10. I can go for an early morning walk, and can decide whether or not to keep watering the garden or let end-of-summer take over. Just for today I can appreciate the many gifts of recovery that have come my way. Sometimes those gifts sting - I don't necessarily agree that my worst day sober is better than my best day drinking, and I wouldn't trade this way of life for anything. I can let the days unfold as they may while still keeping an eye on myself, whether I call that Step 10 or simply awareness.

What does "Don't die with your music still in you," bring to mind? Can you hear the song, even if faintly? How might you turn up the volume on your heart's true desires? What are ways the "subtle foe" sneaks up on you, and what do you do when you notice it?

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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 - for those outside the U.S or those who prefer the computer, though do note it is not a writeable PDF.). 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. Contact me at with any questions. 

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Now What? workbook


I’ve Been Sober a Long Time – Now What?

Not sure about trying the workbook? Read on...

What those who’ve used the workbook are saying


     At 29+ years sober, it's easy to get complacent or just plain bored with recovery. Jeanine B's book, Sober a Long Time--Now What? brought relevance and immediacy back to daily maintenance. I especially liked the section on principles which reminded me both why it is we get sober and what we need to do to stay that way.  I worked the exercises with a sister in recovery who is quite a bit younger and has half the recovery time; the exercises and stories were just as useful to her.

Bonnie R, Portland, OR 

     A friend who lives out of state and I did the workbook together, via phone, over a couple of months. At the time, I had 19 years, and he had over 30. Talking about our answers to the various questions increased our intimacy and friendship, and improved my self-awareness and reflection.           

Kyle N, Portland, OR

     Hi my name is Sharon and I am an addict alcoholic. I will have 34 years of sobriety in December if I stay in the rooms and keep doing what I do which means always being open to new approaches in sobriety and defining how it works and grows my life.

     The questions asked in this workbook bring a new approach for those of us in the 21st century and who have been sober for some time. It has enriched my ability as a sponsor because the questions require me to look deeper in a way that other workbooks as of yet have not.

     I encourage all those who can, take the suggestion to get the workbook, sit down with some friends and go through it. It will do nothing more than enrich your life. It's kind of like living sober - how do you live today in sobriety after years of program? It's a new and different approach to keeping it real. 

Sharon D, San Francisco, CA

My name is Jolie D and my sobriety date is 3/3/97. I had the amazing experience utilizing Jeanine’s Long Time Sober Now What in a year-long workbook study. Our group of sober folks ranging from 10 years to 38 years sober met monthly. Each month we read aloud a chapter, the questions, and share our experience with the topic. Many of us wrote and reflected on the questions in between group meetings. Our group members formed intimacy as we spoke from the heart about these topics we aren’t always comfortable sharing about in our open AA meetings. One group member said we should use this workbook as annual housecleaning every year and our group enthusiastically agreed. 

Jolie D, Portland, OR

Go to the WEB VERSION of the blog page, upper right corner, to order the workbook - $19.95 for hardcopy mailed to you, $12.95 PDF email, for those out of the U.S. or otherwise preferring computer version (note that this isn't a writeable PDF).

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Using the tools, telling our stories

  An out-of-town acquaintance got me to an in person meeting I've never been to before where I only recognized one other person. I like that in a group as I can get complacent with the same faces and stories. Hearing the message from fresh perspectives, even though it is much the same as in other places, helps me keep my program fresh, which is the ultimate goal at this stage of recovery. The ultimate goal along with staying clean and sober, obviously (*my favorite sentence in the Big Book, p .45)

 The message I heard, from people newer than myself, was related to the importance of self-care as well as sticking close to program in times of change, whether positive or not so positive. Such good reminders and also a welcome measuring stick as to how far I have come from those early days of questioning every single move. So much of recovery has been about healing from the inside out, whichever convoluted avenues that seemed to take. I was certainly adept at running away from or caffeinating or ignoring character aspects that got in my way or making it your fault. What a gift to have walked through those minefields, hand-in-hand, bringing up the rear or leading the way with my fellow travelers on the journey.

We had some work done here at home on the carpet, which involved moving furniture and stuff off shelves. The guy used what seemed to be magic sliders - just get them under the corners and even the heaviest cabinets move easily. Argh! All the years I spent tugging and pulling and pushing with my entire body to rearrange my bedroom as a kid, or living rooms, etc etc etc - who knew there was a tool! You can see where this is going (obviously). The right tools for the job, whether painting the house, moving furniture, or doing inventory makes all the difference. I sometimes think my recovery toolbox is full, but then I hear someone talk about writing a letter to their fear, or mention a book I haven't read, and I add to my kit. The God Box is one such tool (or call it a Surrender Box if the God word doesn't work for you). I still write little notes for the box, then do my best to stop thinking about whatever it is that has me tied in knots. I now date my scraps of paper - an additional piece of the process is to go back every few years and read the notes, looking at how much has been resolved, with little "work" on my part. Another tool I use sporadically is a Gratitude Journal, writing things I'm grateful for in the moment as well as setting intention for positivity going forward. 

The things I do to enhance, or more accurately, rein in my emotional state are different now than at the beginning when all I could muster was "Don't drink and go to meetings." I'd tell myself if I really, really wanted to drink, I'd wait until tomorrow, and tomorrow never got here because it is always today! Once, when I was super stressed about something I can't even remember, a fellow gave me the mantra, "I can choose peace instead of this."  I still use that when obsession strikes. I recently heard, "Move a muscle, change your mood," another good reminder that taking a walk nearly always clears my mind.

I'm ghostwriting a friend's AA story for submission to the 5th Edition of the Big Book. It's quite a back-and-forth process, and no guarantees, but has given me a deeper relationship with someone I would've called an acquaintance as I listen to the nuances of how recovery has worked in his life. I think our stories are why AA/Alanon works. When I'm locked in my own version of hell, thinking I'm the only one, I'll never get better. When I experience the catharsis of telling you what it was like, what happened and what it's like now, I gain a sense of belonging - especially when I hear you do the same. Community happens when we show up for each other, which so often simply means listening. A friend, Craig, who died many years ago now from cancer, talked about the sacred campfire, the circle we sat in once a week to reflect and witness our individual paths on the hero's journey. Sharing my pain helps relieve the sting. Sharing my joy intensifies it. Sharing the mundane reminds me that I am one among many. 

This week, the Cabal, our threesome that has been meeting and talking and sitting in meditation for a decade now, met in a park, safely distanced, enjoying side-shoulder "hugs." I appreciated the sounds of summer as we sat in silence - the squeals of small children, men striking ball with mallet, the crunch of runners flying by on the gravel path. When we shared, it tended towards the journey from striving to be-ing, identifying the internalized belief that if I try hard enough, I'll lose five pounds, gain serenity, overcome my defects, work a better program, ad infinitum. What if it's true that right here, right now, everything is OK? Not perfect, and maybe some things need changing, but ok in the moment. What might happen were I to simply allow or pay attention? What could occur if I was more mindful in my choices, not because I "should" but because it feels right?  Maybe not much differently than what happens now, but the energy would be different - open palm vs clenched fist. Self-acceptance instead of the internal, eternal critic. 

I may have shared this from poet John O'Donohue before, but it is worth repeating as summer begins to give way to fall - I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.  How might you flow like a river today? What are the tools you use, old or new, that help you access your inner wisdom? Are there places or situations where you can release the try and the should, moving into peace?

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Fall is a great time to start a small group discussion with the Now What? workbook. See the Feb 4 post for a sample, or contact me at for more info. (Order off the web version of this page, or, available at Portland Area Intergroup)

Wednesday, August 17, 2022


 Facebook "memories" reminded me this week of the date my father died, way back in 1980, based on a photo tribute I did two years ago. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I was well into sobriety before looking up the actual day. Unlike the Temptations song, it was not a day I'll always remember, drinking heavily in my grief. I definitely remember the month - for a long chunk of time, unnamed melancholy would sneak up in August, until I heard someone talk about loss anniversaries. Oh, that's what this is. Hi Dad.

I've outlived my father by 11 years now, and have been alive longer without him than I knew him. I know my dad loved me, and wanted only the best in my life, but it took a lot of tough excavating via therapy and Alanon to get to the essence of our relationship. I grew up believing all was well, then went through a stage of only seeing what was missing via both his alcoholism and mine. I am forever grateful for the healing that has taken place in my relationship to my history - as one of my Alanon readers says, "I've learned to look at the past without staring," though I would give just about anything to have a sober, adult conversation with my father.

Being August, this month I look at how Step 8 is working in my life. The 12x12 tells me that our goal is to "develop the best possible relations with every human being we know." I take that to include both myself, and those human beings who are alive only in memory. I don't exactly know what I believe happens after we're gone - that varies with recent losses, when my loved ones seem to be hovering nearby. I have several friends who consider their deceased friends and family as part of their higher power, or inner wisdom. I can feel that today, having moved from resentment or regret to a place of acknowledging and hopefully incorporating life lessons I've learned from those who have died. And I know that the relationships I have with those who've passed are multi-layered, consisting of our actual interactions and experiences, my interpretations of the same (which can change) as well as the imaginary relationship I have in my head (conversations that might've happened, but didn't; what I wish would or wouldn't have happened, etc)

For the record, none of the lessons learned have to do with acquiring material things - even my wealthy boyfriend believed that money was merely a tool, not a goal. What I have learned is to be a good steward of my resources, and that it is love that matters in the end. That sounds like a cheesy greeting card, but I'm discovering that the deepest truths are often the simplest. Love might look a little different to you and me, but I think the commonality of respect and kindness and releasing expectations of self and others fits the definition. 

I've started drinking coffee, two half-cups per day (and a cup of tea), and I'm sorry to say if I don't have at least one of those cups of dressed up coffee by a certain time of morning, the back-of-the-neck headache begins to throb. Pitiful, actually, when I think of all the booze and stimulants, adulterants and various chemicals I ingested on a regular basis back in the day. But I never was a very good alcoholic. I had a smoker's cough by age 20 and puked when I drank too much (i.e. all the time). Cocaine made my nose bleed, and my shy veins didn't like getting stuck. Imagine if I'd actually listened to my body sooner, my poor body that was saying, "Uh, excuse me? This isn't working." I've been reading snippets lately about the wisdom inherent in our bodies, and the western viewpoint battle between intellect and our often-messy physical selves. I recently saw a meme that said, "Follow you heart, but take your brain along." To which I would add/modify to "Go ahead and think, but stop long enough to listen to your gut." Balance. 

My friend, the Tarot Card Lady (tarotcardlady on Instagram for daily card reading), recently advised that rather than looking for the lesson in the day or week, reflect on the last 6 months for evidence of progress, growth or places asking for attention. I can get wrapped up in the minutiae of daily life, but really, it is the overall flavor of my days and weeks that point to a satisfied release or discomfort. Are more days than not spent in activity of my choosing? Do I feel rushed most days, or just a few? Am I seeing friends in-person vs endless texts? Again, Balance. Balance and perspective,  one day at a time. 

What lessons, positive or not so much, have you learned from those who've passed on?  Looking back at the last 6-12 months, what are your successes? 

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Fall is a great time to start a small group discussion with the Now What? workbook. See the Feb 4 post for a sample, or contact me at for more info. (Order off the web version of this page, or, available at Portland Area Intergroup)

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Maintenance vs complacency

 I was asked to give a ten-minute share on a piece of literature at a meeting out of San Francisco we regularly attended in the Before-Times and have hit sporadically on Zoom. I went with the bit on the daily reprieve, contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition, since I've lately been questioning mine. I like to think I have a reasonably strong spiritual connection, but as I've recently heard others sharing on the topic, I pause. Where am I in this equation today? More importantly, where is my spiritual source(s)?

What I realized is that I don't simply want to maintain my spiritual condition - I want to grow, enlarge and expand my conscious contact with my inner wisdom, creator, the mystery - the "god" of my non-understanding. Is that my addict talking, wanting more, more, more, or is it the still, small voice whispering that I've gotten a bit too comfortable? That being said, a fellow in that morning meeting said he's good with the idea of maintenance, thinking of things like taking a shower, buying groceries, or changing the oil in the car. His idea was that he can't stay at a high level of conscious contact 24/7, but that he does what is necessary to stay connected - definitely a saner and more compassionate view than my self-flagellation. 

Program can be a tricky thing. We are warned from the very beginning to watch for complacency, the deadly belief that "I've got this." If I had a dollar for every person in treatment over the years who traced their relapse to thinking they had the disease under control, and thus didn't need to keep doing what worked, I'd be a wealthy woman. So there's that. But/and I'm also aware of the danger in too much time spent contemplating my navel, the self-absorption I mentioned last week. If self-deceit is the beginning of the slippery slope, how do I stay aware of any tendency to cut corners without beating myself silly? When do the rewards of long-term sobriety translate into being okay with what is?

The short answer would be in other people - meetings, sponsors, trusted others, friends - who I hope, by this time, would give me "the look" if I'm too far in left field. Restless, irritable and discontent is also a clue, especially when not attached to the HALTS. Boredom is an indicator, as is judgement. If I'm feeling cranky more often than not, it is likely because I've forgotten my powerlessness and that I'm connected to the larger whole. I believe it was Marieanne Williamson who wrote that there is just one spiritual path, and we're either moving away from, or towards our true north. 

There is a saying in the running community: Trust the training. If I've done the work, the gifts will follow, and there is only so much "improvement" I can achieve. I do want to enlarge my spiritual life and the Steps and principles of recovery have become internalized over years of practice. Like meditation, or running or any other endeavor, I can and will continue to show up and put in the minutes or miles or pen to paper, but these days it doesn't have to be with the view that I'm a project in need of fixing. 

A close friend marks 37 years of sobriety this week. Without their recovery and our chance overlap in treatment, I don't know that my life would look as it does now. Those early relationships were crucial to getting this thing, to trying out new behaviors, exploring what it meant to grow up in a community of like-minded others, others who shared the commitment to change. I didn't always utilize sponsorship the way I hear others talk about, but I definitely had "stick with the winners" down pat. I think of potlucks and dances, the travel and road trips reciting How it Works from memory. I think of the laughter (then and still), the tears, the wins and the losses and everything in-between. I think of the thousands of meetings wherever we were (Spain? Italy? Turkey? Oregon City?), celebrating and mourning, dancing and hiking, cooking and drinking coffee, suiting up and showing up.

And the beat goes on, whether with this friend of my entire sobriety, others from grade and high school or soon after, or those from the last decade or so. I used to jettison people if they offended me, which wasn't hard to do in the drinking years. And, even in sobriety, friends come and go depending on circumstance (I'm thinking of my new walking buddies). I feel so very grateful to have a good handful of people in my life who know me, who can tease me about being bossy, or how I always have snacks in my suitcase. 

The pandemic has definitely altered how I spend my time, and with whom. My "yeses" aren't as automatic these days. While I still have a tendency to over-schedule, I am getting more skilled at the pause, whether before opening my mouth, or writing something into my calendar. What are my "want to's" and what are the "have to's" and where can I let go and relax into the here and now?

What comes to mind when you think of maintaining your spiritual condition? Do you have at least one trusted other who will tell you if you seem to be off the beam? Where have you gotten better with utilizing the pause? Where could you use more practice?

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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. Contact me at with any questions. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Self knowledge

 Maybe not every single time, but in general, I continue to hear words of wisdom and helpful phrases in meetings. Case in point: "I have to act better than I feel in order to feel better about how I act," a variation on the theme of acting my way into right thinking, vs thinking my way into right action. Oh, how I had good intentions. Good intentions that frittered themselves away with each ice cube plopped into a glass. I banked on being judged by my intentions, which were nearly always honorable. But, alas, it was my actions that told the tale of who I was.

At the reunion, I took a deep breath and thanked a woman for always being kind to everyone. She was of the upper echelon in high school, but you'd never know it by how she treated others (and trust me, some people were very status conscious in how and with whom they interacted). I also said to her, as a way of making amends to my 15-year-old self, how embarrassing it was in retrospect to recall how I attempted to use my popular cousin as entry to the "cool kids" group. She may or may not have remembered that conversation from 1970, but I do, and the metaphorical pat on the head that told me I was excluded. At the time, I at least partially meant it when I said, "I didn't want to be part of that anyway!" when I was passed over for a particular club (I started school in that transition between old and new - 50's & 60's sorority style clubs giving way to sitting in a circle in the park passing a joint). I did mean it, and can still feel the sting of being left out, whether from a family gathering or something I'm not invited to. 

I do know that, as an introvert, I am better with a role, such as hostess, at gatherings. I learned that within my first few months of sobriety when our treatment counselors "volunteered" my roommate and I to collect tickets at the North Coast Round-up. I would've been petrified to talk to strangers, but in my official duty, I had a reason to put my hand out in greeting. These days I think of myself as being at the extroverted end of the introvert continuum, which just means I can be comfortable with people as long as I can retreat to my solitary couch with a cup of tea after too much social time.

Self-knowledge is so important to my peace-of-mind. How many years (decades?) did I try to fit my square peg into a round hole? As I heard in a meeting this week, self-examination is different from self-absorption, and... I function better (as in more serenely, which benefits you and me) when I'm conscious of my general operating instructions. For me that means knowing that I get super cranky when I'm hungry or tired, and that I reach a saturation point with social interactions. I have friends who thrive on people, or who can go all day without eating. The point is, "To thine own self, be true."

We had a good time at our first in-person conference this past weekend - Summerfest in Eugene. It was good, and a bit surreal, to be in a crowd, with some masked, most not. I'm still digesting what I heard - I appreciate how "what it was like, what happened and what it's like now" comes in different flavors and focus depending on who's talking. I was very happy to run into a person who'd gone through the treatment program I retired from, now themselves working in the field. As an AA vs NA person, I rarely see former clients, so it is all the sweeter when I do get the reminder that the work I did mattered, that one life is better and healthier than before.

Following the conference, we drove to the coast, gratefully watching the temperature drop as we neared the ocean (from 95 to 65 degrees). We stayed at the Sylvia Beach Hotel, a funky inn in Newport, Oregon, where all 21 rooms are themed with a different author. I felt myself exhale into my element, realizing that I'd been missing the nourishment that comes with stellar conversations and stacks of books. I hadn't known what was lacking in my day-to-day until I tasted it, and along with messages I heard at the conference, told myself to be mindful of living from the heart, not just habit. Where am I just dialing it in, and where am I engaged? How can I best reignite sparks of joy that get hidden underneath grocery lists and laundry? Paying attention is a discipline, one I hope to strengthen.

What have you heard, or been reminded of, lately that sparked your curiosity?  What do you know about your modus operandi and how do you honor those particulars? How does "to thine own self, be true" play out in your life today?

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Thank you to those who purchased the "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" workbook at Summerfest! You can always purchase from me directly via the link on the web version of this blog page (hard copy or PDF), or at Portland Area Intergroup. Stay tuned for other entities that may carry it soon!