Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Recovery 201

 After last week's post, I heard from several people who had health issues despite their efforts at self-care. I know, I know that one can do all the "right" things and still end up with memory loss or a scary diagnosis, a debilitating fall or accident. We are members of the animal kingdom and thus, subject to laws of nature, which often seem random. Both my parents were long-term smokers, so no surprise that tobacco related illness is what took them, but I could just as easily cite friends with decades of sobriety who died from liver illness, despite years of healthy living. Sometimes our bodies bounce back and sometimes a tiny nugget of injury lies dormant until it shows its ugly face. And sometimes there simply is no easily categorized cause and effect.

Life and death are, to some extent, a roll of the dice, but to a person, everyone I've heard from told me how the principles of the program helped them walk through their dark days. "Prayer" won't make sickness go away but aligning myself with Truth can help me access the strength I need to show up, one day at a time. That was evident when my husband was diagnosed with cancer, and simultaneously my first husband got a terminal diagnosis, both needing my support. It was evident in my spouse reciting the Serenity Prayer over and over in the radiation chair each day. The strength to show up was evident (though sometimes falteringly) when my mother was dying, and I wasn't sure how I'd go on without her. It was evident every time I'd talk about my fears or sadness or grief in a meeting and someone would say, "I've gone through that too."

On another note, I had to chuckle when my on-call work group went through training, assessing how comfortable we'd be talking to strangers. "I'm in AA," I thought. "I talk to strangers all the time."  I'd thought AA was simply about putting down the bottle or the bag, but it's also Life Skills 101. Sitting still for an hour, talking to strangers, putting my hand out, taking a risk, saying, "Sure, I'll help," are all things I've learned from showing up, and from watching others walk the walk. Part of it surely has to do with growing older, and growing older sober, but the things that used to terrify me simply don't anymore. And isn't it funny that the things that should've scared me, like driving drunk with one hand over an eye, going home with a stranger, or swallowing something without actually knowing what it was, didn't. The things that scared me were the fears around speaking up, about being judged, or being found out as an imposter. Today I can say, "Whatever," but those were real fears that ruled my decisions for years.

And now, recovery moves on to Life Skills 201 and beyond as I navigate these years of change. I have a journal calendar that poses various questions. Last week's reflection was to identify what I'm holding on to that I need to let go of. I initially, automatically, wrote about the lurking whisper that I'm not OK, that I'm not enough, but mid-pen stroke, stopped to ask myself, "Is that even true anymore?" How much of that belief is simply a thought-habit, honed through years of recovery work? It was certainly true for a long, long time, but again, through getting older in life and sobriety, it simply isn't anymore. Who am I today and what old, or even new, ideas get in my way? Just like drinking as a solution was an entrenched old idea, the notion that I need fixing is one too. What if, when we peel that proverbial onion, we find a beautiful gem at the core? Not perfect, but not defective either. Years ago a friend told me something he'd heard that I laughed off at the time - Please help me see the truth about myself, no matter how beautiful it is. Indeed.

We had a windstorm here last week.  I enjoyed the day-before efforts to batten down the hatches, connecting to the natural world beyond Tik-Tok and online shopping and nose in the phone that I sometimes indulge in and see my fellow humans doing on the street, on the bus, or in stores. Always, but this time of year especially, I take time to breath in cold November air, appreciating the changing season.

From Rumi: (Coleman Barks translation) 

I have lived on the lip of insanity, wanting to know reasons, knocking on a door.                                     It opens.                                                                                                                                                    I've been knocking from the inside.

What old ideas about yourself might need re-evaluating? If the door Rumi describes were to open, what would you see, or feel?  If sometimes we're in recovery grad school and sometimes in remedial-ed, where are you today, and what lessons are making themselves known? In what ways does your spiritual fitness help you navigate life's ups and downs? How do you take time to notice what is going on in the natural world?

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