Wednesday, September 20, 2023


 We entertained this month - on Sunday a group of friends who generally gather at the holidays, followed by a ladies lunch with friends from grade school, one I've known since I was 18, and another friend of at least 20 years. I like to group my parties, kind of like synchronizing driving errands - the house is already clean, there might be dessert leftovers, so let's schedule twice!

As we ate, I teared up as I mentioned my tendency to reach for the phone to call my mom. All of our mothers are gone, some decades ago and others more recent, but all agreed that the longing to connect never really leaves. That's why these relationships are so important to me - those who've known me over time, who know to phone to make sure I'm doing ok after the previous day's tears. Yeah, I'm ok. If grieving is a sign of love, then I have deeply, deeply loved.

And I was reminded that grief isn't reserved for death - far from it. I know a big handful of people who are going through the pain of break-ups, which is its own hell of mourning - for what was, what could've been, what will not be. In hindsight, I know that my painful endings always lead to joyful beginnings, but don't try to tell me that while I'm in the middle of the descent. 

I was told, after Mom died, that the body knows how to grieve, and that I should treat myself as if I had a bad flu. I see that, in retrospect, and have tried to apply that to other losses - gentleness vs the internal "aren't you over this yet?!"

Why is it that we seem to struggle with being kind to ourselves? That is a consistent response to many of my posts - that we can forgive others, be gentle and accepting of friends, but seem to hold ourselves to nearly impossibly high standards. What I'm realizing is that the acceptance called for on the old page 449 (current 417) includes acceptance of myself and my foibles. We're told that "what we resist persists." If I'm focused on the defect, the "don't do x,y,z," guess what - the x,y,z is what I'm thinking about. It is more helpful to relax into what is -accept myself as being exactly as I am in the moment and then decide if there is a different way of being I want to head towards (sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, never perfectly).

I've felt a bit off recently - is it too busy, or not busy enough? This frustration or that? What I do know (because you remind me) is that when my mind is cluttered, I can't hear the still, small voice. I do know that being still is very different than being quiet (in other words, meditation doesn't really count if all I'm doing is sitting with my eyes closed while reviewing my grocery list). I can tell myself that "things will calm down when.." but in reality, there's always something, so what is my choice to be?

Something else I hear a lot of in meetings with my peers is this whole aging thing - health fears, all the unknowns, etc etc etc. It's one thing to be aware of other's aging, for example, watching my mother and other elders grow frail over time. I can "know" that aging happens to us all, but it's a different internal conversation when it's my hands that are stiff with arthritis, my breath that comes harder walking up stairs. Can I view this time of life as simply the next adventure, with curiosity rather than dread? Depends on the day, but acceptance feels better than fear.

I will note a passing - Jimmy C, long time member here in Portland and a fan of "Now What?" He encouraged me to write and submit another member's story for the next edition of the Big Book. No word yet on whether we made the cut, but I'll be forever grateful to Jim for his suggestion that helped me come to know a fellow traveler better than I would have. We are normally people who would  not mix, but I'm so glad we do.

How can you show kindness to yourself today? Is there an area where you can cut yourself some slack, while still practicing the principle of accountability? How can you make friends with all of it - grief, aging, character aspects that are simply part of who you are? Is there anyone who might like to hear from you this week or anyone you'd like to get to know better?

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See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample of the "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" workbook with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. Available in PDF format ($12.95) for those of you outside the US (or who prefer that format) or hardcopy ($19.95 mailed to you. Email me at with questions.  You can order from the WEB VERSION of this page, payment link on top right. Note that the workbook is also available at Portland Area Intergroup at 825 NE 20th 

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Serenity Prayer

The Serenity Prayer was the topic in a recent meeting, which I must admit to often reciting absentmindedly, when in line at the grocery store, or in traffic. As with all the tools of the program, the Serenity Prayer is just words unless I'm willing to actually apply myself to the meaning.

Someone in the group described the "acceptance" called for as often being a trigger for grief. Ah yes. If I'm in a place of not accepting something, it's usually because I can't make peace with my powerlessness. True acceptance means releasing the illusion of control, of acknowledging the reality of a loss, whether a person or a dream, or simply not getting my way. Acceptance, at its core, is a spiritual mountain to climb.

Others spoke to the dichotomy inherent in "the serenity to accept the things I cannot change," in that sometimes, the quest for serenity can mask people-pleasing, or the tendency to not make waves. Damn, truly practicing the principles calls for SO much self-awareness and accountability. Are there places I use the principles to hide from myself, an excuse of sorts? I'm less able to ignore my motives these days - the whole "road gets narrower" bit, but sometimes, still, need the conversation with my internal committee around what I can and cannot change, or if I'm simply trying to avoid conflict.

And what about the "courage to change the things I can?" which, in reality, is me and my attitudes. I can change my shoes, I can go to different meetings, I can elect to see or not see certain people, but mostly, the" thing" I can change is me, and even that isn't necessarily possible on my own. If I could've changed myself, I would've, decades ago. That's why our 12-Step programs are called "mutual-aid" groups, not self-help. How many books did I read back in the day ("I'm OK, You're OK", etc) in my misguided efforts to "improve?" In my dear father's belongings, I came across "The Power of Positive Thinking," along with some info from a local Episcopal church. It makes me sad to think of how he struggled for answers, of how his psychiatrist believed that "curing" his depression (shock treatment, medication) would stop the drinking. Turns out it was the other way around. 

And then we ask for the "wisdom to know the difference" between what I can impact and what I can't. In my opinion, wisdom isn't granted, it's earned. Earned and learned, sometimes the hard way, so that my history won't keep repeating itself. I'd say that wisdom is the ability to learn from experience. When I was younger in sobriety and in life, so much of what I went through was new - new to me anyway. Navigating jobs (to stay or to go), interviews, school, relationships, (again, to stay or to go). to accept myself as ok, whether or not I have a romantic partner, understanding I can't change another person's mind - all took effort - effort, Step work, some outside help, and watching how you did it. Wisdom means paying attention, filing away what works while releasing what doesn't.

And wisdom means letting go of my formerly rigid ideas of what constitutes recovery. In earlier years, I would've been aghast when someone stopped going to meetings - and maybe rightly so: early recovery is not the time to dink around with what works. But now? Now I'm less invested in what others are doing or not doing, especially those who are already an arm's length away. It can be harder to detach from those near and dear - I'm grateful for Alanon and the reminder that we are all on our own path.

Today is the 6-month mark since my surgery for breast cancer. All is well, and it's been a ride of acceptance, courage, and growing wisdom, and current serenity (in that department anyway!). Thank you to all who reached out to share your, or your loved ones, experience, strength and hope.

How do you utilize the principles of the Serenity Prayer? Do you struggle more with acceptance, wisdom, change or serenity? How do you apply the concept of detachment in those relationships closest to you?

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See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample of the "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" workbook with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. Available in PDF format ($12.95) for those of you outside the US (or who prefer that format) or hardcopy ($19.95 mailed to you. Email me at with questions.  You can order from the WEB VERSION of this page, payment link on top right. Note that the workbook is also available at Portland Area Intergroup at 825 NE 20th 

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Old ideas, old times

 I had a bit of a jolt this weekend. I'm training for a half marathon on October 1 - 13.1 miles, yes, all at once. Halfway into my 12-mile walk, I realized it's been well over a year since I did that distance. OK,  I have a few more weeks to train, but the jolt came in recognizing that while I think of myself as an endurance athlete, the truth is, I've recently limited myself to the 10k (6.2 miles) - still respectable for an old broad, but not how I envision myself. So, which do I adjust - my weekly mileage, or my story?  I'm not sure yet, but definitely something to think about.

Where else might my ideas about myself and reality not match up? That would've been easy to describe when talking about the before-times, but now it takes a fair amount of self-searching. I remember my hurt feelings when a former boss described me as an excellent manager, but that "director" wasn't my strong suit (which was the title I held!) I agree - I don't have that kind of creativity, drive, or willingness to put in 50 or 60 hours a week, but at the time, it stung. The old idea was that I could do anything, with the new idea/reality being that I was good at certain things, but not others (which I kind of knew, but didn't want to admit to myself or anyone else). Today, I can pay attention to the places where I feel a rub. Like with shoes that don't fit quite right, it's eventually obvious when old ideas no longer apply to who I am today.

I've been thinking of early sobriety - the fun and the tears and everything in between. In a recent meeting, someone spoke to the intensity of early recovery relationships, the deep and often enmeshed connections we made at the beginning. Yes. Early recovery was a bit like high school, like high school could've been were I not getting stoned every day and sequestered with my boyfriend. In early sobriety we were roommates or spent the night at each other's houses; we had slumber parties and traveled in packs to ball games and movies and out dancing. It was awesome, and often full of drama as we worked through minute details of each other's psyches, and the imagined psyches of our crushes and bosses. Life, and my friendships, are both more and less intense these days - more, because of the deep knowing that can only come over time, and less because there is less drama overall in our lives. I sometimes miss those early days, and am very grateful for the opportunity to grow up with a group of peers, however off schedule it may have been. There is a bond with those I got sober with, even if we rarely connect these days.

I was fortunate enough to spend the night at a funky, literary-themed hotel on the central Oregon coast this week, managed by a good friend. It was a needed mini-retreat - just me and my journal and plenty of reading material. I went into the journey with hopeful anticipation of renewal, but with little idea of how emotional I would feel driving south on Highway 101, aka "Memory Lane." I started with a walk at Cannon Beach, to the spot where I dispersed of my parents' cremains, 30 years apart, then passing the house my ex owned, site of all night cocaine binges, as well as recovery sleepovers. I worked my way south, having breakfast with my first sponsor, and another walk on the beach in the town where my Step-pop had a place, as did my meth cook lover's folks. Further south still, I passed the motel where the family stayed when I was a kid, including a raucous weekend with our grandpa, mothers and cousins. Realizing I was on a nostalgic journey, I made a U-turn further on, with another beach walk at a park where we'd been as kids, and as a teenager with my boyfriend, his cousin and mine, then further south still, past the little town where my mom finished high school, and another where my folks were married. I have roots here. This is home, both physically and spiritually. Today I can let myself cry just a bit, thinking of all the people I've loved who are now gone (all of the above, save most cousins and my sponsor!). I no longer view grief as a failing, something to "get over." Love is love and loss is loss, and sometimes the sadness feels like an old friend.

This starts the time of year when I feel a bit tender, with anniversaries of people's passing, as well as memories of the extended hitting bottom that landed me in treatment in January. I've finally reached an understanding that I can be sad and grateful at the same time, happy and a wee bit melancholy. As my former sponsor and I discussed, getting older has so many gifts, gifts I would've missed out on, and that I wouldn't have imagined watching family members age - the gift of stability, of (finally!) learning to let go of expectations, the gift of going with the flow (not perfectly, but with less of a grip on what I think should be). I keep hearing the reminder that aging is a process denied many. I truly know that, and thus catch myself when tempted to go down the "woe is me" rabbit hole (not often, and not generally related to creaky knees).

So, here we are, into beautiful September, ninth month, 9th Step, seasonal changes afoot. Where do you feel most at home - whether a place or with particular people? Depending on how old you were when you got sober, what has it been like to grow up and mature into the age you are now? Are there any old ideas about yourself that no longer fit, or new ideas that you can befriend?

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See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample of the "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" workbook with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. Available in PDF format ($12.95) for those of you outside the US (or who prefer that format) or hardcopy ($19.95 mailed to you. Email me at with questions.  You can order from the WEB VERSION of this page, payment link on top right. Note that the workbook is also available at Portland Area Intergroup at 825 NE 20th 

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Tools of the program

When there is a new person present, some Alanon meetings ask a member to share what they've gotten from the program. I sometimes offer to do that, though how does one distill decades of experience, strength and hope? When I first attended Alanon, listening at the bathroom door to make sure my heroin-addicted boyfriend hadn't overdosed, the only tools I wanted were those that would convince him to get clean and sober. But in your shares, you described an internal journey - that my problem was myself and my attitude towards others, as in thinking I was supposed to fix what was wrong for someone else. Such a journey.

Whether AA or Alanon, I was very confused by the Steps when I first got to the rooms. OK, they're on the wall, but what exactly does it mean to work the Steps? What I came to see over time is that the Steps are a gateway to healing my relationships with others and myself, and with my history. I can't undo my mistakes, I can't go back to age six or twelve and make different decisions about who I am in the world, but I can use the tools of the program to make peace with the past. Kind of like a Swiss army knife, the Steps, Traditions, meetings, sponsorship, fellowship - all provide a way in, a means of getting my murky emotions and memories on to paper or into a conversation with a trusted other. 

With years of practice, the process is usually fairly automatic these days. I experience a flare - annoyance, anger, envy, insecurity - I take a breath and ask myself what's going on, really, and if I'm in top form, can choose to change the channel/keep my mouth shut/talk it out in a meeting or with a friend. If I'm off kilter to begin with (hungry, angry, lonely, tired) I'll probably spew my emotions onto someone else - only when the words are leaving my mouth thinking, "Dang it. Here I go again." I'm so glad that it is "progress not perfection.'' Indeed, there has been a great deal of progress over time, and... I'm a very fallible human being. That is less distressing than it used to be.

I was fortunate enough to spend a long weekend in Taos for a friend's milestone birthday. As much as I love home, the mossy green of the Pacific Northwest, northern New Mexico is stunning, with awe inspiring sky-scapes and wide-open spaces. Like my road trip friend from earlier in the month, these are relationships I would've never had were it not for recovery. All I wanted, when I stumbled over the threshold into treatment all those years ago, was to stop hurting, and to get my boyfriend back. Little did I know that life wasn't over, but just beginning. 

Just beginning, and every expanding - sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, sometimes triggered by outer circumstance, sometimes via an internal nudge. I'm better at paying attention these days, to the joy-meter, the sense of certainty that accompanies some ideas. Not everything - doubt is still a companion, but I'm better at "If you don't know what to do, don't do anything." I do sometimes say "yes" automatically, but since I hate to back-pedal, I practice saying, "Let me think about that and get back to you." One day at a time, one situation at a time.

When you review your years in recovery, do you see your forward movement, however haltingly? How have the Steps, or other tools, become an automatic response to life on life's terms? Are you able to cut yourself some slack when your humanness shows itself?

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See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample of the "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" workbook with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. Available in PDF format ($12.95) for those of you outside the US (or who prefer that format) or hardcopy ($19.95 mailed to you. Email me at with questions.  You can order from the WEB VERSION of this page, payment link on top right. Note that the workbook is also available at Portland Area Intergroup at 825 NE 20th 

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

 In a meeting this week, a member shared a definition of freedom that was passed on to them: Freedom isn't doing what you want, when you want. Freedom is doing what's necessary when called upon. 

Doing what's necessary when called upon, not having to wade through hangover fog, or first make a stop at the dealer. Doing what's necessary even if it's hard, especially if it's hard. Doing what's necessary as in, showing up.

I hear that a lot in the rooms, that we suit up and show up, not just to meetings, but for our families, for our jobs, for each other. I had the idea that I was a solid person, a stand-up guy, but in reality, I was a self-centered flake, often late for appointments or friends, with maybe a last-minute call (this was before cell phones). An incident comes to mind when my step-pop was in hospital across town for heart bypass surgery, back when that was a rare procedure. My mother was an anxious driver, so it was my job to get her to his room to send him off with a friendly face. And I was late, maybe because I felt the need to shoot up one more time before leaving, maybe because I was so disorganized in my addiction. I did pick her up, likely driving erratically in my own pre-google maps anxiety, amplifying her discomfort and fear. We got there, he survived many years after, and I didn't help the situation any. 

We show up and tell the truth, even when it isn't pretty. As immersed as I am in 12-Step life, I sometimes forget that not everyone has the tools or the structure we do. Which doesn't mean that AA/Alanon members utilize those tools in every instance ("Relieve me of the bondage of self, please oh please") but the framework is there. 

Hopefully this isn't in the "TMI" category, but I've had some on-going swelling near my surgical site. "Dr Google" tells me that is to be expected, but I made an appointment with the surgeon's office for a hands on opinion. My surgeon has retired, so I was seen by an intern. Nothing against interns, but this person felt a bit dismissive, seeming to discount my awareness of my body. The good news is that, after consulting with their supervisor, an ultrasound was ordered - as I said, I think all is well, but I want to be sure.

But, my active mind kept going over the interaction, with a "coulda, shoulda, woulda" routine of what I might've said at the time. Enough already! So on my long walk, a few days later, I told myself to either contact my provider with a complaint or stop thinking about it as ruminating won't change anything. The ironic thing is that the post-visit notes do validate my concerns, so maybe it's the bedside-manner that this person needs to grow into. I wish her well.

Early this week, I had three plans cancelled for various reasons. I generally appreciate the opportunity to clear my calendar almost as much as I enjoy making plans in the first place but found myself almost immediately looking at filling the empty space. Breathe, Jeanine, just breathe. Lila R, in her talk on Step 8 that I'm listening to this month, reminds me of the importance of holding still, the spiritual discipline of doing nothing, of waiting for clear direction. I say, over and over again, that I tend towards too-busy, that I crave open spaces, and then when that appears, I move to fill it. Interesting... and perhaps part of the inventory process I'm being led to?

In the department of characteristics on the continuum from helpful to not, I can take a look at the fine line I ride between boredom and busy. Where is the peaceful center of engaged enough, with just the right amount of down time? The thing is, that balance shifts and changes from week to week which just goes to validate what it tells us in the 12x12 Step 10, that self-reflection is a necessity, a regular habit, not in the navel-gazing sense of self-absorption, but in the quest to stay current with my motives. I am reminded that the Steps are a tool, not a weapon.

How do you stop the noise when you find yourself ruminating? How do you define "freedom?" What are ways you show up today, for yourself or others? How do people show up for you? Has self-reflection become a regular habit? If yes, is that a formal written 10th Step, or more based on your gut reactions?

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See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample of the "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" workbook with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. Available in PDF format ($12.95) for those of you outside the US (or who prefer that format) or hardcopy ($19.95 mailed to you. Email me at with questions.  You can order from the WEB VERSION of this page, payment link on top right. Note that the workbook is also available at Portland Area Intergroup at 825 NE 20th 

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

No crystal ball

 When my treatment peer and I drove from Portland to Seaside for our weekly aftercare, we'd never have imagined that 37+ years later, we'd be driving together cross-country for his career-move job in DC. As our treatment Director used to say, "You don't get here from there."  Neither of us, at the time, would've imagined all the twists and turns - jobs, college, relationships, losses and joys - that the years have brought thus far, along with our now life-long friendship. 

Reflecting on that had me thinking about my limited vision, the very small world I imagined sobriety to be. If my crystal ball malfunctioned back then, might that still be true? Maybe my ability to predict the future isn't any better today than it was in 1986. I can remember that when I'm trying to see around corners.

A big difference is that today I don't need to know what's next. For too long, I've been uncomfortable with ambiguity, with uncertainty. I'm still not crazy about it, but that anxiety about what might be next has softened over time. Maybe it has to do with getting older, or maybe the pandemic that pulled the rug out from under everyone pointed out that I really don't know what's next. I do the footwork - brush my teeth, keep air in the tires, water the garden, and... I don't believe the people in Lahaina knew on Aug 7 that on Aug 8 their entire lives would be upended, or lost - a painful reminder of how quickly circumstances can change.

I went to an in-person meeting this week - a former home group that has been online since the pandemic, now hybrid in a member's home while awaiting word from a local hospital on renting space. It felt good to be in a room with people I hadn't seen in three years. I've also looked up a few others I may try out as I continue to straddle zoom-land vs in-person.

As I shared in the meeting, I don't know that I'm in a spiritual desert, but I am feeling a bit off. Maybe it's related to over-scheduling, a characteristic that has followed me into retired life - so much for my ideas about having "all the time in the world" to do with as I wish. I do, and I do, which, for me, tends to involve filling my calendar. That's ok, and, when it's too full, I find that I crave solo time. I consider myself more a writer than a tactile artist, but I have several drawers of art supplies in the "When I have time" category. What does that even mean, "When I have time?" "When I make time" is more like it.

I took myself to Forest Park this weekend, the largest urban park in the country with 30+ miles of trails. As I walked my favorite path, I was reminded of an exercise on values that I did over the years with families and clients. Values aren't mere words but show in how we spend our time and our money. I contribute to Forest Park each year, I extol its beauty, but how much time do I spend there? I used to run the trails weekly, and in 2015 did a 20-mile fundraiser, but these days it is more of a wistful longing. No one is keeping me from going. So what is it exactly?

I wonder if part of it has to do with re-prioritizing now that I'm fully relaxed into retirement. Do I have another novel, or maybe "Now What Part II" in me? What about all that calligraphy ink, or the drawer full of collage supplies? What about my professed love of the outdoors? How much of what I've always thought of as my desires have shifted and changed? Am I today who I was ten years ago, or even ten months ago? How might I use the inventory process to get in touch with my core wants and needs as they are today?

No answers, but the questions themselves are a first step. But, all that being said, I don't know that in the midst of ennui triggered by an uncharacteristic triple-digit heat wave here in the Pacific Northwest is the best time to question the meaning of life. I'll ponder my questions, but get back to you when the temps have dropped!

We adopted two kittens this week, one of whom is splayed across my desk as I type. Our previous two were 16 and 17 years old when they died, so it's been a long time since there were kittens in the house. Oh, what energy! Watching them cavort is a reminder to stay in the moment. They certainly do, from rough and tumble, to eating, to cuddling to snoozing. It is fun watching them explore.

What is your relationship with ambiguity? If not-knowing is stressful, how do you move to a place of acceptance? If you have animals in your life, what can they teach you about mindfulness? Knowing that there are absolutely no guarantees, what are you grateful for today, and how do you show that?

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See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample of the "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" workbook with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. Available in PDF format ($12.95) for those of you outside the US (or who prefer that format) or hardcopy ($19.95 mailed to you. Email me at with questions.  You can order from the WEB VERSION of this page, payment link on top right. Note that the workbook is also available at Portland Area Intergroup at 825 NE 20th 

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Packing lightly

 I'm back from my road trip - both tedious and fun, of good conversation and many miles on Interstate 40. We drove through nine states, 2469 miles, many Starbucks, and then in DC hit three amazing museums, two really good AA meetings, and avoided the potential tornado (that didn't happen).

I'd made this cross-country trip before, a different route there and back, with a fellow it turns out I didn't like all that much. Nothing like a zillion hours in the cab of a small pickup to clarify a relationship. In any event, he stopped in Orlando to attend a fantasy baseball camp, while I jumped on a bus to get to Miami where I spent time with a family from my "before time," a lovely Palestinian/Iraqi couple and their four delightful kids. I hadn't realized that my recent ex, the one who'd left the country to marry someone else, was there with the someone else. I was heartbroken, the wounds of my betrayals and his departure still very fresh. I did get to see him alone, but all I could do was weep. The next day, I borrowed my friend's car and drove myself to an AA meeting in South Beach, where I cried my eyes out. 

And that's one of the things I absolutely love about our fellowship - that I can walk into a room full of strangers in a strange city and maybe share my spiel, or the joys of travel, or open my heart and cry out my grief, with some old duffer coming up afterwards to say, "You'll be OK, kid. Glad you're here," and I believe that to be true - that even though it hurts (even now, all these years later), I'll be OK. I am OK, no matter what, and I learned that from you.

Packing for this trip, which included two flights, I was very mindful of keeping it light - how much does one really need for two and a half days in a car? I was reminded of a trip I took with two friends, many years ago, to Puerta Vallarta, Mexico. I packed fairly light for that trip too, and it's a good thing, because my bag was stolen at the airport after we arrived. My friend loaned me a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, and another for sleeping in. I bought a swimsuit and a couple pair of undies, and I was good for the week, which showed me just how little I actually needed. 

I try to keep that lesson in mind whenever I pack for a trip. In my younger days, I'd take along a pair of shoes for each outfit, and perhaps a different outfit for each day away. It finally dawned on me that no one I'd see on the streets of Paris, or Boise, Idaho, cared much about what I was wearing, and that it was doubtful that hotel staff, or my friends, would say, "Didn't she have that on yesterday?" Ah, the joys of getting older, as in "Who cares!?!" And besides, I learned long ago to never take along more than I myself can carry. (An aside - in 2015 I traveled to Maine to run my 10th marathon. In the Boston subway station, a young college student type offered to carry my bag up the stairs. I was offended - didn't he know I was there to run a marathon, which meant I was in decent shape for an old broad? Ah, the ego. Today, I'd let him.)

Stretching the metaphor, how much emotional baggage am I carrying that could just as simply be laid down? Much less than when I entered recovery, that's for sure. For example, I spent too many years seeing the deficits in my upbringing, the places where I would've liked more support and direction. I needed to do that often painful work, some of it on "rinse and repeat" until the past simply didn't have the hold on me it once did. I'd mostly made my peace with my mother, and with my deceased father, but that letting go and acceptance increased after Mom died. Reading old letters between her and her dad, where he referenced that Mom's siblings weren't in favor of her marriage (presumably due to Dad's drinking) helped humanize them both. They weren't doing anything to me - merely living out their own stories, from their own pasts. Even in the depths of my adult-child work, I knew in my heart that my parents loved me. And, I needed to identify and feel the feelings in order to let them go.

What else do I need to let go? My husband and I often joke that we're both the eldest of two siblings, and therefore, usually right, and accustomed to being in charge. How much of that internalized identification can I release? How can I truly live the concept of "one day at a time," of mindfulness, of releasing the illusion of control?

Something to ponder as I reacclimate to home, and increase my efforts at finding an in-person AA meeting that fits (my Alanon meeting is in-person). As much as I enjoy zoom meetings, with friends attending from around the country, there is something magical about being in an actual room, with actual people, having a side conversation or two, saying the Serenity Prayer in unison. 

How can you be mindful to "pack lightly" these days? As your length of sobriety increases, how might your clutching on to old ideas decrease?

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See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample of the "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" workbook with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. Available in PDF format ($12.95) for those of you outside the US (or who prefer that format) or hardcopy ($19.95 mailed to you. Email me at with questions.  You can order from the WEB VERSION of this page, payment link on top right. Note that the workbook is also available at Portland Area Intergroup at 825 NE 20th 

Wednesday, August 2, 2023


 A topic in a meeting this past week was "miracles of sobriety," big or small, past or present. Small or big, depending on your perspective, I get to drive cross-country with a friend this week, riding along for their move to Washington DC. Road trip! 

Planning the drive brought back a memory of my meth-cook boyfriend, Richard, and a trip he'd planned with a couple of friends. I don't recall exactly where they were headed - Michigan? New York? In any event, after a day and a half, he called from a truck stop, practically begging me to send him a bus ticket home. He said his pals left him. My guess is that he was dope-sick. It was sad, and reinforces the miracle of freedom to pick up and go without worrying if I have enough pills (or whatever) to make the journey.

Earlier in recovery, when I was a church-goer, I participated in a weekly discussion group before service, usually related to a reading or topic. One morning, we were on the topic of miracles, with one of the members, an attorney if I remember correctly, disputing the idea of miracles, believing that word was limited to loaves and fishes, or walking on water. In this guy's opinion, things like childbirth, medical cures, and yes, sobriety, were simply facts of nature, as in, there is nothing special about natural events, or doing what should've been done all along. 

On a strictly factual basis, sure, I can see what he meant. Long ago I read the book, "When Bad Things Happen to Good People," (H. Kushner) with the premise that there are natural laws in the world - as in, like our animal brethren, we humans are born and die, sometimes tragically or seemingly too soon, but life is random.

But, anyone who has watched a newcomer go from shivering denizen to health and productivity would call that a miracle of sorts. And think of our own stories - is it an actual miracle that I stopped drinking and using in time? That I didn't die at the end of a syringe? It sure felt like it to me, and to my mother.

No reason to quibble over semantics. Big "M" or small "m" miracles are in the eye of the beholder. Sometimes the sun coming up on a summer morning, or watching a flower turn into a tomato feels like a miracle, but maybe that's just me noticing the wonders of nature. Sometimes listening to music in a park with old friends feels like a little miracle, given all those from our school days who've died from the drink or the drugs. And sometimes, still, simply waking up clear-headed and alive feels something close to miraculous.

And here we are in August, with the slightest hint of fall in the air. Some of my friends don't like June's summer solstice as it signals the beginning of shorter days, but I rather like the shifts and changes, with ripening gardens and a morning chill. I haven't been in school for a long time now, but still feel the end of summer urge to stock up on desk supplies and maybe buy a new outfit or two (though being retired, I've made the decision to only wear comfortable shoes and pants with pockets). 

The eighth month equals the 8th Step - amends. According to a workshop by Lila R, at this point, the only amends due are probably to myself. If I'm diligent with Step 10, there likely aren't a bunch of unresolved conflicts lurking in the wings. And if there are any pesky characteristics bouncing around that cause problems with my loved ones (or strangers, for that matter), I can use this opportunity to clean my side of the street. What a gift, this program of recovery. I've had recent conversations with friends who are butting heads with people not in AA or Alanon, recognizing that those friends most often simply do not have the tools we do - the tools to stay current with our own emotions as well as a template for correction/amends as the need arises.

What "M" or "m" miracles do you recognize today, whether tangible or perhaps a change in thinking? How do you perceive the change of seasons in the world, or in your own life? How does program help you navigate uncharted territory? Are there any amends, to yourself or others, that you can address this month?

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See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample of the "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" workbook with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. Available in PDF format ($12.95) for those of you outside the US (or who prefer that format) or hardcopy ($19.95 mailed to you. Email me at with questions.  You can order from the WEB VERSION of this page, payment link on top right. Note that the workbook is also available at Portland Area Intergroup at 825 NE 20th 

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Old ideas

 For the past 7 or 8 summers, my high school has held an "All Years" gathering at the park adjacent to our school. I went this past weekend, looking forward to seeing a few people who didn't make it to our 50th reunion last year, including my 8th grade boyfriend, and another guy who was part of the pot-smoking park crew. The former boyfriend, of slow dancing and making out in basements at parties when we were 13 or 14, mentioned that we'd lost touch once high school started, and that we must've taken different paths. Boy howdy, did we ever! While he was rightfully being a student, I spent most of my non-class time in the park, smoking cigarettes or pot, drinking on weekends. Yes, different paths. 

Different paths, and so nice to reconnect with him and several others, with the shared frame of reference of our neighborhood, our times, our memories. And, as always for me, the weird realization of the passage of time, whether interacting with people I've known since I was 9 or getting ready to celebrate 30 years recovery of someone I 12-Stepped. Time marches on.

We were in beautiful British Columbia on vacation last week, seeing the sights, visiting Intergroup in Vancouver and Victoria, hitting a few meetings, and otherwise touristing. Good to get away, and always good to get a bit of a program re-set via hearing perspectives new to me. "Principles before personalities" is always easier for me to do in a room of strangers!

And, being out of my usual routines often seems to make room for new insights, whether prompted by something heard in a meeting, or simply the mental space generated by being in unfamiliar surroundings. I became aware of a few old ideas, masquerading as truth, which can be an awkward realization as my brain attempts to justify itself.

Awareness of my old ideas came in the form of blinding revelations when I initially explored 12 Step philosophy and how that related to my patterns of thinking. Moving from daily use, from "me, me, me" to the process of evaluating my thoughts before they turned into actions took constant effort. I'm grateful for sponsorship, a couple of good therapists, and friends who were there to bat around these new concepts (Honesty? Open-mindedness? Willingness?)

These days, old ideas sneak up on me, out of the cobwebs into consciousness. An example - I realized that confidence, especially in a female, equates to conceit in my indoctrinated misogyny. Heaven forbid one believe in oneself, lest they appear vain. Sometimes in really listening to the lyrics of love songs from the 1960's, I think, "Well no wonder I got all screwed up in the romance department," hearing over and over again that "I can't live without you." So, don't be too confident, you're nothing without a mate, and for the guys. "Big boys don't cry," - all the subtle and overt socializations that make up the web of old ideas.

And with Steps 6 & 7, I have the opportunity to release "my way" and those characteristics that get in the way of my usefulness and serenity. For me, that means paying attention to the instant reactions, asking "Is that true or is that an old idea?" It also helps me, when I can exercise the pause, to follow a thought through to the "how important is it?" question. In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter that some car passed on the right? Probably not. I can get pissed off about a whole lot of things that cross my path in a day, or I can say, "Oh well," and move on towards what's really important - love, family, friends, honesty, open-mindedness, willingness.

How do you recognize old ideas today? What actions of others can you release to the "How important is it?" bin? In long term recovery, how do Steps 6 and 7 play out in your day-to-day life?

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See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample of the "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" workbook with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. Available in PDF format ($12.95) for those of you outside the US (or who prefer that format) or hardcopy ($19.95 mailed to you. Email me at with questions.  You can order from the WEB VERSION of this page, payment link on top right. Note that the workbook is also available at Portland Area Intergroup at 825 NE 20th 

Wednesday, July 19, 2023


Human life occurs only once, and the reason we cannot determine which of our decisions are good and which bad is that in a given situation we can make only one decision; we are not granted a second, third, or fourth life in which to compare various decisions. ~Milan Kundera   (Book: The Unbearable Lightness of Being 

This quote came up on social media this week, with news of M. Kundera's passing. I find myself arguing with the premise that we only have one shot. Obviously, we're born, we live, we die, so we don't actually get a second life, and as people in recovery, I really believe that we're given another chance to get it right, "it" being this life and how we are in it. Pre-recovery I was chained to the bottle and the bag, fighting the hangover, existing in that nether world of unspoken fears, knowing deep down inside that I was killing myself, but terrified of the unknown if I were to stop.

 I count my sobriety anniversary more importantly than my "belly-button birthday" as that is when I truly started to live, to participate, to make healthy decisions, to grow into the potential that parents and teachers often told me I had (though my fulfillment of that potential and their ideas are likely very different. But maybe not. My mom wanted me to be happy, to not break the law, to be kind - probably in line with where recovery has taken me).

In meetings twice this past week, the topic was related to why we keep coming back. If the initial motivation was to get sober, get the heat off, stop hurting, why continue when those needs have been satisfied? Some believe that stopping meetings equals returning to the drink. That isn't always true, from what I've seen, but I definitely benefit from on-going contact with my peers. I first went to meetings out of desperation, not wanting to drink again, needing to fill my time with a positive (or at least neutral) activity, obsessed with getting my meth-cook boyfriend sober. Over time that shifted to a quest for emotional safety while I navigated the rocky path of causes and conditions. And from the beginning, the fellowship surrounded me with a detached kind of love that let me know I'd be ok, no matter what. And, that they understood where'd I'd been.

That is important, and not exclusive to my recovery relationships. I'm in touch with my former sister-in-law in the UK, something like 40 years after the fact of my boyfriend leaving the country to marry another woman. She was married to his older brother, a domineering, charismatic, bigger-than-life man. My boyfriend lived in his brother's shadow, culturally and by disposition, following the brother's orders. It was a crazy life of comings and goings, flying here and there, sometimes with ten or twelve family members in tow, and while my sis-in-law was definitely not alcoholic, she was there and frequently remarks how no one else quite understands what we experienced. It's like those of us in the rooms - "normies" do not get it. Being with those who understand matters.

Being with those who understood, and who were willing to dive into life mattered so very much, negating my fears about being "stupid, boring and glum." Hardly. From those 1980's AA dances, to hiking, to travel, to volleyball games, to meetings on the beach, you showed me that sobriety could be filled with laughter and joy, interspersed, of course, with gut wrenching tears of grief and fear - in other words, the whole of life.

I have several friends who celebrate sobriety milestones this month, including my spouse. Congratulations to all who decided to get sober in the middle of summer. When the time is right, the time is right, and even though my sober-versary isn't for a few months, this is the time of year that memories of that last painful summer come up, as I tried to maintain the appearance of being OK when I was anything but. As a friend once said, "It's not the yets that scare me, but the agains." I never want to go anywhere near how I felt back then. 

What is it that keeps you coming back as a person with long term recovery? What are the various places (or people) where you feel understood? 

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See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample of the "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" workbook with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. Available in PDF format ($12.95) for those of you outside the US (or who prefer that format) or hardcopy ($19.95 mailed to you. Email me at with questions.  You can order from the WEB VERSION of this page, payment link on top right. Note that the workbook is also available at Portland Area Intergroup at 825 NE 20th 

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Nature abhors a vacuum

 According to Aristotle, nature abhors a vacuum. When I asked my radiation doc about the on-going swelling around my surgical site, he pulled up computer images that showed the empty space where my tumor had been, telling me that part of healing is my body filling in the empty space, and that it takes time. Time - the final frontier! Oh me of little patience, of "now, please."  Waiting is an action, or so I'm told. 

I've also observed the truth of "nature abhors a vacuum" in my program. My six-month co-secretary position for an online group, which involved selecting a reading and chairing every other week, came to an end, and within days, a woman asked if I'd sponsor her through the Steps. I appreciate the opportunities to put my program into action, especially the ones that seemingly appear out of nowhere.

I have a handful of sponsees, all of them with time. Speaker Lila R addresses this - that when we get decades under our belts, we might best serve by working with others who are in the same vicinity. I do remember what it was like, but don't feel I have much more than encouragement to offer the newcomer. My sponsees, like myself, have years of experience staying sober, benefiting from the occasional check in or Step work. That being said, I also have a small handful of trusted others I go to - over time, these friends know me, know my history, and are willing to give honest feedback. All these years in and it is still the fellowship that keeps me coming back and keeps me on track. 

So, I can trumpet "nature abhors a vacuum," trusting the process that what is mine to do will present itself, and, sometimes I need to hang out in the vacuum, the in-between, the "I'm not sure," or the "I wonder what's next." Be still and know, as a friend likes to say. If I'm too busy trying to figure it out, I'm not making space for the still small voice, the internal knowing that comes to me quietly. Sometimes the voice whispers the big stuff, like "It's time to go," or "Do not open your mouth right now!" but more often the voice simply says, "Clean the kitchen," or maybe "Give so-an-so a call." "Keep it simple" is always a good reminder.

And something I very much need to remember as my sister-in-law progresses into a diagnosis of dementia. I feel badly for her, of course - what a scary thing, to be aware that your cognition is slipping away - and, I have deep sadness for my brother, a good man who is doing what needs to be done (like replacing small appliances with those having an automatic-off feature). When I shared my concern with him, saying I don't imagine he expected his retirement years to play out this way, he pointed out that he hadn't really had any expectations, no grand plans to sail the Nile or walk the Camino. I don't know which makes me sadder - that this is happening in their lives, or that he never really expected to be happy anyway. A bit of a curmudgeon, my little brother - very smart and very funny, and, where I inherited the family disease of alcoholism, he got the genetic lottery of depression that comes and goes. 

So what's a sister to do? Love him, offer my support, which might mean sitting with his wife while he's at an appointment, and continue to take care of myself in the Alanon manner of releasing my ideas of what their life should look like. That being said, I do understand that it is very ok to be sad, to grieve the slow slipping away that is dementia. And, one more time, I'm reminded that aging is no joke, and that one never knows what is next, for any of us.

A group of women gathered this week who hadn't, in this configuration, for about five years. Our shares centered on all that's gone on in those years, the massive and tiny bits of life on life's terms. Five years is a relatively small window of time, a mere blink, but a lot has gone on in my own life, not to mention the global pandemic. What I'm left thinking about is taking a step back to ask, "How has program carried me through?" Like the pitiful, incomprensible demoralization that brought us to the rooms, the details of the last five years (or three weeks, or 20 years) are different for each of us, but it is the internalized principles of the program that help me navigate my personal ups and downs and in-betweens.

So many of my friends' lives are in flux right now - some with happy changes, some not so much. If you are in-between, how is it you are able to seek or maintain balance as you wait for the earth beneath your feet to stop moving? 

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See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample of the "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" workbook with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. Available in PDF format ($12.95) for those of you outside the US (or who prefer that format) or hardcopy ($19.95 mailed to you. Email me at with questions.  You can order from the WEB VERSION of this page, payment link on top right. Note that the workbook is also available at Portland Area Intergroup at 825 NE 20th 

Wednesday, July 5, 2023


 The 4th of July used to be my favorite holiday - it was my and my boyfriend's anniversary and we'd throw a big party to celebrate, drink, and watch fireworks from the deck of our riverside home. Later, after we split, it was my least favorite holiday, memories and grief hitting me with each "bomb bursting in air." For many years, I've been neutral - enjoying our local Blues Festival, the 5k and 10k my husband and I participate in - but I've turned into a cranky old lady who doesn't like neighborhood fireworks going off until the wee hours. I don't get the attraction, especially since our city has made them illegal, due to fire danger. On my walk this morning, several people I passed remarked on how lovely it was to be quiet. And, it's a new day.

Last Friday, as I pressed out crust for pizza that I don't make very often anymore, I was transported back to the mid-1970's, when my younger brother would come to our apartment with the green shag carpet and avocado countertops, to keep me company while my new husband was off on his weekend marathon card game. Little bro and I were on the quest for the perfect pizza crust (before you could buy them ready made), trying bisquick, pop 'n fresh dough, even won ton wrappers. We'd grate mounds of cheese, several varieties, and cook up onions and garlic, and usually ground beef, greasing up our hands to press out the dough. We'd then smoke a joint, or two, eat pizza, drink soda-pop wine, and sarcastically laugh our way through the Donnie & Marie Show on TV. I was 19 or 20, while he would've been 17 or 18. It was fun. 

Sometimes the card game would be at our place, and my brother and a cousin or two might show up, along with the other guy's wives. We'd drink like lunatics, one time building a human pyramid in the living room (I have the photo to prove it), often heading off for Chinese food in the wee hours after dancing to disco in the living room, just like I'd watched my parents do when they'd roll up the rug and jitterbug to the Big Bands. 

Looking back, I think of those times as playing at being a grown up. Though a couple of our friends started having babies, I didn't. I didn't even know how to cook when I got married. But I went to work each morning at the insurance company, moving up the ranks, and cleaned house Saturday mornings, often taking a nap before the evening festivities commenced, feeling very adult in my independence after high school. My husband and I bought a house a few years later, which meant more responsibilities than we were emotionally and temperamentally equipped to handle at the time, and we split up soon after. Our parents were right - we'd been too young to get married.

So when did I actually start feeling like an adult? I "acted as if" through my 20's after the divorce, traveling around the world and hosting big parties, while behaving more like a spoiled teen. I got sober at 31, but even then, for a number of years, had the imposter syndrome of expecting someone to come along and say, "Wait - what is she doing here?"

I did feel like an adult when I signed the refinance mortgage on the house I'd bottomed out in, moving the note from my now-ex boyfriend into my name - becoming financially self-supporting contributed to maturity. So did learning to show up when I'd made a commitment, as did practicing keeping my word, along with keeping your confidence, even without your having to ask.

The 1980's were big in the adult children of alcoholics movement, identifying all the ways we might have been impacted by family dysfunction, with a focus on the "inner child.". My first sponsor pointed out that sometimes, when I felt "grown up," it was really just my inner child play-acting, doing what she thought she was supposed to do. Heady times, those years - definitely on the discovery/recovery trajectory as I learned to put words to what I felt deep inside, identifying differences between what had been "normal" and what was healthy.

 Over time, what has impacted my maturity, feeling comfortable in my own skin, has been the 12 Steps, both working them myself and watching how you apply the principles to real life situations - walking the talk. I will say that feeling like a bonafide adult most days doesn't mean I feel my age. As a friend, 20 years younger but starting to feel her years, recently said, "I don't feel my age, maybe because I still talk like a 17-year-old." Dude, I can relate.  

What I know today is that maturity has little to do with calendar years. Alanon's Courage to Change daily reader describes maturity as "Knowing myself; asking for help when I need it and acting on my own when I don't; admitting when I'm wrong and making amends...recognizing that I always have choices and taking responsibility for the ones I make...acknowledging that my needs are my responsibility... (March 3). I'd add in the importance of Rule 62, not taking myself so seriously.

While there was a time when I might've equated maturity with boredom, today I'm grateful that I no longer (rarely anyway) need to ride the emotional rollercoaster of immature responses to life on life's terms. Somewhere along the line, I became way less interested in drama, and finally learned to following the advice, "When you know better, do better." 

It is a journey, and sometimes I still feel like kicking and screaming, but overall, life is good. What I might label as "problems" are really just inconveniences. Thank you, AA and Alanon, for my recovery. Despite not liking nearby fireworks, I do take note of my freedoms on July 4th: freedom from my addictions, which has allowed the freedom to actively participate in my life, both the ups and the downs. Without sobriety, I probably wouldn't even be alive to complain about the noisy neighbors. 

How does maturity show up in your life today? Does it ever feel like you're faking it 'till you make it? If so, how can you move the needle a bit closer to serenity and self acceptance? 

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See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample of the "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" workbook with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. Available in PDF format ($12.95) for those of you outside the US (or who prefer that format) or hardcopy ($19.95 mailed to you. Email me at with questions.  You can order from the WEB VERSION of this page, payment link on top right. Note that the workbook is also available at Portland Area Intergroup at 825 NE 20th 

Wednesday, June 28, 2023


 As I may have mentioned, I don't have too many original ideas. Maybe new insights, but as far as ideas, I rely on you - in meetings, conversations, emails, or something I read. For example, this week I heard in a meeting that if I can only see two solutions to an issue, I'm not letting go. There could be three or fourteen options, but when I'm stuck in the bondage of self, I only see what I see. So, thank you readers and fellow travelers, for your emails, conversations, and shares. It is a "we" program, and I'm definitely feeling that these days.

 And what an adventure! To be alive for the whole of it is something I would've missed were I stuck in the bottle and the bag, if I was still breathing. Every once in a while, I'll see a boozy old broad, in line at the grocery store, or ordering another glass of wine at some event, thinking, "That could've been me." I notice when the person sitting near me starts out quiet and gets louder and louder as the drinks add up. That would've been me, thinking I was cute or thinking I was funny, or if I was lucky with exactly the right mix of substances, wouldn't be thinking at all. Grateful for the ongoing miracle of recovery.

I had a disconcerting experience this week attending what was billed as a memorial gathering for my mother's cousin, the day after what would've been her 94th birthday. I say disconcerting because it felt more like a cocktail party than a celebration of life in that no formal words were spoken about the loss, or about her long and interesting life. Was that because of what I correctly or incorrectly perceived as a rift between the adult children? Was it because, besides the three offspring, there were only three of us cousins directly descended from the lineage that ended with her death? (The remaining attendees were grandkids, mostly in their 20's, and staff and residents from the care facility). And maybe it's because that's what she wanted! Whatever the reason(s), the day felt incomplete, the mourning ritual unfulfilled, save two brief conversations about her importance in my and my mother's lives.

Should I have taken the lead and spoken up, as in, tapped a glass to get folks' attention and carried on, with or without the direct family's approval? That didn't feel quite right, so instead, I said my own prayer to the woman's memory, and the connected memories of my mother. I shared my disquiet with a friend, letting the tears arise. And, am doing my best to simply let it go. I don't know the adult children well enough to voice my protest, and even if I did, what would be the point? They are Christmas card relatives at best, and I don't see that changing going forward. Our mothers truly were our only connection.

This all has me thinking about family and norms, communication and lack thereof, as well as individual beliefs and practices around death. It has me thinking about community, as well as the importance of making my needs and wants known for these big life (and death) situations. We in 12 Step recovery do know how to throw a memorial. Kind of like Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, I'd like to be present for mine, though have sometimes thought that our anniversary meeting tributes fill that bill. I will say that my parents did my brother and me a huge favor when they prepaid their funeral expenses back in 1975. We used Dad's too soon, in 1980, but it sure made a difference, cost-wise and emotionally, in 2012 when all I had to do was show up at the funeral home with a piece of paper for Mom's.

The weekend also has me thinking about the importance of ritual and ceremony. My father was adamant that we not have any kind of service when he died. We kept our word, but in hindsight, I wish we hadn't. Funerals/memorials/celebrations are for the living, not for the dead - a rite of passage that can leave a wound, an empty space, if not practiced. Friends and co-workers of Dad's voiced their longing to show how much he'd meant to them, and I floundered for a few years, not knowing what to do with my emotions. This was before Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and the hospice movement, so the culture didn't have language for what I/we were feeling. The experience, or lack thereof, lead me to the Senior Project for my bachelor's degree on death and dying in American culture. It also lead me to showing up differently (sober) for my mother's end of life journey.

It is you, in AA and Alanon, who've taught me how to grieve, who've taught me the importance of feeling my feelings in the moment, because the more I try to stuff them and "carry on," the more likely they'll come out sideways somewhere down the road. Loss hurts, whether it is a death, the ending of a relationship or job, moving, a pet's death, etc etc etc. It was someone in a meeting who told me that anniversaries of loss might trigger uneasy feelings, even if I wasn't conscious of the date. It was someone else who suggested doing ritual when moving, going from room to room to note and thank all that happened there. You taught me that losing a pet can feel more acute than humans sometimes, and that even if something good is on its way, change involves loss.

And so, the beat goes on, until it doesn't. Seasons change, people change, I change. Finding equilibrium in the midst of it is where program tools come in. (I say "program tools," when in reality, the principles of the program are simply my way of life). Which will I utilize today? An inventory? Maybe the "god box" or a slogan? Perhaps I'll pick up the phone, or otherwise connect with a trusted other. And maybe I'll simply sit still and breathe.

What changes are happening in your life? How can you honor the both the passage/journey and your feelings? What program tools have you used in the past that might be helpful today?

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See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample of the "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" workbook with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. Available in PDF format ($12.95) for those of you outside the US (or who prefer that format) or hardcopy ($19.95 mailed to you. Email me at with questions.  You can order from the WEB VERSION of this page, payment link on top right. Note that the workbook is also available at Portland Area Intergroup at 825 NE 20th 

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Future tripping is not a tool

 I need to acknowledge that I've been way deep in my head around the long-term medication I started this past week. Leading up to the date (3 weeks post radiation) I had myself wound in knots about possible side effects. I'd tell myself I was letting go and trusting the process, all the while girding my loins for a bumpy ride. I don't like to be physically uncomfortable. I don't like feeling out of control of my moods and emotions (hello hormonal fluctuations). I carry around an ancient notion that if I know what's coming, I'll be better off (even though time and experience have taught me I can't really see around corners).

And then I was in a meeting where the topic had to do with learning from all that occurs, with a reminder that the Big Book suggests we abandon ourselves to our idea of a higher power, that we let go absolutely. Nowhere does it say, "Half measures availed us half." So if I'm mouthing the words, "Let go," but my hands are balled into little fists, what, exactly am I doing?

I used to think that fear was a character defect, to be eradicated so that I could float through life in perfect acceptance. But no. Fear is a normal human emotion. It's what I do with it that can be defective. Holding on, trying to control the uncontrollable, future tripping - those are the defenses. Worry is not surrender. Worry is not trust. 

The funny (as in ha-ha) thing is that I was consumed with what might happen before I even swallowed one of the little buggers. How much psychic energy have I squandered over the years making up stories about possibilities? Of course, trying to figure that out would be an attempt to live in the past, equally as nonproductive as looking into the crystal ball. Right here, right now I have a choice of where to direct my thoughts. And, now nearly a week into the daily medication, my left arm hasn't fallen off, I'm not overtaken by hot flashes or crankiness - and the beat goes on.

But oh, how my mind can wander. On a walk this week, I had a few moments of regret around the house where I hit bottom and lived for the first three to four years of sobriety. It was/is a lovely home. At the time, I was tired of living with roommates, who I needed to help pay the bills, but now I can wonder if I shoulda/coulda/woulda tried to hold on to it. Never mind that I've lived in four different houses since then, and am now in the home my spouse and I love - what if I'd stayed in that other one? 

What if I'd gone away to college instead of marrying my first husband? What if I'd truly heard a long-term partner when he initially said our relationship didn't feel quite right (instead of experiencing the pain of break up when he got the nerve nine years later)? What if, what if, what if??  Of course, I can also think about the what if's that could've been a missed opportunity - what if I hadn't gone to that potluck where my now husband and I struck up a conversation? What if I'd gotten to treatment a week later and had never met the man who is one of my best friends? 

And what if pigs could fly? Again and again and again it comes down to one day at a time. seemingly a simple instruction, but SO challenging for this alcoholic. Which is why I keep coming back - I need the reminders and examples that I see and hear in meetings, of how you muddle through, sometimes skipping, sometimes on your hands and knees.

We went to a re-upped (post covid) Native American Pow Wow this weekend, where twice I was addressed as an elder. It took me a minute to realize both situations had to do with how I look on the outside and not how I feel on the inside, which is sometimes 50, sometimes 14, but rarely what the calendar says. I have to laugh at myself, and asked my husband if I should start acting my age, whatever that means. My dad didn't make it to 68, but Mom at this age seemed old. Once, in a store, a clerk was describing a customer as having dark hair and wearing glasses. It took me a second to realize she wasn't talking about gray-haired me. How do I, or even should I try, to reconcile my insides and outsides, which now has a different meaning than the old comparisons I used to do to your outsides and my insides. Funny thing, this aging business. Grateful to have the opportunity.

What does it mean to "act your age" in long term recovery? Is there something going on today that has you trying to see into the future? What small thing can you do to bring yourself back to this moment? When shoulda/coulda/woulda comes up, how can you move towards "if things were supposed to be any other way, they'd be different?"

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See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample of the "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" workbook with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. Available in PDF format ($12.95) for those of you outside the US (or who prefer that format) or hardcopy ($19.95 mailed to you. Email me at with questions.  You can order from the WEB VERSION of this page, payment link on top right. Note that the workbook is also available at Portland Area Intergroup at 825 NE 20th 

Wednesday, June 14, 2023


 As I walked into the restaurant to meet the school friend I hadn't seen in fifty years, she came up to me with a big hug, saying, "Oh, now I know who you are! I couldn't place you at first." Seriously? You don't remember me? As we sat down with the other friend I see regularly, I said I was surprised that she didn't know who I was, since I have very distinct memories of events that occurred during our somewhat brief, but intense friendship.  

It was nice to share common and separate memories from back in the day, but what I'm left with is the humbling realization that I am only the star of my own show, and an understanding of how time and distance can inflate some memories and erase others. I am a connector, an archivist, a reflect-er, a journaler. As I sit at my desk, I am surrounded by evidence of my life - photos of people long gone, one of my cousin and I at age 9 and 10 (such a fun age), and me a few days before going to treatment, along with medals from marathons and shelves of books. In this room at least, memories are palpable. I am never too far from my history, living in the general vicinity of where I grew up, seeing friends I've known since I was a kid. It works for me - fits who I am, though I would be less surprised by understanding not everyone shares the same perspectives (though I do know at least five local people who live in the homes they grew up in).

I often see posts, or hear people in my age range say, "This isn't the town I grew up in," bemoaning changes, usually negative related to traffic, the houseless population, favorite haunts gone. So, this isn't the town I grew up in, but should it be? If the only thing constant is change, then why are we so surprised when things are different? There have been a lot of changes to my city, both physical and philosophical, some positive, some not, and... roses bloom every spring.

I heard someone once say, "If nobody died, we'd have run out of room a long time ago." A good reminder, and as a grasping human, I get attached to people, places and things, as well as ideas about myself and the world around me, which can lead to frustration and a bout of "what if?" and "I remember when," along with concerns about rapid technological advances that are far beyond my understanding. Nothing wrong with reminiscing, probably prudent to view Artificial Intelligence with concern, and it is 2023, and here I am in it.

In my monthly Step group, we're encouraged to identify an old idea, via the first 5 Steps, to release and replace with a new idea to strive for during the rest of the year. It could very well be not seeing the forest for the trees, but I often struggle with recognizing an old idea that gets in the way of my usefulness. I do see my character aspects (thank you PB) as being on a continuum from helpful to benign to harmful. Where I am on that continuum depends a great deal on the HALTS. Trying to ignore my need for rest or healthy nutrition can definitely send the dial to the more negative end of the scale.

So, self-care, self-care, self-care, which includes detaching from drama related to the evening news,  and whatever personal story I may be telling myself on any given day. That part is easier the longer I'm sober (and alive), though it can be a balancing act between being informed and not living in outrage or depression (the news) and/or stepping back a few feet from my busy brain. Simpler when I stay connected to program, one day at a time.

With time and distance, most of the memories that come up for me have moved to the category of comforting. How about yours? How do you embrace change, especially when you can't see around the next corner? How are your HALTS today?

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See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample of the "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" workbook with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. Available in PDF format ($12.95) for those of you outside the US (or who prefer that format) or hardcopy ($19.95 mailed to you. Email me at with questions.  You can order from the WEB VERSION of this page, payment link on top right. Note that the workbook is also available at Portland Area Intergroup at 825 NE 20th 

Wednesday, June 7, 2023


 My husband and I celebrated our recent 12 year wedding anniversary by visiting a meeting in a small town about 40 miles east, in a restaurant conference room overlooking the Columbia River. Stunning view, inspiring shares, and I found myself a little misty when a member talked about being trapped in the Denver airport this past winter, when the airlines shut down, being so grateful to hear an announcement for "Friends of Bill W." I love how we come together, whether in an airport or during a global pandemic, friends or strangers, all with the common bond.

Later in the day we took a hike through a field of wildflowers further east along the Columbia, stopping at an overlook, which brought to mind a recent selection from a daily reader that talked about ancestors and relatives and all that contributed to us being here at this moment. My mother's grandmother came across the Oregon Trail with her family when she was three years old. I don't know if they barged down the river, or trekked over Mt Hood, but either way, I think about the decision to "go west" and all that sprang from that. I think of my father's grandfather, who left Michigan with two small children when his wife died in childbirth with the second, and all the twists and turns that resulted in my parents meeting on a blind date after WWII. 

I think about all the choices and decisions - to go or to stay, to take this job or that which could result in a move or a new romance; moving into this particular house or that apartment, which means the kids go to this school or that. I visited my former brother-in-law last week. Like my brother, he lives in the house he grew up in, and we talked about our neighborhoods - the kids who lived down the street or around the block, the games of street ball, or hanging out in each other's kitchens. Maybe it was the baby boom, with so many young families congregated around grade schools, but it seems to be a thing of the past. We have three homes with young kids on our block, and I never see them even talking to each other, much less playing hide-and-seek. Times are different. Two car households means on-street parking, which means less room (and less safe) for street games; both parents working means kids aren't usually home during the day - lots and lots of changes over the years.

I saw my brother-in-law again, doing my best to help with some computer stuff (that's one drawback of being retired - no IT Department to call). During the course of the conversation, he asked about my decision to work in addictions treatment, and I told him a little bit about my hitting bottom. Now understand, until a few years ago, I truly hadn't seen this man for close to 40 years. He knew I was a drinker, but had no idea about the other stuff, saying at one point that he would've had to beat anyone up for lying who'd said I was an addict. I'm glad I don't look like my story. And grateful for the path that takes people out of my life and then circles around to bring them back.

Speaking of, I have dates this week with a woman I literally haven't seen since 1972, and another friend I haven't seen since 2019 (damned pandemic). The friend from high school and I had an interesting and intense friendship that probably only lasted part of a school year. The other friend and I have know each other since our 1st sober-versary. Again, I am grateful for connections and re-connections.

And, the beat goes on as I do my best to pay attention to "To Thine Own Self Be True" and what, exactly that might mean today. I'm trying out a volunteer gig with the American Cancer Society, knowing that giving back isn't limited to our service in AA/Alanon. I continue to be mindful of balance - tasks vs people, remembering that when this all ends, will I be glad for a clean desk or that I spent time with loved ones? OK, so a clean desk matters to me, and whatever really needs to get done tends to get done! In the meantime, I'll walk up to the coffee shop, or drive across town for lunch. I'll putter in  my low-maintenance garden and every once in a while, wipe dust off the bookshelves.

What comes to mind when you think about all the decisions that brought you to this very moment? Do you have connections over time? How do you maintain those relationships? Who might need to hear that they are important to you?

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See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample of the "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" workbook with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. Available in PDF format ($12.95) for those of you outside the US (or who prefer that format) or hardcopy ($19.95 mailed to you. Email me at with questions.  You can order from the WEB VERSION of this page, payment link on top right. Note that the workbook is also available at Portland Area Intergroup at 825 NE 20th 

Wednesday, May 31, 2023


While in Hawaii, I hit a beach meeting on day one, and another overlooking the ocean the day before heading home - a nice set of bookends, and always so good for me to hear the message from different people, in different places. And what a mind-blowing trip - May 17 on the radiation table and May 24 at an AA meeting on a beach in Kona. Still processing the whole deal as I rubbed special lotion on my radiation burn and slathered on the sunscreen. And now, home sweet home.

Watching glorious sunsets, I half expected the voice of god to boom from the heavens. Alas, nada, zilch - merely the not-so-subtle (have you seen sunset in Hawaii? Not subtle!) reminder to live in the actual moment. Not the To-Do list waiting at home, or where shall we go for dinner tomorrow (while still full from today's meal) - just sit and breathe in nature's magnificence. What I'm supposed to know will make itself known, and rarely in my time.

I'm a bit weary today, with a late evening homecoming, and easing back into the groove so will keep it brief this week and end with a small poem from John O'Donohue:

I would love to live
Like a river flows,
Carried by the surprise
Of its own unfolding.

Always, the question is, how do you bring yourself back to the here and now? How do you remember to keep your butt and your brain in the same place?

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Meetings, meetings, meetings

 Posting early as I'm leaving on a jet plane (though I do know when I'll be back again... ) for a much needed respite between cancer radiation treatment and "real life."  Grateful for this vacation that was planned six months ago, and for the timing allowing it to happen.

One of my excitements about this trip is the daily outdoor 7am AA meeting a friend told me about. I love going to meetings in other places and part of travel prep for me is looking up meeting locations (thankful for the internet which makes it easier than the old days of going to Intergroup to look at the international directory!). Years ago, in an English-speaking meeting in Florence, Italy, the chair read a statement that essentially said, "We're glad you're on vacation, but we really hope to hear experience, strength and hope about recovery," in other words, not just "I'm so happy that sobriety brought me to this beautiful place."  I get it. Once, in a very small meeting in Prague, Czech Republic, my friend and I were greeted with "Please! One of you tell your story! We're very tired of listening to each other!"

I've been to some stellar meetings in other places - the English-speaking meeting in Istanbul, Turkey that ended in dinner with an American and an Irish woman, leading to a music store, which ended up with my friend and I in a Kurdish bar with a group of young men, one of whom was leaving for mandatory military service the next day. What an experience!  In Bejing, years later, the meeting-after-the-meeting was in a restaurant we'd never have entered on our own, seeing how non-tourists ate (and were charged far less than in places near our hotel). 

On that same trip, I chaired an evening meeting in Shanghai. Years earlier, in Paris, we sat near a well-known musician, who referenced my share in his. Another time, in Scotland, I felt like I needed subtitles - are you sure we're speaking the same language??

In lockdown, I attended the online meeting out of Budapest, Hungary that I'd been to in person when my friends and I traveled there for a run (10k for me). That was my last overseas adventure, in 2019, the "before-times," and as I write, I feel the familiar itch to cross the pond (as we say in the U.S)

It's funny - when I first got sober, I feared that my traveling days were over, since my boyfriend and world traveler catalyst had left. But lo and behold, airlines will take my credit cards as easily as they took his, and I learned to budget so that I could follow my dreams. A past boyfriend didn't get it - his preference was to have something material, something concrete to show for the money I'd spent on a trip, while I much prefer the experience and memories. That was always one of my questions - "Self, in twenty years will you be glad you have an extra $1,000 in the bank, or that you have the memory of a trip to _______."  The trip nearly always won. 

And memorable meeting experiences aren't necessarily in far-away places. I think of when the key person didn't show up, and five of us held a meeting on the back steps of the church, or when four of us literally had a meeting on the road as we drove to our friend's family home in Montana. Meetings on the beach, or during a hike, around a bonfire - the intention and act of a meeting moves the ordinary into the realm of the spirit. We speak differently in meetings than in everyday life (though sometimes our coffee shop conversations can go deep). It must be the one-at-a-time aspect of meeting shares that sets them apart from daily talks. That, and the opportunity for emotional honesty that can be missing in the "How are you? I'm fine," of everyday interactions. I feel so very fortunate to be a part of our fellowship.

What I've learned over the years in recovery is that dreams do come true. My dreams are likely different than yours (which is why I am so very grateful for a small handful of compatible travel companions), but/and sobriety has allowed the chaff of my true desires to separate from the wheat of the should's. OK, not always - there are bills to pay after all - but generally speaking, I know what makes my heart flutter, what excites me.

Which brings me to now - post (??) pandemic (lockdown phase at least), post-cancer treatment (this is the first week in months I haven't had a medical appointment), settled in to retirement, ready for the next adventure, whether that is getting on an airplane or train, or diving into the garage de-clutter project that my husband and I are committed to. One day at a time, doesn't necessarily mean BIG things ahead, which is OK today. The garden beckons. 

I will say that I had to ride the emotional rollercoaster last week, hearing the oncologist describe all the possible side-effects of the medication I'm recommended to take for the next 5-7 years (!?). And... I am grateful for science and data that indicates a big reduction in chances of recurrence with this particular medicine, so I will follow doctor's orders. The good thing about long term recovery is that the journey from self-pity to acceptance is much shorter these days. While one of my first thoughts was "F-it! I  may as well eat a pizza!" my second and third were more along the lines of "Bring it! I can handle whatever lies ahead," following one of my favorite meetings where I was reminded of the absolute gift of this recovery life, the gift of walking through all of the ups and downs together. 

I will note a passing of a long-time member here in Portland - Kelly L. Kelly came in about 6 months before me, and when I met him, had a broken leg so needed rides to the daily nooner. He sure needed meetings, so I assigned myself to pick him up from his dad's. At the time, I was still kinda-sorta hanging out with my meth dealer boyfriend (and I use that term loosely). I'd had enough, apparently, so on the way to the meeting one day, asked Kelly if he'd be ok that we stopped by where the guy was living to drop off a box of his stuff. I can't remember what was said, but the guy was giving me crap on the front porch, when all 6 foot 4 inches of Kelly stepped out of my car, asking, "Is everything alright?" That was the end of my guy's BS, for that day anyway. Kelly was a big man, a gentle giant, and from the stories I hear, was that helpful person to a lot of us young women new to recovery - helping us move out, stay out, stop putting up with snarky comments from those still using. Kelly, may you rest in peace, and find that biker AA meeting in the sky.

What have been some of your memorable meeting experiences? How has sobriety allowed you to discover/uncover your true heart's desires? How do you balance the should's and the want-to's? Who were the beacons in your early days? Are they still around? Today, are there those who see you as an elder in sobriety? How do you carry that honor and responsibility?

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See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample of the "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" workbook with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. Available in PDF format ($12.95) for those of you outside the US (or who prefer that format) or hardcopy ($19.95 mailed to you. Email me at with questions.  You can order from the WEB VERSION of this page, payment link on top right. Note that the workbook is also available at Portland Area Intergroup at 825 NE 20th 

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Spiritual fitness

I am so very grateful we don't graduate from our recovery practice. Sure, some people move on or move away from meetings, some leave for a bit and come back, or not, and the principles of the program are there for me to practice as deeply or as superficially as I choose at any given moment. 

The question of spiritual fitness has been up for me these last few months as I've walked through an unanticipated medical diagnosis. I had my final radiation treatment today, and will meet with the oncologist on Friday to learn about on-going medication and monitoring. All in all, in hindsight, it has been relatively low-key, but man, were those first few months of uncertainty a challenge! I find myself asking, "What just happened?" thinking of the month of diagnostic scans, the month or so of surgery and recovery, and four weeks of treatment. So, yes, relatively low key, and I find myself a bit weepy, with gratitude and grief related to the quickly formed and intense relationships I've made at the clinic, along with the vulnerability of laying on the table each day, techs drawing on my chest, measuring and calculating and radiating the heck out of my left torso. I ended up phoning my sponsor, saying, "I'm having emotions so thought I should call!" 

This does feel like a turning point of sorts, the in-between space that my recent Tarot reading indicated. As I've quoted an old therapist before, it's like being on the monkey bars and letting go of one rung before having hold of the next. And while I prefer skywriting (DO THIS!), I'm thinking that this particular transition is of a more subtle, quieter type. I'm signing up for a new volunteer gig, precipitated by my gratitude for an easy cancer path, and, a character in a short story I started several years ago has been talking to me. I don't need fireworks. I do want to pay attention to the whispered urges, the fleeting ideas, which involves getting quiet and being still - often tough for me to do.

And, with the passing of the last of my mom's generation this past week, which uncomfortably places me and my generation in the role of elder, I'm even more determined to pay attention, though I think that is less an activity than a way of being. Since Mom has been gone, and now Betty, there is no one left to answer questions, like "Who is that tall woman standing behind Grandma in this photo," or "Tell me again how you get the applesauce so tasty." In response to my post regarding Betty's passing, a friend noted the sadness at seeing the end of a generation, hopeful that the next generation (us) will pass on what we learned. That's a tough one given rapid technological changes that make much of the old wisdom obsolete, though some of what I learned from those raised during the Great Depression came in very handy during pandemic lockdown (for example, always have toilet paper in the closet and beans in the pantry). Some of what I learned growing up was probably bunk - like my favorite Aunt telling us that tan fat was better than white fat, as she basked in the backyard, extension corded fan oscillating. 

In a long-ago psychology class, the story was told about a woman who always cut the ends off ham before baking. When her husband asked why, she said, "Because that's the way my mother did it." When he asked his mother-in-law why, she said it was because her mother did it that way. When he finally got to grandma, she said "I cut it so it would fit in the pan." Tradition and "because we've always done it," aren't always reason enough to continue. And isn't that a big piece of recovery, especially of the Alanon variety - looking at old ideas, beliefs and passed-down opinions to see what is true today? I don't remember how old I was when I first realized "the" truth, in many cases, was simply "my" truth. I can still get caught up in thinking my way is best, which is why I keep coming back!

How does your spiritual fitness, or lack thereof, show up today? What transitions are you facing, and how do you keep moving forward while honoring your emotions? How can you be a bit more gentle with yourself? Are there any lurking, "But I've always done it this way" beliefs that might need to be examined? What lessons learned from your elders (family or program) might be important to pass on?

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See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample of the "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" workbook with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. Available in PDF format ($12.95) for those of you outside the US (or who prefer that format) or hardcopy ($19.95 mailed to you. Email me at with questions.  You can order from the WEB VERSION of this page, payment link on top right. Note that the workbook is also available at Portland Area Intergroup at 825 NE 20th 

Wednesday, May 10, 2023


 Just after my Tarot reading that addressed transition, as in "You aren't where you were, but you're not yet where you're going," the Richard Rohr daily email I receive spoke to the same - to the fact that transition can't happen until we/I let go, and let go completely. Or as it says in the Big Book, "Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely."

Absolutely. Not semi, or partially, but absolutely. In the R. Rohr posting, Barbara Holmes describes that process as a tug-of-war. Yes, I understand the need to let go, to release the illusion of control, and... my human tendency is to hold on to the familiar, whether job, relationships, or ideas about myself. What does it mean, and how do I actually do the letting go process? All this esoteric instruction can be confusing for someone who is a do-er. Give me a task and I'll complete it. Give me an idea and I'll wrestle back and forth between understanding and resistance. 

I did meet with the counselor this week, who, like my physician, affirmed that yes, I'm doing well and it is normal and very ok that I have feelings around my diagnosis (vs "I shouldn't feel this way"). His comments made me think of a program tool I'd use when on the verge of going off the deep end: write a list of all the things going on right now, which, in the past might've been, 2 term papers due next week, a roommate moving out, a project due at work yesterday, a 3rd date with someone new... you get the idea. I'd look at my list, realizing that any reasonable person would be stressed out, thus giving myself permission to take a deep breath and relax into my humanness.  

I haven't done that for a while. For one thing, life is way less stressful now that I'm retired, and it can still be useful. OK, so X, Y, Z happened, and then Q, R, S - again, you get the idea. Any reasonable person would have an emotional reaction, and I am a reasonable person, though apparently I sometimes think I'm supposed to be beyond mere human feelings. Oy vey.

I do understand that acceptance is a process, not an event, and rarely on my timeline. When I first heard the paragraphs on acceptance (p.449 or 417, depending on your edition) I thought there would come a day I'd move through life serenely embracing and approving all that happened. Ha! Was I ever wrong, not then or now achieving sainthood. (And, acceptance does NOT mean approval!) The journey from "No!" to "Ah, it is what it is" is shorter these days, but it is still a journey, the length of time influenced by the situation in question. Writer Ivan Nuru wrote, "If it's out of your hands it deserves freedom from your mind too."  I've gotten much better at putting up the internal "STOP" sign when my brain heads down the rabbit hole of "what if?" or self-condemnation, and freedom from the bondage of self truly does lie in this moment, right here, right now. 

And right here, right now has to do with letting go with love as I got the call that my mother's oldest living relative is expected to transition in the coming few days. My mom's just slightly younger cousin, they grew up together, and stayed close throughout their lives. Whenever I'd see Betty, every few months for lunch, she'd say, "I sure miss your mother," to which I'd reply, "Me too." At 93, she's had a good long life, a hard-working life on farms or homes with big gardens - a true gem of a woman, with never a harsh word for anyone. And, what happens for me with grief is that one loss opens the door to all the others - parents, lovers, grandparents, friends, aunties and uncles, some actual relations and some not...  a lifetime of good people. So I've gone to my garden, hands in the healing dirt, channeling my inner-Betty, who always had a plant or cutting, or good advice for this novice. 

What is it you need to let go of today? Is there something you're anticipating that you can release into the unknowable future? If you're feeling stressed, might it help to make a list of all that's happening? Wouldn't any reasonable person feel a bit overwhelmed? What are the tools you utilize to stay in the moment vs the "out there" somewhere?  

For those interested, you can contact Amanda, the Tarot Card Lady for a reading (done via zoom)  Instagram: Facebook:

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See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample of the "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" workbook with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. Available in PDF format ($12.95) for those of you outside the US (or who prefer that format) or hardcopy ($19.95 mailed to you. Email me at with questions.  You can order from the WEB VERSION of this page, payment link on top right. Note that the workbook is also available at Portland Area Intergroup at 825 NE 20th