Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Lines in the Sand

 I am personally acquainted with a small handful of people who have definite histories with addiction to drugs, but nowadays have a drink now and then, no problem. I know a few others who simply quit when it got bad enough, on their own, no problem. And I do know of a few who stopped participating in 12 Step recovery and, over time, fell back into alcoholic drinking, big problem.

What does this have to do with me? Not much, directly, but my mind can get going, along the lines of "Maybe I could have a glass of wine now and then," to rules about what is and isn't recovery. I need to be careful of both - the disease on my shoulder whispering, "Aren't you just a little thirsty?" as well as any rigid ideas of what others should or shouldn't do.

I had a good dose of experience with that (pardon the pun) while working in medication-assisted treatment. Talk about stigma! I can't tell you how many times I heard, "I don't believe in methadone," to which we'd reply, "Methadone is a medicine, not an opinion." Harm reduction is real. Harm reduction saves lives. Someone else's definition of recovery is really none of my business, unless I'm directly involved and I rarely am.

After a relationship with a chronic, secretive relapser, I thought it important to lay the cards on the table with the new guy I was seeing rather than assume he was on the same page (and we know that assume makes an ass of you and me). And so we talked about our individual commitment to abstinence and recovery, the expectation that this would be a clean and sober relationship. When the former boyfriend relapsed, several people told me I needed to leave him until he had a year clean again. I didn't, and if the unforeseen happened now, I don't know that I would either - it depends on the situation. But, or rather, and, as time goes on, I have fewer lines in the sand. If I truly accept that alcoholism is a disease, I can broaden my views. I'm not saying that I would be ecstatic in a relationship with a relapsed alcoholic, just that I can't say today how I'd react. And that is where recovery comes in - the pause, the gathering of information, the discussion with involved parties vs marching out the door (as well as letting go of the need to know today what I might do in a hypothetical situation in the future).

And, while I'm very much a feeler, I am also a thinker. Give me a bone, a "what if?" and I'll gnaw on it a good, long while before admitting I'm powerless, over both the potential happening as well as my thinking about the same. Taking the presumed deity out of the equation, I love the phrase, "Be still and know that I am god." Be still and know that I am all I need to be, knowing all I need to know in this very moment. Be still and release the internal chatter. Be still.

On another note, a recent posting from Richard Rohr says, "Most of us are really only good at one or two things. Meditation should lead to a clarity about who we are and, maybe even more, who we are not. This second revelation is just as important as the first." So much of early recovery was the discovery piece - who am I? What do I like to do now that I'm not getting drunk or high every day? Who might I become? Through the years I discovered that working in treatment was my calling; that I'm a great manager and organizer, but not much of an ideas or innovative person. I've learned I'm a decent writer, though lack the oomph required for promotion; that I have stick-to-it-ivness; that I have poor eye-hand coordination, so no team sports, but point me in a direction and I can run or walk for a very long time. I've learned that I struggle with the beginnings and endings of romantic relationships, but am very good at middles, that I function best with a certain amount of alone, quiet time, but can be social or "on" when required. 

Now, two-plus years into retirement, I'm again at that place of "Who do I want to be" and "What do I want to do?" Are there re-evaluations to be done regarding what I'm really good at, and what I'm not? As I've released the long-term notion of "time" as my higher power (never enough!! too much to do!!) what is the rhythm of my days? 

Do you ever find yourself in judgement about another's recovery? How do you remind yourself that, unless they ask, it's none of your business? How have you set boundaries with those closest to you, about what you do or don't expect in that relationship? What are the one or two things (or three or four) that you are really good at? What do you know to be true about what isn't your forte? How do you utilize that information without using it to avoid trying something new?

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Welcome to our new subscribers. 2023 is going to be a good year. And if not, we have the tools to deal. This could be time to think about a new year inventory. See the Jan 13, 2023 entry 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 for those of you outside the US (or who prefer that format) or hardcopy mailed to you. Email me at with questions. Note that the workbook is also available at Portland Area Intergroup at 825 NE 20th 

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