Wednesday, January 25, 2023

The Journey Continues

I've been reading articles lately about retired people who don't feel relevant after leaving paid work, who feel useless, like they don't matter. I also keep reading about the importance of staying engaged in life as we get older.  Thank goodness for our 12 Step programs. Anytime I take on a service commitment or reach out to a fellow member, I am engaging. Any time I talk or text with a sponsee or sponsor, I am engaging. Anytime I listen or share in a meeting, I am engaging.

In a recent birthday meeting, I was struck how this particular group tells the truth, the sometimes painful, not always pretty truths about how we muddle about on this journey of life. Truth-telling, solution-focused meetings are what bring me the quiet joy of gratitude, of connection, the permission to be real. I can enjoy the "AA on Saturday night" aspect of speaker meetings, with the cross between stand-up comedy, pathos and universal truths, as well as more general groups with newcomers where members tend to share their "pitch" and I'm starkly reminded of "what it was like." There is a place for all of it. The beauty of where I live, and now with online meetings, is that I have choices. 

Sometimes those choices have been around participating in home meetings where a select group works the Steps from the Big Book, 12x12 or various other sources (One Breath at a Time, a Women's Way, etc). One such group started as an Alanon Step Study but has continued over the years as simply a small support group, a place to be with others I've sat with over time. I gain wisdom from new-to-me voices, and, thrive with the cosmic exhale of being known.

I recently heard G.O.D. described as "Ghosts On Demand" - kind of funny, but kind of true. I have the ghosts of loved ones who reside in my heart, as well as the "ghosts of Christmas' past," the treasure trove of memories that either sting or comfort. And then there are the ghosts of stories about myself and my circumstance, wisps of beliefs that may or may not be true today depending on if I'm looking through the darkness of self-doubt or the light of recovery. Ghosts on Demand. How often am I pulling old ideas off the shelf rather than living in the here and now?

I shared recently that it might be spiritually arrogant to assume I've done all (most?) of my causes and conditions work but heard from others with decades of experience that they, too, feel done with that part of the journey. Done with the blame, with the focus on what was done, or not done, done with looking backwards to find the directional coordinates for today. Time takes time, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, and by putting in the emotional and spiritual work, today I am free. 

I drew on this realization when speaking at an in-person Alanon meeting over the weekend. I've come to understand my Alanon journey as having three overlapping phases. First was what brought me to the rooms - a relationship with a practicing heroin addict, learning all the ways I was powerless over his choices. After he died of an overdose, I could've stopped going, but I recognized part two of the journey had to do with the lengthy process of unraveling how I was impacted by my father's alcoholism. Part three of the concurrent journey has to do with marriage, as in who do I bring to the equation? I asked for a new experience, but am I using the same old strategies and dysfunctional tools? Bits and pieces of the past grab me every now and then, but these days it really is more about the here and now, about strengthening the "pause" muscle, about my spiritual fitness. 

And of course, just when I'm feeling super-centered, we get invited to a party, an actual post-pandemic party by a friend of my spouse's. My first thought was "Strangers?! Oh no!" I swear that my introversion has grown stronger during the last three years. Stay home? OK. And, I was able to do a reality check and perspective shift to "People I haven't met yet? Interesting!" It really is about self-care (HALTS) and being willing to ask myself, "What else might be true?"

Do you have at least one place (meeting, friendship, family) where you can be totally you, vulnerably real? Where do you get your spiritual and emotional nourishment these days? Where are you on the causes-and-conditions journey? Is there anyone you need to let off the hook today (including yourself)?

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January could be time to think about a new year inventory. 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 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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