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