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 

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