Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Just for Today

 Ah, the autumn equinox (here in the northern hemisphere - spring for you in the south). Some of my friends prefer the sultry summer, but I am a fall-lover through and through - cool mornings, with maybe a sweater in the evening and the nourishing rains. I love nothing more than sitting on my backyard bench or cozy couch with a hot beverage and a book or my journal, watching Mother Nature do her thing. I don't change my walking routine much this time of year. As we say here in (usually) rainy Portland, there is no poor weather, just poor gear.

I am a Libra, which may have something to do with the internal leaning towards balance - day and night, active and resting, quiet and conversant. I don't mind the shorter days that lead to winter - all part of the cycle. I did read a poem years ago where the author both celebrated and mourned the coming of spring as a joyous season, yet also one less turning of the calendar as he aged. As I've written, a friend noted that if she lives to be 85, she now has X number of months left. I don't like to think in those stark terms, which can throw me into "not enough time!" mode, but it is more and more sobering to contemplate this finite life as the calendar turns.

A recent meeting quoted from the "Just For Today" pamphlet, of which AA and Alanon each have versions. The primary message of both is that, just for today, I will live in this moment and accept what is, I will have a program and follow it, I will, essentially, strive to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Alanon also has a Just for Tonight bookmark, with the reminder that I've done the best I could, and that I can rest without trying to solve tomorrow's problems. 

We probably all hear, and have maybe said ourselves, that our 12 Step sayings and slogans are trite and simplistic. Sure, at first glance, though I find that even the simplest - one day at a time, easy does it, for example - can be a reminder to pause, take a breath, remember what really matters (which isn't the person blocking the grocery aisle with their cart). Today, in this moment, I have all that I need, including all the time I need to get done what truly needs doing.

I'm also thinking about discipline this week. I had my second physical therapy appointment yesterday, learning the technique for lymphatic massage to go along with specific stretches for residual range of motion issues following surgery and radiation. I'm to do both daily, as in every day, whether I feel like it or not, or forget or not. 

Self-discipline is a funny thing. For decades I woke up at 4:15am to hammer out a 5-6 mile run before work. Even now, I rarely skip a scheduled walk. But stretching? Limiting caffeine or sugar? Adding in some core work to the walking routine? Spend time with my writing? Not as motivated.  

The Big Book tells me that "HP gave us brains to use," and Lila R speaks to the willingness needed to get to a meeting, pick up the book, or answer the phone. Can I utilize the same positive aspect of self-will to do what is recommended for my health? Later is now, not some far away time when I'll magically be able to touch my toes while eating six servings of vegetables each day.

So, just for today I will do what is recommended. I've already gone for my walk and stretched afterwards. I will keep my commitment to be fill-in Secretary for tonight's meeting. I will switch to water after this so-very-tasty cup of coffee. I will pause during my day to look out the window or play with the kittens. Just for today, I will be present with what is.

How do you view the changing of seasons? If fall and winter aren't your thing, how can you find peace and acceptance in the darker days? How do you stay, or get, motivated for all those big and little self-care activities on your list? Is there a small move you can do today that will take you closer to one of your "I really should... (fill in the blank - get more sleep, take a walk, read my Big Book)"? 

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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 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