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 

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