Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Be-ing vs do-ing

 In a recent Public Broadcasting documentary about the artist Edward Hopper, one of the historians said, "Some people are born as who they're meant to be," implying that he was on his trajectory from the gate. That stuck with me, thinking of all the times I've heard people in the rooms talk about how sobriety has allowed them to become who they were meant to be. What does that mean exactly? Was I not myself when drunk or sticking a needle in my arm, when the substance of the moment was making decisions for me? Like many of us, I grew up being told I had potential. Potential. What does that even mean?  Back then, potential and a few dollars would've bought me a pack of cigarettes and a drink. Potential. There's a lot of pressure in that one word.

Maybe that becoming who we were meant to be has to do with our goals and dreams. I never let myself dream much about the future, knowing my follow-through muscle was sorely lacking. I often go back to the great addiction movie, Boogie Nights, thinking of the two women sitting on the bed, coked to the gills, talking about all the things they planned to do, with the hideous hangover making even getting out of bed a chore. 

So, I kept my world pretty small. I say that, though traveling to faraway places with my boyfriend, but that's as far as it got - the next trip, where should we eat, dare I sneak a wee bit of cocaine in my luggage? But never any plans for myself. Sure, I thought about taking a class, and even did a couple of times, but my boyfriend's schedule took priority. I'm not complaining - it was an exciting time in many ways, and we genuinely cared for each other, but as far as me being me - I didn't even know what that meant.

When I was married to my first husband, in my early twenties, I had a daydream about living on my own, going to college, growing tomatoes in my garden and having friends who were mine, not just because their mates were friends with my spouse. Very simple, and a little sad to think that was all I wanted. And then, a few years into recovery, I realized that I had it. I was going to school, had a group of new friends, and tomatoes in the yard. What else might I achieve if I but dreamed it? For me that meant working in treatment, visiting the Great Wall of China, earning a couple of degrees, running marathons. The Big Book tells me that my wants might not always be granted, but my needs always will. I can say that for me, it's been both, maybe because, over time, my wants have come into line with my needs - still fairly simple, and simpler as time goes on.

What does all that mean today, aging in long term recovery? Way less about achieving and more about being present. I always liked the sound of "I'm a human be-ing, not a human do-ing" and as time goes on, that makes more and more sense. Paying sweet attention to relationships as I bear witness to the fragility of this life; paying attention to the beauty all around me (and seeking that out if there is too much concrete in my days); paying attention to my spiritual practice as I heed the old-timers who came before me saying "The solution to all my problems is spiritual in nature," (recognizing that 99% of my "problems" are mere annoyances).

And so, one day at a time, I will reflect on the "me" I was meant to be to see if there are any remaining gaps. I will pay attention to my surroundings as spring blossoms appear. I will value dear friends and family, even those who's worldviews are different from my own. I will use the slogan, "How Important is It?" to clarify what does and doesn't matter. And, I will plant tomatoes when the time is right.

Do you feel like you've become who you were meant to be? What dreams did you have coming in to recovery? Have you achieved those and/or readjusted? Where are you on the continuum of reaching for achievement and relaxing into what is? What is it you most appreciate today?

* * *

Ready for an inventory or small group discussion? Check out my workbook "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. (See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample.) 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 shadowsandveins@gmail.com 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, February 14, 2024

Acceptance / Surrender

 An out-of-town family member is in poor health, which raises the question of whether to get on a plane, now or later. It is so easy to move along in life thinking that things will always stay the same. We'll fly to visit twice a year, staying in "our" room, walking to our home-away-from-home group. We might, in passing, acknowledge that no one lives forever, but that isn't our reality, until it is.

Like with my sister-in-law's dementia. She's been in her adult foster home for a number of months now, and does still recognize my brother when he visits several times a week. What a sad thing, to see the one you love fade away. And how terrible to understand that you are the one fading. I suppose at some point, one doesn't know what they don't know, but the initial stages must be devastating.

And, if you're in long-term recovery, by now you've surely lost someone, or several someones, to the disease, to sudden death or a lingering illness, to Alzheimer's or other cognitive decline. One of the developmental tasks of later adulthood is getting comfortable with grief. Comfortable? Maybe more like familiar - familiar as a snarling dog I sometimes pass on my daily walks. I know it will be there, but I still jump when he barks.

A magazine article on change quoted Sylvia Boorstein as saying, "We can struggle or we can surrender...Surrender means wisely accommodating ourselves to what is beyond our control. Getting old, getting sick, dying, losing what is dear to us...is beyond our control. I can either be frightened of life and mad at life - or not."

And therein lies the struggle - right there in the "or not." When a neighbor and I walk together, we'll generally say "hello" or "good morning" to those we pass. We've learned to say, "Or not," when the person, earbuds or no earbuds, ignores our greeting. Or not. We're having a nice walk and can look at the non-reply(s) with humor. 

Can I take that "or not" energy into the rest of my world? A counselor in treatment, in response to the drama of the day, always said, "Oh well." "Oh well," shorthand for surrender to what is, which makes me think of the people I've met through my volunteer gig driving cancer patients to their treatment. To a person, with only one exception, the folks I've interacted with have been cheerful, grateful for another day, appreciative of the small things. 

I remember that feeling in brand-new recovery - the pink cloud of amazement that the sun came up, the flowers bloomed, that I hadn't stuck my head in the toilet the night before. I get glimpses of that sense of wonder, a mere wisp of awe as I look at clouds in the sky (and not just the taillights of the car in front of me). I can talk about mindfulness, but how does one actually pay attention to the little miracles in the everyday? (as I wrote in the Now What? workbook, is "'Expect a Miracle" only for newcomers?) I suppose it has to do with intention, about paying attention, about the infamous pause.   

I am a journaler (no surprise) and in reviewing several past years, I see the theme of the same few character aspects. So, how do I move from "woe is me" to "oh well," from whining to turning it over? I think of the fine line between acceptance and surrender, which are maybe just different sides of the same coin. If I could've changed myself, I would've. I've run marathons and gone to grad school while working full time. I can do hard things. And....apparently I'm not entirely willing to be restored to sanity in all areas. Stubbornness? Lazy? Thinking I can be in control of the continuum of helpful to hurtful if I just try hard enough?

I keep coming back to this theme of persistently troubling characteristics, but isn't that what long term recovery is about, honing in on what persists? I don't know anyone who's yet achieved sainthood - we just keep suiting up and showing up. Perhaps when I can truly view my characteristics as old friends, we can work together, or not. 

How has life on life's terms contributed to who you are today? What program tools do you reach for when you find yourself struggling with what is? How does self-acceptance play into how you work Steps 6 and 7?

* * *

Thinking of a new year's inventory or small group discussion? Check out my workbook "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. (See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample.) 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 shadowsandveins@gmail.com 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, February 7, 2024

Step Two, etc

 And here it is, February, time to focus on Step Two, being restored to sanity. Actually, Step Two is about believing I can be restored. It was pointed out to me that the line, "For by this time sanity will have returned," isn't until the discussion of Step Ten. 

I'll buy that. Despite coming to believe, I was all kinds of insane in the early days and years, mostly around confusion about what I could and couldn't control, which is what still gets me! When working Step Two today, I take a look at how insanity is showing up, as well as asking what would sane behavior or thoughts look like?  And I was taught that talking with another program person about what's going on in my head is a form of Step Two, the Power Greater being exposing whatever it is to the light of day and of reason.

I recently unearthed a magazine from January 2023 that had gotten buried (me who vowed to never give up print journalism now routinely reads newspapers and newsletters online). An article in this new year edition asked a series of questions, some silly and some thought provoking. Oh, how I loved a magazine quiz or questionnaire when I was growing up, those that purported to give insight into one's personality or the future. In retrospect, I see that I was hungry for guidance, for direction, even if from the Ladie's Home Journal. We weren't a church family, I didn't belong to any clubs or anything that would've provided the structure I unconsciously craved, which lead me to permanently borrowing (i.e. stealing) a book from our grade school library called, "Put Your Best Foot Forward," chock full of advice on skin care, wardrobe and how to talk to boys. It was dated by the time I discovered it buried on a shelf, but was my bible for a couple of years. 

I remember feeling so very grateful when I first saw the twelve Steps. OK, grateful and a little apprehensive - I need to do what?? But deep inside I felt the exhale of "Ahhhh, this is what I've been looking for my entire life."  Funny how so much of recovery has been like that - finding something, whether a truth about life or about myself, that I didn't even know I was seeking. But I guess that's how it is with the "ah-ha" moments - I can't force the awakening or surrender, but I can do my best to stay open, one day at a time.

I got to spend time with a dear friend this weekend, a friend since treatment over 38 years ago. As another long-term friend pointed out, we are very fortunate in that we were able to stay sober, and how that lead to staying connected. I live in the town where I hit bottom and have spent my recovery, so perhaps I'm more inclined to connections over time, but part of it is intention. Intention, and picking up the phone for a call or text check-in, at least some contact over the year, though with good, old friends, we can pick up where we left off, no matter how much time has passed. I appreciate shared history, especially as I get older in both recovery and years on the planet. Fortunate indeed.

How do you know when you're crossing the line towards insane behavior or attitudes? Who do you talk with to get back on the beam? How have you incorporated the Steps into how you face the world (and yourself)? Is there a friend you might want to reach out to this week?

* * *

Thinking of a new year's inventory or small group discussion? Check out my workbook "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. (See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample.) 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 shadowsandveins@gmail.com 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, January 31, 2024

Justification

 I'm frustrated with myself this week - frustrated and annoyed. I saw my Primary Care Physician, an overall positive visit, but my blood work had a couple of less than stellar results, results that would undoubtedly improve were I to drop the proverbial 10% of my current weight. Insert big sigh.

I am a tracker, so can look back and see that it was Sept 2020, when I moved from running to walking that my weight started to creep up (creep, recede, leap, and climb). A famous marathoner, Meb Keflezighi, once remarked that he'd have to run six-minute miles to burn the calories from one banana. While I don't even claim to breathe the same air as Meb, I am proof-positive that the body gets accustomed to a particular amount of activity. Were I just starting out, walking three miles would be great. It's still great, but my metabolism wonders what happened to the 10 mile trail runs.

As others my age have said, it's not so much fitting in to my jeans as it is about health and wellness. The kicker is that I've long been secretly and quietly judgmental about those with lifestyle ailments. (I'm still mad that my mom didn't quit smoking when my dad died from tobacco-related cancer.) Judgy, and here I am, with three pudgy fingers pointing back at me.

What does this have to do with recovery? I don't have active alcoholism in my life today, but I do carry around this brain, this brain that sometimes justifies and rationalizes and looks for an out. Staying conscious of my internal machinations keeps me honest. Oh, self, isn't it interesting that you are now suffering from the same choices that you might denigrate in others? Hmmm. How do I right-size myself while acknowledging my humanity, a worker among workers, person among persons?  And how do I keep an eye open for various ways my "ism" tries to find a way in? Spending? Food? Gambling?  Relationships? Over-doing or dishonesty in any form? I've seen too many people open the door of dis-ease, even just a crack, with eventual disastrous results. Stay awake, stay aware.

I read in Alanon literature that self-acceptance is key to change. I can't change anything when my energy is invested in fighting it (whatever "it" may be). So, a deep inhale of "this is where I am today," on a quest of what a friend says, is a mere 5% improvement. 5% is doable, whether that it related to the length of today's walk or tackling a particular character aspect that is troubling. Progress, not perfection, one day at a time.

And always, balance matters. I realized, feeling a little crunchy over the weekend, that I've gone at least two weeks with only appointments on the docket. Of course, an ice storm stifled plans, but I need to remember that I do need people, social people, friends. This is a path I've walked before, so one would think I'd be more aware. One would think - ha! Again, progress not perfection, with progress being that today I notice sooner and can follow the thought trail to the core discomfort. HALT? Yeah, usually, in one form or another. Where can I make a 5% shift today, this week?

Do you harbor any judgements that prove to be a mirror to yourself? How do you move from judgement of self to self-acceptance using the 5% guide? How do the HALTs show up in your life today, and what do you do when you recognize it?

* * *

Thinking of a new year's inventory or small group discussion? Check out my workbook "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. (See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample.) 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 shadowsandveins@gmail.com 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 


Thursday, January 25, 2024

testing address change

 Another testing 1,2,3    With any luck, and tech support, you should see this post from soberlongtime@soberlongtime.com.

Sorry to fill up your in box!  fingers crossed.

jeanine b

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Habits

 As I was waking up from a nap, maybe still dreaming, I thought, "Oh man, I haven't been over to see Mom in awhile," seconds later remembering that she's gone. The mind is interesting - I'll sometimes get the urge to phone her, an automatic response to a beautiful sunset or bad weather. Maybe it's just an old habit, though eleven years after she's passed, you'd think that would've gone away. 

But habit is funny. I recently moved where I keep the kitchen sponge and soap dispenser, and my hand automatically goes to the former spot. The same with our new faucet. For months I'd done a little shimmy of the handle to stop a slow drip. New faucet, no drip, but I continue to adjust the handle. 

Simple examples, but perhaps indicative of human nature, and why, at the beginning of sobriety, we were advised to change playgrounds and playmates. I didn't have any friends who would've pressured me, or teased me about not drinking, but there were a couple of people I needed to take a break from simply because of the mental association. Of course, the meth cook was another story - I was right to emotionally move away from him, though for the first few years, did think I could convince him that getting clean was the way to go. Attraction, not promotion? I tried a little of both, to no avail. Did he ask me to help him? He did ask me to drive him to a methadone program a few times, and could he borrow $50, but never "I want to quit. Will you please help me?"  Hard lessons when someone we love is caught in the disease. 

And back to the Mom dream - as I pulled into the parking lot for my mammogram (results: all clear), I felt a little teary, thinking that maybe Mom showed up to remind me she's with me in spirit. Speaker / member Lila R talks about her higher power being "Ghosts on Demand," comprised of those who've passed on. Maybe? And impossible to know, but I do like the idea that the people I've loved are in my heart and memory. (I've heard that most of us are forgotten by three generations, probably less if we didn't have kids, but I've also heard that no one really dies as long as there is someone who remembers them. I'll keep remembering.)

I've signed up for a five-week online writing course through our local community college. The pre-homework was to list 7 things from our past that symbolize danger, and not something obvious like a gun or a knife. I struggled a little with that one, especially because a gun, sitting on top of the toaster, was part of my hitting bottom. We're supposed to write about one of those danger signals, so it needs to be something I can attach to a story, and how much self-disclosure do I want to do on the first night of class? As a recovering person, the things that represent danger to me might be hair-raising or mean nothing to "normies," but even thinking about my list brings on morbid reflection. A highball glass, a syringe, a phone number on a matchbook cover? Where do I want to go with this non-fiction class?

I remember my first writing class at the same community college, in early1986 or 87. Several of us were in the Alcohol & Drug Counselor Training Program, so when asked to write a short essay on a life-altering experience, ours were gritty (mine was about the meth cook overdosing in my basement). With so much distance now between "what it was like" and "what it's like now," I need a bit of a push to recall that gift of desperation, that hitting bottom so hard I would've done anything for the pain to stop. That is one thing I miss about in-person AA meetings (since most of mine are online) - the random newcomer who shows up with the shakes. I do get reminded of the insanity of addiction in my in-person Alanon meeting. Oh man, the pain and suffering we inflict upon our loved ones. 

This week, our weather is mild, with plain old rain. Last week, literally frozen in, this week skipping down damp sidewalks - yet another life on life's terms reminder that I'm not in charge of anything but my attitude.

What makes up your idea of a higher power, which some call higher self, inner-knowing, spirit, or nothing at all (or all the various theist names)? What old habits linger and what have you released? Where do you stand with personal anonymity? Do people outside of 12 Step know you are in recovery?

Note that I'm still trying to figure out the new vs old email address (shadowsandveins@gmail.com or soberlongtime@soberlongtime.com). It's a process!  And fingers-crossed no interruption in sends.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

email address change

 Hello dear Readers. Due to changes in requirements for Google and Yahoo send lists, I've set up a new email: soberlongtime@soberlongtime.com

My blog is nowhere near the 5,000 sends that require the change away from gmail, but I was advised to get a jump on it as best practice, and before I'm told I have to.

Hoping this gets to you, either via shadowsandveins@gmail.com or the new email and that it doesn't end up in your spam folder. I plan to post tomorrow as usual.  Ah, technology (grrrrr)

jeanine b

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Respond or react?

 As I began this post on Saturday, we were in the midst of a winter storm, an artic blast that had temperatures at 17 degrees Fahrenheit at noon, with snow and high winds. Not unheard of for the Pacific Northwest, and milder than other parts of the country this weekend, but unusual enough to trigger panic-buying at the grocery store. 

As engagement after engagement canceled, I lay on the couch with the kittens watching snow fall. Rather than be upset, I see that the universe did for me what I don't normally do for myself - i.e. a full-stop on plans. My "slow down" switch has never been fully functional, which is ok once I came to understand and accept that I can be a bit hyper, the better with which to channel my energy rather than fight it.

But today, given the weather, or years on the planet, I'm fairly content to just putter around. Actually, the first day of a winter storm can feel festive - bring out the hot cocoa and movies. If it lingers, cabin fever strikes, which took hubs and I on a short walk the following day, saying "Ain't it grand! The wind stopped blowing!"  

A friend noted that the weather shut-down felt like early pandemic, with streets near empty, glued to the news (how many ways can local broadcasters say, "Stay home. Stay safe."?) A couple of in-person meetings moved to zoom, an example of how AA/Alanon themselves did the nearly immediate pivot to online connection in March 2020 - a tangible example of the Serenity Prayer in action, changing the things we can.  

And so, how do I practice the Serenity Prayer in real life, in all my affairs, especially when annoyed with weather claustrophobia as I remind myself it could be a whole lot worse? Knock wood, we haven't lost power, and haven't had any "musts" for leaving the house (grateful that Monday was the MLK holiday here in the US). Again and always, a matter of perspective - whining at what I can't do, or grateful for a hot cup of tea and a working furnace. Funny that I may not have anywhere to go, but don't tell me I can't!

On another note, one of my regular newsletters this week discussed aging and how we approach the process. Dr. Becca Levy was quoted as saying that moving from a negative to positive mindset can add years to one's life, noting that community can help navigate the unknown. Again and always, grateful for our 12 Step community that offers like-minded and similar aged peers to grouse and celebrate with, as well as those younger and older in order to stay connected to the whole. As far as making peace with aging, the author of the particular article (Chip Conley) suggested asking ourselves what we'd regret not doing or learning 10 years from now. Will I regret not learning Spanish, or not ever getting back to the piano (I stopped playing at age 11 because I couldn't stand practicing while friends were out playing, and yes, my mother was right - I do regret it)? Will I feel sad that I never visited India or Viet Nam?  What about writing fiction? Do I have another book in me, and more importantly, do I care? 

I could pursue the things I listed. What I've learned over time is that if something really matters to me, I'll make choices that take me there. For example, I've long said I'd like a beach place, but have never seriously looked into it. I do have a CD Spanish language course on my shelf - will I follow through? There is something very deceptive about retirement in thinking I have all the time in the world so I'll get to that (whatever that is) later. But do I? My new motto of "later is now" applies to all sorts of things, not just using the nice dishes.

And the beat goes on. I have my first post-cancer treatment mammogram on Thursday, expecting favorable results (as in nothing hinky) but still, a momentary attack of "what if?" In treatment, they used to say, "Yeah, but's live in the Yeahbut Tree" - or, my favorite, "Everything after 'but' is bulls***" I can add to that the "what if's" that live in Whatif Land - far away and unreachable, because it doesn't really exist.

When weather or other things outside your control disrupt your plans, how do you react or respond? How do you utilize the concepts of the Serenity Prayer in your daily life? What comes to mind when you think about the aging process? What might you regret if you never get around to it?

* * *

Thinking of a year-end inventory or a holiday gift for a sponsee? I've restocked my supply of the workbook "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?"  with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. (See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample.) 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 shadowsandveins@gmail.com 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, January 10, 2024

Step One

 I frequently say, and often hear others say, that in 12 Step, we need never go through anything alone. Someone else in the rooms has had the same experience that I'm in a twitch about - all I have to do is ask.  

The asking part can be hard as sometimes I'm not really sure what it is I need. I grew up thinking I was supposed to know how to do things, how to be, what the answer was, even when I didn't know the question. I remember early in my first marriage, not wanting to call a friend for instructions on how to cook a certain dish, even though my husband suggested it (or maybe because he suggested it). I was embarrassed not to know, I didn't want to acknowledge a weakness - who knows? I was 19 or 20 and hadn't taken the time to learn to cook at home, so of course I didn't know. I say "of course" but at the time it felt like anything but. 

I am pretty self-sufficient, especially as the sober years and life experience has added up. And...sometimes I simply need to say, "Do you have a few minutes to talk?" or "Can I run something by you?" (both much easier than "I need help.")  Having a sponsor, being a sponsor, answering the phone when a member reaches out all keep me connected to my humanity, my perfectly imperfect self and yours. 

In the January 7 Daily Reflection I'm reminded that half measures availed us nothing. In addressing troubling or annoying (to self or others) character aspects, the reading suggests that "Attempting half measures to eliminate these [characteristics] merely paralyzes my efforts to change." Do I abandon myself or half-ass it? Do I say/think/meditate on "let me be more compassionate and patient today" and then dive into business as usual, or do I say, "Enough with the ego, Jeanine," as I seek to release being quick to judge or offer unsolicited advice? (My primary Alanon lesson is to say to myself, "Did they ask?) I can focus on Lila R's new year message of "pause, pray, proceed" one day at a freaking time. As I may have written before, a friend once said, "I'll have lots of thoughts and feelings during the day - I just don't have to attach a sentence to every one." Indeed.

This week would've been the sober-versary of a good friend, Ruth V, who was a treatment roommate and later lived in my faux-sober house (i.e. a revolving group of sober friends living in my home). She, and our other best friend, were examples of people who would not normally mix. I was 31, he was 21, and Ruth was my mother's age, so in her 60's, but man, did we have fun - reading the daily meditations, driving up and down the I-5 corridor and across state lines to meetings, going to dances and potlucks, taking a trip, not taking a trip - all those exciting activities of the first few years when life felt new.

And it was new. New to be facing life on life's terms sober, grieving losses, walking through fears of the future, hanging on for dear life when the road got bumpy and enjoying the ride when it was smooth. We held meetings in living rooms and on the beach, and once in a van while driving to Montana, pleased with ourselves for having committed How it Works to memory. Those were the days.

Those were the days, and life changes. We/I get older, way less inclined to drive across town for an evening meeting (zoom is so convenient!), less interested in getting to the latest movie or concert, more content with smaller vs larger groups of friends. That being said, I attended a big memorial for a friend's husband this past weekend. I barely knew him, but she and I went to the same high school and have shared many meetings over the years, and as another friend at the service said, "It's what we do" to support each other. The deceased was a biker - not my thing, but still kind of exciting when a long line of Harleys roared up to the church. I've been to a couple of memorials this year already, held almost like AA meetings, with both of the people having knowledge of their pending departure so were able to say what needed to be said and hear the love from others. We should all be so lucky.

January equates to Step One in my Step Group's calendar. What am I powerless over today? Yes, drugs and alcohol - no reservations there - but what else? People, places and things, and in my Step work I'll be specific about those as I sometimes seem to forget that I'm only in charge of me (!).

If you were to do a 10th Step right now, do you see yourself as in the half-measure section in certain areas or all-in? How did your early sobriety experience contribute to who you are today? How will you apply the principles of Step One this day and going forward? How does the concept of acceptance fit in with Step One?

* * *

Thinking of a new year's inventory or small group discussion? Check out my workbook "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?" with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. (See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample.) 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 shadowsandveins@gmail.com 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, January 3, 2024

Happy sober-versary to me!

 On my way to the bank this week, I took a short cut past the house I lived in when I hit bottom and saw that it is for sale. I pulled over and took a picture of the placard, and have spent time on the realtor site, going room-to-room. There have been several updates, and a lot of paint, but as I go through the photos, I think, "That's where Richard overdosed and I revived him," or "Ah, at the kitchen sink is where my ex told me I'd probably like his new wife" and where I said, "I can't even have that conversation right now." I see the fireplace where I sat on that last New Year's Eve, not really loaded, but far from sober. I also see where we held AA meetings, potlucks in the backyard and impromptu morning check-ins at the kitchen table with sober roommates.

I'm not sure why this has hit me - it's been 38 years now that I hit bottom, and at least 34 since I lived there. I think I had an image in my mind of the rooms being as I left them, seeped in memories, frozen in time. But time doesn't stop. The lilac bush and daphne, smelling so sweetly in the spring, are gone from that backyard. I assume all traces of the basement drug trade are long gone, as are echos of tears shed. 

And, interesting that this foray into times past came during the week preceding my drive to treatment. I don't engage in too much morbid reflection these days, but maybe sometimes a visceral reminder of the absolute insanity of my addiction isn't such a bad thing. I must admit that over time, the "I'm Jeanine and I'm an alcoholic" has lost much of its punch, its connection to the pitiful and incomprehensible, almost like saying, "I'm right-handed" or have brown eyes. Really remembering, and sometimes actually feeling what it was like keeps me tethered to the principles of the program, the daily reprieve. 

And it was insane. An example - the meth cook ran his operation out of my basement, which meant there were often nice, but shady characters coming and going at all hours. At one point, I put a sign up in the bathroom: If you are here at 2am, you need to stay until 6am, in an effort to lessen in-and-out traffic in the middle of the night. Funny how I was later worried what the neighbors might think when a group of us held hands in a circle in the backyard and recited the Serenity Prayer. 

I've been thinking about the meth-cook lover, who despite his own addictions, suggested that, yes, going into treatment might be a good idea, who drove me there and took my car home (I knew my vehicle in the parking lot would make it too easy to leave), and who told me, "No one in this town will sell you dope," when I got out. I sometimes vilify particular characters in my story, but even the so-called bad guys sometimes made good decisions.

We attended the Year-End Roundup this past weekend - always good to hear speakers and see people we only see at conferences. I was able to chair at the Little Yellow House meeting, which seemed fitting just days before my anniversary since Seaside is where I went to treatment (and the Yellow House was my first "real" meeting). On New Year's Day, we listened in on a zoom speaker meeting with Lila R, of Santa Monica and Ireland, with 54 years sober. I always appreciate her views as she talks to the long-timer, which reminds me that "the alcoholic who still suffers" might be the person in the room with the most time.  

And so here we are, in 2024. Having overdone sugar over the holidays (one is too many and a thousand isn't enough) I do plan to focus on healthier eating, but otherwise, don't have a big list of resolutions. My spouse and I did talk about our intentions, as related to health, finances, relationship, program and a broad "other" category - not as a ball and chain, but to put words to ideas and to help frame our direction going forward, knowing that we'll blink a few times and this year will be over! That's a goal - to increase my attention to what I'm doing in the here and now, vs the then or later. Always and again, progress not perfection.

Today is happy sober-versary to me. We are the fortunate ones, by luck, hard work, willingness or a combination thereof, including being in the right place at the right time with the right people. Three people in my Alanon meeting today had just lost someone to fentanyl overdose. The struggle is real, and I hope never to forget that. 

Have you set intentions for the new year, a fresh start? How can you make that list gentle and flexible, rather than rigid and thus easily broken? Are there any areas needing a re-set, whether in self-care, step work or in the workplace? How will you remember to keep it "one day at a time?"


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Thinking of a year-end inventory or a holiday gift for a sponsee? I've restocked my supply of the workbook "I've Been Sober a Long Time - Now What?"  with 78 pages of topics, member's views, and processing questions. (See the Jan 13, 2023 post for a sample.) 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 shadowsandveins@gmail.com 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