Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Moving forward

 I attended the online Beacon Group this week (noon EDT), on the topic of Step 4 as related to fear and sex (they do Step 4 resentments separately). I could relate to so much of what the (female) speaker shared about the times we grew up in ("love the one you're with"), including being the first generation with access to effective birth control - we at least imagined we had all the freedom in the world. 

What the speaker said, and my own sponsors have echoed over the years, is that the sex inventory isn't simply a matter of making a list of where my behavior hurt myself or others but looking beyond the "I did this" to uncover causes and conditions, like the mistaken idea that I'm OK only if you say so.

All of the 4th Step, whether resentments, fear or sex, benefit from looking at those deeper layers of the "why" I act out in a particular manner - what am I afraid of? Am I looking outside myself for a fix?  If I'm angry at a particular person, place or thing, am I forgetting my powerlessness? What are my fears, real or imagined? Am I operating on self-reliance or figure-it-out mode? 

There aren't many blinding revelations in my inventories these days - the same characteristics tend to pop up. Which brings Steps 6 and 7 to mind. What does it even mean to become entirely willing? I can say to myself that I no longer want to do or think x,y or z, then 15 minutes later, I'm up to my elbows in a justified x or z. I supposed that's why I keep coming back. Progress, not perfection. 

In the Step 4 meeting, the speaker referenced a quote I've heard before that's attributed to Michaelangelo. When asked how he possibly created the magnificent statue of David out of a piece of rock, he said he simply chipped away at everything that wasn't David. For some reason, that brought a tear to my eye, thinking of the immature girl I was in 1986, who had a lot of chipping away to do. But it also triggered a deep recognition of the here and now - are there trappings of personality, behaviors or habits that may have been adequate and appropriate to the younger me but that might not serve as I move into this next phase of my development? Do I walk my talk in all areas, or am I cutting corners? Do I automatically point the finger at you, you or you, ignoring the three pointing back at me?  This upcoming milestone birthday really has me thinking, and feeling what it means to apply program tools to the aging process. 

And then, as the fates would have it, I was in a meeting with someone five years ahead of me on the calendar, talking about this exact topic (funny how that seems to work - when the student is ready, the teacher appears?). They spoke to the idea of developing a matrix, a structure of sorts for how they want to be in the world going forward. I resonated, and love making a list! It's not so much a bucket list of things to do before I die, but the energy I bring to the tasks and adventures I'm drawn to. People talk about the joy-meter as an indicator of satisfaction with their days. I think of that along a continuum from pleasant and enjoyable to fun to outright joy. Joy has a measure of excitement, whereas pleasant and contented feels calmer, but no less satisfying. 

In the manner of an inventory, I've started to jot down experiences that come to mind with that measurement, looking at patterns or commonalities. Sitting on the couch, or at the beach, with a cup of tea and my journal is definitely a positive experience, but with a different energy level than the time friends and I rode bikes into Central Park on a glorious November day. I'm realizing that the events that bring me joy or satisfaction are directly tied to my values. I wouldn't enjoy rock climbing, for instance. I do value adventure, but also safety and security. 

When I think of the emotional and spiritual energy I want to experience and bring into the world going forward, what comes to mind is connection and conversation, going to new and beautiful places as well as appreciating "home" in all its incarnations. And... I don't want to turn this new idea into simply another To Do list of things to accomplish. Yes, I'd like to learn Spanish (and have a CD set that's been on the shelf for a year), so can add learning and stretching my mind to the matrix, along with finding beauty in the everyday - carry water, chop wood. And while reliving the past isn't necessarily part of the deal, a good friend points out that all those memories are part of who I am today so I can celebrate the good times and not so good, the people who've come and gone. 

This whole aging business is a process. I've never been here before, but just like in sobriety, I can follow the taillights of those who are on the road ahead. We can learn together and from each other. 

How do you use the inventory process in long term recovery? How do you move beyond the superficial act or action to get at causes and conditions? How might the inventory be useful in the aging process? 

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The NOW WHAT workbook is 78 pages of topics and processing questions, great for solo exploration or in a small group. Go to the WEB VERSION of this blog page for the link on ordering (PDF for those outside the U.S., or hard copy mailed to you).. Please contact me at SoberLongTime@soberlongtime.com  or shadowsandveins@gmail.com with questions. And a reminder that the workbook, is available at the Portland Area Intergroup at 825 NE 20th. for you local folks.

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

People who would not mix...

 My long-term friend, the Tarot Card Lady (on Instagram and Facebook) noted in a recent post related to the daily card, that instead of tying self-image to what we do, try looking at what it is you (I) enjoy. What a concept, especially as related to the subtle shift from achieving and striving to simply be-ing. 

I thought about that while on a long walk, realizing that despite my internal protests, I am an athlete, a distance-walker (previously runner). The story I tell myself is that I'm not really an athlete because I'm so slow, or too this or not enough of that. And then I sit at my desk and look up at a wall of medals and photos of me at various events. Oh yeah, I guess I am an athlete. I'm also a writer, though again, the internal voice is around "not enough" - not good enough, not self-promoting enough, not productive enough, blah blah blah. OK Critical Self - just hush.

The question could be, not "What do you do?" but how do you inhabit your life? How do you show up for yourself or others? When I review my day, is the image of a flurry of activity, liked or tolerated, or maybe a "What did I do today?" Or, satisfaction with time spent alone, with friends, with family? I don't always have choices in how I spend my time, but most of the time I'm able to go with "want to" rather than "have to" or "should," which is definitely a gift of long-term recovery (and getting older!).

What matters to me these days is connection - talking and laughing with people I love, like the group of old school chums who get together monthly, or the cousins who meet for breakfast every other month, being intentional about staying connected after our mothers (the glue) are gone. This past week I invited myself to a small gathering of one of my home groups, with a visiting member in town. What a joy to sit across from each other in person, to share our passion for recovery, still lively all these years later. And then on Sunday, I got to hear an out-of-town speaker who my husband has raved about for years, and now I know why. For me, the program hits my heart via a mixture of laughter and tears, celebration and solemn acknowledgement of how fortunate we are to have made it out alive. 

Later on Sunday I drove to a local rural park for a Celebration of Life for a long-time member. I didn't stay long, as I didn't know anyone there, but felt it important to show up and give my respects to this person who'd been key to my early sobriety. About six months ahead of me, he had a broken leg when we first met, and was staying at his dad's house near me. I don't remember if I volunteered or was assigned to give him rides to the daily nooner, but I knew that he sure needed a meeting (ha ha and so did I). He shared wisdoms and insights that I still draw on today, like "If I only go to one meeting a week and miss it, that means I'm two weeks without a meeting." One day I told him how I sometimes missed the physical sensation of my drug of choice. As he explained it, that was a part of life we experienced that not many people do, but that it was over and now we got to focus on being sober. Made sense at the time, and got me through that day without picking up. On another occasion, on our way to the nooner, I stopped at the meth cook's place to drop off some things he'd left at my house - we were still kind of involved, but those early months of my recovery were rocky as he grappled with the change. Anyhow, on the front porch, he started to give me grief (I think he mentioned how I'd gained weight - well obviously, since I'd stopped methamphetamine and started eating). My pal Kelly, simply got out of the car, all 6 foot 4 of him, and said, "Is everything alright?" which sent my semi-significant other back into the house. Yes, everything was alright.  Yes it was, because I was letting go of one life and picking up another. Kelly was a biker, a drug addict, larger than life, who in these later years, played Santa for kids of women in treatment and gave new guys a place to stay. He definitely walked his talk.

We are normally people who would not mix - the biker, the social worker, the naturopath, the artist, the attorney, the librarian, the engineer, the hospitality staff...  Normally, maybe not, but what is "normal" anyway? Just the setting on a washing machine, according to a friend. There wasn't much "normal" about my life before recovery, but by the grace of the 12 Steps, I've been able to take my place in the human race. Being a productive member of society wasn't a particular goal of mine, but once here, it sure feels better than being part of the problem.

How do you inhabit your life today? How do you respond when asked, "What do you do?" How might you shift your response to who you are rather than what you do? What does community mean to you? How have you connected this past week?

Tomorrow is the 4th of July holiday here in the U.S. - something to celebrate for some, not so much for others. Whatever you do on this day off, stay safe.

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I've had some questions about how to purchase the NOW WHAT workbook. You need to go to the WEB VERSION of this blog page for the link on ordering. Please contact me at SoberLongTime@soberlongtime.com  or shadowsandveins@gmail.com with questions. And a reminder that the workbook, 78 pages of discussion and processing questions, is available at the Portland Area Intergroup at 825 NE 20th. for you local folks.