Monthly Archives: September 2012
The Courage of Honesty
You are you. Now, isn’t that pleasant? –Dr. Seuss
Sometimes the answer to the question in the quote above is yes, and sometimes, especially after looking back at past mistakes, the answer is a resounding NO!!! Fortunately, more often than not these days, the answer is a positive one.
Okay, so I am officially through my fourth step, which means I have completed a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself. Sound scary? Yes, indeed! I feel good for having accomplished it, but nothing miraculous happened to me yet, other than feeling proud of myself the way I do when I complete any project.
The most interesting part of the whole experience was noting the patterns that emerge in my behavior. It seems at the heart of it, lack of honesty is my biggest problem with respect to the harm I have caused others. Believing that people will discover the real me and run as fast as their feet will take them seems to be at the heart of my dishonestly (geez, even writing that was difficult).
Logic would follow that having the courage to truly be myself seems to be the ultimate goal, and, hopefully, the ultimate reward. Without realizing it I have been working towards this goal for the past 243 days. And this is just one more thing where it is all about the journey, rather than the destination… progress and not perfection!
The Attitude of Gratitude
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. –Melody Beattie
The title of my post is one of the million “AA-isms” you hear in the meetings of the 12-step program. Here’s what it means to me:
1. There is always something to be grateful for, no matter how bad you think your life is. If you have the ability to question this statement, you already have two things to be grateful for: that you are alive, and that you have the intelligence to question. You can build from that point.
2. If you consciously work on developing the attitude of gratitude, it is impossible to feel bad. Seriously, try it. The next time you are pissed off at something, step back, and start listing the things in your life for which you are grateful. I am betting that before you are halfway through your list you will feel better, if not silly for being pissed off in the first place.
Here is what I am grateful for today: the ability to hit the reset button on life. Through a series of small events, my day did not start off well, and I reacted to those events with frustration. Since I knew I would be attending an 8 am meeting, I was, first, grateful for the existence of that meeting, and my membership in a Fellowship that allows me to be inspired daily. The topic of the meeting was gratitude (surprise!), and I was then grateful for the reminder of how good my life is. Finally, and most important to me this morning, I am grateful for my new perspective that allows me to look at my own part in this morning’s events, and to make right my wrong-doing, instead of letting it fester for what could have been days on end (if grudge-holding was an Olympic sport, I would have been a gold medalist).
All of that wisdom before 9 am… it’s going to be a great day!
There Are No Coincidences
Why are you in so much hurry?
Is it really worth the worry?
Look around, then slow down.
What’s it like inside the bubble?
Does your head ever give you trouble?
It’s no sin, trade it in.
–Little River Band, Help is on its Way
The tagline below my blog title reads there are no coincidences. For those who know me, there is a bit of irony here… for years, I have hounded my friends about the many amazing coincidences that are prevalent in our lives. The expression that our group uses when something interesting happens is “log it!” The idea behind logging the coincidences is that we will someday collaboratively write a book detailing all the amazingly coincidental things that have happened to us, and it was a game to see who could come up with the cover story (to date my friend Jim would win this award, but it would take entirely too long to detail his story).
Back when we started this game, the coincidences had nothing to do with spirituality or inspiration. Today I play the same game, mostly with myself, but instead I look at them as God trying to direct me in my life. If you ever decide you want to participate in this sport, be prepared to be amazed. The signs are absolutely everywhere, and they are nothing short of amazing. Every single day, sometimes multiple times in a day, I receive signs from God that help me to figure out if I am heading in the right direction, doing the next right thing, thinking the right way. It is simply a matter of getting quiet, and focusing in the present moment. It could be a phone call from a friend, something shared in an AA meeting, a post in a blog, or even a song on the radio.
Which is why I chose a song lyric as my quote. This song, popular about 35 years ago, came on the radio as I was driving to a court appearance that was causing me a great deal of anxiety. I took it as a sign to calm down, and, as I have written, things turned out miraculously. Prior to this incident, I had not heard that song in decades. Today, as I’m driving home and trying to figure out what to write in today’s post, guess what song came on the radio? This is clearly a sign, either that I should write about all the amazing coincidences (that aren’t really coincidences) in my life…
Or that I should rally my readers to start a movement to reunite the Little River Band. I’ll let you decide…
More Introspection: Step 4 is a Pain!
Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom. -Aristotle
Funny enough, the last time I wrote on this subject (Introspection), I ended with the admission that step 4 scares me. Now I am writing about introspection because I am in the middle of step 4.
For those of you just tuning in and not involved in a 12-step program, Step 4 is “create a searching and fearless moral inventory.” The way I am being taught to complete it involves 4 different worksheets: resentments inventory, fear inventory, sex inventory (that inventory might take all of 10 minutes for me to complete), and persons-I-have-harmed inventory (I will use the time I save on the sex inventory and channel it into this one).
I completed the first worksheet on resentments, I wrote a little bit about it last week. This week I will complete the other 3, and this weekend I will officially do step 5, “admit to God, myself and another human being the exact nature of my wrongs.” In other words, I will sit down with the person taking me through the steps and tell her, face-to-face, all the things I have written down on these different worksheets.
Here’s the bottom line for me, in the moment… this step is a big pain in the you-know-what. It’s an interesting twist… after being told for years that I need to stop making things “all about me,” I now need to spend 2 weeks of my life obsessing about everything I’ve ever done, every feeling I’ve ever had, every time I’ve been afraid, and every person with whom I’ve ever encountered. It’s tiring. Maybe the point of this step is I will never want to think of myself again after I complete it?
Alright, enough complaining, I’m off to complete my fear inventory. I promise I will be less whiny tomorrow!
For All The God-Doubters
A coincidence is when God performs a miracle and then decides to remain anonymous. -Author Unknown
Forgive the extra length of this post. There will also be extra-candor, but the message is too powerful for me not to share it.
My personal bottom was like an airplane bouncing down the runway towards its final destination…. increasingly shameful confrontations with my husband, time spent away from my children in a rehab, breaking the law and getting caught, and, finally, separating from my husband and children. At my lowest point, I was living with my mother, facing divorce and an uncertain future with my children, and it was at this time my lawyer told me he did not see a way around me going to jail.
So to say the early days of recovery were fear-based would be an understatement. I chose sobriety because I was terrified of the alternative. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and slowly my personal life turned around. I was back at home, rebuilding my life with my husband and children within two months, and all my other relationships followed suit.
The last big question mark remained my legal issues, and that is what I writing about today. From the start, it looked like jail time was inevitable. For those reading who don’t know me personally, I am pretty far removed from the typical profile of an inmate. I am an Irish Catholic middle-aged Mom of two with nothing remotely resembling a prior record. I am Master’s-educated suburban woman who has chosen to stay at home and raise her children for the past decade. And yet, here I am, looking at jail time.
A few weeks into my recovery, I was offered the opportunity to participate in a county-funded program, that, for simplicity’s sake, I will define as a sort of court-supervised outpatient therapy. In exchange for my participation in this program, I would, first, avoid jail, and second, clean up my record at the program’s successful completion… miracle #1. I leapt at this opportunity, only to find out that because my home is located about 2 miles outside the county, I am ineligible to participate. So my lawyer works a deal and offers me some sort of reduced sentence which amounts to nothing more than probation…. this is miracle #2… no jail time.
But the original offer of the drug program sounds like a better proposition, and I work with my lawyer to fight for it. It takes time (patience is a requirement when dealing with all legal matters), but eventually it is agreed that if I can establish residency in the county then I can enter this program. Great news, but how can I do this? I don’t have the money to have two homes, and I can’t move my children. Then my in-law’s, who do live in the county, approach me and offer their home to me for the duration of this program… miracle #3, and this is the point at which I am consciously aware that God is working the miracles in my life. I start tuning in to all the good things happening every day from this point on.
Still more time goes by, but I am grateful, because it allows me to spend the summer with my children, and to not worry about how to explain this upcoming change in our lifestyle. Meanwhile, I am continuing in my recovery, but it has ceased to be fear-based; rather, it is about building upon the successful foundation that fear built. Each day is better than the last, and I am at peace with however the legal situation turns out.
About one month ago, I received word that because so much time has gone by, and because my lawyer has been fighting to keep me with my children, the county is considering a pilot program whereby I complete its requirements while being supervised by the county in which I reside. It has never been done before, and the judge originally dismissed this option outright, but is now willing to consider me being the first person to do try it…miracle #4.
Yesterday I was able to observe the program in which it is proposed I participate, and it is much more positive and encouraging than anything I have encountered to date… miracle #5. Today I went before the judge, and he agreed to allow this to happen, officially… miracle #6. This judge has a well-known reputation for talking down to the people in his court room, I have witnessed it first-hand. Yet when it was my time before him, he was respectful and encouraging, and even commended my attorney for his perseverance in getting me this opportunity… miracle #7.
And so, next week I will begin a program designed to aid me in my recovery, while living at home with my family. At the completion of this program, I will have a clear record, which will enable me to work in my chosen field. I hope this story clears up any doubts about God working in our lives!
Step Four, Resentments, and Life-long Patterns
Harboring resentment is poison to the soul. Get even with people…but not those who have hurt us, forget them, instead get even with those who have helped us. -Steve Maraboli
I have officially taken pen to paper and begun my official fourth step, which is making a searching a fearless moral inventory of myself. My instructions for this week are to complete the worksheets on my resentments. How it works: first, write down everyone in my life toward which I have or have had a resentment (overwhelmed yet?). Next, describe the resentment, and check off the listed categories in which the resentment affected me, and finally (and most importantly) describe the role I played in the resentment.
Yes, to answer your unspoken question, my mind is spinning, right about now.
This is only one part of the inventory; there are several more pages, each as in-depth as what I just described. So I am nowhere near the completion of this step, and yet I feel like I have already climbed a mountain.
This work is particularly difficult for me because I have always been of the strong belief that what has happened in my childhood, or even things in the more recent past, don’t matter much today, simply because I am an adult, and thus liable for my own actions. Truly, no matter how upset, or angry, I feel towards what I perceive as wrongdoing against me, at the end of the day I am responsible for my own actions. I have encountered people who have a vastly different viewpoint from this one, one in which they feel they are a victim of life’s injustices, and I tend to view that belief with contempt.
I still feel that I am responsible for my own actions, but even this early on, I am aware of a critical misstep… by never honestly looking back at the difficulties (for lack of a better word) in my life, I have not been able to see clear patterns in my behavior. Here is one example: in the category “the role I played,” I have written about 30 different times “failed to voice my concern,” or something to that effect. Now, if I have already had to write that 30 times, do you think that might be something I have to look at? I’m guessing yes, and I’m guessing my inability to develop the courage to speak my mind has played a crucial role in my development as a person.
There is so much more insight to be gained from this inventory, and I am not just looking back, but forward as well, because I have children of my own, and in reviewing my childhood I can’t help but wonder how I am affecting them. I would say that this exercise, while time-consuming, difficult, and painful, is a worthwhile one for just about anybody. I’ll let you know more as I delve deeper.
Levity in Recovery
Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive. –Elbert Hubbard
Yesterday I stumbled upon some disturbing information. Quick background: I have lived in my neighborhood for 6 years, and I really love my neighbors, they are a wonderful group of people and I have had some really fun times with them. I have been sober for 232 days, so you can imagine how my neighbors know me. Fortunately for me and for them, they know me more as the fun gal who likes to drink rather than the alcoholic I am. For that reason, I made the decision, relatively early on, that my recovery is my personal business and I would only share the information if it becomes absolutely necessary.
Which, apparently, now it has.
So yesterday I am talking to a family member who also happens to be a neighbor, and she mentioned that one of our group believes that I no longer like her. She has had two parties in my recovery, and both times I have consciously chosen to leave early due to the alcohol present. I believed at the time that I had made gracious exits, and I have seen her since, so I was completely unaware that there was any trouble brewing.
The interpretation of my early exits from her parties? She now believes I am a racist. I actually laughed when I found this out, thinking I was being punk’d, but no, she really thinks I have difficulty being in a room with different ethnicities (my neighbor is in a mixed-race marriage, so I am unclear if she thinks I don’t like black people, Indian people, or just anyone other than myself).
Of course, I was horrified, and I will attempt to right this wrong thinking as soon as I can. In my meeting today, the topic was about finding humor in our past addictive behavior, and being able to laugh at ourselves. Normally, I have little to share at these types of meetings, but today I did, because, really, it is just comical! I left a party early to help my recovery, and now I have to decide which is the lesser of two evils… letting them think I am a racist, or admitting I am an alcoholic?
You just can’t make this stuff up…
Step 4: Making a Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory
Confession of errors is like a broom which sweeps away the dirt and leaves the surface brighter and clearer. I feel stronger for confession. –Mahatma Gandhi
Hard as it is for me to believe, I am about to embark on step 4 in the 12 steps of recovery. For as long as I have known about the 12 steps, step 4 has always seemed like the most daunting of them all (although step 9, making direct amends to people, doesn’t sound like a joy ride either). But every other step seems feasible… painful and humbling… but within my power to do. The whole concept of writing down an entire inventory of my life seems beyond my personal scope. I can barely remember what happened a half hour ago, how am I supposed to remember my entire life?
And yet, I feel like the very answers I have been searching for my whole life will lie in the pages I am about to write. All my life I have struggled with one addiction or another, ranging from the harmless (computer games), to the destructive (drugs and alcohol), and many more in between. So the $64 question is: why? Everything I know about step work leads me to believe that the inventory in step 4, if done thoroughly and honestly, will demonstrate a pattern of behavior that answers that all-important question.
So, the pressure mounts, and, me being me, I worry about choking under the pressure. Fortunately, I am not in this process alone, and I have a wise and experienced guide who will ensure I am doing it the right way. I will be very excited to share my progress as I make it!
You Can’t Always Get What You Want…
… but if you try sometimes, well you just might find, you get what you need. –Rolling Stones
So I have confirmation that I do in fact need to cancel my trip for next weekend, which is a serious bummer. And for about a day I was filled with frustration, disappointment and self-pity. I mean, here I am, 228 days sober, and have been willing and able to accept my consequences every single one of those 228 days, and the literal one business day that I would be out of town is the day picked that I need to “pay the piper!”
And then I mentally slapped myself. I took a step back and looked at the whole situation, not just the parts that I don’t like. It would take up way too much space to explain all the ins and outs of this process, but, with the exception of forfeiting a vacation with family, I am looking at the best possible outcome, really more than I ever thought possible 8 months ago. I am able to complete my necessary “amends” with the least possible disruption to my life, and the lives of my family. The ability to do this is a genuine gift from God, and I am so grateful, I don’t even know how to express it.
If I could improve on the sentiments of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, I find that not only do I what I need, but I get way more than I could have ever expected I would!