Monthly Archives: January 2013

Progress, Not Perfection

No matter how many mistakes you make, or how slow your progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying. -Unknown

This quote is a reminder to myself.  The first week of January, I went to the gym one time, and considered it the miracle of that day.  The second week, I went two times.  This week, I made it a whopping three times.  I have a tendency to look at that fact and remember the times in my life when I was going at least 3 times a week, and doing much more than I am currently doing, but I conveniently forget the months on end when I did not go a single time.  So progress, no matter how slow, is progress, and I am grateful!

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Today’s Miracle:

Having some quiet alone time to read a novel, I haven’t done enjoyed this luxury since last year (of course, last year was only 19 days ago, but still…)!

 

 

Don’t You Wish Everyone Had a Program?

Don’t think too much, or you’ll create a problem that wasn’t even there in the first place. -Unknown

I often hear people in the rooms of AA say that they wished everyone in life had the gift of the 12 steps.  Unfortunately, it usually takes some pretty serious problems to get someone in the doors of a recovery program, but if you follow the simple suggestions, you have a guide for living that makes most life problems much easier to solve.

The challenge, for me at least, is when I am faced with a problem that is not in my control.  When someone comes to me with their problem, but they are not armed with the tools I have been given.  Because, as anyone in recovery knows, trying to explain how we find peace and serenity, to an outsider, is like speaking another language… they want to understand, but simply cannot.

So the question becomes:  how to break down what I have been given into manageable chunks to someone who is not in recovery, but needs to find peace?  I used the quote above to apply to both ends of this dilemma.  One, if I focus too much on how I can solve the problems of the world, then I am doing the mental equivalent of banging my head against a wall.  I need to take my ego down a few notches and realize that just because I am in recovery does not mean I hold the answers to every problem in life.

But the quote also applies to the other side:  no matter how complex a given situation is, no matter how many layers it has, over thinking it just creates more problems.  A friend and I spent some time doing just that last night, and at the end of that discussion we were nowhere near solving the problem, all we did was create new worries.  So much for my recovery tool kit!

So, new day, new opportunity to hit the reset button!

 

Today’s Miracle:

I have people in my life that trust me enough to seek my advice.

Meetings for a Meeting’s Sake

Don’t look back and ask, “Why?” Look ahead and ask, “Why not?”  When it comes to your dreams and goals, be too positive to be doubtful, too optimistic to be fearful, and too determined to be defeated. -Unknown

Today we experienced bad weather in my part of the world.  More accurately, my children’s school district decided about 12 hours ahead of schedule that we would experience bad weather, and gave the schools a two-hour delay.  Why rain in 40 degree weather would warrant this decision is beyond my comprehension, but, hey, I’m powerless, right?  Bottom line:  my normal Wednesday schedule is off, I couldn’t get to the meeting I absolutely love on Wednesdays, and instead, time constraints had me going to a meeting I really don’t enjoy much at all.

But I committed to myself, almost a year ago, that come what may, I would attend a meeting every day for the first year of sobriety, and I am closing in on that particular deadline.  And since an uninspiring meeting is better than no meeting at all, I went, and now I am happier for it.  And the quote above is true, because I remember thinking, months ago, that there is no earthly reason I couldn’t attend a meeting every day for a year.  And that positive, optimistic, determined attitude had me at a meeting whether I was at home, down the shore, visiting relatives, celebrating holidays, enduring schedule changes, and yes, even inclement weather (or, more importantly, the school district’s idea of inclement weather).

Making a commitment and sticking to it… who knew it could be so rewarding?

Today’s Miracle:

Being grateful that I am not on the School Board making tough decisions, rather than plotting out the various revenge strategies I could inflict upon them (believe me, I have wasted time on this in the past)!

Choosing Your Outlook

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

This morning I woke up about an hour earlier than I am scheduled to get up, then could not fall back to sleep to save my life.  Then I had the same argument about outerwear with my son that I’ve had about 150 times.  We were rushing to get to school early because he is participating in his school’s Reading Olympics.  So I get to the drop-off line, and no one is there to let him in.  After many phone calls, I figure out I had the date wrong, and the early morning practices don’t begin for another 2 weeks.  At this point we either sit in the parking lot for 25 minutes, or go home and come back.  We sit and wait.  While we sit and wait, a song comes on the radio that I like (Joe Cocker‘s Feelin’ Alright), so I start to sing.  Keep in mind we are completely alone in a big parking lot. My son then yells at me for embarrassing him with my singing (remember, we are alone in the car, and in the parking lot), which then leads to another argument.

I’m writing about all of this because, despite all this aggravation, I am having a fantastic morning.  Because none of these incidents determine my day, only my attitude towards these incidents.

The end of the story, and the part I am choosing to focus on, is this:  after the “disagreement,” and several minutes of silence, I start flipping the radio, and come across the same song that started the fight.  My son asks, “what song is this anyway?”  I tell him the name of the song and the artist, and his 10-year old giggles over the last name have me smiling even now…

Today’s Miracle:

That I can choose to look at the good, instead of the annoying, in a situation.

Ask, and Ye Shall Receive!

http://calmandcool.com/412/good-thoughts-bad-thoughts-baloney.htm

An interesting thing happened to me this weekend.  Before I explain, a while back I wrote about the process an addict goes through, which is:  a thought, which leads to an urge, which leads to a craving, which leads to an obsession, which results in a compulsion.  As I mentioned when I wrote this, when in active addiction, this process is so quick, it is like a flipping the pages of a paperback from front to back.

As I also mentioned more recently, troubling memories have been resurfacing, and it is uncomfortable to experience.  Fortunately, they are not thoughts to pick up a drink or drug.  Unfortunately, it is memories of times in the past when I have.

For whatever reason, this past Saturday was one of those days where the memories were coming fast and furious.  That night, we went to the 5:00 mass, and still I was plagued with disturbing thoughts.  Since I was at church anyway, what better time to ask, in more elaborate detail, to have Him direct my thoughts in a more productive way?

The first answer I received was a reminder of the process I described above.  With that reminder, I was able to reflect just how far I’ve come.  By the grace of God, I have had the compulsion, obsession, the craving, and the urge to pick up a drink or drug lifted from me.  That, in and of itself, is a miracle, one for which I should be grateful for every minute of every day.  And even these thoughts that have been plaguing me are of a much lesser evil.  The worst thought that occurs is just a bad memory, it is never a thought to use any mind-altering substance in the present.  Another gift.

So finally, right before communion, there is a short space where I mentally recite the act of contrition.  As I am doing this, the thought comes to me to ask for forgiveness, because at the heart of it I believe that I am somehow causing all these painful memories to resurface, that I am in some way at fault.   The mass ends, we go home, eat dinner, and have a low-key Saturday night.  While watching TV that evening, I am also catching up on email, and there is one from my husband (who happens to be sitting about 2 feet from me).  It is an article he found online that he thought I would enjoy (mind you, I have not shared any of the thoughts from the day with him).  I inluded the article (hopefully) in this post.

Is it odd, or is it God?

Today’s Miracle:

Monday mornings bring the meeting I started.  First miracle:  12 attendees.  Second miracle… a woman came to the meeting (I have met her, but have no personal relationship), and told me that she came because she has been hearing such good things about the woman who runs Monday’s literature meeting.  I had to stop and back up mentally… wait, the woman she is talking about is ME!

Willingness

Where the willingness is great, the difficulties cannot be great. –Niccolo Machiavelli

Because it is the first month of the year, a lot of 12-step meetings focus on Step One, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Step one usually involves a moment of surrender, another topic discussed quite a bit in the month of January.  I hear about all different types of surrender… some just reach an internal decision that they have had enough, others drag themselves to it because of the prodding of others, still others have to hit a crisis point in order to finally give in to the premise that they cannot do it on their own.  Finally, each person turns to a power outside of themselves.

Once in recovery, it is easy to see that many solution to life’s problems lie in the same basic format.  Healthy lifestyle changes, other addictions, even removing irritating personality flaws can be accomplished by simply turning it over to a power greater than oneself, and working on it one day at a time.

But what if you know all this, and you want the end result, but simply don’t feel like making the effort?  I wrote earlier in the week about my struggles with exercise (I did, by the way, get to the gym that day, and I even went today, twice in a week is a record for me at this point).  So I know it is a healthy lifestyle change that would bring untold benefits, I absolutely want the end results of becoming more physically fit, and I can even appreciate the feeling I get when I have accomplished even a small amount of exercise.  But still I struggle with that final surrender.  What to do?

My personal experience with surrender was at a moment of personal crisis.  But I don’t ever want to get to that point again, with anything… I don’t want to have some health crisis drive me to the point of surrender, so how do I get the mind shift without the crisis?

And back to the value of regular meeting attendance, and sharing internal struggles.  The feedback I received was instantaneous, and the advice made perfect sense:  if you know you want something, but can’t get motivated enough to take action, pray for willingness.  Eureka!  This simple suggestion is why I am so grateful to friends in the Fellowship.  Just that little bit of wisdom had me motivated enough to drag my sick rear end to the gym immediately following my meeting.  And, believe you me, when I hit my knees tomorrow morning, the request for willingness is going into the routine!

Today’s Miracle:

The gift of giving and receiving that takes place within any 12-step meeting is an absolute miracle.

Fear: A Mind Game

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’  You must do the thing you think you cannot do. –Eleanor Roosevelt

You hear it all the time:  You have nothing to fear but fear itself, and so on.  And, the best one:  just think differently about the situation you fear, and the fear goes away.  My response would involve several expletives, but, in essence:  Give me a break.  If I am deeply fearful, it would seem impossible to just think differently to make it all go away.

And yet…

The last couple of days I have been fearful about a potential upcoming situation.  Too long of a story for this post, but I fear being required to do something I truly believe would be wrong, and I am fearful about how to best respond to such a requirement.  All of this fear is projection, and may very well amount to a complete waste of mental time, but, again, try telling my mind to stop thinking about something?  It’s a joke.

So in yesterday’s post I mentioned I had a wonderful conversation with a friend.  Later in the evening I had another opportunity to exchange emails with some other long-time friends.  These emails have been so entertaining, I cannot even describe the fun I have had.  So when I sat down to write this post, I realized, that, while the actual day of the situation causing fear is upon me, my mindset is completely happy.  As I sat and realized it, I was astounded.  Dammit, I’m wrong again!  It is all in my head!!

So I guess I will endorse the one about thinking differently to make fear go away, but maybe tweak it a bit:  If you are sitting in fear, engage in something completely different to distract you from your thoughts.  Chances are you will be able to change your focus, because, believe me, if I can do it with my stubborn mind, anyone can.

Today’s Miracle:

Looking forward to a Thursday.  Normally this is the WORST day of the week for me, but today I got to get up early, attend a “Muffins with Mom” gig at my son’s school, spend quality time with my sister-in-law, and, finally, entertain her… our garage door would only open a foot, and I did not have a key, so I had to do an Evel Knievel roll (seriously, a roll, the space was not even large enough for me to crawl through) to get into my house.  We will both be laughing about my acrobatics for the rest of the day.  Maybe this is my new fitness routine?

Perspectivas

 Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. -Charles R. Swindoll

This post is a nod to an old (really, really old) friend who has inspired me on a day I needed it.  In the course of one conversation, he turned an illness his family had over the holidays into a blessing because he was able to spend more time with his children, and he was also was able to identify the tremendous progress he has made, in one year’s time, on a work-related challenge.

So, really, I’m not saying anything new… you can turn any situation into a positive one by the way you look at it.  Simple, almost ridiculously easy concept, but it is life-changing, if you work at using it regularly.  I have seen people in AA suffer horrible tragedies, yet maintain their inner joy, because they know this simple truth:  reacting to inevitable negative life events in a negative way will simply compound a problem; reacting with acceptance and gratitude for all that is good in the face of negative events will create the happy, joyous and free life to which we all aspire.

Easy to say, not easy to do, but I am renewed in my determination to make looking at the bright side my instinct!

Today’s Miracle:

Sharing laughter and joy with a life-long friend

Acting As If

Those who do not find time for exercise will have to find time for illness. -Earl of Derby

I really hate exercise.  There, I said it.  I hate dressing for it, fixing my hair for it, planning time in my day for it, driving to it (the gym), and even walking up to the elliptical machine.   About the only part I like about the whole process is getting into my car and driving out of the gym parking lot.

But I have been hearing a lot lately about the idea of “mind, body and spirit,” and I know, in my heart, that I am sadly lacking in the body part of it.  But man, just writing this post makes me sigh.  Yet another stupid mind shift I need to figure out.

So I’ve been thinking about how I can apply recovery to the whole physical fitness gig.  And the first thing that came to mind is the title of this post.  Act as if you are into physical fitness.  Another expression is “fake it ’til you make it.”  So, in that regard, I got up this morning, and even though I looked longingly at my jeans and sweater, I instead dressed in gym attire.  And I told my son to ask me if I went to the gym when he gets home from school.  And I acknowledged to my husband that I have about an hour free in my schedule that I could fill with a trip to the gym.  And I’m writing to all of you now.

Accountability.  I really hope tomorrow I write with a happy update…

Today’s Miracle:

Believe it or not, sharing this inner turmoil is a miracle.  I cannot stand talking about the gym before I actually do it, so hopefully this is the mental rearrangement I need!

The Spiritual Experience Phenomenon

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. -Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

It has been an interesting past few days.  As always, the challenge is trying to write the experiences, both internal and external, into one cohesive story.  First, I am approaching an anniversary of one year of continuous sobriety… a milestone by almost any standard.  I have been hearing since I came into AA that this time can be a challenging one, and the thoughts and feelings that come along with it can be difficult.   I remember thinking, in early days, that sounds like a lot of nonsense, and, once again, here I am, experiencing everything that my recovered friends have promised I would experience… disturbing dreams, haunting memories, and a general feeling of malaise that seems to come from out of nowhere, and is very difficult to shake.  The good news is that I know what to do, which happens to be the same thing I do when times are good… go to meetings, share my thoughts, and pray.

In the course of sharing these feelings with my husband, he asked me if I could see the changes in myself that he sees.  My first, instinctual answer is “absolutely not,” which is not new territory.  In fact, I had another time in my life where my feelings mirrored exactly what I am feeling now.  Almost 9 years ago, I had gastric bypass surgery, and, as a result, lost about 130 pounds.  During that time of tremendous change, I had difficulty internalizing the changes, because I didn’t feel any different.  I knew, intellectually, that there were changes… clothes no longer fit, people around me were telling me how different I looked, but inside, absolutely nothing was different, so it was surreal.  Even now, when I look at pre-surgery pictures, I am still amazed.  The conversation with my husband ended the way it always does… he, almost wistfully, telling me he wishes I could see what he sees.

This being Monday, I ran the meeting I started a few months ago.  Today I picked a selection from the Big Book, and, since it is the first meeting of the year, I went to the beginning of the book, to a chapter titled “There is a Solution.”  God knows I can always use this assurance.  Now, I have probably read this chapter at least 100 times, I have studied it in meetings and while working the steps, and I have the highlighted sections and side notes to prove it.  And yet, a paragraph stuck out to me this morning as if I was seeing it for the first time.  The section I am quoting is written by Dr. Jung, an eminent psychiatrist of his time:

…alcoholics have had what are called vital spiritual experiences.  To me these occurrences are phenomena.  They appear to be in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements.  Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them. 

When I read those sentences this morning, I had the clearest picture of myself, last January, on my knees, in my Mother’s house, praying to God as I had never prayed before.  I read those sentences, and knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I have had a vital spiritual experience, and any doubt that I am the same person as I was a year ago was cast aside, like my old ideas, emotions and attitudes.

Today’s Miracle:

Feeling my recovery, instead of just intellectually noting the changes.

 

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