Monthly Archives: February 2013

Habits: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit. –Aristotle

My husband emailed me a great article on forming new habits (http://zenhabits.net/sticky/).  My first thought… what is he trying to tell me?  My next thought… I don’t really want to know!

The first part of the article talks about all the ways we revert to old patterns, even when we acknowledge we want to create new habits.   And boy oh boy, could I relate to this part of the article.  Skipping a day of exercise turns into a week, and before I know it I haven’t seen the inside of my gym in months.  And then the whole starting over process… just thinking about it is so painful that I can almost convince myself that I am happy with the way things are.  And when I contemplate the number of times I have “started over” with my exercise regime, it becomes so overwhelming, it feels like I should just give up, because I have no long-term track record of success.

So that part of the article was a tad depressing.

But then, I read on to the second part of the article, which talks about how to create a habit from the ground up.  Simple advice that we have all heard before… start with one very specific habit, and make no other changes in your life besides the one habit.  Make the smallest possible change, but stick with that small change every single day.  Be accountable by talking to other people about your decision to acquire this habit.  Monitor negative self-talk; in other words, don’t talk yourself out of believing you can make this change.  Reward yourself regularly for sticking with the new habit.

When I read the second part of the article, it sounded familiar, because it is very much a part of my recovery story.  I have shared more times than I can count what I did in my days in early recovery… I prayed, I went to meetings, I talked to other alcoholics, and I refrained from picking up a drink or drug.  One specific habit, several very small action steps, but I did them every single day, and I talked about the importance of doing them with anyone who would listen.  And, over time, the rewards for this newly acquired habit… well, I would need a separate blog to detail all the rewards.

Here’s the upside to creating a habit, and one I would do well to remember any time I debate about going to the gym:  if you do it often enough, it becomes second nature, and gets to the point where you miss it when it’s gone.  Circumstances were such this week that I went two days without going to a 12-step meeting.  By the third morning (today), I woke up, realized that my schedule was free, and could not wait to get there.  Now, the day I am able to report this behavior with respect to exercise… well, it will be a glorious day indeed!

Today’s Miracle:

Unrelated to the subject matter at hand, today I am grateful for running water, and the miraculously talented family member who came to my rescue when the water was not running!

Related to the subject matter at hand, reading the article, then getting up from the computer, getting in the car, and driving to the gym… it’s a miracle!

Sponsorship

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. –John Quincy Adams

A few weeks ago I wrote, very briefly, that I reached another milestone:  I have been asked to sponsor someone in the AA program.  I have not written about it since, primarily because not a lot has happened.  We see each other several times a week on an informal basis.  We attended one meeting, and shared our personal stories with one another.  And that’s about it.

From my perspective, very disappointing beginning to the sponsor/sponsee relationship.  Here’s what I imagined would happen:  after seeing the serenity and joy emanating from me, she would want what I have, and so she would go to any length to get it.  She would then take every suggestion I offer, thereby achieving the same joy and serenity I have.  Shockingly, thus far things are not going according to my plan.

In the past few weeks, I have been doing my own research, and have “interviewed” many people in the program with long-time sobriety to find out how they sponsor people.  And here’s what I have discovered:  there are as many definitions of the word sponsor as there are people in the AA program.  The good news is there is certainly room for flexibility.  The less good news:  absolutely no hard and fast rules by which to proceed.

My plan is to take my sponsee through the steps the same way my sponsor took me through them, which was almost academic in nature.  Weekly sessions, multiple hours at a shot, homework assigned, and lots of personal discussion.  This method worked brilliantly for me, and I still use the information I was given in this process on a daily basis.

Here’s the challenge I face with my new relationship:  I am unconvinced (and that word is an understatement) that my sponsee has any real desire to be taken through the steps.

You may be thinking, but then why would she ask to even have a sponsor if she does not want to go through the steps?  Unfortunately, there are many reasons someone would ask for help without really wanting the help… to get their loved ones off their back (been there, done that), because they want to appear as if they are serious about their recovery when in fact they are not (been there, done that), or they have some legal requirements that they are trying to fulfill.

Sadly, I suspect all of the above for my sponsee.

So where to go from here?  Several proverbs apply, the most obvious being that I can lead the horse to water, but I can’t make her drink it.  I have offered to get together, her schedule is an issue.  I have been with her on a Monday morning and offered to take her to the meeting I started, and then take her wherever she needs to go afterward, but she has “other things to do at home.”  We have made plans to do things, but a conflict arises and she must cancel.  And now I sound like I’m complaining, so I will stop.  I’m not complaining about her, I am just frustrated that I can’t give back what I have been so freely given.

Any advice is welcome, I am most certainly open to suggestion!

 

Today’s Miracle:

That I have the “privilege” problem of worrying about someone else’s recovery!

A Little Inspiration

Today’s Miracle

Feeling under the weather and having your children offer to help you!

All I Really Need To Know I Learned in AA

All I Really Need To Know I Learned in AA

Accepting your powerlessness makes you powerful.
Trust in God.
Let go, let God… with everything in life
Take a good look at yourself: the good as well as the bad
Confession is good for the soul
Let go of the stuff that isn’t good for you.
Act as if the bad stuff is already gone.
Be responsible for your actions.
Clean up your side of the street.
Admit when you are wrong.
Keep building on your solid foundation.
Sharing makes everything better.

Today’s Miracle:

An upcoming weekend with very little obligation and running around. Bonus: we get to have a date night!

Dealing With Criticism

To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing. -Aristotle

In the span of about 15 minutes, and all before 8 o’clock in the morning, I was given the following feedback today:

1. My post yesterday rambled a bit much
2. I allowed old thinking to creep in, and, as a result, I interacted with my family in a negative way
3. I look odd… and, as a follow-up, some helpful advice: perhaps I should apply make-up before I go into the outside world

(To be fair, #3 came from a 10-year old boy)

In the spirit of comparing self to self, here’s how the “old me” would have handled the feedback: I would have been self-righteously indignant about the first, would have self-righteously dismissed the second, and would have self-righteously retaliated against the third for the rest of the day.

Here’s how the “new me” can, and will, handle this feedback. First, I will not lump them all together and decide that the day is doomed. Instead, I will look at them as individual pieces of information, and decide what to do with each. I will recognize that I regularly ask for feedback with my writing, and I will genuinely take the advice in the spirit in which it was given, and use it to improve my blog going forward.

With the second, I will consider the information, and whether or not I agree with the conclusion, I will accept that we are all entitled to our opinion, and I will respect it for that reason alone.

With the third, I will laugh my ass off, because he is absolutely correct!

Most important, I will see that when a chain of events is happening, they are happening for a reason, and I need to look inward and figure out what is going with my thoughts, feelings and behaviors, since they are the only thing I can control. As I may have mentioned once or twice, there are no coincidences, so I believe that God wants me to figure something out, and, if I choose to ignore this suggestion, the events will continue to happen until I do.

Now I need to go upstairs and put on some make-up!

Today’s Miracle:

The candor and perspective of a 10-year old boy (and the fact that I can laugh at it) qualifies as a miracle.

Acceptance is the Answer

And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I can accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes. -Paul O.

So here’s the situation: I am involved in general outpatient therapy, which consists of a weekly group session and a weekly one-on-one counseling session, both of which cost me time and money that I find totally unnecessary. I have been attending these sessions faithfully for close to 5 months, and, my personal feeling is, enough is enough. Now, to be fair, I probably had that feeling at the outset, but I have been giving it my all since I started.

About a month ago, when I first broached the subject of my “graduation,” she had indicated the end of February. I have been waiting for follow-up from her ever since, and every week that she has refrained from updating me on my progress was another notch on my belt of irritation.

Back to the present, I had my group session yesterday, waited to see if she would update me, still nothing. So I resolved that I would take the bull by the horns in today’s individual session and have a discussion about my end date. This decision led to a solid 24 hours of worrying, playing out every possible scenario, and subsequent anger at all of her possible reactions.

Here’s my problem in a nutshell: lack of acceptance. I believed it to be fair and just that my therapist stick to her original time frame, or at least give me an updated reason why she is choosing to lengthen it. This was my expectation, and I found any other scenario unacceptable. Each week that she did not approach me with the answer I wanted, I grew more and more irritable, and more and more resistant to the whole point of the therapy.

So my approach was to ask for what I wanted (a date for finishing the program), and, if the date was further out than I liked, I would express my feelings on the subject. Sounds simple enough, but for someone like me, this kind of assignment causes a lot of anxiety. The final piece, and the hardest part, was my resolution to accept the outcome, whichever way it went.

Of course, I waited until the last possible moment, but I finally summoned up the courage and asked the question. “Hmmm,” she says, glancing at my paperwork, “I guess we have done everything on your treatment plan, and you have been here several months longer than anyone else in the group, so why don’t we do it at the end of the month?”

“That sounds reasonable, and something we discussed previously,” I say. “Are you aware the end of the month is next week?”

“Oh, is it? Well, let’s just wait then until the following week, that way I can start my month with a positive discharge.”

(Whatever the ?!@? that means).

So the good news… I got my official date, my question was answered, and reasonably close to my personal satisfaction. The better news: I communicated calmly but assertively, and I initiated a conversation that has been troubling me for weeks. The best news: I have accepted the outcome, and will look forward to my last four sessions, despite the fact that it is longer than I would have liked, and for questionable reasons.

Today’s Miracle:

Showing restraint, with my words, my facial expressions, and with my tone of voice, as I had this conversation!
Another miracle: That I wrote out the conversation above, but did not add in my sarcastic commentary (well, alright, I did one comment, but if you knew how many more were floating in my head, you would deem it a miracle)!

Normal Drinkers

If I could drink like a normal person, I would be drunk every night. -Quote from a member at one of my meetings

I am involved in a therapy group, and the members are all people who struggle with the concept of a 12-step program. They go (or at least say they go) at least once a week, mostly because they are required to do so. But each one of them feels, for various reasons, that they “don’t belong” or they “get nothing out of it” or they “are too much of a loner” to really reap the benefits.

I believe that many are quick to dismiss the advantages of a 12-step program. They walk into a meeting, see a bunch of people who all seem to know each other, are laughing and having a good time before the meeting starts, and from there the disconnect begins. Then they sit and listen to horror stories and think, “wow, these people are so much worse than I am.” And they can’t leave fast enough to get back to their own lives.

Like most new things, it takes time to assimilate a 12-step program into a daily routine. Finding the right type of meeting, and the type of people with whom you can identify, takes trial and error, and it takes patience. There may be some who have had a lightning bolt strike the minute they walked into a meeting and realized that they are home, but they are in the minority. Most of us went to meetings because we had run out of options, and, as recovery took hold and our lives improved, realized that we wanted to go to meetings, rather than the other way around.

I can relate to the feelings of not belonging, I strongly felt that way in the beginning. I listened to the stories, and judged myself to be “not that bad.” Then I went home and allowed my addiction to progress, I continued the behaviors that had me searching for an answer in the rooms of AA, and as a result life got worse, not better. Finally, when I hit my personal bottom, and ran out of options, I gave the meetings a real try. It took time, and attending a lot of meetings when I didn’t want to, but I came to find out I am just like everyone there, and their simple 12 steps really could improve my life.

I also found out that “normal drinkers” never think about being normal drinkers, and the fact that I do, means I am not!

Today’s Miracle
Back to school after a 4 day weekend… enough said!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. -Lao Tzu

Oddly enough, I learned this prayer at an Ash Wednesday mass. Here is a new version of the time-honored Serenity Prayer:

A New Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the people I cannot change,
which is pretty much everyone,
since I’m clearly not you, God.
At least not the last time I checked.

And while you’re at it, God,
please give me the courage
to change what I need to change about myself,
which is frankly a lot, since, once again,
I’m not you, which means I’m not perfect.
It’s better for me to focus on changing myself
than to worry about changing other people,
who, as you’ll no doubt remember me saying,
I can’t change anyway.

Finally, give me the wisdom to just shut up
whenever I think that I’m clearly smarter
than everyone else in the room,
that no one knows what they’re talking about except me,
or that I alone have all the answers.

Basically, God,
grant me the wisdom
to remember that I’m
not you.

Amen.

Today’s Miracle:

In a time of emotional angst, I was driving in the car, and asked God for inspiration. The third song I flipped to was Help Is On Its Way by The Little River Band. Once again, Amazing!

Knowing What You Can Control, and, More Importantly, What You Can’t

The best time to hold your tongue is the time you feel you must say something or bust. -Josh Billings

You know, for the life of me, I don’t know if this character defect has anything to do with my being an alcoholic, because it dates back to my earliest memories.  It’s probably tied in somewhere, and, at the end of the day, does it really matter?  It’s something I have struggled with all my life, and I could probably recount a dozen examples of it in the past year alone, so clearly I am going to struggle with it in recovery.

When something happens in the world around me about which I have strong feelings, then I have an extremely difficult time letting it go (friends and family reading this are either laughing or rolling their eyes at this exact moment).  When I strongly feel like I know the better way, the right way, it feels like I am a pressure cooker, and if I don’t convince you of the perfect solution, I am going to blow my top.

Last week, I wrote about the troubles my son is experiencing with his fourth grade teacher.  This is just one of several really good examples of this kind of emotion.  Every time he comes home with another outrageous story, my blood boils, and I want to go into the school and rip this woman a new one.  Important note:  I do NOT let my son know this, and I ALWAYS instruct him to look at his own behavior in any given situation.  I am not so far gone that I believe his stories are the only version of the truth, and I am quick to speak to him about the choices he makes during the day.  But the point of this example is how I am feeling inside, and recognizing it as a pattern in my life.

Last night was my daughter’s basketball game.  This post would run on forever if I went into detail, but I will sum it up by saying there were a number of issues about which I would like to express my opinion, and subsequent feelings like the ones I described above.  The follow-up discussion my husband and I had this morning did nothing to decrease the pressure in my pressure cooker.  Why can’t everyone just think exactly like I do?  Wouldn’t the world run so much better?

In case you missed it, that last line was laced in self-deprecating sarcasm.

Here’s what recovery has taught me about this character defect.  First, that it is a character defect.  That my feelings on any given subject are far from fact, and other people’s opinions are actually as valid as my own, if not more so.

Second, and much more important:  when I remind myself what is in my power to control (my thoughts, my feelings, and my actions), and what is not (the rest of the universe), my life becomes a lot more serene, and the balloon in my chest deflates.

So that’s the progress.  Next goal:  reminding myself of these facts in a speedier time frame!

Today’s Miracle:

Helping my son bring to life a really creative Valentine’s gift for his classmates (I will take a picture when I am done and post it, I am really impressed with his ingenuity on this one!

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