Monthly Archives: July 2013

Life’s A Beach

DSC_0088

Thanks to my husband for capturing these waves!

 

I would apologize for my absence, but I promised a fellow blogger I was going to stop apologizing for my life, so I will say:  vacation and blogging is like oil and water, in that they don’t mix well.

But, having spent a decent amount of time already on the beach, I’ve had some time to ponder the similarities between the landscape I am presently calling home, and my recovery.  Actually, more than recovery, the similarities extend through life itself.

Sand sculptors abound this time of year, from the amateur (my two-year old nephew makes a mean upside-down bucket sand castle), to the most elaborate (I have seen ornate sand-constructed miniature golf holes that people can actually use).  I have seen the sublime (my daughter’s rendition of a businessman, with tie on, was superb) to the outrageous (my brother-in-law’s mermaid was, let’s just say, generously proportioned).  Here’s the thing about this art:  no matter how perfect, or imperfect, the finished product is, the ocean will have its way with it, and when we come back the next day we will be looking at a blank slate.

Same with recovery, and with life itself:  no matter how perfect or horrific my day is, no matter how accomplished or how unproductive I’ve been, no matter how many accolades I’ve received, or how many nit-picky fights in which I’ve participated, the day will end, and a new one will begin, and I will start all over again.  This can be good news or bad news, depending upon the day I’ve had, but either way, life can only be lived one day at a time, and I start fresh every morning I awaken.

Having many children with us (18 total!) of prime boogie-boarding age, I spend a lot of time standing by the water and doing head counts (and frequently saying to whoever is standing next to me, “I don’t see this one, do you!?!”).  My time in this position has taught me something:  stand still for too long, and I’m going under… the sand.  The longer I stand in the same position, the deeper my feet get buried, which makes me more and more uncomfortable, and becomes more and more difficult to climb out of the hole I’ve created.

And so it is with recovery, and with life:  stand still for too long, and I will stagnate.  The minute I’ve got the idea in my head that “I’ve got this,” recovery-wise, then I am headed for the proverbial fall.  And it’s equally true with life itself.  If I’m not always trying to grow, trying to improve, looking for new experiences, then I am burying myself, and over time it will get more and more difficult to stretch and grow.

Finally, we have had a recurring problem with the cyclical currents in the ocean:  right around the same time every day, we have to pull the kids out of the water, show them how far the ocean has pulled them, and instruct them to keep looking at either the lifeguard chair or us as a gauge of how far they are being pulled.  The lecture is effective for about 3 minutes before we have to pull them out and tell the exact same message.

I am certainly not a scientist, but my experiential understanding is this:  there is no fighting the pull of the ocean’s current.  You can attempt to manage it by periodically swimming against it, measuring yourself against a fixed object on the shoreline and adjusting yourself accordingly, but you are going to be pulled whether you like it or not.

I can, and have, lived in denial of my disease called addiction.  I have attempted to figure ways around it, I believed I could find a solution to it, I have even tried to pretend that my addictive behavior was normal.  All that got me was further and further away from my ultimate goal of peace with myself and my place in this world.   Nowadays, I choose neither to ignore it nor to “solve” it.  Instead, I accept it as part of my life, and I manage it as effectively as I can, one day at a time.  Just as I have instructed my children with the current, I have yardsticks with which to measure myself, and on a daily basis I make sure I am aware of where I am on the recovery yardstick, and I make adjustments on a daily basis.

Next post will center around my philosophical musings on the Fudgy Wudgy man who is always tempting my children with his treats.  Until then, I want to say I miss my blogging friends greatly, and I anticipate with relish the idea of quiet computer time so I can “catch up” with all of you!

Today’s Miracle:

Having some alone time to put fingers to the keyboard!

Parenting 201

When I attended college  (back in the stone ages), there were different course requirements, depending upon the major you chose.  For example, I was required to take courses in marketing each year.  Freshman year the course title was Marketing 101, sophomore year the title was Marketing 201, and so on.  In Marketing 101 we learned the basic principles.  In Marketing 201, we built upon the foundation we learned in 101, but the subject matter was more sophisticated, and therefore more challenging.

I feel like my life could be entitled Parenting 201 this summer.  My kids are 10 and 13, so theoretically I’ve known them for that length of time, but honest to God this summer it seems like aliens have taken over their bodies.  No, I should clarify that statement.  My 13-year-old daughter seems like an alien has taken over her body, my 10-year-old son is just joining in on the fun and games because that’s what little brothers do!

Maybe it’s because I’m in recovery, since I don’t remember thinking about this as in-depth as I have before now, but I’m trying to figure out where I’m going wrong, and I’m not coming up with any solutions.  First, let me qualify the problems, as I see them, and perhaps writing them out will help me to process:

1.  Time of Year.  Separate from anything else, summer is a universally challenging time for any parent, due to all the unstructured time.  Here is a miniscule example.  Yesterday we had dentist appointments at noon, my son and I are waiting for my daughter to finish up.

Danny:  “Let’s pick something up for lunch on the way home from here.”
Me:  “No, we just had dinner out last night, do you remember how I drove 20 minutes to take you where you wanted to go?  We are not eating out again.  I’ll make lunch as soon as we get home.  What would you prefer, a hot dog or peanut butter and jelly?”

Before I continue this story, it is important to note that I have had the conversation entitled:  THIS HOUSE IS NOT A RESTAURANT AND I AM NOT A WAITRESS at least 600 times this summer

Danny:  “Could you grill me a hamburger?” (and yes, he did specify the way in which he would like his burger cooked)
Me (as even-toned as I could muster):  “Would you like a hot dog or peanut butter and jelly?”
Danny:  “What do we have in the fridge in terms of lunch meat?  Could you cook up some bacon?”
Me:  “This is the last time I am asking:  do you want a hot dog or peanut butter and jelly?”

I will not bore you with the rest of the discussion, but the point is, this is one of about 1,000 such “teaching moments” on any given summer day.  And I will not even begin to complain about the intra-sibling fights that take place each and every day.  So, to recap, summer is a challenging season.

2.  Changing personalities.  This is the heart of the problem for me, and I will probably focus more on my teenage daughter with this issue.  I know I am not covering any uncharted territory with this one, parents have been complaining about teenage girls since teenage girls first came into existence.  So I do realize that I am not in a unique situation; what confounds me is what the hell to do about the behavior, along with my hurt feelings that my once-angelic daughter who acted as if I hung the moon now looks at me insolently, has nothing but sarcastic comments back to me, and argues EVERY SINGLE THING I say to her.  Sometimes I try being honest with her (“When you stay at your cousin’s house for 3 days and fail to call me even once, it hurts my feelings”), I try the hard-lined approach (“You will speak to me with respect or you will face consequences”), I try sarcasm back (yes, I know this is not the best parenting technique, but sometimes my frustration level is so high that I need a release myself), and sometimes I try just ignoring whatever situation I’m in and hope it goes away.  By the way, none of the above has been very effective.

3.  Finding the balance.  This concept applies in about a million ways:  balance between letting them find their own way, and guiding them to make the right decisions.  Balance between allowing them to speak their mind and shutting down the incessant “but what about…” statements.  Balance between respecting privacy and knowing how and with whom they spend their time.  Balance between allowing them a relaxed summer and having expectations with regard to chores, reading and the like.  I’ll stop now, but I could keep the balance list going for another several paragraphs.

So that’s where I’m at, parenting-wise.  I try, as best I can, to incorporate the principles of recovery into parenting.  When decisions seem impossible, I do my best to turn them over.  When things get heated between me and either of my children, I make my amends as quickly as I can.  I try as much as possible to accept that there is much about these kids over which I am powerless, and that list grows longer with every year they age.

Anyone out there experiencing the same?  I’d love to hear from you.  Even better, anyone have the magic solution to all this parenting stuff?  I’d really appreciate it if you could share your wisdom?

Today’s Miracle:

Today is the miracle of sharing what’s on my mind and in my heart.  Just having typed this post, without even receiving feedback, I feel lighter!

The Final Bottom

Spoiler alert:  this post may be a bit on the depressing side, apologies in advance.

There’s an expression in recovery meetings, “taking a meeting hostage,” where a person will talk longer than appropriate about personal issues.  Today, at my Monday morning meeting, I did a variation, in the sense that I tailored the meeting topic to a situation in my personal life.  Probably not the most selfless act of my day, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.  For the record, 11 attendees, and, from my perspective, the meeting was exactly what I needed.

Last night I met my sponsee at a meeting so that she could get her 6 month coin, very celebratory in nature, and I am so thrilled to have been able to share in her accomplishment.  That’s the good news.  The bad:  while there I learned about the death of a friend and past Monday meeting attendee, whose name was George.  I still can’t believe I had to use the past tense in that last sentence.

I met George about 10 months ago, we were fellow members of a drug and alcohol therapy group.  George and I bonded from our very first day together, and anyone that has ever been through an outpatient rehab situation will understand what I’m about to say… George and I were the talkers of the group.  What this means, for anyone unfamiliar with group therapy, is that often the majority of people prefer to sit and listen (or not), and do their absolute best to limit their participation.  I can’t speak for George, but my philosophy is if I’m there, I might as well participate, plus I do have empathy for a group counselor that has to drag words out of every participant, so I am the one who will jump in and get things started.  George seemed to be of the same mind, so many sessions had us gabbing back and forth about our personal circumstances in the moment.  Through my time with him in group therapy, I found George to be open, honest, funny, and genuinely motivated to grab a hold of recovery.  But, like myself and everyone else in that group, the obsession that goes along with addiction is very strong, and George fell prey to his addiction a few times throughout my time in the group, and so he eventually had to advance his therapy to a more intensive rehabilitation.  I was able to let him know about my meeting, which had started right before we parted ways, and, once he got himself back on his feet recovery-wise, he started attending my Monday morning meetings.

And, just like in our group therapy, George was a tremendous benefit to the meeting.  His personality is so engaging, and he is so sincere in his desire to stop drinking, that he drew people in every time he spoke.  He thanked me profusely every single time he shared, for being an example to him and for having this meeting for him to attend.  No matter what was going on in his life, he was able to talk about it honestly, and turn it around so that we could all learn something from it.

In the months that he attended my Monday meeting, George relapsed twice, and twice he came back and spoke candidly about the experience… the thoughts that led up to the decision, the shame and remorse he felt, and the negative consequences he suffered as a result.  Always he was hopeful that this was the time he would get it together.

And then… nothing.  He simply stopped attending my meetings.

I spoke with several mutual friends who went to other meetings with George, the same thing, they just stopped seeing him and hearing from him.  Some of the male friends did reach out and try to call him, to no avail.  The unspoken rule in AA is that guys call guys, women call women, so I did not have any numbers with which to reach out to George myself, but every single week in the past 2 1/2 months that he has been missing I have asked the mutual friends, and they all shake their heads sadly and say they have not seen him.

The limited information I received was this:  his death was directly related to alcohol, and his wife is devastated.  She actually called one of our mutual friends to let us know the news.  She wanted to make sure his friends in AA knew of his death, because he spoke a lot about the group he had met and bonded with, and they meant the world to him.  She also said he had a special friend during his time in group therapy, and was hopeful that the friend would know how highly he spoke of her.  I’m guessing I’m the special friend, and if I’m not, it’s okay, because he was certainly my special friend, and my heart is broken.

This is my first experience of this nature:  losing someone close to me to this disease, and, I’ve got to tell you, it sucks.  It is going to sound trite, but it’s still the truth:  George had so much to offer this world, and his loss is felt by more than he will ever understand.  I want to say I am grateful to be sober, and I am, but it truthfully feels almost insensitive to say it in the wake of his death.  The best takeaway I got from all the beautiful feedback from this morning is this:  his death is a painful reminder that however low my bottom was, there is a much lower, and much more finite, bottom.  As for why I was blessed with the gift of recovery and George was not, another question I struggled with last night, I was told that’s God‘s business, not mine, so I should stick to my own, and let God worry about the rest.

So I’m grateful that I am sober, and, just for today, I will stay sober, in George’s memory.

Today’s Miracle:

Being able to talk about my feelings this morning, and write about them this afternoon, and know that people care, is a miracle that give me tears in my eyes as I write this.

Worlds Are Colliding!

I had an interesting experience last night that I thought I’d share about today.  I was asked to speak at a lecture series run by an organization called PRO-ACT (Pennsylvania Recovery Organization-Achieving Community Together), which is an advocacy and recovery support initiative.  My lecture was a compilation of the series I wrote on this blog, found in the category labelled Twelve Steps in Everyday Living, in case you are interested.

Here are the reasons why last night was unique.  First, I have never done anything quite like it before.  In AA, I have been asked to share my story multiple times, and of course that has certain anxieties associated with it, but this felt a lot different.  I guess when I am telling someone my life story, there is no room for opinion or rebuttal.  It’s not like someone is going to stand up and say, “No, I don’t agree that you lived like that!”  Whereas in presenting my writing, there is room for criticism, or dissenting opinion, or complete disinterest (I guess, now that I think about it, there could be complete disinterest in my life story, but so far I have not encountered it!).

Another difference is the audience.  In AA, I feel at home, and I believe that at the heart of it we are all the same.  In this room of about 50, I have no idea who is really present, because it is open to the public.  For all I know TMZ was there recording me so they could make fun of me on that night’s broadcast (I sincerely hope everyone knows me well enough to know that I am joking!).  Yes, I do put my writing and opinion out there for the blogging world to see, but there is certainly more anonymity in sitting at my home computer than there is standing at a podium in front of live human beings.

So, I definitely had serious butterflies going into the evening.  I arrived, and found I would be the second of the two scheduled speakers… whew!  I have some time to relax.  I sat through the first speaker, ironically enough the subject was mindfulness, that poor woman certainly had at least one audience member completely unable to stay in the present!  There was a break, and the hosts were setting up my power point presentation, and…

In walked my husband, who rushed as quickly as he could from our daughter’s basketball game to come and support me.  Such a beautiful moment, and I thanked him immediately, but also said I would be able to give more genuine gratitude once my lecture was finished.  We’re chit-chatting, in an attempt to calm my frayed nerves, and the thought occurred to me…

I am going to share my story in front of my husband!

Now, true enough, the majority of this lecture is material he has already read, but the first 5-10 minutes of it was my qualification, why I have the right to be standing in front of these people and discussing the 12 steps of recovery.  To qualify myself, I need to give the highlights, or, rather, lowlights, of my active addiction, and the consequences of it.  Ye Gads, I thought I was nervous before this thought, that was nothing compared to what I was feeling now!

And then I mentally reviewed all that I was going to cover.  Am I revealing any new truths?  Nope.  Covering ground that hadn’t yet been covered by us as a couple?  Again, no.  Am I, at the heart of it all, speaking my own personal truth, and am I willing to stand by what I am saying?  That’s a big Hell Yeah!

So I took a deep breath, and, as those marketing geniuses at Nike would say… I just did it.  And I got through it, without embarrassing myself in any way (that I am aware of).  And no one ran out of the room screaming, no one fell asleep in their chairs (that I am aware of), so I guess I will call it a success.  But for me, the biggest takeaway, I will list below…

Today’s Miracle:

That I can tell my story, I can share my real self, and my husband tells me that he has never been prouder of me… that is a real miracle.

Do You Want to be Right or Do You Want to be Happy?

 

The answer to this question should be obvious.  Sadly, for me, it is not.

My Monday meeting report:  nice meeting, 6 attendees.  It was a step 7 meeting, which, predictably, centers on the subject of humility, a key concept in step 7 work.  What is always interesting to me is the mindset on humility as it relates to sober time.  I have noticed that people in early sobriety (which, of course, is relative, I am in early sobriety.  I guess to be more specific, people with less than 12 months of continuous sobriety) focus on humiliation rather than humility… they speak of the various shameful experiences they have had, and they relate their humility to these experiences.

Of course, true humility, at least the quality to which we in recovery are aspiring, has nothing to do with humiliation.

hu·mil·i·ty

  [hyoo-mil-i-tee or, often, yoo-] 

noun

the quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, rank, etc.
Here’s my evolution as it relates to humility:  in early days, when people spoke of the importance of humility, I essentially disregarded it.  I considered myself a humble person; if anything, I did not think highly enough of myself.  As time went on, and I worked the steps, I discovered, much to my chagrin, that in fact I needed to do quite a bit of work in this arena.  When I believe that the world revolves around me, I am not being humble. When I insist that my way is the right way, I am not behaving humbly.  When I am displaying self-righteousness, I am not displaying humility.
Like I said, I have some work to do.
Here’s an interesting story related to this topic.  In the course of the past 4 days, I have had various minor situations come up that have caused me to be irritable, restless and discontent.  These situations are minor enough that they are not even worth documenting, but are notable in that they happened in a relatively short period of time.  At one point I actually said to myself, “get to a meeting so you can find your answer.”  I went to a meeting, the topic was humility.  Hmmm.  Life goes on, apparently I wasn’t listening hard enough, because self-righteousness reared its ugly head several more times throughout the weekend.  Today’s meeting?  Humility.
Who says God doesn’t speak directly to you?
Today’s Miracle:
Last night, in what would be the pinnacle (or would it be nadir?) of my bad mood, I was reading a brilliant post by a fellow blogger (please check it out, it is beautiful… Sober Identity).  In the grips of my self-centered thinking, all I could focus on was how not far along I was, in comparison to her progress.  It was progress enough last night for me to shut down the computer and vow to re-read it when I was in a better frame of mind.  I did that today, within the framework of today’s meeting on humility, and it was as if a whole new set of words popped up… I could see all of my own progress, as well as feel genuine happiness for Lisa that she can see hers.  And so today’s miracle is appreciating the recovery of others… well done, Lisa!

The End of the People Magazine Era… Or is it?

Maybe not quite this old…

If ever an admission of truth could lose readership, it will be this one.  I have been back and forth about whether or not to tell this story, but the comical aspect of it, combined with my pride in a dubious accomplishment, makes the telling of it irresistible.

For years I have had a subscription to People magazine.  This has been the source of endless ribbing by some of my “highbrow” friends (quotes are absolutely intentional, thank you very much), because I don’t follow the news very religiously (in fact, under antonym for “news junkie” you would find my picture) so the thinking is that the source of all my current events knowledge stems from this periodical.  If I make the mistake of mentioning something in headline news, the comments are predictable, and endless.

Now can you see why I keep these friends around for decades?

Back to me.  I developed a rule for this magazine:  I will only allow myself to read it at the gym.  The reason:  It covers up the control panel, and there are pictures to distract my mind while I toil away.  I came to think of reading the magazine as a reward, and if I was caught up on the issues, I felt good, because it meant I was exercising regularly, if there was a backlog, it motivated me to get my ass to the gym.

Enter the downward spiral of active addiction.  Because I am a stubborn son of a gun, I would not allow myself to look at them unless at the gym.  Unfortunately, since other obsessions occupied my time, the pile of People magazines grew as mountainous as my pile of regret and shame.

But throwing them out felt like I was giving up.  Oddly, holding on to almost a year’s worth of People magazines was actually a sign of hope, and faith that I could conquer this disease, and get back to normal life (if you consider normal reading about celebs while working out).

So, as most of you know, I bottomed out, and started the process of recovery, and still the pile of People magazines grew.  Throughout the year 2012, I worked my ass of in terms of recovery, but not in terms of anything physical.  I took the slogan “First things first” and ran with it… straight to the La-Z-Boy.  Occasionally I would take the pile, sort through it, and throw out the issues that seemed the least interesting, but still I hung on to the majority of them.

The subscription ended December 2012, and for obvious reasons I could not justify renewing it.  So for the next 5 1/2 months while the pile did not grow, it certainly did not diminish in size.  I moved them out of sight, but still could not bear to part with them.  At one point my husband was in the drawer that housed them and said, “What the hell are you planning to do with all those back issues of People?”  Of course, he was unaware of this particular insanity, so I mumbled something and the subject was dropped.

Finally, the time had come, and I signed up to kick-start my fitness over at Running On Sober.  Finally, the People magazines will be put to good use!

So I picked one out of the pile, and out the door I went.  As I started reading about Tom Cruise‘s idea of the perfect day being spending it with Katie Holmes, I realized a slight problem in my logic:  this was old news, really, really old news.

Did I mention that I am stubborn?  If I held on to these magazines for this long, by God, I am going to read them.

I watched the pile dwindle, and damned if I didn’t feel just a notch of pride each time I threw out a magazine.

Meanwhile, I got to find out the following hot-off-the-press information:

Here’s the end of this ridiculous story, and I promise this happened exactly as I am telling it.  I got down to the final old issue of People, and I put off reading it for a few days, because it felt like the end of an era.  So I swam or took neighborhood walks.  Finally, I went to the gym, read my last back issue, and threw it in the trashcan with a smile.  I drove home, went to the mailbox, and I swear to you, this was what I found, that day:

People

Could I even make this stuff up?

Today’s Miracle:

Surviving a trip to the mall with 5 kids ranging in age from 13 (with an attitude) to 2 (also with an attitude).  If mall employees were also recording miracles, it would be that we left with the building still standing!

A Truly Excellent Meeting

I am guessing (I write with a martyred sigh) that I will be writing my Monday Meeting Wrap-Up posts on Tuesdays during the summer months.  I just can’t seem to get my act together before then, but, better late than never!

Yesterday’s meeting was wonderful in a way it hasn’t been in quite some time.  It’s not that any one big thing happened, I guess a collection of smaller events, but the totality of the experience had me in an upbeat mood for the rest of the day.  Add to it that I was able to meet with my sponsee later that same afternoon, and she is getting close to celebrating 6 months of continuous sobriety, and I had a recovery day unlike any in recent memory.

So what makes a good meeting?  There were a few components that made it special.  I think the number of participants helps.  Too many, and you can get lost in the crowd, or feel intimidated (not that I have ever had to worry about this particular issue).  Too little (an ongoing struggle for my particular meeting), and then people feel forced to share, which can lead to somewhat muddled topics.  We had 10 at yesterday’s meeting, which, as Goldilocks would say, was just right.

Next ingredient that made the meeting magic was the celebration of anniversaries.  We got to celebrate two:  one gentleman had 27 years of sobriety, another had 60 days, and the juxtapositioning of these milestones was inspirational!  The importance of their sober time was so evident to each of the men, that it gave me the chills.

I guess the final piece of the puzzle was the subject matter.  Now on this portion I am obviously biased, since as chairperson, I select the readings.  I picked Chapter 6 from the book Living Sober, entitled Getting Active.  The title jumped out at me, due to my recent commitment to physical fitness, but there was so much more in that chapter than exercise.  In relating to the chapter with the group, it allowed me to relive my life and daily routine in early sobriety, and compare it to the present day, not something about which I sit and ruminate by myself.  After I spoke, every person had something relevant and insightful to share… again, it was a cool thing to hear the perspective of someone 60 days sober, versus someone with 27 years (actually, we had 2 different people with 27 years!).

I will end with this small story, just to give an update on the posts about mystery woman who was “helping” me in June.  When I first arrived, a friend was there before me, a gentleman who normally does not make it to my meeting because he likes to sleep in.  I expressed my surprise and gratitude, and into the parking lot roars my mystery chairperson.  I must have had a look on my face, because John said, “oh, you know Crazy B?”  John is one of the people who have 27 years, so he probably knows most of the AA members in the area.  I explained what had happened in June, and then she walked in.  He immediately took over.  He starting talking with her, and within 2 minutes of the conversation managed to fit in, “You know Josie, right?”  She is the chair of this meeting.  You’re not the chairperson, correct?”

As I’m typing this story out, it sounds condescending, but I promise you it was not.  It was direct, and assertive, but not as obnoxious as it may seem in my storytelling.  She said, “No, I just decided to chair in June.”  John said, “Well, from now on, Josie can let you know if she needs a replacement, you would be willing to help her, right?”  She says, “Sure.”

And in 30 seconds the situation resolved itself.  By the end of the meeting, the woman approached me, and said she is thinking of starting her own meeting!

So, my recovery friends, I’d love to hear from you… what makes a good meeting for you?

Today’s Miracle:

I have been doing a walk/run mile on the treadmill, and was able to shave off an entire minute… Hooray!

My Friend Vickie

In my every-70-days series (a little humor, I meant to do this once a month, but somehow time has gotten away from me), I want to write about another friend instrumental in my recovery, whose name is Vickie.

Vickie, like Joe, has been a close friend for several decades (I just felt my hair graying as I typed that sentence).  Like any long-term friendship, we have seen it all… weddings, births, graduations, holidays, vacations, milestone birthdays, the list goes on and on.

Among her many amazing qualities, Vickie’s power of observation is second to none.  Consequently, as I sunk deeper into active addiction, I avoided her (and many other friends, frankly), as much as propriety would allow (and, let’s face it, I’m sure I crossed the propriety line on numerous occasions).

Because I saw her so infrequently during this time, it was very simple to omit telling her about all my latest problems with addiction.  I was encouraged to out myself by friends “in the know,” but my thinking at the time was less is most definitely more in terms of support (because, after all, it’s one more person to whom I would be lying).

She actually had a sense of it, and asked me point-blank towards the later end of my 8 month “I’m in recovery but I’m really not” phase, if I had been to rehab.  Deny, Deny, Deny, the first defense of any good addict, but I knew the end was near.  I finally sat down with her and fessed up, completely unable to even look her in the eye.  She was supportive, but cautious.  I can say that now, with the perspective of sobriety, back then I was just so happy to be done with the conversation I never looked back.  The caution, as she told me later, was because she had zero confidence that I was ready to surrender to my addiction.  As usual, she was absolutely right, and another couple of weeks went by before I hit my bottom.  During that conversation, she made one simple request:  keep in touch.  Don’t let so much time go by between phone calls, lunches, visits.

Within 2 weeks I was living at my Mom’s, and trying to figure out what the hell to do with the mess that was my life.  Vickie called, asking how it was going.  I did not hesitate for half a second this time, and replied, “Let’s meet.”  As luck would have it, she works near to where my Mom lives; I think I met her that day.

Out came the entire story, lock stock and barrel.  At this point, I genuinely had nothing to lose.  Vickie’s first response?  She could instantly see the difference in me, by eye contact alone.  As always, there was no judgment, only love, but that is not to say she went easy on me.  She read me the riot act for deceiving her at the previous lunch, for failing to disclose information in the months prior, and for generally making the mess I’ve made.  Vickie pulls absolutely no punches, but the flip side to that is the firm knowledge of knowing exactly where you stand with her.  And, believe me, I needed the riot act read to me!

From that point on Vickie made time for me on a weekly basis.  We usually met on a Friday after my AA meeting at a Starbucks near her work (and my home at the time).  No matter what was going on in her life, she made sure to keep that appointment.  On a side note, Starbucks was about as feasible to my budget at the time as travelling to the moon would be now, and I really struggled with the idea of her paying for the coffee every week, but there was no question, and no arguing… She’s paying; let’s move on to more important subjects.

And move on we did.  When I think about those coffee dates, I’m not sure I would have survived early sobriety without them.  She was as much a part of my recovery as my sponsor was… I ran absolutely everything by her before I did it.  In some ways, her opinion meant more to me, because she knew the characters involved.  When a very traumatic interpersonal incident occurred with a family member, I would do nothing until I ran it by Vickie.  When I was 150% sure I was on my way to divorce court, Vickie talked me off the ledge every time.

And today?  Every piece of advice given to me by Vickie has paid off.  Every prediction made by Vickie has come true (reunion with my husband, mended relations with family and friends, miraculous life being fulfilled, day by day).

I had been encouraged by a few family members to keep a journal chronicling my process through early recovery.  It was Vickie who taught me about this interesting new social media, called blogging (no, I am not kidding, I had heard of blogging, but had zero personal experience with it).  I’ve mentioned this before, but my initial response, when she explained it to me, was, “Won’t that seem like self-indulgent nonsense?”  To this Vickie replied with her characteristic bluntness, “You need to get with the times.”

As usual, Vickie was right.  I proceeded to Google the words “word” and “press,” and the rest is history.  Without Vickie, there would be no “miracle around the corner!”

How Low Can You Go? Monday Meeting Wrap-Up

Yesterday’s meeting fell in the midst of torrential rains, and at least 2 roads were closed nearby, so the fact that I had 3 attendees was really fantastic.  Just to follow up, the woman I have been writing about did not show up.  Whether that was rain-related, or something else, will remain a mystery, but suffice it to say it was a wonderfully drama-free affair!

The reading I chose for the meeting told the story of a woman who contracted cirrhosis of the liver before she was able to surrender and seek recovery (Twice Gifted, in the Big Book, in case anyone would like to read).  In the story, she wrote that she was critically ill for the first year of her sobriety, but then was given the gift of a liver transplant, and, of course, life got better and better.  She commented that she was grateful that her medical condition had gotten to that point, because she did feel she would have ever chosen sobriety if not.

The discussion that ensued centered around our various “bottoms,” the point at which we truly accepted that we were powerless, and thus became willing to make the changes needed to begin our recovery.  Always an interesting topic, because inevitably the examples are so varied.

I know for me, I made an ineffective and feeble attempt at recovery for about 8 months before I hit my personal bottom.  I was a participant in an outpatient rehab group, and I was beyond ashamed, beyond humiliated to be there.  The counselor said, “I notice that you seem unable to hold you head up, or make eye contact with myself or anyone else in the group.  Can you tell me why that is?”  I told him that I was full of shame.  He asked me why, and I admitted freely the various transgressions that had brought me to the group at that time.  He then said, “I’m sorry you feel the way you do, but I want you to understand, from my perspective, these are very common admissions, and I regularly hear a lot worse.”  He went on to ask me a series of questions, have you ever done this, or this, or this?  The answer was consistently no, and his goal (presumably) was accomplished, I was able to engage more in the group.

Unfortunately, my time with that group did not stop me from digging quite a bit deeper before I finally put down the shovel.  I don’t remember the specific questions he asked me, but I would guess to that I could not say a universal no to all of them at this point.  But, as you will frequently hear in the rooms of AA, it takes what it takes.

When I look back over my active addiction with the clarity of sobriety, I can point to no less than 5 or 6 MONUMENTAL moments where I should have seen the light.  Incidents that, looking back, were gigantic God moments that I completely ignored.  Why, I sometimes wonder?  Why was I able to grasp it in January of 2012, and not in any of those previous moments?

The answer to that question will never be satisfactorily answered in my lifetime, and I can accept that, as I have accepted the disease that is my alcoholism.  Focusing on the past is possibly the most pointless waste of time, and ruins the beautiful present in which I live.  At the end of the day, I am grateful for every drink, and every drug, because they led me to this moment… living soberly, appreciating the life I have never fully appreciated, establishing a relationship with God, and writing to all of you!

Today’s Miracle:

First, that I can focus on writing this at all.  There are currently 4 screaming kids outside my window, soaking each other with a hose and loving every minute of it.  That I am appreciating their merriment, that’s miracle number 2!

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