Monthly Archives: November 2013
Monday Meeting Miracles: 11/25
My Monday meeting was a great one, despite the freezing weather! There were eleven of us in total, one newcomer to the meeting, the rest were regular attendees.
Since today is the fourth Friday of the month, the literature selection is “Chairperson‘s Choice.” I still laugh at this, as I am the sole chairperson of the meeting. This morning’s selection was an article from the AA Grapevine, which is the International Journal Of Alcoholics Anonymous. The article is entitled “Open 24 Hours,” and it chronicles the history of online AA meetings, the evolution of online participation in AA, and the similarities of virtual meetings to traditional “live” meetings.
I selected this article for two reasons. First, and this is a little sad to admit, I had no idea that AA hosted meetings online! The information I took away from the article was substantial, and so I figured I needed to check it out before I could write about it, so after my regular meeting I attended my first online meeting. I went to www.aaonline.net, and, sure enough, there was a meeting to start within minutes! I will talk about my experience with the online meeting in a bit.
The second reason I selected this article is that a lot of the positive experiences reported in it reminded me of my experience in our “blogosphere.” I have read much in our community about people who came here because they wanted to stop drinking, and desired a supportive community, but were unwilling to look for help within their live communities. The reasons are varied, from a fear of being labeled, philosophical differences of opinion with 12-step groups, or simple time management issues, there are many of us who want recovery but need the online community to be our primary resource. What I did not realize is that you can participate in the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous virtually! There are a variety of meetings online, just as there are in churches and clubhouses… there are discussion meetings, Big Book meetings, step meetings, to name just a few that I saw in my preliminary research. And they seem to be run in a format very similar to live meetings: there is a chairperson, they have a meeting format, there is an order to sharing, just like in regular meetings. Best of all, you can just sit at your computer and read the interaction, if you just want the experience, but are fearful of sharing.
The online meeting was an interesting experience. As a newcomer to both online meetings and chat rooms in general, I was unsure of the proper etiquette for sharing, and unfamiliar with some of the lingo used. But within minutes I had the general hang of it, was able to participate in the discussion, and encourage others who participated. In my online meeting, there were about 15 “attendees” who stayed for the entire hour, but many more “entered” and “exited” throughout the meeting. The format was a topic meeting, there were two main points of discussion: how to handle the upcoming holidays, and how to determine if you are an alcoholic or just a problem drinker. The people who shared were very candid about their sobriety, and equally candid about their certainty in terms of their alcoholism. Some were completely uncertain, others were zealous in their belief that they had an incurable, progressive illness. Everyone was respectful of one another’s opinion (an issue about which I worried when there were such differing viewpoints), and everyone seemed grateful for everyone else’s honesty.
For me, the online experience would be something I would seek out if I were in imminent need of a meeting and could not find one live; I would probably never look to switch over to online meetings exclusively, or even regularly. I guess because I am somewhat entrenched, as it were, in my live 12-step community, I find it easier to follow the meetings when I can see and hear the people as they share, rather than waiting to read each sentence as they type it. However, for someone who is looking to get sober, but reluctant to go to a live meeting, I think the online meetings would be an amazing resource! And I think that newly sober people will find an enormous amount of like-minded individuals all reaching for the same goal.
I would love to hear feedback from anyone else who has participated in online recovery, and how it has worked (or not) for you!
Finding new resources for staying sober, and sharing them with others, is a great way to expand my recovery tool box!
Monday Meeting Miracles: 11/18
I need to come up with a new way of saying that my Monday meeting was fantastic, because I fear I’m getting repetitive. It was fantastic, 12 people, it seems these days that even when a regular attendee does not show up, I will have a newcomer to take his or her place. Here’s what was cool about today’s meeting. It is the third Monday of the month, which means a reading from the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. Because it is November, we read the chapter dedicated to Step Eleven: sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. Of course I know this is what we are going to be reading, and so I have been considering how I am faring with this step in my everyday life, and I find that I am comfortable with the prayer portion of the step, but still feeling very weak in the meditation part. I have written about my struggles with meditation several times in the past, and I don’t feel as if I have progressed very far in this department.
Back to the meeting. I am contemplating what I will be sharing, and I am focusing on what I can say about my struggles with meditation, and a car pulls into the parking lot that I do not recognize. Out of the car steps a gentleman I have not seen in at least 6 months, maybe more, named Brian. And, of course, it is always so wonderful to reconnect with someone you have not seen in a while, but here’s what is amazing: the last I saw Brian he was attempting to start a meeting in the same club house I run my meeting. And that meeting was to be a moving meditation meeting. He wound up shutting down the meeting due to a lack of participation, but how fortuitous is it that as I am gearing up to talk about my lack of progress in meditation, he drives into the parking lot!
So of course I needed to share this serendipity with him and the other early birds to the meeting, and we had a fascinating discussion about the benefits and practical application of meditation in everyday life. It turns out that two other early birds are well-read on the subject, and I was able to learn so much from them in the 20 minutes before the meeting even started!
Now, when a meeting is that interesting and it hasn’t even started yet, you know it’s only going to get better, and it did not disappoint. The other attendees had just as great things to share, both on meditation, and step eleven in general. Here are some of my take-aways:
- Meditation is a process, and therefore takes time, patience, and practice; the results are cumulative. The goal is not for a white-light moment; rather, it is a slow and steady shift in perception that, over time, leads to a substantive increase in peace and serenity
- It is beneficial to establish a routine: create a spot in your home that brings you peace, and intend for that spot to be a place where you will meditate daily
- Meditation is about the absence of judgment. So whatever comes into your mind, let it come in and go out, negatively judging it will only lead to resistance in meditation
- Keep it simple. Forget about all the fancy clothes, incense, music, and whatever else is associated with meditation. Be still, be quiet, focus on breathing in and out. Keep that up, and you will find yourself meditating as surely as those in the cloistered monasteries all over the world!
… At least that was what I was told. I committed to the group that I would designate a spot (which I have), and I will attempt to sit quietly in that spot for a few minutes each day, and see what happens. I am still toying with the time of day to do this, but for now I will try different times to see what yields the best results. I am hopeful that this new information will help me to make some serious progress, and I will check in at some point and let you know how it goes!
An absolutely gorgeous day on the East Coast, warm weather that is unheard of in mid-November. I will appreciate it while I can!
My Friend Jerry
In the earliest days of our friendship, Jerry and I bonded over a shared love of this show. Now, we pass that love on to our respective children!
I am back to another chapter in the series “Friends Who Stick By Troubled Friends.” As I mentioned in my last post on this subject, I am writing this series in the sequence with which old friends came back into my life as I began my journey of recovery.
So now I shall tell you the story of my friendship with Jerry. Another friendship of about a quarter century, Jerry and I met in Marketing 201 our sophomore year in college. I came to find out that we had mutual friends, but for whatever reason did not connect our freshman year. No matter, what we missed out in terms of friendship that year we more than made up for the following three years. I pretty much followed Jerry around like a puppy, and am grateful to this day that he allowed me to do so. As soon as my friendship with Jerry took root, my college experience blossomed in ways it never would have without him. All of the sudden, the parts of campus life I had never even considered before meeting him… student government, residence life, social life with sports teams… all of these quintessential college activities became written into my life story. When I think back to my college experience, I do so with a huge smile… my college life was a blast. I owe almost all of those experiences to my friend Jerry.
By the time I was a senior in college, I intended to be a lawyer, and had completed the checklist in pursuit of that goal. I had taken the law school preparatory exam, was admitted entrance into a law school, and had made those announcements to my family and friends. But, in the meantime, I had been slowly gaining an interest in the job I currently held as a Resident Advisor at my college. It was my friend Jerry who helped me make the first giant life-changing decision I had ever made: instead of attending law school, I changed direction, and made plans to pursue a Master’s in education. I still get butterflies when I think of the courage it took me to make that change. I remember sitting down with my Dad to explain it to him, hastily taking another set of entrance exams, applying to an entirely different school, and many other smaller changes that added up to a whole new future. If it were not for Jerry, I would be on an entirely different path right now.
Because, in the midst of those changes, some miracles came into being, I was able to stay on the campus and work at my undergraduate university while pursuing my Master’s. In so doing, I was able to meet, befriend, date, and ultimately marry the love of my life, and subsequently live the life I am living today. When I trace the path backwards, it all begins with Jerry, and his tremendous influence.
But I digress! In the meantime, Jerry and I continued our friendship, and our education, as we each pursued our Master’s. It was at this stage in our lives that we were truly inseparable. We worked together, we took classes together, we studied together, and we spent our leisure time together. Usually that meant watching television, as we both held jobs in residence life, taking care of a college campus. Golden Girls, Empty Nest, ER, Knots Landing… when I see anything related to any of those shows, I think of Jerry and smile.
Through all of the stress of getting our degrees, through weddings, funerals, work dramas, through thick and thin, Jerry and I were there for each other. Jerry was standing right next to me when I got the phone call that my Dad had a heart attack. He followed me to the hospital, was there when they pronounced him dead, and practically lived with me through the week we arranged his funeral. And that is just one of many big life experiences that we shared. We developed a short-hand vocabulary to let each other know when we were in crisis. For example, “taking out the insurance policy,” to this day means “I need to tell you something in the utmost of confidence, and I need your complete attention, stat!” Through the course of 25 years, I have taken out quite a few of those polices, and written a few as well!
So you would think, with all this background, it would have been a very simple process… “Hey Jerry, I need to take out the insurance policy, because I’m having some issues with addiction.” No, sadly, it did not go this way at all. Poor Jerry was one of the friends I kept completely in the dark throughout my active addiction. I did my utmost to put on a good show for him, and have him believe all was well and good, and I was fairly successful with that charade for a time.
I still have a lot of shame in admitting this next part: I was not the one to tell Jerry about my problems with addiction. My husband, in his desperation, reached out to Jerry, as they were friends for all this time as well. I think I was about 3 weeks sober when it occurred to me that I had not reached out to Jerry, and something in my gut told me that my husband may have already spilled the beans. Coward that I was, I sent a text, and asked Jerry if he had spoken to Dan. One word reply: Yes. Oh boy, I can still remember the feeling I had when I got that reply. I arranged a time for us to speak on the phone, and I couldn’t sit still for hours before that phone call. And it was as awkward, and painful, as ever a conversation I have had with Jerry, and hope to God I will never have again. He was still, weeks later, in a state of shock… how could this have happened, and he not know about it? How could I have done this to my husband, my children, my friends? How can he ever trust me again?
And, another miracle: through his pain, his confusion, his anger, he continued to talk to me. He said he didn’t know what to do for me, but he wanted to try to figure it out. Most important, he was willing to stick with me through this crisis. And did he ever, we talked more in those next few weeks than we had in years, and he applauded every milestone I hit. When I started this blog, I believe he was my third follower, and still reads every post I publish (won’t he be surprised when he reads today’s?).
If you are very, very fortunate in life, you will meet a person that you know, deep down, will have your back no matter what. Jerry is that person for me… no matter what happens, if I need something, he will be there, no questions asked… especially if I take out the insurance policy.
Being able to replay a 25-year old friendship, and write it down for the world to witness, is a miracle and a blessing!
Expectations: Premeditated Resentments
Another Monday, another fantastic Monday 12-step meeting. Here are just a few reasons why it was so great:
- Based on last week’s discussion, I believed this was to be a smaller meeting, and, these days, a smaller meeting is 10 people. Last year at this time 10 attendees would have been a dream come true!
- A woman who has recently become a regular attendee announced that next Monday she will be celebrating 26 years in the Fellowship, so I get to have another celebration next week!
- And, last but certainly not least, it is the first Monday of the month, so I got to choose a reading from the Big Book (Alcoholics Anonymous). I decided since I am starting year two I would select the very first reading I ever used at this meeting, a chapter entitled Acceptance Was The Answer. It is, by far, my favorite chapter in the Big Book.
The story I selected has special significance to my sobriety. When I was newly sober, I went to meetings that featured this story 4 different times in as many weeks. For those reading who do not regularly attend 12-step meetings, this is highly unusual; in fact, since that time, I have not heard this story in a meeting again, unless I am the one choosing it! So there I was, newly sober, life in chaos, marriage a shambles, and this story keeps popping up. The first time I heard it was day one of sobriety (literally), and I’m not sure I was able to retain anything. The second time I heard it, I noticed that the writing style was excellent, the tone very humorous, which I always appreciate, and the writer references a dual addiction, something to which I could relate. The third time I heard it, I started paying more attention to actual message of the story, and believed the man to be not only a good writer, but to also have a lot of wisdom. The fourth time I realized I was at a meeting where this story was to be read, the light bulb finally went off in my head, and I actually had the thought, “Maybe this story keeps getting repeated because there is something for me personally to learn.” When I read the story with that thought in mind, I was flabbergasted… this was why the story kept getting repeated! I needed to truly grasp the idea of acceptance.
So this story is significant for me personally because it was the first time I recognized that God speaks to me directly, I just need to open my mind and heart to what He is saying to me.
The critical paragraph in the chapter, the one that is oft-repeated in the 12-step Fellowship that I participate, reads:
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 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.
-pg. 417, Alcoholics Anonymous
I know I have quoted this paragraph before in my blog, but it is one that bears repeating. Acceptance has become the answer for me in so many different ways. First, I needed to accept that I am an alcoholic and an addict. Once I did that, I began living in the solution, rather than the problem. But acceptance goes so much further than sobriety… the minute I am out of sorts about anything, big or small, I am allowing expectations to override my serenity, and those feelings are like a snowball hurtling down a mountain… before I know it, I am dealing with an avalanche of resentments!
The best part of the meeting for me was the analogy that one gentleman made. He said when he was a young boy, he was a golf caddy at a country club, and they had “summer rules” and “winter rules” for the game. The summer rules were that you had to “play the ball as it lies.” He said when he gets upset about any condition in his life, usually one that he cannot control, he remembers this analogy, and tries to live life on life’s terms. When he remembers to do this, life goes a lot smoother.
In the past week I have not been playing the ball as it lies. Instead, I have let myself get caught up in self-righteously bemoaning where I think the ball should be, how different elements have gotten in the way of my ball, and how, if things were as they should be, I would have had a hole in one. And we all know the outcome of that attitude, and the outcome is anything but peaceful and serene.
So now, with a new week upon us, I am going to play my ball as it lies, and see where it gets me!
If you knew how little I knew about sports, the fact that I could make a sports analogy, even with help, is a miracle! I know at least one golf lover that is reading this and smiling!