Monthly Archives: January 2014

Why Bloggers Are Happier People

An interesting thing happened to me yesterday.  I was reading a beautiful post by my friend Karen over at Mended Musings, and a line she wrote stood out:

 I don’t usually post until I’ve come to some sort of conclusion that I (and hopefully others) can learn from.

It struck me because I often feel the same way:  if something is bothering me, I generally don’t like to write about it until I’ve gotten some kind of answer.  But I considered it more and realized that, in fact, many times I will write so that I can find the answer.  Countless times I will sit down to write about a problem, and by the end of the writing session I realize the answer is there, a resolution to which I would not have come unless I took the time to put pen to paper (or, more accurately, fingers to keyboard).  I can remember at least one post very clearly (Sticks and Stones) that helped me figure out the problem as I was writing about it!

Later the same day I came across some library books I checked out 2 weeks ago, then abandoned to the dining room, never to be open (and a good thing I did come across them, I’m sure they need to be returned).  I decided to give one a cursory glance, the title of which is 59 Seconds:  Think a Little, Change a Lot, by Richard Wiseman.  The premise:  a psychologist gives “a myth-busting response to the self-help movement, with tips and tricks to improve your life that come straight from the scientific community.”

In the section I read, the author disproves the notion that talking about traumatic events (to an untrained person, he is not bashing counseling by any means) yields significant results in the way of increased happiness.  However, an exercise he calls “expressive writing” has been proven to boost both self-esteem and happiness.  As he writes:

From a psychological perspective, thinking and writing are very different.  Thinking can be somewhat unstructured, disorganized, and even chaotic.  In contrast, writing encourages the creation of a story line and structure that help people make sense of what has happened and work toward a solution.  In short, talking can add to a sense of confusion, but writing provides a more systematic, solution-based approach.

Bingo!  This was exactly what I was thinking while pondering Karen’s post!  I couldn’t count the number of times the simple act of re-creating an event in my life for this blog has helped me to make sense of it, to put it into perspective, and to resolve whatever was left rolling around in my brain.  I can say, without fail, that I feel happier every time I hit publish on this blog.  Whether it is happiness at the mere accomplishment of writing a post, or the feeling of resolving an issue, or satisfaction from sharing my experience, strength and hope, or a combination of all, I feel good when I am done writing.

Today’s Miracle:

My husband surprised me with some of my favorite Italian delicacies the other night, and there is enough to eat again tonight.  Not having to plan dinner + a second night of rarely eaten treats = miracle!

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I AM 2 YEARS SOBER TODAY: Here’s What I’ve Learned…

24 Lessons Blog

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Today’s Miracle:

I AM 731 DAYS SOBER!!!

Falsely Accused

Here’s the question I am pondering today:

When is it acceptable to be outraged when someone accuses you of not being sober?

A bit of a loaded question, for sure, and probably needs some clarification before I continue.  First, the question is most likely provocative only to those of us who label ourselves recovered addicts/alcoholics. Second, some further definition of the terms in the question might be in order:

When:  at what time

Acceptable:  suitable; I can validate myself

Outraged:  grossly offensive, and definitely a broad term; when push comes to shove, so many more words can be added to it… hurt, offended, worried, confused

Accuses:  seriously wonders to the point of questioning aloud

Here’s the set-up, which, to point out the obvious, is told from my perspective:  I am living my life, feeling as normal as can be expected, when wham!  Out of the blue, the question is posed:  is there something for which I should be feeling guilty in terms of my sobriety?

Since the answer to that particular question is a heartfelt NO, the immediate reaction is outrage (hence the word choice at the outset).   However, since I have vowed, both to myself and to those closest to me, to always, always, take that question seriously, I make every effort I can to assure my sobriety date has remained intact.

This incident, as it were, has been resolved, and the case has been closed, for a few days now.  But what I want to explore, in this post, is the residual feelings that such an encounter engenders.

So, as I mentioned, the first reaction is outrage… how dare anyone think that I am not sober?  Of course, the same monkey mind that chatters incessantly has a quick and annoying response to that question:  umm, because you spent years of your life doing the complete opposite of how you are living your life now?  Is the world supposed to clear the hard drive of their memory because you’ve manage to scrape together just shy of two years of sobriety?

Well, alright, so maybe outrage is too strong of a feeling.  Let’s downgrade it to a stunningly hurt confusion.  Is that allowed?  I mean, I can’t point to one thing I have done, either that day or any of the days preceding, that would validate such a question.  Can I be hurt and confused?

The monkey mind is not as quick, but the general argument is:  well, just because you feel fine, does not mean you are presenting fine, plus who’s to say what might be going on in the mind of another?  Any number of things completely unrelated to the incident, completely unrelated to YOU, might have lined up like a row of dominoes, ultimately crashing down to the scenario which brought about the question  “are you guilty of breaking your sobriety?”

Okay, fine, I can see that to be a sensible argument, and I can play it back to myself, but how do I internalize it, really feel it, so I can let the negative residual feelings go?

Because, and here’s what the non-recovering individual can never understand… there will most certainly be residual, negative feelings.  The need to justify and explain behavior, the helplessness of not being able to just be believed, the resulting memories of all the past conversations… they linger, far past the resolution of the incident.

Particularly when there is some sober time in the equation.  True, two years does not win me any lifetime achievement awards, but it’s considerable to me.  The only other time in sobriety that I have been accused of such wrongdoing happened when I had 4 days sober.  It was another false accusation, and other than the helpless feeling of not being able to convince someone of my innocence, the similarities end.  Of course someone would question my sobriety four days in; hell, even I questioned it!  But now, two years later, and in the absence of any physical evidence, it just feels wrong.

So what’s a recovering girl to do?  All I can think to do, at this juncture,  is to talk back to the feelings, remind myself that I am, in fact, sober, and that I don’t need the validation of another to feel good about it.  I also remind myself that we are all human, and thus prone to make mistakes, and to let.  it.  go.  Because holding on to a resentment is the quickest way to making the accusation a reality.

Therefore, the answer to the question above:  Never.  Outrage, hurt, confusion, necessarily implies a lack of acceptance of the situation.  If it happens, it happens for a reason, even if the reason is not readily apparent.   Move on, do the next right thing, this too shall pass, and every other proverb that seems annoying in the moment but also happens to be true!

Today’s Miracle:

On a lighter note, for those living in the Northeastern section of the United States, today’s miracle should be obvious… back to some sort of normalcy after the snow storm.

On a more philosophical note, the ability to talk back to the negative feelings, rather than muck around in them, is a bona fide miracle.

M(3), 1/20: Back To Sobriety Basics

And a happy Martin Luther King day to everyone!  It’s funny, I always think that a holiday of any sort is going to mix it up at my Monday meeting, and it never does.  Same core group, and each time one regular does not show up, a new person comes along.

Today’s reading selection was from the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions; because it is January, we go back the beginning of the book, Step One:

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable

It has been my experience that this step is the turning point, either towards or away from, a 12-step program.  The people who sat with me today, for example, can all share, in fantastic detail, the moment they accepted this step into their hearts and minds, and today’s group had lengths of sobriety ranging from 10 months through 28 years!   On the other hand, I read frequently in this very blogosphere opinions to the contrary:  it is because they do not believe in the concept of “powerlessness” that they are repelled from any fellowship that demands such a steep admission.

Here is my personal experience with step one:  for a very long time, I fought the idea tooth and nail.  When I was first exposed to it, I doubt I gave it more than a half second’s thought… of course I am not powerless, and my life is as far from unmanageable as you can get.  This was many years ago, and in my heart of hearts I believed my problems with alcohol were situational, and thus could be solved with a few lifestyle tweaks.

Needless to say, that period of sobriety did not last very long.

The next time I was to look at step one, I had a slightly more realistic view of my alcoholism:  I could acknowledge, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol/mind-altering substances.  I could clearly see that this “relationship” had devolved dramatically from even 5 years earlier, when I was confident that I could resolve my issues on my own.  Finally, I realized that there were significantly unmanageable areas in my life, areas that I tried hard to rectify, and was seemingly unable to do so.  But powerlessness and total unmanageability were still not things I was willing to accept.  I could still point to people who drank more than I did, who had consequences greater than my own, whose behavior was more reprehensible than mine, and those comparisons kept me firmly in the mindset of “if they can do it, why can’t I?”

And so on I continued in active addiction, and on I progressed with the disease of alcoholism, and on the consequences came, each one more dire than the last.

Until finally, in that darkest-before-the-dawn moment, when I got down on my knees (literally), threw my hands up in the air (metaphorically), and said, out loud, “I need some help… I have tried and tried to do this on my own, and it is clearly not working.  Please show me what to do.”  It was at that point that I could see, for the first time in my life, how powerless I was, and how unmanageable my life had become.  As soul-wrenching as that moment was, I look at it now for what it has become… a priceless gift.  Because in that moment, on that freezing night almost 2 years ago, I commenced a journey to the most peace, the most joy, and the most love I have experienced in my life.

Here is my final thought on step one, and then I will stop with the rambling ruminations:  it is a step that needs to be taken completely, and endlessly.  What do I mean by that?  Well, completely, meaning I believe, really believe, that I am powerless, and that my life in active addiction is truly unmanageable.  No equivocations, no “yes, but” mentalities are going to work on this one.  I have tried it, and demonstrated brilliantly how pointless believing a partial step one is going to be effective.  Endlessly means, simply, that there is no graduation from alcoholism.  Our minds may tell us otherwise, God knows the media and social conventions will do their best to convince us to the contrary, but, as they say, a pickle cannot be turned back into a cucumber.   So often the story is told… got some sober time, felt strong and confident, believed the problem has been solved, why not just have one?  And time and again, the ending is a sad one.  So as important as it is to “take” step one for the first time, it is just as important to continue taking it, one day at a time, for the rest of my life!

Today’s Miracle:

Speaking of powerlessness, I need to take Step One as it relates to winter weather… yet another storm is slated for tomorrow, and, as I type, it sounds as if a war is being waged by my children on the other side of the door… God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change!

An Update, and A Gentle Reminder to Stay Out of My Own Head

First, a sincere and heart-felt thank you to all who responded to my post on Monday:  your words truly inspired and motivated me to do the next right thing, and I so I shall update you on the following 36 hours after the incident that I wrote about Monday morning.

So, here’s what I have as facts:

  1. We have a serious security issue at the clubhouse where I run my meeting
  2. This issue can be easily resolved by a simple decision to lock a door
  3. It is up to me to bring up the issue, as the incident largely happened to me

So, simple enough… go to the officers of the clubhouse, explain the situation, and get the problem resolved.  Here’s where my brain can complicate even the simplest of tasks, and I need to explain (re-explain, for regular followers, I know I talked about this some months ago) some background.  The clubhouse is primarily run by about 5 very dedicated people.  At least 6 months ago, maybe more, the officers approached me and asked if I would be the director of the club.  At the time I was flabbergasted, as I can’t imagine the thought process that would lead to such a request.  I thanked them profusely for their belief in me, but explained I simply did not have the time for such an undertaking.  For whatever reason, several of them did not seem to hear my rejection of this offer, and any time that they came across me would refer to me as Madame Chairperson.  This was obviously said in a light-hearted manner, but said on enough occasions that I quickly inferred that the goal was to railroad me into the position.  Since I truly have neither the time, nor honestly the inclination, to assume this role, I found myself slowly withdrawing myself from any type of business meeting.  In retrospect, it was not the most up-front way to deal with the issue, but at the time I did not feel I had too many options.

So, long story short, I have not attended a business meeting at the clubhouse for several weeks.  My role has been nothing more than running my Monday meeting, and volunteering to make food items for the various events that have been held.   Again, not ideal, but it had been a working solution for me, until the incident on Monday.

So here’s where my monkey mind takes over:  “Now you’re going to sashay into a meeting that you’ve all but abandoned, and demand that the clubhouse make changes because you say so?!?  They will laugh you right out of the meeting!”  I can, of course, play Devil’s Advocate to myself, and argue back, “You’re not doing this for yourself, you’re doing it for your meeting attendees, and for the good of the clubhouse, they will thank you for this.”

To give you a play-by-play of this internal debate would take more time than it’s worth, so let me wrap it up and say I went back and forth along these lines, until, I kid you not, 7:10 pm last night (the business meeting started at 7:15 pm).  At one point I actually sent an email to one of the officers, explaining the situation, thinking I could just give them the scenario and let them take over, and then got so mad at myself for not being more assertive, that I sent another one saying I will be there to tell the story myself.

So I attend, and I am completely prepared for every argument that I firmly believe I will hear:  “that guy is harmless, don’t worry about it,” “the door is broken, and we don’t have the money to fix it,” and, the most troubling one I was waiting for, “who do you think you are coming in here after all this time?”

I sat through the regular format, Old Business, Committee Reports, Events Planning, and finally it came time to address New Business.  I raise my hand, everyone looks surprised (I am guessing that the officer I sent the email to never had a chance to read it).  I calmly (or, at least, as calmly as I could manage) explain the incident, and express my concern for the ongoing safety and security of the clubhouse.

Take a wild guess what the reactions from the officers were?

Complete and total empathy.  A stunned realization that an off-handed decision to make it easier for people to attend meetings could have a consequence such as a homeless person taking advantage.   A firm resolution to contact all meeting leaders and explain the new policy that the building is to remain locked at all times when meetings are not in session.  And, last but certainly not least, gratitude that I would take the time to bring the issue to the attention of the officers.

If only I had an “on/off” switch for my brain, I could save myself a lot of trouble!

Today’s Miracle:

The strength and courage the readership of the blog gave me to tackle a problem that the old me would not have touched with a 10-foot pole, my gratitude is immense!

M(3), 1/13: The Value of Meetings

I want to write about an experience I had at my meeting this morning, but first, for the sake of continuity, I will write about the meeting itself, which was, as usual, a great one.  Eleven attendees, and the reading was a chapter from the book Living Sober, “Going to AA Meetings.”  The chapter breaks down for the newcomer what an AA meeting is like, the different formats that AA meetings follow, and the many benefits that can be gained through regular meeting attendance.  The group had some laughs reminiscing about our first meeting experiences, and how we have evolved through our various lengths of sober time.  All in all, it seems like everyone gained insight and wisdom from one another, the goal of any 12-step meeting.

Here’s the other part of the meeting I wanted to share, and hopefully I can describe it effectively.  My meeting takes place in a “clubhouse” of sorts.  For those not familiar with the term, a clubhouse refers to a facility that is used exclusively for 12-step fellowships.  Some are specific, such as an AA Clubhouse, which will run meetings several times a day, every day, and is usually open between meetings for people to socialize.  The clubhouse that houses my meeting is available for any 12-step fellowship, although in reality it mostly holds AA meetings.  It is a relatively new facility, less than 2 years old, and is struggling, both financially and in terms of actively involved members, and the future is uncertain.

One more piece of information to set the scene for this morning’s adventures:  it is a large and unsecure building.  At some point, the front door was permanently unlocked, and I have never sought out the reason for why this is so.  Since I am (more or less) only in the building during daylight hours, I have never thought much about this fact.

Back to the present:  I arrived, as I typically do, about 30 minutes prior to the start time, and I happen to pick up a gentleman who does not drive on his own.  Normally, he and I are the first to arrive, as luck would have it, another regular attendee was there early, and he brought someone with him.  I knew this because I saw his car in the parking lot.  The gentleman I drive and I walk in through the front door, and walk the short hallway to the meeting room we use.  To the right of the meeting room is a long dark hallway, which leads to other rooms.  As I’m opening the door to go into the room, I hear, from the dark hallway, a tentative “hello.”  Thinking it my friend, I say hello back, and continue into the meeting room.  Imagine my surprise when I see my friend already in the meeting room, so I walk back out to the hallway to see who was in it.  From the darkness  a disheveled looking man appears, holding the clubhouse phone in his hand.  He launches into a story asking if there was going to be a meeting, because he had been here on a Monday before hoping to find one, and finding the clubhouse empty.  By this point, both the mystery man and I are back in the well-lit meeting room with the other meeting attendees.  I cautiously explain that I run the Monday meetings, and I am always here, and he begins backpedaling, saying maybe it wasn’t a Monday, but in fact some other day of the week.  Everyone, of course, welcomes him into the meeting room, and we all begin the process of setting up for the meeting, which includes starting coffee, passing out books, and setting up several free-standing heaters to warm up the room.  In the course of this activity, we realize that one of our units does not appear to be there, at which point the mystery gentleman goes back down the darkened hallway, and reappears with a heater, saying he saw it in one of the other rooms.

Hmmm…

So here’s the conundrum for me as the meeting leader:  our traditions state, unequivocally, that the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.  On the other hand, this behavior is extremely unusual, and it was uncomfortable for me personally.  It would appear that perhaps he was setting up shop somewhere in the building.

How I resolved the issue of how to handle this gentleman, for the short-term (aka today’s meeting):  one of the attendees present is also on the board of the clubhouse, so I took my cues from him.  He shook the man’s hand, engaged him in conversation, and did not appear ruffled in the least that the heater was temporarily “misplaced.”  I watched this officer go back down the hallway, and I can only assume that he checked things out, and the mystery man did stay for the entire meeting.  The officer returned to the meeting, and, again, did not appear concerned, so I proceeded as I normally do.  At the end of the meeting, the mystery man left before me, and everything appeared intact.  The officer of the clubhouse left before I had a chance to speak with him privately.

So why am I sharing this story?  Because it was unsettling, for one, and this is where I can let out uncomfortable feelings.  For anyone reading who may be considering a 12-step fellowship, please don’t let this story discourage you… I have been a regular attendee at 12-step meeting for over 2 years now, and this has NEVER happened before.  Really, it is a strange set of circumstances, most buildings would be secure for this very reason.

I guess the other reason I am sharing it is to ask for advice… what kind of follow-up should I do?  Should I be fighting for more security in the building?  Should I be thinking about taking my meeting to a more secure location?  I would feel badly about this second option, for my meeting is one of a small handful that has stuck with it, and has regular attendance.  I don’t want to abandon these people, but… I don’t know.  It’s a strange and uncomfortable situation.

So, I would love some feedback:  how would you have handled this situation, and, more important, how would you handle it going forward?

Today’s Miracle:

That I have this support system on which to lean!

Staying Motivated: 5 Tips to Keep On Keepin’ On!

In Monday’s post I wrote about an injury I sustained this past weekend.  Today is day 6 in dealing with a bum knee.  Here is a thumbnail sketch of the past 6 days:

  • Days 1 and 2:  debilitating pain keeps me a model patient:  I adhere to every directive designed to expedite healing
  • Day 3:  Despite every natural inclination, I make and keep Doctor’s appointment, at which I find that I am doing all that is necessary, but that I need to keep doing it
  • Day 4:  Feels quite a bit better than the first 3 days, which I take as a positive sign, begin to function more normally
  • Day 5:  Feeling same as yesterday, so increase my activity, which I then proceed to overdo.  Now the pain level is back to day 3, and I am dejected.  I try to recover in the evening
  • Day 6:  Wake up feeling as bad as yesterday, and now, besides being in pain, I am also outraged… how can this be happening?

Now, you might read this breakdown and scratch your head in bewilderment… is there something wrong with this woman?  Of course the pain has returned, she did not give it enough time!

But really, this is just an example of so many things in life:  we have a goal, we start out with gusto, and then, either fizzle out due to fading motivation, or to some wrench in the plans of life.  And what a perfect time of year to discuss this topic.  It is January 9th.  Had I not injured my knee, I would have been embarking on resuming my running regimen.  And I guarantee you I would have been facing feelings similar to the ones I am facing with this knee injury… either impatience that I am not progressing fast enough, disgust that I am not seeing any results, or simple boredom with the new routine.  Same with sobriety, the first several weeks of my recovery I remained sober, but life continued to plummet downward.  It’s hard enough making the decision to give up drinking/drugs, but to do so in the face of chaos, even more challenging.

Now, with this injury, I can cry and gnash my teeth all I want, but it’s not going to change anything.  But with other goals… new eating plans, staying sober, physical fitness… the mental engagement is critical to success.  So how to maintain the passion that drives someone to embark on a lifestyle change?

There are probably a million and one great articles out there on staying motivated, but here are the top 5 tips I have come across, have used myself, or will attempt to use in the upcoming weeks:

1.  Have a specific goal:  In terms of my injury, I want to completely recover from my injury so that I may resume my fitness routine.  This goal is specific, it is measurable (return to zero pain), it is attainable (doctor’s opinion), and it is time-bound (doctor-given guidelines).  For many reading this post, the goal could be sobriety:  I want to live my life chemically unaltered.  The simpler and more specific the goal, the better.

2.  Know why you wish to achieve this goal:  I want to recover from my injury so that I may have the full use of my leg… so that I may walk, run, climb stairs as any healthy person can.  The why behind this goal are more obvious that some other goals.  In terms of sobriety, it is important to know clearly why you want to be drug and alcohol free.  The reasons can be to attain benefits, such as “increased health,” or it can be to avoid negative consequences, such as “so that I don’t lose my self-respect, or the respect of others.”

3.  Visualize the end result:  For me, I really want to get back to my goal of running, so I picture myself as I was last summer and fall, when I was at my peak.  I can also visualize what it would be like to do even better than my best, as in run (not walk) in a 5K.  For sobriety, there are so many ways to visualize the end result:  how you will look and feel knowing that you have overcome an unhealthy relationship with drugs/alcohol, the joy of attending functions and not behaving irrationally, the peace that would come from living life with a clear mind, and without the worry of what you may have said or done under the influence.

4.  Learn from failures:  So I overdid things this week, and I recognize that only sets me back further from my goal.  I can bemoan this fact, or I can chalk it up as a learning experience… now I know what I can do, and what I cannot.  This is a critical piece for people in early sobriety.  Many times someone will accrue a number of sober days or weeks, and then slip.  Okay, it happened, so now there is the choice:  decide that all the progress was for nought, or figure out what led to the relapse so that you do not repeat the mistake.  As Buddha says, “There are only two mistakes along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.”

5.  Reward yourself:  The more long-range the goal, the more mini-rewards should be given.  Celebrate every milestone along the way.  The more positive reinforcement you give yourself, the more likely you are to keep going!

I would love to hear from my friends in recovery:  what methods have you used to keep motivated in staying sober?

Today’s Miracle:

Giving advice on motivation is a reciprocal gift… I feel better as I type!

M(3), 1/6: Phenomenon of Craving

But what if I’m craving it all!?!

First meeting of the new year!

Because it is the first Monday of the month, we read from the book Alcoholics Anonymous, and in the immortal words of Maria Von Trapp, “let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start!”  And so we read “The Doctor’s Opinion,” in which Dr. Silkworth gives his seal of approval to the fledgling organization called AA.  A tremendous risk for a medical doctor to do in the 1930’s; the fellowship owes a debt of gratitude to him.

The part of the reading that stood out to me this morning is as follows:

Men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol.  The sensation is so elusive that, while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false.  To them, their alcoholic life seems the only normal one.  They are restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks – drinks they see others taking with impunity.  After they have succumbed to the desire again, as so many do, and the phenomenon of craving develops, they pass through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again.  This is repeated over and over, and unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery.

pp xxviii-xxix, Alcoholics Anonymous

There are many reasons why I, as a woman in recovery from addiction, choose to remain sober, and on any given day the priority of those reasons may change.  On this particular day, the number one reason I choose to remain sober is my fear of the “phenomenon of craving.”  What would happen if I were to have one glass of wine, take one pill?  Would I go immediately back down the rabbit hole of active addiction?  Would I have a moderate experience that would spiral me downwards slowly but surely?  Would it be a non-event and I find that I don’t want to continue?  I don’t know what would happen, and more importantly, I have a healthy fear of the potential outcome, so I choose not to test those waters.

Two days ago I was heading downstairs for my first cup of coffee.  As I descended the stairs, I admired the handiwork of recent vacuuming.  I was so enchanted by their pristine condition that I lost my footing and fell down about 6 of them, winding up with my left leg up at the top, and the rest of me down at the bottom.  Ouch (and, needless to say, Kristen and Christy, I will be putting my “back to fitness” plans on a temporary hold!).  So the rest of the weekend was spent elevating, icing, and scheduling my Advil doses.  By this morning, I realized I would need to have this knee checked out.  So down to the doctor’s I will go.

There was a time in the not-too-distant past where this kind of calamity would have meant, in my addicted mind, a get out of jail free card.  I would have found ways to milk this injury to its greatest mind-altering extent, and would have felt completely justified in doing so.  Thanks to the clarity of sobriety and a new skill set developed through a program of recovery, I now know that there is no such thing as a get out of jail free card, and I am not willing to gamble with the phenomenon of craving.  So instead, I elevate and ice my knee, even when I am sick of doing so, and I remain grateful that I am able to overcome this obstacle and maintain my sobriety.

Today’s Miracle:

That I did not have to go to multiple Doctor’s offices, and no x-rays are necessary, is a miracle.  No tears, nothing broken, just time and patience are needed… God bless my husband and children!

My Friend Karen

  vs. 

Karen and I have an ongoing debate on which of these chips taste better, in the end we have agreed to disagree!

To inspire myself as I begin writing this post, I poured a large glass of cold water… one of many life lessons my friend Karen has taught me:  water is a beverage I can enjoy with as much abandon as I desire.  Had I learned this lesson from her in a more timely fashion, this blog would never have come to be!

I have known my friend Karen since my college days, but we did not become close friends until years after graduation.  Karen started at the same college as I, but she finished at a different university, and so some years passed before our paths re-intersected, and I have been blessed by this reunion.

Karen is the type of friend that everyone needs:  thoughtful, fiercely loyal, and endlessly supportive.  You tell Karen something once, and she will file it away, and remember it at just the right moment.  For my fifth wedding anniversary, my husband and I took a trip to Disney World to celebrate.  We came back to our hotel room one night to find a special care package delivered to our room:  peanut butter M &M’s (a favorite candy of both my husband and me).  That is one of many examples I could give to illustrate how Karen thinks about the people she loves.

Karen displays this kind of loyalty not just to her friends, but to her family as well.  I have never met a more devoted wife, mother, daughter and sister.  Karen’s love of family, and her dedication to every member of her large (and rambunctious) family is a quality to which I aspire to emulate.  She is there for the people she loves in a way that we all should be.

Like all friendships that span decades, Karen and I have seen each other through major life events, through minor life events, holidays, vacations, moves, career transitions, family transitions, the list could go on and on.  Some years have gone by and I find that we’ve barely connected.  Other years, we are thick as thieves.  But the real test of friendship, for me, is the ability to pick up after an absence as if no time has passed, and Karen and I have passed this test with flying colors, time and again.  And never has that been tested more than with my descent into addiction, and my journey to recovery.

Like all of my close friendships, I let Karen slip away as I spiraled downward into the disease of addiction.  As I have written before, the more dishonest I was in daily life, the easier it was to keep close friends away, for it would be one less person with whom I would have to lie and say that life was grand.  So months and months had gone by since I last communicated with Karen, and during that time I suffered through all of my various addiction “bottoms,” all the while Karen knew nothing.

I was probably sober about 2 months, I don’t even think I was back at home with my husband and children yet, when I discovered that my husband had disclosed all of my shameful secrets to Karen.  I was dismayed, to say the least, for a few reasons:  I was still at a point in my recovery when I felt the less people knew about my addiction, the better off everyone was (read:  the better off my ego would be).  At that point in my life I still felt like I was chasing the story of my addiction, and this was one more mess I needed to clean up.  Finally, and most importantly, I had an additional level of shame in admitting my addiction to Karen, because she had a close family member suffering from the disease of active addiction, and he was wreaking havoc in their tight-knit family unit.  To admit to Karen that I was doing the same to my family was painful in a way with which I had not previously encountered, and I would have much rather put that off indefinitely (read:  never).

So, for the next several months, I procrastinated in dealing with the Karen issue.  She knew, I knew she knew, but my motto was out of sight, out of mind, and Karen was, respectfully, giving me space to heal.  To be fair, I was in the process of un-burning any number of bridges throughout this time period, but still, I let it go on much longer that I should have.  Finally, about 5 months sober, I decided to stop with the procrastination, and mend the fence of our broken friendship once and for all.  So I set up a time to meet for lunch, and we re-connected.

I still chuckle at the look of astonishment on Karen’s face when I admitted how difficult it was for me to connect with her.  Like most problems in my world, I make them much bigger in my head than they really are, and she was mystified that I was so nervous to speak with her about my addiction.  As uncomfortable as it was, I confessed my darkest thoughts:  that I am ashamed to bring to her the pain that she experiences with her addicted family member.  She hastened to assure me that she does not equate the two stories, and that, because of her experience with addiction, she is even more in awe of my strength and courage to recover.  Once past that hurdle, we then were able to have an open and honest communication about her family member, a conversation that we had never had before this time.  I left that lunch with my heart full of love, because our friendship had deepened in a way I had not believed possible.

And then, the fateful conversation the next morning:  at the very time Karen and I were opening up to each other, Karen’s family member lost his battle with addiction.  My body shakes even as I write this, all of these months later, and my mind still has difficulty processing the timing.  As I look back, the next few days are a blur, but I remember praying a lot:  surely this means something, but what?  Why would God have me reach out to Karen on that very day?  The most I have come up with, even after all this time, is two things:  first, He wanted me to be there for Karen.  I’m not sure what help I was, but at least I was there.

The second profound lesson that experience taught me, and I have been able to use the lesson in the months since:  it is important to share my experience, strength and hope with others.  Even if it seems irrelevant at the time, you never know what is going to happen to the people with whom you share, and what information I give that could ultimately help another.  Karen knows she has a friend with experience in recovery, she now has me as a resource whenever she wants it, and the “paying it forward” mentality can reap untold benefits.  It may be uncomfortable in the short-term, but the long-term potential gain far outweighs the short-term discomfort.

Since that time, my friendship with Karen continues to deepen.  I have a connection with her that will last a lifetime, and my recovery milestones will always include her… what a miracle that is!

Today’s Miracle:

Today I am grateful for the one day reprieve I am getting:  kids are back at school for the first time in almost 2 weeks, and we have enormous snow storm predicted for tonight!

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