Monthly Archives: February 2014

To Spy or Not to Spy: That is the Question

I haven’t done a parenting post in a while, and I could use some advice from my amazing friends in the blogosphere!

Quick refresher:  I have 2 children, an almost 14-year-old girl, and an 11-year-old boy.  I am blessed that they are extremely healthy, reasonably well-adjusted, intelligent beings who (for the most part) make good choices.  The bad choices they make are largely commons ones to their respective age brackets.

That said, I had a troubling conversation with my daughter that has not been far from my thoughts in the week since we’ve had it.  My daughter, in my opinion, is one of the most rigidly honest people I know, she will not lie when I ask a direct question.  However, upon entering the turbulent teenage years, it has become a dance for me to ask the exact question to get the information I am seeking, because she does possess the ability to evade questions, quite skillfully.  So she has a friend that I worry is not the best influence, she knows this and has subsequently limited the particulars she will give me about the girl in question.  Without going into unnecessary detail, through trial and error (correction:  many trials, many errors), I finally ferreted out some information:  the girl has been transferred to a school that specializes in mental health issues, as she has apparently attempted suicide on more than one occasion.

My reaction, thankfully, was calm and supportive.  I explained to her how sorry I am for her friend’s troubles, but I am equally concerned that my own daughter has been walking around with such a heavy burden, and with no one to help her process.  She admitted that she worries I may judge, so we worked out a system whereby she can use a special code word with me, and I promise to withhold all judgment.  This then led to even more admissions, friends who engage in the activity known as “cutting,” friends who are chronically depressed, friends who question their sexuality.

Okay, lots of new information to process, and I pray that I did the best job that I could.  I continue to ask regular questions, both about the various friends, and about my daughter’s emotional state in dealing with these friends.  As traumatic as the conversation was, the end result was a positive one, in my opinion, because my daughter unloaded some pretty heavy stuff.

So here comes the question to which I am seeking an answer.  When I asked her how she has been processing all these feelings, she indicated that writing in her journal helps.  I asked if she would share some of her entries, she indicated maybe, but was afraid I would be upset by her use of language, and upset about entries in which she was angry with me.  I could tell that she was reluctant to share, and I have not pressed the issue.

But I want to read this journal, to ensure that there is not even more damaging stuff going on in her world outside of my control.  I did make a cursory glance through her room, figuring if it was easily found, then I would read it (I did not find it).  But all the while, I felt horribly guilty about looking, because I felt like I was invading her privacy.

On the other hand, if I had knowledge of the issues she is facing, I know I could better guide her through them.

What do parents in these situations do?  I am sure there are people who are firmly in both camps, but I am genuinely curious on majority opinion… would you actively seek out her journal?  How about cell phone investigation… would you feel comfortable scrolling through texts?  In theory, I understand that cell phone investigation is necessary, as bad choices made online could have horrific consequences (a boy at my daughter’s school was recently suspended for posting naked pictures of himself), but, then again, I leave that cell phone investigation to my husband, so I am really just passing the buck, not the fairest of ways to handle the situation.

I think I would be more comfortable if I could just make a decision, so that’s why I’m writing and reaching out to all of you sage, wiser-than-I-will-ever-be parents:  how do you handle the privacy issue with your children?

Today’s Miracle:

Hope that the comments I receive will help me get comfortable with a decision on how to proceed!

M(3), 2/24: Playing Hooky


Today’s Miracle:

Arranging to miss a Monday meeting in order to spend some time with family.  Back to the water slides!

Second Miracle:

Figuring out how to post this with my phone!

Honesty, Hypocrisy & Me

I am a hypocrite.

Countless times, I have had the conversation with my children, the conversation that follows a mistake made by them, a bad decision, a poor judgment.  The main point of the conversation is simple:  a mistake has been made, crying and bemoaning the mistake only makes a bad situation worse.  You can’t un-ring the bell.  What you can do is learn from it, and do your best not to repeat it.

Countless times, I engaged in the behaviors associated with active addiction.  At a certain point in time, I became consciously aware that my behavior was wrong on every level, but I repeated the mistake, time and again.  I tried to correct the mistake, and fell down more times than I can count.  In my heart of hearts, though, I had an unshakeable belief that there was a solution.  For a long time, I was unclear on what that solution was, but deep in my heart I knew it was there.  And, by the grace of God, it became clear to me just two short years ago, and I have thanked Him for it every day since that time.

Here is where the admission of hypocrisy begins.  For the past two days, I have been soul-searching in a way I haven’t soul searched in a long time.  It started innocently enough:  my husband and I have planned a trip to celebrate a milestone birthday for him, and a milestone anniversary for us, both taking place this year.  The trip is set for six weeks from now, and will take place on an island, something to anticipate, given the miles of snow I see outside my window currently.  But of course this leads me to the conclusion that I need to get myself in gear, both in terms of diet and exercise, both disciplines that have been abandoned for quite some time now.

The simple “what can I do to improve myself in 6 weeks” has morphed into such an abyss of despair and hand-wringing anxiety, I knew I needed to write about it.  For the first 24 hours, I was sure I would NOT write about it:  nobody wants to hear me blather on yet again about jumping back into the healthy lifestyle ring, it is not original, or interesting, or relevant.

And yet…

The feelings that rose within me as I attempted to complete the task with which I challenged myself, simply come up with a plan to improve my lifestyle in 6 weeks, the feelings were so similar to those I experienced in early recovery, that I figured I must flesh them out with my blogging friends.

At the heart of all those feeling, the single, most gut-wrenching emotion I experienced, was one of despair, and the voice of despair was so clear it was as if a person was standing alongside of me saying the words out loud,

“There is no way you will ever make this work.  You have tried and failed at this endeavor your whole life; there is no hope to turn it around.”

I am sure many of you reading this will relate to those words, anyone familiar with addiction has felt the despair that comes with repeatedly trying and failing.

And it is in admitting this despair that I am also confessing my hypocrisy.  I can (and have) preached to all those around me, that tomorrow is a new day, that it is not about how many times you fall that counts, but how many times you get back up, but in my heart I make an exception, and the exception is me, and healthy eating.  I’ve done lots of great things in my life, have many accomplishments of which I am proud, and believe myself capable of almost anything I set my mind to… except this.

So I’m a hypocrite, because I simply don’t practice what I preach.  I am a terminally unique individual when it comes to eating.

And I guess this is why I needed to write about it, because I am rolling my eyes even as I type those last lines.

This is why blogging about the garbage rolling around in the brain helps so much.  Because, as God as my witness, I was crying earlier this very day, as I realized this is how I have been thinking.

So now that I’ve gotten the self-pity out of my system, and I have exposed my deepest fears to the light of day, I guess it’s time to take some action.

A wise person suggested to me that I treat this problem in a similar way that I did my recovery.  In recovery, I made sure I did 4 things every day to count that day as a success.  Four was an easy to do list, easy to remember, and easy with which to commit.

So for now, I am working on my daily 4 list as it relates to this form of recovery.  I have identified the 4 food items that pose the greatest danger to me, and it is my goal to eliminate them.  To do that, I am committing to simple daily actions, all designed to eliminate the addictive food items.  There is still much work to be done, in terms of coming up with an eating routine that is healthy and sustainable, but for now I will consider this a great start, certainly leaps and bounds beyond anything I have done in recent memory.

The list is somewhat generic, and I have no doubt will need to be tweaked in the days that follow, but in writing about it, I am giving myself some accountability.  I will work on it, daily, make the necessary adjustments, but I am clear on my one, ultimate goal:  to reset my relationship with myself, to work towards creating a healthy mindset when it comes to treating my body.  I’ve gotten the mind-altering substances out of my system, now it’s time to start putting something healthy and life-affirming back into it.  It feels as daunting a task as making sobriety a reality, but at least I have some tools to help me:

  • One Day at a Time
  • Sharing the burden of my negative feelings
  • Allowing others to help me
  • And, most important,turning it over to a power greater than myself

Because, if He can get me sober, He can do anything!

I will let you know how it goes…

Today’s Miracle:

Having the courage to hit “publish” on this post

M(3), 2/17: Dissecting Step Two

The literature for today’s meeting was chapter 2 in the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, and discusses in detail the thinking behind Step 2 in the twelve-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous:

Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.

This meeting, for me personally, was chock full of interesting shares, but before I venture into what I learned I will write about my experience with Step 2.  Step 2 can be broken down into two parts:

  1. Belief in a power greater than ourselves
  2. Belief that this power can restore us to sanity

I took no issue with the first part of this step, as I had a core belief in a Higher Power.  Having sat in a meeting or two, I have come to hold an immense gratitude for this core belief, as I know this is a major hurdle for many to jump.

The second part of this step, I have come to realize, was a stumbling block.  While I believed in a God of my understanding, I held tight to the belief that “God helps those who help themselves.”  In placing the emphasis on “helping myself,” I was giving myself all the power, and blocking His ability to help me.  Consequently, it took many months before I could finally let go of the belief that I had to do this on my own.   Since that time, my concept and my relationship with my Higher Power has deepened and grown, and I believe will continue to do so for the rest of my life…. good stuff!

Okay, onto to the wisdom I have gained from my fellows:

One gentleman, who has almost 3 decades of sobriety, made the following statement:  “The longer I stay sober, the less interested I become in defining my spirituality.”  This idea rocked my world… the idea that I can be less precise about my spirituality as time goes by.  I’m not sure where I got the idea that the more time sober I have, the clearer picture I should have of a Higher Power, but this man’s simple statement opened my mind in a way I hadn’t even realized was closed.  It is enough to know that there is a power greater than me, and that power is helping me to live, day by day, a better life.  Enough said.  Brilliant!

Another man, sober for eleven years, talked about Donald Rumsfeld, and the quote attributed to former Secretary of Defense:  “the known knowns, the known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns.”  The gentleman this morning attributes his participation in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous with his ability to deal with those “unknown unknowns” of life.  Because this fellowship teaches us an assortment of new skills, skills we either never possessed, or which we could never master, we now have an ability to deal with life in a way which previously eluded us.  I could not agree more.

Another woman whose sobriety date is close to mine, talked about how often this chapter discusses the importance of humility.  She quotes a line in the chapter:

“…humility and intellect could be compatible, provided we place humility first.  When we began to do that, we received the gift of faith, a faith which works.”

 -page 30, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

As she spoke, I had the clearest vision of getting down on my knees and asking God for help that night a little over two years ago, and asking in a way that I had never asked before.  And since that time, I have come to understand my Higher Power in a way I hadn’t before.  So for me that sentence rings true… I truly became humble, and only then did I truly receive faith.

There was some dissention with step 2; for example, one gentleman took exception with the term “insanity.”  He felt it a little extreme, but has come to accept that he need not argue every period and comma put forth in order to reap the benefits of the 12-step program.  By accepting the 12 steps as a whole, rather than nitpicking his way through the verbiage, he was able to, as he put it, “put the skid chains on his thinking, which allowed him to stop drinking, which in turn allowed him to improve all different areas of is life.”  I had never heard the 12 steps described in quite this way, and I love the idea of putting skid chains on my thinking… it sums it up perfectly for me.  It doesn’t stop the extreme thoughts, but it allows me time to process them so I don’t react as quickly as I once did.

All in all, lots of sharing, lots of different experiences, but everyone agreed on one point:  it was in acceptance of a power greater than ourselves that we found true freedom.

Today’s Miracle:

I came home from my meeting to find that, while I was gone, husband and son decided to surprise me by tackling some long overdue projects.  It really doesn’t get any better than this kind of homecoming!

A Valentine’s Story

It is February 14th, 2001.   It’s a Hump Day, and, other than the vague recollection that it is loosely considered a holiday,  a completely normal day for me.

Let me take a second to describe what a completely normal day looked like in 2001.  At this point I have been married for 15 months, a homeowner for 21 months, a mother for less than 9 months.  In other words, life moved pretty fast in those two years that preceded Valentine’s Day 2001.

Of all the decisions we made during that time, the biggest game-changer was the birth of our daughter, but not in the way you might think.  Well, yes, it certainly did change life in the way you might think, but we had some additional circumstances arise that set different chains of events in motion.  It should also go without saying that I am using the term “decision” loosely, as it would imply that we put a lot of time and effort into making whatever change we were making; the impetuosity of youth laughed in the face of any kind of future planning!

Reilly arrived 8 weeks early; we expected her in July, she decided she wanted out in the Spring instead.  So now, here we sit, brand new parents who didn’t think too far in advance what parenthood would entail, with a child that was fragile, to say the least.  She spent 3 weeks in the NICU before she came home to us, and by the grace of God came home small, but otherwise perfect.

What now?  For us, daycare was out of the question… how could we think of putting this little peanut into the hands of strangers?  On the other hand, we were young nowhere near what one might consider “financially solvent” (remember, young, recently married, recent homeowners).  So we scramble, and come up with a plan:  I will work part-time, my husband will switch to a second shift, and a family member will cover the approximately 8 hours that are uncovered.  Again, the grace of God was present that this all worked out.

So, teeny tiny daughter:  covered.  Mortgage payment:  covered.  Time spent as newlyweds?  Not so much.   Each day, my husband had the morning shift with Reilly while I rushed out to work, I came home, mid-day, he waited long enough for me to get changed, and off he went.  By the time he got home, I was in bed.  And so it continued, day in and day out.

I should add here that absolutely none of this is a complaint; in fact, far from it.  The down-side of youth:  decision-making without a lot of foresight.  The upside of life:  no real consideration that there is another option.  This was life, and life was good!

Back to the present (the present being, of course, 2001, come on, keep up!).  Usual Wednesday routine, up early, work a half day, rush in the door to get changed so my husband could get to his job on time.  I run up to our bedroom (no small feat, our bedroom was on the third floor of the townhouse).  Husband is lounging on the bed, but I am paying zero attention, I breeze by him and call over my shoulder, “Just give me two seconds to get change, and you can go.”  I do a quick change in the closet, somewhat wondering why he has not moved off the bed.  I come back into the bedroom to announce he is free to go, and I finally look at him… still lounging, and in lounge wear (which for us means sweats and t-shirts).  I am dismayed.  “What’s going on?  You’ve got to go!”

No, he does not.  While I have been only briefly considering the holiday, my husband has not.  He took the day off from work, and he had meals and entertainment all lined up for us, all I had to do was sit back and hold our unbelievably agreeable infant while he prepared things.

It was the most wonderfully relaxing, chock full of surprises, decadently leisure-filled day that we spend since our honeymoon.  We had fried pickles, which I had never even heard of before that day, let alone tried… delicious, and now every time I see them on a restaurant menu I smile.  We had a shredded pork recipe that my husband borrowed from my Mom, and, the piece de resistance?  Watching my all-time favorite movie at the time, Sixteen Candles (absolutely still in the top 5).

The element of surprise, the change-up from the regular routine, the detailed thoughtfulness, and the luxurious decadence all combined to make February 14, 2001 my favorite Valentine’s Day ever.

Today’s Miracle:

A very happy birthday to the first Valentine’s baby I’ve known… my sister!  Hope it’s a great day, sis!

Second miracle:  attempting a WordPress writing challenge!  I have been challenged by:

M(3), 2/10: Remembering Your Last Drunk

Despite yet another bout of snow (for those keeping score… yes, my school district did decide we needed a two-hour delay), we had a great turnout for the Monday meeting.  The literature for week two in the monthly rotation is Living Sober.  Having been reading/watching about the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, I chose two chapters to read:  “Remembering Your Last Drunk,” and “Staying away from the first drink.”  The discussion was lively enough with the first chapter that we never got to the second one; I couldn’t ask for anything more in terms of sharing!

The point of this chapter is simple, but critical:  it is crucial for anyone choosing recovery to keep fresh in their minds the negative feelings, circumstances, and, most important, consequences of the last episode of mind-altering ingestion that brought him or her to the conclusion that sobriety is necessary.  The authors of the book choose the words “last drunk,” rather than “last drink,” deliberately.  A “drink” connotes, for most of us, happy memories, celebration, joy.  Drunk, however, brings more realistic, and more graphic, images to mind:  erratic behavior, harsh words that we couldn’t be paid to say to another while sober, life-altering decisions we wouldn’t dream of making while not under the influence.   Most important, at least for this alcoholic/addict, “last drunk” brings to mind the vicious, hopeless, cycle that was my life while in active addiction.  The antidote is so simple, it’s almost laughable, and it’s the name of the second chapter we did not get to read this morning:  “Staying away from the first drink.”

I mentioned Philip Seymour Hoffman as the reason for selecting this chapter, because I have drawn the conclusion that he must have forgotten his last drunk, as has anyone who picks up a drink or drug after significant time in recovery.  How can this be?  How could someone forget something as critical as this?  Sadly, it is all too easy to do.   It’s just how life works:  we clean up our acts, remove the addictive substance from our lives, life gets better, and it becomes far too easy to lose the intense feeling of our need for sobriety.  The memories of how bad it was become hazy as time passes.  Life comes at you, as life does, and the overwhelming solution presented by society is to take a break from reality, cut loose.  Life coming at you can be catastrophic, or it can be celebratory, the societal solution is the same:  have a drink, kick back, relax!

When that solution is so omnipresent, and the memories of the negative consequences of addiction are so fuzzy, it is not difficult to see where someone, even someone with significant sobriety, can get off track.  And for those of us that call ourselves addicts, it is, without a doubt, a huge gamble.  From all accounts, Mr. Hoffman lost his sobriety date sometime in 2012, by 2014 he no longer has the opportunity to regain his seat in a 12-step meeting.

For the record, my last “drunk” was monumental in its mundane-ness:  I did that day what I had done almost every day for the 8 months that preceded it (the worst of my active addiction).  What’s monumental about it would impress only me.  First, I had the realization, so strong I actually said it out loud to myself:  “there is absolutely no part about this that is fun anymore.”  I had never drawn that conclusion before that day.  Second, the aftermath of my “bottom:”  husband confronting me, resulting consequences, dealing with family and friends, cement for me every second of that last drunk in a way I hope I never forget.

Because, like Mr. Hoffman, I don’t know if I will ever have the chance to reclaim my seat, so I choose not to vacate it today.

Today’s Miracle:
I am grateful that I still have my seat in my 12-step program, and that I choose to keep it.

Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows

This post needs to fall into the “better late than never” category.  It appears that, despite the complete lack of sunshine in my neck of the woods, I have been nominated for the Sunshine Blogging Award by a few bloggers near and dear to my heart.  I apologize for taking so long to acknowledge this honor, I am just behind the times, technologically speaking, and I was unsure how to proceed.  If I forget a step in this, please forgive me!

So here are the rules as I understand them:

Display the award on your blog.
Announce your win with a post and thank the blogger who nominated you.
Present 10 deserving bloggers “who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.”
Link to the awardees and let them know of the nomination.
List 10 interesting things about yourself.

I can check one and half of two off the list already, yippee!  Okay, a sincere thank you to the following marvelous bloggers who have deemed my blog to be full of sunshine:

  1. Tracy over at Wanderlust:  Tracy, still having fun with this winter?  Not sure if the most recent ice storm we received made it all the way up your way or not!
  2. Jami over at Sober Grace:  Jami, I am anxiously awaiting the meditation update!
  3. Fern over at Emotional Drinking:  Fern, I look forward to each and every post you put out!
  4. Chenoa over at Lifecorked:  Every time I read, I feel like I have another sister out there!

Here is the presentation of the 10 deserving bloggers, all of whom deserve this award way more than me!  Plus I will also ditto all the other nominees made by Tracy, Jami, Fern and Chenoa:

  1. Not This Song
  2. The Sober Journalist
  3. Trudging Through The Fire
  4. Nowine4me
  5. Time With Thea
  6. Changing Course Now
  7. The Soberist Blog
  8. FitFatFood
  9. Oh for the Love of… me
  10. Mental Rollercoaster

And, last but certainly not least, here are ten things that will have to pass as interesting about myself:

1.  I print and write cursive with the paper upside down.  Blame it on left-handedly never getting the slant correct, and catholic school perfectionism, but I had to keep turning the page until it couldn’t go any further.  Then I just got used to it, and now it’s a nice conversation starter with loads of people that I don’t wish to have conversations (“Did you know you are writing upside down?”  “Yes, yes I believe I do.”)

2.  Despite French being one of my majors in college, I missed my flight while in Paris because I could not communicate to the cab driver that I needed to go to the airport (eventually, by making airplane arm motions, he understood)

3.  I have driven back and forth across the United States three different times, on three totally different routes, with three different men.  I did wind up marrying the last one (man, that is).

4.  I have absolutely, positively, no sense of direction.

5.  When I was 18 months old I could recite the Pledge of Allegiance

6.  It drives me crazy when someone claims to “love” an artist/band but only knows their recent music

7.  I have an irrational dislike of turkeys (live ones, not the main course at Thanksgiving)

8.  There is a lackadaisical turkey farmer in the vicinity of my home that allows his animals to roam freely, and thus I frequently encounter said animals prancing around my yard.  See #7 regarding my feelings on this subject

9.  In a former life, I attended the same party as Ron Jeremy (and no, to answer the unspoken question, it was not an office party)

10.  I was a member of a bridal party nine different times (one of them as a bride)

Alright, that just about does it, Josie OUT!

Today’s Miracle:

As they say this time of year… it’s an honor just being nominated!

M(3), 2/3: Suit Up and Show Up

I will say, for the record, there is nothing I want to do less than write this post.  We have had another 8 inches of snow dumped on us, kids are off for what feels like the 1,000th day, and I barely made the trek to the building where I run my meeting to find the parking lot unplowed.  It took me and the meeting attendee I pick up over an hour of shoveling to get me back out of the parking lot.  All of this to realize that the only two maniacs that would head out in this type of weather to attend an AA meeting are the two of us!

On the other hand, honoring a commitment, even (especially) one made to myself, is a well-used  and effective tool in my sobriety toolkit, and so I shall write today.  Today’s meeting would have been a reading from the book Alcoholics Anonymous, but with only the two of us present, it turned into more of a casual topic meeting, and we discussed several:  fear, the length we go to in sobriety (as in attending this particular meeting), the length we went to in active addiction, and service.  All great topics, and all relevant to both sobriety, and life in general.

Since I could seriously use an attitude adjustment, I will also write about last week’s meeting, which I did not do because I wrote a special post for my “soberversary.”  When I left the meeting last Monday, I had this fluttery feeling in my chest, almost like I was nervous, yet I had no reason to be nervous.  So I checked in with myself, to name the feeling (a skill achieved in sobriety, I had neither the ability nor the inclination to check in with myself in active addiction), and I realized it was excited happiness.  I had a record attendance  of people last week, mostly so they could commend me on achieving two years of sobriety.  I received cards, hugs, and so much appreciation I was overwhelmed (hence the fluttery feeling, I guess).   To say it was a special meeting would be a gross understatement.

I picked a selection from the book Twenty Four Hours a Day.  This book has a thought, meditation and prayer for every day of the year, I read from January 27th, and we all shared.  The general theme of the three readings was how different we are in sobriety in terms of our honesty.  Very relatable material for this alcoholic, and for those present in the meeting!  There was one woman in attendance relatively new to sobriety, and had come to the meeting upon the advice of a mutual friend.  She was able to open up about her shame regarding her dishonesty in a way she was not able to previously, and her message was a powerful one for the whole group.  I had the privilege of speaking with her after the meeting, and sharing with her some of my experience, strength and hope, and is there a better anniversary gift than that?

Alright, deep breath, I feel better… thanks for letting me share 🙂

Today’s Miracle:

About an hour after I survived the harrowing parking lot incident, and was back home with the kids, the power went out, and I had visions of Hurricane Sandy (without power for 8 days).  The miracle is that the outage lasted less than 30 minutes (I will take any miracle on a day like this one!).

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