Monthly Archives: March 2014

M(3), 3/31: Remembering From Whence We Came

Page from a copy of  Alcoholics Anonymous

source:  today.com

 

All I can say is this:  I hope everyone is feeling better than I am this beautiful Monday morning, because I seem to have contracted the dreaded stomach bug that is flying around my part of the world.  All I can say is:  IT BETTER FLY BACK OUT OF ME IN THE NEXT THREE DAYS!!!

Alright, enough complaining.  The literature selection from today’s meeting was a story from the book Alcoholics Anonymous, entitled “He Sold Himself Short.”  Fun fact for those who regularly study the Big Book:  In the chapter “To the Family Afterwards,” there is a paragraph about a man who had some time sober, and whose wife wouldn’t stop nagging him about his smoking and coffee drinking.  To spite her he opted to drink again.  The author of “He Sold Himself Short” and the man who drank “at” his wife for nagging are one in the same!

This story is chock full of interesting and relatable facts, even though it was written 75 years ago.  He talks about the merry-go-round of years he spent alternately drinking himself into oblivion, drying himself out, and starting all over again.  I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in identifying with this part of the story.

The author of the story joined AA when it was a fledgling organization; in fact, the Big Book had not yet been written, the 12 steps were a mere 6, and the only meetings to be found were in Akron, Ohio.  As he lived in Chicago, this involved quite a bit of commuting, and amazing hospitality from his friends in the fellowship.  Reading about the lengths people went to back then to get and stay sober made every single person in the meeting this morning, myself included, very grateful for the ease and convenience we are afforded today to attend 12-step meetings.  I believe I could find a meeting on the hour, every hour, of every day, if I needed one, and I have pioneers like the author of this story to thank for that.

He writes about his initial resistance to the idea of joining this motley crew of sober men:

“…and besides, I reasoned, they were much worse off than I would ever be… So I told Dad that I would lick it on my own, that I would drink nothing for a month and after that only beer.”

-Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 260

Check, check, check, to this rationale.  For years I was certain, as certain as the sun coming up each day, that the people in the rooms of any 12-step fellowship were “way worse off” than I would ever be.  And that thinking kept me in active addiction for years longer than I needed to be.  But that small but profound shift in thinking, from “I am not like them” to “what do we have in common,” opened up my mind in ways I never thought possible, and I am still learning something new every day!

Here is my favorite paragraph from the story:

This latest part of my life has had a purpose, not in great things accomplished but in daily living.  Courage to face each day has replaced the fears and uncertainties of earlier years.  Acceptance of things as they are has replaced the old impatient champing at the bit to conquer the world.  I have stopped tilting at windmills and, instead, have tried to accomplish the little daily tasks, unimportant in themselves, but tasks that are an integral part of living fully. 

-Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 266

That paragraph, written so many decades ago by a man whose life and history bear such little resemblance to my own, sums up perfectly how I feel about my life in recovery.

Today’s Miracle:

The long-awaited, much talked about trip is in three days!  I hope everyone has a spectacular week, and I will write again when I return!

 

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The Numbers Game

This is the next progress report in my 6-Weeks-Until-I-Am-On-A-Tropical-Vacation-So-Let’s-See-What-Physical-Improvements-I-Can-Make Challenge (should I trademark that winning title?).  For a recap, read Honesty, Hypocrisy & Me and Progress Report.

So the progress is pretty much 110% good.  When I started, I made a commitment, both to myself and to the blogosphere, to complete some simple, daily activities, all designed to eradicate the four worst food items in my life.  To date, those foods have been banished, but, like so many recovery-like activities, my progress has far surpassed the initial goals.  Over the course of the past 5 weeks, I have not only abstained from those foods which I compulsively eat, but I have also managed to acquire a daily eating routine that is about a million times healthier than my diet 7 weeks ago.  So by any standard I have far exceeded my goal, in terms of eating.

One of the simple daily tasks has been to re-incorporate a small amount of physical activity, which again has been a great success, and again has far exceeded my initial expectations.  I have been able to increase, either by time or intensity, each week since I began.

Mentally it has been a bit of a roller coaster.  Weeks one and two were a breeze, and I was given an almost daily reassurance from my scale… getting on the scale was in fact fun!  Of course, every party has its end, and week three was a complete meltdown.  I had eaten better and exercised harder than the first two weeks, yet still managed to gain a pound.  Despite all logic and common sense, which would tell a sane person, “then just stop getting on the scale,” I actually upped my visits to my bathroom, sometimes weighing myself as much as 3 times in a day.  You would think I’ve never been on a diet before!  The absolute miracle of it all is that I persevered… in my entire life, I have never had that kind of negative feedback and continued on a diet.  It worked itself out by the end of week four, but I’m still trying to understand and correct my mental process on the scale obsession.  I have managed to eliminate the behavior of actually stepping on the scale, but the idea of what the numbers may be is never very far from my thoughts, and I am trying to figure that one out.

And then there’s other numbers… I find myself mentally calculating and re-calculating my daily caloric intake, and comparing it to the day before.  The idea is almost laughable… I am the least qualified to judge some of the things I am assigning numbers to, and yet I can’t seem to stop myself.

And then, the biggest numbers game of all… the treadmill.  I am obsessively checking the miles I am completing, mentally calculating how much it will be at the end, comparing it to the times in the past, and striving to beat each time.  Now, for sure, some of this is to the good:  I am getting faster almost every time I am on the treadmill.  But I know, I know, that this kind of obsessing is fundamentally wrong, but I can’t seem to overcome it.  Sure, I could cover up the panel, but I’m pretty sure I would have to spray paint it black or figure out a way to run backwards for me to avoid peeking.

So, the good news:  I am down 15 pounds, have lost 4 inches from my waist (the only part I measured, I am an apple shape and my mid-section is the area I most desire to decrease), and my treadmill workout is back to when I was at my peak last summer.  My diet is the healthiest, by a significant amount, in a solid 5 years, maybe even longer.  Water consumption up, Diet Pepsi consumption down.  My clothes feel looser, and I feel a great sense of accomplishment.  All super exciting stuff.

The not-so-good news:  I am a work-in-progress in the mental game of dieting.  The idea of moderation and balance, in terms of time spent thinking about diet and exercise, is completely foreign.  I need a better perspective in how I am spending my mental energy as it relates to this issue.  And, truthfully, I’m not really sure how to achieve this particular goal.  As, shockingly enough, moderation in anything has not been my strong suit.

Is this problem sounding familiar to anyone?  Am I alone in the numbers obsession?  Any words of advice on how to get a grip?

Today’s Miracle:

Perseverance in this challenge is a miracle.  Seriously, a miracle.

M(3), 3/24: What is the Magic Number for 12-Step Meetings?

And a happy Monday to everyone!  I’m tending to a sick child this afternoon, so this one’s going to be short and sweet.

For today’s meeting I selected an article from the AA Grapevine, The International Journal of Alcoholics Anonymous.  The magazine I used was from 2004, but the topic is as relevant today as it was ten years ago.  The author discussed the struggle he had with determining the appropriate number of 12-step meetings he needs to attend in order to maintain his sobriety.

Within the meeting this morning, there are members who attend 3-4 meetings every single day, and there are members who attend only two per week; both “sides” are sober, happy, productive human beings.  So what is the magic number?

For me, earliest sobriety demanded that I attend a meeting every single day.  Daily meetings created structure and routine, compelled me to get to know people personally, showed me how “the winners” were achieving sobriety, and gave me an outlet when my days were not going well.  I committed to this routine for a year; the more common recommendation within my fellowship is to complete a “90 in 90” when you are first getting sober; in other words, attend 90 meetings in 90 days.

As sobriety becomes a more natural way of life, and the urge to drink has been lifted, most of us face the question:  how many meetings do you need?  In my second year of sobriety, I slowly eased back on meeting attendance, and started intentionally choosing the ones from which I derived the most benefits.  In this, my third year, I have three each week to which I am committed:  the one I run, one where I serve as secretary, and one that serves almost as a study group, to keep the principles of the program fresh in my mind.  Of course, there are weeks that I miss one, and there are weeks when I am able to pop in on other meetings, but I have found keeping a commitment to three works for me today.

Another attendee this morning shared something very interesting.  She has more than 25 years of sobriety, and she attends the same number of weekly meetings currently as she did when she first got sober:  4.  She realized, for the first time this morning, that 4 was the exact number of days she drank in active addiction.  Interesting stuff!  She views her meeting attendance as medicine, and when she is not able to get to four meetings, she feels the change within, all those “isms” start floating back to the surface.  She remains grateful that she has a medicine that is so available, so economical (read:  free), and so effective in fixing what ails her!

Another gentleman said he once involved himself in the great AA debate:  which is more important, meeting attendance, or working the 12 steps of recovery?  For him, they are equally important.  Without regular meeting attendance, he does not get to witness the value and the effectiveness of working the steps, and therefore feels unmotivated to work them in his own life.  He views alcoholism as the disease that seeks to convince the afflicted that they have no disease, and he needs the meetings to keep fresh in his mind what got him sober in the first place.

At the end of the meeting, we concluded that there is no universal magic number, it is an entirely individual decision.  However, it is important for each individual to consciously make that choice, take time to decide what level of commitment works best in maintaining individual sobriety.  As with most things, being intentional about your sobriety will determine peace and serenity.  And speaking of peace and serenity, time to head upstairs and see if I can impart some to a sick child!

 

Today’s Miracle:

Gratitude that I can serve in my role as a Mom today!

 

Happy 2nd Birthday: An Open Letter to My Blog

Blog

Artistic Concept and Photography courtesy of my brilliant daughter (hand modelling courtesy of my son)!

Dear Blog,

You are two years old today, and so I wanted to let you know how much you have meant to my life since you have entered it.

I did not think out nor did I prepare much for your birth.  It was suggested to me that you would be a valuable addition to my life, and to the lives of those around me, and so I more or less thought, “Why not give this a shot?”

And that about sums up my preparation for you in my life.

Like any addition to a family, you quickly and firmly took root.  At first, you flailed and cried and didn’t know much of what you were doing, but time and patience helped to calm and soothe you.  I had very little expectations of you; consequently, when even the smallest of things happened, I felt like we achieved a huge milestone.  I remember your first LIKE as if it was yesterday.  I did not even understand what the foreign Gravatar at the bottom of the post was, I had to call my husband over to help me understand.  But when I did, I was overwhelmed with happiness.

Soon after I realized that with this knowledge comes more responsibility.  Wait, other people might actually be reading you!  And that small shift in perspective… write something that helps you, but also may help another, brought about an enormous growth spurt for you.  The realization that the events in life that affect me might actually be affecting someone else out there gave me a feeling of connectedness like I have never experienced before.

Soon after that first LIKE was the first COMMENT.  Oh my, now we are entering a brave new world, indeed… people in the world are not only reading, not only appreciating, but taking their precious time to give back to us!  It is hard to describe the joy that is found in reading comments.  The gratitude of acknowledgement, the wisdom received, and again the feeling that I am not alone in my joy or my struggles.

Some posts, like Betty White is a Trigger or Roar, helped me to work through issues.  Some posts, like A Series of Bottoms, Chapter 1-Epilogue, and Lather, Rinse, Repeat:  The Shame Cycle, helped me to purge my mind and my heart of negative feelings to which I was holding on.  Some posts, like The Dreaded Topic or I’ve Talked the Talk, Now I’ve Walked the Walk, helped me set goals and kept me accountable to them.  Some of the seemingly sillier posts, like The End of the People Magazine Era… Or is It, helped me realize that no matter how crazy my thoughts or actions are, there is someone who will relate.

And then, the most unexpected miracle of all, blog:  the readers become FRIENDS.  We connect with each other, not just within the blogosphere, but outside of it as well.  Emails, phone calls, in-person visits.  In a thousand years, I would have never guessed the blessings of true friendships that have evolved out of the simple, almost thoughtless decision to bring you into this world.

You have given me the opportunity to take chances, to challenge myself, to hold myself accountable to goals, to admit shortcomings, to publicize victories.  You have given me a confidence in myself that I have heretofore not experienced.  You have given me the flashlight to shine on my deepest darkest thoughts, and, in shining that light, have dispelled them.

The happiest of birthdays, blog, and endless gratitude for all the joy you have brought to my life.  I hope we have many years of happiness to come.

Today’s Miracle:

Celebrating the anniversary of joining a world that has brought me countless blessings.  Thanks to all of you!

M(3), 3/17: Let Go and Let God

Top  o’ the mornin’ to ya!  On this fine St. Paddy’s Day, we tackled Step 3 at our Monday morning meeting.  Step 3 reads:

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him

Of all the 12 steps, this is my personal favorite, and the one that I need to revisit every day, many times a day, to have the best possible chance of peace and serenity.    I think it is also a personal favorite because it is one I struggled with understanding for a long time.  Sure, “turning it over” to a higher power sounds like a great, lofty ideal, but it made zero sense to me in any practical manner.  What does it mean to turn my life over?  Do I lay in bed each morning and wait for God to lift me out and carry me down the stairs?  Where does my role begin in my own life if I am turning everything over to Him?

My breakthrough moment for this step came when someone explained it to me this way:  imagine my life as a bus, I am the driver, God is the copilot.  As I “drive” throughout the day, I should check in with the co-pilot to make sure I am heading in the right direction.  For whatever reason, this analogy made sense to me, and I could make my start with Step 3.

The more I check in with my co-pilot, the smoother my ride tends to be.  Of course, when I decide that I know where I am going and need no direction other than my own… well, you can guess what crazy directions I head towards on those days!  The beautiful thing:  He is a patient co-pilot, and He will get me back on track the instant I remember to check back in.

Another meeting attendee described his practice of Step 3 in this way:  make the decision that you will begin to align your life with God’s intention for you.  Then get up and do what’s in front of you.  Inherent in this thought process is the belief, the faith, that God will show you what He wants you to do next.

This practice of attempting to live life as God intends for you to live is a process, and more is revealed the more you attempt to integrate it.  In the earliest stages of recovery, all I knew of God’s will for me was what NOT to do… do not ingest a mind-altering substance.  As the days went by, as I attempted to incorporate the 12 steps of recovery into every day life, I could see that God has much bigger ideas for me than just refrain from chemically altering myself.  The more I let those intentions in, and the more I acted upon those intentions, the easier it became to stay sober.  And the circle spiralled upwards.

Of course, there are days when I ignore that gut feeling:  I should take a deep breath and pause before reacting in anger, I should show empathy to another rather than judgment, I should get up out of my chair and do something productive, but my human nature wins the battle and I lose my patience, I condemn loved ones, and I revel in a bag of chips and reality television.  I am, after all, human.  But those actions stop that upward spiral, and the subsequent negative feelings that result disrupt all towards which I am working:  peace and serenity.

The beauty of this step is that all I need to do is stop the current direction, and make the decision to turn my life back over to Him.  That’s it!  Simple and practical, but with results that are nothing short of miraculous!

Today’s Miracle:

Sorry, but I have to say it… another potential snowstorm was predicted for last night, so the miracle is that we did not have a two-hour delay in our school district.  The next miracle will be the week that goes by that I don’t have to speak of snow!

Staying Sober After Two Years

It’s been a while since I’ve written on the topic “How Do I Personally Stay Sober.”  I question, as I’m sure most sober bloggers have at one point or another, if there is an end point for a blog that started as a journal on what life looks like as you get sober.  Because, after a while, THANK GOD, life gets pretty mainstream.  So then what?  Does the blog change direction, and head off into a non-recovery sphere?  Does the blog start rehashing?  Or does the blog meander off into retirement?

I don’t have the answers to those deep, soul-searching questions, but I do know this:  recovery does not have a graduation date.  There is no point in time where I cross a finish line, wipe my brow, and say “great job on that sobriety thing” to myself.  I need to hone and improve the exercise “muscles” I’ve been developing for the past two years, and I need to do it for the rest of my life.

Having said that, day-to-day life in my third year of recovery looks very different from day-to-day life in my second year, which looked very, VERY different from life in my first few months of recovery, so I thought I’d write about what I’ve held on to, what I’ve let go of, and what I’ve modified within the last two years of recovery.

Year One

  • Four things, every day:  pray, go to a meeting, talk to another in recovery, not ingest a mind-altering substance
  • Started a blog, and wrote at least 5 days a week, which helped to clear my head, and helped connect me with still others in recovery
  • Found a sponsor who took me through the 12 steps of recovery

Year Two

  • Two out of the four daily activities done daily (praying and not ingesting mind-altering substances); meetings attended, but not daily, speaking to others, but not daily
  • Blog posting went down from 5 days a week to 4, then 3 days per week
  • Made myself available to sponsor people within the 12-step program

I will not be so presumptuous as to put bullet points for year three, as I am not even two months into it, but I can say that I am currently in a state that has me at my most serene about my sobriety thus far in the journey.  That is not to say that I will not get up from this computer and be hit with something that challenges me, but what has me feeling peaceful, feeling confident, is the awareness that sobriety is my first priority.  And it is in that internal commitment that I find the confidence to say I will go to bed sober tonight.

I used to worry that my decline in meeting attendance from year one to present day is a slow descent back into addiction.   Or that when I do attend a meeting, and someone talks about doing the 4th step inventory for the third time, I worry that I am not as committed to sobriety as I should be.  What’s nice is that I have an answer, a response to those negative thoughts, that calms me in an instant.  Wait, let me go a step further back:  what’s nice is that I have those concerns at all!  The fact that I’m doing mental pulse checks is leaps and bounds more advanced than my previous, let-things-happen-and-then-react-to-them-emotionally-and-inappropriately, way of dealing with life that I once employed.

So what do I do, day to day, that has me confident in my sobriety?  For sure, the one thing I have maintained and developed is my relationship with a Higher Power.  Call it a habit, call it superstitious, but my day does not feel like it has started right unless I get down on my knees and thank Him for all the past sober days, and ask Him for another one.   That connection has deepened over time, and I hope that I will continue to develop the connection, because the rewards have extended far beyond sobriety.

While I don’t attend meetings as regularly as I once had, I do have commitments to my 12-step program that keep me accountable, and keep me connected.  I would imagine that there is an ebb and flow to meeting attendance, as life circumstances change, but I feel no doubt that I am as invested as I need to be right now to be comfortable with my recovery.  A gentleman once wisely said to me “if you stay in the middle you won’t fall off the edge,” and for some reason that stays with me, and I work to keep myself in the middle of my 12-step Fellowship.

Possibly the most important thing I do, on a regular basis, is self-evaluate, and do the very best I can to keep myself in balance emotionally.  Whereas once I would have been completely without the skills to identify what I was feeling at any given moment, I now have self-awareness.  I can now put a name to the feeling I am experiencing in any given moment.  And if I find myself leaning too far in any direction, I work to bring myself back to center.  Whether that work is getting to a meeting, talking to someone about what’s on my mind, or just shooting up a quick prayer, I make dealing with my feelings a priority.

What I do know is that I’m in recovery from a progressive, fatal disease.  What I don’t know is what could trip me up, and have me thinking it is okay to pick up a drink or drug.  So I treat things as if they could be potential dangers, and I ask myself, “Can you stay sober?” for anything that has me out of balance.

Today’s Miracle:

When I reflect on my journey of recovery, I am overwhelmed by the miracle of consecutive years of sobriety (even if it is just 2!)… beyond my wildest dreams!

M(3), 3/10: If the Grass Looks Greener on the Other Side, Water Your Own Grass

A happy and healthy Monday to all!  The literature for today’s meeting was from the book Living Sober, and I selected the reading based upon a great meeting I attended last week.  The topic centers around anger and resentments, emotions that can be disastrous to alcoholics and addicts if left unchecked.  In the 12-step program to which I call myself a member, resentments are “the number one offender” of alcoholics.  If we do not learn how to properly manage our anger, it can and will lead us back to our drug of choice.

When I read this chapter at a meeting last week, a gentleman shared his remedy for dealing with anger, and he used the saying in my title.  At the time he said it, I was actively dealing with a resentment of my own, and I dismissed the thought as irrelevant to my own problems.  Because, you know, my anger is justified… you all can water your own grass!

But throughout the weekend, the saying stuck with me, and I had some follow-up conversations about my issue, which subsequently caused me to revisit the chapter for today’s meeting.  In my heart I knew I had not “gotten” what I was supposed to “get.”  Yes, I am bothered by the different actions/behaviors/ways of thinking that others exhibit, and I may even have a decent leg to stand on in terms of my own anger.  BUT… is my side of the street really, totally and completely clean?  In this particular case it is not, and until I clean it up, then I need to let it go.  Once I was able to untwist my thinking in this way, I felt immediate relief!

Some other wonderful gems from today’s meeting.   One gentleman shared that what he loves best about our 12-step program is the renewable power found within it.  We are given the tools to recover from addiction, and then to live a life beyond our wildest dreams.  And on any given day we can use the tools to the best of our ability, ignore them entirely, or somewhere in the middle, and our serenity will respond accordingly.  But the best news of all:  no matter how far we stray, no matter how rusty those skills get from misuse, we only have to apply some willingness to using them again, and the power comes back, in an instant.

Another gentleman shared that when he gets angry, he applies a 3-step program to the problem:

1.  He prays to have the anger removed

2.  He speaks to one person, and only one person, about the source of his anger.  Talking to more than one person will simply magnify the problem

3.  He does whatever he can, in that moment, to be of service to another person.  Even if it means something as simple as holding the door for another, he does it consciously to get out of his own head

He says it never fails, and it makes perfect sense to me.  I am definitely going to give this one a try!

Finally, the best source of wisdom came from a friend of mine who arrived late.  I put her on the spot to share (everyone else had already spoken).  I try never to force anyone to speak, but I am so glad I did today.  She said that anger and resentment were a big challenge for her in early sobriety, because she used those emotions like a protective shield to keep her “safe” from the world.  After a few years, and a serious personal inventory, she was able to acknowledge that she was grateful for those coping mechanisms, for they helped her through many a tough time.  But now, as a sober woman, they no longer serve her, so she could let them go.  I love this thought, because I have a few defects that continue to pop up, and I think it’s time to look at them honestly, and decide once and for all that as a sober woman, they are no longer serving me!

I guess that’s the highlights for today, hopefully there’s something new for you to apply to your life!

Today’s Miracle:

The grass is most definitely greener in my part of the world, on my side and everywhere else, and I will get to see it for an additional hour tonight!  Daylight Savings Time is my favorite time of the year!

Those Magic Words

I’ve never reblogged another’s post before. Recently I thought I should do that on a post that was particularly momentous to me. I’ve waited until today to share with you, my readers, this post. The writer of the blog, Sober Identity, has become a source of strength, inspiration and friendship to me in my recovery. I am moved by her words and motivated by the wisdom of her recovery. This is Lisa. I hope you enjoy her post. I encourage you to follow her story of hope and her life in recovery. Congratulations on 10 years of sobriety my friend!

Progress Report

Two weeks ago I wrote a rather despondent post bemoaning my relationship with food.  As always, shining the light on my fears and troubles diminishes them.  The comments I received turned my negativity around almost instantaneously, and the support from my “in person” friends was the icing on the cake (the cake, of course, being gluten-free, sugar-free, and calorie-free).   I came to find out, once again, that I am indeed not alone in my troubling thoughts, and that, sharing the load truly lessens the burden.

One friend and I, who both have a trip booked for roughly the same time frame, have concocted a plan:  let’s grab some of the most effective tools from the recovery toolbox with which I have been blessed, and put them to work in constructing a healthier lifestyle.  Here’s what we’ve come up with so far:

Goal:  Take the next six weeks, and make small, incremental changes to our current diet and fitness lifestyle, and see if we can’t feel and look better in time for our trips.

Okay, so there’s the big picture goal, how will the next 6 weeks play out?  One of the biggest “tricks” to my success in recovery, especially in the early days, was that I had a to-do list of four things, and only four things, that I needed to accomplish in any given day, and if I went to bed having accomplished them, the day was a success.  I’ve written about this ad nauseam, no need to revisit the specifics.  So what I hope to do is use the same blueprint for improving my health.  I took a long, hard look (cringing A LOT) at all my bad habits, and I concluded that, to start, I could commit to 4 things each and every day, and I was (am) hopeful that in time, I can add/modify/eliminate as needed to continue on a positive path.  But for now, forget everything else, and commit to the following:

1.  Eliminate the 4 worst foods in my current diet that lead to binge eating (again using the number because it worked so effectively in the past for me)

2.  Commit to replacement foods that are healthier than existing foods

3.  20 minutes of dedicated physical activity

4.  Communication/progress reports each evening (She has her own four, and reciprocates with her own progress reports)

That is it.  Here’s what I am NOT going to do:  beat myself up over anything else that I do or don’t do during a given day… if I go to bed having accomplished those four things, that day is a success.

Saturday, February 22nd was our start date; today is March 6, roughly 2 weeks in.  How is it going?

Week one had its emotional ups and downs, but I successfully completed the week as laid out above.  Each day I would wake up, absolutely convinced that I would not, could not, make it through the day without giving in to one temptation or another (sound familiar, friends in recovery?).  Each night that I made it through, the exhilaration was palpable.

A surprising tool from recovery came in very handy during the first week.  Each time I refrained from eating something, or chose something healthy, a pessimistic voice in my head would taunt me, “Big deal… you made it through this one, tiny hurdle?  Do you REALLY think you are going to spend THE REST OF YOUR LIFE doing this?”

Here’s the surprise answer I had at the ready, and it comes directly from all the lessons learned through recovery:  “Who cares about the rest of your life?  Can you make it through the rest of this day?”

And would you believe that response was as calming, as soothing, and as positive, as when I used it in the early days of sobriety?  So that was a really fun bonus.  And the voice has since quieted down, it’s almost inaudible!

Other positives:  the exercise thing, having committed to it effectively about 6 months ago but have since lapsed, was like riding a bike, in that making it a part of my daily life became routine fairly quickly.  Without getting too far ahead of myself, I do find myself pushing myself a bit further, here and there, and I suspect that as time goes on I will continue to do so.

The regular “checking in” process has loads of benefits, the main one being accountability.  There were several days that I turned away from one bad choice or another for the simple reason that I did not want to report I ate it.

Another huge milestone for me:  sharing about the foods that tempt me.  In the past, I would have been as secretive about this information as I was with every part of my active addiction.  I attach shame to eating certain foods, and thus do it privately, and fail to disclose it to anyone.  In order to have this communication with my friend be meaningful, I had to get real about the temptations in my life.  Unsurprisingly, my revelations did not raise an eyebrow, and since that time I’ve opened up with more people about it, getting similar results.

I did not recognize this shift until a few days ago.  I am a Catholic, and Lent is currently underway.  In preparation for this religious event, I was contemplating what I would sacrifice, and decided that it would be one of the foods on my list above… Lent would simply give me a few added weeks of abstinence.  However, tradition would have it that on “Fat Tuesday,” you celebrate with one last hoorah, and so I made the decision that I would break one of my four commitments.  I communicated this to my friend, in advance, explaining what I was going to do, and how I intend to not let it derail me permanently (as has so often happened in the past).  I finished explaining it in email, and when I sat back to review, I realized what an amazing accomplishment that was for me… that kind of unreserved honesty, as far as eating habits are concerned, is a first for me, and it felt really good to see the progress as it’s happening.

Last but not least, I am experiencing tangible results:  my clothes feel a tad looser, the numbers on the scale are down, 10 pounds the first week!  I am actually going to talk a little more about that, but it will have to wait for another post, since this one is running too long as it is!  Finally, my mood overall is more positive and optimistic.

All great stuff, and I will post again in two weeks on this subject and let you know where I’m at!

Today’s Miracle:

Having good news of any kind to report is a miracle!

M(3), 3/3: Identifying Vs. Comparing

So here we are, another Monday, another morning of scrambling around due to weather.  I will not beat the dead horse (that I have already beaten, resurrected, and beaten to death again) that I am tired of this winter.

That being said, certain meteorological conditions forced me to find a replacement for myself as the meeting chair, and arrive late to the meeting.  All in all, though, it is fun to mix it up and sit on the other side of the desk and just be an attendant at the meeting.  We had an excellent turnout, and, as it is the first week of the month, I instructed the chair to select a reading from the book Alcoholics Anonymous.  He selected a story, which I hurriedly read as people were sharing, so I was not able to glean all the usual pearls of wisdom from my Monday Morning Comrades.  I will however, share what I gleaned from it.

The story, for anyone who wishes to read along, is entitled “A Drunk, Like You,” and tells the story of a man who was more or less pulled along the road of recovery.  A researcher by trade, he needed to learn all of the lessons he had been taught in the 12-step rooms for himself before he could commit to the principles.

The story is an interesting read, full of relatable emotions, at least for this alcoholic.  One of the concepts to which I most profoundly related was identifying with people, rather than comparing yourself to them.  He writes:

They (fellow 12-step members) said I needed to identify, not compare.  I didn’t know what they meant.  What was the difference?  Identifying, they said, was trying to see how I was like the people I was with.  Comparing, they told me, was looking for differences, usually seeing how I was better than others.

-Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 405

I never ascribed words to those mindsets before, but boy oh boy can I relate to the feelings behind them!   The feelings I had at my first 12-step meetings are crystal clear for me:

I.  Am.  Not.  Like.  These.  People.

Not an uncommon first thought, I’ve heard legions of people say the same.  But I spent many a meeting doing exactly what “they” are instructing the author not to do:  I kept a checklist of all the ways I was different, all the bottoms to which I had not sunk, all of the atrocities I had not committed.  Here’s what happens to people like me:  as time goes by, as addiction progresses, all of the things that kept my head held high became true.

Finally, when I did not feel I had an option other than recovery, was I able to sit and listen, this time with the mindset of getting for myself the serenity that they seem to have.  And what a miracle that is… listening for similarities, rather than differences!  Suddenly I was hearing people speak, and they were feeling what I was feeling!  And, better still, they had a solution!

What’s great about this process is how it seeps into all areas of my life.  Now, when I am feeling like I have the worst problem in the world, I have only to open my mouth (or, in this case, move my fingers across a keyboard).  Not only will I feel better for having opened up about a problem, I will feel comfort in knowing I am not alone, and, best of all, I will have the privilege of hearing how others have solved the problem.  It is, quite simply, the gift that keeps on giving!

Today’s Miracle:

Today’s miracle is that I get to call myself the friend of a celebrity.  Please do yourself a favor and give this podcast a listen.  It is called The Bubble Hour, and my amazing friend Kristen from Bye-ByeBeer is one of the illustrious guests!

http://www.thebubblehour.com/

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