Monthly Archives: June 2014

M(3), 6/30: The Highs and Lows of Running a Meeting

Can you seriously believe it’s the last day of June?!?  It’s seems like only yesterday that I was complaining non-stop about winter, and now the 4th of July is right around the corner (which, for people outside of the US, probably seems like a terribly random day, but  it’s actually our Independence Day!).

Today’s meeting was a roller coaster of excitement, at least for it was for the chairperson (aka, Me).  Let’s start with the positives:

1. Another record-breaking week:  17 attendees!  The room is actually getting crowded!

2.  Two separate compliments about the value of this particular meeting in their lives.  Very heart-warming, and humbling too, that something for which I am responsible makes a difference in someone else’s life.  Powerful stuff.

3.  The months that house 5 Mondays within them are becoming quite challenging for me, as it requires extra work to research reading selections.  About 30 minutes before the meeting I realized that the selection I prepared for the group was quite brief, and I was concerned that we would run short of materials to discuss.  Not only did that not happen due to a large attendance, but the reading really struck a chord with this audience.  For anyone with a subscription to the AA magazine Grapevine, the article is entitled “Drunk In Church” and can be found in the April 2014 issue.  I picked the article both for its provocative title, and, tongue in cheek, for the regular attendee in my group who also happens to be a Catholic priest (which I told him, and he enjoyed).  The discussion that followed, however, seemed to pick up on the theme of the very common dual diagnosis of depression and alcoholism.  As someone who does not suffer from depression, it was eye-opening for me to hear about the challenges experienced by those afflicted with both conditions.  To take or not to take medicine, judgment from the fellowship either way, and struggling to use the tools to deal with both the disease of addiction and the disorder of depression.  There was a wide variety of personal experience, research, and opinion in the meeting, and I really took away a lot of wisdom.  I would like to think the group enjoyed this discussion as well.

Alright, here’s the downside of today’s meeting, I’m not going to number this portion, as it falls into one general story.  For those who do not follow regularly, last week I wrote that a newcomer approached me and asked me to be her sponsor.  If you do remember this, you might also have notice the careful way I worded it, because I was not completely convinced her intentions were pure.  On the other hand, who I am to judge, so I said of course, and gave her some basic instructions to follow about where and when we would meet next to move forward.  For the rest of the week, I received some communication from her that indicated she might not have fully understood our discussion.  For example, she wanted me to “give her a website where she could order some step work online and get started herself.”  To those unfamiliar with the 12-step process, this is the polar opposite of how the steps work, at least the opposite in my 12-step fellowship.  Again, fighting the urge to judge, I simply responded that we should wait until the agreed upon time, at which point I will have everything we need to get started.

She cancelled our meeting, and did not reply to the subsequent communication, my last one being, “Will I see you Monday?”  By the time I started the meeting this morning, I assumed that I may not hear from her again, not uncommon at all within my Fellowship, and the meeting continued.  Until about 25 minutes in, when she dramatically entered the meeting.

Let me take a pause in the story to describe dramatic:  attention-grabbing outfit, loud entrance into the room, and, I kid you not, tried 3 different seats before she found one she liked.  All in the middle of an ongoing meeting… “Oh, brother,” I think, “I’m in for an interesting second half!”

So now my chairperson sensors are on high alert, because I suspect I am going to need to intervene, something I have written before is not comfortable for me to do.  All’s well for the next 5 minutes until break.  During  the break, I hear her emotionally speaking to the person next to her, and I hear the person next to her direct her to me.  She approaches, and I am not clear on if she remembered that I am the one she asked to sponsor her or not, but launches into a personal story for which she needs advice.  This is about 4 minutes into a 5-minute break.

Lest I sound heartless and/or insensitive, I have true empathy for the distress this woman seems to be experiencing, and I mean it when I say I have prayed for her every day since I’ve met her. On the other hand, I am struggling with being compassionate to her, and being compassionate to the other attendees of this meeting.  So I apologize for interrupting (quite the feat, as she is speaking, not two inches from my face, in a rapid-fire manner, she is what Seinfeld has labeled a “close talker”), but I need to resume the meeting, let’s talk afterwards.  She goes on for a bit more, but sits down quickly enough, and the meeting continues.

And then it’s her turn to share, and I am once again torn between letting her get out her emotions, and being fair to the rest of the group.    If  you have never attended a 12-step meeting, this story may make little sense; for those who are familiar, she is the type to take the meeting hostage.  At least I had the foresight to check the clock as she started speaking, and I would have cut her off at 5 minutes, she spared me by finishing just shy of 5 minutes.

Here’s where it gets interesting: the main concern she shared was her family’s inability to accept her new sober self, and how much this disturbs her.  Now, she is very new to recovery by her own admission (last Monday she told us she celebrated 75 days; today she said she “ninety-some” days sober), so I assume no one knows her personally, and certainly none of us knows her family.  My thought process would be to guide her to looking more at herself and her actions, and less on her family’s.  However, the next person to share seemed to hold a very different opinion, and spoke of how it can be difficult for the family to adjust to someone’s sobriety, and the resulting chaos that comes as a result.  By the way the newcomer was vigorously nodding, I could see she enjoyed the support she was getting, and attempted to have a conversation on this subject, which I was able to deflect by calling on the next person to share.  Not surprisingly, at the meeting’s close, the newcomer opted to speak with the supportive attendee rather than continue her conversation with me.

From my end of things, this woman, and how to proceed next, is a “let go and let God” situation.  I would not have been giving the advice I clearly overheard the other woman giving; then again, who’s to say I know what’s right and what’s wrong? I am available if the woman needs me, at the moment she does not appear to have that need, and I will be available if that changes.  As far as the balance between meeting the needs of the newcomer and the needs of the remaining attendees, I am hopeful that I kept a decent balance, but I suppose I will always wonder and second-guess myself.   I guess if no one shows up next week, I’ll have my answer!

Today’s Miracle: 

Having the privilege of getting up from writing this post, and making a pound cake for my Mother’s 74th birthday (found a recipe online that says it’s Elvis Presley’s favorite pound cake recipe, I’ll let you know how it turns out).  Happy birthday Mom,  I wouldn’t be the person I am without you 🙂

 

The All or Nothing Lifestyle, Examined

Finally, after much procrastination, I follow up on my previous post, The All or Nothing Lifestyle, Defined.  Hit that link if you need some backdrop!

 

So where last we left off I was to go quietly to the top of a mountain and meditate on what perceived benefits I gain from living my life with no balance.  Did not quite get to the mountain, as end-of-school-year events abounded, but dammit, I made a commitment to follow through on this, so I’m following through!  I just re-read back through that post myself, and methinks I need the aid of a therapist to truly work through some of these issues, but what the hell, here we go.  In no particular order, here are some thoughts on why I continue to live the all-or-nothing lifestyle:

1.  The first thought that jumped into my mind as I considered the gains of the all-or-nothing lifestyle is the exhilaration I feel when I am in my “all” state.  Easiest example of this is diet and exercise, and I’m sure everyone can relate to that feeling, when you just had a banner day:  ate healthfully, avoided temptation, and managed a strenuous workout.  It’s such an intense feeling of pride, and it definitely falls into the “plus” column of my current behavior.

 

2.  The next thought that came almost as quickly to my mind is, for the most part, this mindset allows me to set low expectations for myself, and by low expectations I mean almost no expectations.  Prime example of this concept relates, once again, back to fitness, and this is the God’s honest truth:  every time I fall off the fitness wagon, the thought that motivates me the most in getting back on is the idea that I only have to do a little each day.  If that is seriously motivating, then its no wonder why I habitually fall off the fitness wagon:  I get to the point where exercise takes real time and real effort, so all I have to do is give up, then I can start over at square one. This thought process may make sense to no one in this universe but me, and it’s actually embarrassing to admit, but it’s true, and it’s been a perpetual cycle for me for as long as I can remember.

As I consider it, this mindset is not exclusive to the fitness arena.  If I have been criticized for the way I perform a task, my default is “then you do it.”  Obviously there is some pride thrown in there, but really, isn’t just the all or nothing thinking at work?  If I can’t do a job the best, then I’ll leave it for someone else to do.  The gain in this case is, well, not having to do whatever task it is!  I have been mocked often (and rightfully so) for my lack of navigational sense (I truly don’t know how I left the house before the GPS was invented).  As a result, I make zero effort to cultivate this skill.  If I am with someone who knows better (and, at this point, a 3-year old toddler would count as one who knows better), I leave all directional decisions up to him or her.

 

3.  Maybe this point should be first, and God knows I have no concrete evidence of this, but this behavior seems ingrained.  There have been numerous tales of my excitable personality from my youth (I was about 6 years old when I was asked to put my tongue on the table so that it would stop talking, and I did it ) that lead me to conclude I have been an “all in” person forever, so it would follow that the benefit to the current behavior is that it is easy, it is what I’m used to doing, and it’s easier to go with the existing groove in the wood than to make a new groove.

 

4.  There is certainly an ego component to this behavior.  If I’m in the “all” state, then I’m full of pride (see point #1).  If I’m in the “nothing” state, then it’s ego in reverse:  if I can’t play my way, then I’m picking up my ball and going home.  Just writing this very post is unnatural, as I’m venturing into mental territory that is entirely new to me, so my instincts are screaming to back away from this issue, that since I don’t know what I’m talking about, I should leave the topic alone.  Luckily, the idea of leaving that last post unfinished is more distasteful to me than risking sounding foolish, or this post would never get finished.

 

5.  I suppose that there is some entertainment value to this behavior, and I do enjoy giving people entertainment.  You will only see me dancing at an event when I am all over the dance floor, I won’t be the one half-heartedly shuffling back and forth.  If I’m not doing it for entertainment, then I won’t do it at all.   Conversely, when I am not good at something, I am loudly and boisterously regaling people of how terrible I am at a given task.  So either way, I am enjoying notoriety.

 

So there you have it.  I have to say it:  this post was the mental equivalent to racing that 5K a few weeks ago, and I’m sure there is more digging to be done.  For anyone that can relate to this mindset, I’d love to hear from you:  what are some gains that you experience?  What have I missed?  I’m guessing that if I understood the motivation than I would be better equipped to change the behavior.  Let me know what you think!

 

Today’s Miracle:

For sure, hitting publish on this albatross of a post is a miracle!

 

 

 

 

M(3), 6/23: The Most Important Person in the Room

 

It’s the first official day of summer in our house, and so far, so good… some chores were done in my absence, and I’m even getting some quiet time to write this blog before we head off to the pool!

No matter what I assume about the attendance of my meeting, I am incorrect.  I assumed that I would have lower numbers due to the summer season; in fact, I had a record high of 15 attendees!  Exciting stuff, except that I didn’t have enough handouts, but I suppose there are worse inconveniences in life than to share reading materials.

As it is the fourth Monday of the month, we continued with the series from Back to Basics; this week’s selection covered steps 3 and 4.  Quickly I will mention my personal take-away from today’s reading.  Last week, an attendee mentioned the idea of looking at your assets, as well as your liabilities, when you are looking to complete a personal inventory.  He offered some compelling reasons for doing so that really stuck with me.  In the past week,  I came across two separate references to the same concept, and today a solid 4 pages of the reading talked about the same thing.  I am clearly meant to hear the message that I need to consider my strengths, rather than solely focus on my weaknesses!

One of the 15 attendees was new to my meeting, and new to sobriety (she announced that she is 75 days sober).  As such, she seemed to be unaware of the general protocol that is followed, and was a slight bit disruptive.  My initial fear, as the chair, was that I would have to correct her, which always strikes terror in my soul, but as I looked around at all the familiar faces, I saw only one emotion:  compassion.  She was the first to speak, and rather than talk about the reading, she shared about some of the day-to-day struggles in her life.  Every subsequent share after her dealt solely with the issues she faces and how each person dealt with similar issues in their recovery.

Today’s meeting was the best example of why I continue to attend 12-step meetings:  people gathering together with the sole purpose of helping another.  And in helping another, they are helping themselves.  Altruism at its finest, and I’m proud and humbled to be part of such an amazing group of people.

Another woman, newer to recovery though certainly not as new as 75 days, in addition to helping the newcomer, shared an issue she is facing:  her family has decided it’s time for her to “get over it” and be comfortable at alcohol-fueled events.  Again, the group came to her rescue and assured her that her job is putting her sobriety first; it is not her job to convince family and friends why she can’t be around alcohol.

I’m so grateful, and think it not at all a coincidence, that on a day where I had not one, but two women in need of assistance, that I had a record number of attendees, both genders, and with loads of quality sober time to empathize and support them. God moments abounded today.

The woman with 75 days came up to me at the break and asked me to be her temporary sponsor; I agreed.  What’s nice this time around is that I have learned quite a bit about what to do, and, more importantly, what not to do.  I was able to give her some specific directions to follow, and arrange a meeting time that is mutually beneficial.  I’m sure I will have more to post on the subject as events unfold… or not, that is the nature of the beast with sponsor/sponsee relationships.  We will just have to wait and see.

I guess I’ve left these kids to their own devices long enough… time to hit the pool.  Life is good!

Today’s Miracle:

I get spend time with an amazing group this morning, time to sit down and share my experience with an amazing group in the blogosphere, and then spend time relaxing with the kiddies, who have coexisted peacefully all morning.  Miracles are everywhere today!

 

MIA: Many Involved Activities!

M(3), 6/16: Character Defects… Who, ME?!?

I am a big believer that there is no such thing as a bad 12-step meeting; something positive will always come out of the attendance of one.  That being said, not every single meeting I attend is overflowing with peace and wisdom, and so sometimes it can be challenging for me to scrape together enough of a message to transmit to my readers.

Today, I am happy to report, is not one of those days.  Today’s meeting was, hands down, one of the best in months!

First, we had an attendance of 11, which is on the high side of average, and just the right amount for a 60 minute meeting.

Second, we had the most amazing mix of people:  4 people with over a quarter century of sobriety, 4 with anywhere from 1-15 years of sobriety, 1 with less than 30 days of sobriety, 1 from out-of-state and therefore new to my meeting, and 1 at the very first 12-step meeting of his life.  For people reading with a limited understanding of our format, having this wide spectrum of sobriety enriches the meeting because it allows for wisdom and sharing of all stages of the journey, from the trials and tribulations of the early days, to the perspective that comes from living the program for many years.

A quick example to illustrate the point:  the gentleman with 28 days of sobriety shared that his sleep cycle is habitually compromised by drunk dreams (a drunk dream is when a person in recovery dreams vividly that he or she drank again.  Upon waking the person is uncertain whether he or she dreamed it or actually did it, and this uncertainty causes anxiety).  Following his revealing this concern, each person thereafter was able to share his or her experience with drunk dreams.  The people with decades of sobriety talked about how they feel gratitude after having a drunk dream, because they feel blessed to remember how horrible the guilt of drinking feels, and how grateful they are for having their sobriety intact.  This is the magic of the meetings at work… long timers helping newcomers, newcomers helping long timers by reminding them why they choose recovery, and everyone walks away a better person than when they walked in the door!

This being the third week of the month, we read and discussed Step 6 from the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions:

Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character

I was honest at the meeting, and I will be honest here with my readers:  this is probably my least favorite step.  I remember when first introduced to it, long before I had actually sat down with a sponsor and gone through the steps, my opinion was that it seemed like the easiest of them all.  Who wouldn’t want defects of character removed from them?

Of course, closer study reveals that it is not so simple.  As humans, we have many character defects, and many bring us perverse enjoyment, so it is not so simple as just saying, “Sure, I’d love to be a perfect person!”  For example, I can talk about procrastination being a character defect, it is very easy for me to admit, but can I say that I am entirely ready to have it removed?  Isn’t there something satisfying about having that fallback excuse for why I haven’t gotten around to organizing the filing cabinet, scheduling summer camps, and following up on the mound of paperwork sitting right next to me at this moment?

Plus there is examining all the various defects of character.  I can say I am discussing a subject with my husband because I want to share with him the things going on in my life, but is that really just a thinly veiled excuse to gossip about someone?  There are many ways to dress up, camouflage or justify our behaviors, but the bottom line is the intent, and deep down we know what we’re doing, right?

So when I’m given the opportunity to read in-depth about the various character defects I need to be entirely ready to have God remove, it can become a bit overwhelming,  Being the all-nothing person I am (who, me?), when I get overwhelmed, I prefer to run in the opposite direction (if I am not entirely ready, then forget it, I will just keep all of my character defects, dammit!).  Probably not the best way to approach step 6.

I shared as much with the group this morning, and I received two invaluable pieces of advice in response to my admission.

The first, and two different people spoke of this idea, taking the 6th step really begins way back with the 4th step.  For those unfamiliar, the 4th step is where you sit down with a pen a paper and take a personal inventory.  At the end, you have a concrete list of things you need to work on in the upcoming steps.  So step 6 does not have to be the overwhelming monster that I make it out to be… go back to the inventory, and work on the worst of the worst, and go from there.

Along those same lines, a new concept (well, new for me, anyway) popped up with respect to the inventory process.  A gentleman shared that his inventory process focused not just on character defects, but character assets as well, because a true inventory looks at debits and credits.  He said this became a very helpful tool later on, because those assets are the resources he taps into when doing things like being entirely ready to have the defects removed, making amends to people, and so on.  My fourth step inventory did not have me list assets, and I can see how that might be a valuable thing to look at if and when I do another inventory.

The second new perspective I received:  a gentleman said step 6 works in his life in the following way:  now when a situation pops up, he has two choices:  he can revert to his character defects and act out the situation as he would have pre-recovery, or he can act as if his character defect was removed.  In other words, the thought process will always be there, as we are still human beings.  But now, given this program of recovery, we see that we have options in the way we react to any situation.

This advice made me laugh out loud, and I told him I will see his face the next time one of these situations arises for me, I am just hoping that I will make the right choice!

I think I’ve rambled enough for one post, hopefully you received some of the wisdom I did from these wonderful folks!

Today’s Miracle:

We are in the home stretch of school (last day is Friday), so it is a miracle that I can sit down and write this… lots of end-of-the-year activities to enjoy this week!

Some People Are Sicker Than Others

Today was the day I was going to, after spending a quiet reflective week, write my follow-up post on the gains of my all-or-nothing behavior.

Yeah, right.

I will most definitely be writing that post, but it’s not going to happen this week.  End-of-school-year craziness, combined with some run-of-the-mill family decision/discussions/debates, made this a busier than normal week.  Which still would not have prevented me from taking the time to write that post.

Except for another situation that had me thrown off for a solid 24 hours.  I have (for the most part) processed the incident and put it in its proper place, but I figured it was big enough that I could put a pen to paper (fingers to keyboard) and hash it out once and for all.

If nothing else, the following story should provide some soap opera-like entertainment for you!

To start the story, a little background:  my 11-year old son, who is graduating from elementary school, came to me several weeks ago asking if he could have some friends over on the last day of school.  I say yes, but I give him a limit on the number of kids.  He gives me the list of names, I email the parents, we’re all set up for an 3 pm get-together on a Friday afternoon.  I mentally pat myself on the back for being such a nice Mom, that is that.

Two days ago, I am at school to watch my son perform at the talent show (which, by the way, he did FABULOUSLY…. wrote and starred in his own comedy sketch!).  As I’m making my way to my seat a Mom stops me and says, “Hey, did you ever decide to have the kids over on the last day of school?”  This is a Mom I see at the bus stop, and had mentioned it to her the day I sent out the emails.  We discovered through the course of the conversation that I have an incorrect email address for her, I get the correct one, and promise I will fix the problem as soon as I get home.  There were a couple of people around her I said a generic hi to, end of story there.  That was in the morning.

That night I receive an email from another Mom in the neighborhood.  To sum up my relationship with this woman:  I know her to say hi or have polite conversation when I see her, that’s it.  Her son and my son are friends in school, ride the bus together, that’s it.  Never been to each other’s houses, never been invited to one another’s parties, you get the idea.  She was apparently sitting close to the Mom with whom I conversed at the Talent Show in the morning.  She sends me the following email:

> I just have to ask, did you forget to invite G to D’s end-of-
> the year party or did he not receive an invitation on purpose?
> I was quite put-off today when u asked E in front of me for her
> email address to invite V.
> I know G considers D a friend & he is both hurt & angry to
> learn about it…
> Thanks,

So I could possibly write a series of post to describe all of the emotions that played out for me that night, but let’s umbrella it with the label Very upset.  My husband and I spent some time hashing it out, I called a family member who lives in our neighborhood to see if she could shed any light on this woman’s state of mind, and I spoke with another friend who I thought might help navigate these murky waters.

Because, miraculously, in the 14 years I’ve been a parent, nothing even remotely like this situation has ever come up.  In case my feelings are not plain, I am highly offended by this email.  I would think this impolite of a close friend to draw such ridiculous conclusions, but a virtual stranger?  Outrageous.  Not to mention that you were eavesdropping on a conversation, and questioning my decisions on whom to invite to my home.

On the other hand, responding to aggressive behavior such as this is not  in my wheelhouse, plus even through my red haze of anger I had genuine sympathy for a child that is feeling left out.  After thoroughly discussing the options with my husband, we decide the let the guest list stand as is.  He thought replying to her would just incite her more, but I found it unacceptable to leave some of her outrageous remarks unanswered.

So in the morning, I replied to the email.  It was a little long (concise is not a word that applies to me), so I won’t cut and paste like I did above, but I simply went point by point and responded to each of her sentences.  I was matter-of-fact, no emotions whatsoever.  It was my goal to keep things civil, but to answer her truthfully.

Apparently she did not share my goals, and within an hour I received a second, much lengthier email from her.  To say it was aggressive would be an understatement.  She called me a liar, she accused me of punishing her son because she is not able to host play dates due to her schedule (what the what?!?!), she told me she “has my number,” and she says now her son knows what kind of person my son really is (did I mention these are 11-year old boys)?

The icing on the cake:  I received this email right before I was heading to the fifth grade picnic, where I knew I would see her.

My body was going numb as I read the email.  Honestly, fear is now competing with the anger for top emotion.  At this point, I recognize that I have two options to consider, ignore her or write back.  Truth be told, there is no way the first was a viable option for me, it is almost a physical impossibility for me to let that kind of injustice slide by.  Plus, I rationalized to myself, I really want to put into words that I desire no further communication from her.  Fortunately no one was around to see my hands shaking as I typed the email, but I did it, again taking the tack of going point by point and refuting her accusations, or explaining the intention behind the decisions she was questioning.    In addition, I added two additional sentences to the point by point response:

1.  I told her I  was stunned and disheartened by her aggressive email, that I would find it unacceptable from someone I knew, but that it was wildly inappropriate for as casual a relationship as we had

2.  I told her that I would appreciate no further communication from her, and, while I can’t control her behavior, I notified her that I would not be opening nor responding to any further emails from her address.

In the spirit of full disclosure, when I was replying to her accusation that I was punishing her son due to her challenging schedule, I did write that I find the notion insulting and a bit narcissistic.  In Monday morning quarterbacking myself I regret writing that, because that kind of incendiary word opposes the idea of being civil.  I do not, however, regret it enough to apologize for it!

She, of course, ignored my request to cease and desist and sent one more email.  I tried to hold true to my vow and not open it, but there was no way.  It was brief, and a slight bit calmer in tone, but continued to assert her wild accusations that I was lying about things and that my son was being deliberately mean to her son.  I did not, and will not respond.

What, exactly, is my point in relaying this story, other than the satisfaction of venting it?  I’m not sure there really is a point, it’s certainly not a story with a happy ending.  There are at least three more end of the year events where I know I will see her, not to mention she lives in my neighborhood, so there’s no telling where I might bump into her.  I have serious concerns about what vicious rumors a person that clearly unstable will be spreading about me.  I am disheartened to realize that my son has lost a friend for no good reason.

On the other hand…

I am relaying this story, a mere 24 hours after the event occurred, in a calm state.  I slept well last night, and I awoke peaceful.  This is the polar opposite of how pre-recovery me would have handled this situation.  Pre-recovery me would have made up a silly lie about his invite getting lost in cyber space, I would have kissed the woman’s rear end to make her happy with me, and I would have allowed the boy to come, all the while resenting every moment of it.  I would have gossiped viciously about her to every person I could get my hands on, all the while being falsely nice to her face.  I would have driven my husband crazy for weeks on end dissecting every participle the woman wrote, and speculating wildly on every next possible move she might make.

Today, I can calmly respond to her unreasonable accusations with the truth, and I can feel pride in doing so.  Even though I am still offended by her behavior, I can also feel sorry for her, for surely her behavior is representative of internal angst, and I can pray for her well-being, and the well-being of her children.  I can remind myself that what other people think of me is none of my business, and let go of the worries of the rumors she may or may not be spreading.

Of course, me being me, I can also pray that I avoid her like the plague for the rest of my life!

Today’s Miracle:

So many miracles:  surviving this insanity, co-existing with her at the fifth grade picnic, and having a sense of calm rather than a sense of anxiety, is all miraculous!

M(3), 6/9: The Attitude of Gratitude

Today’s meeting centered upon Chapter 19 from the book Living Sober, “Being Grateful.”  The premise of the chapter is a simple one:  we choose what thoughts upon which we spend our mental time, and those choices strongly influence the feelings we subsequently experience.

Is there a person alive who can’t relate to this idea?  I’m sure anyone reading it this would have examples that fall into both categories.  I’ll use family parties as my classic example.  When I approach a family party grateful that I have family, appreciative that I have an event to celebrate, and anticipatory of the good food and conversations that I will be enjoying, that party tends to be a fun and memorable event.  On the other hand, when I am dreading the event, desperate to be back home and in my pajamas before I’ve even left for the party… well, you know how those occasions turn out.

I remember the first time this concept was explained to me, I had an instant image of an old character from Saturday Night Live, Stuart Smalley.  Stuart was known for looking in the mirror and repeating the mantra, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”  In other words, I was skeptical that positive affirmations held any real value.

Go figure, I thought I knew better than everyone.

I have since come to learn that developing the “attitude of gratitude,” as it is called in my 12-step fellowship, is anything but reciting insincere affirmations.  Rather, it is choosing to focus your energy on what is good in your life, rather than what you feel could stand improvement.  It means celebrating your successes rather than beating yourself up over your mistakes.  Being mindful of all the blessings in your life, and not the perceived deficits.

And when I make the effort to do this… because, at first, make no mistake, it takes an effort… well, that’s when the miracles happen.  When I focus on all the things for which I am grateful, there’s not enough room in my brain to focus on the negative.  When I remind myself how much others have allowed for my mistakes, it becomes obvious that I must allow for theirs.  When I reflect upon how far I’ve come rather than how far I have to go, then my entire day takes on a positive energy.

Lest I have you thinking that I am sitting on top of a mountain in the lotus position, I have more work to be done in this area.  My mind still naturally gravitates towards all the goals I’ve not yet achieved.  I still tend to accomplish something and say, “what’s next?” rather than basking in the hard-earned success.  The progress for me is, first, that I even recognize that there is another way to think other than my own tried-and-true methods, and second, that I recognize what thought processes are doing me more harm than good.

And for that progress, I am grateful.

Today’s Miracle:

We had a really nice meeting-after-the-meeting this morning, something we haven’t done in months, and those more casual conversations always make my day brighter!

 

The All or Nothing Lifestyle, Defined

Spoiler Alert #1:  I normally will not write a post until I have some semblance of a solution worked out.  Absolutely not the case with this one, read on at your own risk

Spoiler Alert #2:  I have a lot to say, this will be longer than usual

I’ve spent some time recently contemplating the various ways I am an all-or-nothing gal.  Turns out, there’s almost no way I’m not all or nothing.  In other words, I’m all or nothing about being all or nothing.  I do not have to search far to give you an example, this is how my day went yesterday:

I have a general cleaning routine that has been disrupted by recent life events, and I realized yesterday that I need to clean all the major areas of the house (probably the minor areas too, I just don’t care about them).  So I pick the area I think needs it the most, which is my bathroom, and figure I’d get that knocked out with no problem.  So I go in, gather the rugs to bring to the laundry room, and I realize that the towels probably need to be done too, which of course means the kids’ towels need it as well.  Which leads me to the conclusion that sheets must need to be washed, and now I’m realizing I am starting to grow this project bigger than I originally intended.  Then again, all of these things do need to be done.  So all of that goes downstairs, and I start cleaning the bathroom.  I realize some of the cleaning supplies I need are in the kids’ bathroom, so I go into a cabinet to retrieve them.  To my dismay I uncover a nightmare of things thrown into that cabinet, which knocked over cleaning supplies, which created a huge mess (my reaction to that is for another post).  I clean that up, and now I am significantly behind on a project that I’ve made bigger than I intended in the first place, but I’ve started, so simply stopping this process is inconceivable.  I am back and forth between laundry and the bathroom, now my sheets are done, and I’m thinking I can’t possibly put clean sheets on a bed (with surrounding furniture) that hasn’t been dusted, so out comes the Pledge.  This project takes very little time, and then I make the bed.  I realize at this point my bedroom is all but clean if I just vacuum, but I can’t do that if there are clothes in a basket on the floor, so I quick fold them up and put them away.  Then I vacuum, but really, the carpet doesn’t end at my bedroom, right?  There’s a hallway connected to it, and, connected to that hallway are three other rooms.  Finish that up, feeling good about how the upstairs looks, and then take a look around my downstairs.  I am appalled by the difference.  It’s as if I did nothing at all!  So, guess what happens?  You got it, room by room, the exact same process.

Now, I’m re-reading the paragraph above, and I feel like I am #humblebragging.  Let’s round it out with another story:

It’s the middle of April.  Through a series of events, I have embarked on several adventures that I think will all work towards the same goal of improved fitness.  I have joined Weight Watchers online with my cousin, I have purchased a Fitbit to track my activity, and I am training for an upcoming 5K.  Healthy goals, practical tools, lots of accountability, teamwork and support.  In the first 10 days, I have an absolutely banner week, lost an incredible amount of weight, exercised every single day, and improved my Fitbit stats each day I used it.  I was also pretty early into my self-directed smoking cessation program as well.

Anyway, weigh in day falls on a Thursday (although who am I kidding, I was checking myself at least twice a day every day), which also happened to be my husband’s birthday.  So I happily report the good news to my cousin who is doing this with me, and I let her know that I will be having a “fun” day since it is his birthday.  Which I did.

The next day, a Friday, my husband took off work and we went and got spa treatments and had a nice lunch.  I guess two days of not tracking are okay, right?  And exercise, well, I’ll just get back on it over the weekend.

Except that I didn’t, and the eating continued to devolve.  Points counting is a thing of the past, as is exercise.  Monday rolls around, and this happens to be the biggest trigger day of the week for me to want to smoke.  But there is no way I am backtracking on that progress, so I think that I will give myself one more free-for-all day so that I don’t smoke.  Here’s what a free-for-all day looks like:

First off, I will plan for my favorite food in the world:  a soft pretzel.  Where I like to buy pretzels you save money by buying two.  And while I’m at it, better pick the saltiest ones they’ve got, in case the salt falls off in the bag (which I will wind up eating anyway).  Round that off with a 32 ounce soda.

Once I’ve eaten all of this, is there really a point to stopping?  I might as well go for all my favorite foods, which tend towards crunchy and salty.  Eat them as the mood strikes.

If I’m eating like this, do I really feel like moving at this point?  Let’s just make it a fun day all around, and watch some mindless television.  And so that day continues on, with very little productive to show for it.

So there’s the other side of the all or nothing lifestyle.  Of course, I could paint a much grimmer picture, were I to go back a few years and describe a day in the life of active addiction.

And it’s not just about eating, exercising and cleaning.  Here are some other categories:

Television:  It is a point of pride that I have never missed an episode of Survivor.  My husband will corroborate this story… he did not watch it with me Season one, in fact mocked the concept, and I remind him on a very regular basis of this fact.  There have been something like 28 seasons of this show, and I will watch it no matter what.

Reading:  I am either obsessively reading, or I cannot locate my electronic reader.  Absolutely no middle ground.  I am on the latter side right now, and yet I still go to my book club lunches (they should excommunicate me right about now).

Apparel Shopping:  if I find something I like, I need it in every color.  That or I’m wearing the same pajamas like it is my uniform.  Seriously, I will wait for the dryer before I get changed for the evening.

Organization as it Relates to the Basement:  I am either all about it, and the basement looks like it did last summer after the garage sale, or I abandon it and the basement looks like it does right now (Editorial comment:  I do not live alone in my house, and I REFUSE to take sole responsibility for the state of the basement.  On the other hand, it seems to bother only me, and my choice when I’m on this end of the organizational spectrum is to just avoid it at all costs.  But I digress…)

Free Refills:  If I dine at a restaurant that offers free refills of my favorite beverage in this world (Diet Pepsi)… well, I’m sure I don’t have to finish this sentence!

Don’t Touch My Pitcher:  Last summer I wrote about a plan for improving my fitness by introducing things into my life, rather than taking things away.  Interestingly, these things have managed to hang around for what’s coming up on a year now (if interested, read here).  One of those things was increasing my water intake.  Now, believe me, there are days when I drink none (of course, all or nothing, right?), but most days I am habitual about drinking 10 glasses of water.  The process has evolved to the point that I bought my own pitcher with one of those cages in the middle that I can put lemon and lime in to infuse the water, and I drink it until it is gone, then refill it for the next day.  Great practice, right?  Until another family member attempts to drink from this pitcher, then all hell’s breaking loose.  Because I am selfish and don’t want to share?  Not a chance… because then I can’t keep track of my water intake!

So obviously I could add to these categories ad infinitum (I’m sure it feels like I already have), but I think I’ve made my point.

I am sure that, if you could, you would finish reading this, walk over to me, give me a hug, tell me I am not alone, and that I just need to work towards finding some balance in my life.  And I would sincerely agree with you, but if you looked closely into my eyes, you would see somewhat of a vacant stare.  Not because I’m ignoring your great advice, but because those words truly mean nothing to me.

As in, I get it theoretically, but have no idea how to practically apply the concept to real-life scenarios.  Curiously, I remember having similar thoughts about some of the steps in my 12-step recovery program.

My good friend Lisa over at Sober Identity once posed to me this challenge:  Figure out what you are gaining from holding on to a behavior you wish to change.  Because you ARE gaining something from it, whether you want to admit it or not.  If you can figure it out, you can work to meet this need in more positive ways.

So what is the gain to living my life like this?  To be continued in The All or Nothing Lifestyle, Examined

 

 Today’s Miracle:

Who knew I had so much to say on this subject?  Not me! 

M(3), 6/2: Kickin’ Recovery Old School, Part 2

Happy Monday to all.  My meeting was well-attended and chock full of great stuff, as always!

Today we resumed reading from the book we started last month  entitled Back to Basics.  This book chronicles the process by which fledgling AA members completed the 12 steps of recovery back in 1946.  The process is much, much quicker than is typically done today, and it is also quite intense.  Today’s reading covered Step Two.  The consensus of the group this morning was that the content of the book is informative, well thought out, and comprehensive.  On the other hand, we all agreed that we cannot imagine coming into AA for the first time and being asked to stand up in front of a group of strangers and pledge things the way they did back then… it would have been overwhelming!

So the reality of this meeting was a discussion of Step Two:

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

Step two is a step that can throw people off right at the start.  Many come into 12-step groups because they know they have a problem with alcohol (step one), but do not believe they can accept the idea of a Higher Power.  The reading we reviewed today does a great job explaining to newcomers how to get around this disbelief.  First, we are told straight off that all you need is a willingness to believe.  Then, the kicker:  you can choose a God of your understanding.  That is a broad category with which to work, and allows for a variety of interpretation.

The greatest take-away I got from today’s meeting:  a gentleman shared that while this step seems somewhat lofty and abstract, it is, in fact quite practical, and, for him, the foundation upon which his decades of sobriety rest.  His description of the meaning of Step Two for his sobriety made me consider my own journey to my relationship with my Higher Power, whom I choose to call God.  I had no problem believing in God, but I did not understand how that belief was going to keep me sober.  After all, I believed in God all my life, so why now was this belief suddenly going to stop my active addiction?

I’m not sure I ever really answered that question.  Then again, I’ve stopped wondering if there is an answer!  When I was given the gift of desperation, where I did not believe I had anywhere else to turn, my prayers changed in intensity, and in sincerity.  I wasn’t just praying because someone told me to, I was praying because I needed help.  And not help to get out of a jam, but an honest-to-goodness-I’m-at-a-crossroads type of help.

That is the moment from which my spiritual life was born, has grown, and will hopefully continue to grow for the rest of my life.  Now, I don’t worry about a definition or a description of God.  I have, as they say, “taken God out of the box.”  Once I learned to have faith in God’s power, the signs of His existence have popped up everywhere.

And what do I do to hold up my end of this bargain?  I try, as best I can, to align my will with His.  Again, sounds lofty, but is very practical.  Pray for guidance, open my eyes, and do what’s in front of me to the best of my ability.   Repeat as often as needed, particularly in times of stress and doubt!

Today’s Miracle:

wpid-20140601_161059.jpg

Second 5K completed with my friend Kristen over at ByeByeBeer, and knocked seven minutes off my time from our last one!  So great to mix the blogging world with my real life!

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade

losing anonymously

Learning to balance healthy and happy while living a full and busy life!

Oh for the love of...me

Just another 50+ woman trying to get her shit together.

Guitars and Life

Blog about life by a music obsessed middle aged recovering alcoholic from South East England

Off-Dry

I got sober. Life got big.

HealthyJenn

From daily wine drinker to alcohol free living...this is my journey.

Vodka Goggles

No longer seeing the world through vodka colored glasses..

Pickled Fish

Musings on life and sobriety

Mindfulbalance

An Irish Mindfulness Meditation Blog: Self-care, resilience, meaning and personal development.

SOBERLEARNING

Working one day at a time on sobriety, often winning, but sometimes losing.

viatoday

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Starting today I am on my way.

ainsobriety

Trying to ace sober living

Emotional Sobriety And Food

"... to be able to Twelfth Step ourselves and others into emotional sobriety" -- living, loving & letting go.

girl gone sober.

a blog about living sober. i didn't always drink beer but when i did i drank a lot of it. stay sober my friends.