Monthly Archives: August 2014

Results of “The Talk”

 

You know, it occurs to me as I sit down to type this, I really don’t have any sense of what I’m about to write.  A strange feeling, because usually I have the skeleton created in my mind before I even sit down.  So I guess, look out, because here comes a lot of rambling…

I should probably also add, in case you are new to this blog, I’m about to talk about the results of sitting down with my kids and talking about my recovery from addiction.

I would love to sum up the conversations with a nice neat label, but, like most things in life, there are shades of gray, and loads of second guessing, so I’m unable yet to give myself a grade on this particular test.  Let me give you some back drop on my goals beforehand.  First, I was determined to speak with each child individually, in a neutral location, so that they are able to give me their honest feedback without undue influence of other people, or even familiar surroundings.  Plus, if it did not go well, I didn’t want them to forever think of, let’s say the kitchen table, as the place where the family fell apart (no, I do not think melodramatically at all).   Second, it was important for me to impart to them a more realistic view of the “illness” from which I suffer.  Up to this point they have only been given a broad, almost pg-rated definition of why I go to meetings regularly, and I have never used the “a” word to describe myself.  Next, I wanted to gauge what, if anything, either child knew or figured out on his or her own, and here I was specifically thinking of my extremely perceptive son.   I would have bet a lot of money that he knew pretty much everything by this point.  Finally, and most importantly (truly the whole reason I’m doing this at all), I wanted them to know and understand that I know and understand a lot with regard to drugs and alcohol.  With both of them making big transitions in terms of schooling, I wanted them to know they have a resource very, very close to them, should they need information, guidance, or advice.  And, also, sideline goal: not to have my children disgusted with me, or filled with shame that I am their mother.

It might be easier to break it down conversation by conversation:

Conversation #1 (my 11-year-old son):

I made this decision much more spontaneously than I ever typically do with these types of things, so I was flying blind as I introduced the subject.  A possible mistake, although who’s to say for sure?  A second, and in my mind, more concrete mistake:  I assumed he knew more than he did.  My son is extremely nosy, one of those kids that has his ear to the door of every adult conversation, phone call, etc.  So I figured in 2 1/2 years, he has definitely figured some things out, if not everything out.  Not the case, and so the beginning of the conversation was stilted and full of dead-end questions and answers while I tried to get my conversational footing.  Finally, we got to a jumping off point:  he said he assumed I went to meetings because I used to smoke, and that since cigarettes are drugs they are hard to stop, so I went to meetings with other people who are also trying to stop smoking.

Alright, we’ve got something to work with.  So I explained that some of that is true:  cigarettes are addictive, and while they have the drug of nicotine in them, they are different in that they are not mind-altering.  I then took some time to explain what I meant by mind-altering, and together we listed out all the different types of mind-altering drugs.  And from there I explained that while yes, I used to smoke and now I don’t, the reason I go to meetings, and sometimes meet with other women, is because I need to stay away from all mind-altering drugs and alcohol.

His reaction was surprise, then his perception kicked in and he had all sorts of detail-oriented questions (“wait… is that why we don’t have alcohol in the house?”).  I answered every one honestly, and it was clear from his questions and his reaction that he truly did not know anything at all regarding my recovery.  He told me he remembered when I used to drink, but only in the context of larger family functions when every person at the party was very, very drunk.

I will admit to feeling deep relief at this point, because I was terrified of what I would hear out of the kids’ mouths when I asked them if they remember when I drank.

We were winding down, and there was a pause in the conversation; when I looked at him again, he had tears in his eyes.  That is probably the moment I have relived the most through the whole experience, and the reason I will forever wonder if I did the right thing.  He never fully cried, and it took some time for me to get the answer of why he had tears in his eyes out of him.  Finally, he admitted that “it’s a lot to take in, finding out that my Mom is an alcoholic.”

Another low point of the conversation.  I considered that for a moment, told him I understood, and that he is not alone in feeling overwhelmed by that label.  We talked about why that word is so scary, what he thought it meant versus all of this new information.  I explained that lots and lots of people in the world misunderstood what it means to be an alcoholic.  Finally, he has a couple of friends who are diabetic, so I asked him:  would you gasp and point your finger at your friend and say, “Oh no, YOU are a DIABETIC?!?”  Of course he laughed, but then I compared the two diseases:   both are not the fault of the person who has them, both are lifelong conditions, but are easily managed by doing a few simple things, and you can live a long and happy life despite having either of them.   He seemed to feel better after this, and asked a few more questions, but the conversation mostly wound down after, and he genuinely seemed fine afterwards.

Conversation #2 (my 14-year-old daughter):

I’ll make this recap a lot shorter, because it went a lot easier.  I was more prepared, and had no thoughts that she knew anything beforehand, so I used my conversation with my son as the starting point, about his assumption about cigarettes, and went right on from there.  She reacted a lot less surprised, although she insisted she had no idea.  She just said, “I had no idea, but it’s not like you’re telling me something that’s crazy,” which of course prompted me to list all sorts of new revelations, but we quickly got back to it.  She asked questions that were more intuitive than I would have thought possible of her: When exactly did it become a problem?  Is it hard to watch different family members drink, and does it make you want to drink?  Will you ever be cured?  All her questions were springboards for great further conversation, and at no point was she agitated or distressed.

In the interest of balancing the low point, right as we were wrapping up, my daughter touched my arm, and as sincerely as you can imagine, said, “Mommy, I’m so glad you’re better now.”

So there’s the deets, folks.  I did attempt to have a “family follow up” three days later.  We were out to dinner, and I said, “Since we are all here I wanted to give anyone and everyone an opportunity to talk more about this.  Have you thought about it and do you have more questions?”  My daughter did not, my son only said, “I did think about it more, and I thought more about the diabetic thing and that made me feel a lot better.”  They both continued to eat, laugh and bicker for the rest of the meal, so I will take all of that as a good sign.

The reason I feel like I can’t call this a failure or success is this:  the whole point is to give them information so that they can make good decisions down the road, and to let them know they have a ready and willing resource. Time will tell, I guess, but so far, a week later, there has been no fallout, and everyone seems to be living their lives as they did before.

I started this post saying that I have no idea what’s about to come out of my head.  I think the reason is I’m writing from two distinct points of view:  getting this out of my own head, and also sharing this experience in the hopes of helping someone else in my shoes.   For the former, as I mentioned, only time will tell if this was a good thing or a bad thing.

In terms of the latter, here’s my advice concerning talking to your kids:

  • Really assess if they are emotionally ready for this kind of information
  • Have a starting point for the conversation so that you are not fumbling for words straightaway.  You can’t prepare for every direction the conversation might take, but you can control the opening
  • Have a good purpose for the talk, so you can remind yourself why you are doing it if the going gets rough
  • Prepare mentally for curveball questions, and resolve to be as honest as possible

Hope this helps someone if they are looking to sit down with their kids!

Today’s Miracle:

It’s only now, as I hit publish, that I am feeling a sense of accomplishment in getting this task completed (and, might I add, completed with days left before the end of summer, it’s like two miracles!)

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M(3), 8/25: Teach Your Children Well

 

Can you seriously believe it is the last Monday in August?!?  The whole summer was fast, but this month felt like it played on fast forward!

So, last Monday of the month has my meeting continuing from the book Back to Basics, which outlines how a newcomer is taken through the 12 steps of recovery back in 1946.  Today we read through steps 8 and 9, which more or less felt like a continuation of last week’s meeting.  For those unfamiliar with the 12 steps of recovery:

Step 8:  made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all

Step 9:  made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others

So now I am going to admit to a flaw in my meeting format that just came to my attention this morning.  The meeting chair is traditionally the first person to share after the reading selection has finished.  Since I am the only meeting chair at this particular meeting, I am always the first to share.  Normally, if I thought about this fact at all, I would think of it as a good thing… often people are slow to share, so I will happily break the ice for the group.  Here’s the flaw I just realized:  I am unintentionally coloring the sharing at the meeting.  In sharing what is on my mind and in my heart, I spoke about having The Talk with my children, and in finding the ring (if you are new just go back to the last post for details).  From my share forward, people shared about parenting in sobriety.

I’m feeling vaguely guilty about this, which I’m sure if I spoke to my fellow attendees about it, they would laugh their heads off, but I am admitting it anyway!

So less on the subject of step work, but still fabulous information disseminated.  Two of the greatest stories:

The first is from a woman who is coming up on her one year “soberversary.”  Her daughter is only 5 years old, so does not remember much about Mommy’s drinking days.  My friend says that her patience is shorter, and her temper is much stronger now that it ever was in active addiction (mostly because there was an option of pouring another glass of wine when her daughter was not behaving!).  Anyway, as our steps suggest, she promptly admits when she has done wrong in losing her patience with her 5-year-old.  She worried about doing this, as she grew up in a culture where parents did not apologize for anything.  If a kid got yelled at, they did wrong, period.  So she worried that her child would grow up not respecting her authority.

On the contrary, it would seem.  She finds that her 5-year-old has taken to modelling this behavior, and, when she has made a mistake, goes to her immediately and says, “Mommy I was wrong for doing that.”  Children learning what they live is a great thing for us in recovery, it seems!

Second story:  gentleman with 50 days of sobriety, talking about having The Talk from the other side of the fence.  He does not have kids, but he could relate in having to have this kind of open discussion with his own parents, and how they reacted.  He went on to talk about how much the experiences of this group, and other groups at other meetings, have helped him to open up.  He is able to deal with life on life’s terms, which is not easy for him at the moment:  early sobriety, dealing with a mental illness, legal consequences.  But in finding like-minded people, and following the suggestions given him, he has already felt a mental turnaround that is giving him the strength to persevere through his problems.

As always, I fail to cover half of all the great stuff, but it’s that time of year… back-to-school clothes shopping time, and with a strong-minded teenage girl at that.   My goal is to Keep.  My.  Mouth.  Shut.  Which could be today’s miracle, except I don’t want to jinx it so…

Today’s Miracle:

Looking forward to back-to-school shopping, despite some negative past experiences.  Today is a new day!!

 

The Miracle Really Is Around the Corner

the-miracle-is-around-the-cornerSM

 

I would normally not post on a Friday, normally not post two days in row, normally I would be getting ready to go to a meeting this morning.  But, I’ve got a story to tell, and I am compelled to write it immediately rather than wait, so here I am, and if this doesn’t prove the title of this blog, then nothing will.

Yesterday I am sitting with my son, my daughter is at soccer and will be gone half the day, and I realize I have an opportunity to sit down and have “The Talk” with him (read here to understand the reference).  And then I realize he has a number of social commitments (Kids these days need a social director for all of their activities.   Oh wait, that’s me, isn’t it?) that have him away from home, and we are rapidly approaching the start of the school year.  So I say to him, “Let’s head out to Trader Joe’s and then grab some lunch,” and off we went.

I will quickly interject:  this alone is amazing.  Before doing anything that I consider this monumental, I would normally talk it to death:  long, exhausting conversations with my husband and my Mom, weighing the pros and cons and examining every “what if” situation that flies into my head.  To date, the only things I had decided on were:

1.  talk to each child separately, in order for them to process in their individual way

2.  talk in a neutral location, rather than the house

3.  reconvene one more time as a family in case anyone had follow-up

Other than that, I prepared nada, which is sheer craziness for someone like me.

Believe it or not, this post is not about the outcome of these discussions.  Sorry to leave you hanging, but I still haven’t had the final wrap-up with both kids, and I really want to give them that time to reflect and come back to me before I give any kind of summary.

In the end I am glad I started with my son, because his conversation was a lot more difficult.  We talked all through lunch and all the way to pick up my daughter, and by the time she was in the car, he was completely his happy-go-lucky self.  However, me being me, I fretted a bit about certain aspects of the conversation, which I then discussed with my husband.  I second-guessed to the point that I considered not going through with the second conversation, which of course would be ridiculous, as my son would inevitably talk to her.  So with a heavy heart I did the same scenario with my daughter last night as my son ran cross-country.

That conversation went a lot better and a lot smoother than the first one, I am guessing age and life experience might play into it a bit.  Again, I am not trying to tease you all with small details, I will write a full report, probably next week when I have managed to wrap this whole thing up.  But bottom line:  both conversations went far better than I expected, and more importantly, they are over!

By the time Reilly and I are through, and we have run some errands, and picked up Danny, I am exhausted, no doubt mental exhaustion more than anything else.  I say to my husband, “I need a shower,” and off I go.  I am dickering back and forth in my head about various fine points of each conversation, and I stop, mentally slap myself, and say, “Finish up, get dressed, and knock this off!”  I head out of the shower over to my lotion (I am an unbelievable creature of habit with certain aspects of my life).  My contacts are out, but something is sitting on top of my lotion.  I put my glasses on, and this is what I see:

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The ring I had lost 8 days ago!

I run out of the room to find out the details:  my daughter was getting a shopping bag out for something, and found it in the shopping bag, so she wanted to surprise me and put it where I would see it immediately.  I thanked her walked back to my room, and sobbed by myself for a solid five minutes.

This story would be awesome in and of itself.  Here’s the miraculous part, and the reason I was so emotional.  When I lost that ring Wednesday of last week, I was reasonably sure based upon when I saw it last that I had lost it in the frenzy of getting groceries into the house.  Before I even put groceries away, I went through each bag and checked for the ring.  I then straightened each bag, smoothed each one and formed a neat pile, where they sat on the counter for a day.   I repeated this process several times until I was convinced they could not be in some wrinkle in the bag.  After about two days… are you sitting down?

I threw that pile of bags away.

In other words, the bags from that shopping trip are not in my house anymore.  They haven’t been for about 5 days.  So when Reilly went to find a grocery bag, she grabbed one from a shopping trip that way, way, WAY predated the one where I lost my ring.

There may be a cynical reader who will find a loophole to this story, but I will know, deep in my bones, that Reilly finding that ring, on that day, was a miracle, and a sign that I did the right thing telling my children.

Today’s Miracle:

Since all that happened yesterday, I will give one for today.  My husband left for work a few minutes ago, and I was wishing him well with some frustrating situations he had awaiting him.  He said, “Absolutely nothing is going to shake my day, after the way you inspired me yesterday with your honesty and courage.”  Whew, too much emotion in one 24 hour period!  Also, I can snap this shot and send it out:

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Dog Days of August: The Post That’s Sure to Get A Lot of Likes

M(3), 8/18: Crazy 8’s

Is it Monday again already?  Recap for the format of my Monday meeting:  it is the third Monday of the month, so this week’s reading literature in the rotating literature format came from the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.  Since it is August, the 8th month of the year, we read Step 8:

Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all

The chapter in this book does a fantastic job of dispelling any of the preconceived notions we alcoholics have regarding making amends.  Some of the topics covered include:

  • forgiving people for the harms done to you
  • dealing with the embarrassment of facing up to people you have harmed
  • combating the argument “what someone doesn’t know won’t hurt them”
  • getting over the notion that as alcoholics the only people we hurt is ourselves
  • defining the word “harm”
  • the importance of the step in terms of personal growth (in other words, the motivation for getting the gumption up to actually do it)

In other words, a short chapter that covers a lot of territory!

For me, this chapter (and the upcoming month’s selection from this book, which talks about actually doing the amends) hits a nerve on two fronts.  First, it reminds me of how lax I have been on even looking at the step 8 list I created, and, more importantly, checking names off that list by actually doing the amends.  When I shared with the group this morning, I was quick to tell on myself, and gave some details on why I believe I am hung up on getting this job done (it could possibly be a separate post, but for simplicity’s sake let’s call it the deadly combination of fear and pride at work).

The second reason this hits a nerve, and will most definitely be an upcoming post, is a commitment I made, to be completed by summer’s end:  I am going to sit down with each of my children and “the talk” with them.  I joked this morning that “the talk” for the rest of the world, and “the talk” for alcoholics are different animals!  My husband and I decided a while ago that this transition summer for both kids (one heading into high school, the other into middle school) is the perfect opportunity to give them this important information.

Perfect for them, maybe, not so much for their mother.  It’s August 18th and I’m desperately searching for a reason to put this off.  Which (sigh), I won’t, although I’m sure I’ll wait until the Last.  Possible.  Second.  I’m thinking maybe as I’m driving them to the bus stop?  I’m kidding (I think).  Either way, I believe I will be in need of some writing therapy as soon as I finish, so you will know as soon as I’ve finished.

So those are the things that came to my mind as I read the chapter.  The following shares that took place were so amazing, they had my head spinning with how much what is going on with other people, and the lessons they’ve learned, is able to help me.  Again, it might be easier to bullet point:

  • The first person to share this morning talked about how much he dislikes these two steps (8, making the list, and 9, making the amends, for non 12-step readers these two steps are generally discussed hand in hand).  His professional life is a religious one, so when he considered making this list, he was instantly overwhelmed:  so many people he has impacted, how to possibly sit down with them all?  His sponsor gently but firmly advised:  how about you start with just stopping the behavior for which you need to make amends?

Easy enough, right?  But here’s the trick:  you have to know what the wrong behavior is in order to stop it, and that’s where the real work in step 8 lies.  He actually rocked my world a bit when he talked about this subject.   I wrote my step 8 list based upon my step 4 inventory, which is certainly a common way to do it, but I’m thinking perhaps I could go a bit deeper, and look at my behaviors a little more closely.  Up to this point I have thought about amends in more superficial ways:  did I do someone wrong in a fairly obvious way?  But in this light I need to look beyond the obvious:  if I lied to someone, why did I lie?  What was the underlying reason for the misbehavior?  Deep stuff, that’s for sure.

  • The next several people who shared talked about failing to make amends in their first go-round in recovery, then ultimately making the decision to drink again.  In each of these cases they are quick to say  that other factors led up to the relapse, but they now realize the importance of feeling as if they have done each step to the best of their ability.  Some of the stories shared were sobering (pun intended) wake-calls:  stay the course, this is a process from which there is no graduation.
  • Some shared confusion on if and how to make amends in special circumstances, such as a person passing or not having current information on a person’s whereabouts.  This kind of sharing is rewarding for everyone, it gives each of us a chance to give and receive wisdom.
  • Finally, and most importantly to me personally, a friend shared the experience, strength and hope she has gained in her 23 years in our fellowship.  Her words, while having nothing whatsoever to do with me personally, spoke to me so directly, it was as if she was mind-reading.  She actually even gave an example at one point of the futility of beating herself for losing something, an activity I have repeated quite a bit over the past 5 days!  Here’s what she said that made a light bulb go off in my head:  “the most important work I neglected in my earlier years of sobriety was forgiveness; not of others as they talk about in this chapter, but of myself.  Until I could forgive myself, I was incapable of making a sincere amends to anyone.”

Right between the eyes, that one got me.

Then:  “If I struggle with making an amends, beating myself up over it is making a bad situation worse.  My job is to become willing to make the amends.  If I am not willing, then my job is to ask God for the willingness.  When he gives me the willingness, I will do it, and it’s as simple as that.”

She said those words, and I had to look down to hide the tears in my eyes.  A true God moment there, that’s for sure, and a clear-cut set of directions for me.

There was loads more great stuff shared, but I think I hit the high notes.  Hope everyone is having as excellent a Monday as I!

Today’s Miracle:

This one was inspired by MamaMickTerry.  I wrote last week of my despair in losing my wedding ring.  As I have been lost without something on that finger, I searched through my jewelry and found a ring one of the kids gave me for Christmas, which they purchased at their holiday school store.  Its financial worth is negligible, but the reminder that it’s not the material goods, but that may family is happy and whole… well that’s priceless.  Here it is:

 033

 

Dear Saint Anthony, Please Come Around…

 

It’s been a roller coaster of a week. I waxed poetically about my wonderful meeting on Monday, hit publish, then had a humdinger of a situation with my son (more precisely, the icing on the cake of a situation with my son, as the incidents seem to flow like a revolving door, to be continued at some point!).  Still trying to collect myself and behave like a rational human being (instead of the raving lunatic my head told me I should be), I find a series of various communications on my phone giving me condolences on the passing of Robin Williams.  There is a whole post to be written at some later date about my special “relationship” with this beloved comedian, but I’m figuring the existing story will run long enough.

From there the week continued to devolve.  However, before I continue with the present situation, I am going to describe a past one, which I think will help illuminate why I’m writing about what’s going on at all.

It is late January/early February, 2012.  I have a few days of sobriety under my belt.  I am living with my Mom, but allowed to visit with my kids for several hours each day.  I am reasonably certain that I will be served divorce papers in the very near future, I am alienated from all of my closest friends, and I am awaiting catastrophic news in terms of legal consequences from my addiction.

In other words, my life is a mess, and putting one foot in front of the other takes a Herculean effort.

I find myself at my home for the short daily visit with my children one day in that first week of sobriety, and I look down to my left hand and see my engagement and wedding rings not on the finger where they are supposed to be.

For me to try to describe what I felt in that very moment would be difficult, as so much time has passed, but I know my stomach clenched up, and I was panicked.  My Mom was with me, I quickly told her, and we spent the next couple of hours until my husband got home from work searching for the ring, to no avail.

Which is what I did for about two weeks, every time I was in that house for those few hours.  As each day passed, I grew more convinced that it was a sign telling me my marriage was over.

In the meantime, marital relations that were strained to begin with became downright hostile.  He never quite got to the point of accusing me of anything directly, but he made enough snide comments, and was angry enough, to alert me to the fact that he did not believe that I had lost the rings.

And that is the most lasting memory of that time period, the sick feeling that goes with knowing you will never convince someone of your innocence, after all the lies you’ve told.

There is a happy ending to this story, to go along with the happy ending of my life, my marriage and my recovery:  mid-February, I am sitting in a meeting, I get a phone call from my husband.  He is celebrating his parent’s anniversary with his family (note I am not there), and he brought vegetables with him to make, because they were starting to turn and he was either going to use them at that function, or just throw the Ziploc bag away.  My rings had fallen into the vegetables as I was transferring them into the bag.  By the way, if it were me in charge of those vegetables, they would have been trashed much earlier, so thank God it wasn’t me in charge.

Truly, it was my first honest to God sign of hope that things might turn around for me.

Back to the present:  in addition to dealing with the shenanigans of my son, I have some separate tense “goings-on” with my daughter.  This post is going entirely too long as it is, so I will wrap it up by saying she is trying out for high school soccer, tryouts are ongoing this whole week, and this process has been a roller coaster all by itself.  Again, this subject could be a post in and of itself, but I feel like I’ve been trailing along behind her as she makes a series of decisions with which I disagree, and I am just waiting for this drama to unfold to the logical conclusion of her not making the team (which, by the way, it has, and why I currently have the time to write this novel).  Yesterday, I am running behind on every errand, of which there were quite a few.  I pick her up, already late for her doctor’s appointment, and I am catching up on the latest bit of bad news about the soccer tryouts.  I need to qualify here:  this is not a situation where she went, tried her hardest, and did not make the team, that I could handle just fine.  It was a situation where she was given some opportunities and did not follow through, and it was those decisions that were (are) not sitting well with me.

We rushed home, got her changed, threw groceries into the fridge (I mean this literally, I was throwing meat and cheese into the fridge), and rushed to the doctor’s office.  I am sitting in the waiting room, catching my breath and trying to dispel the vaguely sick feeling I have about this whole soccer business.  I glance down at my hand.

My ring is gone, again.

I could write quite elaborately of the dread I felt in the moment, as this incident is quite a bit more recent that the one I described earlier.  However, I would guess that the feeling is obvious, particularly when you consider the part about all of the errands I had run earlier that day.  This ring could be anywhere.  For the record, I spent the next several hours after the appointment retracing my steps, to no avail.

When you look at the bullet points of this story, I really sound like a whiny baby: woman lost her ring, and her daughter didn’t make a sports team.  Cry me a river, lady.

It’s the totality of it all that has me still out of sorts, even as I type (I am really hoping that as I hit publish the sick feeling will disappear).  First, the soccer issue:  it’s that feeling of knowing the right thing for someone to do, feeling it in your heart, and then watching the person do the opposite.  We’ve all been there:  friends that stay in relationships we know are unhealthy, alcoholics that continue to drink, the list that goes on and on.  But when you are a parent, it’s as though you should hold some extra power, like a magic wand, to create the best possible outcome.  And you keep second guessing yourself:  should I have said something different to make her see what I see?  Should I have laid down a law and forced this to go a different way?  Should I be THAT parent and intervene, cutting out my child’s involvement?

It’s enough to make my head spin, and then throw into the mix the time travel that went on with the lost ring, and it should unsurprising to say that I did not sleep a whole lot last night (which again conjures memories of active addiction, talk about a vicious cycle).

So that’s my tale of woe from the last few days.  I will end, as is always my intention, on the positives.  First, that I can recognize and verbalize what is going on emotionally is incredible progress from pre-recovery days.  That I can at least start talking back to the sick feelings about the events that are disturbing me:  the ring is an inanimate object, and my marriage and life will continue to thrive without it.  The world does not end if my daughter does not make the soccer team, she will not devolve into a life of crime because she has this new free time on her hands.  My worries and fears are natural, but they are not facts, and I will come out of these feelings eventually.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I am blessed with the ability to express this to my wonderful friends in the blogosphere, and the simple act of putting fingers to keyboard is healing, so thank you, friends, I truly am starting to feel better, and I haven’t even hit publish!

Today’s Miracle:

If anyone has stuck around long enough to read this, then there’s the miracle!  Also, I suppose the silver lining of the soccer issue is the loads of free time to finish the summer strong with the kids.

M(3), 8/11: Best. Meeting. Ever!

Happy Monday, once again!  I really hope I haven’t used this title before, and I am too lazy to search, but even if I did I was incorrect then, because this meeting was truly the best one to date.  I will prove this point right after I give you the nuts and bolts.  Being the second Monday of the month, we read from the book Living Sober, which, as I have written countless times, is a fabulous “how to” book for novices in sobriety.  Each short chapter highlights a different issue with which people in early recovery grapple, and it gives practical sound advice for how to successfully jump that particular hurdle.

As fate would have it, a newcomer to the Fellowship had me beat to the meeting, and was there to greet me at the door.  He had come to the meeting last week, so it’s always good to see someone new two weeks running.  As I was setting up the meeting, I asked if he ever seen or had a chance to read Living Sober before.  He had not, so I explained how useful it can be to those in early recovery, and we discussed different ways for him to purchase the book.  Then the light bulb went off in my head, and I requested that he peruse the table of contents and select the chapter that stood out for him, and we would focus today’s meeting on his selection.  I’m still patting myself on the back for this idea… what’s better than someone brand new to recovery picking out the day’s topic?!?

The meeting was off to a great start, 30 minutes before the meeting actually started!  And it only got better from there.  I will list all the reasons today’s meeting was awesome:

1.  Newcomers

As we like to say in my 12-step fellowship, the most important person in the room is the newcomer.  And boy did we have a lot of VIP’s today!  Besides the gentleman I just wrote about, one of the regular attendees brought a woman to this meeting, and it was her very first 12-step meeting, ever!  Honestly, I had a bit of nerves when I heard that fact, which is totally ridiculous, but true nonetheless:  what if I say or do something that has her writing off 12-step meetings forever?  Thankfully, we had a chance to talk at the break, and after the meeting, and that did not appear to be the case.  Here’s hoping I see her next week!    Besides her, we had 3 others new to both my meeting, and to recovery itself.  All three had less than 4 months.  There were also two others who were new to this meeting, but I did not get a chance to speak with personally, so I am unclear on their length of sobriety.  Which brings me to the second reason the meeting was amazing…

2.  Numbers

We had a record attendance today by a landslide.  I actually stopped counting after 18, but I am guessing we had 21 or 22 attendees this morning.  We filled almost every chair in the room!  Certainly it is quality and not quantity that makes a meeting; I have been at truly fantastic meetings where there were just three of us in attendance.  However, the fact that the numbers are growing can only mean good things for the group and its survival.

3.  The “Magic of the Meeting”

I have spoken of this concept before:  the miracles that happen so often in 12-step meetings.  This morning a woman was at home, newly sober, and her husband was going back to work for the first time since she’s been sober; she will, therefore be alone for the first time in sobriety.  Anxiously crying about it to herself this morning, her sponsor unexpectedly called her to check in, and she shared her fears about being alone.  Her sponsor’s advice:  get to the first meeting you can, which turned out to be the one I run.  The topic that was selected for today’s meeting?  Fending off loneliness.  She cried as she shared this story, she was so overcome.

4.  The Relatability of the Topic

As I mentioned above, the topic was loneliness, which branches in many directions for us alcoholics:  the increased isolation we impose upon ourselves as we sink deeper into our addiction, the general malaise many of us feel our entire lives, thinking that we are somehow different from the rest of humanity, that we were not given the handbook for life that everyone else seems to have read.  Most important, the loneliness we feel in early sobriety, now that our one coping mechanism for life has been stripped away, a coping mechanism that seems to be used successfully by everyone else (seems being the operative word).

There were so many meaningful “shares” after the reading, this post would turn into a chapter if I were to list them all.  My greatest take-away from today’s reading was relating to the feeling of relief newcomers experience when we realize, through the grace of God and the 12-step fellowship, that we are not alone in this disease, that we are not the Worst Human Beings to ever live, that there are people who understand the way we think, and why we act the way we do.  We never have to feel alone again!

The gentleman who selected the chapter said he has struggled with loneliness his entire life; in fact turning to alcohol, and the bar scene, was his way of coping with loneliness.  Now he realizes that in reality, most of his attempts to be social at the bar turned out to be a night solely focused on the alcohol in his glass, rather than the people with whom he was socializing, and often the next day would bring blank spots rather than memories.  He now feels gratitude for the meetings themselves; not only are they a means of connecting with others, but he is connecting with people who truly understand him.  He enjoys meetings both when he is feeling low and needs a lift, and also when he is feeling good and can offer that same lift to others in need.

Another regular, one with almost 30 years of sobriety, said that of all the different components of the 12-step program, the meeting is the most critical component for him.  He said once he found this fellowship, he has never felt true loneliness again.  He is not sure if that is from the support of fellow alcoholics, or finding a Higher Power, but he had felt comfortable in his own skin ever since finding this 12-step fellowship.

A woman with almost 10 years talked about the isolation of active addiction, and how it was hard to break those behaviors even after becoming sober.  It takes time, and repeated use of the new skills we learn in sobriety, but the payoff is great.

A friend I haven’t seen in a while came back to the meeting, and it was so wonderful to see her again!  She has been swamped this summer, and has been unable to attend her regular meetings, so this topic applied directly to her life as well.  She said the advice given at the very end of the chapter stood out the most to her.  The advice is:  as soon as you realize you are starting to isolate, do something about it!  Just the act of reaching out is often enough to dispel feelings of loneliness.  Although unable to connect with her recovery friends, she did reach out to a family member, and the result was the same:  instant mood improvement!

5.  Gratitude

Every single person that shared today spoke of how grateful they are to be present today, how appreciative they are of my service in leading the meeting, and how much they learned themselves from listening to the others.  How often in life are you in a room where every single person is truly glad to be there, and glad that you are there?  It’s impossible to leave without feeling great!

 

 Today’s Miracle:

It seems redundant, but I’ll say it anyway:  having the privilege to experience this kind of life-affirming stuff is such a miracle, and I hope I stay as grateful as I am today!

 

Will You Hold My Beer?

 

I mentioned in my last post that I just returned from a family vacation.  It is an annual trip, taken with my husband’s entire family, and has been going on for longer than I’ve appropriated their last name.  This year there were almost 50 of us clogging up the beaches of Southern New Jersey, and the kids in particular have the vacation of a lifetime each and every August.

My husband’s side of the family is actually not challenging at all in terms of sobriety:  absolutely none of them overindulge, and many of them choose not to drink at all.  Truth be told, until the moment I am about to describe, alcohol consumption and my personal recovery were as much on the back burner as they ever have been while on vacation.

So here’s the set-up:  a sun-drenched late afternoon on the beach, lifeguards are getting ready to pack it up for the day.  All but a few of us have headed home to rinse the sand toys, and out feet, before the evening shift to sweatshirts and figuring out the best take-out to order for dinner.  My husband and myself were giving our kids one last boogie board session of the day while we languished in our beach chairs, and my husband’s parents decided to stick it out with us.  So there we were, sitting and chatting, and my father-in-law says, “Can you hold this for me?” while simultaneously thrusting his bottle towards me and rising from his beach chair.  Reflexively, I take the bottle, and about a millisecond later I realized that the foil-covered bottle was, in fact, a beer.

It probably took twice as long to read that paragraph as the actual act of what I just described played out.  On the other hand, the time I spent holding the beer was a great deal longer.  Obviously I did not have a stopwatch going, but I’m telling you no one has ever taken so long to rearrange a beach chair as my father-in-law did on that afternoon.  I know this for two reasons:  first, once I realized it was beer, I, in what I now realize was melodramatic and probably comical, chose to hold the beer at arm’s length, and I’m telling you, my arm was getting tired before I was able to hand it back.  Second, my husband agreed that it was quite a long time (more on his perspective in a bit).

Here’s how this event played out in my mind:

Holy shit, this is a beer, does he even realize who he just asked to hold his beer?

Wow, maybe that’s how far I’ve come in recovery, that I am to be trusted with a beer!

For God’s sake, don’t be an idiot, he’s not even thinking about the fact that it’s a beer, or that he asked you to hold it, get a grip on your ego.

….feeling palpable tension from the chair next to me, which happens to be occupied by my husband…

Alright, Dad, please get yourself situated, so your son does not flip his lid!

What seems to be the hold-up in getting the chair situated, anyway?

Jeez Louise, my arm is getting tired, can I just casually put it down in the space between his chair and mine?  No, don’t draw any more attention to this.

…glancing over at the beer…

How insane is it that I am holding something that I can never let cross my lips again?

Alright, that thought process is going nowhere good, think of something else.  Hope the angry person in the chair next to me is settling down, but something tells me he’s not.

For God’s sake, sit down and take this beer!

There were probably many more random thoughts going on in the monkey mind, but I think I hit the highlights (lowlights?).

To be clear, this non-event that I’m describing took place entirely between my ears.  If  passers-by on the beach witnessed this scene, they would have seen a man hand a bottle to a woman to hold while he slowly rearranged his chair.  The man then sat down, reclaimed his beverage, and the group continued to talk for another decent length of time before packing up and heading home.  The incident was never discussed.  Well, never discussed between me and my father-in-law, anyway.

Later that evening, I did get a chance to debrief with my husband, and I’m glad I did.  Turns out he needed to process the incident a bit more to put it in a proper perspective.  By the end of our discussion, though, he was feeling much better about it, and he was able to give me a perspective I would never have considered on my own:  that it shows the progress of my relationships in recovery.  Two and half years ago, I’m not sure anyone would have opted to even sit with me on the beach, much less feel comfortable doing so with a beer in their hands.  Meanwhile on this trip, I can say that I was able to sit down, one-on-one, with every adult member of the family in the house I lived for the week, and I was able to have honest, real conversations, conversations where people discussed their issues with me, and seemed interested in my perspective.  Two and half years ago?  Not so much.

Finally, and perhaps most important, was the change in the relationship with my husband.  First, that I have the sense about me to be attuned to his feelings at all, then to have the confidence and compassion to seek him out and talk to him about it.  That he has the confidence in me to confess his feelings, and that I can hear them without judgment, without defensiveness and with the willingness to talk things out.  That he can see progress in me that in a thousand years I would not see in myself, and his generosity in sharing it.

To answer the question:  yes, I’ll hold it, but only if you hurry up with what you’re doing!

Today’s Miracle:

Just signed up for fellow blogger Mrs. D’s new website Living Sober.  I am inspired by all she has accomplished, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.  Check it out!

M(3), August 3: Family Affair

 

 

The image says it all!

Last week I was “down the shore” with a large group of extended family members on my husband’s side, the week before I was entertaining out-of-town family on my side.  For those not local, down the shore is a Philadelphia expression that refers to the beaches of southern New Jersey, a popular family vacation destination in my part of the world.  The house we rented had no internet connection, leaving me to wonder if we had fallen into a time warp of some kind, and also leaving me absent of the ability to get caught up with my fellow bloggers.  I did have my phone, but alas, I am woefully inept at typing on small devices, so I figured I have the rest of my life to get caught up, right?

That long introduction eventually winds around to my main point, which is that it is so interesting that the main topic of discussion at this morning’s meeting centered around family, and the stress interactions with family can cause.  Today’s reading was from the book Alcoholics Anonymous, and was written by one of the founding fathers of the 12-step fellowship, Jim B.  Jim has been credited with the expression “God as we understood Him,” because of his staunch agnosticism, and he is also the reason we have our third tradition, which states that the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.

While reading Jim’s story this morning, I had a feeling that I often have when reading stories from the Big Book:  the feeling that while none of my life events parallel the author’s, the feelings behind those events are remarkably similar.  Jim describes his all or nothing approach to life that I write so frequently about on this blog.  He talks about his pattern of being passionate about solving a problem, but then needing an immediate reward for the effort expended… usually an alcoholic reward.  And he writes of the importance of remembering clearly the events that led him to recovery; I too believe that remembering my last days of active addiction is critical to the maintenance of my sobriety.

From my sharing on my take-away of this morning’s story, we veered sharply away from the reading to focus on more personal matters.  One person had attended an alcohol-saturated family event that left her feeling like she had gone nine rounds with a prize-fighter.  Another woman shared of a recent visit with family that left her feeling badly about herself:  she should feel happy to visit with her relatives, and instead she feels guilt that the relatives irritated her.  Finally another attendee shared that he had an overall positive experience with family over the weekend, but for one sister whose very voice sends his stress level to the roof.

It would take a person much wiser than me to answer the question:  why does family make us so crazy?  Therefore, I will not even try.  What’s interesting to me about this morning is that this meeting could have been well-timed; after two weeks with such intimate family interactions I would, in the past, have been batshit crazy.  But I’m really not.  Both with my side of the family two weeks ago, and with my husband’s last week, I would say that they were both the best vacations of their kind in recent memory.  Maybe this morning’s discussion was a reminder for me to be grateful to be in such a good space.  Or maybe it gave me the perspective and calm I needed to help the people suffering with some objective advice.

In any event, as nice as vacation was, I’m so happy to be back!

Today’s Miracle:

Getting to give and receive life lessons with people, finding out that we are never, EVER alone with our fears and self-doubt, there are simply no words to describe that miracle of kinship.

Blog Tour 2014: Oh The Places We’ll Go!

I am just back from what amounts to a two-week vacation from this blog, and what an amazing welcome back present I’ve received… the opportunity to participate in what is being described as a “blog tour.”  So first, a heartfelt thanks to Kristen, the incredibly talented, Freshly Pressed author of the blog ByeByeBeer.  Kristen is the closest thing I have to a celebrity friend.  She is a celebrity because she is Freshly Pressed, and has been a guest on The Bubble Hour.  She is my friend because she is a wise, compassionate, interesting human being, as well as a supreme motivator for me to keep in shape between our 5K’s (and speaking of which, Kristen, time to start scaring up a fall event!).  It would be impossible for me to pick a favorite post from her blog, because I get excited every time a notification that she has written appears in my inbox, but I would say this post is one of her many greats, and spoke to me in a personal way.

Onwards and upwards… I am guessing I should be answering the same questions that Kristen did in her post, so here goes nothing:

What am I working on?

Being the literal person that I am, I am currently working on answering these questions!  Taking a miniscule step back, I am working on making my way through 10 tons of laundry from last week’s trip down the shore (more to follow on that in future blog posts).  I am guessing this question assumes that a blogger has some bigger project happening in the background, which for me is not strictly true.  About a year into my blogging, I did latch on to one idea for a book, and I have some work done on it, but to say I am working on it currently would be a gross misrepresentation of the truth.  During this season of the year the greatest work in process is creating a summer of fun, lasting memories for my kids.  Failing that, surviving the summer with everyone’s sanity intact would also be acceptable.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I will say, straight out, that my blog does not seem overly different to me from others in its genre:  recovery bloggers write as a means of figuring out this whole business of sober living.   One thing that does stand out to me as a bit unusual is my starting point.  Most of the bloggers I follow spent time reading blogs before creating their own.  On the other hand, and crazy as it may seem, I had not read a single blog post before starting my own.  In fact, when it was suggested I undertake the project, I had never before heard of WordPress, and it was several months in before I understood that people outside of my family were even reading what I was writing!  So my naiveté would surely count as something different.

Perhaps another unique perspective would be my Monday posts.  Almost two years ago, I started and have since been running a weekly 12-step meeting.  From that decision a weekly blog post evolved where I take what I consider to be the highlights of each meeting, and share them with all of my blogging friends.   Readers get to hear all of the wisdom, and anonymity is maintained.  It’s like getting the Cliffs Notes of the 12-step world!

Why do I write/create what I do?

Of the four questions, this is the easiest to answer.  I first started this blog to chronicle my journey of recovery, to write about the trials and tribulations of early sobriety.  Once I understood and appreciated the blogging world, and the countless benefits that come with being part of it, I wrote (and still write, to this day) to “hold my seat,” as it were, in this incredible community.  My posts still chronicle my recovery, as I will be on that journey for the rest of my life.  Anything I do is part of that journey.  But now, the focus is so much broader:  I will write as a springboard from the post of a fellow blogger, or I will write because I know that sharing my experience will benefit my blogging friends, sometimes I will write to share a laugh.  The relationships formed here are almost as interactive as my friends in person, and so I write/create to maintain those relationships.

How does my writing/creative process work?

It makes me smile to call what I do a creative process, from my perspective it feels like I am simply emptying out my brain onto the blank sheet of a word processing document.  Answering this question has the song “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea playing like a backdrop in my head (a song I detest, by the way, so I need to shut it down, immediately!).

So I suppose, if there is a process at all, it would go something like this:  there is an issue in my life that I feel the need to explore.  In the earliest days of this blog, the issues would appear every time I turned around, as I’m sure is typical with everyone in early sobriety.  That issue then becomes the subject matter for a post.  From there I search for a “hook:” something about the issue that is relatable, preferably to those both in and out of recovery.  The more time passes, the easier this becomes.  Once I have that hook, there is no stopping the process, and truly for me the post writes itself.  Not a fancy process at all!

So next I get the fun of tagging some of my inspirations for logging on to WordPress.  I am publishing this before I have even gone through my reader, so if I have tagged someone already tagged, my apologies.

First I will pick Lisa Neumann, the brilliant author of the blog Sober Identity.  Lisa’s positive feedback on my blog was my first realization that blogging is an interactive business; not only do I get to write about the issues I am facing, but there are actual bloggers who have been there and done that, and they will help me along the way.  I have never read a post of hers that has not resounded deeply with me, her commitment to helping others in recovery is truly her life’s work.  If you are new to Lisa, I would start with this post.

Second I will pick a blog a bit newer (to me, anyway), called There’s more to me than this.  I read this blog, and often have the feeling that thoughts were taken directly out of my head and transferred via someone else’s keyboard.  And it is that exact connection that makes the blogging world so amazing… people from all over the planet, and all walks of life, sharing experiences and giving each other wisdom.  As a matter of fact, her most recent post describes beautifully all I am trying to convey about why I love the blogging world.  Start right here and work your way backwards, I promise you it will be well worth it!

I will make the same disclaimer to my “tagees” as was made to me:  feel no pressure to carry this forward; no bad mojo will fall on your life if you wish to end the blog tour right here.  But do consider it; thinking about why I do what I do has been enlightening, and filled me with gratitude!

Today’s Miracle:

The reminder of how miraculous our blogging community is!

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