Monthly Archives: October 2014

The End of the Innocence

 

It’s a staple lecture in my house:  getting your feelings out, saying what’s going on in your head, is always better than keeping it in.  It’s never as bad as you think it is, and you will feel better for sharing your mental burden.

Sometimes, I wonder, though, if there aren’t some exceptions to this rule.  Are some thoughts so childish, so disgracefully unkind, that perhaps need only be acknowledged internally and then dismissed?

Because once you share something, you can’t unring the bell.  Once you let someone in on your most troublesome thoughts, you can’t say, “You know what?  Never mind, I’m okay.”

 

Growing up, I don’t specifically remember too many crushing disappointments.  I’m not sure if this is because I was the most exceptional child ever, or if my expectations were that low, but when I think back over elementary school, high school, and even college and grad school, things I sought out I generally obtained:  good grades, positions of leadership, friendships, honors, employment.

The first major disappointment that stands out to me occurred at my first full-time gig after grad school.  To reiterate, I slid into every aspect of this career up to this point:  I was able to reside and work in my undergrad institution while obtaining my graduate degree, at which point a full-time job magically presented itself upon graduation.  Should of, could of, would of… been more grateful, but that is the trouble with youth, no life experience to allow appreciation.

And that job had everything (with the exception of good pay, but what’s money when you’re young and carefree?):  great hours, really fun working environment, and a belief in what I was doing.  I genuinely looked forward to going to work every day, it was fun the vast majority of the time.

There were two of us that landed these magical positions, and we were (in fact, are still) very close friends.  And what followed was predictable in a trite movie plot sort of way:  one of us received the promotion for which both of us were vying.

In case I need to state the obvious:  that someone was not me.

I am immensely oversimplifying a very old story, but what stands out to me the most is the outrage I felt with respect to the injustice of it all.  In my heart, that promotion was mine, and it was an egregious slight that I took very, very personally.

My solution to this problem was to detach emotionally, and jump at the very first position I could find.  A position which had nothing to do with my career path, had nothing to do with the advanced degree I just earned, and to this day I could not tell you what possible long-term career benefit it would have provided.  Not coincidentally, it provided no long-term career benefit.

Stupid, stupid youth.  If I could talk to my 20-something self, I would do so in a loud, frustrated tone of voice.

Why embarrass myself with this stupid story that is a distant memory?  Because there is a lifelong pattern to it for which I created my own catch phrase:  the end of the innocence.

When I started that particular career, I did not know where I was specifically headed, I was doing something new and exciting, learning and growing, and I wasn’t comparing or competing against anyone or anything.  There were no real expectations, and so anything good that happened was really good, anything bad was taken in stride.

But at some point, and I am too far removed from it to determine where, I did develop expectations, and I was comparing myself to others rather than to myself, and when I came up wanting, that is where the dissatisfaction sneaked in.  And since I did not have my sage 40-something self to advise me, we know how the story ends.

So, problem solved, right?  Compare self to self, rather than self to others, and all will be well.

Except when that sneaky, snarky voice finds its way back in, and even when you know it for what it is, it still manages to wreak havoc with serenity.

 

A few days ago I was at my son’s final track meet.  A very good friend from my college days surprised my son by attending and cheering him on.  It made my son’s day to see this particular friend, because he is akin to celebrity status in my house:  my friend completed his first Iron Man triathlon this past summer.  His advice has gold status as far as my son is concerned.

So I express my gratitude and try to explain to my friend why his presence means so much to my son.   He is surprised to be seen as a role model, and laughs, because in his circle he is the novice.  He knows professional triathletes, so compared to them, his accomplishments are small.  He told me a story that between events, I think he said swimming and biking, he stopped to eat a sandwich.  His friends rushed by him and assumed an injury that forced him to end his journey, and were subsequently astonished by his decision to take that break.  For them it was about finishing in the quickest amount of time.  For him it was about enjoying that experience in the most complete way possible.  And apparently complete enjoyment meant a sandwich break while enjoying the sights and sounds of Switzerland.

The best part of that story for me:  his complete comfort with his decisions and his outcome, and his complete detachment from the decisions and outcomes of those around him.

I am in that stage of innocence with my fitness right now, and I consciously enjoy it.  I do not see myself on the level of those training for marathons, or even 5K’s, I am just supremely happy with the fact that I can run a complete mile without stopping.

 

I actively miss that stage of innocence with other areas of my life.  In those areas that I actively see the downward spiral I have taken, similar in trajectory to the career decisions I described earlier:  I start something green and innocent, and am delighted by every new thing that comes along.  Then comes that mental shift, and that sneaky voice “shoulding” all over me… I should have more accolades, more progress should be seen by this point, I should have more defined goals so that I should be even harder on myself.

And then, even worse, is when I turn on the unsuspecting people around me, and my envy at their perceived success has me regarding them in a negative light.

And it’s wrong on every level, and it’s shameful, but damned if I know how to turn it off.

Maybe there are some things that are better left unsaid.  Just don’t tell my kids I said so.

 

Today’s Miracle:

 Had the opportunity to host two different family members at my house, and am still relishing the spontaneity of it!

M(3), 10/27: The Medical Profession and AA

 

In the literature rotation of my meeting, the fourth Monday is labelled “chairperson’s choice.”  This week, I chose a selection from a book not used very frequently these days, entitled Alcoholic Anonymous Comes of Age:  A Brief History of A.A.  The book gives an account of the historic 1955 St. Louis convention, at which the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous assumed full responsibility for all its affairs.  It contains the lectures of many of the notable speakers throughout the convention, as well as discusses the three principles of the fellowship:  recovery, unity and service.

This morning we read the chapter entitled, “Medicine Looks at Alcoholics Anonymous.”  In this chapter we read the speech from a distinguished member of the American Medical Association, Dr. W. W. Bauer.  Dr. Bauer, in his address to the assembly, compares the societal view towards alcoholism to that of tuberculosis:  both are diseases that afflict people through no fault of their own, and yet at one time those afflicted with either illness were regarded shamefully.  He notes that same stigma was once attached to those afflicted with cancer.  Happily, though, both the medical establishment, as well as society itself, is slowly coming around to regarding these diseases objectively, without assigning disgrace to those who carry them.

He praises AA for its use of “group therapy,” as he calls it:  gathering support, sympathy and guidance from one another as each attempts to dispel the obsession to drink alcohol.  Many of the treatment options the medical profession offers the sick and suffering alcoholic was learned from cooperating with the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.  The partnership of the two – medicine and AA – is a mutually beneficial one.

By and large the group enjoyed the reading, although the glad handing that went on as one speaker introduced the next proved to be a time waster.  The standout of Dr. Bauer’s lecture, for me, occurred when he touched upon the importance of our attitude:

“Illness of the emotions is no more something to be ashamed of than is illness of the body.  We should no more hesitate to consult a psychiatrist than we should hesitate to consult an orthopedist for a sore foot.”

-pg. 240, Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age

It took time for me to stop feeling ashamed of having the disease of alcoholism; for a long time I could not let go of the idea that I should just be able to control myself.  Letting go of the shame felt as though a load was lifted off my back.  To borrow an idea from another 12-step fellowship:  I didn’t cause my alcoholism, I can’t control whether or not I am afflicted with it, and I cannot cure it.  One day at a time, however, I can do a few simple things that will remove the obsession to drink right out of me!

Other talking points, as shared by the various attendees of this morning’s meeting, included:

  • Our program of recovery has three legs upon which it stands firmly:  physical, spiritual emotional.  Today’s reading touched upon the physical leg, and it is so important, especially in the earliest days of sobriety.  Learning proper nutrition, what vitamins and minerals support healthy recovery, and touching base with a medical professional for any prescriptive needs all provide a sound foundation upon which we build our sober future.
  • In the last paragraph of his lecture, Dr. Bauer says:

“I am no psychiatrist, but I have confidence in saying this to you as I have said to thousands of patients, that the thing we need most of all in this world today is tranquility of mind.  Various names have been given to it.  Some books about it have been very popular.  Some call it the power of positive thinking, some call it peace of mind, some call it peace of souls, but I’m inclined to along with Billy Graham and call it peace with God.  Those are the things that we need.  And an organization like yours, in a world that seems to have gone materialistically mad, gives us courage to believe that there is still hope, that there is still idealism, and that we are going to win out over many, many of our problems, one of the most serious of which is alcoholism.”

-pg. 244, Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age

This paragraph stood out to a number of us today, in that we are so grateful to be part of a fellowship whose very goal is to achieve this peace for ourselves, and to have the honor of helping others do the same.

  • Finally, and this was echoed by almost every attendee who shared, was the appreciation of the “group therapy” component of our fellowship.  As one member put it this morning, “Putting a dollar in a basket to sit here and share my troubles, and have all of you help me, is a real bargain compared to the thousands I have spent in therapy!”  Another put it this way, “No matter how I feel, good or bad, I have never left a meeting disappointed… I am always in a better mental place leaving the meeting than when I went in.”  A friend who we have not seen a few weeks berated herself on her absence:  “I feel the difference when I stop going to meetings, just coming here and seeing all of your friendly, supportive faces brightens my day, and when I don’t go I feel like I’m missing something in my life!”

Today’s Miracle:

Sometimes it takes the miracles of others to become conscious of your own.  Hearing how much everyone gets out of meetings helped deepen my own appreciation!

To Spend or Unfriend?

 

Here’s the scenario:  my son has had the same best friend for exactly half of his young life.  The friend has stood the ultimate elementary school friendship test:  a change of schools (his friend, not my son).  They have had sleepovers, and too many play dates to count.  I am very friendly with both parents.  While I tend not to socialize with any of the parents of my children’s friends (I like to say that I got the friendships right in college, and I am going to stick with that group!), I would say that of all the friends of both children through the years, these are the parents I enjoy the most.

When my son’s friend comes over to my house, here is what the average play date looks like:  a few minutes of obligatory chit-chat with me, and then they are off like mad men, cavorting about the neighborhood, running through the house, playing video games, and terrorizing my daughter, pausing only long enough for snack and/or meal breaks.  Summertime frequently has us at the pool, and once in a blue moon I will take the kids out to a fast food restaurant.  By and large, though, my motto is:  your friends are here.  Go create some fun for yourselves (without breaking any laws).

When my son goes to his friend’s house, here is what the average play date looks like:  a few minutes of obligatory chit-chat with the parents, a few minutes of running around the house/neighborhood like maniacs, and then the boy’s father (I am unclear if he is prompted, or he just is an overgrown child himself) suggests they go out.  And then they go:  to the movies, to the speedway to race cars, to the trampoline house, to the ice skating rink.  And all of this will be topped off with stops and wherever and whatever strikes their fancy in terms of food.

The very last play date, and what prompted me to write this post, was a piggy back to my having my son’s friend overnight.  The sleepover went exactly as I described above.  The next morning, I get a call:  can my son now come with them to get their matching Halloween masks?  This makes complete sense for them to go together, since they want to match, so I agree.  Here’s what they wound up doing:  stopping at Starbucks, where both boys got Frappuccino’s, then to the Halloween store (planned, and my son had his own money for this), then they decided to grab some lunch at the fanciest food store/pub in our area (Wegman’s Pub, for the local readers), and then, since they were out, they might as well go see that new movie with Steve Carell, which I have no doubt included some kind of snack.

To reiterate, I genuinely enjoy this husband and wife, and, overindulgence notwithstanding, think they are actually raising really nice children (my son’s friend has a twin sister).  The problem, in a nutshell, is the financial imbalance.  First, I genuinely don’t have the kind of money to indulge my children like this, and, even if I did, I would not choose to do so.

On the other hand, this happens, without fail, every time my son goes to his friend’s house.  They absolutely never stay home.  And every time I have my son’s friend over to my house, they are looking to reciprocate, so it is impossible for me to just continuously have him over to my house.  And besides, it seems as though my son’s friend tends to prefer play dates at home (which, if I were him and had a Dad that took me wherever my little heart desired, I would too!).

So the Dear Abby question (would it be Dear Bloggy in this scenario?) is:  how do I handle this situation?  Do I approach the parents, and what in the world do I say?  If I say my son can’t afford to be your son’s friend, then they will immediately offer to pay for him.  If I say I choose not to have my son indulged in this fashion, I am criticizing their parenting (and insulting the heck out of their generosity to boot).  I have already established that it does not work just trying to have play dates only at my house.  Do I simply send my son to the house with cash in anticipation of the inevitable indulgences?  Or, do I steer him away from this friendship entirely because of the financial issues?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

 

Today’s Miracle:

Meeting a new recovery friend for a meeting and lunch today, so I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks, or, in this case, teach an old dog how to make new friends! 

M(3), 10/20: Tabula Rasa

 

I feel inadequate.

As hard as I try, I do not feel like I can ever really convey the camaraderie, the empathy, the shared pain and shared joy that comes out of the simple 60 minute gathering of individuals every Monday morning.  But, of course, I will continue to try…

Today’s meeting focused on the tenth step in our 12-step program:

Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it

In practical terms, this step asks you to look at your thoughts and behaviors on a regular basis, and correct as needed.  The most common application of this step occurs at bedtime, looking back at the day and seeing what went well, what went wrong, and what needs to be fixed.  Certainly, though, self-examination can occur at any point in a day, as many times a day as needed.  In times of emotional distress, a quick “spot check” can often be the perfect remedy.

Step 10 is my personal favorite, and the regular practice of step 10 has yielded one of the best gifts in my sobriety:  the gift of honest introspection.  One of the simplest ways I put step 10 into regular practice is what I call the common denominator theory:  if I am aggravated with 3 or more people/situations at one time, then I am the common denominator, and therefore I am the problem.   I am also fond of pointing out the common denominator theory when it applies to others (especially my children, and you can imagine how much they love this).

A newer way of looking at step 10 has presented itself to me through a series of events:  the idea of starting in the present and moving forward, rather than feeling like every past situation needs to be resolved before I can find peace.  This is a concept that intrigues and excites me:  imagine if you could just take a relationship that you value but is fractured or filled with resentments, and simply start fresh at this very moment with a clean slate?  All past resentments and issues are wiped clean, and you have nowhere to go but forward?  For an Irish Catholic grudge holder like myself this is a novel concept, and one that will take much effort to put into practice, but the various God moments that have happened for me surrounding it make is a worthwhile project, and I will let you know how it goes for me.

From here the meeting took a number of personal turns:  a woman with a year of sobriety shared her story for the first time at a meeting.  She expected to feel empowered by this; instead she felt insecure and wobbly, and found her thoughts turn to alcohol.  She was so distressed by this thought process, she needed to share it with people who understood, and therefore came to the meeting today to “tell on herself.”  Happily, she was with a group who understands, and had a line of people waiting to speak with her at the meeting’s end.

Another woman, this one with decades of sobriety, has a speaking engagement of her own upcoming, and even after all these years, sharing her story, and public speaking, remains the most terrifying aspect of our 12-step program.  No matter how far along she has come, that negative self-talk rears its ugly head when it comes time to share her experience, strength and hope, and that negative self-talk tells her she has nothing of value to say.  The good news is that she knows what to do with these feelings, and that is to come to a meeting and share them with us, and in shining the spotlight, the dark thoughts are forced into the light and exposed for the fraudulence they are.

From these two stories all the following attendees piggy backed, and talked of the various insecurities they have that relate, and how talking about them helps to dispel the power those insecurities hold.

A few seasoned veterans brought it back to talk of the personal inventory, and reminded all of us to focus not only on what we need to fix, but also on all that we have done right in a given day/week/month.  We are often too quick to look at our mistakes, but what about all the wonderful things we have improved upon in our recovery?

That being said, I will focus on all the great stuff I am able to share with you, rather than bemoan all that I may have missed.  Hope everyone is having a wonderful Monday!

Today’s Miracle:

I promised some pictures of my son’s birthday dinner, and then I got too busy serving and forgot to take any really good shots.  The first two show the set-up of the rooms before the crowds descended, and the last is one puny shot that fails to convey the delicious glory that was fried chicken!  Everyone left with a full belly, and my son had a fantastic birthday weekend!

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M(3), 10/13: The Id, Ego, Superego, and Then There’s the Alcoholic Ego

 

Today’s meeting was special for a few reasons.  First, we got to celebrate a friend’s one year “soberversary.”  Coffee cake was made this morning, and eaten in its entirety by the end of the meeting.

Second, we had two newcomers to the meeting.  One seemed to have a bit of time under his belt, the other brand-spanking-new to the Fellowship.  Always fun to get some fresh perspectives.

Third, a regular attendee who almost never shares raised his hand.  It’s interesting to hear from someone who’s usually quiet.

Finally, the meeting was interesting to me because my main takeaway from the reading was markedly different from that of the rest of the group.  We read from the book Living Sober, one of the final chapters entitled “Trying the Twelve Steps.”  The chapter gives a brief history of the group Alcoholics Anonymous, the serendipity of the meeting of its two founders, and the basic principles under which it operates.

What stood out to me about the reading was the synchronicity that led to Bill W. and Dr. Bob meeting, but my focus on that section of the chapter had much to do with a television program (programme for my Canadian and European readers, hee hee) I watched yesterday.  On the show CBS Sunday Morning there was a segment on coincidences.  If you know me and/or have read this blog for any length of time, you know any topic involving coincidences will be one I find fascinating.  Here is the segment if you feel like checking it out:

I watched that segment and felt sad for the scientists, because they are missing a magical part of life with their perspective.  So when I read this morning how such an unlikely grouping of people brought such miraculous and long-lasting results to alcoholics the world-wide, I was reminded again that there are no coincidences, just God moments that may or may not be recognized by the people experiencing them.

The rest of the relatively large group (15 in all) focused on the section of the chapter that talked about one of the cornerstones of our 12-step program:  it is in getting out of our self-absorption, and in getting into service work, specifically helping another alcoholic, that we are most assured of maintaining our sobriety.  In other words:  it’s not all about me.  Or, as a much more eloquent attendee put it:  it is in the transcendence of self, in getting out of the pronoun “I’ and into the pronoun “We,” that we start our recovery from alcoholism.

So what does all of this mean to the non-alcoholic, or even the recovering alcoholic who does not participate in a 12-step program?  It’s incredibly simple:  get out of your own head, and go help somebody, anybody.  Go help your child with his homework.  Go take your Grandmother to her hair salon.  Take some chicken soup to your sick neighbor.  You get the point.

It is truly the most fundamental tenet of this 12-step program:  helping another alcoholic helps you stay sober.  The gift that keeps on giving!

There was a great discussion about what is meant by the label “egotistical.”  A lot of us, myself included, initially took ourselves out of any discussion involving the expression egotistical… if anything, we rationalized, we did not think enough of ourselves due to our crippling lack of self-confidence.  But in this case, “egotistical” is not a pejorative term, as in one who has an overinflated sense of self; rather, it is used to describe one who is focused too much on oneself.  Not necessarily thinking bad or good, just thinking too much about our own wants, needs, desires, how things are affecting us, how we are perceived.  Like the old joke… “Now, enough about me, what do YOU think about me?”

So it follows naturally that helping another person, alcoholic or not, forces the self-centered individual out of his or her own head.  And that service not only helps another, it boomerangs right back, and helps the individual doing the helping.

The last person who shared summed up my feelings on this subject the best:  “Getting out of my own head was the hardest part of this program I had to learn, and the first character defect that comes back, even in sobriety.”  Oh boy, could I relate to that!  Putting down the drink or drug does not take away our flawed humanity.  On the other hand, choosing recovery does give us a set of skills to first recognize our flaws, then correct the mistakes that we as human beings are prone to make.

All of that, and praise galore for my super quick and easy coffee cake.  Who could ask for anything more out of a Monday morning?

Today’s Miracle:

Alright, this may be predicting a miracle, but I’m going to put it out there anyway:  I’m hosting a dinner for 18 this Friday for my son’s 12th birthday.  He requested fried chicken a la a special Philly restaurant (Federal Donuts for local readers), and I have been hard at work perfecting the recipe.  I think I got it last night, and so… the miracle is… I will be working on gathering everything I need for this party starting today (actually, technically speaking, last night).  To the über-organized of the world, this may seem like a day in the life, but the procrastinators will totally get it.  By this time next week I should have some fun pictures to share!

A Confession of Infidelity

 

I have been hanging on to this blog by my fingernails of late.

It started out as a rationale:  I re-started a new fitness/weight loss/get healthy challenge a few weeks back, and I swore I would not bother the blogosphere with this nonsense again.  I barely want to hear it myself, how could anyone else?

On the other hand, I have come to a point in my blogging where I write twice a week:  one that wraps up the wisdom I glean from the weekly meeting I run, and the other where I release whatever is running around inside of my brain.  If I am involved in a diet and exercise challenge, then guess what is the only thing running around my brain?

And then another thought occurred to me:  many of the recovery bloggers I read credit their sobriety to immersing themselves in the recovery blogging world.  It was not my path, but it has always intrigued me.  Perhaps I can employ that same mindset and immerse myself in the diet and fitness blogs of the world.

So that’s where I’ve been.  Instead staying on top of my WordPress reader, I have been branching out to MyFitnessPal forums, and the top rated diet and fitness blogs of recent years.  It has been an interesting experience, but I’ve got to say it:  not the same, not the same at all.  There is something very unique, and very special, about our community.  I certainly did not find it in the diet and fitness world, that’s for sure!

So that’s where I’ve been.  And here’s why I’m back, and it has to do with a valuable lesson I learned from all the mini-challenges I did this year:  consistency.

I have been working on improving my fitness for about 14 months, working on losing weight for about 7 months, and working on my overall health for 6 months.  For a large majority of that time, I was looking at the glass half empty.  No matter what I did, my focus was one what I hadn’t done, or what I still needed to do, or how much better I could have done it.  It all came to a head for me a few weeks ago.  I had started this challenge on September 12 (2 months before my birthday), and I had just had my first very successful weigh-in.  My husband was congratulating me, and I could not see it.  You see, that weight I lost that week I have been losing and gaining all year, give or take a few pounds.  So while the number sounded good (I honestly can’t remember what it was, something close to 10 pounds I think), all I could see was the number I should be at, since I had already lost those 10 pounds 2 or 3 other times this year.  And the more I tried to explain my thought process to my husband, the more he looked at me like I was speaking another language.  I wound up in hysterical tears by the end of it; not because he wasn’t understanding my point, but that I was not understanding his.

This is a nod to my recovery tools:  I can see now when I’m thinking like “Old School Josie” by watching the reactions of others.  I may not be able to stop Old School Josie Thinking entirely, but I can at least recognize it and correct it.

So my mini-meltdown was the start of a slow new understanding:  this is a process, not an event with a start and end point.  Sounds obvious, doesn’t it?  But when you’re in the thick of it, it’s anything but.

Next lightning bolt:  each failed attempt, and that is probably not even an apt description, but let’s roll with it…  each failed attempt was some kind of lesson learned that helped me the next go-around.  Every subsequent challenge I have undertaken (I would say there have been four in all) has shown me greater and greater results.  The most concrete example I can give:  this most recent one had me going strong for three weeks, and I got to the lowest number on the scale that I have seen in my adult life, when I hit the all too familiar roadblock:  a celebration of some sort.  This time, it was my wedding anniversary, which turned into a 4 day free-for-all in terms of eating.  It has been slow going this week, but I am slowly getting myself back on track.  So here’s the progress:

1.  I am back on track, normally a celebration derails me for weeks

2.  My high number on the scale since resuming is the previous challenge’s low number

Even Old School Josie Thinking can’t argue that this is progress!

Last valuable lesson learned, and now I will finally tie this all back to blogging:  Consistency is key.  It is true in my sobriety, it is true for my diet and fitness, and it is true for blogging.  If I don’t keep myself to a schedule, then I will fade away into the blogging sunset.  I know it.  Just in the few weeks I took off, the monkey mind was getting louder and louder:  enough is enough, you are getting too repetitive, who gives a crap about what’s going on in your life?  On and on.

Here’s my response back:  nothing but great things have happened with respect to the blog.  So I guess I’ll keep writing!

 

Today’s Miracle:

Through the orthodontic process, we discovered an abnormality in my son’s mouth, and we have been anxiously awaiting results of the oral surgery he had as a result of that discovery.  Results are in, and it was the best possible news.  So the miracle is:  the good health of my children is now something for which I am consciously grateful each and every day!

Second miracle:  surgeons who take their job seriously, and go the extra mile to ensure the best possible results.  I’m telling you, there’s no feeling like knowing you can trust your child’s medical professional!

M(3), 10/6: Life Beyond Compare

 

Is it Monday again already?  Small(ish) meeting today, only 10 attendees, but a delightful newcomer (to my meeting, not to the Fellowship) that I will talk about in a bit.  As it is the first Monday of the month, today’s reading was selected from the book Alcoholics Anonymous (The Big Book), entitled “The Housewife Who Drank at Home.”

Often I say that stories in the Big Book are relatable to me in terms of the feelings behind the nuts and bolts of the story, rather than the story itself.  Most of the personal stories were written by men over 50 years ago, so day-to-day life experience is not something I would typically share with the authors of most of the stories.  With the exception of this one.  So much of the story parallels mine, it would be difficult to list it all:  an alcoholic who drank by herself, at home, who knew she had a problem but tried to distract herself with various interests in the hopes the problem would go away, who did not understand the concept of a middle ground.  Relatability was not an issue for me with this story.

The standout point, for me, came right at the beginning:

At one time, the admission that I was and am an alcoholic meant shame, defeat, and failure to me. But in the light of the new understanding that I have found in A.A., I have been able to interpret that defeat, and that failure, and that shame, as seeds of victory. Because it was only through feeling defeat and feeling failure, the inability to cope with my life and with alcohol, that I was able to surrender and accept the fact that I had this disease, and that I had to learn to live again without alcohol. -pg. 296, Alcoholics Anonymous

Even when I knew, deep down knew, that drinking (and other substances) was a very serious problem, I still did not want to accept the label alcoholic.  When I first attended 12-step meetings, I would be outraged by the people who identified themselves as “grateful, recovering alcoholics.”  I mean, get serious, why in the world would you be grateful to be an alcoholic?!?

As it turns out, it makes all the sense in the world.  Had I not suffered from this disease, I would have had no reason to join this group of individuals who figured out how to live life without chemical aid.  Had I not joined this happy, joyous and free group, I would not have met the people who taught me a whole new set of skills, skills that enable me to not only live life sober, but also to be a significantly improved version of myself… a better mother, wife, family member and friend.  And had I not learned these skills, I would not have used them to build a life beyond my wildest dreams.

So, yes, I am a grateful, recovering alcoholic, and I’m damned proud of it!

Other parts of the story that stood out for the group was the idea of the all or nothing approach to everything that we alcoholics seem to embrace.  People with 30 days to 30 years in the meeting this morning had this personality trait in common.  Also in common:  the amazement that we all felt that we kept our lives together the way we did in active addiction.  The story talks of how the author would take all the cleaning supplies out, but they would sit for hours as she distracted herself with drink, only to rush around right before anyone was to come home and make it appear as though chores had been accomplished.  Several in the group this morning, myself included. could relate.

A final thought from one of the attendees:  coming into the Fellowship to figure out how to stop drinking, but leaving with so much more:  a feeling of community, the spirit of true understanding, and real camaraderie.  His gratitude list is never complete without including “finding the rooms of our 12-step program!”

A final thought from me:  I had a mini-God moment that I’d like to share.  This past weekend, my husband was reading an article online that had to do with asking your 12-year old self what she thinks of how you turned out (hopefully that makes sense, it was entirely confusing to create that sentence).  This is the exact kind of exercise that could get my eyeballs stuck in the back of my head from rolling them so hard, but we proceeded to have a conversation, which ended with his suggestion that I write about it.  I dismissed that thought entirely out of hand, and life proceeded.

Fast forward to this morning’s meeting.  I mentioned there was a newcomer today.  She was from a town about 30 minutes away, and, through the course of her sharing, I gather she has close to 40 years of sobriety under her belt.  Needless to say, she was an absolute font of wisdom, and I am so grateful to have gotten to listen to her share.  In the midst of speaking, she offered this:  if she had had the foresight at a young age to write down what she would have liked her life to be, even her greatest fantasies would have paled in comparison to the life she had the opportunity to live as a result of making the 12 steps a part of her life.

And I thought to myself:  that’s why I didn’t want to write about what I said, because I was to meet the woman who would sum it up so much more perfectly than I!

Today’s Miracle:

After a weekend of enjoying my 15-year wedding anniversary (which was Thursday, so not sure why I needed to celebrate it for 4 days straight), getting up and getting back on track with diet and exercise counts as 2 miracles!

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