Monthly Archives: April 2015

M(3), 4/27/15: The Fear Wrap-Up

It feels like forever since I’ve been on this blog, I’ve missed you all terribly!  I considered writing a mini-post last week explaining why I wouldn’t be recapping my regular Monday morning meeting, then I mocked myself for thinking that anyone would notice that it was missing, then I argued against the mocking voice, then I got angry at all the voices and told them all to shut the hell up.

So here I am, back.  I did not blog last week because I was not able to attend my meeting, the reason for which I will explain as I talk about today’s meeting.

At the beginning of this month I wrote about deciding on the theme of fear for April’s reading selections, the end goal in mind being this fourth week of the month, and the book from which we read, As Bill Sees It.  This book is a compilation of several hundred excerpts from AA literature, and it is typically read in a topical fashion.  In other words, I select the topic of fear, and then we read all the selections that feature fear as their subject matter.

In the post to which I linked above, I explained I had picked fear as a topic because I’m uncertain how fear plays out in my life. I don’t feel overly fearful, and I don’t often connect the various emotions I do experience to fear the way others in my fellowship seem to do.  So April 2015 became the dedicated month of fear for this meeting leader.

Fast forward to Friday, April 17th.  I have a wonderful friend in the fellowship who for a time texted a group of us daily morning inspirations.  She has not done so for a long time, so when, early that morning I saw the text come in, I read it out loud to my husband.  Here’s what the text read:

Don’t let unexpected events throw you off course; rather, respond calmly and confidently.  Remember that God is with you. As soon as something grabs your attention, talk to Him about it.  This is the way of peace.

Ninety minutes later, I got a call from my daughter at high school:  she had been assaulted by a fellow student while getting her books out of her locker.  Then I received another phone call from the principal:  my daughter has been involved in a fight, and I am to pick her up because she has been suspended for fighting.

And so began the odyssey of 10 days (and counting, because this is far from over in my mind) of crying, worrying, pacing, arguing, conference calling, comforting, numbing (with television and food, thankfully, not mind-altering substances), internet searching, on-the-spot decision-making, threatening, and just general stressing over the safety and future academic setting of my 14-year old daughter.

For the record, my daughter is okay.  Her head hurt from where the female student slammed her it into the locker, but otherwise no permanent physical damage.  In doing what she could to protect herself, my daughter attempted to hit and kick the girl away from her, and those defensive motions were what caused the school to cite her for fighting and suspend her for three days.

Hence the myriad conference calls.  We were even fortunate enough to see the inevitable YouTube video that someone so thoughtfully uploaded for all the world to see, and it was very clear who was the assailant and who was the victim (and also the cause of a very sleepless night replaying the image of my daughter’s attack over and over), but my husband and I are definitely David fighting the Goliath of the school district, albeit with a more unfortunate ending.

So I wanted to know what fear felt like:  check.

I wanted to know the various ways fear hides behind other emotions:  check, check, check.

Be careful what you wish for, I guess.

Here’s the good news:  my apparent telepathic powers allowed me some tools that I would not have had otherwise.  Week one of this month taught me that faith combats fear; countless times in the past 10 days I found myself turning to prayer for all sorts of things:  peace of mind, guidance for the next right action, patience with both people and the process.  I also learned that crisis is a great time to romance the drink.  Truthfully (and thankfully) I did not have an urge to chemically alter myself, but I will say the thought of a cigarette crossed my mind on more than one occasion.  Playing the tape through helped immensely, as I was taught it would.

Week two of this month gave some incredibly practical tips for dealing with all the things with which I had to deal over the last 10 days.  I wish I could say I took advantage of all of them, in the moment they were needed; sadly I did not.  However, remembering the serenity prayer from time to time, and especially remembering the phrase “this too shall pass” were powerfully effective weapons against the increasing stress and tension each day brought to me.

Week 3 I guess I didn’t need to learn anything, since my meeting was usurped by various combative calls from all levels of school district administration.

So here we are at week four, and the readings that I wanted to read in the first place.  And they have been placed after the event for a reason, since believe me the fear is far from over, today is more or less Day One of my daughter’s return to school, and my cell phone is never more than an inch away from my body while she is not home.

Today’s readings, for me, reinforced the idea that faith is the opposite of fear.  In the absence of complete faith, acting as if works in the interim.  I prayed, I researched options, I discussed the issue with a variety of people, and sending her back to school for the remaining two months seems to be the right thing to do.  At this point, having faith means to send her off and believe she will be okay until I see her after school today.

Wow, so many words, and I haven’t even gotten to all the other amazing discussions we had at this morning’s meeting! The sharing took a small turn from generalized fears to the more specific fears concerning anonymity, and to whom we feel comfortable disclosing our disease of alcoholism.  A variety of people shared on this topic, with a variety of answers, but the general consensus seems to be three-fold:

  1. It is a personal decision
  2. The longer your sober time is, the less anxiety this topic seems to bring
  3. When the motive for disclosing your anonymity is to help another struggling with the disease, the answer is always to share our story.  To give what was so freely given to us is the foundation of our 12-step program!

Enough blathering from me, go out and enjoy this spring day!

Today’s Miracle:

The joy in my daughter’s face as she headed off to school today reaffirms my decision to have faith!

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M(3), 4/13/15: Anger, and Resentment, and Fear, Oh My!

Eighteen:  That’s the number of people in attendance at this morning’s meeting!

Exciting stuff, especially because several regulars were missing; this means we had quite a few newcomers, plus a bunch that have been MIA.  It’s always energizing to have a larger, more diverse group.

Today we covered chapter 15 from the book Living Sober, entitled, “Watching Out for Anger and Resentments.”  My goal for this month was to select readings whose subject matter centered around fear; not readily seeing one in the table of contents, I figured this must be closely related.  Plus the facial expressions of several in attendance had me believing this was a subject that needed to be discussed this morning.

As I started reading about the chapter and reflecting upon what I might share, my heart began to sink.  You see, I’m not sure how much progress I’ve made in the area of dealing with anger and resentments.  In active addiction, I would have told you I had none at all.  Then again, in early recovery, I was the person who needed to look at those charts with the smiley faces to figure out how I was feeling at any given moment:

I wish I was kidding, but I am not.

So the progress from then until now is that most of the time I can, when I take the time to consider, name how I am feeling without the aid of a graphic.  The problem is that most of the time I don’t take the time to consider, and my anger or resentment winds up getting more time than it should picking up steam.  Before you know it I’m fixing my hair and having imaginary conversations with people that have no idea I’m even upset.  And how could they?  I didn’t even know!

So a bit more progress to mention would be that when it gets to that point, I can stop myself (literally, the last time it happened I put down the brush and stared at myself in the mirror), and I talk back to the craziness.  I also realize that some mental housekeeping is in order, and that usually starts with sharing whatever the heck is going on in my head.

Not having much more to contribute in terms of how to deal with anger and resentments, I shared with the group all that I just wrote above.

As always, I get so much more out of these meetings than I could ever contribute, because all that followed had direct application to my life.  Here are just some of the highlights:

Reciting the Serenity Prayer

Multiple people shared that this is a technique that works for them.  Repeat it like a mantra, even (especially) when you don’t think it will work.

Talking it Out

Another commonly used technique by the group.  This various members that shared about this specifically stated that talking to someone else in the 12-step fellowship is helpful to get a better perspective.

This Too Shall Pass

When all else fails, remembering that feelings are temporary, and that it is possible to wait things out, often can diffuse the tension within.

Time and Space

Removing yourself from the situation helps to redirect your anger.  At the very least, it restricts your ability to act impulsively on the anger, which almost certainly will lead to regret (and, in the case of 12-step members, another amends that none of us wants to have to make!)

Distraction

Giving yourself something else to think about gives you less opportunity to brood, and more opportunity to clear your head, both of which give you the best chance of productively resolving your anger.

Acting As If

One of the techniques described in the chapter is to ask yourself what a well-adjusted person might do when handling anger and resentment, and then to attempt to act as if you are that well-adjusted person.  This section of the chapter never fails to get a laugh out of the group, but I actually have tried this, and it does work!  One person shared that he struggled with this idea in early sobriety, as he thought it seemed insincere, and really just a form of repressing angry feelings.  It took him time to balance the idea of “acting as if” in an authentic way.  When he can find that balance, he finds he is very effective in dealing with his resentments.

The one point with which every member of the group agreed:  bottling up anger and resentment is the quickest way back to a drink.  Any technique at all is better than repression.

I would love to hear from all of you… what is your go-to method of dealing with anger?

Today’s Miracle:

Besides 18 attendees, gorgeous spring weather, and coming off a weekend where both kids set personal records in their respective sports… I got my butt back on a treadmill, and I went faster than a walk.  I’m not sure it actually classifies as jogging, but dammit, I’ll take it!

Intermediate Recovery: Releasing Certain Recovery Labels

I received news this week, good news, in the form of a package in the mail.  News towards which I have been working for nearly 3 1/2 years, longer even than my sober time.

In the interest of privacy, and brevity, because the story could fill the pages of a novel, the package in the mail put a final period on the sentence:  The consequences of my addiction.  Hmmm… come to think of it, that isn’t even a sentence.  Oh well.

Someone once joked that the period of time waiting for this package was longer than the period of active addiction; depending how you define active addiction, that is an accurate statement.

So how did I celebrate this milestone?  Did I call every person I know, shout it from the rooftops, rent a billboard along I-95?

None of the above; some friends or family may in fact be finding out the news by virtue of reading this post (sorry guys).

So what gives?  I’m not sure, and of course, I am using my old stand-by of this blog to help me figure it out.

The first thought that comes to mind when I pose the question why aren’t you more excited about this incredible blessing is:  disbelief.  It’s been so long in the making, there have been so many setbacks, I feel like doubting Thomas, needing to put my fingers in the side of Christ before I believe He has risen.  The paperwork is in my hands, and I’m still making phone calls in order to verify its existence, for Pete’s sake!

But I think, skepticism aside, there’s something deeper at play here, and, ironically enough, I think it has to do with fear.  Ironic, of course, because the very post before this one I wrote how I can’t figure out how fear plays out in my life.  Be careful what you wish for!

So of what am I fearful?  I’m still uncertain, I mean, really, it’s only been a couple of days since I wrote that I don’t understand fear, how much could I have possibly learned in a couple of days?

On the most obvious level, while the package represents the end of the most tumultuous time in my entire life, a good thing, by extension that means it also marks the beginning of a new era, and change will be afoot as a result.  Who isn’t a little fearful of change?

There is also a fear in trusting a process to do what it is supposed to have done, and I can say with certainty fear in trusting that process is an issue.  Human error occurs all the time, I know I make mistakes, what if I trust this process and I wind up getting burned?  It’s like jumping out of an airplane and trusting that the parachute is actually going to work, certainly that fear is going to run through your head at least for a split second, right?  It might even keep you from jumping.  Note to self:  now that I’ve written that, I will not let this fear keep me from jumping, dammit!  See this solution-by-blogging thing is already working!

Finally, and this is the part that is still somewhat elusive, almost hazy, in my mind:  I think there’s a fear in letting go of this part of my identity.  Which is a really strange thing to say, given that it is an entirely negative identity (I mean, I’ve labeled it  consequences of active addiction, the title alone should indicate how negative it is). For the first year of my sobriety, I struggled to come up with a solution for resolving the consequence, the second year, I did the hard work to resolve the consequence; the last year and half was the fight to get my hard work recognized so that the resolution would actually happen.

And now it has, and, I don’t know, there’s this crazy, almost empty feeling.  Really, really strange.  And yes, now that therapy that I keep “dissing” will come in handy, perhaps my therapist will help me better understand.  I hope to have a positive update to resolving this hazy fear next week!

Today’s Miracle:

There is a wonderful new website, addiction. com, I highly recommend you check out.  And if you choose to do so, why not start with an article that’s got my ugly mug in it?  Here’s the link:

http://www.addiction.com/8487/my-best-tip-sticking-with-recovery/

M(3), 4/6/15: On Mastering Fear

I’m hoping all readers who celebrate Easter had a wonderful weekend!

A series of coincidences-that-I-no-longer-believe-are-coincidences led me to choosing the reading selection for this morning’s meeting. I think sometimes when I attempt to write out the chain of events it does not come off nearly as exciting as it feels for me, so suffice it to say I had a thought of a theme for the month’s meeting topics, then decided no one would like this idea, and then a crazy set of circumstances led me directly back to the topic and reading that, of course, I selected.

What’s particularly exciting to me about this chain of events is that I haven’t had one of these “aha!” experiences in a while, and so I am happy on many levels this morning!

With that introduction aside, this morning’s reading comes from the book Alcoholics Anonymous, also referred to as “The Big Book.” The story is called “The Man Who Mastered Fear,” and was written by Archie T., who is also known for bringing AA to Detroit.

The topic of the story and subsequent discussion, needless to say, was fear. The author of the story surmounted life-crippling fear to get and stay sober, his obstacles to sobriety were significantly more difficult than mine, and possibly for most of the recovering alcoholics I know.

One of the reasons I had this story in mind is that the topic of fear both intrigues and frustrates me. It is often said in the rooms of my 12-step fellowship that fear is the root of every problem in life. I have heard this said for as long as I’ve been attending meetings, and for that long the belief has defied my understanding.

There have been a few other bits of 12-step wisdom that eluded my comprehension at the outset:

One Day At A Time
Acceptance is the Answer
Ego is a stumbling block to recovery

These are just three of the most obvious, if I sat her and thought about it, I could probably come up with a dozen more “conceptual issues” I had with the 12-step program (and yet I was slow to the ego concept, go figure).

In each of the examples above, time and repeated bits of wisdom from the many who trudged the road of recovery before me led me to grab hold of a real understanding of the inherent value of the proverbs.

So I believe with certainty that when all these same wise people tell me that fear is the root of every problem I have, they know of which they speak. I realize that I am following my typical learning curve, and that eventually a light bulb will go off.

And that’s where the frustration comes in… why can’t I get this concept? Because I’m still fighting it… in my own head of course, I don’t mean I’m debating with people in meeting. I just keep thinking of myself as not overly fearful, and I’m challenging the premise that fear is the root of every single problem in life.

There. I’ve admitted it out loud. Usually when I do this, I get the answers I seek. I’ll let you know what turns up!

Meanwhile, having admitted most of this during my share at the meeting, the rest of the room chimed in with empathy and understanding. More than half the room this morning has more than a quarter century of sobriety each; in fact, we celebrated one gentleman’s 28th year of sobriety this morning! Each person who shared remembered well the mental confusion in which I find myself, wanting to grab hold of a concept but not quite getting it, and each agreed that understanding is a long process. As one woman put it, “there’s connecting the big dots, like don’t drink, sharing with others, one day at a time, and we can learn fairly quickly to connect those dots, and we feel better. But there’s a whole lot of smaller dots, and those take time, sometimes years worth of time, before we finally feel that relief that we’ve connected them.”

Another person with long-time sobriety agreed and related it back to the story. He liked how the author talked about it taking him 5 years before he could accomplish what most would consider a fairly average life goal. In the same way, our individual journey to recovery is not something we should compare with others, for it is an individual experience.

Others in the room discussed some of their fears in early recovery, and how those fears were overcome with a faith in a Higher Power. A simple prayer goes a long way to eliminate fear as it’s happening.

A final point in the discussion centered around “romancing the drink,” a topic the author covers in the story. It can be very easy, especially during the holidays and family celebrations, to see people enjoying a beer or a glass of wine, and remember the feeling of fun and relaxation it brought us at one time. The antidote to this nostalgia is simple but effective: play the tape through to the end stages of your drinking history. Was it fun and relaxing? Chances are, if you are reading this blog, not so much. All in the room agreed that remembering the last days is a quick way to end the romantic notions of “just one!”

Today’s Miracle:

In an almost unprecedented event, on day 5 of a school break, both kids are content and respectful of allowing me to type this post.  Of course, that’s because one is at a friend’s house, but still, no fighting whatsoever and we are halfway through the afternoon.  Could the streak continue until bedtime?  Stay tuned…

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