Monthly Archives: May 2015

M(3), 5/25/15… Even Though It’s Almost 5/27!

Better late than never!

Crazy few days in my corner of the world, with still a teensy bit more to go, but I wanted to recap yesterday’s meeting, for the sake of continuity, if nothing else.

Yesterday, as the fourth Monday of the month, we read from the book As Bill Sees It, the topical compilation of AA literature.  I selected the topic freedom, in honor of our American holiday Memorial Day.

I will be honest and say that the topic in and of itself did not fill me with excitement, but the readings were interesting and the conversation lively.  I was also impressed to have an attendance of 10, which is pretty good for a holiday.

Of course, the first point that hits home with anyone in recovery when the topic of freedom arises:  the freedom experienced when released from the obsession and compulsion to drink or use drugs.  After I selected the topic but before we started reading, my eyes fell upon the travel coffee mug I bring with me to the meeting.  It is the type you get through a website like Snapfish, a mug personalized with a photograph.  Mine has a beautiful photo taken of my family when we went on our one and only trip to Disney World, almost five years ago.  I suppose because the topic of freedom was already on my mind, I thought back to that trip through that perspective.  I looked at my own face in the picture, and I could remember, vividly, my mindset at the time. While I was generally able to control myself in situations like a family vacation, my mind would anticipate the time when I did not have to control myself.  I remembered all too well anticipating the end of that vacation, where I could then end my control.

Who does that… in The Happiest Place on Earth no less?

Here’s the good news, and what I shared at Monday’s meeting:  those days are a thing of the past.  The past 4 days of my life have been dedicated to celebrating my daughter’s 15th birthday, which happens to be today.  Friday we brainstormed a list of all her favorite food (an extensive and varied list, she will bankrupt her future boyfriends with her culinary taste).  Saturday through Monday I baked/cooked/prepared every single item on the list (technically one item we ate at a restaurant, but still).  We had her closest friends over for dinner, took them to a movie, then had them back for a sleepover.  Sunday we went shopping for clothes and makeup.  Monday she went out for a practice drive in anticipation of next year’s being able to apply for a driver’s license (all my husband, no way am I rushing that life event), and Monday night we had the family over to eat pie (no store-bought cake for this one!) and ice cream, and sing happy birthday.  One more mini-event tonight with her basketball team, and I will go to sleep tonight feeling good that I celebrated my daughter’s birthday right.

Comparing that trip to Disney to this past birthday weekend… that’s freedom to me.

Even better insights came out of the meeting:

  • One gentleman shared his thoughts about freedom versus responsibility.  Some people think freedom = I can do what I want.  For us alcoholics, that thinking did not equate to much freedom at all, quite the opposite.  But thinking of doing “what I ought” instead “what I want,” ultimately provides us the greatest freedom that exists, the freedom that is peace of mind.
  • Another friend at the meeting talked about the idea of dependence upon a Higher Power giving independence, and she felt that to be very true for her.  For years, she admitted, she relied far too heavily upon her family for many of her needs, not the least of those being sobriety.  Now, in relying upon a power greater than herself, she finds she does not have to rely upon her family to remain sober, she can manage her recovery with without them.
  • In a discussion of the never-ending chatter of our minds, and that chatter hindering our ability to make calm and clear decisions, one “long-timer” share an acronym I heard for the first time on Monday:

EGO:  Edging God Out

I love it!  The more I go round and round in my head about a decision, the more I think and out-think and over think, the less I’m turning it over to God, and the more I’m turning it over to my ego.  I’m keeping that one in my back pocket for the next time my monkey mind starts up!

There was, I’m sure, tons more great stuff, but the problem is the longer I wait to post, the less I can retain, so I’ll end here. Hope all my American friends had wonderful, sober 3 day weekend!

Today’s Miracle:

The awareness of how much better, richer, and more fulfilling a sober life is.  So grateful to celebrate such a special day, so grateful that I will remember it tomorrow!

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Letting Go of the Nuts

I’m listening to a podcast series on a topic entirely unrelated to the general subject matter of this blog.  Or at least, it should be unrelated.  But like so many lessons I’ve learned in life, the application has a wide net:

In order to bring your dreams to fruition, you must first clean the slate

Anyone who has ever had a bit of sober time before relapsing can appreciate the real estate that regret takes up in the brain.  I remember once having garnered a small amount of sober time, then relapsing on and off for a few months.  During my sober time, I became friendly with another member of my 12-step program, but since relapsing had lost track of her.  I was running errands one day when I saw her across the parking lot.  I virtually dove behind a car to avoid her and having to either lie or admit the awful truth.  While I managed to dodge the person and the inevitable dilemma, I did not dodge the mental torment:

“If you had done what you were supposed to do, you would have 6 months of sobriety”

“Look how happy she looks, you could look and feel like that if you would just do what you’re supposed to do”

“You’re worthless and you’ll never get your act together”

I can look back on that incident and clearly see how those thoughts were nothing but damaging.  They did not motivate me to get sober, I remained in active addiction for another 3 months!  All those thoughts did was keep me in a shame spiral that led to more depression, which led to more hopelessness, which led to more relapses.

That negative spiral relates to more than sobriety.  Without going into repetitive details, because I have used up my time on this blog talking about diet and exercise, I can easily see the regret over attempts and failures to lose weight morph into feelings of frustration, which morphs into feelings of hopelessness, and the end result is simply a relapse of a different sort.

Interpersonal situations follow this cycle all the time.  I am frustrated with the behavior of another, I know the answer is to constructively communicate the frustration, but I project the answers I will receive, which leads to further frustration, which leads to hopeless and the decision not to communicate because, “why bother?”  The issue never gets addressed, and thus will recur time and again.

So if living in regret is not the answer, then how exactly does one “clean the slate?”  Even though I know that it does no good to wallow in the mistakes of the past, why do I continue to do so and how do I make it stop?

I think the answer here is two-fold.  The first is to become aware of the thoughts in the first place.  This is an area where I’m just beginning to make some progress.  Often I will be deep into self-recrimination before I even realize what I’m doing.  So developing an awareness of the thoughts that I’m having, how often I’m having them, is a crucial first step.

Next I have been told by multiple very wise people:  Shut It Down.  As soon as I know what I’m doing, stop allowing myself to indulge in these negative thoughts.   Talk back, yell back, get up and move around, go help somebody else, but cut the thought process off immediately.  Though I have no proof, I am told by repeating this two-step process I will decrease both the frequency and the intensity of the negative thoughts.

Here’s where this whole lesson comes full-circle.  Regular readers might remember from my last post a woman worried that she needs her painful memories in order not to relapse.  If she forgives herself for the pain she caused others, might she then forget how devastating picking up a drink would be?

The title of this post represents a saying that’s been used by the women in my extended family for years.  My basic understanding, because of the context in which it’s been said to me, is to stop holding on to anger and resentments.  Like a lot of family traditions, I never thought too deeply about the saying itself.  Possibly because when it’s being said to me I am full of anger and resentment, and thus don’t give a crap about its origins.

But as I was typing this post, it popped into my head.  Curious, I googled the expression, and up popped a whole bunch of links that had to do with catching spider monkeys.  Since I always assumed this whole expression had to do with squirrels, I was already delighted.

As the story goes (and believe me, it is only a story, I did not come across any actual proof of its validity), a very simple device is used to catch spider monkeys.  Place a nut that spider monkeys like to eat in a heavy, narrow-necked bottle and leave it nearby.  The spider monkey will smell the nut, and reach in to grab it.  Because the neck of the bottle is narrow, he will not be able to remove the nut because his clenched fist will not fit.  Because the bottle is heavy, he will not be able to take it with him.  As the story goes, it is then a simple matter of walking up to the monkey and grabbing him, because his desire to have that nut will override his desire for freedom.

So if I know that self-negativity is damaging to the psyche and inconsistent with a peaceful sober existence, but I continue to hold on to the regrets, and the shame, then I am a spider monkey just waiting to be captured.   Which just made me laugh out loud, so if nothing else, I’ve amused myself with this analogy!

I guess it’s time to let go of some nuts.

Today’s Miracle:

Waking up after a night where everyone in the house slept all the way through, the gift that will keep on giving all day long!

Guest Post Time!

Some blog readers who contribute to the website A New Start Treatment asked if they could share some of the information they’ve gathered regarding relapse prevention.  While I have no affiliation or experience with this treatment center, I wanted to give some aspiring bloggers a hand, so, without further ado…

Relapse Prevention and Post-Treatment Survival

        The term ‘Relapse Prevention’ is an often discussed and occasionally misunderstood phrase. The easiest way to understand it is simply break it down to what it sounds like: prevention of issues that will lead back to substance abuse. And frankly, that’s exactly what it is. Along with being aware of potential relapse we can also add practices that will keep the mind active and thinking in terms of recovery, such as stress management and a sense of community.

Relapse Prevention

Anyone who has been involved in recovery, either as a recovering addict or those working in the field, is aware relapse prevention. All employees at recovery facilities have some training in this all-important facet of treatment. Relapse Prevention is defined more clinically as a ‘cognitive-behavioral’ approach to identifying and averting dangerous situations, primarily in relation to substance abuse. Cognitive-behavioral is ‘structured, short-term, present-oriented psychotherapy’, and in treatment it is often done in the group setting.

It’s important to note that ‘relapse’ doesn’t only apply to returning to drug and alcohol treatment. It involves re-addressing a world of behaviors that can lead to substance abuse and/or a relapse in problems caused by dual diagnosis and co-occurring disorders. For the most part, many relapse prevention groups focus on ‘people, places and things’ that need to be avoided in post-acute recovery. A good, simple way to view it is that all 12-step programs are relapse prevention-based by the fact that the collective experience helps prevent a return to past behavior. It’s obvious that it’s a long-term plan that really begins after initial treatment. Beyond merely quit drugs or drinking, you need to guide your new life on the premise that you will not have substances to turn to when things aren’t going that well…and the fact of the matter is that just because you’re sober, things won’t always be perfect!

Stress Management and identifying Triggers

Utilizing post-treatment care will enable you to navigate these tough times. One of the key aspects of this is stress management. By identifying stressful situations such as those related to crisis, work, family, school or money (now, that’s a big one for everybody…) one becomes more aware of when, why and how they build up. Stress management generally digs deeper than this, and often presents diet, rest, and time management regiments as tools to lower stress, hopefully lowering the chance of being overwhelmed  by it, and with that goes the possibility of returning to substance abuse. Other problems that often appear in the early stages of recovery are legal, medical and financial issues. These can cause a huge amount of stress, and aside from whatever consequences they may appear, if they remain unchecked or ignored, stress levels can escalate… and for some, going back to active drug use is a viable alternative. Relapse prevention addresses such issues with a view towards a larger degree of responsibility, and lowered anxiety. There are many other tools that relapse prevention can provide those in recovery, and just a few of these would be identifying an over-expectation of outcomes, learning new coping skills, option reduction, and just  being aware of  your motivations. Two of the most important are the identification of cravings and triggers. These are rarely the same for every person, and generally individual therapy provides the most successful level of identifying these issues. However, positive and negative results of dealings with cravings are excellent subjects for the group setting.

Post-Rehab Survival and Developing Patience

Once you have completed treatment, it’s important to congratulate yourself. You need to look at your achievements and recognize what you’ve done for yourself. And remember, you’re the one that did it. Certainly you had a lot of help – and you will continue to – but you are the one who did the work, and it’s no small feat. Without resting on your achievements, it’s important for the health of your spirit to take a moment and give yourself credit; you certainly deserve it.

Along with this, remember where you were at when you entered treatment; you’ve come a long way. One strength that nearly everyone has had to develop in treatment is patience. The time it took while you were in detox treatment, and then acclimating yourself to the treatment program as well as getting to know your therapist and/or counselor. As well, patience was certainly needed when you were becoming acclimated with the peer group that you were in during group sessions with, etc. All of this took time, and the more time you spent developing these areas, the more you got out of it. And the same now holds true of the next phase of your life…more than ever.

All situations are different; be they economic circumstances, relationships that need to be rebuilt or re-defined, living situations, and so on. Utilizing the patience you’ve developed in treatment is extremely important right now. Try not to jump back into your old life, because chances are the faster you do, the better chance for old behaviors and patterns to re-emerge, and that’s exactly what you need to avoid.

Relapse

Relapse is a familiar element of the continuing recovery process. Addiction is a chronic disease. Managing it after you’re out of rehab involves lifestyle changes, regular doctor visits and, from time to time, adjustments in your treatment plan. Hopefully you won’t relapse, but if you do, it could be a sign that it’s time for a new approach. Although relapse is certainly not expected or desired, it is – in some cases – a natural part of recovery, which as we know, doesn’t end when you leave the treatment facility. Recovery involves a lifetime plan, due to the fact it’s not a disease that is known as ‘cure-able’. It’s merely part of an ongoing process of living in a healthier fashion.

Simple Steps to Success

There are several simple steps one can take after treatment that help build an ongoing foundation to help continue sobriety. Find sober friends that aren’t involved in using drugs. Not only people in recovery – although this can be very helpful – but perhaps a group of ‘normies’ who’s lifestyle hasn’t been based around drugs. These friends can be a fine balance to those relationships you’ve developed in both your treatment facilities, as well as 12-step fellowships. Blending a new group of friends is not unlike a recipe, and your friends do not all have to be from a recovery community.

Being aware of your work environment and the potential for triggers to relapse is very important.  Valid example would be an alcoholic who had a career as a professional bartender. On the surface at least, this appears not a proper idea for a stable ‘get-well’ job. Check out some new avenues… taking advantage of new opportunities is going to revolutionize your life. You don’t know what is coming up. As well, you took a chance on becoming sober, and although it’s not all sublime and constant joy…it’s probably worked out a little better than you’d thought when you entered treatment.

Keeping up with therapy and/or group meetings (12-step, etc) is extremely critical. Your recovery, again, is an ongoing process, so continued work in uncovering underlying issues that need to be defined and resolved is vital in your continued sobriety. The process of this effort in and of itself is going to keep you occupied and engaged in your continued healing.

Helping others. It’s very true; you can only keep what you have by giving it away. The more you help someone in recovery makes it less likely for you to relapse.  In the end, successful sobriety and recovery is all about making the right choices; and that takes us back to the beginning of this article in terms of being having patience. Take the time to make informed, solid decisions that aren’t based on emotional reaction, but on uncomplicated logic and a general sense of doing the next right thing.

M(3), 5/18/15: Confession May Be Good for the Soul, But It’s Brutal for the Ego

Today’s well-attended meeting (16 in all) focused on the fifth step in the 12-step program:

Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs

I don’t know if I ever mentioned this before, but of the 4 weeks in the literature rotation, Twelve Steps and Twelve Tradtions is my favorite in terms of simplicity.  I have no work to do except read and share my thoughts on the step.  And after a more hectic than usual weekend, being up half the night with a sick child, and subsequently feeling under the weather myself, I needed an easy week.

16 meeting attendees + pre-selected reading = no work for this meeting chair.

Plus I have a phenomenal built-in story about step 5 (read about it here) that even makes my sharing a no-brainer, so I was ready to kick back and soak in the wisdom of the large group.

And then… crickets.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, felt like sharing on Step 5.  I would have been fascinated if I wasn’t so annoyed… don’t these people know how tired I am?

Finally, when the silence got to be entirely too awkward, people started to share.  Then it got really interesting.

You see, my experience with Step 5 appears to be pretty unique.  For those unfamiliar with the 12-step program, it is the second of the action steps.  In step 4 you write out a lengthy inventory of your life up to this point, listing all sorts of not-so-fun facts about yourself.  You can read more about step 4 here.  Step 5 you sit down with your sponsor or a spiritual advisor, and you talk to that person about all those horrifying facts you learned about yourself through your inventory.

Needless to say, anxiety can run high when it comes to step 5.

For me, I was anxious to get on with step 5.  My anxiety was more about doing step 4 improperly, and so I wanted desperately to sit down with someone experienced so they could confirm I did a good and thorough job.

Apparently though, my desire to share all of my character defects is not one shared by the group this morning, and when people finally started to open up, they admitted this is not a favorite step for them.

The two big issues that came up amongst all the shares:  trust and judgment.

Feeling secure enough with the person chosen to hear your fifth step is a common concern.  Several people spoke this morning about choosing to go outside the 12-step fellowship and enlist the support of a therapist or a spiritual advisor, because trust was such an issue.

Another friend, one who usually has her hand up first, was one of the last to share, and admitted that doing step 5 felt akin to surgery, it was so painful.  She learned a lot, but she won’t be opting to do it again anytime soon.  Given that she has nearly 30 years of sobriety, I assume that she is okay to opt out of repeating the experience!

So finding the right person, and establishing the right relationship before undertaking such an emotional experience is critical.

Judgment came next as an issue, and apparently is a two-sided coin of worry.  First, the obvious fear of being judged by the person who is hearing your fifth step.  Second, and equally anxiety-producing, is the releasing of self-judgment.  One attendee, put it quite succinctly:

If I take the whip off my back and forgive myself, what’s to stop me from picking up a drink later?  Don’t I need this guilt?

The room fell silent for a moment or two after that share, presumably with each of us imagining our deepest regrets and second-guessing our resolve to move on.  At least, that’s what I was doing.

I had the good fortune to have a follow-up discussion with both the woman who voiced this concern, and the woman who is my new sponsor.  The bottom line seems to be this:  if you believe in inherent nature of human beings as flawed but redemptive, then the refusal to forgive yourself after admitting your mistakes and making an effort to amend them is an act of ego.  If you believe that someone else has the right to be forgiven, then why are you an exception to that rule?

This discussion got deep, obviously!

So as not to end on this somber note, here are some of the benefits that come as a result of taking the action of step 5:

  • Ending the feeling of isolation and the fear that you are the most flawed human on the planet
  • The gift of self-compassion, rather than the self-flagellation to which most of us are accustomed
  • Several, myself included, experienced a significant “God moment” during the process of step 5, which resulted in a deeper spiritual connection
  • A feeling of lightness, as if a heavy burden had been removed

All in all, great meeting.  Now, is it time for bed yet?

Today’s Miracle:

I’d say my eyes still being open counts today.  I have my final meditation class tonight, and the next miracle will be that I don’t fall over asleep in the middle of it!

M(3), 5/11/15: Does Anyone Claim to be a “Phone Person?”

You’ve heard uttered, “I’m not much of a phone person.”  I’m just wondering if the reverse is true, does someone make the claim that they are, in fact, a phone person?

No one I personally know, although by action I absolutely know people who are “phone people.”  Now I’m going to have to ask them if they considered themselves “phone people.”  I’ll let you know what they say.

What, you may be pondering, is the point of this rambling about the phone, and phone people (this expression is starting to make me giggle, good thing only the dog can hear me)?  More importantly, what does it have to do with sobriety, recovery, and/or my Monday morning meeting?

Glad you asked!  The chapter covered in this week’s literature selection (the book is Living Sober) is entitled “Making Use of Telephone Therapy.”

The chapter eloquently describes the reluctance with which many a newcomer to the 12-step program embraces the idea of calling someone instead of drinking.  The notion here is not to pull out the yellow pages and start dialing.  It’s not even to call up your Mom or your best friend.  Rather, call someone who’s been in your shoes, who understands the feelings that come along with early sobriety, and sharing with them what is going on with you.  In most cases, the simple act of uttering the words “I want to drink, and here is what’s going on (fill in the blank),” is enough to dispel the urge to drink.

The chapter selection falls into the category “entirely selfish decision that winds up being good for the whole group.”  Maybe not the whole group (14 in all), but a good many of them stated that the topic was one they needed to hear.

It’s selfish on my end, because I am seeking the answer to the very whiny question, “But WHY do I have to call every single day?!?”  This is in response to the directive issued by my new and incredibly awesome sponsor that I call her.  Every.  Single.  Day.  No exceptions.

People who know me personally are gasping in horror and whispering, “Holy shit!  Her head is about to explode!”

Obviously, I am one of those people who have uttered the earlier expression I mentioned.

Your mind can be arguing two ways at this point:

1.  What’s the big deal?  If your sponsor says call, just call

or

2.  You’ve got over 3 years of sobriety, why on Earth would you need to call someone every single day?

Clearly I am in the second camp, and therefore I selected this reading to gather real world advice from my comrades in the Monday morning meeting.  Of the 14 present, 6 have more than 25 years sober, and another 5 have between 2 and 10 years sober, so a wide range of experience to uncover the hidden mysteries of the phone.

Yes, in case you’re wondering, my sponsor was present.  And yes, she now clearly understands my position on this directive!

The answers I received really surprised me, although they shouldn’t have, since my crazy mindset is generally shared by lots of people in the rooms of the 12-step fellowship.  Most shared that they experience the same anxiety in picking up the phone as I described, and most are reluctant to continue the practice much once over the hump of early sobriety.  Some admitted it was ego at play:  I’ve got this sobriety situation handled, I don’t need the help.  Some are reluctant to impose on others.  One person received bad one-on-one advice and is now hesitant to get involved personally with fellow 12-steppers. One long-timer said he never used the phone before, and now he feels like “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

I could relate to all of the above (with the exception of receiving bad advice, that’s never happened to me).

I got the final answer I was seeking, unsurprisingly, from my sponsor herself.  She remembers well feeling that phone calls are unnecessary.  She had double the sober time I did, in fact, when her sponsor insisted that she make the daily phone call to check-in.  She had the usual litany of objections:  but I am not fighting the urge to drink!  I don’t have time for a daily phone call!  I will have nothing to talk about!

The answer she received:  it’s not about whether or not you want to drink, it’s about claiming your sobriety and acknowledging you can’t do it alone.  If you don’t have the time or inclination to do this simple task on a daily basis, then how important is your sobriety?

Last Monday, when my sponsor issued this directive my immediate response (after groaning):  can I start tomorrow since I’m physically speaking with you right now?

Today, after the meeting, I said, “I’ll be calling you later to claim my sobriety!”

Today’s Miracle:

That I’ll be calling my sponsor later to claim my sobriety!

or

The second class in my meditation series is tonight, and I can report that I’ve meditated each day last week!

Yoga Challenge: Check!

Very, VERY similar to the set-up from last Wednesday!

I am going to do my level best to keep this post short, it seems the last several have read like novellas!

At the beginning of April I challenged myself to participate in a yoga class.  You might be asking either one or both of the following questions:

1.  Why?

2.  Why is this challenging in the first place?

Before I answer those questions, let’s set the record straight as to what are the purported benefits of regular yoga practice:

  • increases flexibility
  • builds muscle strength
  • calms the mind
  • improves concentration
  • promotes patience
  • betters bone health
  • increases blood flow
  • boosts immunity
  • drops blood pressure
  • improves balance
  • promotes deeper sleep
  • increases self-esteem

To name but a few.  Plus several of my wise and trusted fellow bloggers write persuasively of how well yoga and meditation deepen the commitment to/enrich the experience of sobriety.

So that should answer the first question.  As to question 2, since millions of people take yoga classes every day (a non-scientific figure, mind you, but I imagine it’s a fair enough guess), what’s the big deal?  Just buy a Groupon and take a class!

Not so simple, if you are as self-conscious as I am with physical things such as an exercise class.  I was terrified!

But a series of coincidences-that-aren’t-really-coincidences came up, and a yoga and meditation center opened up not five minutes from my house, and I knew I had to put my insecurities aside and give this a shot.  It took 29 days to muster up the courage (and clear the schedule of kid sports), and it took wrangling my husband to come with me (partially as support, partially because I feel like he could use some of these benefits as well), but on Wednesday, April 29th, I took my first Svaroopa yoga class.  And please don’t ask to pronounce that name.  How did it go?

Well, I’m no expert, but I’d say it went pretty well!  First, the teacher was very kind.  She had compassion for my nervousness, and took time to explain what would happen in the 90 minute class, and answered my 802 questions patiently.

I feel accomplished for completing the class; specifically, completing each of the poses she taught us.  Possibly the biggest fear I had going in was either:

  • not being able to do something at all, or, worse yet
  • trying to do something and getting stuck in a position permanently

So it felt great being able to do it all, the same as everybody else.

I also felt fairly relaxed when I left, almost as if I had had a massage.

There were a few downsides, most of which would probably go away if I committed to practicing yoga regularly:

  1. Soreness:  I had a terrible neck ache and butt ache for a few days following.  I’m certain I overstretched something, but still, ouch!
  2. Fear of embarrassment:  Alright, I’m just going to be real here.  I was paranoid about passing gas while in some of the postures, and that terror kept me from being fully present in the experience.  I’m not quite sure how to correct that one (eat nothing for 12 hours before class?  Or just let one rip and accept the embarrassment?)
  3. Preoccupation with getting the posture correct:  At times I was so concerned about my posture I missed the opportunity to enjoy the moment.  Again this con would likely go away with practice.

So there you have it.  The question becomes:  will I go back?  I definitely would do it again, though I’m unsure if I’m willing to pay the price this particular studio is charging.  I may try several studios in the area, as I’m sure most would offer a free trial class.

However… I have a bonus story to add-on to the yoga experience:

In leaving I took note of a meditation class that was starting up the following week (this past Monday), and my husband surprised me with an early Mother’s Day present by signing me up for it!  I went Monday night for 2 hours, learned all sorts of interesting techniques, got to connect with a group of like-minded people, and successfully meditated for 20 minutes. And that was just class one, I still have 2 more to go!  Our homework was to repeat the practice each day, and so far I have been able to successfully complete 20 minutes of meditation at home.  It is incredible how much personal instruction has improved my ability, and I am only 4 days into the new practice.  The gift that will keep on giving!

Today’s Miracle:

The incredible group over at addiction.com included me again in an article.  Check it out, and the rest of the website!

http://www.addiction.com/9655/what-i-wish-id-known-when-i-first-got-sober/

M(3), May 4, 2015: The Most Hopeful Passage In AA

Happy Monday to All!  It is a glorious one here in the Northeastern corner of the United States, spring has most definitely sprung!

Today at a fairly crowded Monday morning meeting (15 attendees), we read from the primary text of AA, Alcoholics Anonymous, and I selected what I consider to be the AA reading filled with the most hope for the alcoholic wishing to recover. I am inspired each and every time I read it; today was no exception.  In fact, I have a phenomenal “coincidence that of course is not a coincidence” that I will share after I talk about the reading itself.

Alcoholics Anonymous, also referred to as “The Big Book,” is divided into two sections.  The first 164 pages is considered the basic text, the “how to” manual for the 12-step program.  The second part of the book is a collection of personal stories, in which alcoholics tell their stories of addiction and recovery.  The last chapter in the first section, entitled “A Vision for You,” offers a summary of the 12-step program, along with plenty of inspiration to get you started on the journey of sobriety, and it is the chapter we read this morning.

After sharing the different parts in the chapter that spoke most to me this morning, we had no shortage of people willing to share.  The first, a regular attendee who celebrated his 2-year anniversary this morning, talked about learning how to “get out from under” the influence of alcohol, as is referenced in the chapter.  He shared his stories of trying to failing to stay sober, primarily because he believed he could handle it on his own.  Two years ago, he tried a different strategy by walking into the rooms of our fellowship, and he hasn’t looked back since.

A long-time member of the program finds the chapter’s “practical approach to problems” the most enticing element of both the chapter, and the 12-step program itself.  He maintains that the 12 steps do a great deal more than keep him sober; they are his personal “how to” manual for living the best life he can live.

Another attendee related to the part of the chapter that describes the alcoholic staying dry on willpower alone, as he was able to do that for many periods of time within his active addiction.  But, just like the chapter predicts, each time he used willpower as his method of recovery ended in failure.  Now sober for a quarter of a century, he worries more for the people who boast to him that they had a problem with alcohol, but figured it out on their own than the person in the meeting who shares that he is thinking of drinking.  Usually the simple act of attending a meeting and sharing what’s going on will dispel the craving, whereas the person doing recovery on their own has nowhere to turn.

Another friend, an infrequent attendee who surprised us by showing up, told us that she found, at long last, the job of her dreams.  She insists that she is living proof that the promises we read at every meeting (the 9th step promises, for those who want to look them up online) really do come true.

Then a newcomer to the meeting raised his hand to share.  He was not planning on coming to meeting this morning, but something within prompted him to do so, and he is glad he did.  He related to a few things that a couple of us shared already, but he particularly related to the attendee who talked about being honest at meetings, and how important it is for sobriety.  He said he really struggled this weekend, and those around him attended Cinco de Mayo celebrations.  He got through Saturday by isolating in his house, watching movies and such, and then he had to assist a family member who did not make the same choice.  Waking up Sunday, he was glad he did not drink the day before, but by the afternoon those old feelings came creeping back.  He handled them and is happy to be sober on this Monday morning, and he was grateful to have a place to share this difficulty.

Finally, a regular attendee of the meeting, and one whose wisdom I share regularly on this blog, raised her hand to share.  Before I talk about her take-away from this morning’s meeting, I want to share another story of my own, seemingly unrelated to the morning.  Last Wednesday, I met a friend in the fellowship for a meeting and lunch; this friend has a sponsor I know very well and is a regular attendee of my meeting.  At lunch we are discussing one of the trickier subjects within the 12-step program (who and who not to make amends), and she references her sponsor.  I am amazed at her sponsor’s wisdom, I say as much, and I off-handedly comment that maybe it’s time for me to go back through the steps, and resolve some of the unresolved issues I feel I have.  Immediately after speculating, I shut down the idea, because this woman is very busy, has lots of sponsees, and it’s not like I’m profoundly suffering and am in desperate need.  It was a 3 second asked-and-answered thought process, and our lunch proceeded delightfully.

Back to this morning:  my friend who shared this morning is the sponsor of the friend with whom I had lunch last week.  I haven’t had a chance to see her in several weeks, just getting a chance to connect with her was blessing enough.  She also loves this chapter, and is always grateful to have the opportunity to read it, but what stood out most to her in it is the concept of service, and helping another alcoholic.  She then proceeded to share, in as eloquent and persuasive a way as I have ever heard, how much of an honor and privilege it is when she is asked to sponsor another woman in the 12-step program.

I know I’ve said this before, but, really… I can’t make this stuff up!

Of course, I did approach her after the meeting, I did recount my tale from lunch the week before, and that I had considered asking her to take me back through the steps, but felt like it would be asking too much, and that her services would best be served with the still suffering alcoholic, and she more personally explained to me how much she feels strongly she would get more out of the experience than I would (for the record, I don’t believe that, and yes, I did tell her so).

So, short story long, the fates have me going back through the steps, and I am both excited and nervous all at the same time, which I’ll take as a good sign.  I’m imagining I’m going to have lots more to write about in the upcoming months.  Requirement number one from my new sponsor:  call her every day.  Friends reading this are doing a sharp inhalation right about now, as the phone and myself do not have a very strong relationship.

To be continued…

Today’s Miracle:

As if this morning’s miracle isn’t enough, I am starting a 3-day course on meditation tonight as an early Mother’s Day gift.  Oh the things I will have to write about!

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