Monthly Archives: January 2017
A happy Monday to all! Today we read from Forming True Partnerships, a book that talks about the various relationships and how recovery impacts each. Today’s reading came from the chapter on friendship, and the author wrote both eloquently and compellingly on the friendships formed within the 12-step fellowship, and how that connection keeps her coming back.
This meeting was a celebratory one for me, as I announced my 5-year sober anniversary to the group this morning. The actual anniversary took place a few days before (Friday), and I already received my coin, but I was able to pass that coin around to my main sober network, and get their good wishes instilled into the metal. At least, that’s the tradition in our neck of the 12-step woods.
The reading was a poignant one for me. Nowadays my main network is, as I just mentioned, my Monday meeting group. But since my anniversary was Friday, I had the option of attending a meeting that was vitally important to me in my first year of sobriety. I don’t think I missed more than one or two of those Friday meetings that first year, and I went a heck of a lot in my second year as well. By year three, I was tapering them off, as the commute had become unbearable.
So this year the coincidence of the anniversary falling on the same day the meeting was held had me considering the trek down-county. That particular morning I had a horrible night’s sleep, and strongly reconsidered. I was tired, cranky, I knew I could just as easily celebrate with my Monday peeps, plus there was a fear lingering in the background… it had probably been at least a year since I had seen a single one of those meeting attendees… what if I walk in and I know no one? What if things are intensely awkwards since I had not been around in such a long time?
Finally, the correct thought hit me: I don’t attend meetings so I can be heralded, I go to share my experience, strength and hope. So with a prayer that my anniversary and whatever I was to share might help another, I set out.
Of course, none of my fears came to pass (which leads me to wonder… do they ever?). With the exception of one or two, all the old regulars were there, plus a handful of delightful newcomers (at least, new to me). I happened to arrive on the anniversary of the meeting, which meant good eats were there, and an incredible speaker who shared her story. I left with more energy than I ever would have gotten from sitting around bemoaning my previous night’s sleeplessness. I reconnected with old friends, was asked to speak at a future meeting, and left feeling a renewed sense of the fellowship.
All of which I shared at my meeting this morning, along with my most delicious homemade cake that I make (pound cake with buttercream frosting, my way of thanking this group for all their wonderful support through these 5 years). Here are some other wonderful pearls of wisdom shared:
- The value of the fellowship, and of connecting with other human beings, taps into an essential part of the human condition: the need to be seen for who we are.
- The reading, and the extolling of the fellowship within it, is reminiscent of our program’s 1st tradition. Just like we have 12 steps, we also have 12 traditions. The first one is “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on AA unity.”
- Every aspect of our fellowship is a beautiful experience that is vastly different from the relationships we build in almost any other setting. When we gather at a 12-step meeting, most of the time we are a group that would not interact in the “outside world” by a long shot. We come from vastly different social circles, socio-economic classes, even geographically there can be differences. Yet when we sit down for our 12-step meeting, we are virtually a family. We have an inherent understanding of one another before we speak a word. It is truly a priceless gift.
- One part of the story referenced the television show from the 80’s, Cheers. Specifically, the author writes about when the character Norm walks into the bar and, as the theme song sings, “everyone knows his name.” For many of us, our 12-step group is much like that, where everyone not only knows our name, but pays attention to our innermost thoughts, and sincerely wants the best for us.
- The fellowship is an amazing resource for those of us who consider ourselves introverts, shy, or have a hard time developing friendships. It’s simply a matter of coming back and becoming a regular part of a meeting… the friendships take care of themselves organically.
- The quality of friendships within the fellowship is often markedly better than the relationships formed with our drinking buddies. Some noted that when the drink is taken out of the equation, the “buddies” go away, whereas the friendships within the fellowship have staying power.
- A common expression used in meetings is “keep coming back.” And the reason for that expression is that, in many cases, that is all that’s needed for success… just keep at it, and amazing things happen!
When I said that my Monday meeting peeps are my main source of support, I do my blogging circle of friends a disservice. I started this blog at 3 months sober. It is a freaking miracle that I am still writing this same blog 5 years later, and I owe it all the incredible friends I’ve made in the blogosphere along the way!
It is still so strange to write 2017! I wonder when I’ll get used to it?
Today we finished up the reading we started last week, which is a discussion of
Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
I like breaking up the step and discussing it this way. Last week we talked about the spiritual awakening and carrying the message, this week we discussed practicing the principles in all our affairs. Today’s topic is the one that has the most universal application, and it’s a reminder that I could benefit from reading daily.
What stood out for me in today’s reading was the reminder of the importance of staying in balance. It is all too easy to get caught up in the business of life, and forget the basic but invaluable lessons learned in recovery. I can be reminded of this lesson, and forget all about it again the span of a heartbeat. As the chapter itself says,
“We found that freedom from fear was far more important than freedom from want.” -Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, pg. 122
The next time I start to panic about the job search process, I hope I can remember that line!
In addition to the reminder for balance, I also heard the message of hope within the chapter. One section reads:
“Service, gladly rendered, obligations squarely met, troubles well accepted or solved with God’s help, the knowledge that at home or in the world outside we are partners in a common effort, the well understood fact that in God’s sight all human beings are important, the proof that love freely given surely brings a full return, the certainty that we are no longer isolated and alone in self-constructed prisons, the surety that we need no longer be square pegs in round holes but can fit and belong in God’s scheme of things- these are the permanent and legitimate satisfactions of right living for which no amount of pomp and circumstance, no heap of material possessions, could possibly be substitutes. ” -Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, pg. 124
Wow is that a run-on sentence! Grammatical commentary aside, this statement is an important reminder of what we in recovery are working towards.
So I was reminded this morning to work towards balance in my life, and the benefits for doing so are too numerous to count. Other great lessons learned today:
- Remembering that “True ambition is the deep desire to live usefully and walk humbly under the grace of God” is the key to this step.
- Fixing a marriage/relationship damaged by active addiction takes time; both patience and persistence are critical.
- When it comes to repairing relationships, often the situation gets worse before it gets better. It’s important to hear that so as not to throw in the towel too early! Many of us experienced a long period of marital hardship in recovery.
- Al-anon can be a useful tool for the family member of an alcoholic. However, not everyone will agree with this notion, so the most we can do is throw out the suggestion.
- Financial insecurity is another problem that can persist well into sobriety. It is a process for sure, but the 12 steps teach us how to lose those fears no matter what our financial situation looks like.
- Step 12, like every other step, is practiced one day at a time, sometimes one minute at a time! We can feel very good about practicing step 12, then a minute later be thrown a curve ball that takes us completely off-balance. The trick is to keep bringing ourselves back to center.
That’s it for today. Enjoy the rest of your Monday!
The title of today’s post… someone said it today while speaking of relationships in recovery. I had never heard it before, and was so delighted, I had to share!
Today was one of those days where I took advantage of my “power,” as it were, and selected a reading I hoped would help me personally. We read from the book Living Sober, and I selected the chapter “Easy Does It.”
I actually went in searching for the chapter “One Day At A Time,” only to find it was not in there. I could use that prioritization as well. And a blog post may soon follow on this one, as I find it one of the most useful adages in the 12-step lexicon.
But back to the subject at hand: we read the chapter “Easy Does It.” In terms of recovery, the chapter talks about the common thread of compulsivity that seems to exist in alcoholics. We are the type to rarely let a drink go unfinished (alcoholic or not), we read until the book is finished, and, in a newer twist, and speaking for myself, binge watching television series is a great additional example of pursuing something until the bitter end!
And of course, there’s nothing wrong with many of these compulsive tendencies… most of them are, in fact, preferable to drinking. But the chapter gently asks us to look at this piece of our personalities, and consider slowing down once we realize we are in the grips of this thinking.
Of particular import to me today was this section:
When we do find ourselves uptight and even frantic, we can ask ourselves occasionally, “Am I really that indispensable?” or “Is this hurry really necessary?” What a relief to find the honest answer is frequently no! And such devices actually serve, in the long run, no only to help us get over our drinking problem and its old ways; they also enalbe us to become far more productive, because we conserve and channel our energy better. We arrange priorities more sensibly. We learn that many actions once considered vital can be eliminated if they are thoughtfully reexamined. “How much does this really matter?” is a very good question. -pg. 45, Living Sober
Here’s what’s been the lather-rinse-repeat cycle of my mind for the past solid month… I sit with my boot on, thinking I need to sit in order to get the boot off. Then as I sit I think of the various things that I’m not doing, and feel badly about not doing them. I look around and see evidence of my not doing things… dust bunnies, empty refrigerator, laundry piles, etc. At least this is how things look in my mind. I finally get so agitated I get up and do something, anything, to relieve the pressure of not doing something. Then I recognize that my foot hurts from, you know, walking on it. Then I am depressed anew because all this means is a delay of healing. And I sit down, and the cycle begins again.
- An almost unanimous decision that employing “easy does it” to one’s life is a work- in-progress situation. Some days/weeks/months you’ll have it, and some you won’t.
- Part of the trap of this personality booby trap is the idea that we’ll relax/take time out/start enjoying life once x, y or z happens. I’ll start taking it easy after I get through the holidays, as soon as I get the promotion, once I clean the house. But this logic is inherently flawed, as there is always a new item to get through/achieve/do.
- Making a conscious decision to feed ourselves rather than delete from ourselves is important. Taking time to actually schedule, in your planner or calendar, time each day to nurture yourself, will have untold benefits.
- Claiming that you are too important to employ “easy does it” is a form of self-aggrandizing. It’s especially important to ask the questions listed above (Am I really that important and is this hurry really necessary), as the ego could be at play.
- Often we find a sense of disappointment when we are too goal-oriented. We work and work to achieve a goal, be it materialistic or not, then find said goal did not give us the satisfaction we thought it would. Then life becomes a series of pushing from goal to goal, with little appreciation for the journey that takes us to those goals.
- Though it may be trite, appreciating the journey is as important, if not more important, than appreciating the destination, as so much of life is about exactly that… the journey.
Hope everyone is having an Easy Does It Monday!
True story: one person, in his/her share (remember, trying to make things more anonymous) said the following: “if there’s laundry to be done…. well then, teach the kids how to do it!” It was said lightly, but it should be noted I wrote the paragraph above before the meeting. So I’d say this reminder from someone who did not know I was fretting about this counts as my miracle!
Off by a day or two, but still, three posts in a week… a-MAH-zing!
I wanted to get back to my choice for WOTY (Word of the Year). I’ve been participating in this challenge for a few years now, with mixed results. Two years ago I picked the word energy, and felt… well, energized by it! Last year, I selected the word calm as my word for the year, and I would call that one a giant bust. 2016 was just about anything but calm!
This year I want to go in a different direction, and select an action word rather than a feeling. I selected the word service:
the action of helping or doing work for someone.“millions are involved in voluntary service”
synonyms: favor, kindness, good turn, helping hand; More
Why do I want to go with such a lofty word? Because to me, service sounds somewhat sanctimonious. But I don’t mean it that way at all.
One of the greatest lessons I learned through my participation in a 12-step program is the value of getting out of my own head. In fact, the final step in the 12-step process is just that… to pass along what you’ve learned to another person in need of recovery.
And of course that specific type of service is a wonderful thing, but my word choice is a whole lot broader than that. Here’s what I mean by service…
Josie’s Definition of Service:
Considering the perspective of another before my own. Understanding rather than being understood. Leaving people better than I found them.
It’s really that simple, although as I consider the past few months, that would be quite a shift. In sitting around and moping about my foot and unfulfilled career aspirations, I wasn’t sparing a whole lot of energy for the wants and needs of others.
And either path, self-centeredness or service, is the kind which builds upon itself. When I’m wallowing in self-pity, I can sink deeper and deeper. Likewise, when I have the mindset of consideration and thoughtfulness, that tends to be contagious as well. The question is: which mindset provides the most benefit?
Because that’s the truly amazing thing about service… that while the intention is to help another, you wind up helping yourself in the process. So even if I sound all saintly by choosing the word service, really I’m just cultivating positive self-growth!
So there you have it… let’s try to make 2017 the year to give back. Hopefully I’ll be better about checking in on the progress throughout the year!
The positive boost that comes from embarking on a new goal!
Housekeeping: if I take time to reply to comments, I’ll never get this post written. But I’ll do so as soon as I hit publish! Overall I’d like to say a big thank you to all who commented, and I am thinking long and hard about all suggestions. As I mentioned yesterday, circumstances are such that no resolution can be reached for a few weeks. In the meantime, I am going to tinker about with different formats and see if I can’t come up with a way to transmit all the wonderful wisdom without the remotest possibility of breaking anonymity.
Having said that, today’s meeting was an actual first, at least I think it was… we did not have enough chairs in the meeting room to house the attendees present! A great way to start an otherwise cold and dreary Monday, I’ll tell you that much.
As it is the first Monday of not only the month, but the year, we reach chapter one of the book Alcoholics Anonymous (“The Big Book”), “Bill’s Story.” Bill is Bill Wilson, the co-founder of the original 12-step program of recovery. And his story is a compelling one: from one of the lowest bottom drunks that exists, to co-founding a program that is in existence and thriving 80 plus years later.
As compelling a story as Bill’s is, I am often challenged when I read it to find a part relatable to my journey of recovery. Today, however, proved to be an exception, as a theme stood out for me in a way that hasn’t any of the past time I’ve read it. And the theme is ego. Bill truly believed that his self-will could conquer any challenge, win any war. And for a long time, it did. Remember, Bill lived through World War One, the roaring 20’s and the Great Depression, and his creativity, persistence and gumption got his to the top of a lot of heaps. But ultimately he found his self-will was no match for his addiction to alcohol. When he finally surrendered to that notion, miraculous things happened to him, and for a lot of alcoholics who followed in his footsteps.
So what’s relatable about that? For me, it is a reminder of how insidious the ego can be. How many of us have gotten sober a few days, weeks, month, or even years, then decided that “we’ve got this?” Or we appreciate the value of humility for a while, especially when newly sober, but over time forget the value of staying humble?
For those of us who cultivate our spiritual lives, the ego is especially dangerous, for how easy it is to let those simple spiritual practices fall by the wayside as life gets too chaotic? By the time we are in real need of a spiritual connection, we realize we’ve actually been disconnected.
For me, today’s meeting is a reminder to stay right-sized, and keep my ego in check. Here is some other great stuff I heard today:
- The story is an important reminder of what the alcoholic bottom feels like. Who doesn’t vividly recall the horrific feelings of the morning following a particularly nasty drunk? Or the hopelessness of the broken promise that we won’t drink today?
- The 12 steps of the program are clearly explained as Bill tells his story of recovery. If you read nothing else in the Big Book but Bill’s story, you will have a basic understanding of the 12 steps of recovery.
- Reading the transformation of Bill’s life and attitude is a reminder of how different a life of sobriety can be from a life of active addiction. You can almost feel the remarkable difference in his perspective and how it positively impacts his world, and the worlds of those around him.
- Unconditional surrender is another theme of the story. For a long time Bill believed he could beat this problem by his own means, but when he understood the concept of unconditional surrender, and applied it to his own life, miraculous things happened for him, and for countless others.
- Addiction to alcohol can make the most logical and intelligent people strangely insane. They can be incredible in every other area of their lives, and yet their logic completely escapes them when it comes to moderating alcohol.
- Overcoming the hurdle of a higher power when one does not believe such a thing exists is covered wonderfully in this story. Bill himself struggled with the notion of turning his will over, until he was convinced he could create a God of his understanding. This concept got many an alcoholic over the hump of believing in a traditional God.
Hope everyone is enjoying the new year!
Writing two posts in two days. It’s been a loooong time since I’ve done that. And if I’m really on my game, another post talking about the WOTY is coming tomorrow!
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: writing is a muscle, and when you don’t exercise the muscle, you lose it, rapidly! It’s easier to stay in the rhythm of writing than in trying to resurrect it.
But try I must, since my life is vastly improved when I use this outlet. There’s been a lot going on, and so the unmotivated side of myself seizes upon these life issues and uses them as a handy excuse, a get out of jail free card, if you will.
And now, lo and behold, it is January 1st. The last day of the holiday season (for the most part), and a time to look ahead and focus on self-improvement. For the past few years I have participated in the WOTY theme (Word of The Year, an anchor to remind yourself of the priorities you’ve set for yourself in January); this year, given my pulling away from the blogging world, I was sure I would not participate again. In fact, I wasn’t 100% sure I remembered 2016’s word of the year.
Then I woke up this morning, and a word popped into my head, and I can’t seem to let go of it. And I haven’t found a whole lot of those lightbulb-y, aha! experiences of late, so I need to grab hold of them while I do.
So methinks I will be participating in the fun again this year. But first, because I hate to do things out of order, I want to write a bit on where I’ve been and what’s been keeping me from the blog.
I’ve referenced the most obvious of problems a few times in the past 2 months, and that is an ongoing podiatric issue. I elected to have a minor corrective surgical procedure in early November, and somehow I wound up with a fractured heel. That sums up in one sentence something that, had I kept my writing muscles in shape, a subject matter that could have entertained you for hours. Sadly, I did not, and I believe I am at last at a stage of acceptance about the whole issue. My heel is fractured, it is a long and slow recovery (made longer and slower by my non-compliance, but give me a break, it was the holiday season), and there are worse things in life. End of story. Simple to say and write out now, but the mental process took some time.
A second issue took place since I’ve last written, and if I do what I should be doing, I will sit down in the near future and make a full and proper post about the experience. I had another job opportunity come and go in the past few weeks. This is not the first opportunity (or the second for that matter), but it was by far the most painful loss I’ve experienced in a long time. I believed in my heart and soul that this job was meant for me. Simply put, I was wrong. Or at the very least someone of importance disagreed with me, because they chose someone else.
I know many will be reading this and thinking “Oh boo hoo, you didn’t get a job? Sing it to the choir, sister!” Or maybe your thoughts have trendier expressions than mine, who’s to say? But what I’ve learned about myself through this process is how far I go to protect myself from disappointments such as these. I assume failure before every new experience, so that if it happens I am not too shocked or upset. I let my guard down this time, and ooh baby did it hurt. And the timing of it was either awful or perfect… I had house guests arrive one hour after I received the news. Not sure if this was a good distraction, or it prolonged the healing process, but as they say, it is what it is. I believe there is more processing to come.
Finally, and possibly most irritating, was an incident that occurred a few weeks back directly after the weekly meeting I run. A bit of backdrop: I started the meeting 4 1/2 years ago, at the request of people who were starting a brand new clubhouse. The goal of the clubhouse was to be a safe space for 12-step program members of all kinds to recover and support one another in recovery. At the time I was horrified… I had only 6 months or so sober myself, who am I to start a meeting? But I was convinced, and the rest is history. The meeting is going strong, and in fact is one of the more well-attended ones in the club house.
Since that time I’ve backed out of most involvement in the clubhouse; once upon a time I attended their business meetings and social events, now I am almost exclusively using the space to run the Monday meeting. I imagine it’s an evolution, and there are ebbs and flows, and I don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about.
But in the meantime all sorts of political changes have taken place, throughout all of which I’ve minded my own business. I recently heard they elected a new president, and thought nothing of it until he introduced himself to me. And something in my gut told me, at that very moment, that something was going to happen. And I can tell you I don’t often get gut feelings.
And please do not get me wrong, the new president is a wonderful gentleman. He introduced himself as though he did not recognize me, but I certainly know him, and respect his sobriety greatly. And I stand in awe of his service… it is a huge undertaking to lead a clubhouse, and I respect his decision to do so.
A few weeks later he arrived oddly late to my meeting… there was at most 10 minutes left to go. I did not think a thing of it, until he hung around waiting to speak with me. My radar picked up the signal of distress, and I waited patiently through the “how’s your foot?” questions to see what was up.
And my radar was correct, he was coming to me with a problem that was brought to him. He understands I write a blog. He has not read it himself, but somebody in our local community has, and they are concerned that I am breaking the anonymity of a specific person, and that if this person were to find out, he/she would be devastated and leave my meeting.
So let’s back up here: the person coming to me with the problem has yet to read the blog himself, and the person coming to him isn’t concerned with his or her anonymity, but someone else’s. And they’re not speaking on behalf of that person, they’re just projecting a potential problem.
My defenses register all of this immediately. But first, this is on the heels of a recovery meeting, second, the newly elected president is saying all of this in the gentlest of ways, so it’s not liking he’s “coming at me,” per se, and third, I detest all forms of confrontation and thus will always want to consider all options before I respond. One last factor that I’m ashamed to include but will for the sake of honesty: at the time of this discussion/suggestion, I truly believed I would be employed on a full-time basis in a matter of weeks. If I’m working full-time I am no longer chairing this meeting, and this becomes a non-issue.
In the moment, I politely thanked him for the feedback. He had expressed which individual was the concern, and I assured him that I do not think such an issue exists, but I will make sure to find out, as the individual and I are very close. I then wished him a good day, and I actually have not seen him since.
Then the stupid job fell through, and I realized that I never actually dealt with the issue. And I have been mentally blocked ever since.
To be fair, it was a busy holiday season, and all of the things I wrote about above were happening, and I’ve already declared how easy it is to make excuses.
So here is my vow: I will get to the bottom of this issue, because I do completely respect the person in question. As it happens circumstances prevent me from doing this for a few weeks, but I will get to the bottom of it.
In my heart I do not believe I have broken anyone’s anonymity. The vast majority of the readership live nowhere near me. If there is the smallest handful of local people reading this blog, and they put two and two together, it is because they attend the same meetings I do, and hear the same things I do. I don’t use names, and only occasionally use gender. I don’t talk give physical descriptions, or anything else that might directly point the finger to a specific individual.
But if the
busybody source is correct, I will take immediate steps to back it down even further.
And now I have written a novel, and never even gotten to my Word of The Year. I will leave you with the word, but will save the rationale for another post, since nobody has time to read any more out of my brain. My Word of the Year is:
And I have much to say about it, what that word means to me, and how I came to determine that I need this in the forefront. I will also look back and see how 2016’s word impacted my year as well. Until then…
Writing. On a Sunday. Out of schedule. With a house full of people. Enough said!