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New Year, New… Something

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I hope this writing finds you off to a wonderful start in 2016.

The start of 2016 has me stymied with respect to the direction of this blog.  I am ready for a change, but am really struggling with the nuts and bolts of said change.

I started writing this blog almost 4 years ago to document my journey of recovery from addiction.  Part diary, part accountability tool, part self-guided therapy, I wrote a lot that first year, and in that writing learned a great deal about myself.

Somewhere in the course of that first year the blog morphed into an unexpected treasure trove of fellowship and camaraderie.   Now not only was I getting things out of my head, but I was getting invaluable feedback from like-minded bloggers.  What a gift!

In the next two years, life evened out, recovery stabilized, life drama declined… well, dramatically.  The things on which I needed to vent often had very little to do with the main purpose of this blog:  sobriety.

In 2015 I committed to bringing it back to its focus, which had me more or less exclusively writing about the lessons I gleaned from the 12-step meeting I chair each week.

A great concept, and I’m proud of those blog posts, and the message they impart to readers (at least the message I hope they impart).

But as I reflect on the trajectory of the blog, I’m not enjoying how far from the original purpose I’ve wandered.  I started this blog to journal about my recovery, and for the past year most of what I’ve done is report the wisdom of others.

I have a few thoughts rolling around my head as I consider the possibilities.  The first is to get a bit more real about life in 12-step recovery after a few years.  As anyone who has read my blog knows, I am committed to the principles within the 12 steps of recovery; further, I believe those same 12 steps can help everyone, not just those of us who have chosen sobriety.

That said, there are struggles to be found in staying committed as the years go by.  Up to this point, I abstained from writing of these struggles, lest I discourage even one person from considering 12-step recovery.  But if I am to write as authentically as I did that first year, then those struggles would be exactly what I would write about, in terms of recovery.

So that’s one possibility.  Another is to write about the things that take a more front-burner spot in my life these days:  kids, marriage, diet, fitness, career changes, clutter management, which series I should select next to binge watch.  Certainly not on point in terms of the main focus, but at least it would be more personal than a weekly meeting recap.

Finally, I could decide to keep things as is.  If even one person decides to try a meeting in their area as a result of reading the magic that happens in mine, then I’ve done a great service.  And since I know that has happened, why mess with a good thing?

Or I could do some combination of the above.  Or I could start taking pictures of my dog and posting them.  She is really cute, so that may be as valid an idea as any.

As always, I value your thoughts more than I could possibly say.  If you have any opinion or preference in terms of future posts, I would love to hear it.

In the meantime, since I haven’t decided, here’s a quick and dirty synopsis of today’s meeting:  19 attendees, we read the introduction to the book Alcoholics Anonymous (colloquially referred to as “The Big Book”), and the general theme of the shares was “cunning, baffling, and powerful, is the disease of alcoholism.”

What struck me the most this morning was the person who shared he had all the desire in the world to stop drinking, but it wasn’t until he fully accepted that he had the disease of alcoholism that he was able to actually stop drinking.  As someone who struggled for a long time with this very issue, I related entirely to this share.

Now, the knowledge that I have chosen sobriety as a way of life is a gift rather than a life sentence.

Today’s Miracle:

Writing this post.  It’s been so long since I’ve opened up on this blog, I hesitated more than I would have ever thought possible!

Friday Afternoon Ramble

Think of this post like you would a long, chatty, catch-up phone call; if you don’t have time for it, don’t pick up the phone!

It’s been awhile since I’ve written without a purpose, but since I missed my weekly “post with a purpose,” now’s as good a time as any.  Since the reason I missed Monday is the reason I am writing today (also, to procrastinate on some new baking challenges I’ve set for myself for an upcoming busy weekend), let’s start with where I was on Monday, which was North Carolina, for a girl’s weekend.

Girl’s weekend started probably about 10 years ago in my family.  Half of the “girls” live in the Philadelphia area; half live in Maryland, one lives in North Carolina.  The one in North Carolina is the only one who happens to have a vacation home where we can comfortably gather without the “boys,” so North Carolina it is.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out my personal timeline as it relates to Girl’s Weekend:  did I go to the inaugural one?  How many, exactly, did I attend?  What was the year of the last one I attended?  I have it narrowed down, but can’t get confident with the specifics; then again, nobody else is wondering, so I suppose the pressure’s off.

What I remember most about Girl’s Weekend is the last one I attended before this one.  That year we chose to fly in and out of the larger NC airport, which happens to be about 2 hours from my cousin’s vacation home.  When it was time to leave, we were loading our luggage and ourselves into the two behemoth cars my cousin had wrangled for us to use that weekend, and a perplexingly big deal was being made out of who was going into what car.  I was told which car to go in, and was satisfied to stay out of the debate, so I slid into the front seat of the assigned car.

As it happens, the confusion and debate centered around who wanted to be in the Intervention Car, and who didn’t.  To this day, I’m not sure if the argument was over the number of people who wanted in on the intervention, or how many wanted out.  I have my theories of course, but I’ll leave it as one of life’s mysteries.

In case it is not patently obvious, I was the star of the Intervention Car.  To be honest, I could not give you one detail about what was spoken.  Which is a shame, because this many years later, I am genuinely curious.  All I remember is that frozen feeling you get when you are blindsided.  Two hours, trapped, in a car… nowhere to run.  And then another hour plane ride home, and then another hour ride from the airport to my car.  I’m uncomfortable thinking about it now.

Needless to say, I was not rushing back to Girl’s Weekend anytime soon.  By my best guess, that weekend happened 7 years ago.  And by the way, my sobriety date is not quite 4 years ago, so I’m thinking intervention-by-car-ride is not the most effective means of expressing your concern.  At least, it wasn’t for this alcoholic.

So years of resentment go by, then I hit my alcoholic bottom, then another couple of years getting comfortable with sobriety.  And here it is, 2015, and I think I’m ready to give this a go again.  No talk of the Intervention Car, I have no wish to revisit that situation, and so I couldn’t tell you who else even remembers it.  Everyone seemed excited that I was joining them, and I left it at that.

As is always the case of firsts in sobriety, I had some… I’m not sure I would say nerves, exactly, maybe disquiet?  Apprehension?  Whichever word, some thoughts about whether or not the drinking and party atmosphere would negatively impact my sobriety.  This house sits on a completely residential, gated island, so I’m not easily planning my escape.  Then again, it’s a large house, with lots of bedrooms, and everyone knows that I’m sober, so I conclude that I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

Believe it or not, alcohol was not my biggest concern.  My goal, coming into the weekend, was to lay down a new track in terms of my personal memories of Girl’s Weekend.  Any time I thought of this event, or it came up in conversation at family parties, I would feel a punch in the gut (metaphorical punch, my family is not one for physical violence), because the memory of those last hours haunted me.  I wanted to prove to myself, and maybe to them, that I am a different person now.

Plus, and maybe this could go without saying, I genuinely love my family, and crazily enough like them a whole heck of a lot too.  We have fun together, and my self-imposed isolation was starting to bug me.

So off I went to North Carolina, for 5 days.  And yes, we believe in long weekends in my family.

How did it go?  It went, by any standard of measurement, well.  I would say it exceeded pretty much all of my expectations, and I suppose it did that because I went in with absolutely no expectations.  I was determined to go with the flow, and I think having the plan to have no plan was a good one when you are dealing with 11 women cohabitating in one house for 5 days.

We laughed, and ate, and talked, and laughed and ate some more.  We did not sleep much, it seemed there was too much to say to one another to waste time sleeping.  We repeated this routine in the kitchen, in the dining room, in the living room, on the beach, in a small nearby town, and on a boat.  Some drank alcohol in addition to eating, talking and laughing, but a few of us didn’t, and most of those who did stopped appropriately.

A fact which never ceases to amaze me.

There was no drama whatsoever, no hurt feelings, no verbal altercations of any kind.  At no point in time did my feathers get ruffled.

If I ever doubt that I have significantly changed in sobriety, I need to look no further than the sentence above as proof that I have.

The best example I can give:  I was speaking to my two aunts, and the sillier one said, “You’ve got to stop being so negative!”  I rewound the conversation and saw nothing negative.  Rather than arguing the point (or, worse still, getting offended), I said, “Aunt Barbara, thanks so much for that learning opportunity!”  I then spent the rest of the time helpfully turning the negatives into positives.

Example:  I was the designated driver.  Go figure!  But the DD status also translated to morning runs to the grocery store.  One morning I had to go out for a bunch of groceries, then run up and down the stairs with the groceries, while everyone else went to the beach.  I texted to make sure they had a chair for me; they did not, but they did want me to bring them snacks.  When I got to the beach I thanked everyone for providing me the opportunity for service, as well as the opportunity for physical activity.

Here’s the interesting part:  I started out this turning-the-negative-into-a-positive with a decidedly sarcastic slant, but by the end of the 5 days I was doing it automatically, and sincerely.  And it actually felt good!

I need to get that attitude back when dealing with my teenaged children, that’s for sure.  Perhaps this weekend, when there are 8,000 things going on at once, and a son who is 48 hours away from being an official teenager.  I vow to reinstate the Girl’s Weekend Attitude of Positivity as we slide into the weekend, and I’ll let you know how it goes!

Today’s Miracle:

In the time I’ve spent writing and editing this post, I’ve completed both baking challenges, one a complete success, one an excellent learning opportunity (I now know self-rising flour and all-purpose flour are not interchangeable).  And how’s that for a positive spin?

Why Bloggers Are Happier People

An interesting thing happened to me yesterday.  I was reading a beautiful post by my friend Karen over at Mended Musings, and a line she wrote stood out:

 I don’t usually post until I’ve come to some sort of conclusion that I (and hopefully others) can learn from.

It struck me because I often feel the same way:  if something is bothering me, I generally don’t like to write about it until I’ve gotten some kind of answer.  But I considered it more and realized that, in fact, many times I will write so that I can find the answer.  Countless times I will sit down to write about a problem, and by the end of the writing session I realize the answer is there, a resolution to which I would not have come unless I took the time to put pen to paper (or, more accurately, fingers to keyboard).  I can remember at least one post very clearly (Sticks and Stones) that helped me figure out the problem as I was writing about it!

Later the same day I came across some library books I checked out 2 weeks ago, then abandoned to the dining room, never to be open (and a good thing I did come across them, I’m sure they need to be returned).  I decided to give one a cursory glance, the title of which is 59 Seconds:  Think a Little, Change a Lot, by Richard Wiseman.  The premise:  a psychologist gives “a myth-busting response to the self-help movement, with tips and tricks to improve your life that come straight from the scientific community.”

In the section I read, the author disproves the notion that talking about traumatic events (to an untrained person, he is not bashing counseling by any means) yields significant results in the way of increased happiness.  However, an exercise he calls “expressive writing” has been proven to boost both self-esteem and happiness.  As he writes:

From a psychological perspective, thinking and writing are very different.  Thinking can be somewhat unstructured, disorganized, and even chaotic.  In contrast, writing encourages the creation of a story line and structure that help people make sense of what has happened and work toward a solution.  In short, talking can add to a sense of confusion, but writing provides a more systematic, solution-based approach.

Bingo!  This was exactly what I was thinking while pondering Karen’s post!  I couldn’t count the number of times the simple act of re-creating an event in my life for this blog has helped me to make sense of it, to put it into perspective, and to resolve whatever was left rolling around in my brain.  I can say, without fail, that I feel happier every time I hit publish on this blog.  Whether it is happiness at the mere accomplishment of writing a post, or the feeling of resolving an issue, or satisfaction from sharing my experience, strength and hope, or a combination of all, I feel good when I am done writing.

Today’s Miracle:

My husband surprised me with some of my favorite Italian delicacies the other night, and there is enough to eat again tonight.  Not having to plan dinner + a second night of rarely eaten treats = miracle!

Get Out Your Party Hats, It’s Time To Celebrate Another Anniversary!

Welcome.  It is my goal in this blog to document my journey of recovery from addiction.  I have 52 days clean, so I am still very new on this path.  I hope to enlighten both myself and others on the daily trials, and the miracles, that can be found along the way.

Even this early on, I know one thing:  it is only one day at a time, one step at a time, that can bring success in freedom from addiction.  Living in the mistakes of the past brings nothing but heartache, and anxiety about the future brings nothing but stress.  Living in the present is a skill that requires patience through repetition, but will eventually bring rewards unlike any that I have ever known… at least that is my hope.

As I continue to document, I will try to include more personal details so that you may know more about me as a person.  I am completely new to the process of blogging, so I hope to learn as I go, and hopefully my site will improve daily.  I welcome all feedback, especially on ways to bring more depth to my story!

Thanks for taking the time to read this, I look forward to sharing my story…

-written by me, as the first post in this blog, one year ago today

I said to my husband this morning that I feel like I’m writing about one anniversary or another every week.  But it’s an amazing milestone:  one year of blogging!  When I wrote the words above, my honest expectation was that two people would read it: my Mom, and the friend who suggested I started this “experiment.”  I remember the first time I received an email notification that someone “liked” my post, I had to show it to my husband, and he had to explain to me that, in fact, there are others out there in the world that might be reading what I wrote.  What a concept!  And here we are, one year and quite a few more readers later, and my mind is blown how much this blog, and this community, have come to mean to me.  Now, I write, and cannot wait to read feedback from my friends, old and new.  Now, I get so excited when I see a new post from all of my fellow recovery “experts.”  And when I don’t see a post from someone, I worry about them, and pray that they are well.

The day I started this blog, was, coincidentally (or not), the day I moved back in with my husband after a 7-week break.  So the words above don’t fully convey the chaos that was reigning in my life; and yet, they were my mantra:  stay in the moment, stay in the moment, stay in the moment.  And I was right, that skill did take practice and patience, but man, was it worth it.  My life, one year later, is truly beyond my wildest dreams.  And it just keeps getting better.

So, a million thanks to all of you.  The support, the advice, the praise, the encouragement… there are simply no words to tell you how much richer my life has been because of all of you.

Today’s Miracle:

I would say one year of blogging counts as a bona fide miracle!

The Evolution of a Blog

Blogging is an art, same as any other method of self-expression. Some are better at it than others.  -Hugh MacLeod

In early sobriety, I had begun writing in a journal in an attempt to track my rollercoaster of emotions.  A few weeks into that process, a very good friend suggested that I should instead start a blog and share my experiences more publicly.  My response was a polite but disdainful refusal.  I believe I said something to the effect of, “there is no way I would do something as self-indulgent as that.”  Her response was much more direct, and much less polite:  “you have no idea what blogging really is and how can you be living in 2012 and not understand social media?”  I am truly blessed to have friends who tell it like it is, because I did not understand blogging at all.

So I created my membership at WordPress.  At first, my posts were more or less a documentary of what was happening in my life, and how life can improve by staying sober and connected in a 12-step program.

After a few weeks, I received a notification that I did not understand, and I had to ask my husband what it meant.  He explained that I had a follower, which I then had to have further explained that she would now receive a notification every time I wrote something.  I will not soon forget the feeling of astonishment that someone I did not know was regularly reading my thoughts.  I was not kidding when I said I did not understand the concept of blogging.

I then tapped into my keen logic, and realized that since people are following me, then perhaps it might be helpful (not to mention polite) to follow my comrades in the blogosphere (did I mention how bright I am?).  The decision to follow other blogs has brought me such a wealth of experience, strength and hope, it is like having a 12-step meeting in the computer room of my home.

As the months have gone by, and life has gotten progressively better, I have come to think of blogging as a necessary part of my recovery, something I have come to rely upon the way I rely upon 12-step meetings… I just do it, and I feel really good each time I complete a post.

I realized yesterday that I have reached a new stage in my blogging career.  Not only do I get a sense of satisfaction out of completing a post, not only am I rewarded with things like “likes” and insightful comments from friends and followers, but now I am actively using this community to guide with me with life issues.  Yesterday I wrote about a problem, and yesterday the problem was resolved in multiple, useful ways with people whose opinions I have come to respect, although I have never met them personally.  The feeling of community I am experiencing is mind-blowing for someone who, 6 short months ago, believed blogging was a bunch of self-indulgent tripe!

So, to sum up, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for all the positive support, and all the spot-on advice I have received.  I truly appreciate all of these gifts, and I will do my best to pay it forward.

Fear of the Unknown

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown. -H.P. Lovecraft

I am reading a book, Sober Identity, written by an extremely talented fellow blogger, Lisa Neumann.  I believe one of reasons for finding my way to the blogging world was to connect with Lisa and this book, because it inspires me with each page I read.  To say I recommend this book would be an understatement.  The section I am reading today talks about consciously choosing the words you say, and eliminating what you don’t mean to say.  So, with deliberation, I will say that I am experiencing a fair amount of anxiety today.

I have written in the past that I am awaiting some consequences from my active addiction.  Today I received a hurried voicemail that at last I may have to begin the “consequence” process tomorrow.  So I am anxious for several reasons.  First, that is all the information I have, and that is not nearly enough information for my controlling mind to accept.  Second, I have a trip planned, out of town, next week, and I am terrified that this process will force me to cancel my trip.  And, last but certainly not least, I have very limited knowledge of what the process will mean to my life, how disruptive it will be, how long it will last… really, I don’t know anything.

So now it’s time to walk the walk instead of just talking the talk, practice what I preach, and pick up the tools that I have been accumulating for the past 226 days.  What else can I do?  I have made some phone calls and voiced my feelings (and I feel reasonably confident I will be on the phone some more after I hit “publish”), I have prayed, I am writing, and I will pray some more.  Most important, I will keep reminding myself that the Higher Power I wrote about yesterday is working, right now, to make everything turn out okay.

To be continued…

Blogging 101

Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. -Lao Tzo

Alright, this title may be a little misleading (okay, a lot misleading), but when I clicked “publish” on my last post I realized I had completed 100 entries, which got me to thinking about the evolution of my blog.

Like many aspects of recovery, this project has turned out to be such an unforeseen miracle!  I was greatly encouraged to chronicle my journey through early sobriety, and informed that a blog was the best way to go about it.  Hard as it is to believe, I had not read a single blog until this idea was suggested to me!  So I started, more or less thinking it would be like an online diary.

What has happened since then, to me, is nothing short of amazing.  Not only do I have many family and friends reading my entries, but, unbelievably, I have people I have never met tuning in to read my thoughts.  It may seem silly, but I really was naive enough to be very surprised by this.  I will never forget my first “like”… I had to ask my husband about it, because I really did not understand or realize that other people would be interested.

The most rewarding part of this process, for me, has been to hear the words “you really made me think.”  Likewise, getting to know all the other bloggers out there has been another unexpected privilege.  It is like having a fellowship in cyber space… we are truly not alone in our problems, nor are we alone in the solution.  I have learned so many valuable lessons from my fellow writers that I truly put to use in my day-to-day life.

Since I have been on vacation this week, I have not been able to maintain my 4 posts a week for which I typically strive.  Yet another surprise, I find that I miss writing.  Two different days this week I tried and failed to carve out time for writing, and I found myself going to bed thinking about it and being disappointed I couldn’t reach out.

I really hope that this blog evolves along with my recovery.  Like the rest of my life, I believe this best is yet to come!

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