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I Am Not Like You People!

Committing yourself is a way of finding out who you are. A man finds his identity by identifying. A man’s identity is not best thought of as the way in which he is separated from his fellows but the way in which he is united with them. -Robert Terwiliger

To date, I have not met a single member of AA who did not say the statement in my title as they walked out the doors of their first meeting.  I’m sure there is somebody out there who walked into their first 12-step meeting feeling like they’ve instantly belonged, but the vast majority of us believed very differently.  Some people say it with contempt, judging that they are in fact far superior, or don’t have as much of a problem as the group (or any problem at all), or some, like myself, just felt as if they didn’t belong.  Only to find out, hopefully sooner rather than later, that they are exactly where they need to be.

This attitude is not unique to recovery programs, and, speaking for myself, can extend to many areas of my life.  Pretty much any time I walk into a gym I have the same thought… I am not like these people.  They love to exercise, they are athletic, and fit, and they are all ready to run a marathon.  They want to be here.  I, on the other hand, hate to be here, and the best moment I experience in the gym is the minute it takes me to walk out the door, feeling accomplished because I just did something good for myself.

Or, walking into a PTA meeting… I am not like these people.  They are self-righteous, they all believe they are the best parents on the planet, and they live to judge the rest of us in the room.   I, on the other hand, am just here to make sure I understand all that is going on in my kids’ lives.

Or, walking into a kids’ sporting event… I am not like these people.  They know all the ins and outs of whatever sport is being played, they are able to watch every minute of their child’s playing time, and yell out insightful, encouraging words of wisdom that is undoubtedly helping their child play better.  I, on the other hand, struggle to follow the sport, frequently lose track of how well or how poorly my child is playing, and have no idea what encouraging words to call out at any given moment.

But whether I am putting myself down or putting down the people around me, at the end of the day I am making a judgment based on next to nothing, and I am being the polar opposite of open-minded.  In AA this is called “contempt prior to investigation,” and it is an expression that should have a wider audience than people in recovery.

Today’s Miracle:

That I can identify my negative thought patterns at all is an honest to God miracle!

For All The God-Doubters

A coincidence is when God performs a miracle and then decides to remain anonymous. -Author Unknown

Forgive the extra length of this post.  There will also be extra-candor, but the message is too powerful for me not to share it.

My personal bottom was like an airplane bouncing down the runway towards its final destination…. increasingly shameful confrontations with my husband, time spent away from my children in a rehab, breaking the law and getting caught, and, finally, separating from my husband and children.  At my lowest point, I was living with my mother, facing divorce and an uncertain future with my children, and it was at this time my lawyer told me he did not see a way around me going to jail.

So to say the early days of recovery were fear-based would be an understatement.  I chose sobriety because I was terrified of the alternative.  Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and slowly my personal life turned around.  I was back at home, rebuilding my life with my husband and children within two months, and all my other relationships followed suit.

The last big question mark remained my legal issues, and that is what I writing about today.  From the start, it looked like jail time was inevitable.  For those reading who don’t know me personally, I am pretty far removed from the typical profile of an inmate.  I am an Irish Catholic middle-aged Mom of two with nothing remotely resembling a prior record.  I am Master’s-educated suburban woman who has chosen to stay at home and raise her children for the past decade.  And yet, here I am, looking at jail time.

A few weeks into my recovery, I was offered the opportunity to participate in a county-funded program, that, for simplicity’s sake, I will define as a sort of court-supervised outpatient therapy.  In exchange for my participation in this program, I would, first, avoid jail, and second, clean up my record at the program’s successful completion… miracle #1.  I leapt at this opportunity, only to find out that because my home is located about 2 miles outside the county, I am ineligible to participate.  So my lawyer works a deal and offers me some sort of reduced sentence which amounts to nothing more than probation…. this is miracle #2… no jail time.

But the original offer of the drug program sounds like a better proposition, and I work with my lawyer to fight for it.  It takes time (patience is a requirement when dealing with all legal matters), but eventually it is agreed that if I can establish residency in the county then I can enter this program.  Great news, but how can I do this?  I don’t have the money to have two homes, and I can’t move my children.  Then my in-law’s, who do live in the county, approach me and offer their home to me for the duration of this program… miracle #3, and this is the point at which I am consciously aware that God is working the miracles in my life.  I start tuning in to all the good things happening every day from this point on.

Still more time goes by, but I am grateful, because it allows me to spend the summer with my children, and to not worry about how to explain this upcoming change in our lifestyle.  Meanwhile, I am continuing in my recovery, but it has ceased to be fear-based; rather, it is about building upon the successful foundation that fear built.  Each day is better than the last, and I am at peace with however the legal situation turns out.

About one month ago, I received word that because so much time has gone by, and because my lawyer has been fighting to keep me with my children, the county is considering a pilot program whereby I complete its requirements while being supervised by the county in which I reside.  It has never been done before, and the judge originally dismissed this option outright, but is now willing to consider me being the first person to do try it…miracle #4.

Yesterday I was able to observe the program in which it is proposed I participate, and it is much more positive and encouraging than anything I have encountered to date… miracle #5.  Today I went before the judge, and he agreed to allow this to happen, officially… miracle #6.  This judge has a well-known reputation for talking down to the people in his court room, I have witnessed it first-hand. Yet when it was my time before him, he was respectful and encouraging, and even commended my attorney for his perseverance in getting me this opportunity… miracle #7.

And so, next week I will begin a program designed to aid me in my recovery, while living at home with my family.  At the completion of this program, I will have a clear record, which will enable me to work in my chosen field.  I hope this story clears up any doubts about God working in our lives!

Happy Father’s Day

A father is respected because
he gives his children leadership…
appreciated because
he gives his children care…
valued because
he gives his children time…
loved because
he gives his children the one thing
they treasure most – himself.

As I wrote in my “Mother’s Day” post, I have been fortunate to have been blessed with not one, but two sets of amazing parents.  Since I took the opportunity to give accolades to Moms on their special day, I figured I would give equal time to the Dads of the world.

If Moms are all about love, forgiveness and quiet strength, then Dads are all about discipline, leadership and not- so-quiet strength.  They are the ones we turn to when something breaks, when we are lost, or when (and this is especially true for me) we need general how-to information. 

As I mentioned, I have had the great gift of having two Dads, the first having passed away 20 years ago, the other for the past 13 years through marriage.  And while I miss my biological Dad dearly, I could not be more fortunate to have my current Dad.  If not for him, I would not, at the most basic level, have my husband and children.  But more importantly, he leads our family by his great example…. there is not one thing that he teaches us (and believe me, he has taught all of us so many things!) that he is not willing to do himself.  So when preaches the value of hard work, he is the first to volunteer when a project needs to be done.  When he preaches family values, he is the absolute first person there for any one of his family members in a crisis. 

He has shown me, and his son, who emulates him perfectly in this respect, the real meaning of fatherhood.  I simply cannot imagine what my life would be lacking without him as a role model, a source of strength, and as a friend.

School’s Out For Summer!

It is not necessary to change.  Survival is not mandatory.  ~W. Edwards Deming 

I had to laugh when I read the quote I printed above.  At this time of year, anyone with school-age children will know exactly why I chose this topic.  Whether you are a working Mom or the stay-at-home variety, summertime has a unique set of opportunities and challenges.  I am 1 hour into the summer vacation and I have already yelled at one child, negotiated an argument, and sent both children outside to play.

So I can look at this new situation in one of two ways:  1.  Dear God it is going to be a long summer (this was the thought I had after I yelled but before I drank my coffee).  or 2.  Wow, do I have a great opportunity to do things different, as a woman in recovery, this summer!  Obviously, since I am writing the two options for the world to see, I am going to attempt the latter choice (with the option to occasionally wallow in the first). 

What is awesome is taking the lessons learned in recovery and applying them to everyday life.  Just because I started the first day of summer on a frustrated note does not mean my whole day is ruined.  In fact, it is just the opposite… it is an opportunity to learn, and apply that knowledge to the next frustrating situation that arises. Which, at the rate this morning has gone, will be any second… how lucky am I to be able to use the knowledge I’ve gained so quickly and so often?!?

Happy Mother’s Day

This may be a day late, but hopefully not a dollar short.  I wanted to write this yesterday, but I felt I was better served showing my Mom‘s how much they mean to me, and now today I am going to tell them.

Of all the “Hallmark holidays,” Mother’s Day is definitely the most legitimate because, as all the recent commercials, magazine ads, and various cards we have all just purchased, Moms are a very special breed.  No matter how many kids they have, no matter what ages their children are, Moms sacrifice so much of themselves for their children, and they rarely even think of it as a sacrifice.

But of all the Moms that need to be acknowledged, Moms of addicts truly deserve the most praise.  If the Mom of a “normal” child worries on a daily basis, then what can be said about the Mom of an addict?  It is difficult to contemplate.  And if you could quantify the amount of forgiveness the average Mom allows for the average kid, then to what degree more does she allow for her addicted child?  I am not a mathematician, but I would think that amount is immeasurable.

And the most amazing part of all is how little Moms seem to ask in return for all this forgiveness, all this love.  I believe because for Moms, they don’t even consider how much they are doing… in their minds, it is just “their job.”  But truly, the extra love, support and forgiveness Moms give to their addict children is not a requirement, and, as one of these recipients, I truly appreciate it.

Many people suffer the loss of their Mothers for any number of reasons… death, separation, estrangement.  I am so blessed, despite all of the mistakes I have made in my lifetime, to have the gift of not one Mother, but two, and I am taking the time today (a day late), to tell them both how much their love and support mean to me, and that I wouldn’t have my 107 days of sobriety without them.  If everyone had even one of my Moms, the world would be a much happier, much stronger place.

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