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WOTY, A Recap, and Whatever Else Might Be in my Head

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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:

Service

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…

Today’s Miracle:

Writing.  On a Sunday.  Out of schedule.  With a house full of people.  Enough said!

Roar

About 6 years ago, I was on a girl’s weekend with some of my female family members.  We spent a weekend at my cousin’s vacation home on an exclusive island off the coast of North Carolina (lucky her).  On that weekend, we took a boating trip (because, of course, what would a vacation home on an exclusive island be without a boat?), and many of the girls wanted to try their hand at tubing off the back.  There was an enormous tube that could easily hold 2 at a time, and it was attached to the back of the boat with a long rope.  Once the boat was in full gear, it was not unlike an amusement park ride…  except that you are not harnessed in.

Consequently, I was one of the least interested in taking this ride.

On the other hand, I am very susceptible to goading, and I received plenty of it from my cousins.  So I watched as, one by one, the girls jumped onto the tube, the boat would accelerate, and, like one of those bull rides in a honky-tonk bar, it would be a matter of seconds before they would go flying off the tube into the water.  Exhilarating for them (I assume, since they would jump right back onto the tube to try again), more and more anxiety-producing for me.  Finally, it was my turn, as I could take the nagging no longer, and I got myself situated.  I asked one of the veterans, “any advice?” and she said, “hang on, and don’t let go, no matter what.”

Sounds ridiculous, but those words were like a mantra as the boat sped up.  And hang on I did, I was the first and only to not fall off the tube for an entire ride.  To this day I remember the feeling:  arms aching, wind and water stinging my face, boat motor roaring through my ears, waves bouncing the tube, and me, like a popcorn kernel in the microwave bag, but I knew if I just “hung on, no matter what,” I would get to the other side.

Sometimes, when I think of parenting my children during this time of their lives (13 and 11), I am reminded of the feeling I had on that tube.  There is a barrage of issues, both large and small, when it comes to raising children.  It’s not a question of whether or not there will be waves, it’s a question of how often they hit, and how big the waves will be.

In recovery, it is often said that sometimes the only thing you can do in a given day is not drink, and that is a huge accomplishment.  I often feel the same way about parenting:  sometimes the best thing I can say about my job as a mother is that both kids have made it through the day intact, that they are in one piece and under the same roof as me when we go to bed.  And I feel as grateful for that as I do for not taking a drink that day.

I wrote last week of the struggles I am having with my daughter and her varsity basketball team.  This struggle, I assume, will continue for the rest of the season, and the best thing I can say about it is that it is a learning experience for both my daughter and me, and an opportunity to have a dialogue about her feelings.

Yesterday I faced an issue with my son: a problem with a fellow student, who lied to school authorities to keep himself out of trouble.  Now my son is being judged for doing something he did not do.  It would not be worth the time it would take to write out all of the nuances of this story, but where it becomes an issue for me is that at the end of it, my son was made to apologize for something he did not do, and the boy in question had no repercussions whatsoever.  In other words, they believed the troublemaker, and blamed the victim.

So here I sit, The Least Confrontational Person in the World, and now I have to take on the Principal of my son’s school.

Something tells me that this tube ride is going to take a bit longer than the one I described at the beginning of this post.  God willing, I will have the same feeling of excitement and accomplishment at the end.

I will, of course, provide an update when I have one.

Today’s Miracle:

As I was running this issue around in my mind in the car this morning, Katy Perry’s Roar came on the radio.  Which, of course, is not a miracle by itself, since that song comes on every 3 minutes.  But the opening words caught my attention, I had never listened to more than the chorus before:

I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess
So I sat quietly, agreed politely
I guess that I forgot I had a choice
I let you push me past the breaking point
I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything

I am taking this as a sign:  time to stand up and roar!

Finding My Voice

It has been pointed out that I have not been myself lately.

Side note:  this is never a compliment; no one ever says “You’re not yourself,” and means it in a good way.  Which, now that I think about it, is probably a good thing.

So I’ve spent some time reflecting on what could possibly be wrong.  There is nothing that stands out for me, a few smaller items, but what human being doesn’t have a few anxiety-producing, frustrating or negative-in-some-other-way issues in their lives?

So I look back to the past few days and examine my behavior, and the corresponding thoughts rolling around my head.

And here’s what I’ve come up with:  I am finding it more difficult than usual to express my opinions and my feelings.

“More difficult than usual” is a key phrase, as I have always found it difficult to express opinions that are important to me personally, or that I fear will be controversial.  I.  Am.  Non-confrontational.  This cannot be overstated, when it comes to me.  So if I mentally project that what I am going to say may upset you, or rile you up, or you simply won’t agree with it, then, more likely than not, I’m not going to say it.

Certainly not the healthiest mindset, a fact of which I am growing more and more painfully aware.

So, back to the past several days… I have had a few incidents, minor in nature, but incidents nonetheless where I had an opinion, but felt unable to express that opinion.  The variety of reasons that I felt unable to express myself would take entirely too wrong to explain, but the bottom line is:  I feel frustrated that my opinion is not being heard.

And it’s my 12-step program that’s tripping me up!

Two different well-known phrases have been line-dancing through my head of late, and I finally realize that I am having an issue with them:

1.  Restraint of pen and tongue

2.  Clean up your side of the street

In case they are not self-explanatory, the first talks about the idea of prudence in communication, rather than giving into impulse, flying off the handle, and saying things that I will later regret.  The second is the idea that the only actions that I can control are my own, and it is not my place to judge the actions of someone else.

Both very sensible ideas with which I find no fault.  On the other hand…

As someone who organically over thinks before I speak, the restraint of pen and tongue may very well be doing me a disservice.  One incident in particular stands out, where I, at long last, voiced an opinion, and that opinion got shot down quickly and strongly.  Oh no, confrontation!  The problem (as I saw it) was that the person in question misunderstood my position.  But all I’m thinking is, “this is what you get for speaking up,” and I basically let it go.

This has happened more than once this week, and I realize that I am the common denominator, so I need to figure this out.

Finding the balance between expressing yourself in a healthy way, setting boundaries with the people expressing their opinions to you, and not going off-the-rails crazy, is a challenge… and that is an understatement.

But, what the hell, if I could stay sober for 643 days, then surely I can figure out the solution to this problem!

Today’s Miracle:

Halloween, adorable kids in costumes, and loads of candy… need I say more?

The Topic is Resentment, and Boy Does That Tick Me Off

I don’t think I’ve done a Monday meeting wrap-up in a while.  We have been holding steady… today we had 9 attendees, and several are newer “regulars.”  One gentleman had been with us a while back, and is now resuming his attendance.  People who come back to meetings after having been absent always provide excellent insight, at least to my way of thinking, so I got a lot out of today’s experience.

Today I selected a reading called “Watching Out for Anger and Resentments,” from the book Living Sober.  I had a specific reason for picking this chapter.  Over the past week, I have had 5 very different, very disturbing dreams that, one way or another, referenced my time in active addiction.  What’s most troubling to me about these dreams, other than that they are recurring, is that I have no conscious disturbance in my life.  Each morning that I woke up from one I spent time reflecting on what can be causing the subconscious turmoil, and I have yet to pinpoint a reason.  Life is still really, miraculously good… so what is the problem?

In AA, we are taught that resentments are “the number one offender,” so I picked that chapter from the book, and we had a meaningful discussion after the reading.  Here is what I uncovered for myself at the conclusion of the meeting:

  1. As always, I have more resentments than I realize.  After reading all the different ways resentment can manifest itself (hostility, contempt, rigidity, cynicism, to name but a few), I have more going on than I realize.  What’s been missing from my personal equation is taking the time to figure out all that is going on in my head, talking about it, praying on it, and listening for His answer.
  2. Bringing a resentment to a final conclusion.  It is not enough to just figure out, “oh yeah, I have a resentment about that.”  I have been doing that with certain things in my life for months on end now.  Once I figured out that I have a resentment, I need to Let.  It.  Go!  And that is the one I thing I have refused to do on a number of issues.  I guess there is some progress in acknowledging the resentment, for most of my adult life I did not have the skill set to do even that.  But now I need to take the next logical step, and remove the resentment from my life.
  3. A woman in my meeting was telling me how much her marriage has improved.  She said to her husband, “What made you change?”  He replied, “I didn’t change, you did.”  So we talked about how his behavior had really stayed constant, but her acceptance had increased, and thus the entire relationship improved.   Kudos for her!  Unfortunately, the same thing can happen in reverse, and I’m afraid I am guilty of it.  One small example:  my son has been severely testing my patience for close to two weeks now.  It seems as if there is an argument of some kind at least once a day.  In reading the chapter today, and digesting the sharing afterwards, I realized that his behavior has been consistent, it is my attitude that has changed.  So until I can get my head on straight, he is going to drive me crazy.
  4. Finally, and this is an off-shoot of point #2, I need to take the time to figure out how to resolve the resentments in my life.  There were several alternatives discussed in today’s reading, but the one that resonated most with me was:  ask yourself how a reasonable, well-balanced person would solve this problem, then act as if you are that reasonable, well-balanced person.  This made me laugh out loud, because I can’t tell you how many times I have said exactly that to myself… “how would a normal person handle this?”  Where I fall short is the acting as if part, and I realize, yet again, it is not enough to think my way into right acting, I need to act my way into right thinking!

Today’s Miracle:

It is a picture-perfect fall day here on the East Coast, and I am grateful for the beautiful season we are having!

Knowing When to Talk and When to Shut Up

For almost 6 months now I have been focusing, more or less, on one thing… staying sober.  I have lived by the motto if I do the 4 things that have kept me sober one day at a time for the past 172 days (pray, not pick up, go to a meeting, and talk to another alcoholic), if I complete these things each day, then my day is a success.  Period.  Of course, other things do get done in the day, I have a home, husband and children, so it would be difficult NOT to do other things in a day, but if the house is messier than I would like, or if I did not exercise as I planned, forgot to pick up something at the store… these things used to haunt me in the past, but now I simply remember… did I do my 4 things?  Okay then, the day is a success.

Now the only blip in this otherwise perfect horizon is that it does leave few things personally out there hanging.  I have a few relationships, damaged more or less as the direct result of my addiction, that are unresolved in one way or another.  For the past 6 months I have made the conscious decision to put these relationships on the back burner, because sobriety comes first, and these relationships did not fit into my daily to-do list.

I am now finding that these issues are starting to simmer on the back burner, which tells me that God is gently letting me know I am ready to handle them.  The biggest struggle I have in cleaning up these messes is knowing what is truly important to say, and what makes more sense to leave be.  I have heard two different pieces of advice in the program.  The first is the importance of “cleaning up my side of the street,” which to me means talking everything through in order to clear out the past.  The other thing I have learned is “restraint of pen and tongue,” which to me means if you are not sure whether you should say it, then shut up!  So, to me, that is confounding… which do I do, clean up or shut up?

I guess I will figure it out, one way or the other…

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