Blog Archives

M(3), 8/29/16: Back to Business

44fce7b166a97ef3caacab144df75b8d

Wow, does this feel weird.  It’s been weeks since I last logged on.  There’s been a hundred and one reasons for my absence, all of which I hope to be writing about as time goes on.  It’s been a turbulent summer, though I suppose turbulence is relative.  We’ve been dealing with stuff that is unusual for us, and I’m hoping to be able to hash it all out within the blog eventually.

In the meantime, I’m so sorry for my absence in reporting my Monday meeting updates!  We’ve been having a grand time, as usual.  In fact, last week was a record high in terms of attendance.

Today’s reading selection(s) dealt with the topic of resentment (for those who follow along with the actual literature, we read from the book As Bill Sees It).  If you are unfamiliar with 12-step philosophy, the language surrounding resentments is strong, and it is negative.  The main text, Alcoholics Anonymous (“The Big Book”) contains countless warnings regarding the dangers of cultivating and holding onto resentments.

On second thought, “countless” is inaccurate.  Of course I could go line by line and count the number of references, or I could Google it, but it’s the first day back to school, and I’d rather just enjoy the peace and quiet of this house.

In any event, we are warned from almost the first second we enter the doors of a 12-step meeting to let go of any and all resentments, or else (cue the ominous music).

Or else what?  In terms of recovery, or else you may drink again.

I remember thinking two things when I first heard this kind of dire prediction:

  1. That’s stupid
  2. It doesn’t matter, since I don’t have any resentments anyway

In the years since, I’ve learned that I did not have a broad enough understanding of what falls into the category of resentment.  I’ve also learned that I needed to learn a lot more about myself and my feelings.

As for my first judgment, that it sounds a bit melodramatic to say that by nursing a grudge I’ll soon be nursing a drink, I’ve learned enough to say that I have a lot more to learn.  But here’s what I do know about resentments:  they are a colossal waste of time, and they tend to pull me into a downward spiral.  The quicker and easier I can resolve my feelings of resentment, the more peaceful and joyful my life is.

As usual, many excellent shares in this morning’s meeting, all of which helped elevate me.  It is an amazing thing to sit and listen to someone’s story, and from it gain wisdom that I hadn’t realized I needed.

The main share from which most others followed came from a woman who struggles in setting boundaries with a family member.  Her story is an extreme one, but the question she must answer is familiar to many of us:  how do you distinguish between setting healthy boundaries and “being the bigger person?”

On the one hand, our 12-step program focuses on changing ourselves.  We look to see our part in any situation, and we seek to be of service, rather than asking people to serve us.  Very noble aspirations.

But in my friend’s case, she has a person in her life whom she defines as toxic.  Her question is:  how many times should she go back to the same well, knowing that the outcome will be a negative one?

Her share was met with a lot of empathy and support.  When I first heard her story, I listened with sympathy.  But when I listened to the wise responses and follow-up shares, I listened with empathy.  Because all of us, to a greater or lesser degree, have areas in our lives where we struggle with where to draw a line between what is good for us and what is good for the people we love.  I imagine in virtually every relationship such a question exists.

The best advice I heard given was this:  rather than focusing on “doing the next right thing,” a phrase which is tossed around a lot in the 12-step rooms, perhaps we should focus instead on doing the next healthy thing.  In defining “right,” we can get into some murky waters… who defines right?  But in deciding what is the healthiest thing to do, you are ultimately creating an environment to be your best possible self.

Of course, it is important to seek feedback.  In our program sponsors and trusted members of the fellowship are excellent sources of guidance, but at the end of the day we must make decisions for ourselves.  The back of sobriety coins handed out at anniversaries reads:

To thine own self be true

Apropos to this conversation, for sure.  And we did get to hand out one of those coins this morning for someone celebrating her nine month anniversary!

One last thought, and then I’ll stop rambling.  At the end of the meeting someone came up to me and shared a lesson she learned regarding resentments.  The first time you feel angry or resentful towards someone, the blame is on them for whatever they’ve done to cause your reaction.  But each and every time you revisit that feeling, or relive that experience, whether it’s in your own head or complaining about it to someone else… that’s on you.

That alone tells me I’ve got some work to do on handling resentments!

Today’s Miracle(s):

  1. I’m back writing
  2. Kids are back at school (see video below)

 

Advertisements

M(3), 6/27/16: Breaking the Chain

19ec17055a8acbb7942aa8063e1e0b13

Already we are heading into the month of July… incredible!

Because it is the end of the month, we read from the book Forming True Partnerships:  How AA members use the program to improve relationships.  The story was from the chapter “The Family,” and talked about the author’s relationship with her alcoholic father in three stages:

I.  When her father was actively drinking and she was a child

II.  When her father got sober and her drinking took off

III.  The relationship they were able to build in sobriety.

A fascinating read for most everyone; even the attendees who did not have alcoholic parents could relate, as everyone in the room had someone in their family who suffers/suffered from the disease of addiction.

Part I mirrored my own childhood:  the shame that goes along with a parent’s alcoholic behavior, the sure knowledge of a personality change the moment a drink is consumed, the uncertainty of knowing which personality would be walking in the door each evening.

I loved reading about the beautiful relationship the author was able to build with her father once she started getting sober.  My father passed away years before even my active addiction, but I have daydreamed often about how he and I might relate now that I am sober.  I’d like to think we would have forged a deeper and more meaningful relationship that we ever had.

And I also believe that he is proud of me, wherever he is.

Some of the other members of the meeting touched on childhood shame surrounding parents and alcoholism, and learning how to discern between the person and the disease.  Several with alcoholic parents remarked that they were always able to do this; they could love their mother or father but hate the effects alcohol had on him or her.

This point stood out to me, as I recently had a discussion with a close friend about this very idea:  loving the person, but hating the disease.  It made me wonder if I had been able to make this distinction with my own father.

The truth is, I’m not sure I ever thought consciously about it while he was alive; I just hadn’t developed enough self-awareness at that young an age.

Then I thought to myself:  do I make that distinction for myself, and my addiction?  I will have to ponder this some more, but I’m sorry to say I’m not sure I do.  At this point, a few years into sobriety, I can say I no longer experience the raw shame of my actions in active addiction, but I think that is because I feel like I’ve rectified to the best of my ability by living each of these past 1600 or so days sober.  And as I thought about it further, and considered some of the “lesser” demons I’m trying to conquer, I’m not sure I am separating myself from my actions.  When I intend to eat well, exercise and drink lots of water, then fail to do so, I feel bad about myself, I don’t separate out the action from the person.

And as I write that I see it for the old thinking that it is, and I realize there is work yet for me to do.  Good thing I wasn’t looking to graduate anytime soon.


There were two women new to sobriety present at the meeting, and both are experiencing struggles as they try to navigate life sober.  One woman’s story in particular spoke to me.  She has less than a month sober, and is battling a few things at once.  First, she has adult children living in her home who still drink.  So there is the challenge of going into the fridge for a bottle of water, and finding it standing next to a six-pack of beer.

Due to a medical condition, she is responsible for driving her husband everywhere he needs to go, and thus finds social situations that involve drinking to be a challenge.

Finally, her adult children want to know why, even though she has been to rehab, been to outpatient therapy, been to a counselor, and is attending meetings, why would she still be sad and struggling?

I am indignant on this woman’s behalf, which of course does her no good.  What I could do, and what a couple of us did after the meeting, is share what worked for us in early sobriety.  Probably the greatest piece of advice I can give (completely and utterly from the rear view mirror, mind you) is this:  ask for help.  Tell people what you need.  Set some boundaries.  People who aren’t afflicted with the disease have zero concept of its trials and tribulations, and it is wrong for us to think otherwise.

Do whatever you need to stay sober, even if it feels selfish to the extreme.  Early sobriety is not a life sentence; you will get more comfortable with time.  But to acquire that time you need to put yourself first.  Failing to do so puts your sobriety in peril.

I’m hoping to see my friend next week with a report that she was able to negotiate some breathing room for herself.

That’s all I’ve got this beautiful summer day!

Today’s Miracle:

I will count mindful organization as the miracle of the moment.  There’s a lot going on in my household this week, and what’s keeping me sane is a list, and reminding myself to stay in the moment.  It truly is a miracle when you take the time to appreciate the here and now!

M(3), 11/23/15: Holiday Family Challenges

28f614f

Very excited to report that we had 15 attendees at this morning’s meeting.  I can’t remember the last time we were over 12 people!

We read from As Bill Sees It, a book that is usually read by topic rather than by chapter.  Typically I select gratitude in honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.  However, any time I do this I get at least one or two comments about the number of times this month they’ve already talked about gratitude.  Which, if you ask me, means they could possibly use a little more gratitude, because it sounds a lot like they are complaining 😉

In any event, to prevent such grumblings, I selected another topic which is timely to many this week:  family relationships.  Here in the US we celebrate a family-centered holiday this Thursday, and all over the globe we have a variety of upcoming holidays that promote familial gathering.

It was a powerful meeting.  Besides the number of people present, the shares from the attendees had quite a bit of emotion within them.


One woman just organized and participated in an intervention for her alcoholic brother.  The intervention did not go well, and so the chaos continues for her.  She knows that as much as she would love to share with her brother all of the invaluable tools she has been given in her 28 years in our 12-step program; unfortunately, she can’t force him to take those tools.  All she can do is turn him over to her Higher Power, then do today what she needs to do to stay sober herself.


Another woman shared of her painful history with relapse, as it relates to family dynamics.  She had 5 years sober when she lost her mother to the disease of alcoholism.  The loss of her mother was a traumatic event in her life.  But instead of opening up about her pain, she held it in, told herself she was okay on her own.  From there it was a slippery slope… not sharing turned into a decline in meeting attendance, which turned into no meetings, which turned into a relapse.  She finally made it back into the rooms, and she will soon celebrate two years sober.  She learned a painful lesson:  stick with the basics, and you will never have to re-learn them!


A gentleman shared his no-fail remedy for challenging family relationships:  he turns the challenge over to his Higher Power.  He was taught in our 12-step program the benefit in a restraint of pen and tongue, and he first employs that restraint, then shoots up a quick prayer to help him navigate the troubled waters of whichever situation is in front of him. He said this simple act has brought an incredible amount of peace over his 30-plus years of sobriety.


Another attendee talked about the enormous amount of stress he currently faces; enough stress to create high blood pressure for the first time in his life.  He said that while he has quite a few obligations awaiting him this day, he knows it is equally if not more important for him to get to a meeting and share what’s going on with him.  He recognizes that he must put his sobriety first in order to have the presence of mind to deal with all of his other stressors.


Another woman, one who has been chronically relapsing for months, shared that she drank again this past weekend.  She had a few years of sobriety under her belt, but since taking that first drink, she has been unable to get back to the basics of recovery.  She knows that she must keep trying, because she wants the peace that sobriety had brought her back in her life.


Finally, a woman shared her go-to solution for dealing with holiday stress.  When she is dealing with challenging family situations, or just stress in general, she has a 2-step process for handling the situation:

  1. She checks in with herself and ensures she is behaving in a way about which she is proud
  2. She then lets go of the results of the interaction

She says the more a situation involves family, the more difficult it is to follow this process; after all, we are invested in the results of any family interaction!  But the more we focus on that which we cannot control, the less at peace we are with ourselves.  The less at peace we are with ourselves, the less peace we are able to transmit to the world.  It’s important to keep in mind that we can only control ourselves and our behavior; how anyone else wishes to think, feel and behave is under their control.  So let go of the results, and be amazed at how peaceful life becomes.


I told her and the group that I am going to take that advice as I prepare Thanksgiving dinner this Thursday… I’m going to throw that turkey in the oven, and let go of the results!

Today’s Miracle:

I’m praying that all readers of this post have a miraculous Thanksgiving holiday.  And if you’re reading and do not celebrate Thanksgiving, then I’m praying you have a miraculous Thursday!

 

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?

Things I Learned From My Dad

Baby Bro

My Dad with his kids. Guess which one is me?

This Saturday marks the 23rd anniversary of the day my Dad passed away.  To honor his memory, I will provide anecdotal evidence of the great teacher he was.  I wish I could provide it to him in person, but I have faith that he will hear it anyway.

 


 

When I was a teenager, I became aware of a macabre habit:  on Saturday mornings, Dad would get his coffee, sit at the end of the counter, and read the paper.  And while I’m sure he read all the traditional parts (sports, front page, etc.), it was his custom to also read the obituaries.  If he found someone he knew, even (especially) if it was someone he knew from a long time ago, he would get up from his counter stool, get dressed, and head to that funeral.  As a teenager, I was horrified by this prospect.  Just showing up at a funeral to express condolences to a group of strangers, for someone you haven’t seen in years, it’s insanity!

My Dad died relatively young (he was 52), he died suddenly, and our family is large, so we prepared for the crowds by having his wake in the church, rather than in the more traditional funeral home.  I believe the doors opened at 7 pm, and I did not see the end of that line until after 11 pm.  The crowds of people who came to pay their respects to that man still blow my mind.  As a daughter, the people who made the most lasting impression on me were not the relatives or close family friends.  Of course, I appreciated their presence, but I expected to see them.  What stands out to me, even 23 years later, are the men who walked up to me, shook my hand, and told me what a great childhood friend my father was, or what a great co-worker he was, many years ago.

To this day, when I find out that someone has died, and I knew them even in a peripheral way, I attend their funeral.

 


 

If I may be so bold to characterize the parenting style in which I was raised, I would label it Fear-Based Parenting.  “Wait until your father gets home” are words that still strike terror in my heart, and the man’s been dead for almost a quarter of a century.  Lest you think I’m criticizing, I often long for my children to have that same fear of me, but, sadly, that ship has sailed.

One of the arenas in which the fear mongering played out was academics.  I dreaded that quarterly report card as if it were a death sentence for 12 straight years, and the most ridiculous part of it was I was consistently on the honor roll.  The one and only time I remember that fear being necessary was either second or third grade, and I received an “S-” in conduct.  I could not contain the anxiety as I waited until evening, when my father got home.  He sat at the counter (same spot where he read the paper), and I stood, trembling next to him as he studied the green cardstock.  He looked down at me, and he said, “You did a good job on your report card.  The teacher’s pen must have slipped near the “S” on the conduct line, she needs to be more careful.”

I almost fainted with relief.

Last weekend my daughter and I were driving in the car, and she bursts into tears.  When she calmed enough to speak, she said, “I really screwed up, there’s nothing I can do to fix it, and I’m too scared to tell you what I did.”

Note to teenage children reading:  This is a great strategy, because by the time you tell them what actually happened, your parents, having immediately conjured up things like homicide, pregnancy, and drug-related crimes, will want to hug you instead of kill you.  Unless you did in fact murder someone, are pregnant, or have been arrested for a drug-related crime.  In that case, I can’t help you to strategize your confession.

It turns out my that the inaugural experience with mid-terms did not have the best results.  We talk through the how’s and why’s, and attempt to create some learning points for the future.  But by the time we are heading for home, she is a wreck again, because now she has to tell Daddy, and oh my god he is going to kill me.  I say I will talk to him first.  I do, and armed with the facts, and me recounting the Tale of the “S-,” he calls her down and has a similar conversation.  And her relief was as palpable as I’m sure mine was, all those years ago.  And I’m sure the chuckle my husband and I shared was similar to the one my Mom and Dad had all those years ago.

 


 

When I was roughly the age my son is now (12), I had an ongoing Bickering War with my younger brother.  Every day we would come home from school and proceed to taunt, bully, and scream at each other until my Mom got home from work.  And then continued to taunt bully and scream at each other in a slightly more subdued way.  My grandmother lived with us, but I don’t remember much her opinion on the situation, although as a parent now I can make an educated guess.  I’m also sure my Mom threatened us numerous times, to no avail.

One day my Dad is home from work a little earlier than usual.  I am called from whatever I was doing to set next to him at the counter (at the same spot where he read the paper and report cards).  He tells me he is home from work early because his boss called him into the office to have a talk with him.  Turns out, a neighbor has been complaining about the ruckus my brother and I have been causing on a regular basis, and the neighbor has complained to my Dad’s place of employment.  The boss tells my Dad, “Jack, if you can’t control your kids at home, how can I expect you to control your truck at work?”  He looks at me earnestly, and tells me how important my job is to him, to our family.  Do I want him to lose his job?

I am in tears, and I solemnly vow to keep things under control while he is at work.  I am permitted to leave the kitchen, and I hole myself away to plot my revenge against the neighbor who squealed.  As I consider the possibilities,  a few thoughts occur to me:

a.  My Dad is a truck driver, and

b.  I myself have no idea how to get a hold of him at work, let alone his boss.

My tears of shame turn into tears of outrage.  But since I was raised under the Fear-Based Parenting model, I allow the rage to subside.  And I did tone down the bickering, so I guess it was a successful strategy.

The lesson?  A well-crafted tale can work wonders with children, but the details are critical to its success.

 


Today’s Miracle:

Despite his dying young, I have a multitude of stories from which to choose when writing this post.  Hopefully I will get a chance to share them all!

A Confession of Infidelity

 

I have been hanging on to this blog by my fingernails of late.

It started out as a rationale:  I re-started a new fitness/weight loss/get healthy challenge a few weeks back, and I swore I would not bother the blogosphere with this nonsense again.  I barely want to hear it myself, how could anyone else?

On the other hand, I have come to a point in my blogging where I write twice a week:  one that wraps up the wisdom I glean from the weekly meeting I run, and the other where I release whatever is running around inside of my brain.  If I am involved in a diet and exercise challenge, then guess what is the only thing running around my brain?

And then another thought occurred to me:  many of the recovery bloggers I read credit their sobriety to immersing themselves in the recovery blogging world.  It was not my path, but it has always intrigued me.  Perhaps I can employ that same mindset and immerse myself in the diet and fitness blogs of the world.

So that’s where I’ve been.  Instead staying on top of my WordPress reader, I have been branching out to MyFitnessPal forums, and the top rated diet and fitness blogs of recent years.  It has been an interesting experience, but I’ve got to say it:  not the same, not the same at all.  There is something very unique, and very special, about our community.  I certainly did not find it in the diet and fitness world, that’s for sure!

So that’s where I’ve been.  And here’s why I’m back, and it has to do with a valuable lesson I learned from all the mini-challenges I did this year:  consistency.

I have been working on improving my fitness for about 14 months, working on losing weight for about 7 months, and working on my overall health for 6 months.  For a large majority of that time, I was looking at the glass half empty.  No matter what I did, my focus was one what I hadn’t done, or what I still needed to do, or how much better I could have done it.  It all came to a head for me a few weeks ago.  I had started this challenge on September 12 (2 months before my birthday), and I had just had my first very successful weigh-in.  My husband was congratulating me, and I could not see it.  You see, that weight I lost that week I have been losing and gaining all year, give or take a few pounds.  So while the number sounded good (I honestly can’t remember what it was, something close to 10 pounds I think), all I could see was the number I should be at, since I had already lost those 10 pounds 2 or 3 other times this year.  And the more I tried to explain my thought process to my husband, the more he looked at me like I was speaking another language.  I wound up in hysterical tears by the end of it; not because he wasn’t understanding my point, but that I was not understanding his.

This is a nod to my recovery tools:  I can see now when I’m thinking like “Old School Josie” by watching the reactions of others.  I may not be able to stop Old School Josie Thinking entirely, but I can at least recognize it and correct it.

So my mini-meltdown was the start of a slow new understanding:  this is a process, not an event with a start and end point.  Sounds obvious, doesn’t it?  But when you’re in the thick of it, it’s anything but.

Next lightning bolt:  each failed attempt, and that is probably not even an apt description, but let’s roll with it…  each failed attempt was some kind of lesson learned that helped me the next go-around.  Every subsequent challenge I have undertaken (I would say there have been four in all) has shown me greater and greater results.  The most concrete example I can give:  this most recent one had me going strong for three weeks, and I got to the lowest number on the scale that I have seen in my adult life, when I hit the all too familiar roadblock:  a celebration of some sort.  This time, it was my wedding anniversary, which turned into a 4 day free-for-all in terms of eating.  It has been slow going this week, but I am slowly getting myself back on track.  So here’s the progress:

1.  I am back on track, normally a celebration derails me for weeks

2.  My high number on the scale since resuming is the previous challenge’s low number

Even Old School Josie Thinking can’t argue that this is progress!

Last valuable lesson learned, and now I will finally tie this all back to blogging:  Consistency is key.  It is true in my sobriety, it is true for my diet and fitness, and it is true for blogging.  If I don’t keep myself to a schedule, then I will fade away into the blogging sunset.  I know it.  Just in the few weeks I took off, the monkey mind was getting louder and louder:  enough is enough, you are getting too repetitive, who gives a crap about what’s going on in your life?  On and on.

Here’s my response back:  nothing but great things have happened with respect to the blog.  So I guess I’ll keep writing!

 

Today’s Miracle:

Through the orthodontic process, we discovered an abnormality in my son’s mouth, and we have been anxiously awaiting results of the oral surgery he had as a result of that discovery.  Results are in, and it was the best possible news.  So the miracle is:  the good health of my children is now something for which I am consciously grateful each and every day!

Second miracle:  surgeons who take their job seriously, and go the extra mile to ensure the best possible results.  I’m telling you, there’s no feeling like knowing you can trust your child’s medical professional!

Results of “The Talk”

 

You know, it occurs to me as I sit down to type this, I really don’t have any sense of what I’m about to write.  A strange feeling, because usually I have the skeleton created in my mind before I even sit down.  So I guess, look out, because here comes a lot of rambling…

I should probably also add, in case you are new to this blog, I’m about to talk about the results of sitting down with my kids and talking about my recovery from addiction.

I would love to sum up the conversations with a nice neat label, but, like most things in life, there are shades of gray, and loads of second guessing, so I’m unable yet to give myself a grade on this particular test.  Let me give you some back drop on my goals beforehand.  First, I was determined to speak with each child individually, in a neutral location, so that they are able to give me their honest feedback without undue influence of other people, or even familiar surroundings.  Plus, if it did not go well, I didn’t want them to forever think of, let’s say the kitchen table, as the place where the family fell apart (no, I do not think melodramatically at all).   Second, it was important for me to impart to them a more realistic view of the “illness” from which I suffer.  Up to this point they have only been given a broad, almost pg-rated definition of why I go to meetings regularly, and I have never used the “a” word to describe myself.  Next, I wanted to gauge what, if anything, either child knew or figured out on his or her own, and here I was specifically thinking of my extremely perceptive son.   I would have bet a lot of money that he knew pretty much everything by this point.  Finally, and most importantly (truly the whole reason I’m doing this at all), I wanted them to know and understand that I know and understand a lot with regard to drugs and alcohol.  With both of them making big transitions in terms of schooling, I wanted them to know they have a resource very, very close to them, should they need information, guidance, or advice.  And, also, sideline goal: not to have my children disgusted with me, or filled with shame that I am their mother.

It might be easier to break it down conversation by conversation:

Conversation #1 (my 11-year-old son):

I made this decision much more spontaneously than I ever typically do with these types of things, so I was flying blind as I introduced the subject.  A possible mistake, although who’s to say for sure?  A second, and in my mind, more concrete mistake:  I assumed he knew more than he did.  My son is extremely nosy, one of those kids that has his ear to the door of every adult conversation, phone call, etc.  So I figured in 2 1/2 years, he has definitely figured some things out, if not everything out.  Not the case, and so the beginning of the conversation was stilted and full of dead-end questions and answers while I tried to get my conversational footing.  Finally, we got to a jumping off point:  he said he assumed I went to meetings because I used to smoke, and that since cigarettes are drugs they are hard to stop, so I went to meetings with other people who are also trying to stop smoking.

Alright, we’ve got something to work with.  So I explained that some of that is true:  cigarettes are addictive, and while they have the drug of nicotine in them, they are different in that they are not mind-altering.  I then took some time to explain what I meant by mind-altering, and together we listed out all the different types of mind-altering drugs.  And from there I explained that while yes, I used to smoke and now I don’t, the reason I go to meetings, and sometimes meet with other women, is because I need to stay away from all mind-altering drugs and alcohol.

His reaction was surprise, then his perception kicked in and he had all sorts of detail-oriented questions (“wait… is that why we don’t have alcohol in the house?”).  I answered every one honestly, and it was clear from his questions and his reaction that he truly did not know anything at all regarding my recovery.  He told me he remembered when I used to drink, but only in the context of larger family functions when every person at the party was very, very drunk.

I will admit to feeling deep relief at this point, because I was terrified of what I would hear out of the kids’ mouths when I asked them if they remember when I drank.

We were winding down, and there was a pause in the conversation; when I looked at him again, he had tears in his eyes.  That is probably the moment I have relived the most through the whole experience, and the reason I will forever wonder if I did the right thing.  He never fully cried, and it took some time for me to get the answer of why he had tears in his eyes out of him.  Finally, he admitted that “it’s a lot to take in, finding out that my Mom is an alcoholic.”

Another low point of the conversation.  I considered that for a moment, told him I understood, and that he is not alone in feeling overwhelmed by that label.  We talked about why that word is so scary, what he thought it meant versus all of this new information.  I explained that lots and lots of people in the world misunderstood what it means to be an alcoholic.  Finally, he has a couple of friends who are diabetic, so I asked him:  would you gasp and point your finger at your friend and say, “Oh no, YOU are a DIABETIC?!?”  Of course he laughed, but then I compared the two diseases:   both are not the fault of the person who has them, both are lifelong conditions, but are easily managed by doing a few simple things, and you can live a long and happy life despite having either of them.   He seemed to feel better after this, and asked a few more questions, but the conversation mostly wound down after, and he genuinely seemed fine afterwards.

Conversation #2 (my 14-year-old daughter):

I’ll make this recap a lot shorter, because it went a lot easier.  I was more prepared, and had no thoughts that she knew anything beforehand, so I used my conversation with my son as the starting point, about his assumption about cigarettes, and went right on from there.  She reacted a lot less surprised, although she insisted she had no idea.  She just said, “I had no idea, but it’s not like you’re telling me something that’s crazy,” which of course prompted me to list all sorts of new revelations, but we quickly got back to it.  She asked questions that were more intuitive than I would have thought possible of her: When exactly did it become a problem?  Is it hard to watch different family members drink, and does it make you want to drink?  Will you ever be cured?  All her questions were springboards for great further conversation, and at no point was she agitated or distressed.

In the interest of balancing the low point, right as we were wrapping up, my daughter touched my arm, and as sincerely as you can imagine, said, “Mommy, I’m so glad you’re better now.”

So there’s the deets, folks.  I did attempt to have a “family follow up” three days later.  We were out to dinner, and I said, “Since we are all here I wanted to give anyone and everyone an opportunity to talk more about this.  Have you thought about it and do you have more questions?”  My daughter did not, my son only said, “I did think about it more, and I thought more about the diabetic thing and that made me feel a lot better.”  They both continued to eat, laugh and bicker for the rest of the meal, so I will take all of that as a good sign.

The reason I feel like I can’t call this a failure or success is this:  the whole point is to give them information so that they can make good decisions down the road, and to let them know they have a ready and willing resource. Time will tell, I guess, but so far, a week later, there has been no fallout, and everyone seems to be living their lives as they did before.

I started this post saying that I have no idea what’s about to come out of my head.  I think the reason is I’m writing from two distinct points of view:  getting this out of my own head, and also sharing this experience in the hopes of helping someone else in my shoes.   For the former, as I mentioned, only time will tell if this was a good thing or a bad thing.

In terms of the latter, here’s my advice concerning talking to your kids:

  • Really assess if they are emotionally ready for this kind of information
  • Have a starting point for the conversation so that you are not fumbling for words straightaway.  You can’t prepare for every direction the conversation might take, but you can control the opening
  • Have a good purpose for the talk, so you can remind yourself why you are doing it if the going gets rough
  • Prepare mentally for curveball questions, and resolve to be as honest as possible

Hope this helps someone if they are looking to sit down with their kids!

Today’s Miracle:

It’s only now, as I hit publish, that I am feeling a sense of accomplishment in getting this task completed (and, might I add, completed with days left before the end of summer, it’s like two miracles!)

M(3), 8/25: Teach Your Children Well

 

Can you seriously believe it is the last Monday in August?!?  The whole summer was fast, but this month felt like it played on fast forward!

So, last Monday of the month has my meeting continuing from the book Back to Basics, which outlines how a newcomer is taken through the 12 steps of recovery back in 1946.  Today we read through steps 8 and 9, which more or less felt like a continuation of last week’s meeting.  For those unfamiliar with the 12 steps of recovery:

Step 8:  made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all

Step 9:  made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others

So now I am going to admit to a flaw in my meeting format that just came to my attention this morning.  The meeting chair is traditionally the first person to share after the reading selection has finished.  Since I am the only meeting chair at this particular meeting, I am always the first to share.  Normally, if I thought about this fact at all, I would think of it as a good thing… often people are slow to share, so I will happily break the ice for the group.  Here’s the flaw I just realized:  I am unintentionally coloring the sharing at the meeting.  In sharing what is on my mind and in my heart, I spoke about having The Talk with my children, and in finding the ring (if you are new just go back to the last post for details).  From my share forward, people shared about parenting in sobriety.

I’m feeling vaguely guilty about this, which I’m sure if I spoke to my fellow attendees about it, they would laugh their heads off, but I am admitting it anyway!

So less on the subject of step work, but still fabulous information disseminated.  Two of the greatest stories:

The first is from a woman who is coming up on her one year “soberversary.”  Her daughter is only 5 years old, so does not remember much about Mommy’s drinking days.  My friend says that her patience is shorter, and her temper is much stronger now that it ever was in active addiction (mostly because there was an option of pouring another glass of wine when her daughter was not behaving!).  Anyway, as our steps suggest, she promptly admits when she has done wrong in losing her patience with her 5-year-old.  She worried about doing this, as she grew up in a culture where parents did not apologize for anything.  If a kid got yelled at, they did wrong, period.  So she worried that her child would grow up not respecting her authority.

On the contrary, it would seem.  She finds that her 5-year-old has taken to modelling this behavior, and, when she has made a mistake, goes to her immediately and says, “Mommy I was wrong for doing that.”  Children learning what they live is a great thing for us in recovery, it seems!

Second story:  gentleman with 50 days of sobriety, talking about having The Talk from the other side of the fence.  He does not have kids, but he could relate in having to have this kind of open discussion with his own parents, and how they reacted.  He went on to talk about how much the experiences of this group, and other groups at other meetings, have helped him to open up.  He is able to deal with life on life’s terms, which is not easy for him at the moment:  early sobriety, dealing with a mental illness, legal consequences.  But in finding like-minded people, and following the suggestions given him, he has already felt a mental turnaround that is giving him the strength to persevere through his problems.

As always, I fail to cover half of all the great stuff, but it’s that time of year… back-to-school clothes shopping time, and with a strong-minded teenage girl at that.   My goal is to Keep.  My.  Mouth.  Shut.  Which could be today’s miracle, except I don’t want to jinx it so…

Today’s Miracle:

Looking forward to back-to-school shopping, despite some negative past experiences.  Today is a new day!!

 

Dog Days of August: The Post That’s Sure to Get A Lot of Likes

Dear Saint Anthony, Please Come Around…

 

It’s been a roller coaster of a week. I waxed poetically about my wonderful meeting on Monday, hit publish, then had a humdinger of a situation with my son (more precisely, the icing on the cake of a situation with my son, as the incidents seem to flow like a revolving door, to be continued at some point!).  Still trying to collect myself and behave like a rational human being (instead of the raving lunatic my head told me I should be), I find a series of various communications on my phone giving me condolences on the passing of Robin Williams.  There is a whole post to be written at some later date about my special “relationship” with this beloved comedian, but I’m figuring the existing story will run long enough.

From there the week continued to devolve.  However, before I continue with the present situation, I am going to describe a past one, which I think will help illuminate why I’m writing about what’s going on at all.

It is late January/early February, 2012.  I have a few days of sobriety under my belt.  I am living with my Mom, but allowed to visit with my kids for several hours each day.  I am reasonably certain that I will be served divorce papers in the very near future, I am alienated from all of my closest friends, and I am awaiting catastrophic news in terms of legal consequences from my addiction.

In other words, my life is a mess, and putting one foot in front of the other takes a Herculean effort.

I find myself at my home for the short daily visit with my children one day in that first week of sobriety, and I look down to my left hand and see my engagement and wedding rings not on the finger where they are supposed to be.

For me to try to describe what I felt in that very moment would be difficult, as so much time has passed, but I know my stomach clenched up, and I was panicked.  My Mom was with me, I quickly told her, and we spent the next couple of hours until my husband got home from work searching for the ring, to no avail.

Which is what I did for about two weeks, every time I was in that house for those few hours.  As each day passed, I grew more convinced that it was a sign telling me my marriage was over.

In the meantime, marital relations that were strained to begin with became downright hostile.  He never quite got to the point of accusing me of anything directly, but he made enough snide comments, and was angry enough, to alert me to the fact that he did not believe that I had lost the rings.

And that is the most lasting memory of that time period, the sick feeling that goes with knowing you will never convince someone of your innocence, after all the lies you’ve told.

There is a happy ending to this story, to go along with the happy ending of my life, my marriage and my recovery:  mid-February, I am sitting in a meeting, I get a phone call from my husband.  He is celebrating his parent’s anniversary with his family (note I am not there), and he brought vegetables with him to make, because they were starting to turn and he was either going to use them at that function, or just throw the Ziploc bag away.  My rings had fallen into the vegetables as I was transferring them into the bag.  By the way, if it were me in charge of those vegetables, they would have been trashed much earlier, so thank God it wasn’t me in charge.

Truly, it was my first honest to God sign of hope that things might turn around for me.

Back to the present:  in addition to dealing with the shenanigans of my son, I have some separate tense “goings-on” with my daughter.  This post is going entirely too long as it is, so I will wrap it up by saying she is trying out for high school soccer, tryouts are ongoing this whole week, and this process has been a roller coaster all by itself.  Again, this subject could be a post in and of itself, but I feel like I’ve been trailing along behind her as she makes a series of decisions with which I disagree, and I am just waiting for this drama to unfold to the logical conclusion of her not making the team (which, by the way, it has, and why I currently have the time to write this novel).  Yesterday, I am running behind on every errand, of which there were quite a few.  I pick her up, already late for her doctor’s appointment, and I am catching up on the latest bit of bad news about the soccer tryouts.  I need to qualify here:  this is not a situation where she went, tried her hardest, and did not make the team, that I could handle just fine.  It was a situation where she was given some opportunities and did not follow through, and it was those decisions that were (are) not sitting well with me.

We rushed home, got her changed, threw groceries into the fridge (I mean this literally, I was throwing meat and cheese into the fridge), and rushed to the doctor’s office.  I am sitting in the waiting room, catching my breath and trying to dispel the vaguely sick feeling I have about this whole soccer business.  I glance down at my hand.

My ring is gone, again.

I could write quite elaborately of the dread I felt in the moment, as this incident is quite a bit more recent that the one I described earlier.  However, I would guess that the feeling is obvious, particularly when you consider the part about all of the errands I had run earlier that day.  This ring could be anywhere.  For the record, I spent the next several hours after the appointment retracing my steps, to no avail.

When you look at the bullet points of this story, I really sound like a whiny baby: woman lost her ring, and her daughter didn’t make a sports team.  Cry me a river, lady.

It’s the totality of it all that has me still out of sorts, even as I type (I am really hoping that as I hit publish the sick feeling will disappear).  First, the soccer issue:  it’s that feeling of knowing the right thing for someone to do, feeling it in your heart, and then watching the person do the opposite.  We’ve all been there:  friends that stay in relationships we know are unhealthy, alcoholics that continue to drink, the list that goes on and on.  But when you are a parent, it’s as though you should hold some extra power, like a magic wand, to create the best possible outcome.  And you keep second guessing yourself:  should I have said something different to make her see what I see?  Should I have laid down a law and forced this to go a different way?  Should I be THAT parent and intervene, cutting out my child’s involvement?

It’s enough to make my head spin, and then throw into the mix the time travel that went on with the lost ring, and it should unsurprising to say that I did not sleep a whole lot last night (which again conjures memories of active addiction, talk about a vicious cycle).

So that’s my tale of woe from the last few days.  I will end, as is always my intention, on the positives.  First, that I can recognize and verbalize what is going on emotionally is incredible progress from pre-recovery days.  That I can at least start talking back to the sick feelings about the events that are disturbing me:  the ring is an inanimate object, and my marriage and life will continue to thrive without it.  The world does not end if my daughter does not make the soccer team, she will not devolve into a life of crime because she has this new free time on her hands.  My worries and fears are natural, but they are not facts, and I will come out of these feelings eventually.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I am blessed with the ability to express this to my wonderful friends in the blogosphere, and the simple act of putting fingers to keyboard is healing, so thank you, friends, I truly am starting to feel better, and I haven’t even hit publish!

Today’s Miracle:

If anyone has stuck around long enough to read this, then there’s the miracle!  Also, I suppose the silver lining of the soccer issue is the loads of free time to finish the summer strong with the kids.

losing anonymously

Learning to balance healthy and happy while living a full and busy life!

Oh for the love of...me

Just another 50+ woman trying to get her shit together.

Guitars and Life

Blog about life by a music obsessed middle aged recovering alcoholic from South East England

Off-Dry

I got sober. Life got big.

HealthyJenn

From daily wine drinker to alcohol free living...this is my journey.

Vodka Goggles

No longer seeing the world through vodka colored glasses..

Pickled Fish

Musings on life and sobriety

Mindfulbalance

An Irish Mindfulness Meditation Blog: Self-care, resilience, meaning and personal development.

SOBERLEARNING

Working one day at a time on sobriety, often winning, but sometimes losing.

viatoday

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Starting today I am on my way.

ainsobriety

Trying to ace sober living

Emotional Sobriety And Food

"... to be able to Twelfth Step ourselves and others into emotional sobriety" -- living, loving & letting go.

girl gone sober.

a blog about living sober. i didn't always drink beer but when i did i drank a lot of it. stay sober my friends.