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MIA: Many Involved Activities!

To Spy or Not to Spy: That is the Question

I haven’t done a parenting post in a while, and I could use some advice from my amazing friends in the blogosphere!

Quick refresher:  I have 2 children, an almost 14-year-old girl, and an 11-year-old boy.  I am blessed that they are extremely healthy, reasonably well-adjusted, intelligent beings who (for the most part) make good choices.  The bad choices they make are largely commons ones to their respective age brackets.

That said, I had a troubling conversation with my daughter that has not been far from my thoughts in the week since we’ve had it.  My daughter, in my opinion, is one of the most rigidly honest people I know, she will not lie when I ask a direct question.  However, upon entering the turbulent teenage years, it has become a dance for me to ask the exact question to get the information I am seeking, because she does possess the ability to evade questions, quite skillfully.  So she has a friend that I worry is not the best influence, she knows this and has subsequently limited the particulars she will give me about the girl in question.  Without going into unnecessary detail, through trial and error (correction:  many trials, many errors), I finally ferreted out some information:  the girl has been transferred to a school that specializes in mental health issues, as she has apparently attempted suicide on more than one occasion.

My reaction, thankfully, was calm and supportive.  I explained to her how sorry I am for her friend’s troubles, but I am equally concerned that my own daughter has been walking around with such a heavy burden, and with no one to help her process.  She admitted that she worries I may judge, so we worked out a system whereby she can use a special code word with me, and I promise to withhold all judgment.  This then led to even more admissions, friends who engage in the activity known as “cutting,” friends who are chronically depressed, friends who question their sexuality.

Okay, lots of new information to process, and I pray that I did the best job that I could.  I continue to ask regular questions, both about the various friends, and about my daughter’s emotional state in dealing with these friends.  As traumatic as the conversation was, the end result was a positive one, in my opinion, because my daughter unloaded some pretty heavy stuff.

So here comes the question to which I am seeking an answer.  When I asked her how she has been processing all these feelings, she indicated that writing in her journal helps.  I asked if she would share some of her entries, she indicated maybe, but was afraid I would be upset by her use of language, and upset about entries in which she was angry with me.  I could tell that she was reluctant to share, and I have not pressed the issue.

But I want to read this journal, to ensure that there is not even more damaging stuff going on in her world outside of my control.  I did make a cursory glance through her room, figuring if it was easily found, then I would read it (I did not find it).  But all the while, I felt horribly guilty about looking, because I felt like I was invading her privacy.

On the other hand, if I had knowledge of the issues she is facing, I know I could better guide her through them.

What do parents in these situations do?  I am sure there are people who are firmly in both camps, but I am genuinely curious on majority opinion… would you actively seek out her journal?  How about cell phone investigation… would you feel comfortable scrolling through texts?  In theory, I understand that cell phone investigation is necessary, as bad choices made online could have horrific consequences (a boy at my daughter’s school was recently suspended for posting naked pictures of himself), but, then again, I leave that cell phone investigation to my husband, so I am really just passing the buck, not the fairest of ways to handle the situation.

I think I would be more comfortable if I could just make a decision, so that’s why I’m writing and reaching out to all of you sage, wiser-than-I-will-ever-be parents:  how do you handle the privacy issue with your children?

Today’s Miracle:

Hope that the comments I receive will help me get comfortable with a decision on how to proceed!

M(3), 1/6: Phenomenon of Craving

But what if I’m craving it all!?!

First meeting of the new year!

Because it is the first Monday of the month, we read from the book Alcoholics Anonymous, and in the immortal words of Maria Von Trapp, “let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start!”  And so we read “The Doctor’s Opinion,” in which Dr. Silkworth gives his seal of approval to the fledgling organization called AA.  A tremendous risk for a medical doctor to do in the 1930’s; the fellowship owes a debt of gratitude to him.

The part of the reading that stood out to me this morning is as follows:

Men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol.  The sensation is so elusive that, while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false.  To them, their alcoholic life seems the only normal one.  They are restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks – drinks they see others taking with impunity.  After they have succumbed to the desire again, as so many do, and the phenomenon of craving develops, they pass through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again.  This is repeated over and over, and unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery.

pp xxviii-xxix, Alcoholics Anonymous

There are many reasons why I, as a woman in recovery from addiction, choose to remain sober, and on any given day the priority of those reasons may change.  On this particular day, the number one reason I choose to remain sober is my fear of the “phenomenon of craving.”  What would happen if I were to have one glass of wine, take one pill?  Would I go immediately back down the rabbit hole of active addiction?  Would I have a moderate experience that would spiral me downwards slowly but surely?  Would it be a non-event and I find that I don’t want to continue?  I don’t know what would happen, and more importantly, I have a healthy fear of the potential outcome, so I choose not to test those waters.

Two days ago I was heading downstairs for my first cup of coffee.  As I descended the stairs, I admired the handiwork of recent vacuuming.  I was so enchanted by their pristine condition that I lost my footing and fell down about 6 of them, winding up with my left leg up at the top, and the rest of me down at the bottom.  Ouch (and, needless to say, Kristen and Christy, I will be putting my “back to fitness” plans on a temporary hold!).  So the rest of the weekend was spent elevating, icing, and scheduling my Advil doses.  By this morning, I realized I would need to have this knee checked out.  So down to the doctor’s I will go.

There was a time in the not-too-distant past where this kind of calamity would have meant, in my addicted mind, a get out of jail free card.  I would have found ways to milk this injury to its greatest mind-altering extent, and would have felt completely justified in doing so.  Thanks to the clarity of sobriety and a new skill set developed through a program of recovery, I now know that there is no such thing as a get out of jail free card, and I am not willing to gamble with the phenomenon of craving.  So instead, I elevate and ice my knee, even when I am sick of doing so, and I remain grateful that I am able to overcome this obstacle and maintain my sobriety.

Today’s Miracle:

That I did not have to go to multiple Doctor’s offices, and no x-rays are necessary, is a miracle.  No tears, nothing broken, just time and patience are needed… God bless my husband and children!

Why You Should Never Doubt Your Self-Worth

I’ve been wanting to share a story that happened a few weeks ago, during a time when a bunch of things were happening at once, so I needed time to process it along with all the other things, before I could write about it.  I have written numerous posts about the trials and tribulations of parenting (here’s one, and another, and another, just as examples), and it seems, of late, that subject material is plentiful.  If it’s not one child, it’s the other, and the best I can hope for is to keep my head above water these days.  And when life feels like chasing one crisis after the other, it’s easy to let self-pity creep in… Woe is me!  Nobody has all the drama I have!  Where is my Higher Power when I need Him?

So let me set the stage for this story:  it is mid-week, and I’m hustling to get elementary school child out the door for his 8 am chorus rehearsal.  Middle school kid is already on the bus.  As I’m giving directives (make sure your schoolbag is packed, get your saxophone, etc.) I glance over to the cubby where the schoolbags are packed and see that basketball sneakers have been left behind by the daughter who is already gone.  Now, this may not seem like a huge deal, unless you are armed with the knowledge that this child forgets something… lunch, sneakers, once she got onto the bus and left her entire school bag in the garage… at least once a week, sometimes more.  I am running late as it is, and her school is 10 minutes further away than the elementary school I am driving to, but I calculate, and tell my son to move even faster, because we are dropping off the sneaks before I take him.  I am into the garage, and he says, “I can’t find my saxophone.”

A couple of things should be noted here:

  • The saxophone is not a small instrument, and is made even larger by its carrying case.  It would be very difficult to misplace.
  • The saxophone is a very expensive instrument.
  • The saxophone, and lessons, were something that my son had to sell us on; we did not believe he was responsible enough to take this on.

Needless to say, I am not a happy camper at this point.  We determine that the best possible scenario is that he left it at school (which is a side story/lecture that could fill another post), but suffice it to say that I am ranting and raving about this issue for the entire ride to the middle school to drop off the forgotten sneakers.  We are, no exaggeration, pulling up to the school, so have been in the car for at least 10 minutes, and my son says, “Maybe I took the saxophone upstairs to my bedroom.”

I will just let your imagination run wild with my response to that conjecture.

By the time I unloaded him at his school, and was driving by myself, I was beside myself.  My poor husband made the mistake of calling to check in on me (he knew part of the calamity that was the morning), and I unloaded on him.  “I used to pride myself on being a stay at home mom, so that I could be there for my children, no matter what.  There was a time when being able to run a forgotten item to school made me feel good,” I said.  “But now I’m afraid I have engaged too much, and I’m doing them a disservice.  I’m so involved that they feel no sense of responsibility!”  We talked it through and decided that, going forward, I needed to let them suffer the consequences for their lapses, and that is how they would learn.

About an hour went by, I was running various errands, and my phone rang, it was the middle school calling.  I answered, and it was the Vice Principal of the school.  My daughter has been in that school for 3 years now, and I have never received a phone call from anyone other than the nurse, so I was more curious than anything else.  My daughter is definitely the one I fear school phone calls from the least.  Anyway, the Vice Principal, who seems to be very intelligent, and very concerned staff member, starts by telling me a story of his earliest days as an educator, and how he was out to save the world, and some student who seemed to be slightly off-track, so he contacts the parents, and, long story short, the parents try to have him fired.  So, for him, lesson learned, he will only do things by the book from now on.  I am interested, but am connecting no dots with how this story relates to me.  He then says, “Do you remember meeting me at the “coffee klatch” (an informal parent/teacher gathering)?”  I confirm that I do, and he goes on to say, “Well, I remember you, because you asked some insightful questions, and were so interested, and so engaged, and I was very impressed by your level of involvement.”

I would like to editorialize at this point in the story:  there were only about a dozen parents, and the whole point of the coffee klatch was for parents to get to know the teachers and administrators.  By no means did I do anything extraordinary in that meeting.

So again, to make a long story short (and this was long, we were on the phone for an hour), he just wanted to share with me some generalized concerns he had about my daughter.  There was nothing concrete, and no disciplinary action, but because I presented as such an “involved parent,” he wanted to speak with me informally and let me know his thoughts.

I am, of course, glossing over the emotion involved in getting such a phone call, and the fact that there was any concern at all about my daughter.  I kid you not, she is an angel, so it floored me that she would come to anyone’s attention in a negative way.  So, much to process on my end, and the long and short of that part of the story is a good one.  My husband and I were able to communicate with her in a very positive way, and, since then, there has been nothing but good that has come out of that issue.  I am forever indebted to the Vice Principal.

But the more relevant reason for my sharing this story:  if ever there is doubt in my mind that God is listening to me, I will have only to recall this day in my mind to clear away my doubt.  The very same morning that I voiced out loud my concern that I was “over-engaged” in the lives of my children, I receive a phone call from a seasoned professional telling me that he is only speaking to me this candidly because he appreciated how engaged I was in the lives of my children.

There are God moments, and then there are God moments!

Today’s Miracle:

I started writing this post yesterday afternoon, but was prevented from finishing it due to schedule conflicts.  In the interim, I “ran into” (no coincidences) the Vice Principal himself!  I was able to shake his hand and tell him how much his reaching out meant to me.  Crazy good stuff!

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!

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

 

I have been offline for a week now, and I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed this community!  I have only just begun catching up, I feel like I’ve missed a gazillion great posts!

I am making this statement not just to say “hey!” to all the posts I’m late in reading, but also to bring up the point of today’s post.  The reason I was absent last week was because I was preparing for my son’s 11th birthday.  We were hosting a sit-down dinner for 15, followed by an ice cream party/sleep-over, followed by a trip to a trampoline place, followed by a lunch, I could go on for a while longer, but, suffice it to say:  a busy weekend that required a lot of prep work.  As a result, I was consumed with the details that involve making a weekend such as this one a success, and therefore let my usual sobriety-focused routines fall to the wayside.  Nothing overly dramatic, as I’m only talking a week, but enough small “concessions” that by Sunday I was feeling the effects of a full-on emotional hangover:  I was exhausted, cranky as all get-out, and reverting to behaviors in which I have not indulged in a really, really long time.

I woke up Monday, very excited to get back to a regular routine and lead my Monday meeting.  And at that meeting the topic (pre-arranged) was Step 10:  continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.  If I were to attempt to highlight the portions of the chapter that directly applied to my life, I would, in fact, be re-typing the chapter.  The focus of step 10 is to self-evaluate, at the very least daily, but, more specifically, when in any kind of turmoil.  Because if I am feeling turmoil, I am the root cause, and the only way to resolve it is to look at my thoughts, feelings and behaviors.  Guess what I failed to do the entire weekend?

The second part of step 10:  and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.  Quick side note:  as I was typing that last sentence, my husband called to say hi.  So I can now say that I have put into action the second part of step 10 as it relates to this past weekend.  Again, there is nothing melodramatic that happened, I believe all who attended the dinner party had a great time, they ate well, and my son had a fantastic celebration.  But only I am in my head, and I haven’t felt this out of sorts in a long, long time, and I don’t enjoy the feeling at all.  When I think that this is how I used to live life daily, I shudder… how in the hell did I live like this?  And I know, if I am feeling this bad, then there is no doubt that I am acting out of sorts as well, and so my husband, as usual, becomes my default punching bag.  I already feel better for having promptly admitted my mistakes.

So the moral of today’s story:  sharing your turbulent thoughts really does calm the mind, and try to keep constant the routines that keep you serene, even when you are stressed.  Because avoiding routine during stressful times is like throwing gasoline on a fire, and there is that much more to douse at the end!

Today’s Miracle:

Since I posted a picture of last year’s birthday cake, I figured I could do it again… it was a work of art!

017026

Lather, Rinse, Repeat: The Shame Cycle

M, D3, R

I have been told my daughter is a mini-me… what do you think?

It was a low-key recent Saturday morning, and my husband called me over to the computer to watch a video with Dr. Brene Brown talking about shame.  At one point Dr. Brown remarked that specific memories can bring up shame for us, and, as I listened, a personal childhood memory popped into my head.

I couldn’t tell you my exact age, but I was old enough to make my own toast for breakfast, which I had done the Saturday morning this event took place.  My childhood home had myself, my three siblings, two parents, a grandparent and a dog all living under one roof, and consequently there were always multiple things going on at any given time.  So I happily buttered my toast, then sat down to eat it and watch Saturday morning cartoons (this was during the era when you could only watch cartoons on Saturday morning, kids these days don’t understand how good they have it!).  Unbeknownst to me, my mother had taken note of how many pieces of toast I had made for myself, which was apparently too many, because suddenly I was the focus of her attention; an unusual occurrence, given the number of people in one household.  In this particular case, being the center of attention was not a good thing.  “Do you have any idea how bad that is for you?!?” she exclaimed.  “How could you possibly even think to eat all of that?”

As I re-read the nuts and bolts of that story, it doesn’t look at all horrifying; in fact, it is probably a commonplace occurrence in the average American household.  But I can tell you, it is at least 30 years later, and I can still feel the shame in the pit of my stomach when I recall that incident.  I can place myself in the room in which it took place, 70’s decor and all.  That feeling is one that would repeat itself, time and again, through the next 3 decades of my life.

So I recall the incident, I finish watching the video, and I walk into the kitchen to thank my husband for showing me the video.  Instead of my husband, I find my 13-year old daughter pouring herself some cereal out of a Tupperware container, which is now almost empty.  The problem is that I had only filled the container two days before.  The container easily holds 12 servings of cereal, possibly more, so in doing this math, I am quite alarmed, and I start my interrogation:  who has been eating this cereal?  The discovery portion of this investigation yields that my daughter has eaten the lion’s share of this cereal in the past two days.  I point to the Tupperware container in astonishment, and I exclaim, “Do you realize that this container holds 12 servings of cereal, and it now almost empty?”  She just looks at me with an expression that in all likelihood mirrored the expression I had when my mother admonished me for the toast.

Sometimes when I say there are no coincidences, I say it with some sadness.  I have shame as I am typing the story of how I handled The Cereal Incident.

I am no expert on shame and parenting, but I believe that if I were to read up on the subject, I would find that it is not a good thing to use shame as a parenting tool.  Since my daughter has entered adolescence, I have been vigilant in how people speak to her about eating, because I know from personal experience the outcome of using shame to change a child’s eating decisions.  Not too long after my issue with the toast is when I decided that food was best enjoyed in solitude, I began to eat in private, and the results of that decision have ultimately led me into recovery from substances other than food.  So I have said to my husband, when he feels frustrated by my hampering of his conversations with our daughter, “Look, I don’t claim to have all the answers.  I only know what not to do, because of what has happened to me.”

And yet, here I am, fresh off of listening to Dr. Brene Brown, and doing the exact opposite of what I have been preaching for years.

So how to handle the situation where your child is making decisions that are the opposite of what you have taught them?  I have been very, very open about my struggles with weight.  I truly believe in open communication with children when they are old enough to hear it, and, at 13, my daughter needs to hear about the consequences of overeating.  And who better to tell her than someone who has lived through it?  So we have had multiple conversations.  I am honest with her about my bad decisions (regarding weight, we are not quite up to mind-altering substances yet, but that conversation is coming soon), and the way the consequences affected my entire life.

At the same time, who better than me to have empathy for poor eating decisions?  Because I still make bad choices, all the time!  So why would I react with frustration to a child who is doing as I have done (and, let’s face it, am doing)?  There are no easy answers here, at least none of which I am aware.  For now, I keep the lines of communication open, I make amends when I make mistakes like the one I just described, and I attempt to be observant for patterns of behavior.  And the end result?  I guess time will tell…

Today’s Miracle:

Parenting 201

When I attended college  (back in the stone ages), there were different course requirements, depending upon the major you chose.  For example, I was required to take courses in marketing each year.  Freshman year the course title was Marketing 101, sophomore year the title was Marketing 201, and so on.  In Marketing 101 we learned the basic principles.  In Marketing 201, we built upon the foundation we learned in 101, but the subject matter was more sophisticated, and therefore more challenging.

I feel like my life could be entitled Parenting 201 this summer.  My kids are 10 and 13, so theoretically I’ve known them for that length of time, but honest to God this summer it seems like aliens have taken over their bodies.  No, I should clarify that statement.  My 13-year-old daughter seems like an alien has taken over her body, my 10-year-old son is just joining in on the fun and games because that’s what little brothers do!

Maybe it’s because I’m in recovery, since I don’t remember thinking about this as in-depth as I have before now, but I’m trying to figure out where I’m going wrong, and I’m not coming up with any solutions.  First, let me qualify the problems, as I see them, and perhaps writing them out will help me to process:

1.  Time of Year.  Separate from anything else, summer is a universally challenging time for any parent, due to all the unstructured time.  Here is a miniscule example.  Yesterday we had dentist appointments at noon, my son and I are waiting for my daughter to finish up.

Danny:  “Let’s pick something up for lunch on the way home from here.”
Me:  “No, we just had dinner out last night, do you remember how I drove 20 minutes to take you where you wanted to go?  We are not eating out again.  I’ll make lunch as soon as we get home.  What would you prefer, a hot dog or peanut butter and jelly?”

Before I continue this story, it is important to note that I have had the conversation entitled:  THIS HOUSE IS NOT A RESTAURANT AND I AM NOT A WAITRESS at least 600 times this summer

Danny:  “Could you grill me a hamburger?” (and yes, he did specify the way in which he would like his burger cooked)
Me (as even-toned as I could muster):  “Would you like a hot dog or peanut butter and jelly?”
Danny:  “What do we have in the fridge in terms of lunch meat?  Could you cook up some bacon?”
Me:  “This is the last time I am asking:  do you want a hot dog or peanut butter and jelly?”

I will not bore you with the rest of the discussion, but the point is, this is one of about 1,000 such “teaching moments” on any given summer day.  And I will not even begin to complain about the intra-sibling fights that take place each and every day.  So, to recap, summer is a challenging season.

2.  Changing personalities.  This is the heart of the problem for me, and I will probably focus more on my teenage daughter with this issue.  I know I am not covering any uncharted territory with this one, parents have been complaining about teenage girls since teenage girls first came into existence.  So I do realize that I am not in a unique situation; what confounds me is what the hell to do about the behavior, along with my hurt feelings that my once-angelic daughter who acted as if I hung the moon now looks at me insolently, has nothing but sarcastic comments back to me, and argues EVERY SINGLE THING I say to her.  Sometimes I try being honest with her (“When you stay at your cousin’s house for 3 days and fail to call me even once, it hurts my feelings”), I try the hard-lined approach (“You will speak to me with respect or you will face consequences”), I try sarcasm back (yes, I know this is not the best parenting technique, but sometimes my frustration level is so high that I need a release myself), and sometimes I try just ignoring whatever situation I’m in and hope it goes away.  By the way, none of the above has been very effective.

3.  Finding the balance.  This concept applies in about a million ways:  balance between letting them find their own way, and guiding them to make the right decisions.  Balance between allowing them to speak their mind and shutting down the incessant “but what about…” statements.  Balance between respecting privacy and knowing how and with whom they spend their time.  Balance between allowing them a relaxed summer and having expectations with regard to chores, reading and the like.  I’ll stop now, but I could keep the balance list going for another several paragraphs.

So that’s where I’m at, parenting-wise.  I try, as best I can, to incorporate the principles of recovery into parenting.  When decisions seem impossible, I do my best to turn them over.  When things get heated between me and either of my children, I make my amends as quickly as I can.  I try as much as possible to accept that there is much about these kids over which I am powerless, and that list grows longer with every year they age.

Anyone out there experiencing the same?  I’d love to hear from you.  Even better, anyone have the magic solution to all this parenting stuff?  I’d really appreciate it if you could share your wisdom?

Today’s Miracle:

Today is the miracle of sharing what’s on my mind and in my heart.  Just having typed this post, without even receiving feedback, I feel lighter!

The Steps in Everyday Living: Part Ten

Boy Band

Step 10:  Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Step 10 is the first of the “maintenance steps:”  actions to be  taken on a daily basis for the rest of our lives.  Assuming that you have done the “searching and fearless” inventory required in step four, and assuming you have done (or are working on) the amends process in steps 8 and 9, step 10 is pretty simple.  As often as need be, I was taught at least on a daily basis, take a look yourself… thoughts, actions, attitude… examine, and ensure that all are in line with your new way of living.  Of course, the not-so-fun part, if you happen to discover that you’ve said or done something that is not in line (Who?  Me!?!), repair the damage as quickly as possible, so that you may move on.

This step is a good way to continue the practice of looking at myself, my behaviors, and my mistakes, rather than reverting to form and condemning the behaviors and mistakes of others.  It’s an ongoing way of “keeping my side of the street clean.”

It’s also a way of maintaining the serenity gained from working the first nine steps.  Here’s an analogy:  I am guessing that everyone has at least one area of their home that serves as a dumping ground.  Sadly, I have a few areas, but the worst offender is the basement.  And when I do not maintain the order, and keep inventory of what is going into the basement, things slowly but surely spiral out of control, organizationally speaking (which, by the way, is the current state of affairs).  Numerous times in the past 7 years of living in this house I have done the “big clean:”  purge the basement of all non-essential items, organize the remaining, and then clean it from top to bottom.  But then, we host a big party, and we need to get stuff out of the way, immediately!  Then, Christmas comes, and all the newly emptied boxes need to go somewhere, as well as the gifts that we are unsure where to put.  And then a change of season comes, and the previous decorations need to come down in a hurry, so who has time to store them properly?  Before you know it, the basement is a disaster.

Now, if I had just taken the few minutes needed for each of those occasions, found a home for new things, organized the old, the basement would be in good standing.  Because I did not, I now need to do the “searching and fearless” inventory that I had already done several times before.

Step 10 is taking those few extra minutes each day to keep my life in good working order.  If I fail to regularly take a look at myself, resentments start to pile up, regret over poor choices gather, and, before I know it, I am feeling horribly and can’t begin to unravel the emotional knot my life has become.

There are other benefits from taking this mini-inventory:  it keeps me from the wasted energy of judging everyone else, it keeps the focus on what I can control (myself) and keeps the focus away from what I can’t (everyone else).  Making amends promptly is, like everything else, not easy to do, but with practice gets a lot easier, and there is something to be said for laying my head down at night with a clean conscience!

Today’s Miracle:

The picture above is my son and his boy-band mates (my son, in the middle, sang, while his friends played sax and guitar) after their performance in the school talent show yesterday.  What a miracle to witness their enthusiasm!

Letting Go of Old Ideas

Monday is here, and the title of my post was the topic of today’s meeting (Chapter 27 in Living Sober if you want to read along!).  The basic premise of the chapter is this:  just because we “put the plug in the jug” doesn’t mean we transform into a whole new person.  Old thought patterns still exist, and will (not may, but will) emerge, over and over, so we need to figure out how to deal with them.  The answer?  We in recovery have a new yardstick by which we measure our lives, our thoughts, and our decisions.  And when we stumble backwards into old patterns of thinking, we can, first, recognize it, then second, use the new yardstick we’ve been given:  “Hey, old thought pattern, do you keep me sober, or do you lead me back towards a drink?  Is this thought pattern consistent with the way I am living life today, or is it more consistent with the way I lived in active addiction?”  When you hold something up against those standards, the answer is usually pretty clear.

I remember a time, years ago, when I was trying to figure out what the heck my problem was (because the one thing I knew it wasn’t:  alcoholism).  Anyway, I was seeing a therapist, and was whining and moaning about how I just wanted to drink “like a normal person” (I swear when I said it, I honestly thought I was the first one to ever have that thought).  The therapist said to me, “You know, for some people, “normal drinking” is not drinking at all, for those people it is entirely normal not to drink.”  Even though this occurred probably close to 10 years ago, I still have perfect recall of the way I rejected the thought completely and utterly out of hand.  I mean, yes, a human being had just uttered those words, but surely she was speaking in some high-level, esoteric way, because I personally knew zero real life examples of this hypothesis.

Having grown up in a large, Irish Catholic, close-knit family, I had never experienced a social situation that did not involve alcohol.  Surely, I exaggerate, right?  Somewhere there must have been a funeral, or a breakfast, some situation that did not involve an alcoholic beverage?  No, and no… funerals were actually a great excuse for drinking (we were a classic Irish wake family), and breakfast would have Bloody Mary’s galore.    It was, simply and plainly, all I knew.

So when it came time to admitting that alcohol was not working in my life, it is not difficult to see why I struggled with understanding the cause and effect relationship.  All around me were people who drank as I did, and no one seemed to be questioning them.  I could tell you tales that would make your hair stand up, some of the escapades in which my relatives have drunkenly found themselves.  So why am I getting hassled?

Until, finally, I let go of the old thought patterns… what is or is not working in the lives of anyone and everyone around me is inconsequential.  When I drink, my life becomes chaotic, when I do not drink, my life is peaceful.  When I drink, I am ashamed.  When I don’t drink, I am proud of myself.  When I drink, I have horrific consequences.  Since I have stopped drinking, I have had nary a consequence with which to deal.

Does it get any simpler than that?

Today’s Miracle:

I am still riding the high of yesterday’s miracle, which was a celebration of the beautiful Moms in my life, and a fantastic time with my husband and children celebrating me.  I hope all the awesome Mothers reading this had a magnificent day yesterday!

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