NOTE: If you are interested, I was a guest blogger over at Running On Sober, feel free to check it out!
I am hoping this is the last in the story arc that has become my Monday morning meetings. Yes, I am posting this late, and I’m sure a post will eventually follow about transitioning from “School Schedule” to “Summer Schedule,” but suffice it to say that writing has been challenging while adjusting.
Okay, back to the story. If you are just starting out now, check out here and here. We had a break in this story because she did not show up for week 3 of her June “commitment” (commitment is in quotes because I’m still not sure with whom she committed). Okay, so this past Monday is the last in June, I show up, and I am still just praying that her enthusiasm to chair this meeting had waned.
No such luck.
Meanwhile, because it’s the fourth Monday, this is the week that I do some research, and bring some older, more historical pieces of AA literature to the meeting. In other words, this reading would be something with which few would be familiar. Which would make it difficult for someone to just step in and chair the meeting. I’m just saying.
She blows through the door (why is it that chaotic-type people enter rooms so dramatically?), and asks if I received the note she left. I look around the desk… surprise! No note. She says, “Well, I’m sure someone got it.”
Philosophical sidebar: If you leave a note and no one reads it, does the note have meaning? Corollary: If you leave a note and someone reads it, but has no idea what you’re talking about, does the note have meaning?
My answer to both of those questions: NO.
She explains that she was not present to chair last week because she is sick, her cat is sick, and her boyfriend is sick. I say, “No problem.”
I promise you, I am not making this up, nor am I exaggerating this exchange in any way.
She starts complaining about her illness (something to do with the throat). Within 3 sentences, she is hysterically crying, because, and I quote, “None of this would have happened if they hadn’t burned up my medical records! And they wonder why I’m such a bitch!!! And I had to pay $400 to get my cat fixed!”
So now I have several competing issues to deal with:
1. My facial expression, because, as I have mentioned in previous posts, I have the opposite of a poker face; therefore, I have to school my expression so as not to show my confusion, and frankly, alarm that I am alone with this yelling, crying woman.
2. How best to comfort this woman who is in such distress
3. General curiosity: What happened that should have never happened? How, when and why were the medical records burned? Why would a vomiting cat cost $400 to cure?
4. How best to keep this woman from chairing this meeting
I figure the best way to defuse the emotion is to ask detail questions (which has the side benefit of satisfying number 3 on my list). This has a mixed effect, some of the questions do seem to bring some calm, others promote even more dramatic (picture face in hands, chest-heaving sobbing) emotion. The story fails to get any clearer, for me anyway, but one thing I have established: all of the serious health ailments she proceeds to talk about (involving surgery, feeding tubes, and the like) took place a decade ago. Not sure how and why they’re playing into today’s conversation, but I’m just rolling with it at this point.
The conversation then proceeds to complaints about her sponsor. Okay, this is ground on which I have surer footing, and I can speak a little more confidently during this part of the discussion. She definitely calms down at this point, and says to me, “Would you mind chairing this meeting?”
Thank. You. God.
A few minutes later, other attendees start coming in, and the one-on-one conversation is over. The meeting begins (8 people total), we read, and the first person raises her hand to share. The woman has barely started speaking, and my “Committed Chairperson” noisily gets up and leaves. She is making lots of noise outside the room, someone goes to check on her, and she winds up leaving. I am told that she was too upset by what the person sharing was saying, and she could not stay for the meeting (I know you will believe me when I tell you the woman sharing had nothing inflammatory to say). The remainder of the meeting was very calm, everyone enjoyed the reading, and everyone had something to share related to it.
So, will she be back as an attendee in July? Will the cat need follow-up medical care? Will I ever find the note left for me? Stay tuned!
Alright, we are in the home stretch! That is what I thought when I got to this step while going through them, and that is what I think as I am writing this series. Recovery-wise, Step 11 works in conjunction with step 10, and so are typically done simultaneously. The way Step 10 is a mini-step 4, Step 11 is a mini-step 3 (Turned our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him).
Here’s the logistics of Step 11: In the morning, say your prayers, and make sure to ask God to direct your thoughts and actions so that you may better serve His will. This is important, because it is so easy to revert to self-will, asking for what we want, demanding what we think should happen. So getting in the proper mindset, right up front, is important. Next, take a minute to review your day, what’s on the to-do list, and what decisions need to be made. Ask God for help with the decisions, and take some time to meditate. Remember, praying is asking for God’s help, meditating is listening for His answer. Conclude with a prayer asking to be free from self-will, since it is something that pops up again and again.
Throughout the day, when faced with anxiety or indecision, pause, and ask God for guidance, help, direction. Turn the problem over to Him, and have confidence that He will handle it.
At the end of the day, take a moment and reflect on what you’ve done, both good and bad. There are many different checklists available that you can use, if you find that sort of thing helpful, but the idea is: what did you do well? what could you have done better? what amends need to be made tomorrow? Ask for forgiveness for the failings, thank Him for the successes, and pray for direction in determining any corrective actions that might be taken tomorrow.
This sounds like a lot of stuff, but in reality, each of these steps take but moments of each day, and I can tell you, make an absolute world of difference in the quality of my life.
I can’t say enough about how this step helps in everyday living. The minute I feel out of sorts, I make it a point to shoot up a quick prayer and ask for His help. Just that very small act almost invariably lifts whatever burden I am carrying off my shoulders, and I can breathe easier. When I make the effort to clue in to my surroundings, I find He answers even more than I have asked of Him!
This story just keeps getting… well, I won’t say better and better, I guess I’ll choose more and more interesting.
I’m just going to jump right in (if you are new, please read Jesus, Take the Wheel). I get to my meeting this morning, usual time, about 30 minutes before it starts. I will be honest here: when I got in and saw I was by myself, I breathed a sigh of relief. I recognize this is probably not the most charitable attitude, but there it is. So I set up, make coffee, and settle in to select a reading (usually I do this over the weekend, but I wasn’t sure what to expect with this woman, so I didn’t bother. Also, the second week of the month is the easiest book from which to select a passage, so I knew I would be safe either way). I had just finished reading what I knew would be a perfect subject about which I could share, and zooming into the parking lot, at “club car” level audio, is my mystery chair person from last week.
Damn! Again, uncharitable, but honest.
So I sit in the chairperson’s chair and wait for her to come in. She breezes through, and says, “Oh, I’m so glad you’re here and you made coffee, because I’m running late.”
Side note: I am getting annoyed all over again just typing this story.
I say, “I will always be here, because I started this meeting, and I have been the only chair up to this point.”
She says, “Yes, well I’m here now, and I signed up to chair this month.”
Okay, at this point, I would imagine anyone who is not familiar with AA tradition is possibly jumping up and down, ready to scream at me in frustration. Why didn’t I just put her in her place?!?
Here’s the answer: AA has 12 steps and 12 traditions, which are the closest thing our group has to by-laws. Tradition 2 states:
For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
What this means is that even though I started this meeting, and I am the only member who has chaired, does not make me the dictator of the meeting. All decisions made for a meeting should be done with group conscience. So, if this woman wants to chair the meeting, and I don’t think she should, the correct means for me to go about “dethroning” her would be to take a vote of all the attendees. Which, of course, I am not going to do.
Plus, practically speaking, I am hoping to increase attendance at my meeting. So the last thing I want to do is alienate someone I don’t know, and have her badmouthing her experience.
So I do what I told myself I would do if she showed up: I sit down in the “spectator” seats, and I wait for her to start the meeting.
She begins, has no idea what book we are reading from, I fill her in (she has to ask my name twice), and we start reading. She shares first, which is traditional, at least in the meetings in my part of the world.
Spoiler Alert: this is going to get a little catty.
She announces that she just celebrated 16 years of sobriety, and passes around her coin for all of us to see. Which is awesome. But then she starts to share what is going on in her life as it relates to the passage we had just read. The story starts out relevant, but quickly and terrifyingly devolves into impossibly hard-to-follow stories from childhood. Stories that include, but are not limited to: pagans, warlocks, organized crime, and holding people at gunpoint with a shotgun.
As good an imagination as I have, I promise you I could not make this stuff up. Truthfully, I am leaving a lot out, because some of it is not fit for this blog.
On the one hand, I am always happy to lend an ear for someone who needs to talk. She actually admitted that she did not speak at meetings for, and I quote, “the first 18 years of her sobriety” (yes, if you are paying attention, she did say 18 years, even though she passed around a 16-year coin. Frankly, by this point I wouldn’t have asked for clarification even if I wanted to). She clearly needs to get things out, and that is what meetings are for.
On the other hand, as the one who started this meeting, as the one who has something invested in it, and as the one who really, really wants to increase attendance, this kind of stream-of-consciousness, frightening sharing worries me. All of the other attendees at today’s meeting are older, some retired, and consistently conservative. Will this kind of sharing turn them away? I just don’t know.
Two bright spots: first, this month only has 4 weeks, so we are already halfway there. Second, I have gotten close with one of my regular attendees, a woman with 28 years of sobriety, and more wisdom than I could ever hope to achieve. I am going to email her and ask for her advice, as she is a witness to this madness, but has been around for a lot longer than I have, so will probably had some sage advice on where to go from here.
No matter what happens, I have been planning on doing another “media blitz” to re-market, I am definitely waiting until this situation resolves itself!
That I don’t have warlocks or pagans as part of my recovery story. That may sound sarcastic, but I am serious, I am grateful!
I can already hear my husband challenging the title of this post, he would argue that my next post should be labeled the final chapter, but for me, this is the finale, God willing, in terms of bottoming out.
Okay, quick summary of the past three days… for 8-9 months, I had been attempting recovery, with absolutely zero success (if you are just joining this story, read back a few posts to Chapter 1). And each turning point during that time took me lower and lower, and feeling more and more hopeless. Where we last left off, I had been struggling with marital problems, frustration and/or outright anger from family and friends, multiple failed rehab treatments, failed attempts with AA, stepwork, sponsors, and on top of it all, the question mark of legal consequences.
And still I continued my addiction.
My final day was actually this day (Friday), but the date was January 26, 2012. The day started like any other. I attempted to pray, but deep down knew that I would get up, and go right back to what I knew… addictive behavior. I could retrace every step of that day, but I’m not sure it would serve much purpose. I will, however, recount what has become for me the critical moment. I had a thought so clear that I actually said it out loud, to myself, in the car: “There was not one part of this day that was fun.”
Anyone reading who is an addict knows that after a time, your drug of choice becomes totally ineffective, and what you are in fact doing is chasing the high that hasn’t really happened for a long time. By this point in my addiction, I really had no pleasant physical reaction at all, so of course the question becomes, then why do it? That question is already answered in the minds of every addict reading this, and will never be answered to the satisfaction of every non-addict. The ultimate answer: I do it because I am an addict.
Back to the story: so at the time I did not know I was uttering profound words, but in fact I was, because that was my last day of using a mind-altering substance. The day continued, and I actually had plans that evening to go out with some friends. During the car ride to the restaurant I spoke with my husband, and got a sense that something was amiss, but had no idea what it could be. I got home later that evening, and waiting for me was a card and a dozen roses… it was the anniversary of our first date. He remembered, I did not. And while there were these beautiful things waiting for me, my husband’s mood was not one of them. I tried to pry it out of him, but he would not budge…. nothing was wrong, he said.
Went to bed, next day, the icy silence continued. I tried multiple times to figure out the problem, but to no avail. This is technically day 1 of sobriety, but the ramifications of my behavior are still to come.
My final bottom was more or less like an airplane hitting a runway as it is attempting to come to a stop… a series of bumps, and then… silence.
Bump: Sunday morning, I wake up, my husband is already out of bed. He comes into the room, I ask, for perhaps the 1,000th time that weekend, can you please tell me what’s wrong. He sits down on the bed, and lays it out very simply: he cannot do this anymore, I need to leave the house, immediately. He will drive me to my Mom‘s, but that is it. If I don’t go, he will make a scene in front of the kids, and cause irreparable damage to my relationship with them. He takes my phone, my keys, almost everything out of my wallet, and drives me away from my home.
Bump: I am dropped off, like a bag of garbage, at my Mom’s house. Both siblings that live there and my Mother cannot even look at me, they are so angry, hurt, and disappointed.
Bump: The next day, I have an already scheduled lawyer’s visit, at which point I am told that there seems to be no other alternative but jail time for my legal consequences.
Bump: The next day, I must report to a police station to make all the charges official. My picture is taken, I am finger printed, just like you see on TV.
And then… silence. And there I sat, my life in ruins, with very little idea of how I ever got to this place.
I’d like to add, at this point, that writing these posts for the past three days has been so much more difficult than I ever could have imagined. Which is good, because I never would have done it if I had known how difficult it would be. Mainly, I have discovered in the past few days that I am, at heart, an optimistic, hopeful person, and writing about such dire things really goes against my grain. But if my story has touched even one person, and helped them in some way, then it is more than worth it.
I will conclude with what has become the beginning of my road to recovery. The first night that I stayed at my Mom’s, I could not sleep to save my life. As light was not even breaking on that next day, I got out of bed, dropped to my knees, and I prayed like I have never prayed before. I believe, and often share, that acceptance of my disease came at that moment, and I got the answer that carried me through the next year of my life. I need to do 4 things that day, and every day thereafter: pray, go to a meeting, talk to another addict, and those three will keep me from the fourth, which is not pick up a drink or drug. And I allowed myself the luxury of having only those 4 things on my “to-do” list for each and every day: as long as I do those things, I have had a wildly successful day.
And that is where the next story begins…
If you are a Catholic, you will appreciate this one. I thought that the past 3 days were much like Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday… full of sadness, but also of hope for Easter Sunday. And then I laughed out loud at the audacity of comparing myself to Jesus Christ!
No matter how many mistakes you make, or how slow your progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying. -Unknown
This quote is a reminder to myself. The first week of January, I went to the gym one time, and considered it the miracle of that day. The second week, I went two times. This week, I made it a whopping three times. I have a tendency to look at that fact and remember the times in my life when I was going at least 3 times a week, and doing much more than I am currently doing, but I conveniently forget the months on end when I did not go a single time. So progress, no matter how slow, is progress, and I am grateful!
Hope everyone has a great weekend!
Having some quiet alone time to read a novel, I haven’t done enjoyed this luxury since last year (of course, last year was only 19 days ago, but still…)!
So I have been as sick as a dog for the past two days (fever seems to be down this morning, all other symptoms still there, but I can function without the fever). It started Wednesday night, and kept me up all night. Thursday I was forced to cut out all activities other than those mandated by law (not easy to do during holiday madness).
And when I was feeling my physical lowest, I also got slammed on some mental fronts as well (isn’t it always the way). One of my biggest intellectual hang-ups is injustice of any kind, and if I am personally factored into the injustice, then I have a tendency to go nuts. Well, in my opinion, I was the target of some injustice on Thursday, and it was a situation over which I was powerless. The icing on this cake was that feeling that comes creeping in when things don’t go my way… the “why are these people doing this to me/why don’t these people like me/what can I do to make these people like me” feeling that does nothing but sink me lower into the already pretty deep hole I was in.
So what did I do about it? First, I shared about it, because if I try to work things out in my own head, nothing but disaster will follow. I actually ran into a woman from the program (is it odd or is it God?), and was able to speak with her immediately following the troubling incident. Then I went to a meeting and shared some more. Then I went home and whined to my husband. In the past I would have berated myself for dumping my troubles on others, I truly believed that no good could come from spreading my misery. Now I know that keeping things bottled up only leads to explosions down the road.
I would be lying if I said everything is turned around now and I feel wonderful. Obviously physical health plays a role, and I am still under the weather. But sometimes, even when you know where you want to be mentally, even when you can see the other side of the road you want to be on, sometimes it just takes a while to actually get there. I know, absolutely, that I will come out of this funk, and so I will just continue to keep doing what I have been doing for the past 330 days, and believe that the miracle is around the corner!
A coincidence is when God performs a miracle and then decides to remain anonymous. -Author Unknown
Forgive the extra length of this post. There will also be extra-candor, but the message is too powerful for me not to share it.
My personal bottom was like an airplane bouncing down the runway towards its final destination…. increasingly shameful confrontations with my husband, time spent away from my children in a rehab, breaking the law and getting caught, and, finally, separating from my husband and children. At my lowest point, I was living with my mother, facing divorce and an uncertain future with my children, and it was at this time my lawyer told me he did not see a way around me going to jail.
So to say the early days of recovery were fear-based would be an understatement. I chose sobriety because I was terrified of the alternative. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and slowly my personal life turned around. I was back at home, rebuilding my life with my husband and children within two months, and all my other relationships followed suit.
The last big question mark remained my legal issues, and that is what I writing about today. From the start, it looked like jail time was inevitable. For those reading who don’t know me personally, I am pretty far removed from the typical profile of an inmate. I am an Irish Catholic middle-aged Mom of two with nothing remotely resembling a prior record. I am Master’s-educated suburban woman who has chosen to stay at home and raise her children for the past decade. And yet, here I am, looking at jail time.
A few weeks into my recovery, I was offered the opportunity to participate in a county-funded program, that, for simplicity’s sake, I will define as a sort of court-supervised outpatient therapy. In exchange for my participation in this program, I would, first, avoid jail, and second, clean up my record at the program’s successful completion… miracle #1. I leapt at this opportunity, only to find out that because my home is located about 2 miles outside the county, I am ineligible to participate. So my lawyer works a deal and offers me some sort of reduced sentence which amounts to nothing more than probation…. this is miracle #2… no jail time.
But the original offer of the drug program sounds like a better proposition, and I work with my lawyer to fight for it. It takes time (patience is a requirement when dealing with all legal matters), but eventually it is agreed that if I can establish residency in the county then I can enter this program. Great news, but how can I do this? I don’t have the money to have two homes, and I can’t move my children. Then my in-law’s, who do live in the county, approach me and offer their home to me for the duration of this program… miracle #3, and this is the point at which I am consciously aware that God is working the miracles in my life. I start tuning in to all the good things happening every day from this point on.
Still more time goes by, but I am grateful, because it allows me to spend the summer with my children, and to not worry about how to explain this upcoming change in our lifestyle. Meanwhile, I am continuing in my recovery, but it has ceased to be fear-based; rather, it is about building upon the successful foundation that fear built. Each day is better than the last, and I am at peace with however the legal situation turns out.
About one month ago, I received word that because so much time has gone by, and because my lawyer has been fighting to keep me with my children, the county is considering a pilot program whereby I complete its requirements while being supervised by the county in which I reside. It has never been done before, and the judge originally dismissed this option outright, but is now willing to consider me being the first person to do try it…miracle #4.
Yesterday I was able to observe the program in which it is proposed I participate, and it is much more positive and encouraging than anything I have encountered to date… miracle #5. Today I went before the judge, and he agreed to allow this to happen, officially… miracle #6. This judge has a well-known reputation for talking down to the people in his court room, I have witnessed it first-hand. Yet when it was my time before him, he was respectful and encouraging, and even commended my attorney for his perseverance in getting me this opportunity… miracle #7.
And so, next week I will begin a program designed to aid me in my recovery, while living at home with my family. At the completion of this program, I will have a clear record, which will enable me to work in my chosen field. I hope this story clears up any doubts about God working in our lives!
No one should be ashamed to admit they are wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that they are wiser today than they were yesterday. ”
… go I, is how that phrase finishes out. I have used that expression more in the past 137 days than ever before in my life. It probably goes without saying, but the expression means that I am fortunate, through God’s grace, not to have whatever bad luck has fallen upon another. For example, when I drive by a car accident, I will say this out loud, to remind myself how truly fortunate I am to be safe in my own car.
What I like about this expression is, first, that it re-focuses me on how positive my life really is. When I look around and see other people’s problems, I am truly grateful for the ones I have. And when you are in regular attendance in 12-step meetings, you have a real chance to be grateful for your own life. As bad as you may think you have it, I guarantee there is someone who has it worse.
The second reason I like this expression is that it reminds me that I am not running the show, and that I have someone else to thank for my good fortune. Just as this expression re-focuses me on the positive aspects of my life, it also re-focuses me on God, and how blessed I am to have a relationship with Him.