Here are two facts about me:
1. I am extremely prone to motion sickness. One of my earliest memories is not being able to stomach a trip to the local mall. Side note: we had a behemoth 1975-ish Chevy Impala, I threw up, and my two older sisters turned into contortionists… to this day I don’t know how they got so far into the opposite corner of the back seat.
2. I can be an extremely excitable person, particularly when I believe I am being delivered an injustice of any kind. Smart-alecky friends have been known to take advantage of this fact, and start rumors such as “Josie is the president of the Robin Williams fan club,” just to see me all fired up.
Now, knowing these two facts, imagine how I reacted when my cousin told me I should just go on an amusement park ride, because, “motion sickness is all in your head, and you can talk yourself out of it.”
Perhaps I should take him up on his offer, and allow him to sit beside me as we ride, I’m pretty sure that would teach him!
This glimpse into some banal facts about me is really just a backdrop into the real topic: how much of what we deal with is “all in our heads?” Despite my outrage over my cousin’s commentary, I have come to realize that I believe this statement more than I realize. Except, of course, when it comes to motion sickness.
One example, and I know I am going to raise a few eyebrows with this one, but I personally have a hard time with the disease concept of alcoholism. I am allowed to say that, since I am an alcoholic, along the same lines as: I can criticize my family, but you better not try. I certainly believe that I had an obsession, that, try as I did, I could not expel. I believe that if I choose to alter my mind again with a substance, that obsession will return, but disease? That is one that confounds this alcoholic. I don’t waste a lot of time on it, just like I don’t waste a lot of time wondering when I crossed the line from enjoying a drink to craving one… I just did, that is my reality, and I will, for today, deal with my reality.
But I find the “all in your mind” mentality pervades other areas of my life, and I’m wondering if it’s something I need to explore. Most recent example, and I have been giving periodic updates, but I have embarked on a fitness program. Long story short, I have gone from zero exercise to considering participating in a 5k. August was to be dedicated to training for this event, to see how much of a 5k I could run (versus walking), and how low I could get my time down. In my mind, if I could run at least half, and get my time under 45 minutes, I was set to do it.
And then, out of nowhere, I sustained an injury. I really mean out of nowhere, because I still don’t know what the hell happened. One minute, I’m jogging, the next minute, I almost fell over, because my leg couldn’t support me.
I could go into boring detail, but who really cares? I am not a physical therapist, and I have never, and I mean never, been an athletic person, so I have never dealt with a sports injury of any kind. So I look to my fellow supporters who have dealt with this, and I take every suggesting they give me (except go to the doctor, that is a last resort, and a topic for another post).
After an entire week of resting it, stretching it, icing it, I attempt to resume my training (treadmill this time). Within 3 minutes, the pain is back, and I am limping again.
Again, long story short, I try everything I can think of, but the minute my legs go into running mode, this pain comes back. So my husband, quite logically, says, “Well then just walk.” Sensible, right?
But, and here is the real point: I can’t wrap my mind around it. Seriously. I know it’s ridiculous, but I can’t make myself grasp the concept that I am restricted from the activity of running. I just keep thinking that I can figure out a way past this injury.
It’s this kind of thinking that reminds me that I’m an alcoholic, and that I will never be “cured” (of the disease that I still question in theory!). The normal person would just see that running is not working, and switch to another form of exercise. My thinking? I can beat this leg injury, dammit! Nothing so stupid is going to keep me from this goal!
I am off to meet a friend (from AA) for a walk in the same park I sustained my injury. I am going to explain this thought process to her, and she is (hopefully) going to help me see the error in my thinking.
The progress: that I know that there is an error in my thinking.
That I am choosing exercise over sitting around, that I am meeting a friend from AA with whom to exercise, and that I will choose walking over re-injuring myself until I can figure this whole thing out!
Don’t think too much, or you’ll create a problem that wasn’t even there in the first place. -Unknown
I often hear people in the rooms of AA say that they wished everyone in life had the gift of the 12 steps. Unfortunately, it usually takes some pretty serious problems to get someone in the doors of a recovery program, but if you follow the simple suggestions, you have a guide for living that makes most life problems much easier to solve.
The challenge, for me at least, is when I am faced with a problem that is not in my control. When someone comes to me with their problem, but they are not armed with the tools I have been given. Because, as anyone in recovery knows, trying to explain how we find peace and serenity, to an outsider, is like speaking another language… they want to understand, but simply cannot.
So the question becomes: how to break down what I have been given into manageable chunks to someone who is not in recovery, but needs to find peace? I used the quote above to apply to both ends of this dilemma. One, if I focus too much on how I can solve the problems of the world, then I am doing the mental equivalent of banging my head against a wall. I need to take my ego down a few notches and realize that just because I am in recovery does not mean I hold the answers to every problem in life.
But the quote also applies to the other side: no matter how complex a given situation is, no matter how many layers it has, over thinking it just creates more problems. A friend and I spent some time doing just that last night, and at the end of that discussion we were nowhere near solving the problem, all we did was create new worries. So much for my recovery tool kit!
So, new day, new opportunity to hit the reset button!
I have people in my life that trust me enough to seek my advice.
Be who you are and say what you feel,
because those who mind don’t matter,
and those who matter don’t mind. -Dr. Seuss
Like anything in life, sometimes recovery work sucks. Going to a meeting every single day can feel like drudgery. There are people who like to start their “shares” in the exact same way, and I tense up, because I’m already aggravated by the repetition (there is this one guy that says every single time he raises his hand, “I got sick and tire of being sick and tired.” Insightful the first time you hear it. Cute the 100th time. Beyond aggravating the 1,000th time.). And, no surprise here, my attitude going in has a lot to do with what I take out of each meeting.
And then there are those surprise a-ha moments…
Today my mindset was somewhere in the middle of “I can’t wait to see what I experience” and “Dear God let this go quickly.” A woman was sharing about her feelings of isolation because no one in her “regular” life knows she is in recovery. When I say no one, I mean no one… not even her husband. He thinks she is at work when she is doing things for her recovery. We had the opportunity to talk a bit, and I was able to share with her the benefits of just letting the cat out of the bag. But that is not the point of this post.
The point is in that conversation, I was able to remember what it was like trying to be serious about a recovery program when few people in my life knew about it. Keeping the two worlds…. recovery and regular life… separate was like a job. Coming up with excuses for where I was going, remembering what to talk about and what not to talk about, keeping track of my stories… what an exhausting waste of time.
Today there is only a handful of people who do not know I am in recovery, and those people are mostly peripheral to my daily life anyway. Obviously, the initial conversations (or, more accurately for me, the follow-up conversations because someone had beaten me to the punch) are painful on many levels. But, my God, the rewards of simple honesty are so much greater, and so far-reaching, than those few uncomfortable moments of disclosure! I am so grateful not to be where this woman is, or where I once was.
Why are you in so much hurry?
Is it really worth the worry?
Look around, then slow down.
What’s it like inside the bubble?
Does your head ever give you trouble?
It’s no sin, trade it in.
The tagline below my blog title reads there are no coincidences. For those who know me, there is a bit of irony here… for years, I have hounded my friends about the many amazing coincidences that are prevalent in our lives. The expression that our group uses when something interesting happens is “log it!” The idea behind logging the coincidences is that we will someday collaboratively write a book detailing all the amazingly coincidental things that have happened to us, and it was a game to see who could come up with the cover story (to date my friend Jim would win this award, but it would take entirely too long to detail his story).
Back when we started this game, the coincidences had nothing to do with spirituality or inspiration. Today I play the same game, mostly with myself, but instead I look at them as God trying to direct me in my life. If you ever decide you want to participate in this sport, be prepared to be amazed. The signs are absolutely everywhere, and they are nothing short of amazing. Every single day, sometimes multiple times in a day, I receive signs from God that help me to figure out if I am heading in the right direction, doing the next right thing, thinking the right way. It is simply a matter of getting quiet, and focusing in the present moment. It could be a phone call from a friend, something shared in an AA meeting, a post in a blog, or even a song on the radio.
Which is why I chose a song lyric as my quote. This song, popular about 35 years ago, came on the radio as I was driving to a court appearance that was causing me a great deal of anxiety. I took it as a sign to calm down, and, as I have written, things turned out miraculously. Prior to this incident, I had not heard that song in decades. Today, as I’m driving home and trying to figure out what to write in today’s post, guess what song came on the radio? This is clearly a sign, either that I should write about all the amazing coincidences (that aren’t really coincidences) in my life…
Or that I should rally my readers to start a movement to reunite the Little River Band. I’ll let you decide…
Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive. –Elbert Hubbard
Yesterday I stumbled upon some disturbing information. Quick background: I have lived in my neighborhood for 6 years, and I really love my neighbors, they are a wonderful group of people and I have had some really fun times with them. I have been sober for 232 days, so you can imagine how my neighbors know me. Fortunately for me and for them, they know me more as the fun gal who likes to drink rather than the alcoholic I am. For that reason, I made the decision, relatively early on, that my recovery is my personal business and I would only share the information if it becomes absolutely necessary.
Which, apparently, now it has.
So yesterday I am talking to a family member who also happens to be a neighbor, and she mentioned that one of our group believes that I no longer like her. She has had two parties in my recovery, and both times I have consciously chosen to leave early due to the alcohol present. I believed at the time that I had made gracious exits, and I have seen her since, so I was completely unaware that there was any trouble brewing.
The interpretation of my early exits from her parties? She now believes I am a racist. I actually laughed when I found this out, thinking I was being punk’d, but no, she really thinks I have difficulty being in a room with different ethnicities (my neighbor is in a mixed-race marriage, so I am unclear if she thinks I don’t like black people, Indian people, or just anyone other than myself).
Of course, I was horrified, and I will attempt to right this wrong thinking as soon as I can. In my meeting today, the topic was about finding humor in our past addictive behavior, and being able to laugh at ourselves. Normally, I have little to share at these types of meetings, but today I did, because, really, it is just comical! I left a party early to help my recovery, and now I have to decide which is the lesser of two evils… letting them think I am a racist, or admitting I am an alcoholic?
You just can’t make this stuff up…