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M(3), 2/17: Dissecting Step Two

The literature for today’s meeting was chapter 2 in the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, and discusses in detail the thinking behind Step 2 in the twelve-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous:

Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.

This meeting, for me personally, was chock full of interesting shares, but before I venture into what I learned I will write about my experience with Step 2.  Step 2 can be broken down into two parts:

  1. Belief in a power greater than ourselves
  2. Belief that this power can restore us to sanity

I took no issue with the first part of this step, as I had a core belief in a Higher Power.  Having sat in a meeting or two, I have come to hold an immense gratitude for this core belief, as I know this is a major hurdle for many to jump.

The second part of this step, I have come to realize, was a stumbling block.  While I believed in a God of my understanding, I held tight to the belief that “God helps those who help themselves.”  In placing the emphasis on “helping myself,” I was giving myself all the power, and blocking His ability to help me.  Consequently, it took many months before I could finally let go of the belief that I had to do this on my own.   Since that time, my concept and my relationship with my Higher Power has deepened and grown, and I believe will continue to do so for the rest of my life…. good stuff!

Okay, onto to the wisdom I have gained from my fellows:

One gentleman, who has almost 3 decades of sobriety, made the following statement:  “The longer I stay sober, the less interested I become in defining my spirituality.”  This idea rocked my world… the idea that I can be less precise about my spirituality as time goes by.  I’m not sure where I got the idea that the more time sober I have, the clearer picture I should have of a Higher Power, but this man’s simple statement opened my mind in a way I hadn’t even realized was closed.  It is enough to know that there is a power greater than me, and that power is helping me to live, day by day, a better life.  Enough said.  Brilliant!

Another man, sober for eleven years, talked about Donald Rumsfeld, and the quote attributed to former Secretary of Defense:  “the known knowns, the known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns.”  The gentleman this morning attributes his participation in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous with his ability to deal with those “unknown unknowns” of life.  Because this fellowship teaches us an assortment of new skills, skills we either never possessed, or which we could never master, we now have an ability to deal with life in a way which previously eluded us.  I could not agree more.

Another woman whose sobriety date is close to mine, talked about how often this chapter discusses the importance of humility.  She quotes a line in the chapter:

“…humility and intellect could be compatible, provided we place humility first.  When we began to do that, we received the gift of faith, a faith which works.”

 -page 30, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

As she spoke, I had the clearest vision of getting down on my knees and asking God for help that night a little over two years ago, and asking in a way that I had never asked before.  And since that time, I have come to understand my Higher Power in a way I hadn’t before.  So for me that sentence rings true… I truly became humble, and only then did I truly receive faith.

There was some dissention with step 2; for example, one gentleman took exception with the term “insanity.”  He felt it a little extreme, but has come to accept that he need not argue every period and comma put forth in order to reap the benefits of the 12-step program.  By accepting the 12 steps as a whole, rather than nitpicking his way through the verbiage, he was able to, as he put it, “put the skid chains on his thinking, which allowed him to stop drinking, which in turn allowed him to improve all different areas of is life.”  I had never heard the 12 steps described in quite this way, and I love the idea of putting skid chains on my thinking… it sums it up perfectly for me.  It doesn’t stop the extreme thoughts, but it allows me time to process them so I don’t react as quickly as I once did.

All in all, lots of sharing, lots of different experiences, but everyone agreed on one point:  it was in acceptance of a power greater than ourselves that we found true freedom.

Today’s Miracle:

I came home from my meeting to find that, while I was gone, husband and son decided to surprise me by tackling some long overdue projects.  It really doesn’t get any better than this kind of homecoming!

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My Friend Jerry

In the earliest days of our friendship, Jerry and I bonded over a shared love of this show.  Now, we pass that love on to our respective children!

I am back to another chapter in the series “Friends Who Stick By Troubled Friends.”  As I mentioned in my last post on this subject, I am writing this series in the sequence with which old friends came back into my life as I began my journey of recovery.

So now I shall tell you the story of my friendship with Jerry.  Another friendship of about a quarter century, Jerry and I met in Marketing 201 our sophomore year in college.  I came to find out that we had mutual friends, but for whatever reason did not connect our freshman year.  No matter, what we missed out in terms of friendship that year we more than made up for the following three years.  I pretty much followed Jerry around like a puppy, and am grateful to this day that he allowed me to do so.  As soon as my friendship with Jerry took root, my college experience blossomed in ways it never would have without him.  All of the sudden, the parts of campus life I had never even considered before meeting him… student government, residence life, social life with sports teams… all of these quintessential college activities became written into my life story.  When I think back to my college experience, I do so with a huge smile… my college life was a blast.  I owe almost all of those experiences to my friend Jerry.

By the time I was a senior in college, I intended to be a lawyer, and had completed the checklist in pursuit of that goal.  I had taken the law school preparatory exam, was admitted entrance into a law school, and had made those announcements to my family and friends.  But, in the meantime, I had been slowly gaining an interest in the job I currently held as a Resident Advisor at my college.  It was my friend Jerry who helped me make the first giant life-changing decision I had ever made:  instead of attending law school, I changed direction, and made plans to pursue a Master’s in education.  I still get butterflies when I think of the courage it took me to make that change.  I remember sitting down with my Dad to explain it to him, hastily taking another set of entrance exams, applying to an entirely different school, and many other smaller changes that added up to a whole new future.  If it were not for Jerry, I would be on an entirely different path right now.

Because, in the midst of those changes, some miracles came into being, I was able to stay on the campus and work at my undergraduate university while pursuing my Master’s.  In so doing, I was able to meet, befriend, date, and ultimately marry the love of my life, and subsequently live the life I am living today.  When I trace the path backwards, it all begins with Jerry, and his tremendous influence.

But I digress!  In the meantime, Jerry and I continued our friendship, and our education, as we each pursued our Master’s.  It was at this stage in our lives that we were truly inseparable.  We worked together, we took classes together, we studied together, and we spent our leisure time together.  Usually that meant watching television, as we both held jobs in residence life, taking care of a college campus.  Golden Girls, Empty Nest, ER, Knots Landing… when I see anything related to any of those shows, I think of Jerry and smile.

Through all of the stress of getting our degrees, through weddings, funerals, work dramas, through thick and thin, Jerry and I were there for each other.  Jerry was standing right next to me when I got the phone call that my Dad had a heart attack.  He followed me to the hospital, was there when they pronounced him dead, and practically lived with me through the week we arranged his funeral.  And that is just one of many big life experiences that we shared.  We developed a short-hand vocabulary to let each other know when we were in crisis.  For example, “taking out the insurance policy,” to this day means “I need to tell you something in the utmost of confidence, and I need your complete attention, stat!”  Through the course of 25 years, I have taken out quite a few of those polices, and written a few as well!

So you would think, with all this background, it would have been a very simple process… “Hey Jerry, I need to take out the insurance policy, because I’m having some issues with addiction.”  No, sadly, it did not go this way at all.  Poor Jerry was one of the friends I kept completely in the dark throughout my active addiction.  I did my utmost to put on a good show for him, and have him believe all was well and good, and I was fairly successful with that charade for a time.

I still have a lot of shame in admitting this next part:  I was not the one to tell Jerry about my problems with addiction.  My husband, in his desperation, reached out to Jerry, as they were friends for all this time as well.  I think I was about 3 weeks sober when it occurred to me that I had not reached out to Jerry, and something in my gut told me that my husband may have already spilled the beans.  Coward that I was, I sent a text, and asked Jerry if he had spoken to Dan.  One word reply:  Yes.  Oh boy, I can still remember the feeling I had when I got that reply.  I arranged a time for us to speak on the phone, and I couldn’t sit still for hours before that phone call.  And it was as awkward, and painful, as ever a conversation I have had with Jerry, and hope to God I will never have again.  He was still, weeks later, in a state of shock… how could this have happened, and he not know about it?  How could I have done this to my husband, my children, my friends?  How can he ever trust me again?

And, another miracle:  through his pain, his confusion, his anger, he continued to talk to me.  He said he didn’t know what to do for me, but he wanted to try to figure it out.  Most important, he was willing to stick with me through this crisis.  And did he ever, we talked more in those next few weeks than we had in years, and he applauded every milestone I hit.  When I started this blog, I believe he was my third follower, and still reads every post I publish (won’t he be surprised when he reads today’s?).

If you are very, very fortunate in life, you will meet a person that you know, deep down, will have your back no matter what.  Jerry is that person for me… no matter what happens, if I need something, he will be there, no questions asked… especially if I take out the insurance policy.

Today’s Miracle:

Being able to replay a 25-year old friendship, and write it down for the world to witness, is a miracle and a blessing!

One Man’s Trash…

Everybody’s got one.  A project, a task, a chore, something that you’ve been meaning to get done, and that dogs you subconsciously.  “Man, I really need to get around to…”  Fill in the blank.

For me, that project is the basement.  I have actually written about this once or twice on this blog.  My basement had become a house-sized junk drawer.  If something did not have a home, it was placed in the basement.  If a quick clean-up had to be done because company was coming, all debris got thrown into the basement.  When kids came over and weather was poor, kids played, amongst the clutter, in the basement, and they NEVER cleaned up.  Add all that to the normal basement-y stuff (baby clothes, tools, decorations, etc.) and I’ve got myself quite a project.

And, like most projects I don’t want to do, I procrastinated, big-time.  I kept trying to think my way into right acting, but visualizing the end result, making mental to-do lists, even wandering around the mess, but, shockingly, this effort produced no results.  Go figure.

So with the confidence that only sobriety has brought me, I finally hatched a plan this past summer.  I took the kids down to the basement, with a pen and paper, explained the mechanics of a brainstorming session, and asked them what their vision of our basement could be.  The results of that brainstorming session could be the fodder for another post (my kids have very active imaginations), but by the end of that session we had a rough plan in place:  let’s work on clearing out, and then we’ll move onto phase two, beautifying the basement.  The culmination of Phase I was a yard sale, to be held at the end of the summer.

Well, things have ebbed and flowed since the brainstorming session, unexpected setbacks, as well as a windfall in the form of a neighborhood yard sale, and, as a result, we have reached the conclusion of Phase I this past Saturday.  Here is some pictorial evidence:

Before-After Basement

I smile just looking at these pictures, and I have been down to the basement quite a few times in the last 48 hours just to wander around and admire.

Here is why I am writing about this experience, it is not just to brag about my empty basement!  First, I would have never, ever achieved this goal without the tools I learned in sobriety.  My entire life, pre-recovery, had been to procrastinate until forced into action, and then it was to take the most expedient, least labor-intensive course of action to get past whatever crisis into which I had landed.  Just look at the before pix… this was not a mess that had been accumulated in a couple of months, it was something that I brought with me from my last home, and did nothing more than add to for the past 7 years.  So I am practicing these principles in all my affairs… I made a mess, and I have cleaned it up!

I am also writing to talk about the unexpected bonuses that came along with the clean-up.  First, amazing though it may be, I was the only person who really cared about the disaster area I called a basement.  Kids are kids, they don’t think much about it, and my husband’s modus operandi was “out of sight, out of mind.”  However, I was able to rally the family into a real team effort, and everyone responded accordingly.  Over the course of the summer, I worked with the kids, the kids worked with each other, my husband and I worked together, and my husband worked with the kids, culminating into a total united front in the form of a very well-attended yard sale this past weekend.  We have never worked on a project of this magnitude before as a family, and I believe we all gained a lot from our combined effort.

For myself, the project took me out of my comfort zone a lot… keeping up with the ongoing work, motivating a group of people that did not have the same level of commitment as me, asking for help, researching how the heck to even have a yard sale!  And the biggest piece of the puzzle:  dealing with the overzealous crowds!  As someone who has never held a real yard sale, and someone who does not attend yard sales, I was very, very unprepared for the general craziness that went into that day.  Negotiating, answering questions, feeling like I needed to be 10 different places at once… all a very new and very uncomfortable experience.  I would like to think I learned a lot, but I’m not rushing out to have another yard sale to test this theory out!

Finally, and the most surprising lesson I gained, was learning to let go.  I really had no idea what  a candidate for Hoarders I really was… I had 22 Rubbermaid containers of baby clothes, from newborn to 5T (keep in mind I have only 2 children, and they are at least 6 years removed from these sizes).  I should have been ecstatic to see these clothes go, but I had a pang every time someone came up to me with money for them, and I found myself telling the story of when my children wore those clothes last (and yes, I’m sure they all thought I was certifiable).  At the end of the sale, my rule was:  nothing goes back in, so we packed up and took the remaining things to the Salvation Army.  Now the rubber really hits the road:  I had to put my hands on these clothes, and put them in a bag to leave.  That process took almost as long as the yard sale itself.  The main thing that got me through was the invaluable wisdom of Time With Thea, who has been giving me amazing advice throughout this project.  She told me that rather than feeling like I am giving something up (memories, my kids’ childhood), I should instead focus on what I am giving to somebody else (clothes for people who need them, creating new memories for new families).  I’m telling you, I was actually saying those words out loud as I bagged up the remaining clothes!

Sorry for the wordy post, but this project has been in the works for months, and I am just so excited to report the exciting results!

Today’s Miracle:

I believe, once I hit publish, that this is my 300th post, and I am so grateful to have all of you with whom to share my life!

The Final Bottom

Spoiler alert:  this post may be a bit on the depressing side, apologies in advance.

There’s an expression in recovery meetings, “taking a meeting hostage,” where a person will talk longer than appropriate about personal issues.  Today, at my Monday morning meeting, I did a variation, in the sense that I tailored the meeting topic to a situation in my personal life.  Probably not the most selfless act of my day, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.  For the record, 11 attendees, and, from my perspective, the meeting was exactly what I needed.

Last night I met my sponsee at a meeting so that she could get her 6 month coin, very celebratory in nature, and I am so thrilled to have been able to share in her accomplishment.  That’s the good news.  The bad:  while there I learned about the death of a friend and past Monday meeting attendee, whose name was George.  I still can’t believe I had to use the past tense in that last sentence.

I met George about 10 months ago, we were fellow members of a drug and alcohol therapy group.  George and I bonded from our very first day together, and anyone that has ever been through an outpatient rehab situation will understand what I’m about to say… George and I were the talkers of the group.  What this means, for anyone unfamiliar with group therapy, is that often the majority of people prefer to sit and listen (or not), and do their absolute best to limit their participation.  I can’t speak for George, but my philosophy is if I’m there, I might as well participate, plus I do have empathy for a group counselor that has to drag words out of every participant, so I am the one who will jump in and get things started.  George seemed to be of the same mind, so many sessions had us gabbing back and forth about our personal circumstances in the moment.  Through my time with him in group therapy, I found George to be open, honest, funny, and genuinely motivated to grab a hold of recovery.  But, like myself and everyone else in that group, the obsession that goes along with addiction is very strong, and George fell prey to his addiction a few times throughout my time in the group, and so he eventually had to advance his therapy to a more intensive rehabilitation.  I was able to let him know about my meeting, which had started right before we parted ways, and, once he got himself back on his feet recovery-wise, he started attending my Monday morning meetings.

And, just like in our group therapy, George was a tremendous benefit to the meeting.  His personality is so engaging, and he is so sincere in his desire to stop drinking, that he drew people in every time he spoke.  He thanked me profusely every single time he shared, for being an example to him and for having this meeting for him to attend.  No matter what was going on in his life, he was able to talk about it honestly, and turn it around so that we could all learn something from it.

In the months that he attended my Monday meeting, George relapsed twice, and twice he came back and spoke candidly about the experience… the thoughts that led up to the decision, the shame and remorse he felt, and the negative consequences he suffered as a result.  Always he was hopeful that this was the time he would get it together.

And then… nothing.  He simply stopped attending my meetings.

I spoke with several mutual friends who went to other meetings with George, the same thing, they just stopped seeing him and hearing from him.  Some of the male friends did reach out and try to call him, to no avail.  The unspoken rule in AA is that guys call guys, women call women, so I did not have any numbers with which to reach out to George myself, but every single week in the past 2 1/2 months that he has been missing I have asked the mutual friends, and they all shake their heads sadly and say they have not seen him.

The limited information I received was this:  his death was directly related to alcohol, and his wife is devastated.  She actually called one of our mutual friends to let us know the news.  She wanted to make sure his friends in AA knew of his death, because he spoke a lot about the group he had met and bonded with, and they meant the world to him.  She also said he had a special friend during his time in group therapy, and was hopeful that the friend would know how highly he spoke of her.  I’m guessing I’m the special friend, and if I’m not, it’s okay, because he was certainly my special friend, and my heart is broken.

This is my first experience of this nature:  losing someone close to me to this disease, and, I’ve got to tell you, it sucks.  It is going to sound trite, but it’s still the truth:  George had so much to offer this world, and his loss is felt by more than he will ever understand.  I want to say I am grateful to be sober, and I am, but it truthfully feels almost insensitive to say it in the wake of his death.  The best takeaway I got from all the beautiful feedback from this morning is this:  his death is a painful reminder that however low my bottom was, there is a much lower, and much more finite, bottom.  As for why I was blessed with the gift of recovery and George was not, another question I struggled with last night, I was told that’s God‘s business, not mine, so I should stick to my own, and let God worry about the rest.

So I’m grateful that I am sober, and, just for today, I will stay sober, in George’s memory.

Today’s Miracle:

Being able to talk about my feelings this morning, and write about them this afternoon, and know that people care, is a miracle that give me tears in my eyes as I write this.

T.M.I. (Too Much Information)!

Another danger zone could be added to this diagram:  the bus stop itself, after the children have driven away!

 

This morning I was at the stay at home/work at home parent’s version of the water cooler:  the bus stop.  The lengthy discussion that resulted was an eye-opener, at least it was for this home-owning ignoramus:  stucco.  Here are a few snippets that I learned at this morning’s rendezvous:

  • Stucco should really only be used in homes in the Southwestern region of the United States (we live in a suburb of Philadelphia, too bad someone did not give this news to our builder)
  • Stucco costs three times as much as siding to remediate or replace.
  • The chance for mold and other moisture problems increases dramatically when your house is constructed with stucco (as opposed to siding).
  • There is no chance of recouping any losses from the builder, the company will simply drag it out in court and you will wind up losing even more money, and still have the same problem as you did to start.

Really, by the end of this conversation, my thought process was this:  it would be less stressful, and more time-saving, to simply drive my son to school!

Thank you God, for the 12-step program, because I could listen to this diatribe, and my first thought… alright, full disclosure:  my real first thought is that 25 minutes in the early morning chill is entirely too long to be talking about stucco… so my second thought is gratitude that we are not experiencing any of the problems that are being described, followed by genuine sympathy at the plight of those around me.  Suffice it to say that is not how I would have handled that conversation, pre-Fellowship!

Today’s Miracle:

In coming home and inspecting my house, I do not have any of the tell-tale “tea stains” (another fun term I learned this morning) around my windows!

 

It’s Easier to Stay Sober than it is to Get Sober

You don’t drown by falling in the water.  You drown by staying there. -Unknown

I have an update from Monday’s post that I would like to share.  I wrote about an issue I was having, where thoughts about past misdeeds were coming up with increasing regularity, and causing me some mental distress.  I received some wonderful feedback, and I really appreciate the insights given to me.

Later that same afternoon, I connected with a friend from the AA Fellowship.  She and I had been playing phone tag all day, but we finally connected late in the afternoon.  I thought she was calling me with an update about a mutual friend who is ill; in fact, she was calling for something completely different:  she had relapsed the night before, and was desperate to connect with someone who understood.  As she conveyed the details of the events, it was truly like the pieces of the puzzle falling into place for me.  All those feelings I have been experiencing, which for me, thank God, were as a result of events that took place more than a year ago, she is experiencing, right now, in the moment, and she is paralyzed by them.  For me it was a true God moment, one that I recognized right in the midst of the phone call.

So all those feelings did two things for me:  first, I was able to relate to her in a very meaningful way.  She would tell a detail of her day, and I could give her a time in my life where I was in the exact same situation.  This may sound like a case of “misery loving company” but it is not… it helps to know someone else has walked your path.  Further, I could show, through my example, how to get out of that mess of feelings and come out on the other side.

Second, and more important, it gave me an answer to why these feelings may be resurfacing… I don’t ever, ever, want to feel that pain again.  Like anything else (losing weight, fitness routine, smoking cessation), it is so much easier to maintain sobriety than it is to achieve it.

And you know what?  Those feelings that I wrote about, the ones that came about at least daily, if not several times daily?  They have not come back since that phone call.  Odd, or God?

Today’s Miracle:

Looking forward to preparing a delicious dinner for my baby brother tonight.  Now, maybe I should start figuring out what I’m going to serve!

Ghosts of Addictions Past

Do you remember the things you were worrying about a year ago? How did they work out? Didn’t you waste a lot of fruitless energy on account of most of them? Didn’t most of them turn out all right after all? -Dale Carnegie

I’ve had an uncomfortable thought process come up, with increasing frequency and intensity, in the past month or so.  I have written about it once or twice, peripherally, I have shared about it, in meetings and one-on-one, but it is hard for me to describe, and so I have been mostly talking to God about it, and asking Him to remove it.  Since He has not done so in the time frame I would like (as in, IMMEDIATELY!), I have to assume it is happening for a reason, and maybe the reason is I need to share it with others.  So at my Monday morning meeting, I decided to work my literature topic around this thought process and really try to explain it to the group.  I have no idea if I was effective in explaining myself, but I received some meaningful feedback, and so it was, as usual, an awesome meeting.

So here’s how the thought process works… I’ll use the most recent example, but I have hundreds more, it happens so frequently.  This morning I’m driving, and a song comes on the radio (Pink’s Glitter in the Air).  I immediately recall when she performed this song (2010 Grammy’s), and how much I enjoyed it.  I remember how that particular night I was watching the Grammy’s by myself in my bedroom (an unusual occurrence, my husband and I almost always watch evening television together in the family room).  I then try to recall if I was in an altered state, and perhaps that was why I was alone watching the show (I still can’t honestly remember if that was true or not, but for the purpose of this example let’s assume I was).  Here’s where it gets harder for me to explain:  once I pose this question to myself, an unpleasant sensation washes over me, a feeling to which I can’t quite put a name… guilt?  remorse?  It’s not a simple emotion, I believe it’s a mix of feelings, but it is intense, and hard to shake.

I have tried different things to snap out of it… I have tried sitting in the feeling, to give a more definitive name to the emotion.  I have tried to simply direct my thoughts elsewhere.  I have prayed about it, I have shared about it.  And still, the memories come back, on a regular enough basis that I fear God is telling me something, although I have no idea what that is.  This thought process does not just happen with music, it can happen at any time, and sometimes, for no reason at all.  Last week I was sitting with my son at the bus stop when this feeling washed over me, I can’t even recall what we were talking about.

The most hopeful feedback I received from this morning’s meeting was that time will heal this particular wound, so I need to exercise some patience.  If nothing else, I can at least feel grateful that these memories, or thoughts, or painful feelings, or whatever, are not causing me to want to give up my sobriety, which brings me to…

Today’s Miracle:

409 days sober, and even when painful thoughts arise, the obsession to alter myself chemically is gone!

My Dad

I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.  –Sigmund Freud

21 years ago today, my Dad passed away.  Does that mean he is legal up in heaven?

On this day every year, I spend a lot of time thinking about him.  He shaped so much of who I have become.  In my earliest memories, I can recall spending  a lot of energy seeking his attention.  In the adolescent years, that trend reversed, and I spent equal amounts of energy trying to avoid him at all costs.

My Dad suffered from the same demons as me, and I don’t just mean alcoholism.  I can remember, very vividly, arguing heatedly with him.   I was probably about 10 years old when he told me that he was a functional illiterate, and I did not know what that meant.  When he explained the term, I was outraged, why would he say that about himself?  It was ridiculously untrue, and he was demeaning himself by saying so.  But as much as I tried, I could not convince him otherwise.  He was “just a truck driver,” and therefore, somehow, less than.

My Dad was the guy that EVERYONE loved.  The wake we had for him lasted several hours past the time it was intended, and the line in the Church was out the door.  To this day, I make sure to get to every funeral I can for the people I love, first because my Dad taught me that was the right thing to do for the surviving family members, and second because the overwhelming support we received during that time chokes me up to this day.

Dad was, to date, the most generous person I have ever met.  When I would come home from college for visits, he always made sure to send me back with some money.  I did not realize it at the time, but often he gave me the only money he had in his wallet.  I have tears in my eyes as I type this, and if he were here, he would laugh at me… it was not at all a sacrifice for him, he was just doing what came naturally.

He was the greatest story-teller I have ever known.  He captivated me with his stories, and I believed every word he uttered.  Once, he shared the story of his first date with my Mom.  It would take too long to explain, but let’s just say he painted her in a less than favorable way (he took her to a fancy seafood restaurant, and she ordered tuna fish as her main course, just one part of this tall tale).  I later talked to my Mom about it, and she was FURIOUS, with my Dad for spinning these stories, and with me for believing them.

There are many lessons that I consciously pass on to my children that came directly from him.  Some of the more memorable things… “you are not going to learn any younger” and “stomachs can’t tell time.”   I was also blessed to have older siblings that would tip me off on how to handle him.  Dad was not much for getting into the nitty-gritty of our lives growing up, but once in a while he would decide that he needed to do his fatherly duty and sit us down to talk.  These conversations were awkward at best, painful at worst, but I was so lucky to have older sisters to coach me through it.  They told me if he ever sits you down and tells you he thinks something’s wrong with you, just tell him you’re “having problems with some friends at school.”  The conversation did happen, I followed their advice, and man was I happy to have had it!

I was 22 when he died, and still caught up in the self-centered world of school life (grad school at this point), so one of my greatest regrets is that I did not get to appreciate him while he was alive.  As a wife and mother, I wish I could tell him how much I appreciate the man he was, and the sacrifices he made for me.  I tell my husband often that the two of them would be best friends, if they had ever gotten a chance to meet… they would spend every Sunday of football season together, yelling at the screen.  And when I try to imagine how he would have been with my children, it makes me smile and cry at the same time… both of my kids would have been enchanted by him.

The best gift I can give to my Dad is to live my life in the way that he could not figure out… free of demons, and full of serenity.  My Dad was always very proud of me, and my accomplishments, but there is no doubt in my mind that he would consider my recovery my greatest accomplishment to date, and I know he is cheering me on!

Today’s Miracle:

Choosing to focus on the wonderful qualities of a person, rather than dwelling on painful memories.

 

A Series of Bottoms, Chapter 3

Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness,  and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. –Carl Jung

Okay, I just accidentally hit publish as I started typing this post.  If you received something incomplete, disregard, I am starting over…

I had written that I wanted to give up on this process the past three days, because it is tough revisiting the past, tough trying to concisely sum it up, tough putting myself out there.  But since I’ve started, I need to just get it done.

So now I’m trying to paint the picture of my experience in rehab.  How to sum up 21 days of being in an alternate universe?  The days leading up to admission were a time of complete detachment for me, it was the only way I could get through it.  And while the ride down to the facility, the admission process, and the tour of the place is crystal clear in my mind, it was like some kind of out-of-body experience, that’s how surreal it felt.

The pro’s of my time there:  since I am the type of person to thrive in any kind of educational setting, I was able to get a lot of good information from all the sessions I attended.  I shared a lot in my group settings, I made some meaningful connections with my fellow “inmates,” and I was inspired by many of the professionals who worked there.  As I became more comfortable and settled in, there was also a pleasant feeling of insulation… I felt protected, from my disease, from the absolute disaster of a life waiting for me when I got out, and from simple daily routine.  As my time grew shorter there, the anxiety built, but still, I want to list the good stuff as well as the bad.

The con’s of my time there:  probably the biggest detraction of rehab for me personally was a total lack of relatability.  I can only say this now, after reflection.  In the moment I bonded the best way I knew how, and I really did make connections.  But in looking back, absolutely no one was like me, and that hurt my ability to process the information I received.  Most of the people were much younger, it was far from their first experience (one friend I made was not yet 21, and this had been her 8th stay), and their stories with addiction were not anything that made sense to me in my frame of mind.  Again, this is a 20/20 hindsight observation, at the time I was just trying to do the best I could with the hand I was dealt.  Another major con:  I made absolutely no plans to change anything in my life once I got out.  I did not think about it, and therefore did not anticipate any issues I may encounter.  All I knew was that I had an incredibly angry husband to deal with, kids who I had to put up a falsely positive front, and a group of friends and relatives who only found out about any of this mess once I went away (that’s right, most of the major people in my life knew nothing about these problems, at my insistence).  So I chose not to make any post-rehab plans in my mind, because thinking about it was simply too painful.

I remember having a fleeting thought of being able to resume my addiction while I was in rehab.  When I say fleeting, I mean it probably lasted all of 10 seconds… it popped into my head, and my response to that thought was, “don’t worry about it, you are safe.”  I did not share the thought, and I did not revisit it for the remainder of the time I was there.  That 10-second thought came back the very first day I was home, and now that I am “back to normal life,” it came back with a vengeance.  I could not shake it, and very quickly it became an obsession that I could not ignore.  Again, in retrospect, it is all so easy to see where I went wrong, but at that point in time, I simply could not connect the dots.  And while I learned in a rhetorical way all of the tools I needed to stay sober, I had not practiced a single one, so when that obsession came over me, I did not have a choice… I had to act on it.  And, well, addicts at this point know the rest… once you act once, once you take that first drink, first anything, you are right back where you started.  And so the cycle continued, almost immediately after rehab.

Okay, deep breath, here’s the next bottom (as if resuming addiction post-rehab isn’t bad enough).  As I have been told many times, the progression of addiction is undeniable, the lengths an addict will go to become more and more extreme, and I was no exception.  In order to feed my particular addiction, I wrote yesterday that I had gotten creative, specifically with the medical profession.  Eventually these lies caught up with me in a legal way, and in early December 2011 I received a phone call from the police… bottom line, they had me dead to rights, and now, in addition to the myriad of other consequences, I have legal ones.  At this time (December) I don’t know what they are, only that they are a certainty.

Today’s story should stop there, right?  No, it does not.  In order to do this timeline justice, I need to write this next part, it should speak to the sensibilities of every addict reading this, while horrifying those who do not struggle with this disease.  Early on in the process, I met with a lawyer to discuss the next steps.  At this meeting the lawyer said something to the effect that once I am officially charged with an act, then I could never in my lifetime do it again without incredibly serious repercussions.  Due to a weird set of circumstances that would take too long to explain, I had not yet been charged with anything, and so, with the addicted mind I had (have), I really, truly, consciously drew the following conclusion:  if I could never do it again in my lifetime, then why not take advantage of the lag time between now (December) and the time I am charged?  God help me, that is how my mind worked, and that I exactly how I proceeded, for the following month.

Tomorrow, praise God, will be the final chapter in this saga.

Today’s Miracle:

In this moment, the miracle is that tomorrow, praise God, is the final chapter, and I can then get back to happier posts.

 

A Series of Bottoms, Chapter 1

It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light. –Aristotle Onassis

I have been back and forth about the following series of posts I am about to write (so obviously you know which way I decided).  On the one hand, I believe describing the events that led me into recovery is helpful for me personally, so I will always remember from whence I came.  Plus, as any recovery program will attest, sharing my experience, strength and hope will benefit the people around me as well (at least I hope it will).

On the other hand, and I cannot stress this part strongly enough, I have two different kinds of readers of this blog:  the community I have come to know and love, and the readers who have known and have loved me my whole life.  It is to this second group I am making the following statement:  the next several posts will be rough reading for you.  I am going to write candidly here about what is was like before I came into recovery.  If you want to read on, please do so at your own risk.

I am going to start my series of bottoms when I first attempted recovery.  By the end of this week, if you have read all of my posts, it will be as if you have come to an AA meeting where I was the guest speaker.   I took the first step of my journey to recovery in the winter of 2011.  I believe it was sometime in February when my husband sat me down and said he knew there was something wrong with me, but he couldn’t quite figure out what it was.  I believe at the time I blamed it on winter blues, mixed in with some sadness because it was around the anniversary of my Father’s death (of course, he had been dead for 19 years, but hey, I can still be sad, right?).  The reality was that I was abusing prescription pills, basically, anything I could get my hands on.  It had started with back problems, and a referral to a pain management specialist a few years before, but by this point had escalated… basically, if you told me it was addictive, I wanted to take it.  At this point I had a vague sense that what I was doing was none too smart, but my rationalization was if it was legitimately prescribed for me, then how bad could it really be?

This particular bottom (and there will be more) culminated in April of 2011, when my husband got a more definitive grasp (though still not complete) of the nature of my problem; namely, prescription drugs.  He insisted I get help, and so I sought out treatment in an outpatient rehab near my house.  I actually completed that treatment, at least according to their paperwork, although I’m not sure how they could have, in good faith, let me “graduate.”  Because I was nowhere near accepting my disease in any way, shape or form.

Here’s what I was able to accomplish during that 6-week period.  Going into that treatment program, I was regularly abusing 3 different types of prescription drugs, in addition to drinking on a regular basis.  So my thought process at that point was:  okay, there is clearly a problem, and the problem is doing way too many different things.  Why not control it by eliminating what is not necessary or fun?  Alcohol, oddly enough, was the first to go, particularly because it caused me the most problems (if I had one glass of wine, the entire world knew it).  Next in line were what I would consider “extraneous” prescription drugs… the drugs I took because I was told they were “relaxing,” when in fact they did absolutely nothing for me.  That left what I have come to realize was my drug of choice, prescription pain pills.  At this time I had a regular, legitimate prescription waiting for me each and every month, and the idea of giving that up was as foreign to me as the idea of giving up water… simply not an option.  So I gave up everything else, but the one drug, and thought, alright, then, I am cured.  I will just narrow it down to one vice, how bad could it get?

We can all see where this is going, too bad I didn’t… Stay tuned for the next bottom…

Today’s Miracle:

There are two:  having the courage to write this down, and that someone has read far enough to get to this section!

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