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M(3), 6/29/15: Loneliness Vs. Solitude

Today is the fifth Monday in the month of June, and I am at a point with my meetings that I dread months with 5 Mondays. Which, when you think about it, is beyond silly, since I am the only person that pays attention to the literature rotation from one Monday to the next.

So I stress about choosing a reading selection each time a fifth Monday pops up, I change my mind a whole bunch of times, and it always works out okay.  Just like today, when I switched at the last-minute and read from the book Came To Believe, a collection of stories, written by members of Alcoholics Anonymous, that describe how they came to find a God of their understanding.

A few things made the meeting exciting.  First, a gentleman who has come to be known as a regular attendee celebrated 90 days of sobriety, a huge milestone in this writer’s opinion!  Second, although we were on the low side of normal in terms of attendance, we ran out of time in terms of sharing.  Always the sign of a good meeting.

The topic that seemed to grab the attention of the majority was loneliness, and it’s counterpart, solitude.  By the chapter’s definition solitude is the joy of being alone, whereas loneliness describes the pain associated with aloneness.  Two sides of the same coin.  Most recovering alcoholics, at least most of whom I’ve heard share on this subject, directly relate the pain of loneliness to their drinking activity.  They experienced loneliness, whether by themselves, with family, or in a crowd of people, and so they drank to escape that feeling.  Initially, the effects of alcohol worked for a time, but in most cases wound up creating the isolation they drank to escape in the first place.  Many who shared today claimed this vicious cycle as their own, and added further that the lonely feeling was a lifelong one.

The chapter read this morning speaks of using alone time to our advantage rather than fearing it:  quiet reflection, taking our inventories, prayer and meditation.  In time, the author reports, we will anticipate with relish our solitude.

In the meeting, most reported a turnaround in thinking with respect to alone time.  Once a time to be restless and discontent, all who shared now look forward to quiet time to do all the suggestions listed above.

The 90-days-sober-attendee said he vacillates in his perspective of his alone time.  Some days, he can have a bad attitude about it, and reflect miserably that it’s another night spent alone while all of his friends are out socializing and doing all the things in which he used to be able to engage.  When his perspective is such, nothing makes him happy.  Other times, he looks forward to his alone time as a way to decompress and shut down his overactive brain.  He is hopeful that over time the latter attitude will come more naturally than the former.

Another gentleman, a 12-step long-timer and a religious professional, cites his lifestyle can be the perfect balance of both: he is required to spend time in prayer and meditation, and can head to his room anytime he needs solitude.  Conversely, his weekends are filled with hundreds of people when all is said and done, as he performs his ministerial duties.  Of course, he is human, and so once in a while the balance tips in favor of one or the other, but he is careful to keep that balance in check.

Another long-timer shared that he has a similar set of issues as the 90-days-sober attendee.  As a single man, some days he feels very alone, with no one to care for him.  Other days, he is deeply appreciative of the people who are in his life.  The important thing for him is that when he is feeling the pangs of loneliness, he must acknowledge and take action to correct so that it does not drag on indefinitely.  His active alcoholism, he remembers, was mired in loneliness, and he consciously drank to fill that hole of loneliness in his life.  His best remedy to correct?  A gratitude list, so simple and yet so powerful.  He reminds himself of how many good people are in his life, and that usually does the trick!

A sideline discussion came about in terms of whether you can feel connected in terms of computer usage; specifically, online connection.  Some felt that the connection derived from the internet is not an authentic one, and we are better served with live interaction, others felt that connecting anonymously with others is just as beneficial to their sobriety.

As a blogger for over 3 years, I imagine you all can guess which side of the debate I land.  Happy Monday to all!

Today’s Miracle:

The honor of handing the 90-day coin out this morning is a miracle I hope I never take for granted!

A Valentine’s Story

It is February 14th, 2001.   It’s a Hump Day, and, other than the vague recollection that it is loosely considered a holiday,  a completely normal day for me.

Let me take a second to describe what a completely normal day looked like in 2001.  At this point I have been married for 15 months, a homeowner for 21 months, a mother for less than 9 months.  In other words, life moved pretty fast in those two years that preceded Valentine’s Day 2001.

Of all the decisions we made during that time, the biggest game-changer was the birth of our daughter, but not in the way you might think.  Well, yes, it certainly did change life in the way you might think, but we had some additional circumstances arise that set different chains of events in motion.  It should also go without saying that I am using the term “decision” loosely, as it would imply that we put a lot of time and effort into making whatever change we were making; the impetuosity of youth laughed in the face of any kind of future planning!

Reilly arrived 8 weeks early; we expected her in July, she decided she wanted out in the Spring instead.  So now, here we sit, brand new parents who didn’t think too far in advance what parenthood would entail, with a child that was fragile, to say the least.  She spent 3 weeks in the NICU before she came home to us, and by the grace of God came home small, but otherwise perfect.

What now?  For us, daycare was out of the question… how could we think of putting this little peanut into the hands of strangers?  On the other hand, we were young nowhere near what one might consider “financially solvent” (remember, young, recently married, recent homeowners).  So we scramble, and come up with a plan:  I will work part-time, my husband will switch to a second shift, and a family member will cover the approximately 8 hours that are uncovered.  Again, the grace of God was present that this all worked out.

So, teeny tiny daughter:  covered.  Mortgage payment:  covered.  Time spent as newlyweds?  Not so much.   Each day, my husband had the morning shift with Reilly while I rushed out to work, I came home, mid-day, he waited long enough for me to get changed, and off he went.  By the time he got home, I was in bed.  And so it continued, day in and day out.

I should add here that absolutely none of this is a complaint; in fact, far from it.  The down-side of youth:  decision-making without a lot of foresight.  The upside of life:  no real consideration that there is another option.  This was life, and life was good!

Back to the present (the present being, of course, 2001, come on, keep up!).  Usual Wednesday routine, up early, work a half day, rush in the door to get changed so my husband could get to his job on time.  I run up to our bedroom (no small feat, our bedroom was on the third floor of the townhouse).  Husband is lounging on the bed, but I am paying zero attention, I breeze by him and call over my shoulder, “Just give me two seconds to get change, and you can go.”  I do a quick change in the closet, somewhat wondering why he has not moved off the bed.  I come back into the bedroom to announce he is free to go, and I finally look at him… still lounging, and in lounge wear (which for us means sweats and t-shirts).  I am dismayed.  “What’s going on?  You’ve got to go!”

No, he does not.  While I have been only briefly considering the holiday, my husband has not.  He took the day off from work, and he had meals and entertainment all lined up for us, all I had to do was sit back and hold our unbelievably agreeable infant while he prepared things.

It was the most wonderfully relaxing, chock full of surprises, decadently leisure-filled day that we spend since our honeymoon.  We had fried pickles, which I had never even heard of before that day, let alone tried… delicious, and now every time I see them on a restaurant menu I smile.  We had a shredded pork recipe that my husband borrowed from my Mom, and, the piece de resistance?  Watching my all-time favorite movie at the time, Sixteen Candles (absolutely still in the top 5).

The element of surprise, the change-up from the regular routine, the detailed thoughtfulness, and the luxurious decadence all combined to make February 14, 2001 my favorite Valentine’s Day ever.

Today’s Miracle:

A very happy birthday to the first Valentine’s baby I’ve known… my sister!  Hope it’s a great day, sis!

Second miracle:  attempting a WordPress writing challenge!  I have been challenged by:  http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/writing-challenge-valentine/

Monday Meeting Miracles: 12/2

I would like to note:  my recent holiday was absolutely, miraculously, stress-free, a fact for which I am truly grateful, because I know that many cannot say the same.

I have been absent from WordPress for close to a week now, there is lots going on, much to write about, but for continuity I want to recap yesterday’s meeting.  I am hopeful to be back on track now that the kiddies have gone back to school (are my kids the only school district in the universe to have off  Thanksgiving Monday?  Is Thanksgiving Monday even a thing?).

Yesterday’s meeting, in the rotating literature format, was a Big Book meeting.  I selected the very last personal story in the book, entitled “AA Taught Him To Handle Sobriety.”  This selection was a deliberate one that relates directly to events in my personal life, which I will write about in the upcoming weeks, but the main take-away that I received from the story is this:  it is no great feat to stop drinking, quite probably most of us who call ourselves alcoholics have stopped drinking at various points in our lives.  The real challenge for an alcoholic is to stay stopped. So how does that work?  To use the author’s words:

By learning- through practicing the Twelve Steps and through sharing at meetings- how to cope with the problems that we looked to booze to solve, back in our drinking days. -Pg. 559, Alcoholics Anonymous

There is, of course, so much more to this gentleman’s story, I would encourage anyone to read his message of experience, strength and hope.

The shares that followed took an interesting turn into the trials and tribulations that come with being part of a family unit.  I believe I am correct in assuming that the recent American holiday of Thanksgiving, and the subsequent family rituals that go along with the celebration, played a direct role in the angst about which people were sharing.  All sorts of different issues were discussed, but the bottom line for each person was this:  resentment is the end result, and resentment is the one thing an alcoholic cannot afford to cultivate.

Even though this holiday is over, the next one is on the horizon, so how does someone in recovery handle it?  The first step is to talk about it, get it out, shine a light on the dark thoughts racing around the mind.

The next, and somewhat illuminating, message that came out of the meeting (at least for me, anyway):  spin the resentment around, and look for that which you are grateful.  If nothing else, if every person in your life is doing you wrong, and you feel that you are the only person doing right, then be grateful that:  you are handling yourself with dignity and grace.  Could you have made that statement in active addiction?  God knows I couldn’t!

Get out of victim mode and see what you can do to better the situation; if you can’t find anything to do, then find a situation you can make better.  This last piece comes with a lifetime guarantee:  if you get out of your own head long enough to help somebody else, you will go a long way to feeling better about the resentment with which you started.

Today’s Miracle:

So many to choose from.. how about this:  it is December 3rd, my Christmas cards are out, the house is decorated, and the bulk of my shopping is done.  I can tell you, in my 44 years, I have never been able to string those words together, and have them be true!

Everything Happens For A Reason

This past week I have been struggling with a family issue… divorce, where the ex-family member is wreaking havoc in the lives of those I care deeply. It has bothered me for any number of reasons, but the primary issue has been that I have not been able to apply the principles of recovery to solve the problem. Yes, I have prayed for the idiot, but I would like to be able to help give some peace to the family members I love, and I haven’t been able to figure out a way to do it. So this morning as I was fixing my hair, I was (again) trying to come up with something I could share that would help her, and her children, and I had a God moment… maybe all these things are happening to teach her something, and so it may be time to analyze the problem from that perspective in order to get some clarity. Because, no lie, this issue has been going on for more than 5 years, and there are children involved, so something needs to give, and since we can’t control the idiot himself, we have to look elsewhere to get some peace. So I felt some comfort in this train of thought, and decided to write about this subject today. As I logged onto to WordPress, this giant banner is what greeted me. Coincidence?

Bright, shiny objects!

Live Life Quotes, Love Life Quotes, Live Life Happy

via Everything Happens For A Reason.

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15,706 Days

God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well. -Voltaire

Today, on the anniversary of my birth, I am grateful for:

  • a chance to live a life beyond my wildest dreams
  • the love and support of my family and life-long friends
  • the love and support of my new friends in AA and in WordPress
  • the chance to share my experience, strength and hope at my meeting this morning
  • my kids finding a song called “Happy Birthday Joanna” (not my name, but close enough) on iTunes and playing it for me this morning
  • the pink roses and venti skinny vanilla latte my husband had waiting for me when I got up this morning!

Note to all my college friends… I will be 42 until 6:30 this evening, so you are all still a year older than me (except for my husband, who is, I don’t know, in his late twenties?)…

Have a wonderful day, I know I will!

 

 

 

The Evolution of a Blog

Blogging is an art, same as any other method of self-expression. Some are better at it than others.  -Hugh MacLeod

In early sobriety, I had begun writing in a journal in an attempt to track my rollercoaster of emotions.  A few weeks into that process, a very good friend suggested that I should instead start a blog and share my experiences more publicly.  My response was a polite but disdainful refusal.  I believe I said something to the effect of, “there is no way I would do something as self-indulgent as that.”  Her response was much more direct, and much less polite:  “you have no idea what blogging really is and how can you be living in 2012 and not understand social media?”  I am truly blessed to have friends who tell it like it is, because I did not understand blogging at all.

So I created my membership at WordPress.  At first, my posts were more or less a documentary of what was happening in my life, and how life can improve by staying sober and connected in a 12-step program.

After a few weeks, I received a notification that I did not understand, and I had to ask my husband what it meant.  He explained that I had a follower, which I then had to have further explained that she would now receive a notification every time I wrote something.  I will not soon forget the feeling of astonishment that someone I did not know was regularly reading my thoughts.  I was not kidding when I said I did not understand the concept of blogging.

I then tapped into my keen logic, and realized that since people are following me, then perhaps it might be helpful (not to mention polite) to follow my comrades in the blogosphere (did I mention how bright I am?).  The decision to follow other blogs has brought me such a wealth of experience, strength and hope, it is like having a 12-step meeting in the computer room of my home.

As the months have gone by, and life has gotten progressively better, I have come to think of blogging as a necessary part of my recovery, something I have come to rely upon the way I rely upon 12-step meetings… I just do it, and I feel really good each time I complete a post.

I realized yesterday that I have reached a new stage in my blogging career.  Not only do I get a sense of satisfaction out of completing a post, not only am I rewarded with things like “likes” and insightful comments from friends and followers, but now I am actively using this community to guide with me with life issues.  Yesterday I wrote about a problem, and yesterday the problem was resolved in multiple, useful ways with people whose opinions I have come to respect, although I have never met them personally.  The feeling of community I am experiencing is mind-blowing for someone who, 6 short months ago, believed blogging was a bunch of self-indulgent tripe!

So, to sum up, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for all the positive support, and all the spot-on advice I have received.  I truly appreciate all of these gifts, and I will do my best to pay it forward.

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