Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Get Another Day ...

Spirit Warrior
Originally uploaded by ༺lifemage༻

Many wise folks in the rooms of recovery tout that "Time means shit."
The only thing that we have to be concerned about is that we "get another day". This is what the guys in my Tuesday night meeting often shout across the room after someone announces their anniversary.

I received news in a Big Book meeting last night about a member of our AA community who will not get another day. He had 17 years up until Sunday. He then decided to take his own life by putting a bullet through his head. Just 2 months ago, this very man shared in a Saturday morning meeting that he needed to tell the room that he was so angry and frustrated on his job that he bought a gun and that he didn't want to hurt anyone. As I shared this with a beloved person and fellow traveler of the rooms last evening, she validated how I and the rest of the meeting members that day had our first exposure to the violence that he would eventually turn on himself. It was startling for me and it reminded me about all of the time I was accumulating not drinking yet not going to meetings and wondering what I would have been capable of. All it takes is the flip of a switch in one's mind.

Each day is different than the one before or the one to follow. It is a reminder about truly living moment to moment, with an intention to be physically, mentally, and spiritually sober.

Yesterday, I had deeply connected conversations with several people in my life. I was moved by the meeting I attended. Today began completely differently. After a fitful, restless sleep, I was awokened by noisy machinery in the basement underneath me -- men beginning some kind of work at 7am. I was completely irritated. I decided to just "go with it" and get up to start my day. I forgot to pray or read my daily reflection and went straight into the shower. I got online to see my paystub from teaching the summer course I just finished and the difference between my gross and net pay is a thousand-fuckin dollars ! More irritation escalating to agitation. I paused. I stopped to have a chat with God while sitting on the toilet stewing. I felt better afterwards and it brought me into a place of gratitude and acceptance about "what is". Taxes are a necessary evil that, in this case, I cannot take my will back and try to maneuver or manipulate.

My mission going forward into the rest of this balmy Tuesday is to simply get another day ...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Certain about Uncertainty

The Eiffel Tower
Originally uploaded by Ben Heine

It is an unfamiliar and strangely calm feeling that I have had all week. Like having a lower half made of the most sturdy material and feeling the imprint of my soles with each step I take.

It involves being quite certain about uncertainty. An absolute solid centeredness in the middle of the absolute unknown. The gravitational pull downward and inward in the vortex of life swirling all around me.

I have asked myself several times: "Are you making this up and just trying not to shatter?" to which I reply very assuredly: "Nope. This is what it feels like to be in life in a real, honest, way."

My head is not filled with things like making plans or worry or wondering about what the future holds. I can feel the denseness of my inside, like a wood pole through my core. I am not shaky or trembly or otherwise unsteady.

My God-voice is whispering: "You are ok no matter what."

I trust this. I believe what my interior is telling me. It's very fucking cool.

What I know for sure is this: I do not know anything past this moment. I have never lived here in this way. It's very free-ing to not be concerned about anything beyond what is right here in front of me.

This is what it feels like to be certain about uncertainty. I can, without a shadow of a doubt, not tell you about what will be here for me this evening. Or tomorrow morning. Or 2 weeks from now. Or a month. It is a deep deep trust and surrender to the unfolding of my life aligned with God's plan.

I want to meet each moment of it ... I don't want to miss a thing !

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sunlit Roads Woven within the Dark Places ...

We Are Blind, the Sky Is Not
Originally uploaded by Ben Heine

One of the lines in a problem-solving practice developed by our teacher Jason is this: "There are sunlit roads woven within the dark places." Followed by: "Both are needed."

The sharing of 2 people in my AA women's meeting tonight illuminated these statements.

One woman had left the rooms for a year. She picked up after being laid off. A DUI followed by an overdose attempt and a subsequent psychiatric hospitalization brought her to a place of calm and peace for a week now that she had not known before.

Another woman just found out that a family friend died of alcoholic-related complications. The friend's passing brought her into connection with the father and a sister with whom she had lost contact. The news brought her into a deep realization of how lucky she is to be alive, to not have been the one taken by the bottle.

The path of self destruction is dimly lit, sometimes pitch black. Some people, like the first woman who shared, are able to get "plugged in" and the bulb shines brighter. Others, like the 2nd woman's friend, will see a different kind of light on another plane, perhaps getting the opportunity to see the "life in review" slideshow and take notes for the next trip back to earth.

I, for one, am glad to have found the light switch in my darkest hours. Not once, not twice, but at least 3 times. Dropped the bottle. Then the girl. Then my pride.

I would not have been able to see the light that was present in the distance without the contrast of the black all around me. I really get this today. I also understand that when the view is barely visible, it has to do with my forgetting that God is right here with me. Every time I have lost my way and believed that God is "out there" and I'm "way over here", that there are miles of separation between us, I have God in my blindspot. Sometimes God is totally out of the picture.

To me, God's presence is each sunlit road that Jason speaks of. It is God's beacon of luminescence, like that on a lighthouse, that calls to us when we forget, when we believe we're alone and small and separate. Some of us, sometimes, can only take in the beckoning of God's light when we're cowered in our own murky shadows.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The room that holds our secrets ...

circle of friends
Originally uploaded by Jenser (Clasix-Design)

I was inspired in the telling of my story at an AA meeting tonight by a friend who spoke for me at a meeting last night. She shared, free of shame, the dangerous places that alcohol took her to. As we spoke afterwards, I was aware of how I have cut out the "ugly parts" of my story when I am asked to share and how critical it is for me to remember the unsafe, high-risk, near-death experiences that alcohol found me in, because these are the very memories that will keep me sober.

In my sharing tonight, I spoke about the fact that when I was 21 years old, a senior in college, I was raped. I was very very drunk. The part that I played in this was that I put myself directly in a situation in which I could not discern right from wrong, good from bad, safe from unsafe. When I wanted "out" of the scenario, it was too late; it had already gone beyond the point that I could be respected or taken seriously. Here's the kicker: I got pregnant. Having an abortion at that time was a no-brainer. Ain't no way I was gonna be a momma -- I had too much partying to do. Walking through the picket lines of pro-lifers who were telling me what a sinner I was did not have one iota of influence on my behavior or my drinking. I would down a bottle of Jack Daniels that day just to make the point.

I had scrapes with the law. I put countless strangers in danger each time that I got behind the wheel while bombed out of my gourd. I peed on myself more times than I'd care to count. I arrived as the maid of honor of my best friend's wedding drunk, having fallen on my face into a concrete floor just 5 days before and made a feeble attempt to camoflauge the stitches and busted lip with a cover-up product. Alcohol made me forget I had any sense of dignity or regard for others. This is the selfishness that is plastered all over the passages of the Big Book.

A key piece of my story that is most important for me to share is my self-hatred and internalized homophobia regarding the awareness of my sexual orientation and how I drank in an attempt to wipe it out of my memory banks and my being. I could not bear to live the truth of who I was because of what others thought, what society thought.
My coming out was a very pivotal action directly associated with putting down the bottle; they happened within 1 month of each other.

This particular telling of my drunk tale was on the heels of a profound healing weekend, centered around being in reality, in truth, in life fully and completely as it is. The way in which I was seated to share at the meeting tonight, I understood and felt the importance of speaking my truth, without care or concern for what anyone thought of me. This is such a contrast to the 4-plus decades of saying only what would be pleasing to others, that would put me in a favorable light, that was only a smidge of truth and sometimes just an outright lie. It is liberating and such a relief when you know it's "just the truth" -- there is no more to explain, to qualify, to defend.

The greatest gift from tonight was that several others were able to attain that same freedom as they too had similar experiences as mine to acknowledge and share. This is what bonds us to one another, even if nothing about us outside of our alcoholism does.
And we never have to fear being judged or condemned or shamed.
The fellowship of AA is the room that holds our secrets.

Monday, June 21, 2010

No Choice But to Love ...

Have a little faith in me
Originally uploaded by Igor Alecsander

I posed a question yesterday in my non-dual healing school to our teacher Jason, who spent the afternoon with all of us as our 4th year class came to a close. The question was about the relationship to being in Malchut -- being in the place of meeting life as it is -- AND our kavanah -- the trustworthy intention to be in integrity in our actions and interactions with the world. The bottom line of his exploration aloud with us boiled down to this profound statement:
"I have no choice but to love".

My sponsor in AA often shares that her primary reason to not pick up a drink and stay sober, even after the love of her life died nearly 2 years ago, is because she has no choice but to be here and to love what is here -- be it an alcoholic who is struggling, her sponsees, or the stray cats who find their way to her home. This is what gets her out of bed each morning, amid the bouts of unbearable missing and longing for her husband to re-appear and to hold her hand once more.

"I have no choice but to love" is a mantra that I shall adopt as I meet each moment, each day in the unknowns of my life, such as my significant relationship with a woman I love who doesn't know if she can or wants to make the choice to be in a partnership with me.

My choiceless choice to love brings me fully into relationship with life as it presents itself before me. This is more likely to happen when I am able to meet life with fresh eyes and not clouded with old stories of woundedness and history. This will allow me to see people and situations for exactly who and what they are, instead of some idealized, fantasized or otherwise distorted view.

I've often thought that having an exciting relationship with the unknown sounded fantastic in theory, yet it still terrified me on some level to have this be actualized as a real lived experience. The funny thing is: I AM living it ! Right now, in this moment. I may not be in another moment in time and then I'll need to re-commit to a "do-over" and try, try again.

As I left the healing retreat weekend, I spent last night and a good portion of today by the sea. I have never gone to a bed and breakfast by myself and for myself. In the past, I would have fallen into a well of self-pity over the fact that I would be spending my actual birthday alone and no plans would have been even considered. This paradigm shift opened me up to explore and play with "I have no choice but to love" . Strolling amid the shells and sand and water, I looked at every person I passed. I smiled and said "Hello" or commented about something that struck me about them. I noticed myself, in my newly 48 year old body, and made the choice to love the aesthetically pleasing parts, like my tattoos, along with the cellulite jiggling on my thighs and my belly roll protruding subtly over my bikini bottom. I sighed aloud at the exquisiteness of the spaces in between the cirrus-like clouds above me and how necessary those gaps are so that the puffy white matter can exist. Even the tattered seagulls noisily pleading to have a piece of people's lunches were worthy of loving.

Resistance, denial, suppression, and projection have all failed me miserably as ways of being in the world. I have no choice but to love.

48 years and 1 day on earth ...

Sunset surfing
Originally uploaded by Alec Rain

The entry to my 48th birthday took place at my non-dual healing school. An intimate, laughter-filled celebration the night before with these souls I've traveled with for four years took place in my hotel room, followed by a beautiful chorus of "Happy Birthday" sung by my entire class on the actual morning of my birthday.

The essence of the healing retreat was about a particular territory on the Tree of Life, Malchut, and our descent there ... wanting to enter life and meet life fully, as it is. It is about meeting our humanity and the true compassion in doing that in every, single moment.

I felt the embodiment of this descent into my life as it is on this very birthday. Part of this was about speaking my truth with the woman I love and she with me while on this retreat. We had the bravest dialogues we've ever engaged in for the entire time we've known one another. Our process of negotiating our relationship has entered into a place of "I don't know" ... not of ambivalence but of the honest fact of it. That we each do not come with a guarantee. Much of this has to do with the willingness to really be in life with one another, with the knowledge that each of us will die. This reality of life and death is also what the descent into Malchut entails. I want to take this leap into the unknown with this woman I love.

Another aspect of this reality is that I am still traveling solo in this journey. For now. For this moment. In honoring myself in the process, particularly on my birthday, I traveled to a quaint bed and breakfast last evening. After settling my few things into my room, I strolled the beach at sunset. I deeply took in the wafts of sea spray and beach air into my nostrils and my being. I loved the feel of the soft sand between my toes. I walked the tiny boardwalk to a dinner spot recommended by a few folks. I got an oceanview table on the restaurant's huge balcony. As I sat awaiting my meal, I thanked God for this wild, glorious, turbulent, exciting 48 year ride. It was a miracle that I should sit here in this moment. I felt the celebration of where I've traveled from and I felt the bittersweetness of loss and longing. I welcomed all of these things to join me for my birthday dinner. The greatest surprise of the night was a not-so-chance meeting of a Turkish family seated next to me. We chatted like long lost family. When they found out it was my birthday, they had a cake and ice cream brought out and sang to me. They invited me to sit with them as they gathered for their Father's Day celebration. This is the blessing and gift, I believe, of wanting to meet life right where it is.

I walked home along the ocean with the bright moon at my back. I slept with a beaming smile around my heart.

I will walk downstairs momentarily to enjoy a hot breakfast on the sun porch and then bask in the light of the Universe as I spend my day on the beach, with no plans and no expectations.

48 years and 1 day on earth is exactly where I am supposed to be ...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Breakable Girls and Boys ...

Looking to the future!
Originally uploaded by Haggis Chick

There is a song by Ingrid Michaelson that touches me in a place where I feel the remnants of my broken places deep inside ... a very small place. A video of her song is below.

This arose after a couple of tender encounters with some friends in my AA community last evening who shared about their own struggles, from these very small places inside of them too. One friend, whose birthday is today, contemplated getting completely wasted on his 52nd birthday because he had not yet accomplished what he thought he should have by now. In his 18 plus years of sobriety,  it was deeply painful to look at how he has measured himself up to societal standards of success. Sharing this in the fellowship helped him recognize the living miracle and success that he is, just as he is. Another friend shared how sleeping alone in her parents' home still brings terror and that she would be doing so over the next few days while her parents were on vacation. A horrific event happened while she was alone in this very house and it still haunts her as an adult. She does not want to drink over this anymore.

As Divinely timed as always, I open my teacher Jason's book today. His opening passage is as follows: "The hard work of truly awakening involves getting a clear idea of just how much of reality we cannot hold, of how much of life we cannot bear. We need to see how liimited we really are. Then we will have the chance to meet God in reality and not in the fateful fantasy of saving or punishing ourselves."

This passage brings an interesting perspective for me: remaining in my "Woe is me" identity found me believing I was very limited in terms of how much I could truly bear of my life; stepping out of this victimized personality has actually found me being able to hold much more reality and bear much more in my life than I ever imagined possible. What I am taking away, however, from this passage is the fact that I do not have to always have an ever-expansive container or be able to meet all of reality all of the time; to stay in this idealized place would be saving myself from feeling my fragility and my limitations. This recognition of the crossroads where I "break" is the very place I meet God in too.    As I learned a number of months back: Quan Yin gets angry. I would now venture to speculate: and she feels where she cannot hold and bear suffering. This is perhaps what makes her that much more compassionate.

As I really let this work through me I realize that some of the most precious conversations I have had with God in prayer start something like this: "God, I need you to hold ______. I am struggling and I don't feel like I can do this right now..." It is this kind of admission to God that really does bring me in closer relationship -- an awareness that I am not able to bear something and that I need help to have it held. In this moment, I am actually feeling what "surrendering" really is ... lot of tears coming right now ...

We are just breakable, breakable, breakable girls and boys ...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


~ Tricks For Treats ~
Originally uploaded by ViaMoi

I have been experiencing deeply felt open-hearted tenderness over the past 24 hours. What has moved me the most is the allowance of deeply taking in others, feeling myself feel the beauty right in front of me.

This morning, I open my teacher Jason's book. And this is the passage: "Having an 'open heart' does not mean being 'happy'. It does not mean being spiritual or wise or anything at all. It means to have an open attitude toward ourselves."

No freakin way. You just can't make this shit up !

My experiences of the past day have truly been a gentle kindness toward my own self and the desire to be fully engaged in life from this place. Jason goes on in his passage to say this: "The action we want is love-in-action, the extending of the hand of friendship toward our own being." Yesterday, I went to see a client of mine who's been at a more institutional type place due to a recurrence in mental health symptoms and a need for respite until a more structured setting can be procured for him. This is the very place I first met him last summer. My last 2 visits involved him screaming as soon as he saw me and asking me to leave. I felt like I was not doing something right or that I failed him in some way, as we've always had a strong connection. On my drive there yesterday, I realized that I was taking his instability personally and that this was not about me but simply about what he is able to tolerate right now. I softened on my drive, recognizing my character defect of perfectionism seeping through, and I could literally feel my heart open toward this imperfect part of myself. I entered the building to see him while being in this very open, vulnerable place. Instead of forcing an interaction, I quietly came to the dayroom where he was and sat nearby. He looked over and said: "Hey ... what's up?" He walked over and hugged me, a very soft embrace with all that he could muster up in his very sedated state. It was the most beautiful interaction I had ever had with him and it was effortless. We sat outside in "our spot" from last year and he eventually asked me when he was leaving this place and could we do our deep breathing. And here's the thing: I had nothing to do with this. It was about letting my heart open to myself and my need to have things be a certain way, and really letting go. And this beautiful young man had enough room to just be himself too. What an invaluable lesson.

The last part of this passage is what really dropped me to my knees: "This morning, bow down to yourself. It is not a selfish or egotistical thing to do -- you are bowing to your real self, with all of its whole and broken pieces."

I went to my bathroom mirror and looked into my own eyes. I bowed to the woman I saw across from me. I saw her, probably for the first time, in this way. I can't even believe that it is possible to see oneself in such a loving, tender, sweet way. The tears streamed down my face as I told my real self that I accept her -- all parts -- the charming, humorous ones and the broken, small self, selfish ones.

I had no idea how powerful and touching it could be to experience true open-heartedness.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

No Regrets ...

Open Door Policy
Originally uploaded by JLMphoto

One of my favorite lines in "The Promises" is: "We will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it." Today, in a reunion with college friends (who were former drinking buddies), these words came vividly to light.

I haven't seen this group of women in a couple years. The last few times that we did get together, it was always in a pub and there was a lot of drinking and the telling of stories from our college partying days -- many of which centered around the hilarity of my drunken antics. These get togethers down memory lane were painful and embarassing and, when I returned to AA meetings last year, I emailed this group of women to share that I was not comfortable in meeting up with them in drinking establishments.

Today's gathering was completely different. It was held at the home of one of the women in our circle. There was NO alcohol. After everyone arrived and we got settled into the livingroom with beverages and appetizers, some of the familiar storytelling began. My experience in taking this in, having now been working a recovery program solidly for a year and a half, was also very different. I shared very openly about my understanding of the extent and intensity of my alcoholism, which took off during my college years. I spoke about the recognition I've had about how my drinking was not like theirs (i.e. they didn't wake up in the morning shaking and, out of desperation to stop the trembling, drink warm beer leftover in other people's plastic cups from the night before). I did not have any shame when I shared these awarenesses with my friends and I had no regrets for the ways in which I conducted myself so grossly inappropriately. I wanted to relay to them how my disease progressed long after we left the college campus and how they were able to be social, weekend drinkers for the most part while I needed to drink multiple times daily just to function. And that I was no longer having a "good time" even though it appeared on the surface that I was.

I shared with this group of friends the kinds of things I engaged in that required me to make amends to them: stealing money out of the hoagie shop cash register and buying them drinks at the bar with the stolen loot; driving some of them in my car when I was well over the legal limit for alcohol consumption and not sharing that I had been drinking for most of the day before picking them up to go out. I also disclosed where my drinking/drug use took me, like getting arrested with my drug dealer boyfriend for cocaine possession.

I probably spoke for about a half an hour or so and the room was silent. I didn't feel any discomfort or awkwardness present in my friends; in fact, I felt them move in closer and I watched them look at me with a different set of eyes and regard me with respect. I realized today that if I am to maintain on-going contact with this circle of women who I've known for nearly 30 years, I needed to open up the door to my past -- wide open -- and with no regrets. This is what AA has taught me to do.

And with this door swung open wide, there was that much more room for intimacy and especially for laughter -- the kind that erupts from deep in the belly til your sides ache. The laughing was no longer at my expense but in unison, collectively. There was deep appreciation and gratitude felt in that room today for the simple fact that a group of people with so much history together were still willing to be in one another's lives after all these years.

I am still smiling. I have no regrets ...

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Ultimate Container

Bryce 7
Originally uploaded by joneill517

In Jason's book, he speaks of God as the Ultimate Container: holding but not containing, containing yet allowing. He goes on to make this powerful statement: "To hold God, you need a Universe; when you allow God to enter your body as well as your mind, you ARE that Universe !"

At the end of the entire passage, he simply says: "Feel this." THAT is the part that really got to me. Shot straight in and yet I can barely wrap my brain around it. That may be the issue right there. It's not a mind/thinking concept, but a heart/feeling one. And beyond even that.

I closed my eyes for a few minutes and moved away from my laptop.
I let myself really "take in" , as much as I could, the idea that I can allow God to enter my entire being and when I do that, I am the Ultimate Container too. A contagious smile began to form from the inside, way down starting at the tips of my toes, and I wanted to burst out in fits of giggling. I got very tingly. My eyebrows wanted to touch the ceiling ! For these few minutes, nothing mattered and everything was significant.

I think I'm going to make this a regular practice and include it with my Impersonal Movement. I'll call it: "Feeling the God Container."


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Faces of Love and Hate

Red all over. . .
Originally uploaded by Keir D. Chapple

In my teacher Jason's book, there is a passage that says, "... we are born with the inherent ability to see all of reality, with its contradictions and opposites. When our God is very small, these contradictions and opposites feel dangerous to us. But when God is allowed to be God again ... these same things just make us feel alive."

I did not have a real felt sense of the words in this passage until an experience with a man in my training class today brought them vividly to life.

At an agency where I do a substantial amount of workshops, I facilitated a Sexuality Awareness training. I have only offered this a couple of times. A man around my age sat in the back of the class and I had never met him before. He has been with the agency just under 1 month. One of the discussions in this training is about how our values and belief systems impact how we view sexuality. This man made it known quickly that things like masturbation and homosexuality were sins, abominations and that it is pointed out in the Bible. I could feel the temperature of my blood rising as it coursed through my veins. This man made it known that he was a Jehovah Witness and, at one point, even placed his "Watch Tower" publication in plain view on the table.

I paused deep inside myself before responding to this man's statements. I captured in a general way his statement on the easel: "Religious position can impact sexuality" as I did not want to blatantly oppose him and I also wanted to model that he had a right to have his perspective equally seen along with others. I did share, however, that when it came to educating individuals with disabilities, our personal and religious views needed to remain with us and that it was not therapeutic to impose any of our beliefs onto our clients. I watched this man wriggle in his chair uncomfortably and he would frequently lean over to the woman next to him to mumble barely audible comments.

The contradictions and opposites that Jason refers to are right here: God's love is reserved for those who follow a certain path that the Bible has found acceptable and moral; Hate is what those who don't follow this path deserve for straying in the ways that they have. The stronger one's religious convictions are, the more the world and its people are divided into right and wrong, the smaller one's God is. Because anyone who is not like me and believes like me is dangerous.

At the lunch break, I texted someone near and dear to me to request extra prayers for this situation. I had many waves of transference to ride, trying to balance my nausea with the need to eat a meal that would sustain me through the afternoon. Before returning to the training room, I went into the bathroom stall and asked God for an open heart.

The second half of the workshop centered around sexual orientation. I was prepared for a potential battle in which Bible verses might be flung across the room at me. Instead, the man in the back kept his fidgeting confined to his chair, yet I could tell that his discomfort was quietly escalating.

At the end of the session after most people exited, this man approached and asked if he could talk with me. I welcomed the opportunity to have an exchange, a meeting of the faces of love and hate. What I received was beyond any expectation. The man shared with me that he came to this training to understand. He told me that his brother is gay. He struggles with the messages of his church and the way of life he has chosen for himself and not wanting to shun his brother like the rest of his family has. It appeared that some of what I exposed him to today brought about confusion, shattering some of his in-grained beliefs. I was able to say to him that he was quite brave to come to a class like this, given his religious background. I also offered that perhaps his placing of the Watch Tower magazine on the table in front of him served as a kind of armour -- to shield him from taking in perspectives which are so opposite of his own. He shook his head in total agreement.

What a powerful learning experience for us both. I return to Jason's words above: "When God is allowed to be God again, these same things [contradictions and opposites] just make us feel alive."

Monday, June 7, 2010

Wherever two or more are gathered ...

Originally uploaded by Sarah .K

Tradition 3 in AA has within its contents a statement that wherever two or more are gathered for sobriety, it constitutes a meeting.

Yesterday morning, on the deck of a beach vacation rental for a friend's birthday, 2 of us gathered for the purposes of sobriety and abstinence. A combination OA/AA/Non-dual healing meeting.

It began with a simple gesture: I brought my Daily Reflections and Step books with me and wanted to begin the day making a commitment to having a sober day.  One woman at this birthday weekend, who is a member of OA, was sitting on the couch sipping her coffee. I tapped her gently on the shoulder, showed her the books, and without another word spoken she joined me on the deck.

Warm sun beaming on us both, we talked about how our journeys began on the path of recovery. Neither of us knew the other's story, so we began there. We talked about the key differences between alcohol and food abstinence. In a very light-hearted moment, my friend speaks about the "cool" factor of being a stone cold drunk versus the wimpiness of having a food addiction; jokingly, I remarked: "Well, having a bunch of muffins probably wouldn't have led me to promiscuously sleeping with gross men like booze did!" We both giggled. Getting more serious, she wondered if alcoholics looked down upon compulsive overeaters. On the contrary, was my response. An alcoholic can completely discard the bottle while the food addict has to actively, every meal, be "in relationship" with food in a healthy way. No easy feat !

There are also many more similarities, particularly the "disconnect of self" from others, from reality. We both "filled up" on our substances of choice, while mine was used to obliterate all that I was feeling and hers was to create some semblance of  feeling fullness which was actually perpetually empty. Both of us experienced numbing and checking out of life. We talked about branches on the Tree and their associations with our "isms" and functions our abusing substances served.

We closed our meeting by reading the passage in the Daily Reflections. Interestingly enough, it had to do with the willingness to have our character defects removed. I think we tossed a few up into the salty breezes and let them get carried out into the ocean that morning.

This woman with whom a meeting was formed had only been known to me prior as the birthday girl's oldest best friend. We met at numerous lesbian camping fests and then through our non-dual healing work. After our Sunday morning sharing of experience, strength and hope,  she quickly became a confidant and friend that I could claim independently of our mutual friend. I will treasure this intimate fellowship.

Friday, June 4, 2010

In the Case of a Missing Identity ...

Originally uploaded by Edward Dullard

After a lovely lunch for my mother's 79th birthday, she handed me a small envelope. A promise kept after our last time together -- my adoption information. I chose to not open it in her company, but rather in the privacy of my car. It was rather anti-climactic; two very yellow-stained papers with typewritten information dating back to 1962 and 1963. One paper was from the Adoption Agency where I was "transferred" to my adoptive parents from who knows where. It has basic information, such as my birthweight and height and the fact that I was a breech birth and am an A positive blood type. The other paper is more "official" with several embossed seals: the decree from the "Orphans' Court" that my adoption was legal. This document has my full given name before my adoptive parents changed it.

Deborah Ann Geary. Completely foreign. Don't even relate to it.

The Irish surname Geary is a rendering of the Gaelic surname O'Gadhra, also translated as O'Gara. This name denotes one who is a "descendant of Gadhra", an ancient chief whose name itself may be traceable to the Old Irish term "gadhar", meaning "hound".

In the past few years, I have been very curious about my heritage. This information I got today answers one part of the equation. My best guess is that this last name was my biological mother's. So the jury is out still about what else I am comprised of.

Funny, I have never been drawn to in any way, shape, or form anything remotely connected to Irish culture -- except for the love of beer ! I know, I know ... bad stereotype. I am remotely aware that Gaelic/Celtic traditions have some deeply spiritual components to them, which I intend on investigating further. As well as any other information connected to the family name in my birthplace town.

Receiving this information today brought some closure - at least in terms of the old tension between my mother and I - but not much in the way of solving the whole case of my missing identity. There was no information about my biological parents' names. Nothing about my medical history. Not even the time I was born (always wanted to know that for accuracy in astrological charting).

So I will work with what I have and simply sit and make peace with what I don't. I am not experiencing any urgency nor a strong pull in some direction. And perhaps more will rise up in me as taking in this information works through me.

One thing that I am aware of is this: when discussing these findings with my sponsor on my drive back home today, she playfully said my given name aloud. I instantly re-coiled and asked her to not say the name again. She inquired as to if it was painful for me to hear it. I sat for a moment and listened to my interior. It wasn't that. I replied: "It's not my truth. It's not who I am today." I've worked a lot with issues of integrity for myself and to be associated or identified with a name that does not ring true in a meaningful way feels false to me. This too I will sit and let mill about it in me.

I am actually deeply appreciating the name my adoptive mother chose for me. It feels so much more aligned to the essence of me. She is a wiser, more attuned woman than I have ever given her proper credit for. She is the only mother I have ever known and choose to know.

Original Sea

Golden Fortress
Originally uploaded by Zack Schnepf

In my Daily Reflections reading this morning AND in my teacher Jason's book, the passages echoed one another: the Daily Reflections was about Letting Go of Our Old Selves and Jason's passage was about a concept he calls the "Original Sea" -- which is also about letting go of our old selves when we are in the unknown, specifically the concepts we've operated by from our past. He instructs: "You are not your father, you are not your mother, you are not your teacher." And then he drops the bomb of a question: "Who are you when you relate to others with this awareness?"

What Jason is getting at is what Bill W and Dr. Bob were getting at in Step 6, which is what today's Daily Reflection is related to. My take on both is this: If I let go of my "who was" , complete with her defects of character and associations with her childhood wounds, who is the "who is" that is left standing ? This feels like what is meant by the Original Sea. The next question becomes: Am I brave enough to be willing to have all of these defense mechanisms and histories and ways of being removed and turned over to God ?

My healing work over these past 3 plus years has brought me closer to this place of entering my Original Sea. If I am honest, there are still small ripples of being my father's chastized daughter or the baby given away by her biological mother or the one who has inklings that she could be taken advantage of. AND, this is true: these things are no longer huge waves or deathgrip undercurrents. I am not drowning in myself or in the Unknown.

In my Original Sea, I relate to others as an anchored, direct, clear speaking adult. I know where I begin and end and where you do. My fullness is in my eyes and I am not hiding behind them or merging wth yours. I can hold space in and around relationships that is vast and spacious. I do not personalize your projections or actions that are pointed in my direction yet are about you. I am empathic and compassionate but not so sensitive and emotional that I can't discern whose feelings I am experiencing and why. I recognize that I am in control of almost nothing and that the only thing certain is the present moment.

Right now, all I have to ask God for is willingness and to be ready.

And then I can really set sail in my Original Sea.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

We are not Saints ...

No father, its coat saver
Originally uploaded by Geomar TriƱo The Great

At the meeting I chaired this evening, we read Step Six :
"Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character".

Each re-visitation of a Step brings incredible insights, as if they were heard for the first time; perhaps this is the phenomenon behind the phrase "More will be revealed".

Two things struck me tonight in this Step:
1) The connection between Step 6 to Steps 3 & 10 in particular.
2) This line: "The only urgent thing is that we make a beginning and keep trying."

Where I have gotten tripped up in wanting to have my defects removed in Step 6 is when resistance comes in and I take my will back -- which means I need to return to Step 3 and turn my will back over to God first. Even if it looks like this: "God, I feel my resistance about _______. It continues to creep up and I engage with it. I need to turn over my resistance to letting this defect go." Now, I have done both my 3rd Step AND my 6th Step in this recognition of where I am struggling with taking back my will and not wanting my defect to be removed.

I shared tonight in the meeting that the connection between Steps 6 and 10 for me have a great deal to do with the level of rigorous honesty I practice in doing the 10th Step inventory. If I am impeccably honest in my 10th Step at the end of the day, any defects of character that need to be examined so that I can be ready to have them removed will show up in this work. If I instead choose to do a "quickie" 10th Step because I'm tired and/or want to gloss over the day in spiritual bypass, then I will miss these character defects. The 10th Step is the perfect venue for showcasing those things that are obstacles to living soberly, are making relationships challenging, or causing me to feel out of integrity with myself, my program.

Lastly, the line I cited above in this Step: "The only urgent thing is that we make a beginning and keep trying." This to me feels do-able, like God is giving us a break of some sort to just be human. It ties into the motto: "Progress not Perfection". And, what it really highlights for me is this statement in How It Works: "We are not Saints; the point is, we are willing to grow along spiritual lines."

A huge sigh of relief comes to this alcoholic. My defect of perfectionism can be cut slack. My all-or-nothing thinking can be softened. My need for control can be eased. I get a "do-over" at any point in the day if I am willing to look at my defects and simply be "ready" to have them removed. I am in a place of consideration rather than commitment. The only Step which we are asked to do with 100% perfection is Step 1. This doesn't mean I will be that sloth they refer to in the book, but what it does mean is that I will not be so hard on myself when I have demonstrated behavior that doesn't make me feel so great about myself. And, I don't have to berate myself either, I can simply turn it over, ask for willingness and readiness. I don't even have to have it removed either -- if I am not fully ready, I may ask for it to be held, lessened, not as intense UNTIL I am entirely ready.

I ain't no Saint. But I am a drunk who wants to grow and heal, treat myself and others decently, work my Program to the best of my ability, know God better, and stay sober one day at a time.