Friday, April 29, 2011

Light meets Dark

the light meets the dark
Originally uploaded by Emily Elisabeth Photography

"Faith is the bird that senses the dawn and carefully starts to sing while it is still dark."

I listened to the morning recovery meeting, discussing the Big Book chapter, We Agnostics. One of the statements that hit home for me was the fact that "God is everything or God is nothing."
It is probably one of the rare, useful exceptions for this alcoholic to embrace this particular line of all-or-nothing thinking. I was so quick to do it with people and situations when I tried playing God, so why have I had such a challenging time stepping aside and letting my brain and my heart wrap itself around that kind of thinking when it comes to the presence and power of God?

I have made futile attempts to lasso my will out of the hands of God countless times, without any real success whatsoever. I had moments of illusory success, only to discover that it was, indeed, a figment of my imagination.

I am dropped to my knees in this period of my Life once more ... with nowhere to run or hide. There is a solution to this self-imposed crisis: go Home and turn back to God who has never left me. This is the light, the continuous illuminating divine beam, that meets the dark, unconditionally, every single time. This is that bird in the quote above who trusts the light of dawn and sings into the darkness. I understand it is because that bird has no doubt that God IS ...

I am learning, after many scrapes and bruises and welts, that I don't ever have to hurt like this again if I can trust in a power greater than myself. When I try to run the show, I am saying: "God isn't". When I try to take an easier, softer way I am also conveying that "God isn't". An insight I had yesterday is that when I don't manage my money and try to get out of paying what I owe in ANY form, I am cheating God.

I have come to believe. I trust that these dark places that are still part of me and my disease will have God's light shining me into recovery.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Gratitudeness ...

Thank you Vikki
Originally uploaded by mslori411 (Flickr break)

A wise woman in my recovery circle said this in a recent meeting:
"Thankfulness is about how we receive what we've been given. Gratitude is about how we give based on what we've received."

Gratitude is an action.

"A grateful heart doesn't drink." This is an action about honoring one's sobriety.

I listened this morning to a recovery phone meeting that was about having an "attitude of gratitude". I appreciated what people shared, especially when they spoke about being in service and how they are showing up differently for others in their life. These are actions of gratitude.

It is only now that I am really sitting in a place in myself where I "get this" from a lived experience of it. When I am grateful, and not in some form of selfishness, there is so much in me to give. Yesterday is a reminder of this. I felt deeply grateful yesterday, for no particular reason other than I have everything that I need -- which is really significant. A friend in the program asked me to work on Steps with her and it was a delight. I wanted to spend this time because it also strengthened my program. Our time was precious. I went to a meeting and appreciated seeing one of my sponsees chairing and watching her passion for her recovery be re-kindled by being in service. I shared honestly from my heart in this meeting and had gratitude for being able to show up for others who may still be suffering too much to get their hand up yet could benefit from hearing a message of hope. A friend wanted to join the group in Fellowship at the diner after but did not have a way to get there or get back home; I didn't even bat an eye to provide the ride. I loved his company. I felt gratitude to not be stingey with my time or my space as I would have in the past.

My gratitude allows me to be an available friend, lover, family member, sponsor, teacher, human being.

That sweet scent in the air today when I woke up ?

Gratitudeness ...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Almost ...

Is the Glass half empty or full
Originally uploaded by Kathy~

I have received several powerful recovery messages today from expected and unexpected sources. The theme being that "almost" doesn't count.

A speaker in the morning phone meeting shared with great fervor about the importance of being 100% committed to recovery. She walked through a progression of examples of the danger of "almost" doing things and its detriment to one's recovery -- the most extreme example being: "almost using the parachute when jumping out of a plane." Seems insane, right? And when we're not fully IN our recovery, try we might ...

Then, a healing classmate posted a few lines to our class from "How It Works" in the AA Big Book. No coincidence what she chose:
"Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked His protection and care with complete abandon."

I have learned a painful lesson recently about the ways in which taking short cuts -- my own versions of almost and half measures -- truly do avail me nothing but more suffering. I am once again standing at a turning point of sorts; the substance being... money. The great seductress and my nemesis simultaneously. If I am to have a harmonious, sober, recovered relationship to the Almighty Dollar, then I must practice my AA principles in all my affairs.

Step 1: I am powerless over money and my life has become unmanageable.

Nothing like tax time for a self-employed spending addict to hit home like a punch to the gut. Kinda like what 4th of July and Labor Day weekends are for alcoholics ... mirrors that show every blemish and wrinkle and defect that we can no longer ignore.

When I almost didn't take a drink of alcohol, I got shit-faced drunk.

When I almost manage my money, I get deeper in debt.

The white flag has been raised. I must surrender or I will surely go under. I asked His protection and care with complete abandon. I'm too desperate to care about what you think of me. To work on this with complete abandon means I need to get out of my own way and stop trying to control the show.

As my beloved fellow traveler of the recovery rooms shared her own experience of this with me today, she spoke about being a "humble cookie". I really do get it. I made a commitment, for today, to pay my creditors, those I owe, before myself. $2300 in checks were made out today to Uncle Sam. I left myself a balance of $300. In between appts, I sat in a bookstore and fought the urge to buy a latte and snack and sipped water instead from a plastic courtesy cup while I read. I spent $8 on fruits and veggies for the week at a local produce joint versus the pricey Whole Foods. As I ate my piece of chicken and baked sweet potato for dinner, I welled up with tears. Not out of self pity, but from the glimpse I took at my own humility.

I will need to re-commit tomorrow.

Almost means diddly squat.

Recovery from anything is a life and death matter.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Program of Generosity

Helping hand
Originally uploaded by dellafels

As I listened to this morning's Big Book meeting, a myth of sorts that is held by many of my fellow alcoholics got de-bunked. I hear a lot of folks in the rooms make comments like:
"This is a selfish program."
"It's time to do ME."
"My sobriety comes 1st before anyone."

While there is a kernel of truth to some of these statements, this is not what Bill W and Dr. Bob established as AA's primary purpose. What was hit home during today's meeting is that sobriety, abstinence from a substance, is not IT. Our primary purpose is to help the alcoholic who still suffers.  AND,  we can carry this message of hope because we will have had a spiritual awakening as a result of  working the 12 Steps.   Our Higher Power works through us to help others.  

I am reminded of my favorite line in the Prayer of St. Francis:  "It is by self-forgetting that one finds."   My ego,  my selfish self-centeredness need to be put in check.  I need to embody and live soberly -- with others,  in service to others.    I have a new sponsee and she has great difficulty in this area.   She will often say that her program,  her sobriety comes 1st and nothing will get in the way of it.    So much so,  that last week,  she was willing to be insubordinate on her job in order to make a meeting, which meant setting aside the needs of others who relied on her help.   She had a very hard time hearing from me that this was not working a program at all and,  in fact,  it was being selfish.  If her sobriety was indeed a priority,  then she would need to practice the principles she's learned in all her affairs.  This is absolutely what she didn't want to hear and would later tell me that it was absolutely what she needed to hear.    My healing work teaches me that when we make room for everything to live,  we experience expansiveness as a result.   This means I can be aware of the tug and pull of my own selfishness AND be able to extend my hand to the person who still suffers.   This selfless action strengthens and adds to my sobriety.   "We got to give it away to keep it."

Our program of generosity takes on many forms:   being in service at meetings: making coffee, chairing,  greeting people as they come in; sponsoring people and working with a sponsor yourself; giving your number to newcomers and picking up the phone to check in on others; participating in after-meeting Fellowship; sharing resources; telling your story.

I spent the majority of my sobriety bone dry, spiritually starved. I didn't ask for or offer help to any other alcoholic because I had nothing in me. I was fortunate to not be seduced by the lie that my ex-partner lusted after: that once you achieved a period of abstinence, you can drink normally and enjoy it like other folks do. It ran her into the ground in less than 4 years. Witnessing the process was enough to keep me good and scared to white-knuckle my own sobriety until I could finally crawl back through the doors of AA  weary, desperate and defeated.

I don't have to live deserted on my own island any more. I am an active member of a Fellowship and I have a relationship with a Higher Power that helps me to live abundantly sober and I have plenty of riches to give away.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Real Pickle

Originally uploaded by wEnDaLicious

I have been listening to a Big Book meeting that is held every morning from 7a-8a. This group of folks, from another 12 Step Recovery program, can really break it down.

One of the best things I heard recently was the woman who kept thinking she could be a cucumber (reference to NOT wanting to be an addict) and finally accepting that she was, in fact, a pickle.

I am a real alcoholic and I know it;  I spent nearly 18 years denying it.

Never uttering the word "alcoholic" behind my name was the 1st clue.   Never sharing in an AA mtg or reading the literature or getting a sponsor.   Believing that when I "graduated"  from therapy that I then "graduated"  from AA hurled me deeper into denial.   Responding,  when asked why I don't drink,  that I am a "recovered person"  was my attempt to give a clue and yet implied that it had already happened,  in the past tense  (code for:   we don't need to talk about this anymore).    Not attending meetings for 16 plus years meant that I was not one by dis-association.   Continuing to live with an active addict and not thinking I was at risk too was sheer insanity.    But for the Grace of God,  go I ...

I just read a profound paragraph in one of my healing teacher's manuals about the nature of wholeness and how it must include our suffering, our conflict. It goes like this:

"Many years ago, I was very ill for almost seven years. A major turning point came during that seventh year when a helper I was working with asked, “What will you do if this is it? If you will never get any better than today?” I really had to stop and think. I thought that I could kill myself. It was a distinct possibility. Then I asked myself if I could live this way?
Strangely, knowing or considering—that my health might never recover gave me great relief. There was nowhere else to go. Nothing to improve upon, nothing to change. When I decided to live with my sickness, rather than stand aside and view my afflicted life as if I were not part of it, I began to heal."

 Accepting that nothing is going to change me being an alcoholic brings tremendous relief today. There is nowhere to go, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. It is me and my alcoholism and my character defects and my assets and I bring this package I call me into the world so I can heal and live in reality.

I am a REAL pickle.