23 Gifts of Willingness, Thanks to Recovery


November 20th is the mid-point in my sobriety year. Three days ago, the recovery calendar turned to 24 1/2 for me.

I think I remember that first six-month mark–24 years ago–because it came right at Thanksgiving and was the beginning of my first sober holiday season.

I remember spending a good deal of time in November and December of 1991 overcome with gratitude. In fact, I don’t think a single season since then has quite captured the magnitude of emotion I felt then.

Now, in full disclosure, I was an emotional wreck in 1991; gratitude was only one of many emotions that lived on my skin’s surface. I was also angry, bitter and self-righteously indignant, mostly with my family. Those poor people.

24 years ago and now

Six months into recovery found me fiery and righteous. I looked and acted tough although my insides quivered in fear of not drinking or smoking pot during the holidays. My God, how would I survive?

Thank you, God, for feeling comfortable in my skin all these years later. I no longer wear my emotions just above my hairline. Sometimes I may still not like the skin I’m in–I’m working on toning and tossing some of it–but I really like who I am today.

Who cares if it took nearly a quarter of a century to get here?

The gift of willingness

Of all the reasons for thanksgiving and gratitude this year, I am grateful for the gift of willingness. This topsy-turvy year brought me to a recent resting place of sorts; a place where I’m settling in and figuring things out. I wouldn’t have this resting place without willingness.

In this past year I have become willing to:

  1. 1. Trust the process
  2. 2. Keep my mouth shut
  3. 3. Let go of outcomes
  4. 4. Cultivate awareness and quiet time
  5. 5. Say, “No, I don’t want to”
  6. 6. Believe in unknown possibilities
  7. 7. Have faith in right outcomes
  8. 8. Love without liking
  9. 9. Look beyond what I see
  10. 10. Try something new, then something else
  11. 11. Sit with uncomfortable feelings
  12. 12. Say, “Yes, I will do the thing I love to do”
  13. 13. Bow my head more often
  14. 14. Leap into adventures
  15. 15. Lend hand and heart in service
  16. 16. Appreciate others’ struggles without fixing them
  17. 17. Reach and stretch mind, body and spirit
  18. 18. Grow where I am
  19. 19. Pray without ceasing
  20. 20. Cherish my family
  21. 21. Turn from the angry and violent
  22. 22. Stay mindful
  23. 23. Caress my heart-mate with tenderness, open arms and a welcome home at the end of each day

God’s grace grants me, not only willingness, but also desire to do each of these things. What a bountiful feast of joyful living!

Feelings of blessing begin with an inner knowing that all is well. I feel well today! My soul feels happy–me, the one who always tried to “figure out” the meaning of happiness. Now I’m basking in pools of heavenly happiness.

My prayer for you during this week of Thanksgiving is that you feel well too. May your soul feel happy, may you uncover your own willingness list and may you grow in your sense of God’s grace.

B Well and Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo courtesy of taliesin

Heartache for Paris–and for Humanity

parisThe ache in my heart for the people of France–and for humanity–simmers in sleepless, early morning hours following the horrific massacre in Paris.

How, or maybe more importantly, why, do terrorists attack? The devastation among families must be so immense. The city must be bereft with grief as it begins each new day following Friday night’s tragedy.

The “why” is not important

Anne Lamott wrote on Facebook that asking the why question is not very useful, “that we are an extremely vulnerable species, that Cain is still killing Abel.”

Aren’t you just bouncing off the walls with fury? My head is silently spewing every swear-word combination imaginable.

I want justice. Like with Sandy Hook, Aurora and especially 9/11, we can whip out our pointing fingers faster than you can say “heinous crime” because we have to blame that which we can’t comprehend.

Blame gives us a place to dump our nervous fear. Otherwise, we’re a skittish mess, anxious eyes darting like hummingbirds back and forth among red-tipped flowers. Only the red tips for us are like potential bloody traps.

We never know. It could be our loved ones next time. It could be us.

Assailants died in Paris, which probably played well in the hearts of many revenge seekers. Not so much for those of us who profess love and peace in our hearts, however. I still don’t understand.

Before their suicidal bodies hit the ground, more stepped into their cowardly shoe prints. At Career Day, did the killers check the application box that read willing to die if I get to blow up innocent people?

My God, there is so much hate in the world. Again, my mind begs for the answer to the why now question. But as Anne reminds us, the response to hate is so much more important than the why.

This much I know–and this is just for me. I cannot meet hate with hate. As much as I deplore what happened in Paris on Friday night, the 13th of November, every time I show up with hate, death advances on me just a little bit.

Let your response be love, light and peace

Fortunately, most of the entries on my Facebook wall reflect the best of humanity. My friend Ann wrote, “LOVE! Love with all your heart, soul and mind! Let love permeate everything you do, think and BE! Let your words Not be about ugliness, murder, meanness…. ONLY LOVE! Stand FOR….not against!”

My friend Sandra Pawula wrote on Facebook, when asked about how she confronts the idea of terrorism, “Violence comes from confused or painful thoughts and emotions: pride, jealousy, desire, ignorance, greed, and anger. So I practice mastering my own mind and emotions, and I try to help others learn to do the same.”

Another friend posted this picture:


Anne Lamott gives us instructions. She writes, about the days after Sandy Hook:

Talking and sticking together was the answer. It honest to God was. We were gentler, more patient and kind with each other. If people are patient and kind, that’s a lot. It means something of the spirit is at work. For me, that is grace made visible. 

I have no answers but know one last thing that is true: More will be revealed. And that what is true is that all is change.

All is indeed change. “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” 

How to Be Mindful With Your Small Screens

La Jolla coastline

I read recently that awareness is a vast reservoir that holds each idea that stems from our outer selves–what we see, hear, taste, smell and touch–and from our inner selves–all things we feel and believe.

Because awareness is the big vat that holds it all, everything swirls together so that all awareness is equal. In other words, you can be aware that you’re seeing a beautiful sunset and be aware that you’re feeling peaceful and happy about seeing a beautiful sunset.

I’ve been wondering lately about whether compulsive social media use–Facebook, Twitter, Instagram–can filter awareness, or worse, block mindfulness.

Looking through a camera lens

My sweetie and I took a few days off last week and traveled to the Pacific coastal village of La Jolla, Calif. It’s one of our favorite places, probably because we met there 10 years ago. The seals and sea lions, massive cliffs with walk-through caves and the magenta sunsets hold a special place in our hearts.

I love watching the intense power of the sea as it crashes against the cliffs. The swirling white foam reminds of La Jolla foammarshmallow Fluff oozing over chocolate ice cream–my favorite sundae!

Of course I took lots of pictures with my iPhone. At some point, though, I became aware that by watching the phone’s screen to time a perfect picture, I missed watching the perfect timing on nature’s big screen.

I had a similar experience last month at the UNITE to Face Addiction Rally in Washington, DC. Part of my job was to live-Tweet and Facebook the event–an incredible experience that I loved! But busily typing tweets (again, on a small screen) took my focus off the immediacy of the event.

I’m not complaining, but–here’s the awareness thing–I feel a smidge less mindful.

How do we find balance?

The Catch-22 for me, when it comes to social media, is that much of the work that I do in the addiction recovery and advocacy space involves being present to online activity and then responding. Nothing wrong with that.

I know I’m off-kilter and over-consuming when I find myself mindlessly cruising social feeds while waiting at an appointment, in line at the grocery-store, or (gasp!) stopped in traffic. No, I’m definitely not present in those moments.

I also know I’m overly focused on the small screen when I’m supposed to do something else, like a writing project, or journaling or some recovery work, and instead, I’m scrolling through Facebook.

Ah yes, we’re all guilty from time to time, and this post isn’t about shaming anybody, not even myself. What I do want to suggest is that you become more aware of how you may be putting filters between you and whatever your big screen happens to be.

There is a way for mindfulness and social media to coexist. The key word is awareness. Being aware and feeling aware keeps you conscious, mindful and connected to Life’s Big Screen. Here’s to beautiful scenery!

How Your Thoughts Impact Your Recovery


Courtesy of Gretchen Rubin’s Facebook page. http://buff.ly/1VK7cj1


I read something recently that turned my day around completely and allowed me to start over. Who says a 24-hour period begins at midnight?

Recovery often presents itself as an insightful opportunity to choose mindfulness and reclaim your sense of self-worth, which, by the way, never left you. Your thoughts simply caused you to temporarily misplace it.

From the mind of Jon Kabat-Zinn

“It is a big step toward reclaiming our lives when we realize that, no matter what their content, good, bad, or ugly, we do not have to take our thoughts personally.

“When we don’t automatically take them personally, or believe the stories about reality that we build from them, when we can simply hold them in awareness with a sense of curiosity and wonder at their amazing power given their insubstantiality, their limitations and inaccuracies . .

“Then, in that moment at least, we are already free, ready to act with greater clarity and kindness . . . ”

~ Mindfulness for Beginners

Think about the stories you tell yourself, often repeatedly, on any given day. As a storyteller, I usually have multiple versions of each story and lots of drama involved with mine!

What happens when you stop and tell yourself the story is nothing more than a script you’ve written? What happens when you step away from being the person writing the script or telling the story and become a spiritual being watching the person with the story?

Recovery grows sweeter again.

Here’s what happened to me over the weekend

I stopped. Just stopped the story.

I clearly saw the story’s insignificance, even its untruths. And, as an observer, I saw without judgment so that I began to loosen the ropes of self-condemnation that often tighten around me.

The last part of the above quote, “ready to act with greater clarity and kindness,” are true action words, like one long verb. As I reflected further, I remembered that I’m not hanging out in this world to accumulate things or to get what I think I deserve.

No, I’m here to give–kindness, charity, comfort, compassion and love.

Here’s the most critical part: I must hold myself in the center of givingness. The observing me has a much easier time staying in the middle than my ego does. In fact, staying out of the center is probably the reason why the ego pushes me to stay busy doing.

Just be-ing tends to ruin the ego’s day. The spiritual brat in me loves to stick out her tongue at that thought! Progress, not perfection!

UNITE to Face Addiction update: If you’re reading this early on Monday and you’re still at home, set your DVR to record the Dr. Oz show before you head out. On today’s episode, Dr. Oz will give a behind-the-scenes look the Rally on October 4th. You’ll get to see great clips with the artists and members of the crowd. Don’t miss it!


We Ended the Silence

final songIt’s been a week since 25,000 hearty souls gathered on the National Mall in Washington, DC to UNITE to Face Addiction. Finally, I have a bit of breathing room to write here.

These final weeks leading up to one of the most thrilling moments of my career have stirred a myriad of emotions for me. I’ve done precious little journal writing, but here is a peek inside my thoughts and feelings:

Sept. 20: Right now I’m asking myself how I feel about the day that is fast approaching–the day that has been little more than a square box on a calendar.

I think about the people I’ve known who are gone too soon because of addiction. We are so often marginalized as bad people who just couldn’t get it together.

Years ago–I wasn’t very far into my own recovery–I stood in front of my aunt’s casket while the family whispered in shamed tones. I gazed at her lifeless body, so small in an enormous satin pillow bed and I thought, how sad that I was probably the only person in the funeral home who truly understood the torture that my aunt experienced.

Much more recently, when my old high-school friend died under circumstances that his family can’t or won’t acknowledge, my heart broke thinking that the measure of his life is forever marked by the tragedy of addiction. Never mind that he was a gifted scientist, devoted father and a funny, funny friend.

Sept. 22: I remind myself about how we’ve changed norms around smoking, HIV/AIDS, breast cancer and other formerly shamed-filled health conditions. It sometimes helps when the feelings of “oh, what’s the use?” creep to the edges of my mind. Doubt is a persistent companion.

Sept. 27: I can barely believe that we are this close. I have this jittery, nervous feeling that probably comes no where close to what Greg and Jim are feeling right about now. Our eyes have been on the prize for so long that the real prize–ending the silence around addiction–seems nebulous.

How many people have suffered endlessly and needlessly because they felt no hope? That they had no options? That no one cared?

In desperation, how many people take their own lives because they can no longer endure the agony of addiction? My heart hopes beyond hope that we’re going to turn this massive ship around. My soul knows the truth of our mission and my whole being breathes gratitude for the part I’ve played.

Sept. 30: Tom Hill writes that a little more than 10 years ago this country was on the brink of passing constitutional amendments that would make same-sex marriage illegal. Today, the opposite is true as gays and lesbians are free to marry whomever they choose in any state.

Our goal is quite lofty as well. Legislative measures that provide insurance coverage on par with other medical conditions. An overhaul of the justice system so that offenders get treatment services mixed with their sentences.

An end to discriminatory workplace, housing and educational practices that keep people with addiction from obtaining entry into those systems.

News coverage that no longer glorifies the horrors of drug use. An elimination of practices in the film, television and entertainment industries that normalizes drug and alcohol use.

Celebrating recovery from addiction just as recovery from cancer or heart disease or AIDS/HIV is celebrated.

Can we do the same in 10 years? I do not know.

Oct. 4: I’ve written 10.04.15 so many times, typed it countless more, never feeling the immense significance of its meaning until today.

It’s here. I’m hopped up on three hours sleep, caffeine and pure, old-fashioned excitement.

Please, God, bring us people today. Keep the rain in the clouds if you would, and let those buses roll into DC.

Open the hearts and minds and wallets of all those present–and watching the livestream online–so they may heed the call to be a part of the journey to End the Silence.

It’s Time.