12 Steps

Observations From a Month Underwater

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Water, water everywhere. Most of the country knows about the intense flooding in Texas where I live.

There was enough rain in May to submerge the entire state–all 262,000 square miles–in eight inches of water. At this writing on the last day of May in North Central Texas, we’re experiencing a sunny day, one of only a handful this month. In the past week alone, we swam through double-digit inches of falling water.

Just as I’m grateful for the sun today, I’m also grateful for a refreshed commitment to recovery.

Celebrating sobriety?

May is also the month that I entered recovery 24 years ago. Although I picked up my chip and participated in my group’s recovery celebration, I spent the better part of the month wondering whether I deserved the recognition. I guess you could say that my recovery, like much of Texas, was underwater.

Recovery for me had become as cloudy and overcast as the Texas skies. Turbulent and unstable patterns threatened both my mental condition and weather conditions. To be fair, there were several factors that contributed to the perfect storm formation, but like an amateur storm chaser, I refused to believe the conditions were beyond my control.

My ego pushed me forward in repeated attempts to right-size when I should have leaned into the wall cloud of change. [bctt tweet=”The bruises and battering could have been avoided, but then, I may have missed the lesson in how to best weather a magnificent storm.”]

Now I know that I needed to flounder in the murky undercurrent so that I could once again appreciate the quality of clear-water living.

Getting into the solution

We know a little bit about being sick and tired of living sick and tired, don’t we? As years accumulate within this fabulous adventure of recovery, we get to watch the tides of high- and low-water moments.

I don’t know about you, but even at this junction of life and sobriety, I can still slip deeply into low- thinking. May found me swimming with the twin sharks of low self-worth and self-esteem. It seemed that the harder I swam, the more those damned sharks bit at me.

Finally, on Memorial Day, a thought popped into my mind, a GUS-inspired thought (God-Universe-Spirit):

Stop swimming.

The thought swelled enough that I did stop long enough to hear the second thought:

Drop the rock.

What rock? I didn’t realize I was swimming with a gigantic rock around my neck; it had been there long enough that I stopped noticing.

As quickly as GUS pointed it out, I saw it. The Rock was all the accumulated debris of a mind flooded with sludge thoughts.

What makes you think you’re worth that 24-year chip? What do you have to offer? Careful . . . if you screw up they won’t want you anymore. Oh please, do you really think they’ll want to keep you around when the project is finished? Watch out . . . any minute they’ll figure out you’re a fraud.

Please, God, help me drop the rock.

Help me let go of everything that builds a dam of unworthiness in my soul. Show me how to let the clean waters of good attitude flow again. Teach me how to once again sparkle and shine with your sunlit solutions.

Together, let’s begin the cleanup process. Yes, it’s been a wild and unpredictable May, but it’s June now and it’s time to come out from underwater.

Photo courtesy of kconnors

Faith is Pointless Unless It’s Tested

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There are times in life when you come face-to-face with the naked truth and it scares the crap out of you.

I don’t care how much life you’ve lived, how much recovery time you have or what kind of experiences you’ve faced. Those are the factual details of the history of you but are not the heart of you.

And that’s what I care about–the heart of you, because when your heart hurts, you can feel like your faith is being tested.

At least that’s my experience. The trick is learning how to stand still and let your faith be tested.

Fixing a hurting heart

Here’s my naked truth: Wednesday, May 20th, is my 24th anniversary of entering recovery. Here’s what my ego has to say about the occasion:

“You would think that after 8,760 days of sobriety and somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 meetings, you would stop misplacing your faith. You’re no more than a non-drinking, 12-step fraud.”

Yikes. The words sound harsh even to me as I type them but they do speak to how I’ve felt lately.

I can’t say I’ve been restless, irritable and discontent. Floundering, distracted and lack of focus more accurately describes my state of mind.

Oddly enough, there are plenty of things that are right with my life. We had a vacation in paradise recently, my work is going well, the bills are getting paid and our dogs are healthy. But this one little-bitty area of my life–my recovery–feels off.

12-steppers are quick to point to the Big Book for answers. Lack of sponsorship, they say. Go to more meetings.

Yes, I hear you, and I need more.

I read a reference to the story of Moses leading his people out of the desert while being chased by Pharaoh’s army. When Moses and his tribe hit the Red Sea, he looks back and sees all those chariots fixin’ to run up his tail pipe. He cries out to God for help.

God tells Moses to stand still. Wait. Have faith.

Moses may well have had the faith of the ages but until that day, his faith was pointless.

[bctt tweet=”Standing still in chaos–from forces around you or inside you–will fix a hurting heart.”]

We create our own difficulties

Does your ego ever tell you you’re a fraud like mine does? After the latest round of the Who Do You Think You Are Game, I discovered that 24 years of recovery means I’m much better at recognizing my ego’s BS.

I’ve also decided that my ego doesn’t know jack about recovery. If it did, it would know that creating strange mental blank holes for me to fall into are traps that faith sees from miles away.

What are some of those strange mental black holes? They’re things like blaming sources outside of me for my pain, shaming myself for allowing something to happen and assuming something is always going to be the way it is right now.

Those things are my pharaoh’s armies. The inclination is to run harder and faster when in reality I need to heed the advice given to Moses–to stand still.

Standing still allows me to see that every single thing in my life is a result of a choice I made and if I don’t like my circumstances, I can choose differently.

[bctt tweet=”My ego doesn’t know jack about recovery.”]

Nothing is absolute and everything is changing. Just because something disturbs me today doesn’t mean it’s a forever thing, unlike the fallacies that my ego tries to pass off as truths.

The difference between happy and sad is a decision. Until my faith in the process of recovery is tested, it isn’t really faith at all.

Come to think of it, that’s quite a lot to learn in 24 years.

Photo courtesy of pippalou

Feeling Like a Cracked Pot? Repurpose Yourself!

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Please tell me I’m not the only one who feels like a cracked pot from time to time.

What are the symptoms, you ask? The major ones for me are discontentment, overwhelm, fragility, sensitivity and generalized disconnection.

When I’m not seeing things as they are, I take things personally and indeed, everything is about me. My bubbly personality turns brooding; my entire being kind of turns in on itself.

And I miss my mom horribly. She’s been gone nearly five years now and I still struggle with learning to mother myself, to give myself the safety and security that a mother’s love gives.

Wanting vs. willing

Saturday night was date night and we went to a huge citywide 12-step meeting. The speaker was funny and entertaining; he had definitely transformed from a cracked pot into a stable and transparent person in long-term recovery.

He reiterated something that has stayed with me. He said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Wanting to and willingness are not the same things.”

How often do you really, really want something–to exercise, eat less sugar, get more sleep, buy fewer shoes, pens or purses–but the wanting doesn’t seem to get the job done? Why? Because you’re not willing to repurpose yourself.

To repurpose is to think differently. When you think differently, your actions shift. And when your actions shift, the thing you want tends to happen.

Bottom line: You have to be willing to go all-in to get what you truly want.

Repurposing your cracked pot

Has it occurred to you that your pot is cracked for a reason? That’s a tough one for this perfectionist. When my pot gets cracked, I want to throw it out or just get a new one. But what if the cracks are meant to serve a purpose?

Paulo Coelho tells the story of the man who used to tote two large pitchers of water fastened to a piece of wood and carried across his shoulders to his village every day.

One pitcher was new and perfect and never ceased to do its job of serving as a vessel full of water. It was proud to provide water for the village and took its duties very seriously, so much so that it was certain it was made for just that purpose.

The other pitcher was older and had several cracks so that water dribbled out as the man made his return trip to the village. By the time he arrived, the cracked pitcher released only a small amount of water to the village and did so with great shame, despite the fact that it had served the village well for many, many years.

One day, the old pitcher felt so inferior that as the man was scooping up water, the pitcher decided to speak.

It apologized for its age and its inability to serve as it once had.

The man smiled and asked the pitcher to look closely at its side of the path as they made the trip home. Sure enough, the water that seeped through the cracked pitcher provided nourishment for the vegetables and flowers the man had planted.

“Do you see how much more beautiful nature is on your side of the road?” the man asked the pitcher.

“If you were not the way you are, I could never have done this. We all, at some point, grow old and acquire other qualities, and these can always be turned to good advantage.”

The moral of this story–read on the take-out brown bag from Chipotle–is our cracked selves are still useful. We just need the willingness–the all-in quality–to repurpose ourselves and determine what soil we want to sink into next.

Photo courtesy of timetocraft.co.uk and bobvilla.com

 

19 Selfless Qualities of Self-Love

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All you need is love . . . love . . . love is all you need. 

Is it true that love IS all you need? For the sake of this post, let’s say the answer is yes. The All-Holy day of celebrating love, after six weeks of in-store Valentine’s Day advertising, finally arrives this weekend.

But this isn’t a post about Valentine’s Day.  God knows the universe is being bombarded with 45-bazillion posts about V-Day.

This post is about one of my favorite topics: self-love–the very stuff our mamas used to say was self-ish.

I don’t know about your upbringing, but I was often accused of being self-absorbed, wallowing in self-pity and engaging in too much self-analysis.

All of which led to self-abuse with alcohol and drove me away from self-love.

What’s (self) love got to do with it?

As far as I can determine, we humans are the only species capable of loving ourselves. We possess this incredible, unique gift that other creatures–like the Wallabies and the Jackrabbits, for example—would dearly love to have, and yet we’re groomed from infancy to feel guilty when we show self-love.

Ironic, isn’t it?

To be clear, the self-love I’m championing is not arrogance, egotism, pride or narcissism. In fact:

Self-love has very little to do with how you feel about your outer self. It’s about accepting all of yourself. ~ Tyra Banks

In theory, those four words–accepting all of yourself–seem relatively uncomplicated, doesn’t it? But for those of us who spent several decades searching for self-acceptance, those seven syllables are more likely to cause trips to the grocery store for pints of Ben & Jerry’s.

At least we’re not going for pints of liquor.

As promised, qualities of self-love

Self-love has lots of first-string qualities you’ll want playing on your home team. They are, in no particular order, all hyphenated words starting with self:

Confidence      Discipline      Support      Regard      Assurance      Care        Employment      Worth      Taught      Interest      Esteem      Exam      Help     Protect      Acceptance      Assertive      Promotion      Appointed      Respect

Imagine how much healthier our world would be if we all elevated these qualities of self, which each stem from self-love, to a higher level. Can you imagine?

The bottom line is you simply have to put yourself first. Oh sure, we chuckle when we hear air travel personnel instructing us to put our own oxygen mask on before assisting others, but isn’t that the truth? If you want to be present to anyone else, you must first be your own present.

Tweet: If you want to be present to anyone else, you must first be your own present. http://bit.ly/1FpI7hw @bheretoday #selflove

Give yourself the gift of self-love. Sit with each of the 19 qualities shown in the box above. Meditate with them. Breathe them in, just as you would breathe from the oxygen mask.

You are worth each and every one of them.

Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all. ~ Whitney Houston

Photo courtesy of markgraf

Meet Recovery Carrier Becky Vance

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When it comes to recovery-related issues, Becky Vance is one of the most passionate people you’ll ever meet. We met nearly 10 years ago while working on the field services team for The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, then known as The Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Our lives have changed drastically since 2005: while neither of us works at The Partnership any longer, we still live and work and breathe recovery–as a couple. Having Becky as the November Recovery Carrier not only honors the professional work she does, but expresses my loving gratitude for the many ways she models recovery for me in our daily lives together.

This is the 11th post in this Recovery Carrier series.

William White defines recovery carriers as “people, usually in recovery, who make recovery infectious to those around them by their openness about their recovery experiences, their quality of life and character, and the compassion they exhibit for those still suffering.” (www.williamwhitepapers.com, 2012)

When you hear the term “recovery carrier,” as it relates to addiction, what does that mean to you? Do you think you’re a recovery carrier?

A recovery carrier is someone who is not afraid to share the miracle of her own recovery with anyone. In fact, she is always looking for new opportunities to share her story withBvanceRally others, because she knows others will pass it on. Yes, I believe in my heart that I am a recovery carrier. People often tell me that my passion for recovery is infectious and I love that! I even joke that I am the poster child for recovery; if you think about it, that’s really true, at least to the people I meet that haven’t been exposed to recovery.

What makes you uniquely qualified to do the work you do?

It may sound kind of weird but I believe that God selected me to share this message of recovery. I did not wake up one day and say “I think I’ll share my recovery story at a breakfast of 100 corporate leaders to help promote the value of drug-free workplace programs.” Not at a time when I had a huge fear of public speaking! That particular event, which we called “Sex, Lies and Drugs in the Workplace,” turned out to be a sentinel event for me, and was the launching pad for the work I do today.

As a result of saying “yes” to sharing my story outside of a 12-Step meeting, which was absolutely terrifying to me at the time, I’ve been able to touch more lives than I could ever imagine.

Tell me how your personal story fits into why you do your work.

Maybe a better question is, How do you carry the message of recovery in your work life? I have been truly blessed for the past 26 years to have jobs that allowed me to share my recovery story with literally thousands of people.

(To read more of Becky’s interview, click Becky Vance 11-14)

Photo courtesy of AcrylicArtist