12 Steps

The Story of Recovery: Your Story

IMG_5724Many of us in recovery often feel like we’ve lived two lives–one as a person with active addiction and the other as a person in recovery.

I’ve had friends who’ve had open heart surgery or beat cancer say something similar. The experience made them a different person.

The commonality among all of us who’ve sent a terminal disease into remission or left an operating table after heart surgery lies in our recovery.

The story of recovery

The month of September–National Recovery Month–is a terrific time to reflect on the gift of recovery. Tens of thousands of people all over the U.S. and Canada will do just that as they gather at Recovery Month events in their home states.

This time next week, my sweetie and I will head to Austin, Texas, for a statewide rally at the capitol building. The following week, on the 20th, thousands will gather in Louisville, KY, for the national “hub” event sponsored by People Advocating Recovery and Faces & Voices of Recovery.

Stories of recovery–from a few days to several decades–will be heard coast-to-coast. There will be media coverage, national celebrities spotlighted and the proverbial horror stories replayed.

September is a grand month to show and tell the story of recovery. There are 23 million of us, after all . . .

Your story of recovery

But I’m interested in your recovery story and how it rocks your world. Who are you as a result of recovery? How have you changed your attitudes and your outlook (outside the obvious!)?

I hear people say, “Oh, recovery is a gift!” I wonder if they realize the weight behind those words? When was the last time you sat and pondered the miraculous nature of your recovery story?

I was reminded today that the story I believe about myself and the story I tell you are sometimes vastly different. I’m often waaaay too hard on myself, expect waaaay too much from myself and even tell myself stories that just aren’t true.

After all, I don’t tell you that I’m stupid or that I suck.

Instead, if I’m honest with you, I’ll tell you that I’m trustworthy, sincere and kind. I’m positive by nature, fairly serene most of the time and compassionate. If I’m spiritually fit, I am balanced and gracious.

And that’s only part of my recovery story!

Miraculous stories of love

So, my friends in recovery, I encourage you to spend some quiet time thinking about the before-recovery you and the in-recovery you. Bet you can’t do without feeling giant waves of gratitude.

I was also reminded today that my recovery story happens right now.

Tweet: My recovery story does NOT include whipping myself over past events or losing sleep over the unknowns of tomorrow.

It’s all here, all now.

Will you share a bit of your recovery story with us?

Photo courtesy of Sgarton

Love is Glass Bookcases and Rainbow Bridges

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Two interesting questions were posed to me yesterday.

1. What were the things I noticed when I first entered recovery?

2. As a person in recovery, what do I try to pass on to those new in recovery?

A giant glass bookcase

I don’t remember much about my first 12-step meeting. But I do recall a massive glass bookcase on one wall that contained all the literature the group used. I was given a blue book from the bookcase.

That group closed down a couple of years later and I gave no thought to the bookcase until it showed up in the lobby of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in Kansas City where I had been hired as the director of prevention services.  (The organization is now called FirstCallKC.)

Although I don’t recall the details on how the bookcase arrived, I’m sure my boss (and sponsor and old horse-trader), finagled its arrival.

Odd that I thought about the bookcase yesterday.  Odder still that I related it to the transparency I saw in those early recovery meetings. People shared the raw details of their lives; I was raised to never let people really know what was going on with me.

Today, I talk a lot about transparency and allowing others to hold me accountable. In light of Robin Williams’ suicide, I think it’s critical that those of us blessed with recovery model transparency for others.

People with addiction or another brain disease deserve to feel safe and loved. They can’t know those things if the world is too busy judging instead.

My friend Tess Marshall posted recently to connect, connect, connect. Don’t take no for an answer if you know someone is suffering. Show them how to look beyond the reflection in the glass to the people standing around the bookcase ready and willing to help.

Silent killers

Depression, mental illness and addiction can be silent killers. It’s our responsibility, our duty to reach out, to reach up, to reach back to anyone and everyone who soundlessly screams.

Educate yourself, keep the conversation going and above all, be the love you want to give to others.

I heard an old Wynona and Naomi Judd song today that feels right to close . . . “Love can build a bridge between your heart and mine. Don’t you think it’s time?”
Photo courtesy of Archbob

**A special note about the photo:  Its rainbow colors and brilliant sunset are dedicated to Keeper Baylor, a retired racing greyhound who taught me plenty about building a bridge of love. Baylor crossed the Rainbow Bridge today and my heart is forever grateful. Race on, my beautiful boy.

Do NOT Pray for Patience!

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When I was fairly new in recovery, my sponsor told me that under no circumstances should I ever pray for patience.

While patience is a virtue, she said, if I pray for it, I am sure to get tons of opportunities to practice patience.

Holy cow, was she ever right.

The Patience post I didn’t write

I was mad last week.  I was mad the week before last week.  In fact, anger was oozing out of my pores for no apparent reason (or so I thought!) and even the state of anger made me mad.

I sat down to write last week’s recovery post for Thursday and here’s what I pounded on my keyboard:

“This is a tough post to write, folks, because I’m struggling mightily with anger.  I went to my regular 12-step meeting at noon today and the meeting leader’s topic was one that usually causes people to groan in protest.

“I won’t tell you the word that came out of my mouth when the topic was announced but it rhymes with buck.

“The topic?  Patience.”

That’s it.  I couldn’t write any more words; the flow in my head was jammed by a log or maybe a #2 pencil.  I anguished so much that the post didn’t get finished and I did a rare pass on my posting scheduled (that made me mad too).

Since last week I’ve learned–and accepted–that an angry rant about patience comes directly from my ego.  And the log/#2 pencil jam that clogged my word flow?  GUS (I write about GUS at this link.) doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself.

A more serene post on patience

“Variety in experience is necessary for our continued growth.”  I believe, as yesterday’s reading in Each Day a New Beginning: Daily Meditations for Women suggests, that my ego is constantly picking at me, sort of like a chicken plucks at the ground.

My damnable ego tries to get me to believe I deserve a less tumultuous journey, one less fraught with difficult challenges. My ego also handily dodges the idea that the measure of my journey’s success lies in how I handle the tumult.

I don’t want to, stomps my seven-year-old self.  I hear you, my 53-year-old self replies in support.  Nor should you have to.  You deserve an easier time.

Pa-shaw!

What my entire self deserves is the ability to really believe in the virtue of patience.  In fact, once I place value on the idea that everything is perfect in this moment, I have arrived on the doorstep of patience.  And I didn’t have to pray for it (Except thoughts can be prayers, but that’s another blog post entirely!).

I’ll leave you with this final thought by David G. Allen on patience, shared recently by a Facebook friend: “Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in mind.”

What are your thoughts about patience?  Do you have a favorite quote you’d like to share? Please post it in the comments section below.

And thanks for your continued patience with me!

Photo courtesy of pippalou

Easy Prayer of Surrender: “Ok, God, Whatever”

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I’m experiencing the Big Book’s promise that fear of economic insecurity will disappear.

For those unfamiliar with the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (the book carries the same name as the organization), millions worldwide rely on its teaching. It’s also known as a textbook for recovery.

I don’t claim to know the book backwards and forwards, in spite of its persistent connection with my life for more than two decades. I know people who quote the book constantly, often flinging the words about with the fervor of a street preacher.

For me, the Big Book is not a sacred text so much as it is the spiritually inspired wisdom of the co-founder of AA. For that reason, I hold it in respectful esteem.

The Promises

The familiar phrasing of the most quoted promises sandwiched between AA’s eighth and ninth steps begins, “If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through.”

The promise that comes a bit later in the section reads, “Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.” That’s the one that is filling my mind and heart right now.

Here’s why:  Somewhere during the last six weeks as my sweetie and I maneuvered through our move, I crossed an imaginary line from spastic, worrying and fearful Beth to calm, peaceful, come-what-may Beth.

After we found out that we qualified for our beautiful new home, I heaved a huge sigh of relief. I dodged a bullet because I’m still a fledgling self-employed entrepreneur with a credit score that’s lower than I would like.

But that was a turning point for me.  Suddenly, I viscerally believed the words that my sweetie continued to say to me: “Everything is going to work out just fine.  God’s got this.”  Looking backwards at that line in the sand, I knew then that she was 100% correct.

My new MINI

I felt so good about my new-found surrender and belief in the Promise  that I decided to get a new car this week too.  Five days after we moved in. I know–crazy, right?  Uh huh.

On Tuesday, I spent nearly seven hours in the company of the fabulous folks at the MINI of Plano, TX dealership and I had a great time!  If you’re in the area, be sure to check it out.  There’s no other car dealership like it, I’m convinced!

Throughout the back-and-forth negotiation process (which I actually enjoyed), I was cool and confident.  I set my intention of what I wanted and if it didn’t work, I was okay with walking away without malice or judgment.  The thought of adding a car payment to my already tight monthly cash-flow was just that:  a thought.

Zero fear of economic insecurity.

Can I share a secret?  Since this new understanding and acceptance of the Promise settling around me, I’ve had an unexpected check arrive, picked up a new client and just yesterday, learned of a major project that I’ll soon undertake.

My lesson?  Let go and the return is immense! My secret weapon is the shortest, easiest prayer of surrender I’ve heard.  Three words:  “Okay, God, whatever.”

Try it. Set your sites on the Promise, test the prayer of surrender and let me know what you experience.  Hold on for a great adventure!

Photo courtesy of jemolesky

Have You Found Freedom in Recovery?

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I found the rooms of recovery and a new way of living in 1991. While I recall the facts that surrounded the final days of active addiction, sometimes it’s hard to bring the feelings and emotions from that time to mind.

Hanging out with people new to recovery helps bring those early days closer to the surface for me. I so love watching new folks blossom during the early months of their recovery. That too takes me back to my first few months.

Once the fog cleared from the initial withdrawal of substances, I remember a sensational feeling of freedom. Suddenly, every experience was brand new again, as if I had been released from a bubble where all my senses had been cut off from my surroundings.

Recovery set me free.

I wonder, have you asked yourself what you’d like made new in your life so that you can be free?

Recovery’s beauty shines for you upon realizing that you get to decide–every day–what passes for meaning.

You.  Beautiful you.

Your eyes suddenly see clearly what was previously cloudy. Now your gaze falls upon the recognizable without wondering how it got there.

You’re released from the tightly wound death grip that formerly restrained you in a satanic clutch.

You can breathe again, deep, cleansing breaths, previously impossible with the weight of a thousand hammers holding you down.

You think and each thought takes you closer to the pureness of delight.

You wonder how you could have waited half your lifetime for this born-again experience. But you know you had to wait, had to know you were beyond the aid of anyone or anything before you could raise the white flag of surrender.

You had to be through with lounging in the devil’s den.

Your spirit, once given a glimpse of freedom, couldn’t wait to leap and drag the rest of you through the open window filled with sunlight.

So here you are at the precipice of your new life.

Freedom papers are yours to have and hold. You clutch them and leap like a child throwing himself into a cannonball pool jump.

Leap and the net will appear.  You’re told–promised–a recovery net will hold you. Can you hear the truth that yearns for your belief?

Freedom nudges you forward until your toes hover over the edge.

What if I’m wrong, the old you cries.

What the hell, your new self shouts. What if I’m right?

You jump.

Freedom is yours. Tell us about it, will you?

Photo courtesy of where_ever_I_am