12 Steps

Growing Up in Recovery

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I always think this is the most exciting part. The tearing down what’s outlived its time so you can begin to build up again. ~ J.D. Robb in Concealed in Death

There is an adage in recovery that emotional and social maturation stops when the disease of addiction takes over our lives. (If anyone has a source for scientific proof of this nugget, please send it to me!).

If that’s the case, when I entered recovery at 30, I had the emotional spark plugs of a 15-year-old since that’s when I experienced my first alcoholic blackout.

Trust me when I tell you that my plugs were definitely not firing on all cylinders.

That was then . . .

So now it’s 23 years later and I’m realizing that even the 15-year-old emotional mess that arrived at the doorstep of recovery needed tearing down.  The living practices I used before recovery had outlived their time.

I needed to grow up.

The thought was kind of depressing because it meant discarding several practices that served me well (or so I thought).

For instance, no more finger-pointing.

What?  Me?  I most certainly did not point fingers at others.

Oh really?  So your record is clean when it comes to blaming?  You’ve never uttered the words, “well, if she hadn’t done blah-blah, then I could have blah-blah” or something close?

You’ve never started an explanation with “you don’t understand” or “yeah, but” or even “but, wait a minute . . . “?

Those are all dead giveaways of finger-pointing and a sign of emotional immaturity.

God, I hate it when the voices in my head gang up on me.

But wait, there’s more!

What about the so-called justified anger, sulking, hurt pride, and the occasional temper tantrums?

Alright already!  I get it.  So I can be a big baby sometimes.

Wow.  Okay.  That’s quite an admission.  Congratulations.

This is now . . .

One of the gifts of long-term recovery is levity.  I’ve learned to laugh at the ways I show up for recovery some days.  Oh, I can’t see my itty-bitty babyness when I’m whining or complaining, but give me a few minutes to talk it out (in my head), or write it out, and I’m usually chuckling.

But one of the most major gifts is truly understanding that I am 100% responsible for my life.  That’s how I know I’m growing up.  That’s how I know I’m making progress.

I saw a Facebook post the other day (thanks to Tess Marshall of The Bold Life) that originated with Hope in 10271559_287211548120236_7608568247673275694_nRecovery Through Love, Light and Laughter.  It was this photo that reads:  “More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren’t so busy denying them.”

Isn’t that the truth?  As Tess reminded me, it is critical that my responsibility level for my life is 100%.  Not 72% or even 99%, but 100-all-in-percent.

Who’s with me on this?

Are you up for the challenge?

In the comments section, share with me how you know you’re growing up in recovery.  What old, childish behaviors have you torn down to make way for your new awesome self?

Post photo courtesy of stweedlie 

Feelings Are Not Facts And Hope is For Real

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When everything falls apart and we feel uncertainty, disappointment, shock, embarrassment, what’s left is a mind that is clear, unbiased and fresh. ~ Pema Chödrön

I promised myself when I started this blog a few years ago that I would always be honest and real when sharing about the day-to-day details of recovery.  

Staying present–both feet firmly planted in the now–is what this blog is about, although there are times when that is way easier said than done.

Right now is one of those times.  Right now it feels like everything is falling apart.  God knows I’m surrounded by uncertainty and disappointment, a little shock and even a bit of embarrassment.  Right now, that’s all I can see.

Now, before my phone blows up with texts and calls, please notice in the sentence above that the word “feels” is in italics.  I am okay, albeit hangin’ on by loose threads; everything just feels like it’s crashing.

And feelings aren’t facts, as I’m often reminded.  The truth is I do have several things going on:   major financial challenges, a couple of potential health diagnoses and significant emotional rawness in grieving family issues.

The good news is none of it will kill me, not today, anyway, not if I focus on what’s right in front of me.

On the Beam or Off the Beam?

These two lists occupy the walls of many 12-step groups in Texas (maybe other places too).  I bought a copy of each, framed them and hung them on the wall just outside my office.  I see them every time I go in or leave.

Sometimes I really see them, know what I mean?  Today, for instance, the word hope is a little clearer after a recent 12-step topic meeting.

The bottom line is 23 years ago, I felt hope-less.  I was about a week away from entering recovery and my life felt like it was circling the drain.

Oh, I wasn’t like a skid-row bum guzzling from a bottle in a paper bag.  Gosh no.  I had a house, job and car, thank you very much.

But I was an empty shell living a purpose-less life.  I was an automaton living to drink alcohol to numb my feelings of nothingness.

Yes, I would say I was hope-less, devoid of believing my life would ever be any different.

But hope is a cunning and baffling trickster.  She can masquerade as the force that drove my car to my first 12-step meeting and voice the words of those people who connected with my heart that night.

I believe there’s a reason Hope is at the top of the On the Beam list.  Hope carries the torch for new beginnings with, as Pema says, “a mind that is clear, unbiased and fresh.”

Let me go on record–as I approach the 23rd anniversary of entering recovery–that while the outer trappings of life may appear to fall apart, so long as I am mindful right now of hope, I am okay.

Compared to where I used to be, the feeling of being okay is fine by me.

 

Recovery From Anything Equals a Healthier You

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I was in the Apple store earlier this week (and came out happy, but poor) and had a really cool conversation with Colten, my 20-something salesman, about the stigma of addiction recovery.  He was so surprised to learn that the woman standing before him was in recovery because, well, I wasn’t what he imagined a person in recovery would look like.

I think he thought I would be taller.

Actually, it was a terrific educational moment and after he loaded my new iMac in my car, Colten thanked me for sharing my story with him.  I said it was good of him to inquire about how I got into my line of work.

Then I asked Colten to tell a few of his friends that he’d talked to a woman in recovery that day.  Imagine how many conversations would start if those of us in recovery shared a bit of our story with one or two other people.

I know a person who . . .

Without fail, people tell me about someone they know who has addiction or is in recovery.  For Colten, it was a buddy who is sober and doing well.  But there for a while, it was ugly, he said, no doubt uglier because of shame or misinformation.

Wouldn’t it be cool if we talked about addiction and recovery without shame attached?

Truth is, everybody is recovering from something–that’s an ongoing conversation among some friends and me these days.  This kind of public dialog taking place on social media and face-to-face has great implications for the health of individuals, communities and society as a whole.

I started to insert a disclaimer here about the distinction between recovery from substance addiction, or drugs and alcohol, but decided not to.  That so-called distinction invites separation and degrees of recovery.  Any division is no good for the people trying to recover; in fact, it could end their desire for a more healthy lifestyle.

Stop with the comparisons and offer up inclusiveness

“I spilled more booze than you drank, kid.”  Sound familiar?  I heard that kind of backhanded support when I entered recovery.

What did I learn?  A couple of things:  1) There are people in recovery with enormous egos.  No shock there, right? 2) That it was up to me whether I wanted to lean on the distinction I’d been given–High Bottom Beth–or accept that just like the chronic whiskey spiller, I was addicted to alcohol but wanted recovery.

Twenty three years ago this month I chose the latter.  But here’s my point–in the long stretch of time since May of 1991 I’ve come to understand that there are other substances and behaviors to which I am addicted.  These things are unhealthy for me and I want to recover from being dependent on them.

I’ll not enumerate them here because I’d like for there to be no parameters around this particular conversation about recovery and health.

As a people, we’re competitive.  Who doesn’t like to think she’s more than you in some way?  I’m asking you to put competition aside and embrace a notion of global holistic health as a result of recovery from whatever you think causes dis-ease for you.

Can we do that?  Let’s grow in health together and accept each person’s desired recovery path.  What does a healthy recovery mean for you?

Photo courtesy of hotblack

How to Bring the Peace of the Beach Back Home

IMG_1924 My sweetie and I returned a week ago from a relaxing spring vacation in Playa del Carmen, Mexico and celebrating my birthday.

People talk about needing their vacations, but I’m telling you, we really needed ours.  We’ve experienced our share of fears and worries in the last 18 months after we each received an undignified job loss (also known as a layoff).  Even our little Jack Russell pooch seemed skeptical at times about whether there would be a meal cut-back but happily none of us has missed one yet.

On the day before we left, I wrote in my journal, “I’m going to leave all the trauma/drama of the last 18 months on the beach as an intended sand sculpture. Let the waves wash my emotional angst out to sea.

“I surrender–there is no need to pack it around anymore.  All that crap really over-stayed its welcome anyway.  I’m ready to move on without it.  There is a new me coming; this time next week my arms will fling IMG_0002_2open wide to welcome the next phase of this life adventure.  But first there must be an emptying to make room for the new.”

The timing of our trip coincided with Easter Week–I’m a huge fan of symbolism.  I wrote, “This week is the perfect confluence of my birthday, Easter Week and a beachside surrender.”

My Caribbean birthday

First, a shout-out of thanks to the Valentin Imperial Maya Resort–wow, did those folks make me feel special! Throughout our stay, they sent me two beautiful cakes, a bowl of incredible fruit and an exotic flower arrangement.  Plus, my sweetie decorated our suite top-to-bottom with confetti, streamers and birthday signs.

As I sat writing on the veranda on the morning of my birthday, gazing at the mangrove forest and the sea beyond and listening to the massive bird brigade, I felt blissfully content.  I wanted nothing more than what my senses absorbed in those moments.

Later, as we walked the beach, knowing that love had no limit, I started to let go, and that process continued for the next five days.  Our time at the beach was restful simplicity followed by big decisions like whether to nap at the pool or read in the cabana.

Each day was filled with bright, sun-drenched beach walks, ocean swims and dining al fresco.  We recharged our minds and refreshed our spirits.

The reality of reality

As our vacation wound down and new adventures back in Dallas beckoned, I found myself trying to bridge the divide between beach and everyday living.  Sure enough, our first days back were a sensory overload of city sounds.  Where oh where was Beach Cabana #19?

And, how could we bring the peace of the beach into our day-to-day?

It’s simple, but as with the 12-step program I follow, definitely not easy.  The answer, as I see it, is to figure out a way to find a solid rightness about simply sitting and being, which of course means scheduling in breaks during workaday activities.

Tweet: The serenity of the beach can always be a part of us IF we deliberately and intentionally work at it. @bheretoday

Here’s what I’m doing:

1.  Starting my days as I did while at the beach.  This means reflective contemplation and journaling.

2.  Getting outside and moving.  We walked four times as much at the beach than when at home.  My body is more fluid than it’s been in a long time.

3.  Connecting with nature.  Although we’re landlocked here in north central Texas, with the exception of a few sizable lakes, there are plenty of trees and plants blooming and birds flitting.

4.  Breathe deeply.  Observe intently.  Spend time staring into space.  And above all, continue to let stuff go.

(One more:  Start adding to the next vacation jar!)

How You Can “Do Like Daniel”

1-IMG_5359Every now and then, a Sunday morning TV minister catches my attention.

Yesterday morning, following a mighty thunderstorm in north central Texas, Joel Osteen spoke mightily to his faithful in Houston and across the globe.

A quick aside:  Anything ever written in this blog related to religion is strictly my opinion and is never an endorsement.  I like to remain as open-minded as possible when it comes to matters of the Spirit.  And, in the spirit of good 12-step advice, I try to “take what I need and leave the rest.”  

Focus on the message, not the messenger

Lay aside any opinions you may have about Joel Osteen because three words–a total of 14 characters counting spaces–he spoke during his talk/sermon yesterday are much more grand than even his presence.

Osteen said, “Do like Daniel.”

He went on to tell the Old Testament story about Daniel getting unceremoniously tossed into the lion’s den by King Darius in Babylon.  The story goes that old Darius, who thought Daniel was pretty cool, was tricked by some of Daniel’s enemies into passing a law that decreed no one was to worship any god or man other than Darius the king for 30 days.

Daniel, who was 80 at the time (hmmm, didn’t know that fact), continued to worship the God of his faith in spite of the decree.  The king had little choice but to throw him to the lions.  By the way, Rev. Osteen referred to 100 lions but I didn’t fact-check him.

The next morning, after Darius spent a worrisome and sleepless night, he went to the lion pit and found Daniel sleeping.  Duly impressed by Daniel’s unfaltering faith, he made a new decree that everyone should worship Daniel’s God. (Remember:  Take what you need and leave the rest.)

How can you “do like Daniel?”

The story is, after all, describing one man’s ability to weather any storm or condition or event.  I mean, seriously, does it get much worse than a tribe of hungry lions?

The lions are a metaphor for the situations in our lives that threaten our deepest faith in ourselves, and more importantly, our faith in whatever power we believe is greater than ourselves.

I think there are some pretty simple ways we can “do like Daniel.”  Here are a random few; I’d love to hear more from you because I’ll bet you’ve had at least one or two den-like experiences.  Be sure to mention them in the comments section below.

Focus on positivity:  Figure out a way to begin every day this way

Think thoughts on purpose (another Joel-ism): Be deliberate and intentional with your thinking

Find a method or manner of quiet-time each day: Prayer, meditation, bubble baths

Let it all go: No matter what she said or he did to you, no matter the mistakes and missteps you’ve made, forgive it all.

Believe you are good and worthy:  God don’t make no junk, y’all.

Have a supercalifragilistic kind of week.  Don’t forget to DO LIKE DANIEL and tell us how you do it!

Photo courtesy of Sgarton