Changing Playmates and Playgrounds

Hangin’ out choices.  We all get to make them; we get to determine how and where and when and with whom we choose to spend our time.

I used to hang out with people and in places where I didn’t belong or had no business–unhealthy places–but I thought I was choosing to be there.  Now I know that my addiction made the choice for me.

Then I got sober and found myself still making unhealthy hang-out choices.  I’d go places because I thought I was supposed to or because I thought it would make someone else happy.

Never mind my own desires.  I let others make choices for me. I sacrificed myself a lot back then.  Today I know that I am worth more, that I am worthy of stating, and then following, my own choices.

Today I make good hang-out choices.  I go where I want to go.  I go there because I want to be there.  I go with–or without–the people I want in my life.  For the most part, I go when I want to go (although this one is a bit trickier.).

Can you say the same?  I hope you can because giving your power and choices to another out of  obligation could be habit-forming.  Should’s and would’s can become ought-to’s and could-have’s.

I’ve spent the last few days hangin’ out at Tender Acres in Bartonville, TX, with a sweet 11-year-old boy and his grandmother.  On this Mindful Monday, I feel re-charged and re-focused.

I know for sure that life is good.  Even the barn cat says so!

Where are you hangin’ out today?  Are you there by your choice or because someone else wants you to be there?

A Sober Horse Thief

Occasionally during one of my meetings, I hear an old phrase that I haven’t heard in awhile.  At Monday’s meeting, I not only heard not one, but two golden oldies.  Plus I learned one that was new to me and one that made me weep a bit.

How about the two oldies first?

You can sober up a drunken horse thief and you still have a horse thief.”

Simply, put, if an alcoholic puts down the bottle but doesn’t addresses the root causes of behaviors that perpetuate the drinking, then his or her tendency to still have those behaviors is great.

I know I’m not alone in the experience of encountering extremely angry, although sober, people in recovery.  My guess–and I am only an expert through my own experience, not because I play one on TV–is that extreme anger is but a symptom of a deeper problem.  Hooray for the sober part–and that is huge–but please get honest with the rest of the factors that motivate you to behave badly or, at a minimum, cause you misery and pain.

“Drinking again makes as much sense as stepping into the ring with Muhammad Ali.  You can’t win.”

For those of us who truly believe we’re 10 feet tall and bullet-proof when fortified with our own brand of poison, then we are delusional.  But the actual delusion that we talked about in Monday’s meeting was having a period of sobriety and thinking (or not) that “this time will be different.”

My friend said she actually told herself on a bad morning after that she was sure she just needed to give up the carbonation. Uh huh.  That’s like saying if I would only look left, the punch from the right wouldn’t happen.

No mas.  No more.  My drinking was no longer about carbonation or potency or whether it came in a can, bottle or box.  My drinking looked like Ali’s knock-out opponents–just about as ugly as they come.

Now for the new saying heard in Monday’s meeting:

“I figure I wake up every morning with untreated alcoholism.  Each day is about treating my disease.”

I’m told that this golden image arrived in North Texas via one of our peeps visiting Floria.  Don’t you love the way it places the disease squarely on the shoulders of the individual?  There is absolutely no room for a victim or a “pour me” to reside in that space of waking up.

I love the no-nonsense and realistic approach.  And here’s the really cool part:  Should you adopt this morning mantra, it doesn’t mean you have to sit around first thing talking about what you are and what you’re not.  I pretty much disdain labels but I do have a huge appreciation for accepting truth.  My truth is I have the disease of alcoholism.  Why not acknowledge that first thing?  No boo-hoo, why-me mentality, just a matter-of-fact statement that invites a daily course of treatment.

Now for the sentences that caused me to weep:

“I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what is or isn’t.  God reveals that information to me when He figures I can handle it.  If He gave it all to me when I sobered up, I would have had little choice but to kill myself.”

God bless my friend Joe.  I really want his peace and serenity.  He has a gentle way of simplifying things and cutting straight through the drama and tension that is too often  my life.  He also says things like, “What can I do to help?” and “You know I’m here for you.”

I find that I do spend far too much time worrying about something that may or may not happen in the future.  My mind wears out its own carpet wandering back and forth between what I could’ve, would’ve or should’ve said 10 days, four months or two years ago.

Yes, there are times when I’m still a horse thief and times when I do begin to crawl back into Ali’s ring.

Then I remember that those are choices available to me.  Thank God for choices.  They mean I get to choose better ones today.


Independence: So Much More Than a Day

Fireworks will ignite across America today as celebratory symbols of freedom.

Flags will fly, hot dogs will grill, parks and pools will overflow with folks grateful for a Monday off work.

I’m a gal from Independence, MO so I’ve always been proud of my connection to independence as a word.  In my 20 years of sobriety, I’ve learned to use independence and the word freedom in tandem.

Freedom from addiction:  now that is something to celebrate, as is independence from the mental twists and turns that led me to the disease of addiction.  And the coolest part of being free and independent of active addiction to substances?

I’m grateful that I used them in the first place.  Every time I abused my body, mind and spirit with alcohol or came out of a blackout or suffered through the world’s worst hangover, I traveled closer to this day.

This magnificent, awe-inspiring, God-filled Independence Day is the day of freedom I so longed for when I was drinking.  Little did I know that I had to consume every drink and had to wrap my arms around each porcelian bowl in order to arrive here.

God, what a place this is today, what a peaceful, yet thrilling place of grace.  Thank you not only for the grand gift of sobriety, but for the laser-sharp awareness of what it took to get to this day of independence.

Please share your thoughts of the glory of independence on this Mindful Monday.  Love to all!


6 Reasons to Abandon Your Thinking

“This sort of thinking had to be abandoned.”    

–Alcoholics Anonymous, page 48

I’m told that my best thinking brought me to my here-and-now circumstances.  Sometimes that frightens the crap out of me because my mind field of thoughts is filled with sand traps, booby traps and every other kind of trap.

Yes it’s true.  That sort of thinking must be abandoned.  Before you ask how, which would be my first question, consider that the “how” isn’t as important as the “why.”

How to abandon your thinking is pretty easy . . . just think different thoughts.  (I didn’t say it would be simple.)  But why should you abandon those thoughts?  Because those erroneous thoughts we contemplate become the beliefs that evoke our attitudes that produce our actions.

Reason #1 to Abandon Your Thinking:  What we think about we bring about. 

I don’t know about you, but I have an obsessive and compulsive mind.  If I see it, I want it.  If I want it, I can’t stop thinking about it.  I must have it.  I have to have it.  If “it” is unattainable or at least difficult to obtain, I noodle my thoughts round and round the spoon until I find a way to get it. Then I generally hurt my arm patting myself on the back because I found a workaround.  Abandon that thinking!

What if I tried accepting that I can’t have the coveted thing, the decadent dessert, the newest electronic gadget, the desire for more?  What if I could be happy without?

There is every possibility that I would be happy without the latest, greatest whatever, or the most recent flavor of ice cream or the latest sequel to my favorite book or movie.  Yeah, but what if I’m not?

Reason #2 to Abandon Your Thinking:  You will no longer be plagued by those “yeah, buts.”

You know what I mean.  Think of a time when you’ve been depressed or a little down and a well-meaning friend has offered a myriad of solutions in hopes of getting you out of your doldrums.  With every offer of a helpful suggestion from your friend, you find yourself responding with “Yeah but, . . . ”

Our own thoughts can produce the same response.  We can usually think of at least three options to pull our minds out of the quicksand, but we don’t follow-through because:

Reason #3 to Abandon Your Thinking:   We sit in our own sh@t because it’s warm.

We’re comfortable with circumstances as they are because they’ve been this way for five, 10, 20 years or more.  Things may not be the way I like them, but hey, there are millions of people worse off than me.  I’m doing alright.  Sure, I’m a little down and things could always be improved, but it’s not as if I’m suicidal or anything.  There is someone worse off than me who needs help worse than I do.  So I’ll just suck it up and be grateful for what I have.

Let’s be clear:  We’re not here to suggest that anyone who changes her or his present circumstances is ungrateful for what they’ve been given.  Our concern here is how those present circumstances are treated, whether with respect and integrity or with a “what the hell” cavalier attitude.

Reason #4 to Abandon Your Thinking:  You’re getting bloody and bruised from beating on yourself. 

For the first few years of my sobriety, I saw a counselor who said to me many times over, “Beth, eliminate all those “o-u” words from your vocabulary.  No more should have, could have, would have or ought to.

I was a new woman when I took this advice to heart.

Reason #5 to Abandon Your Thinking:  Much, if not all, of our thinking is erroneous.

Let’s be honest.  The percentage of our thoughts that are pure and true is far less than our thoughts that masquarade as judgments and false conclusions.  Erroneous thoughts create a vicious cycle of limited sight and crippling perceptions.  

Reason #6 to Abandon Your Thinking:  Our thinking is based on conclusions of people who lived in another time and place.

Have you ever uttered the words “that is just the way it is” or “because we’ve always done it that way?”  Where is the growth, the challenge, the adventure in those phrases? Abandon them!

There you have it.  Six of 12 reasons to abandon your thinking. Just let go . . . create a vacuum of emptiness where fresh, creative and beautiful thoughts can begat themselves.  Yes, it’s difficult to undo years and decades of same-0ld, but I have faith in you.  Let’s do it together!  And don’t forget to check back for the remaining six nuggets of reasons to abandon your thinking.

See you in the fresh mind fields.

(photo courtesy of wadem) 

2011 Word #3: Order

I’ve been moaning to myself about my life being out of order.  It just feels all jumbled up right now.  I’d really like for the whole thing to be fixed so I can get on with the business of doing what I do, which apparently is to obsess about regaining control of that which is uncontrolable.

In the meantime, my ego is trying to trick me.  “Girl, you’ll be just fine (and we know what FINE really means!), just keep juggling; you’re getting really good at catching  those spinning plates.”

I don’t know if I’m not spiritual enough yet or what, but I’m sure not feeling the zen that several of my blogging buddies describe.  Instead, I feel keyed-up, coiled-up and knotted-up.  What is that about?

Don’t Pray for Patience . . .

. . . because you’ll get plenty of situations and people for which you get to practice patience.  Apparently, I shouldn’t have announced to the universe that 2011 for me would be overseen by the words Intention, Source and Order.

Because my life is far from orderly. 

Two of the three 2011 words–Intention and Source–are easy in comparison to Order.  I’m usually pretty faithful when it comes to keeping the commitments of my intentions.  As for Source, I truly know that God, as my source, does for me what I can and cannot do for myself.

I am really having hissy fits about Order.  How?

  • By thrusting myself into my day with little rhyme or reason.
  • I am easily distracted.
  • I am eating every thing in sight while promising God that I’ll start exercising tomorrow.  This is pretty much a daily thing.
  • I am a bit irritable and by God, I deserve to be because if you people would only (fill in the blank).

That’s What it’s Like for Me.  Except . . .

 Yesterday, I was moved by a recent post by Barrie Davenport at Live Bold and Bloom (here’s the link: In the post, Barrie offers an exercise that determines what your top 5 values are how those values can form the background of every decision you make.

Once I got into the post, I modified it because I’ve already done a bunch of the work via the 4th Step. (full disclosure: I was plane hopping during the time I worked on the exercise and just wanted to get down to the nitty gritty.  This avenue is not recommended.  Please take all of Barrie’s suggestions.)

What I did instead was to work with the beginning suggestions about choosing words that are a part of our overall life experience and separately, a part of our work experience.  Ultimately I narrowed all the words to a simple list of 12 words.  Here are the words in alpha order: Acceptance, Balance, Courage, Creative, Freedom, Humility, Integrity, Mindfulness, Optimism, Passion, Peace and Presence.

What to Do With 12 Random Words?

I may cull the list further but for now, I want to give each word the attention it deserves.

I’ll spend one week on each, blog about each and absorb each one into the functioning of my days.

Sounds pretty orderly to me.  Over the course of the next 12 weeks, will you comment, or tweet/Facebook the blog post link indicating your support?

I’m eager for this work because I believe there will be insights and revelations.  If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll even learn a thing or two about Order. Wouldn’t that be cool?