Recovery

25 Years of One Day at a Time

Becky and Me Step-Repeat

Within 25 years, one generation begats the next. A child is born, grows up, graduates college and starts a career.

Twenty five years ago, Tim Berners-Lee introduced the web browser and the internet was made available for unrestricted commercial use. The U.S. was involved in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The 911 emergency system was tested in northwestern cities.

On May 20, 1991, in Independence, Mo, I admitted I was powerless over alcohol and made a decision to try to stay sober one day at a time. I was 30 years old and had no idea what was in store for me. All I knew was something had to change–if it didn’t I would probably kill myself.

Fast forward 25 years

Anyone who invests in his or her recovery eventually stumbles upon a milestone. Gosh, I sure didn’t know one would arrive so quickly!

Early on, there were things I had to do to stay sober. I worked with a sponsor, went to a ton of 12-step meetings, read literature and got involved in service work. Generally, I did what I was told because that’s how it worked for millions before me.

As a few years piled up, life got better and I grew more comfortable living life without alcohol. I found out that people who drink socially didn’t really understand alcoholism or its basis in medical conditions. Friends and people close to me fell away, or at a minimum held me at arm’s length, never quite sure what to make of me.

People didn’t talk about addiction back then, not outside of church basements and smoky meeting rooms. No, 25 years ago, the public talked about “those people who could quit if they really wanted to.”

Today, thankfully, we’ve made much progress when it comes to seeing addiction as a treatable health condition. The world of recovery has changed a bit for the better, although we have a long, long way to go in ridding the collective public mind of reasons to shame “those people.”

The next 25 years and beyond

There is still so much to be done because only one out of 10 people who needs treatment for addiction gets it. Someone dies every four minutes in this country.

Think about that for a second–every four minutes. That’s about 350 people each day. Then think of a fully-loaded airplane falling from the sky every day in America. Every single day.

On October 4, 2015, more than 25,000 of us staked a claim in the soggy ground around the Washington Monument in our nation’s capital. We were UNITE to Face Addiction and on that day, we ended the silence around how we treat addiction in this country.

I’m privileged to work with Facing Addiction, the national non-profit birthed on that muddy day in DC. We want to reduce the human and social costs of addiction year-by-year until this devastating public health crisis ends.

You see, I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve spent the last 20 years working in the field of prevention, treatment and recovery and I’ve always been pretty open about my recovery. Now, at 25 years of sober time and 55 years on the planet, I’m through hiding anything about who I am.

Now it’s time to figure out how I can really be of service. I’m talking big picture, as in, what’s my purpose, why am I here and how can I best be of service? Not small questions, to be sure, but I think I’m up to the task of finding the answers.

One day at a time that is.

Easter Monday Reflections

IMG_9163

Let me say from the git-go that I’ve never considered myself a religious person, except perhaps in college during a deeply philosophical conversation and far too much liquor. If I ever acted religious, it was for show.

Not being religious gave me a heady, intellectual persona, or so I thought (Alcohol was probably talking again.). With recovery, not only did the alcohol go away, so did the idea that I had to find a religious type.

Instead, I took up with spirituality. People in recovery told me I could live with a higher power–a God of my understanding–and I was good with that.

A few weeks ago I wrote about my Fat Tuesday impulsive decision to write daily essays during Lent based on prompts from Rev. Phil Ressler’s book, 40 Things to Give Up for Lent and Beyond: A 40 Day Devotion Series for the Season of Lent. I set the intention of getting more God in my life.

You see, I was kind of coasting during the early part of this year. Feeling kind of blah for no real reason. You know the story–everything is fine but nothing is really good. I needed a shake-up and now that I’m on the backside of 40 days of publishing 350-500 words each day, I’m feeling pretty darn good.

I wish I could fully express what writing those 40 essays did for me. (To read the series, go to my Facebook Notes page.) It feels like a pretty cool accomplishment and I’m grateful for the reader interaction.

The best part about the practice of letting go of 40 different things–and writing about it–was my heart opened as it hasn’t in a long, long time.

My open heart led me to say yes when my sweetie asked if I wanted to go to a church service on Saturday night. A friend and colleague of hers asked if we would be her guest at the Saturday evening Easter service at Elevate Life Church here in Frisco, Tx.

This is my Year of Yes, so I had to go. My mind was open but I was not prepared for the swell of emotions that washed over me during the evening. From the time we stepped out of the car in the cathedral’s parking lot to the time we stepped out of the ladies room following the service, we felt a genuine welcome and warmth from the multitude of volunteers.

The production of the Easter story was moving and masterful. My eyes leaked torrents of tears from start to finish.

I was surprisingly absorbed by the musical uplift and by Pastor Keith Craft’s message about seeing the proof and feeling the promise of the Resurrection. He said a resurrection plays out for each of us as we feel renewed or restored to our Christ-like selves (not his words, but the words that work for me).

I was carried away from the experience on a blanket of love. I felt (and feel) unstoppable–that word is Pastor Craft’s. I know the power of Christ is deep within me, that Jesus is a part of me. I guess that makes me religious after all.

Who knows what happens next. I don’t much care. I gave up a lot of things during Lent but gained so much more. On this Easter Monday, I am an Easter-sated gal ready to take on the world!

Photo courtesy of lauramusikanski

A Fat Tuesday Impulsive Decision

40-Things-for-Lent-Post

Fat Tuesday, the day when folks let the good times roll before some sort of abstinence begins on Ash Wednesday and (hopefully) sustains itself through Easter, was kind of weird.

I’m not a regular churchgoer so I seldom tie anything of real significance to Lent. This year, however, I felt the need to shore up my relationship with God a bit. Why not give God a good 40-day commitment?

I jumped online and found a great book called 40 Things to Give Up for Lent and Beyond, by Reverend Phil Ressler.

Each day, Rev. Ressler writes about giving something up, like negativity, apathy or complaining. He ties in scripture and suggested actions.

I decided to write daily essays based on Rev. Ressler’s topics. They’ve been fun to explore and write and most importantly, my God-shoring is going well! Here’s a portion of one of the essays:

Giving Up Impatience

Sometimes I wish a magician would snap her fingers in front of me and make all the challenges to my character (aka, character defects) disappear. Sigh . . .
I suppose I’ll always pine for the easier, softer way. GUS (God-Universe-Spirit) chuckles every time I pine because there IS an easier, softer way—just not the one I imagine.
It’s called surrender.
Years ago, when I still lived in Missouri, I had a vanity license plate on my car (pictured above). SURNDR. The first time my brother saw the plate, he stood staring at it for the longest time. Grinning, he finally turned to me and said, “I know what it means.”
What? I asked, happy that he figured it out.
“So You Are In Drive,” he said, proud of himself. (You’d have to know my brother to appreciate his sense of humor.)
Isn’t it ironic that surrender for me, a woman in long-term recovery from addiction, and for all the other recovering people I know, is the opposite of “so you are in drive?”
Being perpetually “in drive,” leads to impatience. Just for today, maybe I should consider being in idle.
So how exactly do we let go of impatience on this fourth day of Lent?
Phil Ressler writes in his 40 Things to Give Up for Lent and Beyond-the book this writing series studies-that “patience is about love.”
He suggests giving up impatience with God, with yourself and with others. I think being patient with myself is probably the most difficult of the three.
I’ve whined in 12-step meetings over the years that I want what I want when I want it. Each time I say the words, every head in the room nods back at me.
We are an instant fix, instant problem-solved, instant get-from-here-to-there kind of people.
What about enjoying the journey? It’s impossible to focus on being when you’re rushing, pushing and pressing forward.
Breathe. Just breathe.

You can find more essays like this on my Facebook page under Facebook Notes. Please enjoy and share!

The Year of Yes!

2016-calendar-14249743384QR

January 2016 is nearly old news–wait, WHAT? I haven’t yet written about my word for the year and now you’re telling me the year is 1/12th finished?

My word for the year, by the way, is joy. Seems a little anti-climatic to announce it now, though.

Sigh. I can’t keep up.

Hold on–there will be no sighing or whining. This is 2016, my friends, my year, your year (if you’d like to make it so!)!

This is the year of the double-nickel anniversary of my birth. This is the year of my 25th recovery anniversary. Oh man, and I just heard today that the National Recovery Month BIG rally will be in Dallas this year! My metro!

So what should I do to celebrate? Joy as my word is big, but clearly, I need to go bigger. I know just the ticket–let’s make 2016 the Year of Yes!

The year of what?

Let me explain. A few weeks back, while strolling through Barnes & Noble doing one of my favorite activities, I happened upon a book called Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes.

Rhimes, writer and producer of Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice and other dynamite television shows, was an introverted, workaholic, homebody, single mother of three who really just wanted to write her shows and be with her daughters.

During Thanksgiving, 2014, Rhimes’ oldest sister accused, in a concerned, big-sister way, “you never say yes to anything.”

It was Game On for Rhimes.  What follows is a memoir that relates her encounters with saying yes to party invitations, delivering speeches, more play and less work, speaking her whole truth, her body (She lost more than 100 pounds.), letting go of toxic people and the list goes on. Rhimes writes:

Say yes to everything for a year.

This is it. It’s happening. And now that it is here, saying yes stops being just a vague idea. Now the reality of what I am embarking upon sends my brain thundering around inside of my skull.

Say yes?

There’s no way to plan. There’s no way to hide. There’s no way to control this. Not if I am saying yes to everything.

Yes to everything scary.

So it’s game on

2016 is my Year of Yes. Want to join me? Yes to everything scary?

I am the introverted writer who shies away from social commitments and just wants to homebody with the dogs and my sweetie.

Time to stretch. You only turn 55 once.

I’m keeping a weekly list–here’s the simple criteria for making the list (although I’ll say yes to much more): Does the object of the yes create an opportunity for me to mindfully connect with others or will it further my spiritual walk?

It’s going to be fun to look back on this list a year from now in January, 2017. Where will my yeses take me? Who will I meet? Will old relationships become new again? What new relationships will gel? Where will I go and what new opportunities will arise?

I’ve already said yes to more fun, to recovery, to my health and to lowering my defenses and realizing that I need a tribe. More to come on that piece.

Rhimes writes, “This Yes is about giving yourself the permission to shift the focus of what is a priority from what’s good for you over to what makes you feel good.”

Oh that feels good. Are you saying yes? What are you saying yes to? 

See Ya, 2015; Look Out, 2016!

Happy-New-Year-2016-Quotes

Are you ready to take the annual leap, the deep-dive plunge into 2016? Not that you have much choice, since the clock ticks the same for everyone, but are you ready?

It’s easy to shrug your shoulders and reply, “as ready as I’ll ever be,” and that’s fair. Maybe you’re the sort of person who likes to roll with the flow and see what happens next.

You’ll get no judgment from me. I say go with what feels best for you, but please, let that be a mindful decision.

Be mindful about your beginnings

The final days of 2015 give you a chance to frame how you want 2016 to begin.  You decide what you want to leave behind and what you take into the new year.

It’s kind of like moving from one place to the next. When you’re packing, you pile up things to toss, things to donate and things to move with you into your new space.

Again, let these be mindful decisions.

So, where’s your head these days? Are you rushing to complete an impossible task list? Are you trying to do everything just right so your boss, kids, best friend and significant other are happy with you? Does the word stressed describe you pretty well?

Please do yourself a favor and use today and tomorrow as Stop It days. What are Stop It days? These are times when you raise your right hand to whatever is stressing you, like you would raise your hand to stop traffic.

You are stopping traffic, the traffic thoughts in your head that not only drive you crazy, they eventually crash and burn, taking you down too.

Stop It time is a real solution to hammer home the notion that you have to quit doing some of the things you’re doing. Stop It time gives you a chance to surrender the thoughts, attitudes and behaviors that no longer serve you.

Surrender your mental debris by 11:59 pm on Dec. 31 so that Jan. 1 is a sparkling slate ready for… Click To Tweet

Go to your happy place

I’ve had a phenomenal 2015 filled with lots of adventures. Nothing impacted me more than UNITE to Face Addiction on October 4.

The memory of standing beneath the Washington Monument on the National Mall with 25,000 people passionate about addiction and recovery is seared into my soul. Knowing we made history with the formation of Facing Addiction, the nation’s first organization to comprehensively address America’s number one public health issue, still chokes me up.

As 2015 draws to a close and I ponder next year’s possibilities, I’m going to my happy place–the beach!

Yes, my sweetie and I will ring in the new year on the Emerald Coast of Florida. The forecast calls for daytime highs in the mid-50s to low-60s and rain. I’m packing sweats, a rain jacket and a stocking cap.

I don’t care because I’ll be in my happy place, the place where I find release and renewal. It’s a perfect combination to begin a new year.

My prayer for you is a happy place where you feel your own personal release and renewal. New beginnings are the best and I wish only the best for you, my valued readers. I appreciate you and can’t wait to see what 2016 holds for all of us!