Recovery

White Heron or Range Rover?

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Over the weekend, I was leaving my neighborhood when a majestic white heron, like the one pictured here, flew low across the street in front of my car.

Seconds later, I turned left onto Village Boulevard (speed limit 30 mph, I believe) when a burnt orange Range Rover with out-of-state plates suddenly appeared behind me, swerved around me and zoomed toward the main entrance.

Definitely not neighborhood etiquette, not to mention downright rude! I quickly opened my iPhone camera and tried to snap a pic of the license plate but I was too late.

I was furious! Good thing I was on my way to my regular Saturday morning 12-step meeting.

Then it hit me

Suddenly I realized how the previous 30 seconds was a microcosm of my life.

Two quick moments: Close encounters with a beautiful white heron and a rude driver of an ugly Range Rover–each eliciting strong, instant emotions. Which do I focus on after the moment has passed?

I laughed out loud when I got a mental picture of Little Beth stomping her foot and muttering through clenched teeth, “Range Rover.” But the adult, more expansive me? White heron, of course.

Choosing where to place your focus

You’ve had similar experiences, right? A moment of awe or wonder or thrilling adrenaline? And a second moment–maybe within the “good” one, that is ugly or hurtful or just yucky.

It’s the Cherokee fable about which wolf do you feed?

Your decision is crucial because it sets the tone for what comes next–darkness or light? Kind-hearted or gritchy? Loving or hateful?

In the split second you’re given to make the decision, try to see past your self-focused vision to the people your decision impacts. Your family, children, neighbors, or in my case, the people with whom I shared the suburban streets. Our decisions always have consequences.

James Allen said, “Man is made or unmade by himself. By the right choice he ascends. As a being of power, intelligence, and love, and the lord of his own thoughts, he holds the key to every situation.”

My entire Saturday hinged on the decision I made in the 30-second flash of the white heron and the Range Rover. We make those choices multiple times each day.

Teach yourself to be present to those moments and then choose wisely. Your day, and the days of everyone you encounter hinges on your choice.

Peace to all!

P.S. A quick shameless plug for Facing Addiction and the team on the ground in Cleveland at the Caucus for Addiction Solutions during the Republican National Convention. Catch Facebook Live news coverage and interviews. Next week it’s on Philadelphia to host the Caucus during the Democratic National Convention.

Photo courtesy of AcrylicArtist

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

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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

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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!

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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?