Spirituality

23 Gifts of Willingness, Thanks to Recovery

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November 20th is the mid-point in my sobriety year. Three days ago, the recovery calendar turned to 24 1/2 for me.

I think I remember that first six-month mark–24 years ago–because it came right at Thanksgiving and was the beginning of my first sober holiday season.

I remember spending a good deal of time in November and December of 1991 overcome with gratitude. In fact, I don’t think a single season since then has quite captured the magnitude of emotion I felt then.

Now, in full disclosure, I was an emotional wreck in 1991; gratitude was only one of many emotions that lived on my skin’s surface. I was also angry, bitter and self-righteously indignant, mostly with my family. Those poor people.

24 years ago and now

Six months into recovery found me fiery and righteous. I looked and acted tough although my insides quivered in fear of not drinking or smoking pot during the holidays. My God, how would I survive?

Thank you, God, for feeling comfortable in my skin all these years later. I no longer wear my emotions just above my hairline. Sometimes I may still not like the skin I’m in–I’m working on toning and tossing some of it–but I really like who I am today.

Who cares if it took nearly a quarter of a century to get here?

The gift of willingness

Of all the reasons for thanksgiving and gratitude this year, I am grateful for the gift of willingness. This topsy-turvy year brought me to a recent resting place of sorts; a place where I’m settling in and figuring things out. I wouldn’t have this resting place without willingness.

In this past year I have become willing to:

  1. 1. Trust the process
  2. 2. Keep my mouth shut
  3. 3. Let go of outcomes
  4. 4. Cultivate awareness and quiet time
  5. 5. Say, “No, I don’t want to”
  6. 6. Believe in unknown possibilities
  7. 7. Have faith in right outcomes
  8. 8. Love without liking
  9. 9. Look beyond what I see
  10. 10. Try something new, then something else
  11. 11. Sit with uncomfortable feelings
  12. 12. Say, “Yes, I will do the thing I love to do”
  13. 13. Bow my head more often
  14. 14. Leap into adventures
  15. 15. Lend hand and heart in service
  16. 16. Appreciate others’ struggles without fixing them
  17. 17. Reach and stretch mind, body and spirit
  18. 18. Grow where I am
  19. 19. Pray without ceasing
  20. 20. Cherish my family
  21. 21. Turn from the angry and violent
  22. 22. Stay mindful
  23. 23. Caress my heart-mate with tenderness, open arms and a welcome home at the end of each day

God’s grace grants me, not only willingness, but also desire to do each of these things. What a bountiful feast of joyful living!

Feelings of blessing begin with an inner knowing that all is well. I feel well today! My soul feels happy–me, the one who always tried to “figure out” the meaning of happiness. Now I’m basking in pools of heavenly happiness.

My prayer for you during this week of Thanksgiving is that you feel well too. May your soul feel happy, may you uncover your own willingness list and may you grow in your sense of God’s grace.

B Well and Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo courtesy of taliesin

Observations From a Month Underwater

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Water, water everywhere. Most of the country knows about the intense flooding in Texas where I live.

There was enough rain in May to submerge the entire state–all 262,000 square miles–in eight inches of water. At this writing on the last day of May in North Central Texas, we’re experiencing a sunny day, one of only a handful this month. In the past week alone, we swam through double-digit inches of falling water.

Just as I’m grateful for the sun today, I’m also grateful for a refreshed commitment to recovery.

Celebrating sobriety?

May is also the month that I entered recovery 24 years ago. Although I picked up my chip and participated in my group’s recovery celebration, I spent the better part of the month wondering whether I deserved the recognition. I guess you could say that my recovery, like much of Texas, was underwater.

Recovery for me had become as cloudy and overcast as the Texas skies. Turbulent and unstable patterns threatened both my mental condition and weather conditions. To be fair, there were several factors that contributed to the perfect storm formation, but like an amateur storm chaser, I refused to believe the conditions were beyond my control.

My ego pushed me forward in repeated attempts to right-size when I should have leaned into the wall cloud of change. The bruises and battering could have been avoided, but then, I may have missed the lesson in how to… Click To Tweet

Now I know that I needed to flounder in the murky undercurrent so that I could once again appreciate the quality of clear-water living.

Getting into the solution

We know a little bit about being sick and tired of living sick and tired, don’t we? As years accumulate within this fabulous adventure of recovery, we get to watch the tides of high- and low-water moments.

I don’t know about you, but even at this junction of life and sobriety, I can still slip deeply into low- thinking. May found me swimming with the twin sharks of low self-worth and self-esteem. It seemed that the harder I swam, the more those damned sharks bit at me.

Finally, on Memorial Day, a thought popped into my mind, a GUS-inspired thought (God-Universe-Spirit):

Stop swimming.

The thought swelled enough that I did stop long enough to hear the second thought:

Drop the rock.

What rock? I didn’t realize I was swimming with a gigantic rock around my neck; it had been there long enough that I stopped noticing.

As quickly as GUS pointed it out, I saw it. The Rock was all the accumulated debris of a mind flooded with sludge thoughts.

What makes you think you’re worth that 24-year chip? What do you have to offer? Careful . . . if you screw up they won’t want you anymore. Oh please, do you really think they’ll want to keep you around when the project is finished? Watch out . . . any minute they’ll figure out you’re a fraud.

Please, God, help me drop the rock.

Help me let go of everything that builds a dam of unworthiness in my soul. Show me how to let the clean waters of good attitude flow again. Teach me how to once again sparkle and shine with your sunlit solutions.

Together, let’s begin the cleanup process. Yes, it’s been a wild and unpredictable May, but it’s June now and it’s time to come out from underwater.

Photo courtesy of kconnors

Faith is Pointless Unless It’s Tested

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There are times in life when you come face-to-face with the naked truth and it scares the crap out of you.

I don’t care how much life you’ve lived, how much recovery time you have or what kind of experiences you’ve faced. Those are the factual details of the history of you but are not the heart of you.

And that’s what I care about–the heart of you, because when your heart hurts, you can feel like your faith is being tested.

At least that’s my experience. The trick is learning how to stand still and let your faith be tested.

Fixing a hurting heart

Here’s my naked truth: Wednesday, May 20th, is my 24th anniversary of entering recovery. Here’s what my ego has to say about the occasion:

“You would think that after 8,760 days of sobriety and somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 meetings, you would stop misplacing your faith. You’re no more than a non-drinking, 12-step fraud.”

Yikes. The words sound harsh even to me as I type them but they do speak to how I’ve felt lately.

I can’t say I’ve been restless, irritable and discontent. Floundering, distracted and lack of focus more accurately describes my state of mind.

Oddly enough, there are plenty of things that are right with my life. We had a vacation in paradise recently, my work is going well, the bills are getting paid and our dogs are healthy. But this one little-bitty area of my life–my recovery–feels off.

12-steppers are quick to point to the Big Book for answers. Lack of sponsorship, they say. Go to more meetings.

Yes, I hear you, and I need more.

I read a reference to the story of Moses leading his people out of the desert while being chased by Pharaoh’s army. When Moses and his tribe hit the Red Sea, he looks back and sees all those chariots fixin’ to run up his tail pipe. He cries out to God for help.

God tells Moses to stand still. Wait. Have faith.

Moses may well have had the faith of the ages but until that day, his faith was pointless.

Standing still in chaos--from forces around you or inside you--will fix a hurting heart. Click To Tweet

We create our own difficulties

Does your ego ever tell you you’re a fraud like mine does? After the latest round of the Who Do You Think You Are Game, I discovered that 24 years of recovery means I’m much better at recognizing my ego’s BS.

I’ve also decided that my ego doesn’t know jack about recovery. If it did, it would know that creating strange mental blank holes for me to fall into are traps that faith sees from miles away.

What are some of those strange mental black holes? They’re things like blaming sources outside of me for my pain, shaming myself for allowing something to happen and assuming something is always going to be the way it is right now.

Those things are my pharaoh’s armies. The inclination is to run harder and faster when in reality I need to heed the advice given to Moses–to stand still.

Standing still allows me to see that every single thing in my life is a result of a choice I made and if I don’t like my circumstances, I can choose differently.

My ego doesn't know jack about recovery. Click To Tweet

Nothing is absolute and everything is changing. Just because something disturbs me today doesn’t mean it’s a forever thing, unlike the fallacies that my ego tries to pass off as truths.

The difference between happy and sad is a decision. Until my faith in the process of recovery is tested, it isn’t really faith at all.

Come to think of it, that’s quite a lot to learn in 24 years.

Photo courtesy of pippalou

9 Ways to Bring Your Vacation Back to Work

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My sweetie and I just returned from a long-overdue vacation week in the Virgin Islands. We unplugged from electronics and the web and found ourselves grateful that Verizon is the only stateside wireless carrier that doesn’t serve the islands.

Our one exception to online avoidance was to borrow wifi and log into our dogs’ playtime at Top Paw Pet Resort.  The ODoggy app let us watch our babies play!

Sucked into a spiritual vortex

Looking back over the week, two things were apparent: 1) We willingly surrendered the stress choking us, and 2) God fills the spaces where stress exits.

The first morning on the beach, I stared at the azure water encircling the mountains and thought, “what stress?”

There is something mesmerizing about sea lapping against sand that helps stress melt away. I could almost feel it oozing from my pores. I believe there is something holy about beach bumming.

Our home base on Sapphire Beach, Hill Bay with its dried out mangrove roots, Magens Bay and our Sunday morning 12-step meeting, Honeymoon Bay, Trunk Bay and the British Virgin Islands all served as the means for God and I to get tight again.

I learned a critical lesson: Whenever peace eludes me, it’s never where I search or where I think it should be. Peace is the byproduct of reconnecting with who I am and then giving myself deep and abiding love.

The re-entry after vacation

As the week drew to a close, a pit of dread started to grow in my gut. The transition back into the real world is never easy; this trip created such an imprint on my soul that I knew the reentry would be extra-tough.

During the fight home I made the decision not to bitch and moan about sliding back into real life. Instead, I decided to bring my vacation back to work with me.

How? Here are nine tips that are working for me:

1) Admire what’s at a distance without giving it your complete attention. Before this trip, I had never been face-to-face with mountains and the ocean/sea. I couldn’t stop my awestruck staring at the sheer magnificence of rock rising from water but I was aware too of the beauty right in front of me. In life, we too often focus on a future event or outcome and deny ourselves the wow-factor of the moment.

2) Look closely at what’s beneath your feet. One of our favorite past-times is searching for sea glass and shells. Sometimes the coolest pieces are found with your next footstep! IMG_4778You never know what treasure lies with each step, so keep looking!

3) Dive deep to see hidden beauty. Snorkeling is another favorite thing. This trip was the best snorkeling ever as we ventured into the caves of Norman Island, made famous by Robert Louis Stevens’ Treasure Island. We saw the most beautiful coral, rainbow fish and even a barracuda. Don’t be afraid to plunge beneath the surface of your life to catch a glimpse of hidden treasures!

4) Spend time quietly listening to the voices of nature. There is little that is more soothing to me than listening to waves splashing against the shore or seagulls in boisterous conversation. Relax, listen, and renew every single day.

5) Acknowledge fear for what it is and keep on walking. A major crime occurred at our resort shortly after our arrival that sent shockwaves throughout the island. A reporter wandering the beach (and obviously trying to sensationalize the event) stopped my sweetie and asked if she feared for her safety. Her response was classic: “No. The crime was family-related so there’s no danger of anything happening to anyone else.” Still though, we took the time to talk about our fears and then moved on. The same advice can be used in life situations.

6) Share your story and be of service. Within 24 hours of our arrival, I was asked to share my recovery story at a 12-step meeting. I also had the privilege of sharing some of my experiences with a new recovery friend dealing with family issues similar to mine. Whatever your story, sharing can pay off in amounts far greater than you expect.

7) Stretch and push to do things you don’t think you can do. My new friend suggested a terrific beach that we needed to check out. She said it was a 20-minute walk through a trail in the woods but neglected to tell us about the inclines and declines. I refused to let anything stop me–even when I saw that first steep and rocky climb! You shouldn’t let anything stop you either!

8) Be spontaneous–right now. We signed up for a tour of a new beach-front timeshare on St. John because we would get a free all-day boat trip to the British VIs. And guess what? We bought the timeshare! It felt good and right and sometimes you just have to go with your gut and trust the process.

9) Embrace new friends and friendships. We found an immediate kinship with two women in recovery. Now that we’re going back next year (and for years to come!), I am so stoked to watch these friendships blossom. I really don’t think we can ever have too many people in our friendship corner, so when the chemistry is there, fan the flames!

If you’re headed back to reality this week, I feel your pain. I hope these tips help ease your transition! If you liked this post, please share on Facebook and Twitter. You’ll have my unwavering appreciation!

Attentional Living With the Four Agreements

I went dark last week: no blog post and very little social media. It felt more than a little weird for B Here Today to be radio silent. Here’s why:

I’m part of a team working on this little project called UNITE To Face Addiction and our web site launched April 20. We are mighty busy assembling the pieces of a national rally the likes of which the recovery movement has never seen, let alone the general public.

To see more about our event on Oct. 4 on The National Mall in Washington click UNITE To Face Addiction.

I’m having an immense amount of fun but I’m a little frazzled too. On one of my flying passes through Facebook early last week, a friend posted a little ditty about The Four Agreements, a book I purchased and read right after its publication in the late 1990s.

Do you remember The Four Agreements?

I didn’t. Not all four. The first one, yes, but not all four. Huh, I thought. That’s interesting.

And I went on about my work.

A day later I realized the book was still on my mind. So I searched my bookshelves and, finding it, sat down to read a bit.

Don Miguel Ruiz’s words may not be genius, but when the mind and body are stressed, they are nuggets of gold.

Attention is the ability we have to discriminate and to focus only on that which we want to perceive. We can perceive millions of things simultaneously, but using our attention, we can hold whatever we want to perceive in the foreground of our mind.

That’s good stuff for overachieving multi-taskers like me.

It strikes me that abiding by the Four Agreements might just make my life a little easier if I put my attention to really owning them.

The Four Agreements

Be Impeccable With Your Word

I frequently forget how powerful words are. While I’m not responsible for the way others receive my words, being impeccable to me represents never using my words to manipulate or extort or even twist another’s response for the sake of being right.

Don’t Take Anything Personally

This one is probably the most challenging for me of the four because I tend to take everything personally. I am much better than I once was but not at all where I’d like to be.

When I’m taking things personally, I think others are acting with me in mind. Talk about the need for an ego check! I think I’ve done something to elicit behavior that may have nothing to do with me in the first place. Can you relate?

When I take things personally, I question motives and nose around in other people’s business when I should be “tending to my own knitting” as my mama used to say.

Don’t Make Assumptions

This one follows closely on the heels of taking things personally. My ego tries to tell me I see all there is to see–the picture really isn’t any bigger than my scope of vision. How can I see the big picture?

The truth is I can’t; only GUS–God, Universe, Spirit–holds that perspective. So until such time that I reach a god-like state, I need to stop assuming and questioning everyone’s motives.

Always Do Your Best

Don’t you think this agreement is a tiny bit vague? Could you be more specific, Mr. Ruiz? I guess he couldn’t–this one needs to stay open-ended because everyone’s best is different. If I’m paying attention, I instinctively know when I’ve living right and doing my best.

My best means I’m centered in love and focused on being love. I’m a giver. I honor all forms of life.

When I live in the first three agreements, the fourth comes naturally. I realize I’m happy with who I am, where I am and what I’m doing.

Photo courtesy of pixshark.com