Posts Tagged "recovery"

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.

[bctt tweet=”Standing still in chaos–from forces around you or inside you–will fix a hurting heart.”]

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.

[bctt tweet=”My ego doesn’t know jack about recovery.”]

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

Serenity Prayer as a Mindfulness Tool

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I figure there are only two kinds of events in life–the kind you accept and the kind you change (or attempt to change).

While the concept is simple, the spectrum of emotions attached to the two kinds of events is wider than the upper Mississippi River during a spring thaw.

Let’s say you’ve waited for months on a decision that will impact your financial stability for the entire year. You make your initial choice to accept the waiting period because your other choice–changing the event by walking away–is a no-go.

My question to you is this: What do you do with your emotions while you wait?

Waiting is seldom easy, unless . . .

Rare is the person in recovery who finds it easy to wait. Heck, rare is the PERSON who finds waiting easy or even tolerable.

How do we wait and accept the waiting? How do we wait and change? How do we respond?

I read an article from PsychologyToday.com:

“But, how do we go about accepting the things we can’t change and changing how we respond to what we can’t change? Both of these involve adjusting our thinking, how we deal with our emotions, and the actions we take—and in both, the practice of mindfulness can be a great asset. (The underline is mine.)

“Mindfulness helps create the conscious awareness to notice our thoughts, observe them, question &/or dispute their accuracy, and detach from them. Since thoughts often provide such potent fuel for emotions, this shifts much of the wind away from sails of our emotions.”

“The practice of mindfulness can be a great asset.”

Here’s me being honest: I am not a good waiter. I pace, hands on hips or in jeans pockets, and mumble under my breath.

I watch the clock. I eat chocolate. I roam the house then eat more chocolate. And, I avoid mindfulness because in my gut I know it works.

My ingrained reaction to a life event is two-fold: eerie quiet followed by frantic activity. I could blame my so-called addictive personality, but at some point that excuse wears thin as onion-skin.

Mindfulness–“the conscious awareness to notice our thoughts, observe them, question &/or dispute their accuracy and detach from them”–IS the easier, softer way I avoid.

Okay, so that cat is out of the bag.

A perfect mindfulness tool

Dan Mager, author of the above-referenced article, writes that the Serenity Prayer is “the ultimate coping device.”

“If we take the time and make the space to consider it consciously, all of our experiences, both internal and external, fit into one of these two basic categories” (what we can change and what we can’t), Mager writes.

Here’s the part I love:

“Mindfulness practices build a space within which we can witness our emotions and give them room to breathe. When we can allow our feelings to simply be, accepting them without reflexively buying into or attaching any particular value to them, their intensity lowers and we experience less pressure to act on them.”

Mager’s advice lets me learn how to roll with my emotions and when the time is right, respond appropriately rather than react inappropriately.

Say it with me: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.” 

Mindfulness allows the wisdom to know the difference.

Photo courtesy of placardmoncoeur

Accept the Guilt, Then Surrender and Recover

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Please welcome today’s guest post writer Amy Baumgardner, co-author of From This Day Forward, A Love Story of Faith, Hope and Forgiveness with her husband Matt and a freelance contributor to In Recovery Magazine. Amy was a guest on Oprah’s Winfrey Lifeclass where she learned healing and forgiveness from Iyanla VanZant. Watch the YouTube video of Amy, Oprah and Iyanla below. Links to her websites and how to order her book are below. One reader will be chosen to receive an autographed copy of From This Day Forward by leaving a comment below.

Guilt is strong. It’s ugly and it’s complicated.

I should know. There exists this crazy tug of war inside my head between what my addiction wants me to do and what I should do. Alcoholism is relentless. My disease does not rest.

Guilt’s role in addiction

Guilt played a major role in my addiction for a long, long time. As a newly sober person five years ago, I made the mistake of letting guilt set up camp in the back of my mind. I now know that I was afraid to let it go. If I did, how could I atone for what I had done?

The booze and self-hatred controlled my life. You’re a lousy mother, you’re a spiteful wife, a bitter drunk, a no good piece of garbage unworthy of any second chances or saving graces, my mind’s voice continually cried. I was so out of touch with reality that I believed the voice.

I refused to forget. I refused to let go. I was stuck on January 10th 2010, the day I drove drunk head first into a tree going 60-miles-per-hour with my children in the back seat.

I was haunted by guilt. And who wouldn’t be? For years I have asked myself the same question night after night, “Why didn’t I see the signs?”

And now, after the accident, there was no other way to prove that I was sorry. I had to hold on to the guilt and shame of that moment when I put the key into the ignition, that second it took to completely lose all trust in my ability to be a good mother and thus negate any possibility of denying that I am an alcoholic. Why did it have to come to this? I would always wonder.

I spent 21 days in a facility getting treatment for my alcohol addiction and learning the tools to I needed stay sober.  I drank 30 days after the near fatal car accident that put me in there. I had been given all the tools, knew all of the steps to take, who to call and where to go for a meeting.

I relapsed eight days after leaving rehab. I let my fear consume me and totally swallow up any confidence I had that I could live a happy life. But sobriety was daunting. It was too much to handle and I quickly found myself seeking refuge in a bottle of Captain Morgan.

Watching for the turning point

I thought of my children. If I was going to survive this and if they were ever going to have a chance with me as their mother then I had to turn my will over to a higher power, something greater than myself, whatever was out there and was willing help me, guide me, save me from myself, from my drinking.

It wasn’t easy and I certainly struggled with the idea of NEVER having a drink again. I slowly and gracefully let the idea of living sober take shape in my life. I took baby steps and constantly reminded myself of my new mantra that Living sober is the best amends!

I started writing, journaling, listening to others and paying attention to the whispers of my life. Eventually, my fears and guilt began to fade. The chatter filling my head with negative thoughts began to fade as well and I was able to start moving forward.

I realized that all of my guilt was wrapped up with my drinking, the accident included. Can I give up this guilt so I can move forward? Was I willing to surrender the guilt so I could live my life freely and faithfully?

Through my struggle I have found strength. All of the blocks I spent decades building were replaced with wisdom. Being active in my recovery and searching for a softer and easier way lead me to the Oprah Winfrey show with Iyanla VanZant. Sharing my struggle with guilt and hardship of letting it go as a guest on her show opened up enough space in my mind to believe that change is possible and to make that change.

Then I needed to give myself permission to surrender and move forward. I alone held the key and I was the only person who could unlock—then release—my burden of guilt.

My life was waiting.

Amy and her husband Matt have formed a foundation called 4-give.org to help other families remain together as they recover from addiction. Their website is Mattandamyb.com and Amy can be found on Twitter @AbaumAmy. Their book, From This Day Forward, can be found on Amazon.

Photo courtesy of greyerbaby

We Are All in Recovery

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“We are all damaged. We have all been hurt. We have all had to learn painful lessons. We are all recovering from some mistake, loss, betrayal, abuse, injustice or misfortune. All of life is a process of recovery that never ends. We each must find ways to accept and move through the pain and to pick ourselves back up. For each pang of grief, depression, doubt or despair there is an inverse toward renewal coming to you in time. Each tragedy is an announcement that some good will indeed come in time. Be patient with yourself.” Bryant McGill

Let me ask you something. Has there been a time when you shifted from one set of values to another?

Maybe you once considered yourself a Democrat and now align more with Republican values. Or maybe you were raised in one religious denomination and as an adult you attend a church in a different faith.

Heck, I’ll ask the question more directly: What does the word recovery mean to you? Without considering addictions, do you consider yourself in recovery?

We are all in recovery

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the impossibility of living several decades without experiencing any shifts or change. There has to come a time when we see things or do things differently. When we do, others are affected in ways great and small, sort of like collateral damage to our bombshell decisions.

Chances are you’ve been someone’s collateral damage. I know I have. The question is not about what happened but whether you chose to retaliate or recover. What did you do with the damaged parts of yourself?

To be human is to be hurt. The beauty of living is that pain gives you opportunity to recover and be different. @bheretoday (Click to Tweet)

Making changes in your life takes courage and requires faith. Throw in a smidgeon of patience and a bit of “oh-what-the-hell”-ness and you’re well on your way to recovery. But first, you have to:

Drop the remote control

I have a theory. If you’re cruising through life on remote control doing the same things all the time, your chances of ever questioning your beliefs, attitudes and opinions are fairly low. You tell people you’re happy with the predictability of your days; you even respond with “same-old, same-old” when asked what’s new.

On the other hand, if you’re fully present to each moment, the chances are good that at some point you’ll question a whole bunch of things in your life, like whether you’re with the right person, in the right job or living in the right place.

People change. They recover from mindsets they once held. They stretch and grow and reach and understand they want to be different. They want to be relationship with people in a different way and maybe even with different people.

They want to be better, to change, shift and live better. My God, if that’s not recovery, I don’t know what is.

When you look at your life and feel at peace because of changes you’ve made, that’s recovery. @bheretoday (Click to Tweet)

When you look at someone else’s life and realize you no longer want it because you like your life, that’s recovery squared, mathematically speaking.

Go ahead, make that shift, be that change. Somewhere in your future, there’s a new you thanking yourself.

Photo courtesy of GreenThumbsUp

Book Review: Dark Wine Waters

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Late last summer, just before Recovery Month in September, Fran Simone emailed to see if I’d be interested in taking a look at her book, Dark Wine Waters: My Husband of a Thousand Joys and Sorrows. She thought I might want to write about it here, for Recovery Month.

Sure, I said, send it on. My blog calendar was pretty full for Recovery Month 2014 but I told Fran I’d see what I could do.

Rigorous honesty, right? Fran did indeed send her beautiful book and here’s the truth: It became buried on my desk.

You see, Recovery Month is a tiny-bit hectic for a recovery writer. I’m a piling sort of writer anyway—put Dark Wine Watersstuff away in desk drawers and I have a hard time finding it—so there are sensible stacks on my desk that grow out-of-control during hectic times.

Please consider this my amends, dear Fran. I’m sorry I didn’t read your book then but I have read it now—and I am moved by its transparency. Thank you for your bravery.

For the readers

I want to tell all my friends in recovery and those who love us that Fran’s Dark Wine Waters may cause you to cringe repeatedly as you read. That will be a normal response so don’t panic.

You will quite possibly shed tears at times too, and don’t be surprised if you become enveloped in sadness. That was my experience as I read.

Please don’t turn away in fear of these emotions. One of Fran’s gifts to her readers is the idea that feelings need acknowledgement. They must have a safe place for expression and that safe place begins within the confines of our hearts.

Tweet: Without expression, feelings congeal, becoming resentments we use to beat ourselves and our loved ones. http://bit.ly/1uRU1uf @bheretoday

Dark Wine Waters is a memoir of Fran’s life with her husband  Terry and their relationship with alcoholism and drug addiction.

Much of the book describes their painful, tortuous descent into the belly of the beast, played out with lies and subversion, disappearances and blackouts. In many ways, the day-to-day drama is different only in the details of other stories lived every day in every town, perhaps on every block, in America.

Terry’s drunken escapades—and Fran’s valiant efforts to hide them behind a normal facade—felt intensely familiar to me; I suspect they might to you as well.

The gut-kicker

Terry’s story is so much like my story, like many of our stories yet society still looks past him—and me—and says, “why can’t you just stop?”

Fran writes about the times when Terry thought he could stop on his own. She also writes about how she thought she could get him to stop—on her own.

But alcoholism and drug addiction gradually took possession of his body and their lives. It rendered them powerless to stop its onslaught.

That’s what the disease of addiction does. It ravages the wiring in our brains and does its damnedest to convince us we’re in control. There’s nothing wrong, we think; just drank a little too much.

Virtually all Americans are affected by addiction, whether they’ll admit it is another story. Too many remain hidden behind walls of shame and denial.

But thank God for the Fran Simones of the world who have stepped from behind the wall as family members of the afflicted. Thank God she now knows she didn’t cause Terry’s disease (or her son Matt’s), she couldn’t control it and she certainly couldn’t cure it.

There are 23 million people in the United States who are in recovery from a addiction. Another 20 million suffer with substance use disorder; a large portion of them don’t get the help they need. For every person afflicted, there are several family members and loved ones deeply affected by the disease. 

Thank you, Fran, for sharing your family’s story with us. May you find continued peace in recovery and retirement!

For a copy of Dark Wine Waters, click here. Please leave a comment and I’ll enter your name into a drawing for a free copy.

Photo courtesy of richcd