Sober Quality vs. Quantity

Recently, there was a discussion among some of the #Recoveryposse about Quality recovery; what does that look like?
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There has been discussion about which is more important, for all the years that I’ve been in the Rooms. Usually, the “Quality is more important” camp included Newbies that have seen how ugly some of the Oldtimers can be in their approach to the world. And who can blame them? I’ve seen way too many Oldtimers that had NOTHING that I wanted! At the same time, there’s a lot to be said for that saying about finding whatever you look for. Many of us come into the Rooms looking for reasons to not come back.
In my experience, Quality Recovery is a thing that kind of requires a certain amount of, well, Quantity Recovery.  Not by ANY means am I saying that a person with an extended length of time sober is better or wiser than a person with just a few days. I’ve heard folks with a week sober who were infinitely wiser than certain Oldtimers in the room.  And definitely more “happy, joyous, and free.*”
The Promises in the Big Book of AA (Pg. 83 & 84-ish) are one way to assess where I am.
For those of you not familiar with the AA literature, here are some of the highlights of The Promises:
• We will know a new happiness & a new happiness
• We won’t regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it
• We’ll comprehend the word serenity & we’ll know peace
• We’ll see how our experiences can help others
• No more feeling useless, & self-pity will disappear
• We’ll lose interest in selfish things & gain interest in our #Recoveryposse
• Self-seeking will slip away
• Our whole attitude and outlook on life will change
• Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us
• We’ll intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us
• We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves

Not a bad list, huh? I can tell you without reservation that I’ve seen every one of them come true in my life. Not necessarily when I would have liked them to, and not all in the same day, but looking back, The Promises have really become a constant in my life. Some days I’m too freaked out to notice whether any of them are happening or not, but I’m pretty sure that the occasional emotional roller coaster is just a sign of life.
It seems to me that judging between quality and quantity is a thing best left for every person to do for themselves. It’s really not even a thing, if you get right down to it. There is sober, or not. There is abstinent, or not.
So the age old debate of “Quality vs. Quality” will likely be happening wherever a group of clean/sober alkie/druggies congregate.  Cos that’s just human nature.
At 23 years, I’m feeling like I have the Quantity thing pretty much covered, but that doesn’t mean that every day is rainbows and unicorns. In fact, if there is a person in my position who HASN’T had a few absolutely sh*tty days, weeks, or months…well, I’m betting they’re not really one of us. Possibly not even human.
So, from where I stand (long-ish in the tooth, I suppose), I judge my Quality of recovery by my willingness to serve others, my ability to stay out of my own head, and how quickly I reach out my hand to lift up the still suffering addict/alcoholic. 
Your thoughts?

*this could be attributed to the Pink Cloud, so it’s not really a good measuring stick.

Posted from my cabin in the hills.

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Powerlessness and other things I dislike

The first of the 12 steps states that “we admittted we were powerless…”, and I know that some folks take issue with that. The way I look at it is that when I put one _______(drink or drug) into my body, the choice of when I will stop is no longer mine to make. I can try any way you want, to control how it goes down, but the fact is that once I pick up, it’s out of my hands.

Like if I (being a relatively weak person, physically) were to go up to a strong person and kick them in the shins as hard as I could: it would be 100% out of my control to determine how much of an a**-whipping I was going to get. Yeah, powerless.

The thing is, admitting my powerlessness is simply a tiny step toward sanity. It’s been apparent to any lucid observers, probly for a while, that my life’s been out of control after I take one drink, toke, snort, hit, etc… But part of the insanity of addiction is that it tells you that it’s “under control”. They say it’s the only disease that tells you that you’re not sick.

If you’re not able to swallow your being powerless, that’s cool. Figure out another way to word it. I did that with part of that step. My life had become “unmanageable”, but I wasn’t really feeling that word. So, I changed that part, for me: my life sucked. Remember I like to keep things simple.

After being clean & sober for a while I learned that my powerlessness extended far beyond my chemical consumption, to my entire life.

Oh, and for the “other things I dislike”:
Bullies and lima beans.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I hate being powerless, but the fact is, when I was running my life, it really did suck.

Thanks for letting me share.

Posted from my hut in the forest.

3 Slogans that got me through

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Upon entering the Recovering Community I quickly grabbed ahold of somethings that looked like they might be crutial to my sobriety, and one of them was the Slogans.
It’s pretty much a given that when you’re trying to learn something like, say, a foreign language, repetition is key. If there were any quicker, easier way, I’d be multi-lingual.

Learning the language of sobriety was extremely foreign to me, so I needed to hear it often. More often than that.
Where the Steps were long (and mystical), the Slogans were bite-sized bits of wisdom that were supposed to be helpful in this deal.

I was severely sleep-deprived early on, so maybe I was more desperate than I would have been otherwise, but I knew that the Slogans were a tool that I needed to have close at hand, constantly.

I don’t know where I got the idea, but I did something that was incredibly helpful, and made it possible for me to remember the slogans.

I took little pieces of colored paper (cos I’m crafty
I guess) and wrote as many slogans on them, one by one. Then I took the pieces of paper and taped them up all around the edges of my bathroom mirror. This guaranteed that I would see them at least once a day, and because of the way my bathroom was arranged, it was actually several times daily.

My 3 favorite slogans (I’m not going to get in depth here, but likely will, in another post) are:
Easy Does It
First Things First
Keep It Simple
You could say that they were my “mantra”.

I had a friend who had a little piece of paper that she kept in her pocket with the 3rd step and 7th step prayers weitten on it, for easy reference throughout the day.

Do you have any “Recovery Hacks” that help you to get this new language into your head? Please leave them in the comments below, and if you think this might be helpful to anyone newly in recovery, please share it with them. 🙂

Posted from my hut in the forest.

It’s ok if you hate me

“I love you enough to let you hate me.”

I believe that there are times when expressing your love toward someone can lead to their being angry with you.

Does that sound strange? These days, it appears that this way of thinking is very much in the minority. But, hear me out.

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I’m not talking about abuse

I’m pretty sure that any (loving) parent worth their salt has been “hated” by their children, for a short time, anyway. If my kids didn’t “hate” me occasionally, I’d figure I wasn’t doing my job.

Let me explain

No child is happy to receive discipline. Not gonna lie, I hated my parents more than once when they stopped me from some foolishness. They had wisdom that saw where I was headed, left to my own devices. They loved me enough to risk dealing with my anger.
Of course, because I knew that they loved me, eventually my anger subsided. After a while, sometimes years later, I came to see their reasoning, or at least I understood that their actions were done out of love. I accepted that they weren’t  perfect, and that while there were things that they regretted doing (or saying), as parents, their hearts were in the right place.

What’s this got to do with addiction, ab?

I’m glad you asked. When we are running our lives in the throes of addiction – to WHATEVER – in our self-centered determination to “look out for number one” or “teach them a lesson”, or my favorite “F*** them!”, we injure the ones that (when in our right minds) we love. Often, they are so determined to “help” us, that they inadvertently become the target of our destruction. Repeatedly. I suppose they just can’t bring themselves to step away, knowing that the result could be that we end up hurting ourselves, or someone else. I’m  just going on what I’ve heard, here, as more often than not, I was the addict in this scenario, “rippin and runnin”, and causing so much chaos and misery for those who loved me.

Ok, so what’s the answer?

Sometimes, as the parent of a headstrong child, we have no choice but to look for help in learning how to handle them. Or maybe we have to see a Professional in order to heal from wounds (physical or otherwise) inflicted during a temper tantrum. Even moreso when dealing with a person with an addiction. The thing is, at some point it will become clear that you can’t control them. Whatever you have done in your desperation to change them has failed.

Real change requires courage

I’m thinking of a friend who’s living with a person in active addiction. I don’t know how long I’d last if I shared a home that was filled with so much insanity.
The thing is, in recovery I’ve had to learn to create boundaries, and also how to keep them. After a while, clean and sober, my instinct for self-preservation returned, and I began to more carefully choose those who would be a part of my life. Before that, though, I was given a precious little (7.7#, 23″) tremendous reason to exercise caution in choosing my associates.

Feelings aren’t facts

My friend is reluctant to do anything because of the sh*tstorm that will no doubt follow. We don’t like it when you suggest that we might be doing it wrong. I know that the housemate will likely say that she hates her, among other things. It’s, sadly, what we do when our addiction is threatened.

Difficult, NOT impossible

When a person in recovery is living with a person in full-blown addiction, who doesn’t want to change that , there aren’t a lot of options. In my experience, I felt that continuing to be abused and to interact daily with a madman was just too big a threat to my sobriety. I eventually left. Certainly, I didn’t want to leave the person (or, the person they HAD been), and it was a safe bet that they were not going to go, quietly, so it took a lot to actually do what I had to do. Like a child who’s about to lose something they think they need, the addict made sure to let me know that they hated me. I can live with that. I am powerless over other people and their behavior.
Thankfully, I am NOT powerless over whether or not I continue to subject my child and/or myself to the toxic environment that active alcoholics and addicts create, EVERYWHERE they go.

Not gonna accept unacceptable behavior

So, I’m grateful for finding the support of groups like Alanon and Adult Children of Alcoholics. I don’t know how many folks struggling with addiction have finally gone for help after sleeping in their car, or losing their job, or some other catastrophic event. It takes what it takes.

I hope my friend can maintain sobriety and do what she must to care for herself and her kids in this situation. As much as I care, I can’t do anything but pray and share my experience strength and hope.

In my experience, with children as well as individuals in active addiction, I love them enough to let them hate me.

Posted from my hut in the forest.

2 Brown Paper Bags

Adulting on a Saturday morning

It’s gonna be a hot one here, so I put on my Big Girl Panties and got up early and came to the laundromat, while the temperature is still tolerable.
I found a nice little place just up the road from us, and the price isn’t too bad. When I opened the door with my laundry basket in my hands, the cool greeted me: sweet, sweet (working) air conditioning. Ahhhh, yeah, this was a good decision.

Coolness, and quiet

Now I’m sitting here with only the swishing of the machines to keep me company, and I think I’m in that Zone. You know, the one where your old body isn’t giving you too much grief, and you’re able to focus on the Now, and, well…I’m feeling content.

What a difference

Sure, I’d be happy to still be in bed, listening to the sounds of my hubby next to me, and the softly-playing music from the radio in our room. But I would not be in this Zone. No, I’d be thinking about hauling the laundry up and down the stairs at home, and how each minute that I waited, the heat would be increasing by leaps and bounds…definitely not The Contentment Zone.

And…paper bags?

Oh, yeah. So there’s a little convenience store next door where you can get change for the washing machines. Being that I could have slept for at least another couple of hours, I thought grabbing a drink with caffeine in it sounded good. I got a large can of tea, and set it on the counter. While I was digging out my wallet, the cashier did her usual (I’m sure she didn’t even think about it, really), and put the can in a little bag.

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Memories, right?

I smiled to myself, as I remembered (kind of) so MANY times in my early-to-mid 20’s when there was certainly not gonna be anything as benign as iced tea in that brown paper bag. I’d (felt like I) was fairly cosmopolitan, washing my clothes like a good little haus frau, getting sh*tfaced by the time the spincycle had begun. Frankly, it’s a miracle I didn’t lose my entire wardrobe. And don’t get me started on the laundromats with TANNING BEDS! Oh crap! Two of my favorite drinking activities in one?! I wondered aloud to my partner in crime “Why don’t they just add a bar, here in the laundromat!?!” Yeah, I WAS quite brilliant.

In the zone

So, today, I’m here, not “getting away with” anything, doing The Next Right Thing. They tell me that there are kids who figure this sort of thing out, maybe even before graduating high school, but I’m not buying it.
Well, my sleepy-voiced hubby just called to find out where I am. (If this were back in the day, I’d have NEVER answered my phone this early, knowing who was on the other end. Just sayin.) I told him what I was up to, and how I’m just Adulting all over the place, and he was impressed. So, I’m gonna call this post Done, and get ready to fold.
It’s funny, isn’t it, how a simple thing like iced tea in a brown paper bag can bring back memories of so many, many brown bags in the past? Yep, there are triggers, but only for memories, NOT for wanting to return to that place of chaos and insanity.

What are YOU doing to beat the heat today?

Posted from my seat in the laundromat.

You can never go home

This post is more about a life thing than necessarily an addiction thing, but since I don’t ever know where a post will end up, let’s just see where it takes us…

When I was young, due to family restructuring, we moved around a lot, for a couple of years. Like 4 moves in 1 school year. A lot.
People say “kids are resilient” and “they’ll adapt” and the like. Maybe that’s true. But maybe “people” were thinking of kids with a stable home, who didn’t have (yet to be diagnosed) mental illness.

When I finally got settled in what would be our last move, I  began to think about the friends I’d left behind, and the places we’d played. I’d gone to school with the same kids for K-3rd grade, and I missed them.
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Changing schools 4 times in a year left me unable to make strong connections for a long time (there may have been other contributing factors). What with Dad leaving and us moving so often, I must have concluded that it’s just not emotionally safe to form strong friendships. I stayed on the social outskirts for the remainder of my academic life for the most part, only making a few friends, even after a year or more in the same classrooms.
I sometimes daydreamed about what my old friends might be doing now, the ones from where we’d moved… I looked at yearbooks and remembered the fun times, and I cried. Loneliness is a hard thing to bear at any age. And being the “new kid” is tough, on top of that.

Being away from Dad for long periods were difficult, even though, looking back, I know that the good times with him, as a little girl, were far fewer than the harsh and painful times. But in my memory, I chose to only keep the good memories. I guess I kind of spliced them together in my mind so that all I had when I thought of Dad were happy times. That must be the resilience & adaptability that people were talking about.

I’m thinking of my own children, and how they had similar experiences when life required us to move…
Thankful for the happy memories, but knowing now that the mind sometimes has a way of being selective in what it holds onto. The good times may come to the front of our memories, and the  sad, frustrating, and lonely times of those days, well,we just don’t choose to think about them.  I understand now that part of the wondrous quality of those memories comes from the fact that I was so young, so niave and didn’t have the baggage and scars then, that I have now. A counselor pointed out to me once that maybe I didn’t miss the people as much as I missed ME, back then. I’m a firm believer that ignorance is bliss. I didn’t know, then, what I didn’t know.

I know that my God works everything out for my good, according to His (loving) purposes. He has taken painful experiences time and time again and brought beautiful things from the ashes. I also know that children haven’t lived as long and haven’t the experience to be able to look back on, to remember that He WILL bring us through…
I hope and pray that my boys will find life-long friends, just a couple, with whom they can form that sacred bond of friendship, the one that spans across decades. 

Hindsight, they say, is 20/20. I don’t know if it is, or not.

I remember the pains of being a teenager, of trying to make sense of things that truly, never would make sense.

Today, I wonder how those people are, the ones we left behind when we moved. Sure there are some I’d like to see, but even now I know it wouldn’t be the same.

I also know that the reason I didn’t feel like I “belonged” was because I didn’t. When I’m not where I’m supposed to be, even after the initial “new” wears off, it’s not gonna feel right.
But sometimes I just have to wait. And pray.

I can’t leave you without a reminder of that cheesey old saying about home being “where the heart is”. It’s true. My home today is where my family is…related by blood
or not. It’s not about geographical locations. It’s about who holds me and my needs in high esteem. Who can I count on, whenever, and whatever? And who will tell me the truth, even if it’s gonna hurt?
Those are my family, and no distance can change that.

Posted from my hut in the forest.

Reading! It’s (still) what’s up.

Greetings, my friends!

As promised, here is part 2 of my e-chat with Jeff Vande Zande, the author of the recently released novel, Detroit Muscle.

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When we left, last time, we were discussing whether it could be possible that this (skilled, admittedly) author actually ISN’T a person in recovery from addiction. This book really grabbed ahold of me pretty quickly, and I have to say that I enjoyed the ride. (Pun intended) Nobody had to strong-arm (punny, right?) me into reading it. After a prolonged period of not reading anything purely for my own entertainment, I’m happy to tell you that I’ve been inspired by this one to find another couple of recovery-themed books! “Guts” by Kristen Johnston arrived the other day, and “Scar Tissue” (How tremendous is that title?!), written by my favorite Red Hot Chili Pepper. 🙂 But I digress.

I am impressed with Jeff’s writing style and I encourage anyone who needs a break from the Big Book or the Basic Text to grab ahold of this. It’s just over 150 pages long, and in my opinion, the perfect pool-side book.

(The name and the picture on the cover won’t tip ANYONE off to what you’re reading about. Heck, for all they know, you’re reading about travel, of buying a new ride.) 😉

Here’s the rest of our chat:

4.How did you know that you were ready to write a book? Do you have any sage words for an up-and-coming writer?
Detroit Muscle is not my first book. I have three other published novels and two collections of fiction. I’m not sure that I’m ever ready to write a book only because I know the lonely work that is involved with finishing one. When I get an idea for a book, I spend the first several weeks hoping that the idea will go away. I’ve had many ideas for books but, like with the common cold, if I wait long enough the idea goes away, and I am thankfully cured. It’s the ideas that stay with me, that eat at me, that I end up writing. I just couldn’t get Robby out of my head. I had to write his story because it nagged at me.
As far as sage words, I would tell an up-and-coming writer to be ready to put in the seat time. When I’m working on a novel, I write every day, usually for a few hours. I write the first draft without looking back. I try not to reread or rewrite anything that I’ve written until I have a finished draft. If I start trying to edit or revise too soon, I derail the forward movement of the idea. Someone working on a novel should try to write every day. He or she should go into it knowing that it’s lonely, long work. Also, enjoy the process…enjoy the writing. It’s not about racing to publication, but instead simply enjoying watching the story come together.

5. What would you say to someone newly sober who feels like, since getting clean/sober, everything has turned to sh*t?
I would remind them that they are going through a life-changing phase. Change is often painful and feels different from the familiar. Even if that familiar was harmful to us, it can feel better than the unknown. I would probably tell that person to expect things to go to shit. Shit, however, is a good fertilizer, too. We can grow even stronger from the shit we’ve been through. Embrace the shit.

 
And there you have it! Ground-breaking content (for us, any way) here in Wondrland. PLEASE let me know your thoughts after you’ve read Detroit Muscle.
🙂

I’m off to start on my next literary adventure. Peace out.