What I’ve Been Training For

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I’ve been doing almost daily mindfulness meditation for a little bit now. I’m enjoying that quiet time set aside, and I also like the guided assistance of the Smiling Mind app. I’m finding that I am quicker to remember to stop, think, and breath. At almost any time, I can close my eyes, takes a few deep breaths, and feel calm wash over me.

And that’s a good thing, because this shit is getting real again. We got notice from our landlord that they need to sell the house we’re living in. With a family of four and three dogs (including a German Shepherd), finding a suitable house in our price range is not the easiest thing to do. So I rely on my training.

In addition to mindfulness, I also rely on a faith in a Higher Power. It’s not a formal thing. It’s not anything I pray to. It’s an underlying awareness of grace, that force which is life, that energy that was pure light that became everything and is everything. Perhaps the biggest benefit of long-term sobriety is the accumulation of experiencing things working out. By the grace of God, I should celebrate 30 years sober next month.

I am striving to maintain a sense of curiosity. What does God have in store for me next? It’s a quiet hopefulness. I know there is work to be done. We loved this house, and it is time to move on. I have multiple lines in the water and am quick to pull the line when I feel a nibble.

Of course, we still have 45 days. This could be an entirely different story when it gets close to our deadline to be out. But I know that all I need to do is show up, do what is in front of my, and don’t try to force my will. As the Big Book says, we relax and take it easy.

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Inclusion and Cooperation, Not Division

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I’m a longtime liberal/progressive Democrat. I was born and raised to believe that it is not enough to make sure that I get what I need. Instead, I have the responsibility to look out for those who are less fortunate.

I live in a “blue” state, and am happy about that. I am proud of that. However, I just got an email to get a free bumper sticker that says, “Vote Blue” and I’m not going to do it.

It is this duality, if you are not with me you are against me, that contributes greatly to our divided nation. The venomous hate I hear spewed about people of color, or poor people, or people with special needs… It hurts me. But hating the hater solves absolutely nothing.

If I were to say “Vote Blue,” I am blindly, rabidly following  some abstract thing. Party loyalty says that I don’t have to think. Just walk in this lane and this lane only. Anyone who is not in this lane is bad.

What we need is discussion. What we need is listening. I know that there are people who have been saying this for a while. I am not original or unique. This little blog I write… well, it’s just a small thing. But by writing this, I am reinforcing my belief that we need to come together. We need to look beyond party loyalty. We need to look at our humanity.

I need to be willing to hear a different point of view and be willing to admit that I may be wrong. I don’t have any solution, but what I can do is enter into quiet contemplation. I can be quick to see where others are right. While I will most likely vote straight Democrat, I will not separate myself from my fellow humans by declaring that Blue is the only way to go.

So today, try to spend some time listening. Maybe listen to another point of view and try to understand where that person is ‘coming from.’ Chances are, we all share common values and beliefs. It’s easy to say my way is better, but we can only experience true joy when we realize the connectedness of everyone and everything.

Why Secrets Keep Us Sick

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It’s pretty common around people in 12-step programs to hear, “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” Honesty is stressed. Telling our secrets, even if it’s just to one other person, can set us free. But what is it about keeping secrets that keeps us sick?

Humans need connection. Keeping secrets make us feel separate, disconnected. If I’m keeping a secret about something I did or something that happened to me, I’m actually believing that if you knew this you would know how sick and disgusting I am and I would be alone.  Therefore, I will bury this secret so deep that even I will forget about it. Denial can be a life-saving coping skill at times, but eventually, it will kill us.

It makes me wonder if the ’cause’ of many people’s relapse is the secrets they are keeping. See, secrets are usually about shame. As Brene Brown puts it in her TED talk “The Power of Vulnerability,” shame is believing that “something about me, that if other people know it or see it, I won’t be worthy of connection.”

So the key, it seems, is learning that this thing, however bad it is, does not make me unworthy of love and connection. It is letting go of that thing that makes all the difference. Letting go of the shame and accepting this thing as part of me is how I become whole. I accept all parts of me, all of my experiences, all that I am.

If it’s that simple, why do we still keep secrets? For the most part, it’s fear of being vulnerable. When Brene Brown talks about vulnerability, she describes it as doing something even when there are no guarantees.

When we are vulnerable, we feel connected. Doing the 5th step is all about vulnerability.  But sometimes, we need professional help to be vulnerable. Even people with a lot of time in the program often find the need to seek outside help.

If we’re afraid of vulnerability, speaking without knowing what the reaction will be, then often a therapist can help. It is their job to hear you and be accepting. It is their job to help you through it. When you talk to a therapist, it’s like side-stepping vulnerability because you have a guarantee that you will be OK even if you tell this horrible secret.

And that is how we become whole.

So, my message is this: If you are keeping a secret that you swear no one will ever know, please find a way to let it out. You are worthy of connection. You are worthy of love and acceptance. Otherwise, your secret could very well kill you.

Just Because I Can…

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***I came across this post in my ‘Drafts” folder. I’m not sure why I didn’t publish it before. But the lesson means as much today as it did then. I am reminded to be OK with small steps, small progresses. When there is so much to do, doing one simple thing is always better than doing nothing.


Just because I can doesn’t mean that I should. I think that was a car commercial a while back, but it is also so important for me right now.

Discernment: being able to judge well. I love this word because it means not just making a choice, but being able to see nuances and “being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure” (from Merriam Webster Dictionary). It is an active process, weighing probabilities and consequences.

I often have a profound lack of discernment.

Monday, I was ‘released’ by my doctor to shed the boot and put full weight on my left foot. Yeah! When I got home, I was all over the place, wobbling and careening on my foot that hadn’t really been used for three months. It even felt good (emotionally) to stand and do the dishes.

That night I paid for it, having to ice my ankle and keep it elevated. But I did the same thing again the next day. Then my physical therapist came and clipped my wings.

The thing is, the way I was “walking” would lead to eventual injury, and would possibly leave me limping for the rest of my life. I needed to learn to walk properly. It was so frustrating to have to go back to crutches. I mean, without them I could carry things all by myself.

Fortunately, I listened. I’ve been focusing on using correct gait and strengthening my foot and ankle. I had to practice restraint.

Isn’t that so important with everything? Restraint of pen and tongue. Restrain myself from over-spending (and many other over-doing things). As I gain more freedom, discernment becomes more and more important. My choices mean more, to more people.

As I sit and wiggle my toes and flex my foot, I am reminded how important it is to find that spiritual center. I need to weigh my actions, take time to be silent and reflect before making rash decision. Do I want to hurtle and crash through life or calmly build my steps and progress towards an ultimately fulfilling future?

Like Learning the Violin…

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I heard someone say that early recovery is like learning to play a musical instrument. At first, it’s so hard, and nothing makes sense, and your fingers hurt, and frankly, it’s not much fun. But once you get the hang of it, it becomes easier and enjoyable.

I kept thinking about how that analogy continues. A great joy of most musicians is sharing their music with others, and a great joy of many people in recovery is to work with newcomers and share what they have learned.

And sometimes, things don’t always work out right. Strings do break. This may seem like a tragedy to the new player, and learning to replace a string seems almost overwhelming. But after a while, they learn how to handle these little bumps in the road with barely a passing thoughts, just as we in recovery learn to handle life’s ups and downs without getting too excited.

And some days, it just feels awkward. And some days are challenging, like when learning a new composition. As we go through life’s phases, we gain an understanding that we will be able “to get through this.” We keep learning, keep making music, keep growing spiritually.

And when we learn to play together, in harmony, we make magic.

Everything Is Awful, Everything Is Broken

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Put your fears to rest
You know it’s for the best
As a choir of angels sings:

…everything is awful.

—Lyrics from “Everything is Awful” by The Decemberists.

I heard this song on the radio the other day, followed immediately by Bob Dylan’s “Everything is Broken.” It was a gorgeous early spring day. I was happy.

Yes, I was happy even though it is true, everything is awful and everything is broken. For me, it was like a message that what the world looks like is not necessarily what matters. Sometimes things have to get awful and things have to break for new things to take their place.

Here is a comment that was left at the website Genius,

On a few occasions, Colin has referred to this song as a Trump-era “state of the union song.” The pessimistic nature of the lyrics is contrasted with the jovial “la la la la la” refrain and the gang chorus at the end.

These songs also reminded me to not take everything, especially myself, so seriously. Folks in recovery might know this as “Rule 62.” All I can do is what is in front of me. I do what I can, each day, and if I live today well I will be OK.

I cannot give in to the pessimistic, defeatist attitude. There is a higher order, whatever your religious/spiritual/philosophical beliefs. Everything is connected. Everything is One.

If you have ever walked a labyrinth, you know that there is one path in and one path out. It is all the same path. It looks like people are ahead of you or behind, moving toward you or away. Yet it is all one path. We are just at different places, constantly moving. No one place is better or worse than another because it is all one path. Just keep moving.

Where Have I Been?

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It has been over a month and a half since I posted! Kindof like going to meetings, the longer I don’t post the harder it is to write a post.

Have I thought about it? Yes, many times. I have written so many posts in my head, but the transition to actually sitting at the computer to write has failed. Maybe I was feeling a need to protect myself? Maybe the excitement of walking again made me forget how important it is to ME to post. Maybe I’ve been shut down by the chaos in my head.

Whatever the reason, I need to get over it!

Today, I am living in the absolute assurance that my Higher Power has me enveloped in his loving grace. I am safe and protected.

I had been so caught up in the drama surrounding my son that I had completely neglected myself. You know the “I’m OK. My kids’ needs come before anything.” I really thought I was OK. For alcoholics and addicts, the emphatic “I’m fine” is usually a dangerous place to be.

So, I have taken action. After needing those months to heal my physical body from the car accident, I am in a phase where I need to focus on healing my mental and spiritual bodies.

I temporarily removed myself from a harmful environment so that I can settle and again have loving compassion for those around me instead of reacting to their insanity. I am so full of gratitude today for the people around me whose love and support are carrying me through. May you have a blessed day.

Sunday Quote: Key to Your Greatest Good

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Accept that God is guiding you to people and circumstances that will bless you. No matter how great the need, God is the answer. Know and affirm that God is the true source of your supply and that God always provides for you. Give thanks that this is true for you now. –From Golden Key Ministry e-newsletter for Feb. 4, 2018

Do I need to say anything else? I will anyway.

Sorry to sound a little preachy, but this really struck me this morning. This is how I try to live my life. It doesn’t mean that I just sit back and let a higher power do all the work for me. It means that I walk forward and do what is in front of me. I can let go of fear and anxiety, trusting that, even though I cannot see a solution, I know that one is there.

If you want to learn more about this philosophy, check out the More Prosperity for You website.

 

Sunday Quote: Health and Sanity

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All sanity depends on this: that it should be a delight to feel heat strike the skin, a delight to stand upright, knowing the bones are moving easily under the flesh.  –Doris Lessing English Writer b. 1919

By this definition, I’m so stinking sane!

I was doing laundry today and was overwhelmed by gratitude. Monday, my doctor declared that the bones in my ankle showed remarkable “filling in” and he released me from care. My physical therapist also released me because I was walking well and just need to continue the exercises to strengthen that ankle and knee.

It’s been almost 5 months since the accident, and even though I’m out-of-shape, I feel healthier than I have in a long, long time. It seems like every day I discover something else that I can do easily.

I am in awe at the ability of the human body to heal. Do you need any other proof of a powerful force for good in the universe? I don’t have a church-ish conception of god, but I believe profoundly in an unseen, guiding force in the universe. If I keep my wants, big ideas, and grand plans out of the way, I know that my greatest good is unfolding even now.

 

Perfect Day

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Wood smoke lingered in the early afternoon air while bare branches whisked across the cerulean sky. I took a walk outside for the first time in three months… since the accident.

My gait was slow, aided with a cane, as I worked to push off with the ball of my foot to propel each step forward. I felt like I was marching with a purpose: remember to bend the knee, flex as much as possible, then the heel strike.

Definitely a haiku moment. I remembered to breathe in the fresh air deeply. My daughter and I, accompanied by a German Shepherd and a Jack Russell, took a short walk to a park a few blocks from our house. It felt like such a rare and unique moment, me walking, outside, with my little dog.

I wanted to tell everyone, “Hey! I’m walking again! Look at me!”

I topped 2,000 steps today. I’ll celebrate these small victories, right after I ice and elevate my ankle. The world smiled for me today.