Monthly Archives: March 2014

Mindless? Nope, Mindfulness.

Quiet moments of reflection are leaving me teary eyed with gratitude.

Take tonight, for example.  I just finished putting groceries away, which sounds like a mindless task, but for me it brings mindfulness.

mind·ful·ness

a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique. 

The events of the day are unfolding like a picture book in my brain.

I woke in a warm bed, to a clean room, my dog’s puppy stare, and sunshine pouring over my comforter.  Waking up isn’t a drag like it used to be; my mind doesn’t default to doom or gloom anymore.

After a morning of rest and relaxation my Dad arrived to take me grocery shopping.  I bet you had no idea Trader Joe’s could be a spiritual retreat, but this afternoon it really was.  A little over one year ago conversations with my Dad were limited by how little we knew about each other.  Today as we wheeled around the aisles looking for bacon, having comical debates over organic yogurts, trying samples and discussing traffic control, it was like he’s never not been in my life.   So, putting granola in the pantry and apples in the fridge might sound like nothing, but to me they represent miracles.

This evening I went to coffee with a newcomer; another miracle.  If two strangers opening up and knowing each other immediately isn’t a phenomenon, I don’t know what is.  This girl trusted me enough to tell me about her fears.  And I listened hard enough to hear her hope.

For dinner I met with my best friend.  We were born on the same day in the same hospital in 1987; cradle babies.  The fact that I still have this beautiful friend so close to me after 26 years is…I don’t know, there are no words.  It’s whatever the feeling is that washes over me when I try to articulate the feeling.

Gratitude must be the word I’m looking for.  I’m grateful for the mindfulness to recognize the beauty in the past 24 hours.

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“Favorite Overheard Phrase of the Day”

“Naturally you cannot radiate peace if you do not first possess it within yourself. You cannot radiate anything from the outside.”
Emmet Fox

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Hakuna Matata

I overslept this morning, and was winding up to hate myself all day with lose-lose questions:  

 

“Why didn’t I just get up the first time my alarm went off?  

Why did God invent the snooze button?

 

Why didn’t my dog wake me up?

Why am I so irresponsible?”

 

None of my questions were answered so I attempted the impossible: meditation.  After almost 60 grueling seconds of trying to quite my mind I admitted defeat and logged into gmail.  This email had a calming effect, inspiring me to put down the proverbial bat and relax.  

“The old people say, `Learn from your mistakes’. So I try to accept everything for what it is and to make the best of each situation one day at a time.”

The Creator did not design us to beat ourselves up when we make mistakes. Mistakes are our friends. It is from mistakes that we learn. The more mistakes we learn from, the faster we gain wisdom. The faster we gain wisdom, the more we love. The more we love, the fewer our mistakes. Therefore, mistakes help us to learn love. God is love. Mistakes are sacred and help us learn about God’s will for ourselves.

–Dr. A.C. Ross (Ehanamani), LAKOTA

Elder’s Meditation of the Day March 12

 

Great Spirit, help me, today, to learn from my mistakes.

 

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Powerlessness


“The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink.
Our so-called will power becomes practically nonexistent.

Day 405

“We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force
the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago.
We are without defense against the first drink.”

– Alcoholics Anonymous, p.24

For Step 1 my sponsor asked me to write two lists:

1.   Generate a list of examples displaying your powerlessness over drugs and alcohol.

2.  Create a list for past and present examples of unmanageability.

The assigned task wasn’t in these words, but you get the gist. Initially nothing came to mind.  “Powerlessness” was not a word in my vocabulary until Alcoholics Anonymous.  I gave my sponsor (at the time) an answer in the form of a question, still unsure of what exactly the powerless word meant.

“One time two years ago I went to Vegas with all my girlfriends and I hadn’t seen most of them months, if not well over a year.  From the second the airplane landed I practically vanished, sparsely going back to the hotel room to do more coke and take a shower….More coke and more drinks were the only things on my mind.” I waited for her response.

“Exactly.”  She said. So I proceeded.

I gave her the disjointed bits I could remember.  I remember being alone most of the time. Really alone. I remember aimlessly meandering around the casinos by myself, talking to random men and doing coke in places so foggy I can’t even picture.  Most of my memories (if you can call them that) are snippets—except for the end.

On the last night I remember looking at all my friends dancing in a club, and feeling like I was in a separate world.  Without saying a word I turned around and walked away, invisible among the sea of party-ers and strobe lights.

Once outside the club (but still “inside” because Vegas is weird like that) I sought out a bar without many patrons. I remember thinking it was so strange that the casinos are carpeted.   A man sat next to me, asked where I was from, and I said Humboldt County.  Immediately he asked, “pot farm?” I said yes, and he sparked conversation, but I couldn’t reply.

It was like my jaw was frozen or rusted at the hinges, and even though he was right next to me I felt like there were light-years between our bar stools.  I had one-word answers, and even those sounded distant coming out of my mouth.

It felt like my body was shutting down.  And probably it was, after 4 days without sleep, food, only consuming unearthly amounts of cocaine and booze, booze, booze.

I am not exaggerating when I say my brain and voice couldn’t coordinate to communicate.

He took pity on me, not that I really deserved it.  He walked me to the cab line  and must’ve paid someone something because he got me to the front.  Making sure I was in the cab, making sure I could utter the single word that was my hotel name, he gave me money, since I had none left, and saw me off; my flight was in mere hours.  Who knows what time it was…must’ve been around 5am.  Time had no meaning.

In the hotel room that I hadn’t slept in once, my roommates and best friends who I barely saw, talked to, or partied with, lay sleeping.  I had not one dollar bill; not in the bank account, not in my wallet, not in any pants pockets.  I probably spent over $1,500 on those 4 Vegas days by myself.   The rest of my money was on the pot farm, in cash.  Never expected to blow through a grand.

Here’s the cherry on the shit-show cake:  I still owed $300+ for the hotel room. I did the worst thing a friend or person could do.

Like a coward, I packed my bag in silence–and left.  The room was quiet.  Someone might have said something to me but I can’t recall; because my only foggy fucked-up notion was “I need to get out of here.”

I got in someone’s cab that was going to the airport. Let them pay.  The sun was up.  I got to the airport when my phone rang, and my dear childhood friend on the other end was screaming about everything.  The hotel I didn’t pay for, the thanks I didn’t give, the disappearing act I pulled, and I could not deal.

Like a helpless child I burst into tears.  I told her I had the money for the hotel, and I “just forgot” to pay it.  She said I had to come back and give it to her.  I continued to lie.  Then I broke down further and just said I’m sorry, but I was sorry for me, not what I had done.  There was no such clarity in my mind.   The entire trip was me, me, me, more, more, more.

Every time I turned around on that trip it was like I couldn’t get fucked-up enough.  Each thought in my mind was consumed and centered around the “fact” that it was time for another line, another beer, another scene.  It was like my head was spinning and stopping on the same thing over and over again: More.

With the phone still against my ear I slumped against a wall of the airport and put my head in my knees.

I wanted to die.

I called my mom.

Like a true addict I told her my version of the story.  “Everyone is mad at me for no reason,” and I told her “I have to pay money I don’t owe.”  I asked her to put money in my account so I could pay my friends just to get them off my back. I overshot my money request to compensate for the parking I would need to pay at SFO airport, and the gas money I would need to get back to the farm.  She felt bad for me, for all false reasons.

Two excruciating, sobbing flights later I landed in San Fran.  The feelings from Vegas had followed me and they were exploding into shame.  “I’m never drinking again.”  I said repeatedly to myself.  “I’m never drinking again.”

I got my car out of long-term parking, drove 5 hours north and caused near-accidents the whole way. My body was shot.   I finally reached the windy mountain road to the farm. Up I went, and once my tires crunched under the dirt road I felt freer–but not better.

My friends in the typical drinking house, playing a typical drinking game.   PBR’s and Jameson caught my immediate attention, and a pack of Parliament Lights were perched on the counter.  Someone was taking a bong rip with a sitting casually next to a pound of weed.  “How was Vegas?!” He asked with his voice muffled as he blew out smoke.

I used humor to deflect my brokenness and mask my complete loss of dignity.

“I did things my mom wouldn’t be proud of.”  There were some laughs.  “Sounds like it was a good trip,” someone added.

“Yeah it was so fun.”  I actually managed to sound convincing.

Someone handed me a beer, I hesitated, opened it, and blacked out that night.

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Best Quote I Heard This Week:

Going into an AA meeting is like an orgy…You don’t know who or what did it, but you come out feeling better.

 

 

Who did that?! Who cares?!

Who did that?! Who cares?!

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Fact, fact, feeling?

In my last post I spewed heartache goop all over the page, lamenting the loss of my old life.  As the rollercoaster would have it, today I feel differently.  A brief look at the facts helped.

Fact #1: It’s undeniable that I had some great fucking times “out there”; from house parties in the suburbs, to beers on beaches in Central America, to dive bars in Rome, and private jets to Utah, memories were made.  I don’t have to pollute ALL of my past with where drugs and alcohol took me in the end.  (Just have to remember what the end was like.)

Fact #2:  Rome was a great time.  But…it is marred by the fact that I spent the last night hounding my best friend’s friend for cocaine, as though it was the most important thing in the world.  Once the dry goods were obtained, everyone carried on drinking like normal people and I snuck to and from the tiniest, dingiest, darkest, bathroom to blow lines off my passport till the wee hours of the morning.   I lied all night…”I swear it’s all gone.”

Face #3:  Some of college was hysterical; I’ll never forget my girlfriends rolling a keg across the lawn in torrential rain, right as the sprinklers went on, and as a cop drove by.  I’ll never forget road tripping all the way to San Francisco at 3 in the morning with five of my friends to watch the sunrise, just to realize the sun rises on the east, (so we just watched it get light out.)

There are one hundred humorous recollections, but for every one good memory there are 1,000 regrets…for every one fun college night there were 100 days I couldn’t hold my head up walking across campus.

Fact #4: There were no laughs at the end, no “remember whens” or “let me see that picture.”  Drugs and alcohol made all my choices for me; where I would end up, who I would go home with, where I would drive to during a blackout, and what I would say.  The only decision I had left was to change.

Fact #5:  In the past year I have learned more about life than in all 26 prior years.  I’ve tapped into what it means to be a good person, how to ask for help, and most importantly how to help others.

I’ve restored relationships with my family, some of which I thought were irreparable.

It turns out I love rock climbing.  And probably fly-fishing.

Turns out I still suck at cooking.

Best of all, I’m able to connect with whatever is keeping us all connected, and that’s a fact, too.  Or maybe a feeling?

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Sigh.

Image

Ahhhh….dammit.

 

Here’s what not to do: indulge in euphoric recall–you know–when you look at all your old pictures and think, “look how much fun I was having.” 

Facebook is the devil in that respect.  I just lost 20 minutes of my life pressing the “over” button as I forlornly passed and observed each picture in detail.  Euphoric recall is an expression I heard last week for the first time and had an immediate understanding of.  Damn that long-term memory, that stores the good times, and damn my short-term memory, that forgets the bad times.   

A picture from the pot ranch popped up while scrolling; it was a beautiful afternoon and the sunlight was captured in time.   I can still feel that warm Cali sun hitting my skin.  Wearing a tank top, a backwards hat, and shot gunning a PBR, I think, ugh.  Those were the days. 

The Italy section kills me, too.  My two best friends and I reeking havoc in the most unforgettable/ridiculous/blackout way.  Pictures of us in Venice, standing in front of a water taxi, smoking cigarettes and drinking Peronis make me want to cry.  How I wish I could relive that night. 

Then there are pictures of Santa Con, that controversial pub crawl in New York that takes the city by storm each December. Viewing my outfit from back in time makes me laugh; camo pants, war paint, a Christmas hat, and a declaration that I was Santa’s One Woman Army.   

I don’t know what the lesser of two pains are: deleting the pictures, or making negative connotations with them.

Maybe the simple answer is going back to Step 1, and reviewing my list of ways in with my life was unmanageable and the displays of powerlessness over drugs and alcohol…

I’ll disclose that list later.