Category Archives: Faith and Gratitude

I Am Still Learning

 

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One night fifteen years ago, I stood brushing my teeth, getting ready for bed.  I was 14 years old, having a casual yet serious internal battle in my brain: how could I kill myself “accidentally”?

As my toothbrush swished and gyrated and I hawked some foam into the sink, a thought occurred to me: is it normal to think about suicide every night before sleep?

A friend in the program says he never would have made it out of High School alive had it not been for drugs and alcohol.  They anesthetized him. I never became suicidal, but it was always an overly appealing option.   My face, my body, my mind, was unbearable.   Pot and alcohol served as numbing agents, but above all, they fed the most valuable coping mechanism for survival: my façade.

In 9th grade I was alone with the shaky remains of who I had been in Middle School.  My undefined identity, or lack there of, was unsustainable…I needed to change.  The transformation didn’t take long.  Skipping one class with blatant disregard was the first high I got from attention seeking. I wanted to be the “bad” kid.

 

“Are you going to Psych?” Someone asked.

“Nope,” I said with self-proclaimed authority.

 

From then on, I strived and succeeded at being the class failure. The class stoner.  The class I-don’t-give-a-shit-girl.   Suddenly everything about my new persona was so easy; I knew where to buy weed, how to roll a blunt, who else wanted to cut class with me, who would pick me up in the morning to take bong rips, and for the first time in years I felt like I belonged.  Granted, every conversation was uncomfortable up until the point I got high..which is why it was a 24 hour a day job.

 

Sitting in the back of the class and reeking of ganja gave me a fucked up sense of confidence.  See?  I don’t care.

 

Ferocious honey badger

What I looked like 15 years ago

“Did you study for the test?”  Someone would ask.

“What test?”  I would say humorously, but seriously.

 

I barely graduated, I had no interest in college, and suicidal thoughts popped up on the reg.  However, thanks to my well-maintained image of comical failure, my “outsides” appeared just fine. Carefree, even! Weed! Yay!  Day drinking!  Yes!  Future? Fuck it!

 

Up until getting sober, those thoughts remained prevalent; for years I believed them to be my only true potential.  The hardest thing about working on myself right now is reversing the notion “as long as I’m doing nothing, I’m doing ‘me.’” 

Now I know: if I’m doing nothing, I’m being nobody.

The bad news is that I wasted a shit ton of time trying to mask emotions and bury whoever the hell I was scared of becoming (or not becoming.) The good news is, I’m getting an idea of who I am, and I’m liking the person I see in the mirror.   My identity crisis up until my sobriety date was just as real as it was that night standing in front of the sink fifteen years ago.   I didn’t pay attention at all in high school, but I think it was that Michelangelo guy who said:

 

“I am still learning.” (Age 87)

 

 

Me too, dude.

 

 

BAL143446

Angelo + Me = Us

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26 Things I’ve Learned in Second Year Sobriety

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Day 452

 

  1. My best thinking still gets me into trouble.
  2. Last year was animalistic survival mode: eat, sleep, flight, fight.
  3. This year I’m in touch with being human.
  4. Flaws are inevitable components of mortality.
  5. My shares aren’t going to be verbal sculptures of wisdom, nor do they have to be, nor will they be.
  6. I am not perfect, thank God.
  7. Willingness is fleeting, but my foundation is stronger than before.
  8. When I think I know everything, I remind myself I know nothing.
  9. More listening, less talking, more praying, less victimizing.
  10. Everything changes.
  11. Life gets full. Things come and go.  People come and go.
  12. Decisions get bigger.
  13. Estimable acts equate to confidence and connection with my Higher Power.
  14. Judgment is hideous.
  15. The world is at warp speed.
  16. Relationships take work.
  17. Where there is pain I can help.
  18. Where there is happiness I can join.
  19. Bitterness is removable.
  20. Fears are tentative.
  21. This is a disease of perception.
  22. “Having time” makes sense all of a sudden.
  23. I remember what it was like to think 1 month sober was long-term sobriety.
  24. Self-will is quickly identifiable and extra painful.
  25. Steps 1, 2, and 3 are crucial reminders, and must be visited often.
  26. “Make a message out of your mess.”

 

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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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So I asked some friends I trust about trust…

Day 359

I base someone’s trustworthiness within the first 30 seconds of interaction. My immediate reactions are either a) you don’t like me so I don’t like you, or b) I trust you with my life let’s be friends forever.  Lots of room for let down in there.

This past week I’ve been lost in my mind in regards to whom I should trust, who I shouldn’t, and how to decipher the code of human conduct.   Last night my mom called me “guarded.”  This got me thinking…am I guarded or smart?  Am I my own worst enemy?  Am I being rational or are most people shit heads?

My thoughts can spin in circles faster than a neurotic hamsters on wheels, so I turned to my friends for help.  As usual, getting outside my head was the best place to find clarity. I asked them what trust means to them; its basic definition, if it comes naturally, if it’s easy to come by or hard to come by, how you know you can trust someone, etc…The responses have helped immensely.  Here they are, and I’ll keep them coming:

1) “Hmmm…Never had to put it into words.  I guess it involves a bit of surrender, some blind faith, some experience.” -Anon 1, sober 3 years

2)  “I threw trust in the garbage disposal a while ago.” -Anon 2, sober 30 days

3) “Going on a bender…knowing there is someone who will always pick up your call if you’re in trouble.”  -Anon 3, not in the program

4) “When you’re willing to let go…just because someone tells you it’s okay…that’s trust.”  -Anon 4, not in the program

5) “Trust is the outcome and peace of mind of a relationship completely fear-free.” -Anon 5, 1 year

6) “Woof.  I may not be the most intuitive when it comes to that.”  -Anon 6, not in the program

7) “I boil trust down into faith overcoming fear.  And my struggle comes down to internal/external fear/trust.  External trust is believing that others can know who I am and accept me for me.  That if I admit that I am struggling that they can and will help.  That if I expose where I am weak I won’t be betrayed.  Internal trust is what eludes me the most because I have lied to myself more than I have ever lied to other people.  I struggle in trusting my thinking, my emotions, and my motives.  That’s the shit that blocks me from opportunity to put in my trust in others.  I do not trust myself.”  -Anon 7, newcomer

 

8) “I read somewhere ‘trust no man, fear no bitch.’ I think that’s my motto from now on.” -Anon 8, 41 days

Oh sure, like it's that easy...

Oh sure, like it’s that easy…

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At the End of the Day….

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Day 352
“Here’s one simple approach to the daily inventory.  We set aside a few minutes at the close of each day to sit quietly and check out our feelings.  Is there a knot, big or small, in our gut?  Do we feel uncomfortable about the day we’ve just finished?  What happened?  What was our part in the affair?  Do we owe any amends?  If we could do it over again, what would we do differently?
We also want to monitor the positive aspects of our lives in our daily inventory.  What has given us satisfaction today?  Were we productive?  Responsible?  Kind?  Loving?  Did we give unselfishly of ourselves?  Did we fully experience the love and beauty the day offered us?  What did we do today that we would want to do again?
Our daily inventory doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective.  It is a very simple tool we can use to keep in daily touch with ourselves.”
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Difficulties type 1 & 2

mouse strongLast night I went to a much needed meeting. I hadn’t been to one since Saturday, and it’s amazing how quickly my thinking turns.  There was no impending doom of drinking, but when my thoughts turn more selfish less selfless I know it’s time to get my butt to the rooms.

The best part about the meeting was that someone else got me there.  All it took was one text message:  Is there a meeting at 5:30.  I was promptly and positively informed of the time and location of a group I’d never visited.

There were familiar faces in the room and the chairs formed a circle.  I always like when the chairs are in a circle.  It feels personal.  It also feels like a stereotypical 12-step meeting…like in FightClub.  Or 28 Days.

It started with a 5 minute meditation.  I used to think meditation was hocus pocus stuff–seriously.  It was a firm belief of mine that anyone who practiced meditation was full of “it,” or slightly mad as a March hare.  Now, it’s a practice I value, respect, and work on daily.

The lights in the room were turned off and a candle sat in the middle of us on the floor.  There’s something undeniably magical about candlelight.  Meditation is not something I’ve “mastered,” (if that’s even proper mindfulness terminology) so I keep it real simple; usually breathing in love and breathing out patience.  Anyway..the lights turned on the leader read from the 24 Hour book.  The gist of the reading was “welcoming difficulties.”  At first, I thought, huh?  Then I realized that sobriety has completely redefined my idea of difficult, and there are two forms.

1) The ones I bring upon myself — I can take a traffic jam and turn it into a catastrophe. I can launch a diatribe against one person for several no good reasons.  It’s not difficult to make a situation even more difficult.  It’s actually my nature to take aspects of life and transform them into obstacles…but the program has given me tools to counteract the titanic thoughts. Perspective…that’s the tool I’m thinking of. It allows me to realize that some situations in my head are just not true.

Life on life’s terms, however, is full of uncontrollable adversities.  This is difficulty type 2:

The world can be a cankerous cold habitat…and/or completely laden with challenges. I don’t welcome anyone dying.  That goes without saying, but I said it anyway.  I do, however, welcome difficulties that give me strength, and those difficulties take form in  infinite numbers of ways.  Yesterday I went in for a follow up on a job I’m thrilled and nervous to start.  Holding my own in terms of wages and displaying my knowledge without panicking was difficult!  I made it.  I made it through friends’ deaths and family illnesses and times where my heart feels like it’s going to drop out the bottom of my chest. I’m not saying that life gets easier, but I read a quote once that said:

“Hope is the key that unlocks the door to discouragement.”

For Difficulties type 1, I need to recognize my own defects.  For Difficulties type 2, I need to remember and hold onto the message above.

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Twenty things that scared the crap out of me before getting sober

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  1. The future
  2. DUI checkpoints  
  3. Sounding insecure
  4. Small talk without a drink in my hand
  5. Checking my call history and outgoing texts the morning after.  (The worst was when I got “smart” and started deleting my outgoing texts during my blackouts)
  6. Losing my cell phone
  7. Looking people in the eye
  8. Being alone
  9. Not being alone

10. Failing as everyone around me succeeded

11. Eating.  My motto was often: “Eating’s cheating.”

12. Fear of letting myself down, and my family

13. Scared of getting caught in my own lies 

14. Fear of leaving the pot farm

15. Not being able to afford the material possessions that felt crucial

16. That everyone knew what I was thinking

17. Missing out

18. Maladaptation

19. Monotony

20. Extreme fear of never having enough–especially drugs and alcohol.  There was nothing more terrifying than that last line of coke, the last beer or bottle, and the knowledge that the strung out feeling of reality was about to hit again. 

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Just Keep Swimming

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April 29, 2013

“I’ve been rethinking California.   I don’t want to live in fear of a bad “relationship” that I’m not even in, and I don’t want to live in fear of a drinking problem I may not have…I just want to live.

I want to make money to travel.  The ranch = funding for my passport. It’s not backwards, it’s just going back so I can move forward.”  (The ranch = the pot farm.)

Today: Day 326

The entry above was written seven months ago, at three months sober.  Reading passages like this make me smile, because I feel like I’m in on a secret that my past self didn’t know.  The writing reveals notions that were oblivious to me then; and I’m sure in months when I read this, I’ll see what’s oblivious to me now.

If I could go back in time and tell myself what I know now, I wouldn’t; the lessons I’ve learned have been hard earned.  I feel a confident sense of accomplishment reading old thoughts, like, “I need money,” or “I don’t want to live in fear.”

I was living in fear, especially of what others thought.  My insecurities were so intensely binding because everyone surely had the same opinion of myself as I did.  If I felt stupid, they thought I was stupid, too. I felt ugly, therefore everyone else saw me as ugly, too.  When I felt isolated, it was because no one was letting me in…It’s a huge relief to know that the world doesn’t revolve around me.

My fear of financial unsustainability was pretty sad, to be frank.  The amount of money in my pocket determined my worth because I couldn’t find valuation anywhere else, certainly not from my “relationship.”  The man in my life used me like a doormat and I made it easy; his negative attention was better than his indifference.  The weight of my importance was weighed by everyone but myself.

In the “grand scheme of things,” (I don’t really like that phrase) ten months can be considered the blink of an eye, but the past 10 months have been the most literal a “journey” has ever felt to me, and it’s been by physically staying in one place.

My mind, on the other hand, has come light years further.  Recently I haven’t been bound by negativity, and I’m less afraid of the “uncomfortables.” (Scientific term there). I have unguarded moments all the time, and they’re okay.  I haven’t fallen apart at change or lost my mind in monotony.  I’ve coped at the loss of life; I’ve gotten better at recognizing which lives I need to walk out of.  I respect myself by doing estimable acts.  I’ve also learned that my self-development comes most from helping other people, which is the backbone of my growth and destroying self-centeredness.

I hope the old Faith doesn’t hijack my brain, and I know it’s possible.  I’ve learned these lessons but I know I can forget as soon as tomorrow.  My recovery relies on living in faith, not fear. Staying sober means knowing that I’ll never stop learning,  that I need  to keep going to meetings, help others, ask for help, and writing down where I am on the “journey.”

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Poco a Poco

Story of the past 310 days...

I need decent chunks of time for my blog posts, which I haven’t been able to find until now.  Writing for me is like exercise, and I’m out of shape creatively. (Bear with me.) The good news is I’m in shape spiritually.

Spending nearly three weeks in Argentina for my best friend’s wedding was…como si dice…fantastico? Life changing? Super cool? I can’t find the words in English or in Spanish to describe the past twenty days.

My flight got in Tuesday morning and I’ve been to a meeting here in Connecticut everyday since. At a speaker meeting last night someone said, “The first year of sobriety lays your foundation for the life ahead.”

There’s no way I can make promises that I’ll never drink again, but by staying clean in a country abounds with wine, cocaine, and discothèques, my foundation does feel stronger than before. Ten months in AA has taught me that cockiness is a dangerous sentiment; I’m wary of over boldness, but I don’t want to deny or forget the growth through my experiences abroad.

The people who I traveled with taught me about myself through their openness, and supported me without question. Gratitude from their behavior alone was enough to make me see the bigger picture…whatever that is. Maybe the “bigger picture” to me is The Promises. All the bullshit’s disintegrating and the good shit is emerging. My outlook is changing.

I was able to help everyday; uselessness disappeared. I lost interest in myself; remembering the priority in my life is to help others. I found my attitude shifting and uneasiness disappearing. There were a few times when I wanted to retreat during events, but for the most part I’d stick it out long enough to enjoy company and think, holy shit! I’m having a conversation!

Despite seeing the parties, the flowing wine, the free drinks and dozens of opportunities to rage, I want all of them less. I have come back from Argentina with more self-assuredness than when I arrived, and 100% certainty that I had an amazing time because I didn’t waste one minute disconnecting from reality with drugs and alcohol.

Que freakin’ bueno.

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I’m Probably Jealous of Your Blog

I WILL DESTROY YOU TO MAKE MYSELF FEEL BETTER RAAAAR

I WILL DESTROY YOU TO MAKE MYSELF FEEL BETTER RAAAAR

Day 282

My defects of character are always one step ahead.  By the time I catch up to a situation at hand, the alcoholic part of my brain has already decided how to spring into action, or isolate into oblivion.  Any notions that run on defects, naturally, are not the best.  A fault that hijacks my mind with the force of a Jedi night is jealousy; an emotion anyone with a steam of consciousness is familiar with.

For me, jealousy is the size of Godzilla.  Maybe that’s why they call it the green monster of envy…Anyway, pre AA; there were no tools on how to harness my raging ill will.  My gut reaction was to take the feeling and destroy it by belittling whomever I viewed as a threat.  Unfortunately a lot of the time my first thought is still the same.  Instinctively I want to judge as quickly and harshly as possible, thereby coddling my wounded ego.

Fortunately, now I know how backwards my thinking is, was, and can be. Now, something wonderful happens just before I generate a laundry list of invisible imperfections for someone…I stop.

My bat shit crazy brain comes to a halt, because I know now that the set of instructions I was following for life never worked.  Judgment made me feel shameful, more alone, and dragged me further into the darkest place of my pity partying mind.

Sure, the same feeling of jealousy still bites me in the ass when someone has what I want, whether it be looks, success, family, ambition, slippers, whatever. That’s okay though, because AA has taught me that envy is just fear, and fear is something I’m learning to recognize, face, and erase.

It comes naturally to torment myself that I’ll never have what you have, I’ll never be pretty like her, or happy like him. It’s easy to judge the shit out of you, and assume that you had a leg up that I missed, and therein lies the reason you have what I don’t.

The hard part has been learning that none of those things are true.  The hardest part has been finding the pause button, and following a new set of instructions.

Through powers of example and with the help of my HP, I’m learning to be truly happy for people, and it feels good.  When I ask for envy to be removed, it is–I might have to ask 20 times a day, but it’s becoming easier to redirect defects.

I used to dislike for the sole purpose to make myself feel better, but now I’m doing the exact opposite and finding that is where the solution has been all along.  To commend others for their success and try to help where they fall short breaks down the barrier between everyone and me.   Helping others is what’s made me more confident.

The best thing about my new set of instructions (aka the steps) is that the better I get at following them; the more I have to offer.

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