Category Archives: Faith and Gratitude

Had to Write 377 Words To Come Up With Three: “Keep It Simple”

OH MY GOD THE PRESSURE TO BE BETTER

OH MY GOD THE PRESSURE TO BE BETTER

The Internet is FULL of prescriptions on how to live life.  There are one zillion articles, slogans, and suggestions, such as,“10 Ways to Make Yourself Happier,” “40 Ways to Live Your Life Without Regrets,” “30 Ways to Live Life to the Fullest,” or “11 Habits you MUST Give Up to be Happy.”  When these self-help-do-it-yourself posts pop up on Facebook or pervade my Gmail account, I read them.  Ugh.  It’s the worst.

It’s not that I don’t want to read them; that’s the problem.  I find myself thinking entirely too hard about what an unknown Internet author has written in regards to life management.

These “guides” are everywhere, and as a person who feels like she needs all the help she can get, it’s exhausting.  I somberly bookmark certain pages, or even write some tidbits down to reference later…except I never do.

Initially my intention was to finish this post with disdain for the columns, but I just realized I don’t hate them at all; they are the same principals of AA, and there’s no longer a need to swamp my consciousness with the lists because I’m practicing them everyday.

The suggestions for betterment are exactly what AA has been teaching me:

“Quit being ungrateful.” (I’ve been advised to write a gratitude list everyday, if not several times a day.)

“Quit running from your problems and fears.”  (“Keep Coming Back.”)

“Quit regretting the past.” (AA promise: We shall not regret the past nor wish to close the door on it.”)

“Quit talking down to yourself.” (AAism: “Put down the bat”)

“Quit criticizing others.” (Agreed.)

The Internet’s pointers were probably so overwhelming because I only had a vague idea of where my flaws were stemming from.  The difference now, is I’m taking it day by day.  My version of bookmarking a page is going to a meeting to be reminded.  And, there’s one AA suggestion that calms me down every time:  Keep it Simple.

Tagged , ,

Frozen Yogurt or Something

Image

Day…Month 9 and change.

I’d be lying if I said I had my sh*t together right now.  My emotions in the past 48 hours have ranged from hysterical laughter, hysterical crying, extreme sadness, lethargy, mundaneness, rage, contempt, contented, fatigued, and spasmodic…and this is me on a mood stabilizer. The posts I started to write but deleted with fury were just as disorderly. This has been going on for two days.

Yesterday my attention was focused on researching the tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  I intended to relay a scholarly, articulate interpretation of my past drunk version of Hyde, and the present sober Hyde in me who is still very alive.  I thought that’d be a good time to write about how I was threatening to sue IKEA for a dresser I built incorrectly, but that was a dud, too.

ImageImage

(This is how I look right now)

I confessed my writer’s block (more like writer’s spaz) to a friend.  Together we tried to generate metaphors on life and frozen yogurt.  This is what we came up with:

-Today is like a gummy bear…transparent and sticky.

-My mind is like a clogged frozen yogurt dispenser.

-My ideas are the crumbs that everyone drops because those stupid spoons are too shallow.

-My fingers are like gummy worms.

-Frozen yogurt is like a blank canvas.  The toppings mean so and so…

So far nothing has been able to reassemble my discombobulated thoughts.  I feel like the creativity portion of my brain is Humpty Dumpty; in pieces and can’t be put together again.

Image

(sorry to be so graphic)

I even tried to provoke my archenemy for material, but the fight didn’t progress much past, “fuck this guy,” and something about grudges in small huts.  I guess writing about disdain isn’t exactly a sober topic anyway.

The worst part about this shit-show is that the problem is obvious and the solution is one step away.  My pal “Dan” said he was a crazy person during Steps 6 & 7, and now I understand why. In Step 6 I came to terms with the defects of character I’d like to be removed, but they’re still there because I’ve been unwilling to get rid of them. After being in limbo for 3 weeks I finally willingly read Step 7. It was an extreme ah-hah-clarity moment.  Hey look I’m actually writing about something.

“Our crippling handicap had been our lack of humility.”

Humility as I understand it is: “not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

My lack of humility explains this neurotic scatterbrain state I’m in.  My actions inside the AA room have been “A” material but outside, getting an “F.”  Road raging, threatening to sue IKEA over a dresser, buying things I don’t need, and thinking of myself are traits I’ve been working to eradicate, not enhance.

“Instead of regarding the satisfaction of our material desires as the means by which we could live and function as human beings, we had taken these satisfactions to be the final end and aim of life.”

I live in a town where material possessions prevail, and my insecurities make it real easy to forget that they don’t matter.  Standing in line at Starbucks sometimes makes me feel like I’m the only person at a fashion show wearing jeans and flip-flops.

What I’ve forgotten in between Step 6 and 7 is that my confidence and happiness aren’t going to come from acting more selfish, less grateful, and insanely insecure.  I forgot to remember that I have to work at this everyday, because one bad mood makes me behave like I’m being victimized by the world.  Self-centered fears starts running my show and I start losing it, in more ways than one.

Image

(victimizing as usual)

So I guess if I was to compare myself to frozen yogurt right now…kidding, totally kidding. I’ll keep coming.

The End.

The End.

Tagged , , ,

Rainbows and Batman Take Halloween By Storm

Image

Day 274: 9 MONTHS TODAY!

To lessen the pain of my first sober Halloween in over a decade, I impressed myself by coordinating and purchasing tickets for an event called “The Blaze.”

I proposed the idea to fellow sober-rovers, and some asked if it was a weed convention; why else would “blaze,” in the title? I told them no, it was a pumpkin extravaganza, with over 5,000 hand-carved jack-o-lanterns.  Despite not knowing any details about the thing, several of us RSVP’d and began planning our Halloween costumes.

My getup consisted of rainbow suspenders, combat boots, a white tutu, and an electric blue wig over two and a half feet long.  In case there was any confusion about what I was supposed to be (a rainbow) I bought 3 boxes of Skittles and shook them vigorously.

Batman aka my partner in crime arrived at my house in a Patagonia jacket and jeans; not exactly the Batman costume I was hoping for.  He said his Bat-suit had turned into more of a sweat suit, but assured me he would change at the event. I would’ve protested longer but there were 150 pieces of candy in the Bat mobile.

Thirty chocolate bars and 45 minutes later we arrived, parked, and within seconds realized we were the only adults dressed up—actually I was the only adult dressed up, because my friend Batman was still a version of “Bruce Wayne” from the suburbs.  He opened the trunk and looked at his bat-armor reluctantly.

“You have to wear it,” I said, as a family not sporting any Halloween-wear walked by.

We struck a deal that made me feel better.  He wore just the Batman head and black rubber gloves with his regular attire, and held a light-sabor that made noise like a broken barcode scanner.  While walking with the rest of the foot traffic, laughing at the sheer ridiculousness, I had a perplexing moment of clarity; I didn’t care what anyone else was thinking…which was good, because of what happened next.

Half-assed Batman and I got in line behind an array of teenagers waiting to enter The Blaze. As the laws of waiting in lines go, we idly moved forward even though no one had advanced.  Our friends hadn’t showed up, but we were anxious to get going since it had started raining. People in line kept glancing at us, probably because we looked like challenged adult-children, who got lost trick-or-treating. Also I figured my wig was probably pretty straggly at that point.

Finally folks started moving, but not forward…everyone was dispersing; suddenly Batman and I were standing on a cleared patch of grass, facing a plastic orange fence between the event and the woods.

We hadn’t been waiting in a line at all, just standing awkwardly close to a group of strangers who were all friends.  No wonder they were looking at us! I bet they went through a round of, “Do you know that guy with the batman head and toy light-sabor? No? Why is that girl shaking a box of Skittles?”

Once the situation dawned on us, we doubled over in laughter. Batboy had to rip off his mask and I just about passed out from laughing so hard; I’m almost certain that any and all bystanders perceived us as wasted or on drugs.

The rest of the night was equally as comical and disastrous.  By the time we met up with our friend (dressed as an astronaut), found the real line, and entered the much anticipated Blaze, half the jack-o-lanterns had been snuffed from the rainstorm and the path was jam packed to a standstill with normal folks who had enough foresight to bring umbrellas.

After a unanimous “let’s come back next year” we retreated in high spirits.

The best part about last night was that our plans totally failed, but Halloween was still a complete success.  Blow and whiskey were my short cuts to feel self-assured, and converse “normally” without my thoughts interjecting doubts every two seconds; last night I stuck out like a sore thumb with complete confidence, and had a blast.

For the first time since God knows when, my mind wasn’t littered with unfounded suspicions about what “everyone” was thinking. I don’t have to point figures in unnecessary self defense.  Who knew wearing a tutu could be so freeing.

This morning I woke up with a raging hangover. Sugar hangover that is.  I’m going to revisit step one and add candy to my list of powerlessness…and The Blaze will go on my list for next year.

Tagged , , ,

God, Johnny Depp, and Santa. Not in that Order.

Image

Day 268

When I was just a young grasshopper in sobriety, I felt embarrassed of my alcoholism and especially of my involvement with Alcoholics Anonymous.  I went to lunch with my first sponsor 8+ months ago, and she said “AA” audibly enough for the waitress to hear; I came this close to yanking the tablecloth off the table, throwing it over my head, and bolting from the restaurant…As if that’d draw less attention.

My personal stigma toward recovery didn’t last long. There’s no shame in having a disease, and certainly no shame in seeking treatment.  The fact of the matter is that my body felt like a dark empty cavity 268 days ago with a stillness inside that scared me, and that void is being filled with love and faith through God. This is where I get embarrassingly uncomfortable.

Like so many others, the mere mention of God used to make me cringe with discomfort and tense up with fury.  I think my averseness to the notion almost took me out a few times because I thought AA was trying to make me stand in a pew and confess my laundry list of sins.

Religion has always seemed like a manipulative institution of beggars and choosers; picking what can support their narrow-minded system of beliefs and leaving the rest.  In my mind, spirituality sort of glommed onto religion but seemed more like hocus-pocus, falling into the same category as Santa Clause—both nice, both lies.

I have come to learn that not all organized religions are evil, and none of them are affiliated with AA. AA is a spiritual program and just because Santa was a letdown doesn’t mean spirituality is, too. With acceptance of a higher power my definition has God has become defined in a very undefined way.

God to me is hearing a story of pain that ends in hope, it’s saying things I didn’t know I knew, it’s accidentally ordering the wrong truck cover the day before I was supposed to go to California, it’s asking for patience in moments of frustration, or being able to help someone who needs it as much as me in the moment.  Sometimes my God is simply “Dear Higher Power,” or “Thank you Mother Nature,” or “Sup, Great Spirit.”  God can be an acronym for Group Of Drunks, as long as I admit that by myself, I cannot stay sober.

Despite my comfortably and loosely constricted concept God, along with the fact that I’ve separated “Him” from religion, I can’t help but feel chagrined expressing spirituality with both alcoholics and non-alcoholics.

I feel judged mentioning “God moments” because if there’s a silence that falls afterwards, I immediately feel the need to explain myself and justify the importance.  It takes every fiber of my being to refrain from launching into my own higher power as I understand her/him/it, so I don’t, and then I sit and stew and wonder if I’ve been brainwashed. My insecurities come from self-centered fears of what other people think.  I make up scenarios in my head of what people say when I’m not around, about how I found God and lost my marbles.

What I need to work on is caring less about what others think.  I suppose caring less means gaining confidence, which comes through step work, and ironically, interaction with my higher power.  Part of me wants to get it all out, and proclaim my faith from the rooftops, yelling to anyone and everyone that I believe in a God, but that sounds as drastic as the tablecloth plan…I’ guess I’ll just pray on it.  Maybe I’ll pray for Johnny Depp, too.

Tagged , , ,

Me, me, you?

Image

Day 260

“If you ever want to be unhappy, just sit down and think about yourself all day.”

When I heard this in a meeting it resonated, but it’s amazing how quickly I forget.

Living in a pre-Copernican state of mind where the universe revolves around my life is the fast track to going nowhere.  Self-talk makes my world so small; there’s no room for growth, and there’s certainly no room for anyone else.

In trying to obtain what I “needed” this past week to make me “happy,” I made myself extremely unhappy.  What I was seeking most vehemently was validation from others to placate my own insecurities.

If permitted, unrestrained self-centered fears will throw raging pity parties in my head; I’m not smart unless someone says so, I’m ugly until someone tells me I’m not, I’ll buy clothes to make me feel pretty, then traffic on the way home from buying clothes I couldn’t afford becomes the biggest inconvenience on earth. Then after wasting so much time on myself, an AA meeting becomes burdensome and I grow resentful of the meeting and everyone involved.  (Not me…everyone else.)

This cycle has run me around before and it will run me around again, anytime I fail to see people beyond my vision of falsified self-importance.

A wave of relief washed over me when I received the opportunity to help someone today–it was like a spell being broken.  Oh yeah, I thought, this is what it’s all about.

There’s that cliché saying, “It doesn’t matter what’s on the outside, it’s the inside that counts.” And that’s true…in terms of appearance, but not in the cognitive sense.  Sometimes I need the outside to fix the inside, so I can spend the day standing up to help others, not sitting down and thinking about myself.

Tagged , , ,

Living Sober = Loving Sugar

NOM NOM NOM

NOM NOM NOM

When in doubt, I scroll up in my sobriety archives.  If I’m denying how far I’ve come entries from the first 90 days reassure me of my progress.  Here’s an entry from March 8; I had just over one month.

March 8, 2013

“i cannot stop eating. I’ve been having chocolate pudding for breakfast, I  wake up and the first thing on my mind is, cookies. sweets, candy. my mom hid the chocolate bars from me; i am actually being rationed. my mom has said, just have one piece of chocolate, and i have said, that means nothing to me. instead of thinking rationally about the situation, oh i need to eat healthy, i think, i just need to starve myself a little. healthy thoughts, by….”

…by Faith Anonymous…well, Faith Anonymous 7 months ago, anyway.  Reading entries such as this one give me hard evidence that I sometimes need to carry on for morale’s sake.  I can read the ways in which I’ve grown. Don’t get me wrong–I still love any and all forms of sugar, but today there are healthy solutions as opposed to self imposed starvation.

Healthier options have derived from a healthier mind.  Now I workout,   and then chow down on a candy bar.  Sometimes I have to ardently force myself to drive past that Crumbs Bakery place, aka my heaven and nightmare on earth, but that’s because I’m still learning moderation, and sometimes I walk out of there with three trays of cupcakes.

So I have a sweet tooth on steroids; at least the sugar I consume for sober sanity isn’t nose candy for my addiction.  See?  Healthier Options.

Day 256

Tagged , , , ,

35 Ways You Know You’re in Early Sobriety

1.  You have best friends but you don’t know their last name, and you know their sobriety date; not their birthday.

2. When you refer to the Big Book, you’re not talking about the bible.

3. What’s moderation?

4. You can relate to meth heads and heroin addicts more than you can your own mom.

5. Spending $20 on candy for yourself on a Friday night is completely justifiable because, “you’re not consuming all those calories you would if you were still drinking.”

6. You find yourself standing around in a lot of parking lots.

7. Over half your friends live with their parents.

8. You just found out that you’re selfish.

9. Being spiritually fit is more important than being physically fit.

10. Beer commercials have ruined football, forever.

11. You can’t help but grin manically at people suffering from a hangover.

12. Holidays are the leading cause of isolation.

13. You feel like you’re growing up, and down, at the same time.

14.  You have to be reminded to sleep and eat and ask when you need help.

15. Almost everything is your sponsor’s fault.

16. You probably already hate your first sponsor.

17. You’re still a little embarrassed to admit that you pray.

18. There are probably a dozen other addicts and alcoholics in your family.

19. When you tell people you’re going to a meeting and it has nothing to do with work.

20. You’re sick of phrases like, Let go and Let God.

21. When going to a meeting is more important than saving yourself from the apocalypse.

22. You are strongly suggested to stay away from the opposite sex, so naturally you are extra tempted to gravitate toward the opposite sex.

23. Seeing someone from the program around town makes you feel like you guys should have a secret handshake.

24. There is never a time you don’t smell like coffee grounds or cigarettes.

25. You are becoming increasingly okay with going to bed at 9:30.

26.  You have some sober friends who don’t understand, and say things like, “it’s all about will power,” referring to your addictions and alcoholism.

27. Everyone is out to get you.

28. If a door is closed, the people on the other side are definitely talking about you.

29. Salt looks like cocaine.  Ice water looks like vodka on the rocks.

30. V8 will never not smell like a bloody mary.

31. You often feel like you’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

32. When a friend switches home groups, it’s like he or she has died.

33. Your conversations consist of everything from crack cocaine and death to rainbows and butterflies.

34. If you go through the day without making a gratitude list you feel like you’re on the brink of relapse.

35. You can probably relate to everything on this list.

Tagged , , , , ,

The Days are Just Packed

Image

Day 253

The leaves are falling like multicolored raindrops, pumpkins are perched on porches, and that candy-corn crap that tastes like chalk is on sale; all telltale signs of October, yet I woke up this morning having no idea what month we’re in.  I mean I really had to think, which was initially unsettling.  Aren’t I supposed to be restoring my sanity, not losing it?

It turns out there is a simple explanation; time flies.  What a relief, I’m not crazy…okay I am a little crazy, but this sensation is normal; it’s just something I have not experienced in a very long time.  My life is full again and it’s moving faster than that starship in Star Wars.  I wish I had an ewok as a pet…Anyway…

Time in early-early sobriety moved slower than a three-toed sloth, probably because I was in so much pain; every step was excruciating, and I fought practically every inch of the way.  I wish someone had told me sooner that alcoholism is 90% thinking and 10% drinking; maybe it would’ve made those days easier.  Probably not. Fighting is inevitably painful and drawn-out whether it be against time, people, or Alcoholics Anonymous.

I have documented almost everyday of sobriety since my first AA meeting, and sometimes when I feel like I’m the same person who walked through the doors 253 days ago; all I have to do is scroll up.   Entries in the beginning had a common thread of agonizing resistance, and skepticism that almost took me out one hundred times.

Maybe I read too much Carl Sagon as an undergraduate, but I wanted to question everything about this program.  I wanted answers to the reasoning behind all steps and suggestions.  I wanted to debunk the theory of AA.  This skepticism, coupled with a yearning to bolt back to California made life drag on for a while.

By the grace of my Higher Power, I have stayed long enough to accept what I do not understand.  Acceptance has allowed me to let go; letting go let me surrender.  The moment I stop resisting the pain starts subsiding.  I’ve learned in the rooms that to surrender literally means to go to the winning side; surrender is what has saved my sobriety,  it’s given me a life so full I can barely keep up, and an awareness of what I need to keep going.

Time is flying because I have willingness to be a better person tomorrow than I was today.  The days are packed because I have accepted that I don’t know much, and there’s a lot more to learn.  Today, for example, I have learned that we are in the month of October, which means I must accept that I am approaching my first sober Halloween.  Weee.  Maybe I’ll dress up as Bill Wilson.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Recalculating, Rewiring, Showing Up

Image

Be there in a minute….

Day 241

Social events give me such bad anxiety that I don’t usually make it to said functions.  Feeling like I’m on the outside of every room I walk into has never made me very self-assured, but when there was alcohol, there was no problem.  Get buzzed and converse effortlessly, get wasted and don’t care about anything!  Hooray!  Much to my anxiety-ridden dismay, this social lubricant is no longer at my disposal.

Due to unrealistic projections on how every activity will pan out, I’ve developed a nasty habit of making plans and then immediately regretting them.  My mind begins spinning a web of irrational excuses…. Who will I talk to?  What will we talk about?  What if they stare at this giant blemish on my face? How will I get there?  What if there’s no parking? What if it’s so overly crowded that I have a panic attack?  I’m too fat today anyway. I’m not going.  Whew.

The second I decide I’m not going to go I feel wave of relief, but I’ve already let someone else down, including myself.  I don’t know what’s worse about these destructive decisions; that I end up disrespecting the person or persons who invited me, or that there is a 99% probability that if do show up I’ll have a great time.

Confidence and awareness have sprouted in sobriety, and tools have been acquired to counteract old-behavior; sometimes I even implement those tools.  I’ll remind myself to simply show up.  Jesus, it’s not that hard.  I’ll remind myself that no one cares if I have a zit on my forehead.  I’ll tell myself to stop being such a selfish flakey friend, and that the world does not cater to my own self-centered fears.

Unfortunately, it’s a long road of awkwardness before I fully reach a point where ease comes freely and events are easy.  At most completely sober settings I still feel like I’m standing around waiting for everyone to get drunk.  It’s like going to a party that never starts…talk about anxiety.

Yesterday “The Committee” started generating the same old bullshit for an occasion I had committed to.  A bailout plan was in the works, when sober thoughts kung-fu’d them in the face.   It was extremely uncomfortable to go against how I have conditioned my brain, but because of step work and progress not perfection, I was able to tell my insecurities to shut the fuck up, show up, and stop ruining my chance at life.

Of course, it was a great time.  All it took was some excruciatingly difficult recalculating! Showing up….what a concept.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Let’s be real, we’re all Gollum.

Image

I used to think AA was an acronym for “AlcoholicAddicts,” and it still could be; for me they are one in the same.

There was a functional level of resistance I had against drinking, which did not exist when it came to nose candy.  If an environment wasn’t a designated, “get wasted,” zone, I may have mentally declared everyone lame, but it wasn’t the end of the world.   Drinking and not having blow, however, equaled catastrophic desperation, and desperation is something alcoholics and addicts all know about.

This morning a man (we’ll call him G) who was hooked on heroin told me how he’d inject a needle “this long” into his groin, because he had no usable veins left.

“You know, I was a doctor, so I could do these things.”  He said with humor.

I laughed.  Somehow it’s okay in AA to laugh at collapsed veins and desolation, maybe because we speak the same fucked up language.  At the same time, stories like his sometimes make me feel ridiculous for identifying myself as an addict.  My story doesn’t sound as severe, there are no needles, and I didn’t have a $300-a-day heroin habit.  Coke wasn’t even in my daily diet, but I know the desperation he spoke of.

Picture Gollum holding a bag of blow instead of the ring…you now have an accurate portrayal of who I was as an addict.  Splitting a bag with me was a big mistake.  Nine times out of ten the goods “fell on the floor,”  “fell in the toilet,” or “I accidentally sneezed all the lines away and this is all that’s left.”  My mind cannot comprehend how people share booger sugar; sharing wasn’t an option, it was an obstacle. Somehow I had to hoard the precious baggie all night.  Of course if anyone ever hoarded something from me, they were on my shit-list.  Just because I had a zero tolerance policy for sharing didn’t mean anyone else could.

If someone weren’t giving their coke away like pixie powder, I’d follow him or her around like a pathetic pleading drunk puppy dog.  It was very important to keep tabs on this person, whether at a house, club, party, sporting event, you name it.  My entire night (or day) revolved around a sick version of Where’s Waldo.

A girl at a party one time literally turned around and berated me for pestering her about the blow in her purse.  I saw nothing wrong with that picture, besides the fact that she was a bitch.  There was nothing wrong with missing my friend’s entire graduation party, either, because I had more important things to do, like sit in a parking lot for 3 hours waiting for my hookup in a ghetto of central California.  The Where’s Waldo game felt fine in Italy, when I insisted that a friend of a friend of a friend equip the night with party favors.

“It’ll take a few hours, and it’s insanely expensive.”  My friend’s friend told me in the middle of a crowded street in Rome.

“Done, I don’t care.”

Funds were limited on that trip and my best friends had already been spotting me, but for coke there was always money in the bank.  The night was spent blowing lines on my passport, rejecting my best friend’s request for just a bump.  “I know you have more,” she’d say.  I lied through my coked out teeth all night.

These instances barely scratch the hideous surface of the fiend I became in the name of cocaine.  Everyone I cared for went to the wayside so I could guiltlessly indulge in my addiction.   There are gonna be a whole lotta amends at Step 9.

To reach Step 9 I have to religiously remember Step 1; we admitted that we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.

An extended version of the list above is what I pull out every time  “just one” beer sounds good.  Just one beer would be the fast track to a rock bottom lower than my first.  Just one beer would lead to two beers, two beers would lead me to an eight ball, and before you could say relapse I’d be a worse version of who I was, and I don’t want to lose everything that’s been gained.  If I made it back to the rooms it’d probably be as a heroin addict.

I don’t know if alcoholics are addicts, or addicts are alcoholics, or if we’re all in the AlcoholicAddicts group together, but we all know the fiending, the pleading, and I bet we can all relate to Gollum.

Tagged , , , , , , ,