Tag Archives: Alcoholics Anonymous

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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3…2…1….Self-destruct.

The topic last night was relapse.  The woman who spoke was pretty harsh and brutally honest:

 “This is a progressive and fatal disease…what is your story with relapse?  What are you doing to fight it?” 

 

Her lead was 100x more direct, powerful, and articulate than how I just paraphrased.    

 

We started going around the circle.  One newcomer with less than 6 months shared about the two funerals he’s already been to in a very, very short amount of time.

 

A kid younger than me shared his experience with relapse:  “I wanted to experiment one night…and wound up experimenting for 3 years.”

 

This past Monday a member of our home group died.  He was young, had a wife, and a 3-year-old son.  A member who went to the funeral gesticulated with his hands to describe the agonizing look in the wife’s eyes.  “I don’t want my family to have to bury me.”  He said.

 

The leader of the meeting told the group she had a sponsee who wanted to go out for “just one night,” and wound up killing two kids via vehicular manslaughter.   

 

I suppose this is what’s called “keeping it green,” which used to be an expression I linked to packing a bowl; now it’s what I need as a constant reminder for my sobriety.

 

Sometimes I still want to self-destruct.  Sometimes I want to see myself at the lowest point again, where I was in the basement of a stranger’s house with blood on my face and no idea how to get home.  Sometimes I even want it to get worse than that, and I have no idea why.  My thinking previous to AA was geared towards “party hard and die young.” Even after over a year, that death part still sounds appealing.

 

“I learned in rehab that the longest a craving can exist in your brain is 15 minutes, unless you continue to dwell on it.”  The leader said.  “So you pick up the phone, you go on a run, you watch TV, whatever it takes to move a muscle change a thought.”

 

I said, “I know all about those 15 minutes.” 

 

I’m sure we all do, because whether or not we work through the discomfort determines whether or not we’ll pick up. 

 

Sometimes I regret having not tried heroin, and I KNOW how moronic that sounds, but it’s the way my mind works; the self-destruct button is never far from reach.  

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Best Thing I’ve Heard All Day:

“I would probably do 25 years to life if a cop broke into my brain and found out what I was thinking.”  -Anonymous, 7 years sober

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Yikes.

Okay okay, I’m glad my body isn’t being poisoned anymore…

 

“Genetic variation also influences how well you can hold your liquor. Ethanol is poisonous in larger doses, so our bodies have evolved ways to break it down before it has a chance to build up. While your brain is enjoying its temporary loss of inhibition, your liver is doing its best to clear the alcohol out of your system before it kills you.”

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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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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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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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Freed

Day 319

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I wrote this around 4am:

 

It’s been one of those sleepless nights.  Instead of forcing my eyes to stay closed, I did what anyone would do–logged onto Facebook. (Hah.) Through the social grape vine I was sad to be informed that a friend from the past died a few days ago.  He overdosed.

 

When I failed out of college freshman year, my punishment was a little backwards—I got to enroll in the National Outdoor Leadership School, (NOLS).  My Dad was a NOLSee back in the 70’s when the program was just taking flight.  Back then, the expeditions were limited to its base, in Lander, Wyoming.  Dad said his old-school instructor hiked the bouldery mountains in cowboy boots.  By the time I got there, NOLS had expanded its courses worldwide.  I chose destination Mexico.

 

In 2006 NOLS was a perfect place for a kid like me…it was sort of a rehab…but freer, masked as a very expensive camping trip.  Nothing about NOLS suggests it as a rehabilitation program, but 11 out of my 12 classmates were coming off some form of substance.  (I’d been smoking weed almost every single day from 2003-2007; that’s over 1,000 days of being high, ew.)

 

Unbeknownst to me, the process of abruptly abstaining from drugs and alcohol the body goes through what is called “detox.”  Imagine 11 troubled nineteen-year-olds detoxing in the wilderness. Crazy town.

 

Over the course of 78 days my classmates and I came to know each other in every heartwarmingly good and infuriatingly bad way possible.  Anyway…For what would have been my sophomore year, I went to Baja, Mexico.

 

My friend who passed away was a member of FSB.  (Fall Semester Baja). I was in “Group 1” and he was in “Group 2.”  We saw each other in passing, at re-rations, and at breaks on the beach, where we’d swap stories of whale sharks, Mexican federales, and a new found love for banana chips. 

 

My friend had that light that you hope to see in everyone, and he didn’t have to dig deep to find it.  He made every moment feel like the best moment. He was compassionate, talented, and had no business dying.

 

When I saw the RIP’s and tributes on Facebook, I started to cry.  It’s been years since we last spoke, but its impossible to forget someone with such infectious positivity. He almost literally glowed. He was a true-blue surfer and I thought perhaps he died doing what he loved.  After reading his obituary it was revealed that he OD’d on heroin, and had been struggling with dope addiction for years.  It makes me feel like I know him even better, even though now he’s gone.  I wrote to him through the words of Einstein — ‘Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.’

 

Friends wrote, “You’re finally free.” 

 

 

 

 

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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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Huston, We Have a Problemo.

So I’m in Argentina for my best friend’s wedding. I’ve known this girl for 19 years, and have been just as close with her family as with her; they are family, and they know how hard it’s been to get where I am.

Everything about getting here was a disaster. It was the usual airport obsticals; running late, missing mandatory papers for international travel, mistaking my seat number as my gate number, you all know the drill. The best part about the disasters was that I laughed them off! Pre-sobriety, I would have been reduced to a fit of tragic fury. This time, I marched forward with a confident “no problemo,” attitude.
A fellow alcoholic drove me to the airport and it was the best possible departure for my sobriety. We covered everything from downfalls to revival, inspiration, and Winston Churchill. When I got dropped off at the gate I was elated! Filled with love, and pure happiness radiating. You know that feeling? The one that no material possession can duplicate? That one.

The flight was hunky dory, too. I fell asleep for 9 hours, woke up, had a questionable airplane breakfast, and bam! We were landing in Buenos Aires. The air was warm, a car service with a man named Rocco was waiting at luggage claim, and with my broken Spanish and his enthusiasm we chit chatted all the way “home.” Although the driving was intense.  I couldn’t tell if Rocco was a retired race car driver, or he just didn’t care if we died.  Anyway, we got lost for an hour, and even that was a hoot. He started teaching me about Argentina, about the Provences, the President, and how much amazing steak I had to look forward to. I felt carefree and fearless for the first 24 hours.
Today things started to change. (Mom, Dad, don’t freak out.) There’s been lots of talk about the wedding, and rightfully so! That’s why I’m here! What scares me is that I’m started to feel like alcoholism is a punishment again, like I’m missing out on the fun. I’m already resentful of my disease. Why can’t I drink like a normal person…? I guess that’s the obsession of every alcoholic. It’s not that I want to be “that girl,” falling all over the dance floor; I just want to feel the weight of a filled wine glass in my hand. Is that weird? I can almost taste a cool crisp Pino.

I’ve been playing the tape in my head.  It’s no secret from my mind that a) I can’t have access to an open bar and not blackout, and b) after just two drinks, all attention would be diverted to finding blow, killing the real reason of being present and happy for my best friend. A and B are as certain as death and taxes,  yet my alcoholic Gollum inside wants to cover-up the facts.

Parts of my attitude areregressing and my defects are gaining steam, but slow enough for me to catch them.    I’m feeling more insecure and a little less humble.  However, just by saying these thoughts “outloud,” make me feel better.  A good friend of mine said at a meeting last week, “it’s not that I’m going to pick up, but that I’m even thinking about it, just for 30 seconds, scares me.”  That’s where I’m at.  I don’t feel anywhere near to a drink, but the thought of these thoughts  are still scary. Thanks for listening yo.

 

** Don’t mind the typos.  This computer speaks Spanish.

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