Tag Archives: faith

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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Road Trip

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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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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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Friends = Family = Fear

Day 382

I’ve made friends who have become family in this program.  It is spine-chilling.

Tonight my lights went out around 10:00, but restlessness turned them back on at midnight.  The “universal” iPhone text notification chirped right as my bulb clicked on and a friend (who is my family) asked if I was still awake.  So, SO, glad I was able to say “yes, what’s wrong.”

She was upset to the point that I was out of bed, downstairs, about to rev my truck, and call her sponsor en route.  The phone was probably feeling heavy to hold on the other end so I stayed and listened.  Thirty-five minutes later, the trepidation subsided.  Tomorrow is a new day.

There are certain types of fear I’ve thus far identified throughout recovery (which I may have already mentioned in previous posts); self-centered fear, anger infused fear, irrational fears, projection fears, and one hundred such variations.  The fear that floods me when it comes to my friends relapsing is the most real, and the most rational.  This is a deadly disease.

I know there are “tools” to deal with these frighteningly feasible thoughts, because we “all” have them.  Most of us have seen them come to pass.   No solutions to placate my current unease come to mind, which I suppose is why I’m writing.

What is must boil down to is faith…but I gotta admit, “faith” is sounding more like a word, and less like a feeling at the moment.

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Train Ride with Morrie

 

I want to be a writer.  But what am I doing about it?  What have I accomplished over the past year? Am I ever going to get somewhere? This thinking is where doubt tries to prevail. 

 

On my way home from New York City a few nights ago the train was packed and I wound up sitting next to an elderly man.  I sat and we glanced at each other, as two strangers would in close proximity.   In my head, his glance was a glare.

 

“What?” I asked.

He raised his eyebrows. As if to say, “what” right back.

 “What?” I asked again.  “You’re looking at me like you don’t want me to sit here.”  (These are self-centered fears I often think and sometimes say.)

“Not at all, I was just wondering what you have in that bag from Zaros.” He said innocently.

I glanced down at the giant brown pastry bag that took up most the seat. 

“Some cupcakes. And a couple cookies.  And a loaf of bread that was on sale.  And red velvet cake.”  (What’s moderation?)

He put his hand up and made the universal sign of perfection, “I love red velvet cake.” From there the conversation took off.

 

In forty minutes this man dropped more knowledge bombs on me than all the stink bombs in the school cafeteria combined.  Apparently he was a legitimate mentor…like a Tuesdays with Morrie kind of dude.  What are the chances?! Almost an hour with my personal Mitch Albom.

 

“Let me guess,” he said halfway into the trip, “you were a troubled teen.  Parents got a divorce, you didn’t handle it well, and lost your way for a while.”

 

“Yes, actually.”  I said.  This guy was good.

 

“Strip away all of that.  When you were 16, what did you want to be?” 

 

The first thing that came to mind was “pothead.”  But that’s not who I wanted to be; that’s who I felt like I had to be.  The pothead version of myself was an adaptation for survival; fit in somewhere or die.

 

What came to mind next was the truth: a writer.  Writing has been my passion since 1st grade, from the first time I sat down at a typewriter and my imagination took off on the page.  I told mentor-man this.  Then I told him about my most recent fears:  I’m not good enough. 

 

“Well you’re not good enough.”  He said simply.

 

Um. Ouch?  I thought to myself, and waited for the follow up “just kidding.”

 

“I’m not?”

 

“Nope.”  He said.  “But if you care enough, you will be.”

 

And just like that, a light blub turned on. Just like fear and faith can’t coexist, neither can passion nor doubt.  At least that’s what I took from my train ride with Morrie, because the more doubt I let creep in the quicker passion fizzles out.  

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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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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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HP’s Don’t “Do” Punishment

Recieved this email today and thought I’d share.  The wonderful thing about spirituality, for me, is that he/she/it doesn’t have to be defined, (which is why I disfavor organized religion).  I can try to describe how my Higher Power lives in and around me, but in my opinioin it does’t matter.  I think the message is the same, and my understanding is something along these lines:

Today’s thought from Hazelden is:

How can I believe in God when just last week I got my tongue caught in the roller of an electric typewriter?
–Woody Allen

If our introduction to religion and God was filled with threats of punishment and hell it would make perfect sense for us not to want to believe in something so scary. Even though we may have been taught that God is love, we may not have witnessed a lot of God’s love in action.

All we are asked to do in recovery is to believe in a Higher Power. That could mean God, or it could simply mean the sober people who are helping us to recover. Our Higher Power is there, watching over us, ready to be seen in any way we are willing and able to see.

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