I Get What I Need When I am Willing

Sandwich SignMeetings are important to me.  I love them.  I am active in my Home Group at the Shelter and enjoy outside meetings from my Home Group.  My Home Group is responsible for a meeting every day. 7 days a week – Early Bird Grapevine, Monday thru Friday.  Saturday is Living Sober and Sunday is 12 and 12.  If I could only go to the Shelter meetings I would make a meeting every day.

People have referred to the Shelter Meetings are the “Front Line of Recovery.” “White knuckle” sobriety.  Lots of relapses, many newcomers.  And though I am dedicated to the Shelter Meetings, I find for my own Recovery, I need some exposure to some long term, (or old timers) to balance things off.

Shelter Meetings remind me of how it was like to be in Early Recovery.  Other meetings with people having years of sobriety, help me know how to live in Recovery. It is perspective.  The Shelter Meetings are helpful in getting a double dose of gratitude and the stories remind me that it isn’t any better “out there” since I entered my new life.

Road Trips

When I travel for work, I try to attend meetings also. Sometimes my travels take me to places where there is one meeting per week or none at all. Often times the meetings are scheduled outside of my trip.  Still, I seem to manage to make one and people are usually friendly.  (Not always, some meetings people don’t introduce themselves at all. My sponsor told me once that my goal should be to attend a meeting without any other expectations. That has been great advice on the road or in my hometown.)

Last week, I was in an area where there were plenty of old timers.  Not only were they old people (I am in my early 50’s) but they had 15, 20, 30 years under their belts.  They all know each other, in fact, there was a knitting group of 6 women that only talked to each other.  The men sat with their arms crossed and would speak when spoken to only.

Friendly Reminder

As the meeting got under way, I was glad that I was there, though still I did feel like an outsider.  I decided that when I returned to my Shelter Group, I would make more of an effort to look out for visitors and do my part in helping them to feel welcome. Summer is coming and there is a lot of tourism that brings people through. We made a sign recently and put it out front so folks wouldn’t have to be intimidated by coming to the Shelter and wondering if they were in the right spot.

Sometimes being “turned off” shows me things I need to see.  I needed to feel left out so I would be aware of what I can to do reach out the hand of AA on my turf.

 

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Creature of Habit

When I was drinking I had my habits.  Mostly my drinking habits.  In the end, my life revolved around when and where I could drink.  My nerves were so frazzled, my self-esteem so fried, I had to know when the next opportunity would avail itself that I would be able to get that drink.  Just to “take the edge off,” I would say to myself.  I found myself scheduling my day around it.  It is hard to believe now that was how my life was, but it was.  Once I stopped drinking, going to a lot of meetings and doing the Steps -has really changed everything.

A Routine

In my first few weeks of Recovery, one of my friends told me about how important a routine was to filing some of the edges off alcohol abstinence and mental detox.  He told me about the acronym HALT (Hungry Angry Lonely Tired).  I had no idea what that meant and like most things, I thought it was silly. But I began to notice eating something healthy (Hungry), getting enough sleep, (Tired) were 2 things of the acronym that were vital to my first 90 days.  The “Angry and Lonely” were unavoidable for my first 6 months, but in meetings,  it did make me aware of how normal I was to feel that way.

Even though my routine isn’t rock solid, I do try and go to bed at the same time every night, get up about the same time every morning.  Grab a nap in the middle of the day when I can – usually the weekends.  I have said in meetings when I got sober, I turned into a toddler.  I need my sleep.  When I don’t get it, I’m screwed. I get impatient, frustrated, overly sensitive.  All feelings that get me closer to a drink.  When I do get my sleep, the whole day seems to go smoother.

Sleep Tolerance

I can wake up in the night and not get back to sleep a couple of times in a week without problems, but if I go to bed later than usual a couple nights AND my dog gets me up and I can’t get back to sleep, I really feel it and need a nap!  I have mentioned before in this blog, when I was drinking, I was hardly sleeping at all and hadn’t slept well for years, but that stopped 2 1/2 years ago.

A New Day

I love mornings. I love the quiet, watch the sun rise, I am not in a good mood particularly, but I do have time alone and get up early to have time alone.  I pray, meditate (like cross-legged on a cushion) and ease into my day. Get dressed and hit my morning meeting at the local Homeless Shelter.  I get my dose of gratitude and fellowship behind me prior to most people arriving at work.  It starts my day off right.  This can’t happen every day, but most days, even weekends.

The idea of a routine, soothed my body and head early on and today it still does.  I think subconsciously my system started trusting me again.  “Yes” we will get some sleep, “Yes” we will get some lunch.  Small routine tasks keep my mind from carrying on by itself.

Give It a Try

If you are new to Recovery, take the next week, make an effort to go to bed at the same time every night (within a half hour), get up – set the alarm if you have to – and get out of bed, start your day.  Don’t just lie there and be lazy. Let your system know you are up for Recovery today.  This Day.

The Itty Bitty $hitty Committee

I don’t mean to offend anyone by that title.  Everything I write about in this blog falls under 3 overall categories:

  • Experience
  • Strength 
  • Hope

And I have heard people reference to the things that spin around in their heads.  I have written about that before.  For me, it is negative self talk that I never knew happened, before I stopped drinking.  I never knew a lot of things before I stopped drinking. It amazes me when “I stop the music in my head” or “Get out of that bad neighborhood that is between my ears” (all terms I have heard in meetings),  how much I realize that I am not the center of the universe and that I AM ENOUGH -just as I am.

One of my most favorite recovery people said the other day, “Most of the things I worry about never even happened!”  Another one said, “I lose sleep about the snow I am worrying about shoveling in 3 days and the storm goes out to sea – then I get angry about that!”

Look At Us

Seriously, as  write this I am writing it for you and ME, if we sit in the “here and now” and be grateful for what we have and who we are, our lives will feel more peaceful, don’t you think?  Our Higher Power didn’t make us so we could torture ourselves, we are here to help one another.

Reading Facebook- giving and getting positive and inspiring comments all help, in addition to the “face to face” recovery work, meetings, service, etc. keeps me healthy and most likely make the people in my day to day world happier too.

It’s January and we are beyond the darkest days and longest nights of the year, I need to make a special effort to be that “Grateful Alcoholic that doesn’t drink.”

Should I or Shouldn’t I?

I heard one day in our Sunday 12 and 12 Meeting that a person feels like his instincts or gut feelings were his Higher Power’s way of guiding him. “Thomas” mentioned that his gut instinct itself was his Higher Power expressing Himself through him.  Just like he believed that his Higher Power expressed Himself through others in the words they say  Those words he hears and really “tunes into” at a meeting. “Thomas”often says things that I feel like my Higher Power is expressing Himself thru him to me.

“Thomas” used to be a tough person for me to listen to, his words cut into me sometimes.  Now that early sobriety has worn off, I realize that his words effect me because they matter.  It has taken a while to get there.

Writing Partner

There are “normal” people in my life.  Or at least people that are normal drinkers that can drink one or two glasses of wine once in a while and not need to drink the entire bottle and then open another bottle and drink, it.  Those are the people that leave a half a glass on the counter and dump it after the evening is over because they have had enough.  I used to resent those people, I wondered why they bothered to drink just to waste it?

My writing partner is a smart, funny and very kind person-normal.  I have known her for a few years. We aren’t super close friends, but I really like her.  But she doesn’t know me, I have never told her that I am an alcoholic and in recovery.  She has shared with me some painful things and is writing a book of essays about a confusing and emotional topic for her graduate work.  This is the work she shares with me.  She also has shared with me some great tools on writing and I have learned a lot from her.

I have been sharing my writing with her too, but I write about a bunch of different topics.  None of it recovery based. We are meeting on Saturday. I have been thinking about her for the past couple weeks. Feeling like I need to break my anonymity. Like I am not being honest. As I have mentioned in this blog before, my drinking was most often done in isolation or with very select few in private places. The community I live in, has no idea that I am in Recovery. And I kinda like it that way.  But here I am at 1:20 in the morning- I have been up since 12:30 thinking it is time I tell her.

That Little Voice

Like “Thomas” that I mentioned earlier, I believe that my Higher Power is with me and has never left me. Even though in the dark days of my drinking, I certainly had left Him.  My Higher Power is that little voice that speaks to me throughout my day but becomes more persistent when I ignore it.  I have been ignoring this voice especially, when it has come to writing.  The idea of “being a writer” seems glamorous but when I want to be a real writer it takes commitment. Putting it out there for people to read and the danger of them rejecting it. There is that F word.  FEAR.  I hate rejection.  But writing has always come naturally to me.  I can and do write for others. I can tell their story but resist telling my own.

Sharing Experience, Strength and Hope

Since this program of recovery is about passing on the message, helping the next struggling alcoholic (we even have Step 12 specifically for this), I feel like writing a book about Recovery is what I must do.  Every day that passes I feel my instinct telling me this is what I must do.  For no good reason, I started this blog even before I went to my first meeting and before I dared to even think about Recovery.

I have shared with my Recovery friends in our community about this book.  I have a couple friends helping me and giving me some very helpful feedback. I plan to give proceeds to our Recovery programs here – again I feel like it is something I must do.  But my normal writing friend knows nothing of this book and I feel like I need to tell her, I think she will be a great Editor.  Someone outside of Recovery that can help look at this book with no strings attached. But there is the F word – again.

Is this My Will or God’s Will?

 

 

As willing to listen as the dying can be

The last paragraph in the book the section on Step One, (page 24 in my copy to be exact), of  Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.  “Then and only then, do we become as as open minded to conviction and as willing to listen as the dying can be.”

Our Sunday meeting at the Homeless Shelter is a “12 and 12” Meeting. Each week we read a Step. Throughout the year the Steps are repeated, often times not in order.  Step 1 is almost always read when someone raises their hand in response to the question asked at every meeting from the Chairperson, “Is there anyone here having trouble staying away from a drink today that needs support from the group?’

Willing To Listen

On New Years Eve, my phone rang.  I was sitting in front of my computer working my book.  I was feeling pretty settled in, not worrying at all about anything. Neither drinking or New Year’s Eve, I was feeling pretty excited about getting organized.  I looked at my phone and it was a woman I had not seen in a couple weeks.

I picked up the phone thinking that she may be at the Alca-thon down the road.  She was not at the Alca-thon. I started the conversation saying, “HEY!  It is great to hear from you how have you been?”  She said, “Not good, I have been drinking again.  Not every day, but once in a while and I haven’t been going to meetings.”  I said, “Have you been drinking today?”  She said “No, I am on my way to see my son at his house, he thinks I am not drinking.”  (But her voice and thoughts sounded like she had been.) I said, “Hey you know, you can always start over. Whenever you want.  Like tonight.  We could go to the Alca-thon.”

She was interested in telling me why she was drinking.  Her son is an addict and she doesn’t want to drink in front of him, her husband still drinks, drinks in front of her and he doesn’t want her to drink because she ended up in the hospital last time, her sponsor was gay and she wasn’t into that and she really didn’t like the whole God thing.  She wanted to go away for a few days, maybe with someone from AA, just escape so she could get her head straight.

I just listened.  There was no use in saying anything anyway, she was in the “stinking thinking” stage and it was everyone and every thing else’s fault that she was drinking.

We agreed that we would meet at our 9am Sunday Meeting at the Homeless Shelter.  That was today. She didn’t come.  I asked a couple others too and they said she was going to go to a later meeting.  No one has seen her.  I have sent her texts and left her phone messages.  She is escaping from me too, apparently.

Cunning Baffling & Powerful

When they say this disease is  Cunning, Baffling & Powerful , they “aint” kidding.  When the voice of alcoholism is speaking to me and I am listening and I am listening to only that voice, I am screwed.  Like I said in a previous post, “Alcohol wants you dead, but it will settle for miserable.”  Seeing it happen from the outside, happening to someone I care about it, is tough and I feel powerless.

 

 

Having a Holiday Plan to Stay Sober

When I first got sober, it was hard to imagine a day without a drink.  And at times, it was hard to imagine an hour without a drink.  Thank God and my home group, kept me glued together, let me know of things that were outside my comfort zone and took me to events before I dared to show up by myself.

“We Will Love You Until You Love Yourself”

This saying is one of the very many I heard when I first came in.  It is also one of the very many that has changed in meaning as my recovery has grown and deepened.  At first it meant, someone welcoming me when I showed up to a meeting I had never been to. Or when I shared something painful, a compassionate look or a gentle touch of someone that sent the message to me “You’re Not Alone.”  I needed to have lots of those moments to realize this was the real deal – This Place –R E C O V E R Y was where I belonged. Somewhere along the way, I was able to begin to give back to my home group, my friends and the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Because this fellowship filled my heart with love so then I could love.

It is okay if your family of origin makes you crazy.  It’s okay if you need a break to get away.  And it is really okay, if you can find someplace safe, safe and sober to run to, to recharge the batteries, to stay sober. Especially, if you are traveling out of town, or even back to your home town, take a few minutes to look up some meetings.  Find out where they are and what time they are being held.

Make A Plan

Even though my family may have not have been driving me nuts at the very moment, I have a plan to have a meeting in the schedule each day. I find it helps me maintain.  It gives me my space and time to salute and nurture my recovery.  If you are up here in Maine, we have Alca-thons over the holidays that hold meetings 24 hours a day during the tough times of the Holidays.  Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, we have something going on that is a sober alternative.  I know in my house holidays where the HIGH HOLY DRINKING DAYS of the year and we all knew where we could stock up when some of our favorite stores were closed.

Stock Up on Meetings

Instead of searching for a “Beer Store” (as my Dad would call it), I make sure I don’t have to search for a meeting because I all ready know where one is and where my real friends are!  I can leave chaos and find serenity.

Happy New Year!

Nothing Like a Good Snowstorm!

Today in Maine we are having a snowstorm.  One of those all day specials.  Started around 6 this morning and still going strong. Our office is closed but as a “Distributed Workforce” we can work remotely as a normal way of doing business.  This was one of the reasons, I was able to isolate and drink privately.  As long as I could type and respond when needed, no one suspected that I had a “problem.”

Snow Days were Snow DAZE

When the weather is frightful the bottle is so delightful!  On these stormy days, most of our business conversations online with each other were about the travel, school closing early or being canceled.  I could hold it together for that and meanwhile “pace myself” alone at my desk and my computer screen. There is something cozy about being nestled in to my home office, garage door closed. Knowing I had stocked up.

Today is a Different Snow Day

Last night a friend of mine in the program sent me a text saying “There is no reason for you to drive tomorrow, let me pick you up for the morning meeting.”  WOW that was a gift.  Our morning meetings as I have mentioned previously in this blog, are at a Homeless Shelter in our city.  We never cancel.  There is so much early recovery happening, we knock ourselves out to make sure the meeting is opened.  So often it is the only meeting people get to – they LIVE there. The homeless shelter never closes.

At 6:55am the lights of my friend’s big 4 x 4 truck come up my driveway and off we go.  And at 7:30 the meeting goes on as scheduled. Someone living at the shelter had made the coffee for us and others helped set up the room.  As the meeting unfolded in the usual “round robin” discussion format, one in the group said, “WOW, wouldn’t this be a great day to sit home and drink!”  It was true.  In another life, that would be what I was doing and about this time of the morning, I would be battling off the shakes with a little vodka latte.

Today, I have worked steadily most of the day with a break for a romp in the snow with my dogs.  The snow is still coming down steady, we should be at about a foot before it is done.  And here I am comfortable in my skin not struggling with hiding ANYTHING.  Freedom.

Thank you Higher Power and my friends in AA that helped me stay sober today.