#MeetingGem: “I didn’t come up for air the first time until I was 31…”

About Relapse and Coming Back…

The first meeting of the day in Bangor, Maine is at 7:30am at the Homeless Shelter. The name of the shelter is The Hope House.  Monday thru Friday is a Grapevine Format. There is an article from The Grapeunspecified.jpgvine read – paragraph by paragraph, round robin style until the reading is finished.  Sharing begins on the reading or thoughts to “Staying away from a drink for today” are the focus.

So Many Points of View

Sitting in a meeting (any meeting), reminds me that my way of thinking is not the RIGHT way or the ONLY way.  It is A WAY.  As people share around the room, topics that come up from an article that we all just read TOGETHER, that are helpful to me understanding the struggle that is so real in each of us.  Even when we see things from a different point of view.


When alcoholics go back out, it is dangerous.  When we drink, we make bad choices, we are not in control of anything.  That means ANYTHING can happen and it usually does.  Most of which we may not remember.  Every time we go back out, our disease has been “doing push ups” getting stronger, waiting for us.  Our relapse periods vary and our trip back to the rooms of Recovery are at risk.  We can die. In my opinion, something worse is to kill someone else and live through the tragedy.  This isn’t Meeting drama speak, this is reality.

“Keep Coming Back”

Is an expression used in the Rooms of Recovery.  Today, I learned that people view that expression from a variety of angles.  To me, it means to “Keep Coming Back” to meetings because I am worth Recovery.  When the days feel really dark and I am struggling, I need to keep coming to meetings, get out of my head. My Higher Power has something in mind for me.

Others shared that no matter how many times a person relapses, they are welcomed back to AA.  And in another breath someone said that she felt that gave her permission to give up and give in the the disease.  Go back out because she could come back again.

Whatever “Keep Coming Back” means in your Recovery, I pray that when someone decides to just throw in the towel it isn’t a casual mood decision.  “Things suck so I will drink.” Call someone first.  Take a walk.  GET TO A MEETING. Giving up on yourself is a very dangerous place to be, not a passing fancy.  When we stumble, we don’t have to fall and roll around in the $hit of our past decisions.  We are worth living without putting ourselves (as well as others), thru holy hell.

“Think Before You Drink”

And if you don’t, please come back to AA.  “It takes what it takes.”





She Did It…AGAIN

Writing a letter to my Stepmother proves to help me understand her more

When my Sponsor and I were working through Steps 4 and 8, she made me create a “Hell No” List.  This was the list created of People that I had identified in recognizing my character defects that created upset in me for making amends. imsorrybear The list was made as a recognition of my distress and the lurking Resentment that was inside me. Writing the person’s name on a piece of paper forced me to deal with those feelings.  There were 3.  The first person molested me and was dead.  The second raped me in High School and now has since died.  The third, was my Step Mother.

Needless to say, making amends to the dead is less risky, but in the end after I worked through my motives in making those amends, they both seemed unnecessary.  The resentment was really no longer there, I had closed the door.  Putting them on the “Hell-No” list was a great process to go through.

“She makes me want to tear my hair out and eat it.”

When my Dad was living I would say this often to myself.  And when he was dying, she and I sort of “came to terms.”   I mentioned that in this blog previously.  And over these past 2 years there has been things that she has said that I have found haunt me.  I figured I would write her a letter, come clean about my own alcoholism and my belief of my father’s own illness.  At my father’s bedside, we made peace for his sake, I felt it was time to make peace for my own.

Higher Power

Once again I am reminded that these “hauntings” “constant nudges” are not mine, they are from someone else trying to tell me something.  Until I do something – in my case that usually means write something, it doesn’t go away.  That is how our book came about.  I kept getting reminded about writing and then writing a book came from that and the rest seemed to fall into place.  As of today, it has been submitted to 3 publishers.  I do the footwork and my Higher Power does the rest.

Once I started writing the letter it was obvious that it was what I was supposed to do.  The words came out and with just a couple typos the letter was ready.  I printed it, addressed the letter and drove it to the Post Office.  Felt like I needed to do that. (When this happens to me these days I just do it, without question.)  When the letter went into the box, I felt a little relief.

I wasn’t sure what to expect

She and I are not bosom buddies but we are not enemies anymore either.  We are polite and friendly, but sending this letter to her was not a “slam dunk” resolution.  It was a letter reconstructing our relationship and taking my responsibility for the stress and strain that a 26 year old woman (the age they married), may have caused.  I believe my feelings for her were much stronger than hers were for me, so the letter did not identify the “he said, she said” or really in much detail of situations themselves.  The words were kind, I mentioned a few of the sentences she had said several times, “The drinking had stopped but not the behavior…”  “He could be so cruel and divisive…”  I wanted her to know that none of this behavior was her cause and that being an alcoholic myself in recovery, I can recognize the “dry drunk” and had in my own father.

The Phone Rang

My Stepmother is one of the most impossible people to reach.  When I was drinking I thought this was all part of a GAME she was playing, trying to punish me.  Well that wasn’t the situation at all.  She just vaporizes.  She doesn’t stay in touch with anyone. After a couple of telephone tag attempts we were able to talk.  She was kind and so was I. There were no “I’m sorry’s,” there were more, “I understands.”  She told me about what she knew about alcoholism and how she thought there were some in her family that were alcoholics.  And we ended the conversation with a pleasant “Goodbye.”





Coming Back From the Dead

Many that read this blog are aware that my Home Group Meeting is located at a Homeless Shelter.  While by the Grace of God I have never been homeless, going to a meeting in a Shelter nearly every morning reminds me of how grateful I am.  Someone said once, “Coming here is like a ‘head on crash’  with Gratitude.”  I have to agree with that.


Our meetings are long on the “Experience” side of the “Experience, Strength and Hope” equation.  Some days folks are fresh out of jail, rehab or been kicked out of the house. Some are still drunk.  Many are sick and tired of being sick and tired, others are pissed off at the world, but our job is to have a meeting.

We have a daily morning meeting – Grapevine format for weekdays, Living Sober on Saturday , Sunday is 12 and 12.  People living at the Shelter are rousted out of bed early and our meetings are in a “Day Room.”  Some stumble into the meeting.  Others plan on it and some of us come in from the outside.

What This Has Done For My Recovery

When I am sitting in meetings I am recharged with relevant content that I need to stay sober.  I hear stories from people that have cheated the Grim Reaper 3 or more times.  I can identify even though my “story” is different.  I feel it in my heart and I am grateful for being sober TODAY.







Who Me? Write A Book?

I Never Thought I Would Ever Send A Manuscript To A Publisher

But that changed on Tuesday.

When I came into AA, I honestly thought I was a dead woman. Everything today seems so obvious 3+ years later but when I was “in it”  (I fondly call it “$hit City”), I thought that was what my life was going to be and continue to be.  I was soooo lucky, no sirens, no hospitals, no jail- but I was all ready dead inside.  Inside my head and my heart.  I would look at the vodka bottle I had stashed so no one would find it and cry as I poured it.  There are plenty of blog entries that describe my journey but in case this post is the only you may read I want to say….


As the clock ticked off and meetings every day, showed one day at a time of sobriety. I was listening desperately to find a way out.  A way out of myself.  You guys kept sharing your Experience, Strength and Hope.  We did lots of laughing and crying too.  But we did it together. And every once in a while, something would tweak my heart and I would write it down in a book that I carried in my purse.  I called all these little “Pearls of Wisdom” -Gems.  If you are a friend of mine on Facebook or Twitter you can see that I post these often.  I would write them down in a small book that I carried with me.  (I have also mentioned this book before in this blog.)

These expressions, sentences, phrases, etc. cut to the heart of the matter- WHY we go to meetings, WHY the fellowship is so precious. WE all connect. When times got tough, I used that book, I would open it and read something someone had said and I wouldn’t feel so alone. It was like my own “Pocket Meeting.” And it got me through, “One Day At A Time.”

My First Year Anniversary Mason Jar

My First Year, I was smack dab in the middle of Step 9.  I got thinking about how I might make myself feel a little better.  So I wrote all the “Gems” that were in my book onto a sheet of paper (I th2016-10-02 14.43.45.jpgink there were about 60 then), cut them into strips (each Gem was on a strip), folded them neatly and put them in a large old fashioned Mason Jar.  And off I went to the Homeless Shelter to celebrate my Anniversary.  When I was presented my coin, I thanked everyone and passed around the Mason Jar, explaining that they were their words as well as words from any AA Meeting I had been to – I wanted to express how much they all meant to me. How much I have learned I could count on the Fellowship.  I suggested they choose a Gem for themselves and put it in their pocket- save it for their own rough patch.

As the days have gone on, I still write down Gems and each Anniversary I share them.
The list was growing considerably.

Gnawing Feelings

It was about a year ago, I finally asked my Higher Power to guide me. I was feeling so led to do “Something” I just didn’t know exactly what it was. More meetings, more places, more Gems.  The people in AA are so smart, creative and funny.  I would put the book away and then feel like I needed to keep adding to it. And, I was writing about them in this blog, but not sure what else there was to do with them.    I would feel an overwhelming need to look over the Gems, organize them and even a few times at night was awakened thinking about the whole thing.  ( I know it sounds crazy, but it happened and it happened more than once.)

I have been a writer of sorts for years. For business client projects, for web and other copywriting. I had mentioned writing a book many times from a barstool, but never had I bothered to commit to anything. Writing is hard work and discipline.

Last winter, I found myself having opportunities to talk to writers and creatives that I never had before.  I received an invite to a place about an hour from my home to attend a Writer’s Symposium. I met a woman who became my writing coach.

One of my friends told me about a contest that winners would receive a 4 day Writer’s Retreat in Vermont.  Just for fun I entered it and won.  And I went.

Facing Fear – Fear of Failure

The other part of writing and submitting a manuscript is Failing.  As many of us know in this fellowship, FEAR is front and center in many of our lives.  FEAR has ruled my life for longer than I care to admit.

But things that were put in front of me I couldn’t ignore. Still the gnawing and the pulling continued. My coach helped organize me at several points along the way and though she is not in the program, she was there for me.  I had to put it down again.  Then I was reminded that this is OUR book.  This book stands up for the “Sick and Suffering.”  There is HOPE.  Brilliance, creativity, honesty.

Before my 3rd Anniversary, the book was written and organized.  Our “Shitty First Draft” was complete.

The Hard Part

Submitting a manuscript isn’t easy, no query asks these questions.  If they did they wouldn’t believe you any way. (“Hey Fred, this chick over here said she gave it to God and he partnered with her in this project- there’s a winner for you!”)

How can you take a list of requirements, answer “form questions” effectively enough to transmit the magic that is in a meeting.  How does a Marketing Plan (and I have written many) explain that the content of this book will save lives – like Meetings do.

I will be submitting this to more than 1 publisher though I really hope it gets picked up by the first one I sent it to – the Publisher has published other books like this one, for people “like us.”  But this one is different in the way that it is YOUR WORDS from 2013-2016, not from Bill W. back in the 40’s.

Wish us luck!  This could be a great journey sprinkling “Experience, Strength and Hope.”







The Handyman Has QUIT

A lot of Recovery work for me has pointed out a bunch of self sabotage tactics that were in my daily life.  Things I reacted to, drank over, meddled in – sure, tried to FIX.

Peace Maker

In these past 3+ years, I have learned that I honestly don’t like conflict. Looking over past situations however, I have put myself in the middle of it and tried to get everyone to get along.  Only now I know, I cannot FIX anyone, nor is it my business to do it.  I am still in the “fallout” zone of poor decisions I made while I was drinking.  Some things I have changed, but it hasn’t been the time to change it all.  Through lots of chats with HP, I still need to keep on the path that the light has been shone on.  Meaning – I would love to walk away from some situations because they piss me off.  The people piss me off.  The interactions are not healthy.  I would have done that if I was drinking.  Everything is different today.

“It’s Not My Business”

How I hate hearing that.  How I hate saying that.  I am not a fighter.  So as I recite the Third Step Prayer for the “um-teenth” time today, I have to remember that it is not my hammerfight. For years I put myself in the middle of the fight, the disagreement, so it is understandable that these opportunities are natural for others to say, “Well, so and so … and so and so…” I was always the “negotiator.”  But not today. I needed to walk away, take a breath and just say, “You really need to tell them how you are feeling directly.” Certainly, it is easier for a person to sound off at me, I don’t fight back.  I don’t know the details because (drum roll…..IT IS NOT MY BUSINESS!!  I AM NOT INVOLVED!!!)


For years I have been the glue that has kept things together.  I am by no means a hero, in fact I probably enabled this to go on longer than it should have or piled on and never dealt with in the first place.  My involvement wasn’t healthy for anyone-especially myself.  And with some non-drinking time under my belt, I can see it more clearly.

It really all – ALL is in my HP’s hands.  It is just a hard habit to break-but WOW it blows me away when POW!  It is all so obvious.  Handing it over….



Usually when I someone tells me this I want to choke them.  I know “And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed…”

Blah, effing blah, effing blah all ready!

Isn’t It A Fine Line?

2dollarwatchSo often by the time I hear the word “Acceptance” from someone in the program, I am wound up “tighter than a 2 dollar watch.”  I am either pissed off and frustrated or sad and close to tears.  It is hard for me to identify when I accept something as it is or if I am avoiding dealing with it all together.

I go to this meeting that is mostly a group of Old Timers, it is small- sometimes 5 people sometimes 25.  It is a Discussion Meeting. It is a real anchor to my normal Home Group shelter meetings where the sobriety is so green you can smell it. Probably this other meeting at any one point there is a couple hundred years of sobriety present. Lots of wisdom in all shapes and sizes.

One of the Old Timers came in sat down next to me and was reciting and a whisper, “Acceptance, acceptance, acceptance.”  Of course naturally I figured he was talking to me, because at that moment everything in the universe revolved around me.

Decisions, Decisions

My whole life I have made snap decisions.  While some of them I could honestly say came from my gut.  All along my HP has been with me. I felt that I was being told to do something – I was listening. But near the end of my drinking, many of my decisions were emotion based, and based in reaction mode. Storm off, snap at someone.  I learned not to trust myself. When I first got sober, it was hard to know which decision was a reactive, emotional situation or an honest, gut, “God Bomb” moment. Today, I am trying very hard to “sit” with my decisions, especially those tough ones.

The Old Timer

Back to our Monday night Discussion Meeting…we talked a bit about life and the weather before the meeting but it wasn’t until he shared to the group about a very serious operation he is going to need in a couple of weeks. How he is frightened.  How he is hoping people could connect with him (he lives alone.) Maybe be willing to drive him to a meeting or two.  We all circled around him with phone numbers and learned the dates of his procedure.

The Lessons of the Program

His whispering “Acceptance” over and over had nothing to do with HIM telling ME what to do, HE was telling HIMself what to do.  Yeah, I learned humility too, that night.




We’re EVERYwhere!

Most all the names and identifiable things in this post (as well as all others) have been changed or generalized, in spirit with our 12th Tradition. (Anonymity.)

Early Mornings

My early mornings are pretty sacred to me.  I love the peace and quiet before the world wakes up and crazy gets out of bed.  I wouldn’t call myself a morning person really, I am not particularly friendly early, I appreciate letting my dog out, going for a stroll with him in the backyard, while the coffee pot does its’ job. Being alone and quiet.

This morning I was pretty sad, my dog is getting old and having troubles getting around and I know I will be making a tough decision soon.  I went upstairs to meditate for a little bit before getting ready to head out for the day.

The Electronic Leash

I checked my phone – as I do too often, and there was a text from someone.  It happened to be from a guy I knew back in High School. We connected on FB like I have with so many of my old friends.  (I am lucky that my drinking days were mostly silent drunks that were solitary. Most of my old friends didn’t even know I drank-or had problems anyway.)  As with all my FB friends, I interacted with him and noticed he lived in California now.  I remember him in High School as a “dark cloud” kinda guy, that didn’t always appreciate my sunny disposition.  I was a friend of his sister mostly-he put up with us as an older brother would.

I noticed he would post quite a few photos of Cakes with the number of years that the person was celebrating.  It seemed obvious to me that he was “One of Us,” though I never bothered to pursue it with him personally.  It looked like he was happy.  I was happy too. I had noticed several trips along with photos back and forth to our old home town as well as photos of him seeing some of our old classmates and friends.  This past weekend, he was in a resort town not far from where I live.

Back to the Text

I look down at my phone and there is a private message from Paul.

Paul: “Hey Janis, what’s up? I’m stuck at the airport with a flight delay.”
Paul: “Yup, Co-Pilot called in sick.”
Me: “I have a meeting first thing, but I could swing by the Airport and rescue you for a coffee-we could have a visit and then I need to get to another appointment, it would be great see you!”

Loading Zoneairport-sign

I swung by the Airport and there he was right out front. He jumped into the car and off we went.  It was great to catch up. He seemed happy and we laughed feeling comfortable right away.  I asked if he was in Recovery he said, “Oh yeah and loving life!”  and the conversation went from there. Turns out he is on his “Amends Tour.” We joked that it was kind of like in “My Name is Earl” where he has his list. Paul’s is quite long and as he feels the guidance, he deals with it.  So that means trips back to Maine.  We spent a couple hours visiting – coffee (of course), and then back to the airport we went. And some of the conversation got me thinking of my own Recovery – it always does.

Considering the way I started my day, with tears in my eyes thinking about my dog, it was so great to have this safe distraction.  Paul had no reason to make any amends to me nor I to him, we were just 2 sober classmates 38 years later, getting thru life on life’s terms “One Day At A Time.”