BIG BOOK STUDY

I have been attending AA meetings for about a year.  I have 15 months and 14 days of sobriety yet I still don’t feel the serenity. I am not happy, joyous and free.  Life has been a little rough the past few months, and I have maintained my sobriety throughout, but am I just white knuckling it, or am I truly sober?

I have yet to read the Big Book of Alcoholic Anonymous from cover to cover.  My rationalization for this is because it is too dated.  When I went to my first meeting, one of the men said to me, get the Big Book and read the first 164 pages.  I may have read the first 64 pages, then it went to the bottom of the reading pile.

I still took the book with me when we went away last summer, and to Florida this winter.  I did not open it once.  It could actually double as a paperweight right now.

Two weeks ago, an interesting “old timer” came to our little home group meeting.  This person is intriguing,has very long term sobriety and that sense of serenity surrounds him.  I was drawn to him, I needed to find out how he got that and has maintained it for 24 years.

We became Facebook friends, and immediately started using the chat feature to discuss alcoholism, AA, and the Big Book.  I outed myself, and told him I have not read it.  I got the usual reaction when I tell anyone from AA that I haven’t read the book; WHY NOT?

I knew the only way I would actually pick it up and read it is if I was held culpable.  I suggested we do a Big Book discussion group, all two of us.

Yesterday, we got together to discuss Chapter 1.   I was explaining to him that I still have not found a Higher Power, nor can I really commit to the concept of a Higher Power, the whole process seems to still illude me.  I have moments of YES iI think I have this, but it is not a constant ribbon running through my life. I do not feel it daily.

I then disclosed, that frequently when things get to emotionally painful, my go to thought is : DRINK!  Or DRINK + PILLS!  That was when he said, maybe you aren’t done drinking yet.  Followed by, frequently people need to relapse to really be ready to embrace this program.  There was also discussion about putting my sobriety first every day.  Do I do that?  I don’t know.

All of these months of ups and downs with being sober, and maybe I need to relapse to get this program?  How does that make sense?  Is relapse a prerequisite for finding serenity and letting a higher power guide my life?  Will I find the answers to all of this in the book that I have been using as a paperweight for over a year?

I guess I will find out.  Chapter 2 on Monday

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SIXTH STEP

6th stepI am slowly making my way through the steps.  I started AA about a year ago.  It took me quite some time to find a sponsor.  ( I did not know you had to ASK someone, I thought someone would just offer.  FYI to any newbies.)

My year has been complicated to say the least.  We have been up and down the east coast numerous times.  My son moved to Illinois in January, and two weeks later my mother lost her battle with lung cancer.  To say I have been distracted would even cover half of it.

I have been on the precipice of the Sixth Step for months, but every time I started, another distraction would arise, and it would get put on the back burner.

For the past week, I  have allowed my sorrow and depression about my mother to flow through me.  I have done nothing but go to the gym, shower, put my pajamas back on, get in bed and binge watch “Shameless”.  Between episodes I was working on an inventory of my character defects, and contemplating my progress moving through them and working toward spiritual and mental health.

My life is so much better sober.  I am amazed every day at how the things that used to derail my piece of mind are easier to handle.

So here it is what I have done in the past year of clear headed sober thinking.

Letting Go:
I think my biggest accomplishment to date is letting go of all of the emotional junk that I had been carrying around about my mother.  It was freeing to forgive her, and realize that she did the best she could with the limited tools she had.  I have also realized that my perception of our relationship was completely different than anyone else’s.  I never thought she loved me, but talking with my brother and seeing the realtionship through his eyes, I was very wrong.
I am working very hard at letting things go.  This includes arguments with my husband, son, daughter, actually most everyone.  It gives me a sense of lightness.
Perfectionism:
This is an ongoing challenge.  I am making an effort at not being so rigid in having and doing everything MY way.  It was a lot easier in Florida because it was not my house therefore I had no emotional investment in how it appeared.  I am find it more challenging here at home.  I am making small steps.  I have stopped cleaning up after my husband, no matter what mess he leaves.  I just look, shake my head, and walk away.  I am changing up the days that I change the sheets.  I used to always be Saturday, now I am moving it around, I still haven’t gotten beyond a week without new sheets, but baby steps. (This is very uncomfortable).  Wearing mismatched running socks, and not ironing something before I go out.  Taking myself out of my comfort zone as much as I can, just to what I can do and if I can do it.
Criticism and Negativity:
Thinking before I speak.  Big one.  Trying not to pick apart everything and everybody.  When my mind whirls into negative thinking, I drag it back, tell it to shut the fuck up, and remind myself of something good and positive.
Now:
Keeping myself present.  Not worrying about the past or thinking about what might happen.  Again, when I find myself thinking that way, I drag myself back to where I currently am.  I am hoping it will soon become a habit.  It helps that I don’t have as much to worry about anymore.
Higher Power:
This one still amazes me, and causes me wonder.  I am still slightly skeptical, but I am leaning more toward being a believer of some guiding force.  Too many things have happened that I was praying for. My son got a real job before the February move out of the house deadline, and seems happy.  My mom lived to see the Patriots win the Superbowl.  She died quickly and painlessly, just as I had prayed for.  She has sent me two signs that she is okay.
 These two things happened so quickly, and almost simultaneously, and I didn’t drink.  I wanted to when I was moving my son, I actually planned it out.  I was going to drive from Illinois to Tennessee and drink the entire liquour cabinet when I got home.  The 9 hour drive home gave me plenty of time to roll that plan around, and I decided to finish out my day sober, and reconsider it the next day.  A good nights sleep, and seeing things with less emotion the following day erased the thought completely.
Drinking never crossed my mind when my mother died. Not once.  I would suspect it was numbness and shock, my brain wasn’t really functioning with any emotion other than abject grief and shock.  There was no room for booze.
 In fact, since I have been back from Florida, the triggers and cravings seem to have disappeared. I am sure one will come again, but for now, having all this other emotional stuff going on, it is kind of amazing to me I haven’t had the urge to pickup a drink.
Some of the little things, I am working on.  I am learning to sleep with light in the room.  I know that doesn’t seem like a big thing, but for me it is huge. Having suffered insomnia as a child, I have created all these rituals and complete darkness is one of them.
I am relaxing about not exercising every day.  That used to get me very agitated. I am trying not to micromanage my sons life. I make suggestions, but not frequently.  I am not micromanaging my husband as much either. (This one is hard.)  I am leaving dirty dishes in the sink OVERNIGHT!!  And in the month of January I did not buy any shoes, I have had an epic fail since then, 3 pairs in one weekend.
I spent last week in bed every afternoon.  I was upset/depressed about my mother.  I decided on Sunday, enough was enough.  She is still going to be dead, and my lying in bed in my pajamas isn’t going to change that.  I have determined that I am going to get back to my usual routine, and if I get sad, just go with it, not crawl into my hidey hole.
I still have a lot to work on.  When I think about this program, I realize, that we are the only humans walking around that are actively working, every day to be better people.  I still have a lot of work to do.
My associate sponsor asked me to chair a meeting.  So I think I will do that, in two weeks.  That is outside my comfort zone.  I get hives when I have to speak to “large” crowds, but I already have a topic in mind.
 Progress not perfection.

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HAPPY NEW WORD OF THE YEAR!!!

word

Mished Up wrote a great blog about choosing a Word of the Year. Her premise is instead of making some inane resolution that will inevitably end up in failure, choose a WORD to define your year instead.  I am not a New Year’s resolution kind of gal, so I decided to jump on the WORD OF THE YEAR, bandwagon.

I have been struggling a lot this year with a variety of things.  It seems like 2014 really had it out for me.  I decided to get sober. My son moved home after graduating from college, was unemployed, then under- employed.  My husband was not happy about the living arrangement, nor was I, but to a lesser degree. My father in law turned 99, and because he is still living alone, we spent many months this past summer living with him trying to get him assistance and get him to stop driving,  Then my mother received the double terminal cancer diagnosis.  Things can only get better in 2015, right?

I have rarely been home over the last 6 months, which has been difficult on me mentally.  I am a control freak who loves routine,a To Do list and being home is my biggest comfort zone.

We then decided to take a stay-cation, which has really thrown me for a loop.

To counteract the mental torture I have been putting myself through, I started listening to podcast’s while running.  I have listened to many from Klen + Sobr, starting with Paul from Message in a Bottle.  I then went through the whole 12 episodes of Serial, which was fantastic.  Then I fell back on my old stand by, AA speakers from the YouTube page Odomtology.  My all time favorite speaker is Sandy B.  His speech “Practicing the Presence of Now”, has really has spoken to me, most especially the segment below.

” We are already all that we can become.  We just have to see it.  We just have to uncover it.

Here is a story about the past the present and the future.  They got together one day, and said you know we are always in conflict.  We are always tugging at one another.  Why don’t we hold a meeting, sort of like a peace counsel and we’ll see if we can come up with some kind of compromise, and they all agreed.  And then they pointed upstairs and they said you know that meeting room upstairs is an historic room, a lot of important historical events take place in that room, why don’t we use that room, and they all said “Yeah”. 

So, the only thing left was the time of the meeting, and the past said, I think we should hold the meeting two years ago, we are all familiar with that.  It won’t be frightening, we know exactly what it is.  I think the safest thing, where we will be the most comfortable will be to go back two years ago. 

And the future said, “That would be boring, we already know what that is, I think we should hold it two years from now we don’t have a clue what that would be, it would be a big adventure. It would be very exciting, it will be dangerous, it will be really something.” 

And the Now said, “Well you guys both make a great case. But, If we did go back two years ago, when we got there it will be NOW.  And if we went ahead two years, when we got there it would be NOW, so I think we ought to do NOW.

And the other two couldn’t find a flaw in this argument, and they grumblingly agreed to go sit around the table.  And observers pointed out that as they took their seats, there was only one left, and that was the NOW and the room got very bright with light due to the absence of the other two players.

I FEEL THAT IS THE WONDERFUL RELIEF OF GETTING RID OF EVERYTHING THAT ISN’T THE PRESENT MOMENT.  WHICH IS A VERY HEAVY BURDEN.

WordOfTheYearNOW

 I have chosen my word of the year to be NOW.  I am going to spend my year working very hard to stay in the NOW, keep my thoughts in the NOW, and live in the NOW.


As an aside, MY SON GOT A JOB!!!!  Thank you to everyone who may have said a little prayer for him.  He starts on 1/19, in Joliet, Illinois.  (I wanted him to move out, but not THAT far away.)  I am so happy that he will finally begin his life.  I have prayed to my HP, The Universe, Mother Nature and God, (wanted to cover all the possibilities) every night since the interview.  I don’t know if it is prayer, the planetary alignment or the winter solstice, but I am so happy for him and his new adventure.

My father-in-law just called, his doctor took his license away.  He is NOT happy, but boy we are!

Lastly,I did make a New Year’s resolution, it is to buy NO new shoes, aside from running shoes, and two pairs of flip flops for the summer, for the whole year of 2015.  I brought 19 pairs of shoes on this vacation, and bought a pair last Saturday.  I have 10 more pair to wear if I am to wear every pair I brought.  The 19 pairs are just a small sampling of my “summer” shoes.  I won’t even go into how many pairs of boots I have.  (I clearly have a problem, I am willing to admit to being powerless over shoes and purses.)

shoes

Happy New Year to you all, and stay sober my friends!

And seen on today’s run

Today’s God Shot (Thanks Maggie and Paul for the terminology)

2014-08-15 10.30.45

Usually the Praying Mantis makes an appearance when we’ve flooded our lives with so much business, activity, or chaos that we can no longer hear the still small voice within us. Taking a step back and some simple meditation would be in order here because the external din we’ve created needs to be quieted so that we can come back to our own truth. The Praying Mantis always comes to us when we need peace, quiet and calm in our lives.

 

Is My Higher Power Testing Me?

That was my thought this morning as I was running. I was thinking about all of the stuff that has been happening this summer:
My husband and his 99 year old father,and the trash, the dirt, and the driving.  The fact that the hubs hasn’t set foot in his own home since 6/3.

Me and my mother, our awful relationship, and me now having to be her caretaker, decision maker, and part time therapist. Having to be brutally honest with myself and come to terms with the fact that this relationship is so toxic and damaged that I just don’t care what the outcome of all of this is.

The fact is that  I am really only here so that if and when something happens I can get up in the morning, look at myself and realize that I did the right thing, no matter how painful this is to my psyche. No matter how many body shots I have to take from her foul, bitter attitude. No matter how many drinking triggers this sets off.  No matter how many times I have to see her snot flying drunk.

Is this my higher power throwing down lighting bolts, laughing and saying, “Will she really stay off the bottle? Is she up to this life on life’s terms? Can she manage everything I am throwing down and not go get drunk?”

Maybe it is payback for being a shitty person for so long. Putting a glass of wine before everything and everyone. Maybe my metal is being tested. I don’t know.

As these questions consumed me during my run I shook off the negative thinking, and looked up. This is what I saw.

2014-08-14 11.35.24

Maybe my HP decided to shine on me for a few minutes. Whatever it is, I’ll take the strength it gave me to keep on keeping on for the rest of today.

Tomorrow, who knows. Right now I am looking down at where my feet are.

It’s What We Do

My husband flew from Tennessee to New York a couple of weeks ago.  Because I was driving up later, he needed a ride from the airport to his father’s house.  The man who usually picks him up was ill, so he sent a back up guy in his place.  His name is Ron, and he is an alcoholic.

I have just finished working the Third Step, and have had to place my life and belief in a Higher Power.  This was hard for me, as I am pretty much agnostic.  More big bang theory than big guy with a white beard believer.  I had a lengthy conversation with my sponsor about this when we got to the Third Step.  I did it, and have turned to the Universe as the power greater than myself, albeit with a smidgen of skepticism still involved.

Not anymore.

I have written about my struggles on this road trip.  My triggers, my mother, the Wolffer rose, the vineyards, and the drinking in the Hamptons.  It has not been easy.

Then along came Ron.  He shared his story with my husband during the drive from the airport.  My husband shared a little of my story with Ron.  Ron gave his telephone number to my husband, and told him to have me call if I needed to know about any meetings in the area or needed anything at all.

I began the week  feeling unsettled.  I am not in my own home, I don’t know when I am going home, and my routine is not in place.  All of the things that make me feel comfortable and able to maintain sobriety are askew.

I told Alan to call Ron and get a list of which meetings were the best as I really needed to get to one.  (My fantastic sponsor also told me to get to one, I can’t take all the credit for this idea.)  Alan called Ron and left a message.

Ron came to the door Tuesday evening with a booklet of meetings.  He stood on the porch with me and told me which ones were good, he offered to drive me to one Wednesday afternoon.  I was overwhelmed.  Alan came out onto the porch to thank Ron for coming and for the information.

Ron looked at Alan and said, “No problem, IT’S WHAT WE DO”

I thought I was going to cry. A complete stranger, someone who had never met me, went out of his way to help me.  It is a rare find in this world.  It is what is wonderful about the world of AA.

It is what they do.

Ron picked me up yesterday, and I went to a meeting with him.  Ron is picking me up tomorrow, and I am going to go to another meeting with him in the morning.  He offered to take me on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week also.

I am feeling more grounded today.  I love going to meetings and listening to the sharing.  I love the camaraderie of total strangers, all of us in the same room with the same purpose, staying sober.

I walked out with a telephone number from a woman who sought me out.  She said, call me if you want to drink, if you don’t want to drink, if you want to talk, if you don’t want to talk,  just call.  This is what I spent so much time looking for in Tennessee.

It was fantastic.  AA is amazing, the people are incredible.

I drove off with Ron.

I thanked him, and gave a huge nod to my higher power for knowing what I needed.

It is what they do.

what

Third Step: Willing to be Willing

 

recovery

I woke up this morning, and realized that I no longer am feeling the overwhelming stress and doom of living in the same home as my son and husband.  That pit in my stomach is gone.

I have been working the third step with my amazing sponsor.  Although I have not narrowed down exactly what my higher power is, something is working.

I am working hard at letting go.

I am working on not trying to control everything.  (The fridge is a mess, I let it go.  Next up? I haven’t figured that out yet.)

I am trying to be more willing, and less willful.

Thanks again to my wonderful sponsor’s suggestion, I now have a God box.  It has quite a few bits of paper in it, and I just started on Monday.  It actually works!

 

god box

 

 

“A beginning, even the smallest is all that is needed”

 

I don’t know what to do….

 

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My husband has been away since April 18th.  He went to see his 98 year old father, check on his health and attempt to get him to understand that it is no longer safe for him to drive.  For some reason, the state of NY allowed him to renew his drivers license for an absurd amount of time, and it doesn’t expire until 2017, at which time he will be 102 years old.  If he is still alive, and moving around, he will still think he belongs behind the wheel of a car.  Stubborn, selfish man.

My husband and I have been in a really rough patch of late.  He retired, my college age son moved back in with us after graduation, is under employed, and I quit drinking.  Life has been stressful, to say the least.

I feel the majority of the stress comes from my husband.

Prior to retirement, he was depressed that he felt he still HAD to work.  He is a cardiologist, and his job was very stressful.  Since retirement, he has been depressed because he feels as if he has no value any more.  He is upset, stressed and depressed that my son is living with us while searching for a job.  He is depressed because he feels that he suddenly got OLD.  He is stressed over the situation with his father, and trying to manage it while living 1700 miles away.

His biggest stress and depression comes from money.  Not having enough money, setting up living trusts, changing his will to take people out, put people in, and the constant monitoring of the stock market.  A lot of his daily mood is tied to the NASDAQ.   He lives his life in the past, I shoulda, I coulda, if only I woulda.  Ebeneezer Scrooge does not hold a candle to this man.

He allows the situation with my son living here to ruin any given day, for no apparent reason.  My son realizes how my husband feels and makes every effort to stay out of his way.  The situation is temporary, but we have no end in sight.  I am not happy about it either, but he is my child, and I love him.

I am walking on egg shells constantly.  I am trying to keep peace, meanwhile feeling like I am always sitting in the calm before the storm, or the warm spot in the lake.

In short, my husband is sucking the life out of me with his moods, and the fact that he will not admit to and deal with his depression.  I can not talk to him as he is in denial, and we just go around in circles.  I am at his mercy as he controls the purse strings, and I do not have an income.  (Plus, despite all of the above, I do love him.)

I am working hard at being sober and staying sober.  I am attending meetings, and I have a sponsor.  I am trying to find peace within myself, searching for a higher power and working toward serenity.  I  have done a lot of work on all of this while he has been gone, as it has been easier.  My moods are not on a constant roller coaster depending on what comes out of my husbands mouth, or how miserable he looks when he gets out of bed in the morning.  I am trying to find the wisdom to realize I can not change this.  I feel like I need more time.

My husband comes home tomorrow.

I wish I could say that I am looking forward to this, but I can’t, and I am  not.

I don’t feel that I have had enough time to set a good foundation for realizing I can’t change this situation.  I am a fixer by nature.  I am a middle child, I am a Libra, I have always worked so hard at maintaining balance.  I have done it all my life, it is hard to let go of trying to control things, even though I really have no control.

Intellectually, I have accepted that I can not change him, or our current situation with my son.

Emotionally, I have no idea how to hold onto the wisdom of that and not keep trying to fix everything.

I feel I need more time, more tools, and more practice.

I have 24 more hours.

I don’t know what to do.

 

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The Serenity Prayer with Wisdom for Today. (Copied from The Huffington Post)

I saw this last night after I got home from my Monday night meeting.  I am trying to work on the second step, and I am struggling with the Higher Power concept.

I got into bed and logged onto my Nexus to peruse the internet, and the first thing that popped up in my Facebook feed was this article.

Is it a sign?  I think maybe…

serenity

If you are familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous, have ever read Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Slaughterhouse Five’ or saw the recent Denzel Washington movie ‘Flight,’ then you have encountered the Serenity Prayer. The prayer has worked its way into so many cultural outlets that many non-Christians know it, or at least the beginning, by heart:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Amen.

The prayer is commonly attributed to Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, who composed it in the 1940s. According to its website, Alcoholics Anonymous adopted the Serenity Prayer and began including it in AA materials in 1942, which may have done more to canonize it than any other cultural use of the prayer.

What is the secret behind the Serenity Prayer’s power? The language is humble, its lessons simple and its history not particularly romantic. But its messages are both personal and universal; easy to understand yet difficult to execute.

The prayer reveals five timeless truths (and no doubt more!) that challenge us to re-imagine what serenity really is:

1. Acceptance is not laziness.

When we devote inordinate attention to the things we cannot change, we expend physical, emotional and mental energy that could be directed elsewhere. Accepting that there are some things we cannot change does not make us complacent. It constitutes a leap of faith — an ability to trust, as the prayer goes on to say, “that He [or the universe or time] will make all things right if I surrender to His Will.” We thus make the choice to let go and have faith in the outcome.

2. We must have courage to change ourselves.

One of life’s greatest challenges is imagining how our lives could be different than they are now. Often, our deeply-ingrained habits are our own worst enemies, and simply identifying them is half the battle. Since habits gain power through repetition, it takes real focus and perspective to take a look at ourselves and our habits and ask, “Is this how I really want to live?” As the prayer states, this act of self-investigation is nothing less than an act of “courage.” As Alexander Solzhenitsyn asked in The First Circle: “If you wanted to put the world to rights, who should you begin with: yourself or others?”

3. Hardship can be good for you.

As the prayer states, we must accept “hardships as the pathway to peace.” Every person confronts obstacles in the course of his or her life. When we view these obstacles not just as frustrations or failures, but as opportunities for growth and learning, we can transcend our circumstances.

4. Surrendering requires courage, too.

The word “surrender” has mostly negative connotations; we associate it with resignation, failure and weakness. But the Serenity Prayer reframes the notion of surrender as an act of faith and trust. The wisdom of the prayer lies in exchanging a life of endless “what ifs” for a life of trust in powers beyond ourselves.

5. Happiness is attainable — now and in the future.

The prayer’s ending has something very profound to say about happiness: if we follow the prayer’s advice, we may be “reasonably happy in this life.” Just reasonably? At a time when our culture measures happiness and success mostly in terms of money and power, that word “reasonably” stands out as an appealingly modest definition of a successful life. Rather than wondering why we aren’t happier, or picking through every minute aspect of our lives, the prayer asks us to focus on the present, “Living one day at a time” and “enjoying one moment at a time.” Whether or not you believe in God or an afterlife, and whether or not the prayer’s ending — a vision of being “supremely happy with Him forever in the next” — appeals to you or not, there’s something universal in the prayer’s quiet celebration of understanding our own potential, our own limits, and our capacity for transcendence.

 

If you want to see this article in its original form click the link:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/18/serenity-prayer-wisdom_n_4965139.html