Monday, December 11, 2017

When I came into the rooms, my moral compass was shattered. My parents raised me with a strict code of ethics; however, they simply didn't translate into the world of addiction so I readily cast aside my moral underpinnings to live the life I chose.

People in the rooms helped me rebuild my compass. It started with simple "cash register honesty," giving back too much change to a cashier when overpaid, for example. Once with over a decade clean I stood at an ATM and the man in front of me left his card in the slot. I took the card and held it, while the man I was dating, a "normie," grabbed the card and ran after the guy, giving him back his debit card. I, in contrast, had to think through the dilemma to know what to do.

Today, I reflexively know how to handle situations where I must make ethical choices. You, my beloved tribe members, taught me that with love, patience and tolerance.

Tomorrow I'm flying across country to teach an ethics class. Think of the irony, I'm paid by members of my profession to teach business ethics. The irony.

This is the miracle of recovery: That we can get clean, lose the desire to use, and become productive members of society.

Friday, March 03, 2017

As We Grow Older, the Fabric of Our Lives is Mainly Memories

My mother taught me how to sew. We would often make a day of our shared interest – lunch followed by visits to our favorite fabric stores.
One beautiful spring Phoenix afternoon, we decided we would visit a wholesale commercial fabric store to look for material to make curtains. It was located near Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, but to get there, we had to drive through Phoenix’s then combat zone, Van Buren Street.
We ate lunch then I drove over Van Buren, my mom’s foot on her imaginary brake she used when she thought I was following too closely, i.e., all the time. I turned right and headed south on a narrow north/south street to cut over to Jefferson to the store. Almost immediately after making the turn south, we found the street blocked by a two-door car.
We sat behind the car for a minute, watching as two young, stocky girls in leather shorts and halter-tops and the biggest wigs I’d seen since the 70s tried to get into the back seat of the sedan. A middle-aged man was behind the wheel, slightly turned in profile to us, holding the passengers’ seat forward. The girls apparently could not decide which one was going to get in the back seat. They had quite a spirited discussion, hands waving. They finally  traded places, apparently deciding who was going to ride shotgun and who was getting the back seat.
For what seemed like a long while, my mom and I sat in awkward silence watching this mini-drama. Finally, my mom, still staring straight ahead, said, “Say, do you think they’re on the prowl?”
I burst into laughter. “Yup, mom,” I replied. “I think they are.”
Finally, the girls situated themselves inside the car and it began to move south. We followed it until it turned right. We continued on to our destination – hundreds of bolts of brightly colored fabric, festive and tactile.
Phoenix still has a combat zone, but today’s its location has changed. Van Buren still sports the occasional working girl, but much of that area has developed into social services like the Salvation Army and Community Bridges, the detoxification center for addicts and alcoholics at the end of their trail. The sleazy, pay-by-the-hour motels that lined Van Buren like the LogCabin Motel, that devolved from a quaint western motif into a rent-by-the-hour (two hours, $25), X-rated movie-showing dump, have all been demolished or gentrified.
Just as Phoenix devolved, my mother faded into Alzheimer’s, the disease devastating her final years.  She has been gone for over a decade, but there aren’t many days that I don’t think about her. I miss her keen perceptions, her dry sense of humor, her robust laughter. These are what I remember about her, not the final days of her disease. Whenever I sew, the touch of the material, the soft whir of the sewing machine, reminds me of her, and I am grateful.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Anonymity means where you go to meetings is your business

I spoke briefly the other day at an AA meeting. The topic was anger (not my choice; every meeting at that time slot each week discusses anger). After I shared my tale, and I'm always careful to follow the Traditions, someone I barely know and haven't seen in years spoke up.

"The last time I saw the speaker," he intoned, "was at an NA meeting." The chairperson, an oldtimer, and I both looked at each other thinking the same thing: "WTF?" 

"So much for my anonymity," I said. The chairman simply snorted, as disgusted as I was.

I'm still not sure what the speaker's point was, especially since I probably hadn't seen him at an NA meeting in 25 years or so. I let it pass and didn't bother to ask him about it after the meeting ended. I don't waste my time today with stirrers of discontent, which it seemed he was trying to do.

Here's my thought, though. What business is it of anyone's what 12-Step meeting you attend? Really, other than your sponsor, it's absolutely no one's business where or which meetings you attend.

I do the majority of my service work in NA because that's the program that saved my life. But if it hadn't been for AA, I'd be dead, because I have no doubt despite Jimmy K's wonderful gift of NA, he wouldn't have developed the 12-Step program that has saved so many lives without exposure to the Mother ship of AA.

I sponsor girls in NA, and if they have a problem with gambling, for example, I recommend GA. If they're having serious food issues, I recommend OA. I don't, like many NA members, feel NA has all the answers, at least not for every member.

I'm glad today I'm open minded enough to respect other members' anonymity. I was taught early that many things were "outside my hula hoop." Where others go to meetings is just one of them.

I hope you are all doing well. It's been a rough few weeks for America. However, we are a tribe, and tribes gather together for survival. 

Hang in there.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Why do you think they call it "heart-broken?"

Why do you think they call it "heart-broken?"
When I had about three years clean, my husband at the time began using. It was very painful to watch, but his drug of choice was not mine and he was careful to keep drugs out of our home. At the time, I was in college in California and while he continued to work and use, I continued my education and went to meetings. Because we'd relocated from Arizona, I had to find a new sponsor, and as the Fellowship often serendipitously provides, I found a perfect sponsor, Terri. Between Terri, Naranon and my best friend, Susan Lydon, the author we lost to cancer a decade ago, I managed to stay relatively sane. Most importantly, I stayed clean.

As word of his using began to spread, some people I knew casually in the rooms were willing to give me advice, most of it very painful and unrequested.  One gal approached me one day and asked me, "How do you stand it?," referring to watching my husband  loaded all the while. Another asked me after a meeting when I had shared some of the pain of the situation, "When you gonna let that man go?" then walked away as if she'd just solved my problem. None of that "advice" was loving or helpful. These women didn't give me the time of day outside of occasionally dropping advice from way up on high. Most of those people aren't around anymore, I might add.

My sponsor, on the other hand, gave me this advice: "Stay in the 11th Step, asking for the knowledge of God's will and the power to carry it out. You might not get them both at the same time." She was right.

Two years later when I was about ready to graduate from college, it became clear that I would have to make some changes, yet I didn't know when or how. I had applied for and been accepted for a teaching fellowship in New York at Fordham University. I told my husband about the offer and he immediately offered to go into treatment. I turned down the offer and went to work, putting him through treatment once again.

I had a job I loved, but I deeply regretted my decision not to accept the teaching fellowship. We were in marriage counseling and one Saturday morning as we drove to therapy, he said something to me and I noticed immediately that he slurred his words; he was loaded again. We arrived at the therapist's office and sat on her third-degree sofa, to borrow a phrase from the poet Gregory Corso. She immediately saw that he was loaded and that I holding back tears. She asked him if he had anything he wanted to say to me. "No," he said, then sat silently looking at the floor.

She asked me if I had anything I wanted to say to him. "Yes," I said, "I have one question. How long? Two months, two years, six years? How long until you get clean?" 

"I don't know," he answered, and I realized that was the most truthful thing he had probably said to me during our entire marriage. It struck me right then, sitting on that sofa, that he didn't want to get clean; I wanted him to get clean." I knew it was time to leave. God had given me both: the knowledge of His will and the power to carry it out.

I left him there and took the bus to the Saturday morning Berkeley NA meeting. I stood at the podium and sobbed. The marriage was over and I could begin the process of detaching for good.

Within a few months of our divorce, I took a job in Los Angeles at the WSO and began work as a special worker. I was surrounded by years of solid recovery and while I began to heal, I was still in terrible emotional pain. Some days it was all I could do to get out of bed, go to work, drag myself home and then sit in a hot bath.

One particularly tough day at work, I asked another trusted servant, "Vida, I hurt in my body. Why?" She turned to me and said, "Of course you do, honey, why do you think they call it heart-broken," twisting her hands as if to show the breaking of a stick. My heart was truly broken and I felt that pain not only in my spirit but in my body. It made sense then.

It's been over 25 years since my divorce and my ex-husband still uses. He phones me once a year or so to report something, his brother's death from liver disease or that he's homeless again. I'm remarried to a man who loves his life in the Fellowship and shows it by giving back daily. God had a plan for me that I couldn't see at the time. But I stayed clean long enough to see it unfold.

It is only through the strength of my sponsors and predecessors in the rooms that I've gotten through some of the darkest times of my recovery. I am eternally grateful and work to stay that way, because gratitude is not my normal spiritual condition.

 How about you? What are you grateful for today?


Friday, April 01, 2016

More dog poetry

Who ever said dog was man's best friend?

My boyfriend came right to the point, as men are prone to do.
"Either that dog goes or I do," he said.
The next day I bought 100 pounds of dog food.
It's going to be a long winter.

Some random thoughts on giving back in the Fellowship

One of my favorite ways to serve in the Fellowship is through Hospitals and Institutions, which takes meetings into places where those who may need to hear the message can't get to outside meetings. Last night at the last minute I agreed to share at a Hospitals and Institutions meeting at a local recovery house. I was tired and had no time to think about what I was going to share. Sometimes, that's the best way.

When I got there, I met the facilitator and we sat and chatted as the room filled up. Soon, about 20 addicts in various age ranges sat staring at us. One thing a long-term treatment program offers is the chance to build friendships with others who are struggling with addiction, so there was a lot of laughing and joking as they waited for the meeting to start.

When I speak at this type meeting, I focus on the unmanageability of my life during my active addiction. Looking at me (I often say, "I know, I look like a Girl Scout troop leader or someone's very hip grandmother"), you wouldn't think I ever smoked a joint, much less shot heroin for a decade or so. I want newcomers to relate in some way to the craziness, the sadness and the hopelessness. Next, we usually do a question-and-answer period.

I shared my story, which is pretty funny in parts, and the newcomers listened intently and had a few laughs. They asked some really good questions. Here are a few:
  • "How long did it take you to detox off methadone?" 
    • Answer: A long time. The detox lasted about a month, but the effects lingered on for years. I didn't want to depress them, I said, but I didn't sleep much for my first seven years! (Remember when your sponsor told you, "Lack of sleep never killed anyone!" and you thought, "Except now I'm going to kill you!"?)
  • "What are the first three things you do each day to stay clean?"
    1. Thank God for another safe night and an awakening, not a "wake-up."
    2. Roughly plan when I will go to my next meeting.
    3. Try to set out with the intention to be a nice person. 
  • "What is the hardest thing you've ever stayed clean through?"
    • My liver transplant. While the three deaths in my family -- my mom, my dad and my brother -- were incredibly difficult, the liver transplant and the chronic level 8 and 9 and 10 pain were so difficult it is beyond description. Unless you've been that sick or been an attendant to someone that sick, you can't understand.
I thought they asked very insightful questions. They made me think and it really helped me connect with these newcomers.

If you're not active in service, you're missing a tremendous opportunity. While I can't judge anyone else's recovery, I simply do not understand those who stay clean yet abandon the rooms. If this program saved your life, which it undoubtedly did mine, why would you not continue to go to meetings and fail to pay back what was so freely given you?

Have a great day.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Feeling unlovable

About two decades ago, I went to a seminar in Los Angeles with a friend of mine. I can't remember for sure who spoke, although I think it was Sondra Ray. The seminar had a huge impact on me; in fact, it changed my life.

The speaker talked of that one lie we all tell ourselves, that "believable" lie that we learned in childhood and which has shaped so many of our actions throughout our lives. She asked us to take a few moments and think, to recall the lie that we keep telling ourselves, that one key belief we have about ourselves that is ultimately false and holds us back. 

I didn't have to wait long. I knew what that lie was. It was simple. It was what I'd learned in my childhood in a home where one of my parents failed to value me as a unique individual and instead kept pushing me to be someone I was not. This was the lie: "You are unlovable."

Over the years, I've worked hard to dispel that lie and to act in ways that make me lovable, yet not at the expense of my own calling and my own uniqueness. But sometimes that old lie resurfaces and I have to take steps to dispel it from my thoughts.

Tonight I was driving to a meeting and thinking, "That old lie is really rattling around in my head." I had a few thoughts that arrived just after that realization. Here they are:
  • When I feel unlovable, it may be time to be more loving.
  • It may be time to call my sponsor and a few friends for a reality check. They love me. 
  • Spend more time in meditation.
  • Pray and ask God to find ways to make me be uniquely useful, which will help to banish those feelings.
Believable lies are powerful because they are so deeply ingrained in us. That I am unlovable, on it's face, may seem real because sometimes I am sometimes irritable and angry and I fail. I am not perfect, in fact, far from it. But people do love me and if I take the time to do the next right thing with love, then I will become more centered and more self-loving. It's a process of returning to Truth.

Isn't that what the program is all about? 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Landmark natal birthday

I just had a natal birthday, a big one I'm trying to ignore. I know a lot of women are proud of their age, but I prefer to keep a bit quiet about my age. I had a great day up north with a friend or two and went out to dinner with another friend.

Life today is good. I'm picking my husband up at the airport tonight while wearing my new, 24-hour heart monitor. I'm sure he'll ask what it's for. I'm going to point to the 'event' button and tell him if he doesn't agree to a few remodeling changes around the house, I'm going to detonate the thing and blow us both up. I learned that negotiation tip in a slightly different form from my mother. It involved new carpeting. A long story, so I'll end here.

Have a great day. It's already in the upper 80s here; too hot for February.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Another day in the trenches

Just checking in to say "All is well." The weather is beautiful, I'm having lunch with a friend of a friend visiting from the Midwest, then I'm speaking at a meeting at 5 p.m. I don't speak all that often, but when I do, I usually think about the message I want to convey and write a few bullet points. I usually keep it simple: What it was like, what happened, and what it's like today.

Here will be my bullet points today:

What it was like: My bottom had a hole in it. I hit bottom at 17 on the streets of Oakland and it got only slightly better until I hit the rooms at 27.

What happened: I walked into an AA meeting at 24 and raised my hand and said I was a heroin addict and I didn't know if you could help me. Everyone said, "Keep coming back." Three years later, I did.

What it's like today:  When I got here, someone suggested I write down on a piece of paper what I wanted in one year. It was simple. I wanted a roof over my head, to pay bills on time, to own a car, to have a dog, and to lose that constant depression and misery. Today, 31 years later, I have that and so much more.

If you're struggling, know that it does get better. First it may only get different, but slowly it gets better.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Sometimes I'm too "old school"

When I came into the rooms for the first time in 1983, old-timers didn't sugar coat the program for us. They told us to "take the cotton out of our ears and put it in our mouths." And that was one of the nicer things they said to us. Today, we seem to need to sugar coat the message so we don't offend anyone. Sometimes I fail at that.

A newcomer called me the other day who's been in and out of the rooms for years. This time, she came back after a near-fatal overdose and about a month in intensive care. Although today I make it a rule not to sponsor newcomers because I'm simply to busy to handhold them (and I don't believe if you are newly clean you need a sponsor with decades, you need someone who can relate to the current insanity in your life), I did offer to try to help her along.

She's been calling almost every day with various issues with her group home and dental problems. She went to the dentist, had a tooth pulled, which was a big decision, and her dentist gave her a narcotic. The group home manager took it away.

When she called me, she was in high drama. I calmly told her if she was looking for a co-sign to take a narcotic even short term for a tooth pull, she was barking up the wrong tree. I told her I went through a liver transplant with aspirin post ICU. My advice was to suck it up and take aspirin.

Was I wrong? She didn't call me for a few days, then called and left a message on my phone thanking me for the tough love. I wish I could have been more sympathetic, but I've seen far too many people die from taking pain medication over the long haul. With her history, why tempt fate for a tooth pull?

Today I am extremely busy. I work full-time, help my husband with his business, and travel a lot. I don't have time to sugar coat things. What's worked for me for 31 years may not work for you. But I have learned a few things along the way and the main thing I learned is that pain medication takes out the best of us.

Perhaps I sound harsh. I don't mean to. I know my own sponsor would have handled it a lot more lovingly than I did. That's why she's my sponsor--I want to be more loving. But the gal got through the problem and is still clean, or at least she was yesterday.

If you're new in recovery and you think your sponsor is harsh, know that it's because she is speaking the truth. Often the truth comes out unvarnished.

Have a great day!

Monday, August 10, 2015

New to recovery? Consider it a trust walk.

Image result for person blindfolded
Today I spent some time with my sponsor, who, at 63 years old, is returning to college for a masters’ degree. She went to Montana for a symposium for her degree. In it, they did a trust walk in the wilds near Helena. She said when she was walking the women she was paired with who was blindfolded, she realized the woman knew nothing, not where rocks were, trees that might stand in her path, nothing. It was my sponsor’s responsibility to ensure she was aware of her surroundings.
We both reflected how much that is like working with newcomers who come into the rooms blindfolded by addiction. Yes, they have the language of the streets and they may have seen much tragedy and chaos in their addiction. But they know nothing of this new recovery language or anything about the Twelve Steps or the Traditions. Much like a trust walk, it’s our responsibility as old-timers to  handhold them as they gradually regain vision, a new vision, of life without drugs and alcohol.
I try never to forget how important our work is with newcomers and how we are responsible to carry the message and safeguard the newcomer’s experience as much as we can.
I hope you have a great day and that life is full of amazing people and experiences. Today, mine is.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Sponsors get us through "the moment"

I often hear exactly what I need to hear at meetings. I had been having one of those weeks. I'm coming up on my first anniversary of my marriage to my husband and we had a tough few days last week. I couldn't pinpoint what was wrong except that I felt trapped and irritable and afraid. So I called my sponsor.

She's been married for many years and can offer help for me in this area. I told her what was going on and she immediately suggested, as she has before, that I consider going back to Alanon, the program for those who have alcoholics in their lives. I did go to Naranon when my first husband began using and it helped me tremendously. However, I stopped going when we divorced.

What I find, though, is that the more I feel fearful or uncertain, the stronger my need to control. When I try to control, I'm sometimes not even polite. I may bark orders, thinking I know what is best for everyone but me. Then, I don't like my behaviors and begin to dislike myself. Then, I become depressed. It's a vicious cycle.

Sponsors get us through the moment, as I heard at a meeting a day into our marital travails. Sometimes I think I've been clean so long, "I've got this." But sometimes, I don't.

As I reflected for a few days on our marriage and my husband and I gingerly talked to each other, or for a few hours didn't, was that if anyone was going to screw up my marriage, it was me. Therefore, I had to be the one to figure it out and communicate.

I was able to talk through my fears with my husband, my feelings of being trapped and "we don't have enough in common." Today, all is well. We had a great Sunday together and both feel at peace.

Today my sponsor and I are going to visit a friend who just received her liver transplant. And the best part is that I'm emotionally available once again. Thank God for sponsorship. Thank God for God.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Fear is not always lack of faith

I spent most of the weekend at ARCNA, the Arizona region's NA convention. It was awesome. We had great speakers, I saw many of my friends who have moved to different areas of the Valley of the Sun yet all manage to make the convention. It was time to recharge my batteries and lunch with the women in my sponsorship family.

During lunch, I met a young gal who lives in the West Valley who moved here from Washington. She works for a business where she is being asked to take on more human resource (HR) duties and feels a little intimidated.

I happen to have a lot of experience and a professional designation in HR, so I asked her what her hesitancy was. It seemed to me that fear and uncertainty were holding her back in her career progression.

Fear in our lives can be many things. It can be our body's warning system, telling us, "Beware! Something is not right here! Proceed with caution!" That is healthy fear.

Fear may be simply a feeling of being overwhelmed. I know while I waited for the decision on my liver transplant and grew progressively sicker with each passing day, I often felt extreme fear. I finally got to that point where I took the first three steps thoroughly and said, "Okay, God, I have no idea what your plan is, but I don't think I'm finished here." I let God guide me as best I could with extreme brain fog caused by advanced liver disease.

Fear may be lack of faith. I once had a major job in the Bay Area, responsible for managing a $60M budget. When I realized what I had gotten myself into, I was paralyzed. I talked to my brother, who was much wiser than me in spiritual matters (and many other things). He reminded me that any decision I make based in fear, like whether to leave a job or stay, would probably be the wrong decision. In other words, if fear was the reason I said, "I can't do this," my decision not to do it would be passing up a major opportunity for growth.

Can faith and fear coexist? Absolutely! Back to my liver transplant, I was terrified most of the time. How was I going to get to the next doctor's appointment two hours away? Who would take care of my slightly irrational dog(s) if I died? Who would dispose of my things? But I had faith that God had a plan for me and in that plan, mostly what I needed to do was get dressed each day and wait.

So back to this gal who is struggling to expand her career. I offered to stop by her office when I'm in the area and show her some resources where she can get free HR training and a professional organization she can join. Many of us in the rooms have amazing professional lives and we owe it to others to give them a hand up. Who better to handle human resources matters than recovering addicts who understand how human we all are? 

When I'm struggling with fear or working with others who are afraid, I always ask, "What's the worst thing that could happen?" Sometimes we see that the worst thing may be we aren't good at a particular task or effort that we explore. In that case, we've still learned something about ourselves.

Fear need not be paralyzing if we break it down by asking, "Why am I afraid?" and "What's the worst thing that could happen if I do this?"

Sunday, March 22, 2015

You know what I like about sobriety?

One of my family members struggled for years with his drinking. Finally, he went to a few meetings and has remained sober now for a few years.

The other day he was visiting and he said, "You know what I like about sobriety?" I said, "No, what?" "Everything," was his response. It was an awesome moment. Today I'm grateful I recognize I'm powerless over alcohol, no matter who it's in.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

There are no atheists in a foxhole

Nearly 20 percent of Americans (and one-third of Americans under 30) are unaffiliated with any religion. About 30 percent of this group identified themselves as atheists or agnostics, according to a 2012 Pew Research Center study. 

The Pew Center refers to non-believers as “nones.” The Center points out that while nones may be non-religious, this does not mean they do not embrace spirituality. 

Yet in our 12-Step rooms, we frequently refer to God as if there is no doubt in God’s existence. Few of us stop and consider the non-believers in the rooms. At least I didn’t until I heard an atheist share in a meeting how this dialogue about God impacted him. I also thought about how I would have reacted when I arrived in the rooms if members had pushed their idea of God down my throat. 

My experience with a God was simple when I got here – I knew that since I was still alive, there was a God. That’s how dangerous the world was where my addiction took me. I had no problem with the concept of a loving God or a Higher Power, although the “restoration to sanity” outlined in Step Two eluded me for a number of years.

The question to me is this: When I am so intensely pro-God, how can I share my experience, strength and hope in a way that does not offend or even drive away non-believers? I turned to several of my agnostic friends for answers. 

Here are the tips I got from agnostics and atheists for sharing my experience with a God of my understanding without alienating the nones. 
  • Don’t push a particular God. Simply describe your personal experience and how you came into the rooms.
  • Describe your personal experience with Step Two. Never say things like, “You must believe this way” or “This is the only way.”
  • Don’t criticize those who do not believe.
  • Don’t label others as “atheist” or “agnostic” unless they choose that label.
  • Don’t warn people they won’t stay clean if they fail to find God. A Higher Power is a highly personal experience for each person seeking recovery; it is not “one size fits all.”
My understanding of God has changed since I came to the rooms. In my addiction, I was angry with God, often asking, “Why me, God, why am I an addict?” I often prayed for help in getting out of various messes my behavior caused while under the influence or in attempting to get drugs. Only when I was at my bottom and humbly asked God to help me, however, did He arrest my addiction. 

This I do know from my own personal tribulations: There are no atheists in a foxhole. 

Feel free to post your input in the comments. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Have I lost the right to remain anonymous?

An amazing week in Zion, where Oz, my husband and I met up with my brother (who's in AA with two years sober). It isn't hard to know there is some Higher Power guiding us when one looks at the magnificence of Zion. The dusting of snow, which turned more intense late in the day forcing us to abandon touring more parks, made everything amazingly pristine.

Back to the reality of Arizona, I was lunching the other day, reading Facebook and eating a Smashburger (sorry, Vegans), when two men sat down next to me. One was older and he was questioning the younger, painfully thin man across from him. The story the young man told in response to his questions caught my ear.

The young man admitted he was "hitting the pipe" and was trying to quit using. The older man suggested he help the young man get a job to get him back on track. I know from first-hand experience that it will take more than a job to help this young man.

I didn't want to intrude, but felt impelled to do something. I didn't have any literature in the car, but I did write a note and give them the number of NA, telling them I had over 30 years clean in the rooms. I also gave them the number for a local detox center. They took the note, read it and thanked me as I left. I didn't feel like I could say more.

I celebrated my 30 years clean and sober last week. I've been reflecting a lot on the past three decades. And what I've come up with is that for years, I've kept a veil of anonymity between my recovery and my career. I don't tell people I'm in recovery unless they need to know. 

Somewhere I read that the original founders of AA didn't believe we should be "too" anonymous. People should be able to find us if they need help. The early AAs gave their first and last names at the podium, so that if someone wanted to look them up in the phone book, they could, I think I heard early in my recovery.

When I had my 30 years, I did post on my non-personal Facebook page about my anniversary. No one said too much, and I don't think most people knew or suspected. But truly, when I was blessed with this gift of recovery, I wonder if I have lost the right to too much anonymity.

What do you think?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

I'm back!

I've been incredibly busy, as my recovery has taken me on loads of new adventures. I married the most wonderful person in the world a few months ago. He's a fellow 12-stepper and was my best friend for a number of years until I did the work necessary for me to trust again.

It's amazing that we can be clean and sober so long yet still hang on to so many old hurts and haunts, isn't it? I did about 18 months of group therapy in an amazing group here in the Phoenix area. Many of my friends were alumna of the group, and I finally went. It allowed me to do some work on my childhood and on the abuse I went through in my addiction. Needless to say, none of us gets here in a vacuum and for me, I had to work through a boatload of pain before I felt ready to be in a truly intimate relationship.

He is truly my better half -- more tolerant, more patient and more mature. So it's been an amazing ride so far.

On December 13, I will have 30 years in recovery. I can scarcely believe it. Where has the time gone? It's interesting too, because lately while I've been feeling like I'm about 35 years old, a few others are starting to treat me as if my life, my career, is at an end. That's been very painful for me and I've been reflecting on whether I'm in denial or others are just inconsiderate.

Our culture is one of youth, but I know the best part of yet to be. Each year gets better. 

I'm trying to raise the money to go to Thailand on a tour with workers who commit their lives to ending sex trafficking. If that happens, I'll go in late January. I'm turning it over and if God wants me there, the money will be there for the trip.

I had a great thanksgiving with my husband's family -- my new family. We have SO much to be grateful for. Oz is now an elder, as well. He's snoozing at my feet. God bless his gray muzzle, which has brought me so much joy.

Sabra (pictured), the young crazy one, is now almost four. She's still very much a pup, racing around the house and emptying waste cans with glee. My husband's dog, a lab/Rhodesian mix, has blended in well.

That's all the news for now, my friends. Keep doing the deal. It works if you walk through the pain. There is joy on the other side.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Big news!

I'm getting married in two weeks. The program has given me the ability today to make good decisions and brought me a man who loves me unconditionally. I feel so lucky. More on my trip as I head to Michigan for the wedding.

Think before you post

I see a lot of crazy behavior on Facebook and I say, “Hey, it’s Facebook; you take the good with the bad.” But today I was simply so appalled by what I read that I felt impelled to comment.

One of our young members died, leaving behind a small child. I don’t know the details; I don’t really care. I’m not close with her, but she is one of us. As soon as word began to spread in this small community of about 11,000 people, the posts lit up her Facebook wall with a lot of dramatic comments and speculation.

About the fifth post in, her brother’s comment appeared. He said simply, “Hey, if someone knows what happened, can you please call me," followed with his phone number.

Can you imagine learning of your sister’s death via a Facebook post? Come on people; let’s try to be a little more sensitive. The world does not revolve are you and your pain and reaction to someone’s death. Especially when a death involves a child, don’t you think the family should be the first to know?

I’m just heartsick for her family and how they learned of her death. It just isn’t right.

Today I am glad I have the tools to pause before I react. Thank God for God.  

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day

When I was ripping and running, the last thing I knew I could do was take care of a child, so I made sure I never had children. Today, I am middle-aged and watching my friends delight in and sometimes agonize over their children and their grandchildren. Many of the women I sponsor have kids, and most of my friends have grandchildren. The decisions I made in my using still impact me today, because I'll never experience the joys, and the heartaches, of children or grand kids.

I am grateful, though, that I have been able to work with many young gals in recovery. While it isn't the same as being a mother 24/7, the joy I receive when they experience successes in recovery or when they walk through difficult situations is priceless.

Friday night I attended the community college graduation ceremony of one of my sponsees. She is now headed off to earn her Bachelor's degree at ASU. I am so proud of her and so pleased that I could help her on her path. God put us together because we were a good match, her and I.

Today, I am grateful that I have the opportunity to experience the love of motherhood (for both my pets and my sponsees) because I'm clean. Happy Mother's Day to you braver souls than me.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Out of Straws? That's Outrageous!

I rarely go into Circle Ks or QTs or places of that ilk because I'd prefer not to get shot (risk reduction). However, on the way to my Hospitals & Institutions commitment the other day and against my better judgment, I stopped in a Circle K near the 1-17 (another error in judgment) to buy a pop. I noticed there was a mop bucket full of black water near the register and that my shoes stuck to the floor as I went to get my pop (soda). When I filled up my pop I noticed a sign that said, "Out of straws."

So naturally, at the register I asked the young man if he was holding out and if perhaps he did have a straw. He nearly started crying. He said they ran out awhile earlier and he couldn't get any straws from neighboring Circle Ks (franchise issues, I guessed). He said that people were so irate that they were dumping their sodas on the floor, which he had to clean up.

I said, "Really, like 'I hereby dump my soda on the floor in protest because you are out of straws!'"? Yes, he responded sadly. He said he had given his two-week notice because he just couldn't take it anymore.

It made me grateful that I don't act that way. Not having a straw for a Big Gulp? Not a rage-o-meter offense, in my humble opinion. But what do I know? I know today I am so glad that that my useless, non-specific rage I carried all those years over my victim status is gone. Apparently, though, it's not gone for many. And that, my friends, is exactly why I stay out of convenience stores. That and Milk Duds. But that's another story.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Addiction Comes in Many Forms

I woke up yesterday, as many of you did yesterday, to the news of the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. As I dug into the story, I learned he had abstained from heroin for over two decades only to succumb to a fatal overdose after a relapse. In the “you’re eligible too” category, this was a reminder to me that I, too, have managed to stay clean for many years but that each day is a do-over. There is no guarantee for me, or for others in recovery, that we stay clean beyond the moment. There is only today.

My brother was an amazing film buff and movie reviewer, so my first instinct upon hearing about Hoffman’s desk was, “I wonder what my brother would think.” I lost him one year ago from esophageal cancer. Both he and I, and several of his doctors, believed his cancer was from a lifetime of acid reflux from his eating disorder.

As I eat my breakfast burrito with Oz silently waiting his share at my side, I know that addictions come in many shapes and forms. I have friends in the rooms going blind from their addiction to tobacco. I have friends, like me, who struggle with their weight.  For some of us, eating was our first comfort from the pain and isolation of our childhoods. As they say in the rooms, we often, “Put down the spoon and pick up the fork.” I have friends in the rooms who are sex addicts and seek help for those addictions. Addictions come in many forms.

I cried intermittently yesterday. Grief, or as I call sometimes call it, “the five-car pileup,” struck me hard. The loss of my brother, a major change on the job front, my struggle with the character defect of intolerance— these challenges made yesterday my own Super Bowl of emotions.
I know the answer. I hit a meeting last night and today I’ll work on eating better. It’s a daily challenge for us, isn’t it?

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Happy New Year

As we begin a New Year, I want to take a moment to thank you who follow my blog and wish you a blessed 2014. Big changes again in my life, which means I'll be blogging regularly again. I left my job to renew my efforts to run my own business and open the door to God's will and possibilities.
I hope you'll journey with me as 2014 brings big changes and another year of recovery. God bless you and your families.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

The Rooms of Recovery are our Chalkboard

When I arrived here over thirty years ago now, I had a lot of crazy writing on my chalkboard. A timeline of drinking and drugs beginning in my early teens, years of drinking and using before it stopped working, arrests, then years where “My bottom had a hole in it” and I kept using despite the consequences. When I finally skidded into the rooms of NA, I had made a serious mess of my life’s chalkboard.
I arrived here beaten but still unwilling. I stayed clean eventually, but was not convinced the third step would work in all areas of my life. I kept putting more negatives on my chalkboard based not on using, but on crazy behavior. It took me a few years before, thoroughly beaten and still crazy, I decided to take the third step in all areas of my life.
The program provided me with a big eraser that allowed me to expunge many of the problems I had on my chalkboard when I got here. Eventually, with guidance from my sponsor and others in the Fellowship, I began to make new entries on my life’s chalkboard. I began to have friends who taught me how to be a friend, I graduated from college, I regained the love and respect of my family and I developed a career.
Today, my life’s chalkboard is relatively free of mistakes. There were a few  tragic mistakes I made when I was out there I can never fully erase, but these reminders humble me and ensure I fully appreciate the gift I was given when my Higher Power removed my active addiction. I still make some missteps today from time to time. However, they are fewer and farther between every year. I am grateful God gave me another chance and erased that chalkboard so I could write new memories.

I hope you had a love-filled Thanksgiving. Today with God's gift of recovery, I did. Every year, my holidays get better. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Did You Get More Than You Bargained For?

When I came into the rooms they recommended I write down on a piece of paper what I wanted in my life in one year. It was pretty simple. I wanted a roof over my head; to not use for even a few hours; to not have to hustle every day to figure out how to get more of the same substances that had stopped working a decade earlier; to maybe have a job; to use my writing talents; and to have my family's respect.

I got much SO more than I ever bargained for. Did you?

Monday, November 04, 2013

When I Get Overwhelmed

Yesterday I went up to my old house in Skull Valley, which has been rented now for about three years. The current tenant is pretty stable, meaning he pays the rent and keeps it clean. But boy, does he irritate me with his cavalier attitude about things. I've had to practice letting go a lot with this situation and in most cases dealing with tenants, who treat your things differently than you would. While he's not deliberately malicious, the decisions he makes are in his best interest, not in mine in the least. I guess that's the nature of being a landlord.

I had to have my decking roof replaced and it cost quite a bit more than I anticipated. Next comes a complete exterior paint job and that estimate blew me away. In short, I got very depressed and overwhelmed so the ride home (about 100 miles) was uncomfortable for both me and my fiancee. I couldn't articulate how I was feeling until later last night. Today I had to adjust my attitude by emailing my sponsor and counting my blessings: I have a tenant who pays the rent on time; I have enough money coming in to pay for the next repair; I own a rental home (and how many people can say that in today's economy?); and I have options.

Feeling overwhelmed is not a safe feeling for those of us in recovery. We are people who, by nature, get the "buckets of fuck-its" and feeling overwhelmed, for me at least, feels dangerous. So today I am grateful I know what to do when I feel like this:
  • Go to a meeting
  • Have lunch with a friend who has more problems than I imagine I do
  • Call or email my sponsor
  • Take a nap
This morning I got into action and called another painting company to get a competitive bid. That is the best option at this point.

Today, I have quality problems. How about you?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Sometimes You Can't Help, You Can Just Be

Last night I went to a local poetry reading with another poet friend of mine. I ran into a friend of mine who was instrumental in my early recovery. She encouraged me to write and edited quite a few of my poems. She's a very talented poet and a very loving woman. I was still wild, barely in the rooms with one foot still in the streets, and she loved me unconditionally. 

She had a daughter who was a stripper, she confided in me back then when she learned my history via my poetry. We never talked much about it, but when I saw her last night, she looked very different than she did almost 30 years ago. She seemed surrounded by a bubble of pain.

Her husband took me aside and told me her daughter had died, drowning in the bathtub with a lot of drugs in her system. Whether she'll ever talk to me about her pain or not is irrelevant; she knows I understand at least some of it. My friend told me before she left the reading that she would call me, but I'm not so sure she will. It may be too painful for her.

Here is the poem I was going to read at the reading, but didn't out of respect for her. I read a few others, instead. This is the story of one of my road dogs. Sadly, it's true.

To Cash, Dead in Atlanta, 21

"You're gonna wake up dead one day" I tell Cash.

She heads out the door with a laugh.

"I just love them light-skinned men, Nadine,” she calls over her shoulder.

That was the last time I saw her.

Green-eyed pimp threw her out a window. 

So why didn't my life end like that? Today I have a different life, one I never could have imagined. A man who loves me, and who I trust enough to marry soon; a career; a house; a summer home; dogs;  a car. All I wanted back in the day was to have a somewhat normal life and I could never achieve it, despite psychiatrists and pills and psychodrama. Only the rooms and the 12 Steps saved me from a life that was beyond terrible. 

I can't figure that I did anything different than many others who didn't stay clean did; I just chose not to use and got more gifts than I ever thought possible.

Yes, at some level I understand my friend's pain, but never having been a mother, no I cannot fathom it. I do today feel the Grace I was given; I feel it keenly. Thank you, God, and thank you my 12-Step friends who have walked me through.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Big Changes, All Good

Big changes in my life. I've been in group therapy for about a year and a half dealing with emotional issues from my childhood, as well as issues with codependency. It's amazing what doing concentrated work on your family of origin issues will do for your spirit.

Since I started in this group, I've been able to process so much pain and grief that I've really unblocked my heart in profound ways. I've learned to trust, but more importantly, today I trust the right people, people who are emotionally available, dependable and open themselves.

I am processing another important piece of work on one of my siblings before I exit the group. I feel as though that is one resentment I still harbor and I'd like to be rid of it. Keep tuned; more exciting changes ahead, I'm sure.

Keep trudging!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

I highly recommend this blogger

If you've never heard of Cheryl Strayer or read her Dear Sugar column, I highly recommend her. She's simply amazing.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Six weird things about Romy

Everyone's into this "Six Weird Things" deal and I'm noticing animals are getting tagged a lot. So here's my former dog Romy's list. I swear they're all true.
  1. Before I got her as a semi-rescue, Romy spent virtually all of her first six months in a crate.
  2. Romy could open the refrigerator, even when it was bungeed shut. One time after studying for several days how I got in the refrigerator (by removing the bungee from a high cupboard, she pushed the refrigerator with her shoulder to loosen the bungee cord, then raided the refrigerator anyway.)
  3. Romy could open about anything, including the stove storage drawer if she saw me put something in the oven. I finally figured out she was pulling the towel hung over the handle to open it. Remove the towel? No problem, I'll just use my teeth on the handle. 
  4. Romy was only affectionate in the morning, unlike me. I hate the mornings.
  5. Romy often slept in the fireplace. She started that one summer (it was her den).
  6. Romy spoke German, not Czech, although she was more Czech than German.
I have Romy's ashes in a shrine I made after she died. I never really have gotten over her loss. Sometimes I think about her waiting for me in heaven. Maybe I'm crazy. Who knows?

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Focus on the Donut, Not the Hole

I ran into my first sponsor at a meeting the other day and she is always full of great clich├ęs and wisdom. She said when she first came to the rooms, she became upset because "so many people were relapsing." Her sponsor told her, "Focus on the donut; not the hole."

In a few days I'll be in the rooms 28.5 years. Believe me, I've seen a lot of people come and a lot of people go. This is not a program for the faint of heart, because it isn't easy to stay clean for years and years, through life on life's terms. But I joined the No Matter What Club a long while ago. The grace of God, at least three meetings a week, a continuous relationship with a sponsor, service, a support group, a belief that if I choose to use I'll never make it back completely -- these are the things that have kept me being part of the donut.

Last night's meeting topic was "miracles in recovery." Each one of us, if you used and drank the way I did, are miracles. I was never able to figure out why I got it when so many I loved could not. But I don't look a gift horse in the mouth. I stay active and don't take my recovery for granted.

These are the things that have worked for me for almost 30 years. You, too, are probably doing the deal if you're reading this. If not, why not? It truly is the softer, easier way, at least from where I sit.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Life Isn't Drama; It's How You Handle What Happens to You That's Drama

Bad things happen to people all the time. I have worked in an industry for almost three decades now that mops up after stupid. And "freak." And just plain, "I never expected that to happen." Maybe that's why I don't have a lot of tolerance for people who, every time something happens to them, hire attorneys to handle things for them.

Although negotiation is in our DNA (we probably survived long cold winters by trading and bartering meat, tools, water, etc.,), Americans by and large hate to negotiate. They have abdicated their responsibility to figure out how to rationally discuss difficult issues over to experts. They are willing to pay those "experts" much more than they are worth to do so, in my opinion.

But I get irritated by a couple things:
  1. The belief that if something hits your car in traffic, and you're not really injured other than maybe an emergency room visit and a sore neck for a few weeks, you need to get an attorney because you just can't deal with the "hassle." In my experience, life is one hassle after another.
  2. People who call and ask others for their opinion (and that person happens to be a female), she takes her time away from her job and life two times talking on the phone for a protracted length of time explaining how to handle things, then she is told, "I'm going to ask ________ what to do. HE said I need a lawyer." Then WTF are you asking me?
  3. The belief that you are special because someone rear ends your car in traffic. That is just life on life's terms.
  4. Throwing around the phrase, "My attorney" doesn't make you look important. In most cases, it means you are claiming to be helpless in matters you could certainly handle on your own if you weren't, let's face it, intimidated. 
My very direct advice to this person was, "It's time to put on your big-girl panties and deal with this. Unless, at almost 40, you want to call your Daddy to do it for you." 

I don't have the patience today for a lot of drama. Drama isn't what happens to you; it's how you deal with what happens to you. 

I hope you all have a great day. I feel a lot better now because I've gotten this off my chest.