Changing Up the Work

change only happensIts time to change up the work. In early, early recovery, the work was prescribed by the chemical dependency department of my health care provider. Thank goodness they had a clear plan because my planning to drinking less tomorrow wasn’t flying. In AA, my sponsor helped me develop a plan of working with her weekly, attending 3 meetings, being of service, and calling other alcoholics. That plan established much needed personal stability and started me on the road to developing friendships with others in recovery and I stuck with it for a year (2 rounds of 6 month commitments).

Becoming restless, its time to change things up. Winging it certainly is appealing and sounds like an exciting adventure, but adventure doesn’t meet the needs of recovery and a plan is needed. So, for accountability, here’s the current plan:

  • blog weekly
  • read recovery literature on weekends, delving into Peter
  • AA meeting Tuesday nights (holding onto my home group)

IMG_3394What is your experience with changes in your recovery program? What types of changes have you tried?

Holiday Parties in Sobriety

IMG_0059Year two of holiday parties in sobriety, and a perfect opportunity to put some knowledge into practice.  A few tips I learned from trial and error last year but many were learned right here from my fellow sober bloggers.  Each and every one of you are deeply appreciated.   Hurrah for collective wisdom!

December 2014 saw quite a few holiday celebrations right here at home including a staff party, book club dinner party, Christmas  Eve dinner with extended family, and a three family Christmas dinner fete.  Home was a good place to be.  For one, hostessing kept me busy taking care of others.  The other key to celebrating at home is that it allows me to envision and carry out a plan without many curve balls thrown in.

The 3 keys to hosting parties and having great fun while sober this year turned out to be:

1.  Have a plan.  In early sobriety we spend a whole lot of time making plans.  What time will people arrive and leave? What will I drink?  What will others drink? Where can I get away for ten minutes from time to time to read recovery literature and refocus? Who is my support team at the event? Have I clarified their roles with them? Which AA meeting will I attend the day of the event?

2. Have another person handle the alcohol.  Don’t play the part of the suffering hero.  Just have someone else be the bartender.  At the end of the event, have the bartender pack up the bar and toss out the half finished drinks laying around. That person will be glad to help.

3.  Have fun.  Taking the time, making the time, to celebrate with friends is a new concept in my life.  Focusing on others helps me get out of my head which would normally be focused on the alcohol with laser vision, and opens up the world to the people in my life. Turns out my world was so small when drinking and I missed out on the amazingness around me.  Its time to enjoy friendship again.

Coming soon: the backstory of these keys. Because we all know, there’s always a backstory!

New Holiday: Step Day

Our fearless Nano Poblano leader Mark suggested some, um, interesting topics for the peppers.  While some are tough to incorporate into a recovery blog, there is one that we can toy with today: 14. Today is National Make Up a Holiday Day. Make it a good one.

Here’s the plan: take a few, thoughtfully selected, steps from AA and tweak it into a holiday.  Let’s get started!

Step 1: We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.

Holiday: Letting Go Day / Freedom Day

This holiday is built around the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions. Each of us decides on something to let go of and we have water cooler discussions, and Facebook threads and Instagram posts about said plans. Resolutely letting go of things we’re powerless over will give us incredible freedom. For example,

  • I give up on getting that clueless jerk in front of me to turn off his blinker signal.
  • I let go of the embarrassment of singing off key and will still belt out my favorite songs just because I like them.
  • I admit that I’m powerless to get people off their phones when dining together and actually have a conversation.

Just let it go people.  Trust me, it feels good.

Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Holiday: List Day

Once each year, preferably after a big party kind of holiday, we each write an honest list of our shortcomings.  Everyone posts a list (could be the real one, or a fake one that makes you appear to be the next Mother Teresa) on social media and then burns them in a neighborhood bonfire.  The sooner we know our cr*p, the sooner we can clean it up and move on.

Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Holiday: Hug It Out Day

The day before Thanksgiving, everyone gets in contact with each person they have hurt, lied to, stolen from, messed with during the last year and owns up to their actions. Get it out.  Don’t let it fester. The momentum created with everyone having these conversations will make them that much safer for everyone.  On Thanksgiving everyone gives thanks for new beginnings with friends and family and its all hunky dory.

Marches and Meditation

Each of us has our own reality, our own way to be.

Just tonight, my friend and I drove to the East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, CA, for the 4th and final meditation class.

downloadPurposefully, we didn’t read nor listen to the news this evening, agreeing to learn the verdict and follow the story on our drive back home. For a few hours before class, we delighted in shopping in local stores and walking the streets in one of those neighborhoods chalk full of independent stores. In one shop we considered purchasing a meditation pillow, touched most every soft item of clothing in another shop, found the perfect reflective bands to wear on our morning jogs, and gave in to our senses over the most other-worldly bowls of ramen ever imagined. Everything seemed so normal on the street, in the shops, along the sidewalks.

Driving to the meditation center, it became evident that entirety of the city was actually preparing itself for a long night. Oakland knows how to prepare for these nights. Everyone knows their role in this public theater. Police vehicles, police on bikes, roads blocked off, helicopters. Areas for people to gather were being tightly controlled. We parked and walked directly to class. Half of out classmates remained in their own homes to assure their physical safety. Sounds of sirens, helicopters, and nervousness made for challenging meditations. No complaints. Just need to recognize that the needs of many are met in many different ways. As our two hours concluded, minds calmed, we were reminded of steps to take to make the change for a meditation practice in our own lives, suggested next steps on our road of discovery. It was in this quiet spirit as we put away our chairs and cushions that staff at the center informed us that a peaceful protest had moved to the freeway and helped us plan our route home via surface streets. Care for our well being was being tended while we learned, practiced. Turns out that during our meditation, the neighborhood had been surrounded by protest over the Ferguson grand jury decision and had moved from the streets to the highway. Peaceful protest on the highway. Peaceful and making voices heard. On the highway.

Marches and meditation, each of us doing everything in our power to make this world a better place.

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Note: this post was updated the morning after publishing to include deeper insights gleamed upon reflection.

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Coffee Break November 19

The idea for a chatty post comes from Nerd in the Brain and seems a great way for us to wind down together at the end of the week. In this spirit, a few topics we’d discuss over coffee would be

  • Did this week seem to be ten days long for you also? With tech issues galore at work and going out & getting back home late three nights, there was just so much going on.
  • Just when I had just about given up on a project, the people responsible pulled it off beautifully.
  • Seeing Mockingjay with the girlfriends last night in a theater filled with Hunger Games fans was a hoot. Poor Jennifer Lawrence though, she had to wear so many dowdy outfits like plain fatigues and a dorky hospital gown instead of the cool, kick ass costumes she usually gets to wear. The edgy fighting clothes will return in part two. I learned that the old fashioned way, by reading the books.
  • Communication at home is on a nice upswing. Hurrah.
  • On the drive home from meditation class, my friend and I decided not to move on to similar topics to pursue, and instead to hang out with the meditation thing, perhaps learning more from other practitioners in neighboring meditation centers. Basically, we’re going to linger in this neighborhood and get to know it better.
  • At my AA home group, I almost nodded off quite a few times while the speaker was sharing his story of strength and hope. Bad form!
  • Anyone else rooting for the guy with nerd glasses and endless tattoos on The Voice? He’d be great to see performing live!
  • Next week I’m committing to more couch time with the dog. Dog time is always so fulfilling. Now our lab / border collie (we think) pup is easing into middle age, she’s finally at the stage of life to mellow just a bit.  Unless a frisbee is in sight.
  • The snack box I ordered for my daughter to get her through the end of the semester has been stuck in Buffalo all week. Bummer. On the other hand, I’m amazed that any of us ever got through all of those stressful semester finals as kids. Tough times! Yes, I really did come home and burn those organic chemistry notes, one frigging page at a time, after surviving that marathon of a class. And no, when transferring universities after my sophomore year, was that chemistry class needed to meet any requirements at the new school.
  • It rained!
  • Nano Poblano, you are the best! Reading your daily posts is something I look forward daily, even sneaking in a few posts during breaks at work. You are amazing!!!

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Thirsty Games Movie Review

Movie Review of Hunger Games 1 and 3:

hunger games Hunger Games – Haymitch

  • always drinking
  • concerned about whether or not alcohol would be available at all times
  • hid alcohol so as never to be without
  • comfortably uncomfortable character in a movie

Hunger Games opening night – Me

  • carefully planned drinking before the show
  • concerned about not having alcohol during the entire movie
  • hid alcohol so as to have a few last sips before going into the movie started
  • uncomfortably comfortable person in my own skin

mocking joyMockingjay part 1 – Haymitch

  • completely sober and aware of everything
  • imposed sobriety due to a lack of provisions in District 13
  • looking fit and trim
  • would likely dive back into drinking at the first opportunity

Mockingjay part 1 – Me

  • completely sober and aware of most everything (except when trying to figure out what my post would be about tonight and deciding whether to go to the gym in the morning or not.  Haymitch. No.)
  • chose sobriety of my own free will
  • looking fit and trim
  • will not drink today

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All I Want for Christmas …

Now that we’re heading into the Christmas season – ready or not, here it comes! – the “is there anything you especially desire for Christmas?” conversation came up.  For both my husband and myself, there is no big It Gift in our minds this year. Nothing.  As always, there are at least half a dozen tech gizmos that I’d love, love, love to have. But the focus is on simplicity right now, and enjoying being in that space of experiencing all that is in the here in now. Choosing simplicity. What a marvelous place to be together now, comfortable in simplicity. And then, an ad for this came on the TV. Oh myyyyyy!

2015-ford-mustang-gt-convertible-front-side-motion-view

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It Takes Practice

download“You must practice meditation if it is to become a practice in your life,” our teacher explains. Tonight was the 3rd week of a series of four meditation classes at the East Bay Meditation Center. What do we do during these two hour classes? We practice meditating, of course.

Each class has an opening five minute meditation, followed by three 15-20 minute sits / meditation periods. Between, there is discussion and many “Am I doing this correctly?” types of questions.  In general, my skills at clearing my mind are improving, and the relaxed state is easier to achieve.  Even when a sudden thought takes over my thinking.  Tonight, when the room got to be a bit chilly, the obvious thought to commander my mind was how blissful a steamy mug of hot chocolate would be at that moment.  Ahhhhh, the silly things our minds come up with! Looks like more practice is in order.

In the Stuck for the Second Time

stuckPeople giggle when I tell them that I love to be second. Second to try out some new technology. Second time in an exercise class. Second hike along a trail. Second meetings with old friends so we can move past the surface stories and get to the good stuff. Second visit to just about any place or event is better than the first because I can better navigate the situation. Number 2 is my number 1.

Of course the huge exception to this is sobriety. Knowing now what it took to get through those first few months, I’m not sure that I’m tough like that to do that again.

The past few days I’ve been in the Stuck. Just hanging out here, looking around, knowing that it isn’t a healthy nor safe place to relax. There are clear signs: dawdling, excessive time lurking on Facebook, isolating, noticing the places where I bought alcohol in the past, noticing the places where I hid it, and getting completely rattled by any talk of God in AA meetings.  Its as if my senses have all returned to where they were 14 months ago. Familiar territory is not a supportive place in this mind space.  But, I recognize it this time around.  What a relief!  Today I took an inventory of my thinking and clearly saw it for what it was, which is darned close to the thinking that had me convinced it was brilliant back before sobriety became the new norm. To simply recognize this Stuck for what it is gets me on the road to moving beyond it.

1st time in the stuck: 2 weeks to realize where I was.

2nd time in the stuck: 3 days to realize where I was.  The point goes to 2nd time!

The first time in the Stuck, getting out was so many levels of miserable.  A few actions were simple and had an immediate and strong effect: change driving patterns, keep forcing myself to physically move and not sit still.  Changing driving patterns was a tactic that helped me more than would seem reasonable in the first two or three months of sobriety.  By driving in different patterns, it forced my mind to think and see things differently.  The payoff for this simple change was significant.  By keeping myself moving, regardless of whether or not something actually needed to be accomplished, kept me from dawdling and lurking, which kept me in the moment.  Again, a fairly simple tactic that paid large dividends.

The huge hurdle to get out of the Stuck the first time around was dealing with the God thing in AA.  Or more specifically, the way I chose to interpret the spiritual portion of the AA program.  In this state of mind, I can talk myself into crazy states based solely on the second step: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to
sanity. And here’s how the crazy starts and spirals out of control:

  • Since I don’t personally believe at this time that a power greater than myself dabbles in individual people and their individual challenges
  • Then I cannot turn my will over to a higher power
  • Which puts me firmly in control
  • The same need for absolute control that contributed to my drinking getting so out of hand
  • The same control I am not willing to give up at this moment
  • Which means that AA is not for me
  • Because I am terminally unique and all of those people who got sober working the 12 steps are full of hog wash.  All of them.
  • Because I am the only person who could ever come up with the correct answer to these big questions
  • Which means that I’m going to go this alone
  • While all of those ignorant people keep sitting in AA meetings

To which all I can ask myself is, “Really?!” The first time in the Stuck, that line of seemingly reasonable thinking had me riled up all day and tossing and turning all night. Now, the second time around, I realize that a different approach is needed.

An entry point is all I need to get back on track, and being an overachiever, I found two. The first is in step 1, I admit that I am powerless over alcohol. At the very core of my being I know for a solid fact that no alcohol at all can enter my body with any hope of me retaining my sobriety. The possibility for moderation is nil. It is strangely soothing to know this is a 100% truth and need not be tested. The second entry point is from further down the list in step 11, meditation. Meditation practice to be more precise. I practice meditation more and more often because in my experience, when my mind is clear and calm, the walls come down, thinking clears, and personal relationships thrive. Through meditation practice I am able to pull myself out of the Stuck.

1st time in the stuck: 3 weeks to pull myself out.

2nd time in the stuck: 2 days to get back on track. Again, the point goes to 2nd time!

It is my hope that by sharing my story of recovery, it will help others who walk this road by my side, and give hope to those who are ready to begin.

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