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!
“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.
People 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.
These past few weeks there’s been a more stressful than it should be kind of situation going on. It wasn’t a surprise, yet no amount of my project planning skills could assure that each step would keep things moving forward. It all lead to great anxiety this week. Trembling hands. Fractured thoughts. General unease. Jitters.
Not so long ago, the route to dealing with this was a no brainer. Drink. Preferably alone, to avoid appearing weak and out of control. This solution was easy because it fit every type of happy or stressful situation all of the time.
But this week, I talked about it. My husband listened through the frustrating events as they unfolded, ready to do whatever was required to make things right. I asked my best friend for healing energy which she most certainly provided along with a listening ear.
This post could be used as a type of litmus test. Those who find the story amazing, daring, even risky are my brothers and sisters in recovery. Holding out a hand for help is something so new in my life. But, with such positive results, I’ll probably take the risk to try it again.
- – It was my birthday this week. Not one of those big celebration years, but instead a comforting connection with the love shared in our family. My daughter called from school and we shared a silly conversation. The notes in birthday cards from my husband and son had me in tears. We’ve had a challenging 12 months and are a deeper, stronger family for it.
- – I saw Chicago with some girlfriends in a beautiful theater. And, um, can you say “hot?” It was an amazing show with performers who were highly talented and athletic.
- – spin class had a military theme this week in recognition of our veterans. Three days of tabata must mean our beloved instructor is crazy. Our group is like that Mother Goose rhyme “the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker” in that we’re from all walks of life. Working and suffering together has made us a strong group who truly appreciates one another.
- – My dying phone is making me crazy. It won’t hold a charge and the Bluetooth is so inconsistent that I can’t get good reads from the heart rate monitor.
- – I found myself taking way too much for granted and need to focus on that.
- – It actually rained in California!
Deep wisdom that touches our very soul always seems to come from a sage who lived long ago and far away. For years I thought that the words I heard from Thich Nhat Hahn fit that category. Wrong. This deeply spiritual man, teacher, peace activist, Buddhist monk lives with us now. Two days ago he suffered a brain hemorrhage. It seems only true and right to meditate on his words as he heals, as these words have helped and pushed my own healing.
“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”
“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.”