Grace

Posted: May 24, 2015 in Grace, self-compassion
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I’ve watched my share of friends relapse but I still remember when one of my littermates relapsed. I was angry and sad. Didn’t he know he was supposed to stay sober so that I didn’t have to make new friends? Selfish and self-centered, that is the root of my problems.

When I went to my sponsor with my disappointment he quickly gave me a reality check, “You know that the longer you stay sober, the more you’re going to see people go out, right? You better get used to it!”

He was right. I’ve come to accept that all relationships reach an end, whether is death, people moving away, or relapse. I don’t like it but I’ve learned to enjoy those who stay around instead of focusing on those who have left…me.

And in reality, they have not left me. They have just left. Allowing people to go in and out my life is one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn. My instinct is to cling to them and try to rescue them from themselves, to try to fix them. But I have learned that I cannot fix people mostly because there is nothing wrong with them.

They’re wounded in one way or another so today I choose to focus on their goodness, on their strength, and remind them that they are worth of love and belonging regardless of their disease, “We are sick people trying to get better, not bad people trying to be good.”

Mother dear

Posted: May 10, 2015 in Gratitude, Grief
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I woke up this morning thinking that it’s Mother’s day. I tried to remember how old my mom would have been had she been alive today. I was never able to remember her age so I would always add my age to how old she was when she had me, only this time I could not even remember that. This was troubling because she died only three years ago and I felt guilty that I could not figure out her age.

I frantically started looking for a picture to post on social media but I could not find any much less the one I was looking for on my phone. So I went to Facebook and started to look at my pictures and after much searching and many more memories, I found it.

She had to have been 13 years old but she already had a look of sadness and despair in her eyes. She was sexually abused as a young girl and her mother blamed her for it. She was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder much later in life.

She was my mother and she raised me to the best of her ability. She taught me to always do my best, to always put my best foot forward, and that love can be taken away with not much notice. It has taken me many years to unlearn some of the lessons she taught me. She did the best she could with what she had.

I’d like to believe that she is in a better place now. At least she is no longer in pain. The last words I spoke to her were, “I love you and I wish I could be there with you.” She was in the hospital and I could not make it there soon enough. She was gone within a couple of days.

My aunt had her cremated against our wishes but my siblings and I were not there to prevent that. I wish I could visit her tomb but I don’t even know where her ashes are. Yeah, my extended my family is that sick so I have chosen to severe ties with them.

I carry my mother in my heart and today I honor her memory for all that she gave me and for all the things I learned from her. I love you Ma!

Life

Posted: May 3, 2015 in Gratitude, Happiness, Recovery
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I’ve gotten into the habit of waking up at 5 am, or earlier, if I cannot convince my doggies to let me sleep in. I get up, feed them, and then head to the gym or get on the treadmill, but on the weekends the gym does not open until 8 a.m. so I’ve started going to the coffee shop near me.

I take my mail and my iPad in the hope that I can I write a blog post. I usually have something in my mind that I can talk about, but today I cannot think of anything. I guess I could whine about not having a significant other but what good is that going to do me?

So I guess I’ll reflect on how good it is that I don’t have anything to write about. Before recovery I would’ve engaged in “the deliberate fabrication of misery…” but now that I’m aware that’s what I was doing, I catch myself, and stop to give thanks for all the good I have in my life.

No, I have not become a “spiritual giant.” I still crave shiny, bright things like the new Apple watch but I guess I’ll wait to get it until I have a good reason to get it, like my upcoming birthday. I guess I’ve gotten down from the hedonic treadmill of “never enough.”

And I haven’t settled either, I have goals and desire to better my life but I now realize that while money can bring comfort and security, it does not bring lasting happiness. Happiness is a practice. If I practice being grateful for what I have in my life instead of focusing for what I’m lacking, I feel happy.

There’s still that thought in the back of my mind that says, “the other shoe is about to drop, you better not get too happy.” I’ve had many losses and my worst fear became true when I found myself alone but like Robert Frost said, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”

Grace

Posted: April 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

A friend of mine texted me yesterday asking me to remind him why we stay sober. I said, “because when we start using again we become even more miserable than when we are feeling like using.” Then he asked me if he had ever been hostile towards me.
He believes somebody is watching him to build a case against him because of what he did in his addiction. He is just your average drug addict who bought and used illegal drugs but he believes that he is followed everywhere and that there are people undercover around him collecting evidence to use against him.
I have told him that even if that were true, now that he is sober, he has nothing to fear and to go on with his life. He has gone to therapy, psychiatrists, taken medication off and on but he may be too far gone.
I am powerless to help him and I told him that no, he had never been hostile towards me. He thanked me for my friendship and for opening my home to him. I told him that I wanted to see again soon but he said that he doubted that could happen because of the surveillance he is under. I told him I would keep him in my prayers. He asked me to remind people of the damage drug addiction can do to your life and I guess I am doing this by writing about him.
Some of us struggle to get sober and slowly move on with our lives but some others, like my friend, do extreme damage to their minds and bodies and never fully come back. But there for the grace of God go I…

Every so often I get in self-pity and start looking at those people who got sober after me who are in relationships and…I’m not. Or I look at those who were sober before me who still are with their significant others and think, “Why do they get to be in a relationship and not me?” The answer comes in the form of, “You had a relationship of 14 years and you did not take care of it as you should have.”

Then the “what ifs” and the “if I only” bombard me. So I take a deep breath and remember what I was taught in treatment: Everything is the way it’s supposed to be. May be not the way I would want it to be or how it should be, but the way it’s supposed to be. I take comfort in the thought that I was lucky enough to have had a loving relationship instead of thinking that I no longer have it.

So I begin practicing being grateful for what I have regardless of what is going on around me. I remember that I can choose to be happy or miserable. And today I have that choice because I’m sober and I have a program of recovery. I have tools I didn’t have before coming to “the rooms.”

I don’t know if there is a romantic relationship in my future but I am grateful that I had one for a long time. I am grateful that I get to have a relationship with my family while so many other people can’t. I am grateful that I get to stay sober by helping other people recover. I am grateful that I have a relationship with myself and I am aware of what I’m feeling. And most of all, that I don’t believe everything I think.

Five years have gone by since I got sober and what do I have to show for it? Staying sober is what! I still struggle with not looking at the people and things that are no longer in my life and count them as losses. But instead, I remind myself that I can choose to be grateful that they were in my life at all.

Being grateful is a practice that I know works to make me feel happy. I don’t know how A.A. got it so right but research now shows that when I practice being grateful on a daily basis, I become happy regardless of the circumstances around me. I used to think that in order to be grateful I had to have all the externals lined up. It was a never-ending race to the next shiny object.

What’s changed? My perspective. I haven’t stopped enjoying the comfort that money brings but I am now aware that whatever is outside of me can only bring me temporary happiness at best. Sure, if I didn’t have money to eat or pay the bills, having money would ease my suffering but the realization that material things do not bring lasting happiness has helped me shift my attention to working on my inner peace.

Again, I haven’t given away my material possessions or taken a vow of poverty but I am more aware that I needed to get down from the hedonic treadmill and enjoy the journey and not the destination.

I used to set a goal and reach it by any means necessary and once I got there, I was so happy for a little while…. and then on to the next. This behavior is not bad, what is not helpful for me is thinking that doing this would eventually bring me lasting happiness.

The change I’ve made is enjoying the journey. Whatever happens today I can choose to find the blessing or…as I write this, my old thinking creeps up and tells me, “You’re jinxing yourself and something terrible is going to happen! Stop!!” But I can now remind myself that my worst fear has already happened and I survived it.

It wasn’t easy moving forward with my life after this happened. It took lots of meetings, increasing my anti-depressants, and lots of therapy but I’m still here. And I can choose to live in the past and wonder innumerable, “What ifs?” or just enjoy life as it is. It is a practice. I end this with a prayer that pops up daily at 7:15 pm on my phone:

May I be safe.
May I be peaceful.
May I be kind to myself.
May I accept myself as I am.
May I accept my life as it is.

What If?

Posted: January 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

“Why does she need somebody else?” My nephew asked me in reference to my sister’s significant other the other day. This is what I asked my mother decades ago when I questioned her need to have my step-father in her life. She told me, “you’re going to grow up, move out, have your own family and then, who is going to keep me company?” I didn’t like her answer but in my young mind I understood what she was saying.

I told my nephew something along those lines and I added that he has a special bond with his mom that nobody is going to take away or change. I assured him that she will always love him and have this special connection with him to which he said with a big smile, “you’re right!”

And then he said, “but what if it doesn’t work out and he leaves?” I told him that I would be there for them, that his mom having a significant other didn’t change that either. He seemed relieved.

I am so grateful that today I have the clarity of mind that emotional sobriety brings to be able to soothe my nephew’s worries. He was only a baby when I was in active and addiction and since I got sober I’ve been making living amends to them by being a constant in their life.